Laughter

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This is one of my favourite pictures because it captures such a genuine moment of shared laughter and joy.  It’s my son when he was about 9 months old, and we had stopped to get gas while on a road trip.

 “Laughter is an instant vacation.”

Milton Berle

Hurrah… It’s Friday!  Do you have any plans?  We’ve had a busy week around here, and I think we’re just going to relax after supper, and watch some comedies.

This has got me thinking that it would be fun to head into the weekend with a focus on laughter.  So today, I’ll share some ideas, links, quotes, and yes… even jokes from around the web.

“I try to find a reason to laugh each day.  Somehow, if you can incorporate laughter into your day, every day, it really helps.  It’s the little things in life that make me happy. “

Faith Hill

I love to laugh… and who doesn’t, really?  Scientists have even observed that some other animal species engage in laughter, too.  Did you know that?  I didn’t, until I researched laughter for this post.  I guess it proves that everyone loves to laugh.  And why shouldn’t we?  I can’t speak for the other species, but I do know that laughing is a wonderful way to enrich our human life.  

Laughing relaxes us, and helps us regain perpective. It is like nature’s reset button.

In fact, there have been a few difficult times in my life when the laughter reset button has helped me… in my sleep!  I call them my laughing dreams.  I’ve only had a few, but they are surprisingly therapeutic.  In these dreams, some little thing will trigger my laughter.  It’s usually something that isn’t really that funny, but in the dream, it seems absolutely hilarious.  I laugh until my stomach muscles ache and tears are rolling down my cheeks.  Isn’t that a delightful dream?  Has anyone else ever had these?  I wake up with a fresher perspective, feeling relaxed, as if I’d just had one of the best belly laughs ever.

 “Laughter is important, not only because it makes us happy, it also has actual health benefits.  And that’s because laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind.  It connects us to others, and that in itself has a healing effect.”

Marlo Thomas 

Laughter is a way to connect with people we love, and a way to gel new friendships.

Laughter can also help us to defuse conflict and soften awkward situations.  Like the time someone at work ripped his pants (loudly).  As the leader of the group, my immediate reaction was to laugh kindly, smile at him and the group, and say, “These things happen… Good thing you’re among friends.”  Silence would have made the incident far more awkward, while laughter was able to soften the embarrassment.  The laughter became a source of support, recognizing that these things can happen to any of us.

“I believe in the power of laughter and tears as an antidote to hatred and terror.”

Charles Chaplin 

Here are some links about laughter.  Why not relax over a glass of wine or a hot cup of coffee, and check some of these out:  

Have you heard of this documentary?  I am curious to see it.

The Power of Laughter.  He gets a standing ovation at the end of this Ted Talk.  

Can you detect the different kinds of laughter? The very funny cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott shares many surprising facts about laughter.

This man helps people who are in rehab heal by getting them hooked on laughter.

A CNN news clip about  Laughter Yoga.

Want to try laughter yoga? Try this.   Warning: it looks silly. Very.  But I have to tell you this quick story!  The other day, my son was really grumpy about something.  I had just watched this video, so I said, “Hey, maybe we can try laughing yoga to improve your mood!”  I started to do one of the exercises.  He thought I was crazy and refused to participate, but the whole situation was so ridiculous, that soon laughter was bubbling out of him, as hard as he tried to keep a sullen expression on his face.  Within two minutes, his mood had completely changed and we were talking about our day.  So… maybe laughter yoga does work!

Four jokes and some reflection on humour.

Here are “50 terrible, quick jokes that’ll get you a laugh on demand“.  I have to admit, I haven’t read them all!  But I have included a sampler of the jokes, below, because 6 of these jokes are probably quite enough:  😉 

6 JOKES…

1) It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

2) If you want to catch a squirrel just climb a tree and act like a nut.

3) Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like banana.

4) My friend recently got crushed by a pile of books, but he’s only got his shelf to blame.

5) What’s the best part about living in Switzerland? Not sure, but the flag is a big plus.

6) What did Jay-Z call his girlfriend before they got married? Feyoncé.

Thanks for stopping by home hurrah.com.  Have a great weekend!  

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have.  To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you’re emotions going.

Jim Valvano

Backyards

How has the weather been where you live?  Have you had a chance to get out a bit to enjoy Spring?

Thankfully, the weather around here has been quite beautiful lately. A good amount of rain, and lots of blue skies and sunshine in the mix!  Everything has turned to a lush green, and flowers are blooming.

The other evening, a couple of birds were singing the most beautiful melody in the backyard. I couldn’t see them, but their enchanting song seemed to joyfully echo through the trees. It was a rare kind of sound, and made me drop everything I was doing to stop and listen.

We have been making the most of the nice weather. Even on weeknights, we’ve often opted to eat in the backyard, enjoying the longer hours of sunshine and the blissful fragrance of the nearby lilac blossoms.

We have been so busy lately that our backyard is definitely sporting a very ‘natural’ kind of beauty.  😉  If the weather cooperates, I am hoping to spend some time working in the yard next weekend. Over time, I hope to create a yard that grows plenty of native plants and provides some habitat for butterflies and bees, so I will be doing a bit more research, too.

In the meantime, I hope you have a great week!  I’ll leave you with some famous reflections on “the backyard” and outdoors.  Do any of these resonate with you?

“People’s backyards are much more interesting than their front gardens, and houses that back on to railways are public benefactors.”

~ John Betjeman

“Nature is impersonal, awe-inspiring, elegant, eternal. It’s geometrically perfect. It’s tiny and gigantic. You can travel far to be in a beautiful setting, or you can observe it in your own backyard – or, in my case, in the trees lining New York City sidewalks, or in the clouds above the skyscrapers.”

~ Gretchen Rubin

“The really best acting is children in a playground or in a backyard. They’re just lost in their imagination…”

~ Nolan North

“I like to sit in my backyard. I go out on the hammock and sit in silence and kind of meditate. Nature is calming, and it’s nice to go out there and clear my head.”

~ Devon Werkheiser

“I feel a responsibility to my backyard. I want it to be taken care of and protected. “

~ Annie Leiboritz

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The Lure of The Window-Sill

Above Image:  Creative Commons, “Window and Flowers” by Sukanto Debnath, is licensed under CC by 2.0

Post by Carina Spring.

Sunny Window-Sill, Autumn In Sydney Australia, by Ruby Goes, Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Sunny Window-Sill, Autumn In Sydney Australia, by Ruby Goes, licensed under CC by 2.0
Window, La Boca Buenos Aires, By DiegoTorres Silvestre, Found on Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Window, La Boca Buenos Aires, By DiegoTorres Silvestre, Licensed under CC by 2.0

Windows are a wonderful place where the comfort and ambiance of the indoors connect with the light and colours of nature.

Crack a window open, and the fragrance in the room immediately transforms.  Freshness.  The season enters your room through the air: fresh cut grass, new blossoms from a nearby lilac tree, the woody smell of wet soil.

The sounds gravitate to meet you.  Urban sounds, mingled with the sounds of nature.  Children playing, the mesmerizing rustle of leaves in a soft breeze, birds, a car driving by.

Wherever I go, I always ask for the window seat.

Come Rain or Come Shine by Faith Globe, Courtesy of Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Come Rain or Come Shine by Faith Globe, licensed under CC by 2.0.

 

Curtains by Lynn, Found on Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Curtains by Lynn, Licensed under CC by 2.0

 

View From My Window, by KaCey97078, Courtesy of Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, View From My Window, by KaCey97078, Licensed under CC by 2.0

 

Sunglow Window and Tree Shadow, by Ken Bosma, desertdutchman, courtesy of Flickr, CC.
Creative Commons, Sunglow Window and Tree Shadow, by Ken Bosma, desertdutchman, Licensed under CC by 2.0

Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com!

Image links will soon be added. Sorry for the delay ~ technical difficulties.

 

The surprising Beauty and Benefits of Owning a Fish.

Post written by Carina Spring, and her son.  

What kind of animals have been part of your family?

Our animal friends have a way of making a house feel more like a home. Don’t you think?

There have been a few periods in my life when I didn’t have a pet, but over the years so far, I’ve had dogs, cats, budgies (they were my brothers’), and a baby bird that we rescued after a storm, and eventually released. I have so many stories about these animals!

Currently, we have a 20 year old Tortoiseshell cat, as well as a new addition to our family!

Fishy Facts

Have you ever owned a fish?

For the longest time, my son wanted a Betta fish.  I hate to admit this, but I kept thinking, “A fish?  Really?  How boring.”  I didn’t get the point of owning a fish. All that work of cleaning a tank, and no cuddles?

Nonetheless, last spring, we got one.  And you know, I was wrong. I still can’t believe how friendly and interactive this animal is. A lot of people believe fish only come toward you because they think it’s meal time.  It’s not true: Our fish’s behaviour at meal  times is very specific, and very different from other interactions he seems to enjoy with us.

Fish are beautiful and endearing, but that is not all. There are documented, scientifically proven health benefits to owning an aquarium.

The Health Benefits

Fish have been shown to improve our mood,  reduce blood pressure, and calm children. When looking at fish, our pulse slows, muscle tension relaxes, and our skin temperature warms.

Studies with Alzheimers patients have shown that, when an aquarium is placed in the dining room, patients eat more, need less supplements, and even exhibit less aggressive behaviour.

A study even showed that dental patients needed less pain-killers after looking at an aquarium.

A Soothing room-mate

An aquarium in the bedroom can add beauty to the space, and help you sleep better. Our Betta is in my son’s bedroom, and the soft sound of the water and gentle glow of the light help my son relax and sleep well.

Fun Fish Tales

My son wanted to share a few fun anecdotes about Mr. Betta.  Does anyone reading know if this is typical of a Betta?

~When my husband pours (special, treated) water into the tank, Mr. betta swims through the stream, rather than away From it!

~Mr. betta likes to use the soft current of the filter (kept on minimum for a Betta!) as a “water slide”. He will go up to the filter, let the current push him down, and then repeat until he gets tired.

~He will chase my son’s wiggling finger with remarkable speed!

~Turns out cats aren’t the only ones who get the “evening friskies”!  Mr. betta seems to have a lot of energy right before bed-time. 

Mr.Betta’s Home

Originally, we had him in a 3 gallon tank. We’ve since upgraded him to a 10 gallon tank. Having seen the difference in his behaviour and colouring, I recommend anyone with a Beta consider getting a 10 gallon tank with a filter and heater. Lots of plants, too!  Your pet will be much happier, and live longer.  We’ve also found it easier to maintain.

The neatest thing is that my son has taken on the responsibility of caring for the fish, and unfailingly follows through!

Interested in getting a Betta?  Check out the following link to learn more: http://www.firsttankguide.net/betta.php

 Mr Betta is now a part of the family!

Well, we’d love to hear about your pets!  And let us know if you’ve ever owned fish!

 

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION! Be sure that your fish was sourced responsibly. Avoid buying fish that were taken from their natural habitat. More info on that in a future post!

*Editor’s Note: In the first comment, AncientMariner explains how using fish from their natural habitats might actually help protect that habitat. A good point!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awesome and Simple Friday Get-Togethers.

Post written by Carina Spring 

What do you like to do on Friday nights? For us, Fridays have always been a special treat, and usually involve home-made pizza and watching a movie. I love that kind of Friday. 

Lately, though, we’ve changed things up a bit. We have added regular Friday get-togethers into the mix. Until recently, when we hosted dinners, we would always do it on Saturdays. Somehow that’s changing.  

Having friends over on a Friday makes me feel like I am starting a long weekend. When the evening is done, I marvel that it is even a workday! We’ve spent hours chatting and relaxing in the company of good friends, and we still have the whole weekend ahead! 

Everyone is different, but here are a few things that have tipped the scales for us in favour of Friday get-togethers:

1) We keep it simple. Most times, we order in so dishes and cooking are minimal.

2) There is an understanding that it will be a pretty casual evening.  It’s Friday, we’ve worked all week, so the house won’t be perfect. It’s about genuinely enjoying and connecting with each other, not impressing each other.

3) We’re all pretty tired, so things wrap up early. Everyone wants to be rested for the next day in order to really enjoy Saturday.

4) Often, we hang out and even dine in the family room at the back. With soft couches and big windows, it’s an invitation to get comfy and let the week go.

We still love Saturday dinners every now and then, but they are a different experience. Finding a way to visit on Fridays has meant that we can see everyone more often, and we still have time to pursue our interests and get some rest on the weekend.

No matter what I am doing, Friday holds a special place on the weekday calendar.

Image by Supertrooper, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

 

 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

Post written by Carina Spring.

Canadian winters. What an experience. Do you like winter?  How do you survive it?

I was listening to CBC recently and a guest speaker was talking about the possibility of making downtown ice trails so that people could skate to work.  He made an interesting point: Winter cities live in freezing conditions for many months of the year. Why focus on the 10 days that are really, really unbearable?  Instead, focus on getting outside and embracing the season.  I couldn’t agree more!

There was a time in history when people enjoyed winter. Regular winter festivals were the norm, people bundled up and walked outside, played outside, and just all around made the best of the season.

I know winter can be hard, and driving in it is the worst part for me. But enjoying the season is a mind-set. If one dresses for the cold, and I mean REALLY dress for it, it is fun to be outside. The quality of light, the crisp, cold air, the brilliance of the snow. It’s invigorating and magical!

Okay, when it gets ridiculously cold (for me, that is when the temp goes below -32 C with a windchill) it can be too much. But normally, it isn’t that bad. When it is, I try to get cozy and kind of hibernate. Wait till the cold snap breaks.

Anyhow, here’s to winter and making the best of it. The way I see it, if I’m going to live somewhere this cold, I might as well really experience it. There are many people in the world who will never know the joy of walking in the picturesque beauty after a fresh snow-fall. Lucky us!

btw I snapped the picture with my cell phone camera on my way home from work. I was not dressed for it so I could barely hold on to the camera. My point? I will make the best of winter, but will LOVE summer when it comes! 😉

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Well, just in case it’s too cold for you to go outside, here are a few versions of that song to keep you smiling!  Take your pick.

I had no idea that Lady Gaga had done a version of this song!

Have you heard this version?  It’s a classic.

Or this one?

Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com, I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

 

DIY Lamp: So Easy and Unique!

We were having a really hard time taking down our Christmas lights this year.  The Christmas tree was no problem. We keep it in the family room at the back and we took it down early in January.

But our living room-dining room was a different story. This year I had tried something new. I lit these rooms up whimsically with Christmas lights throughout. At the window, I carefully designed a Christmas tree out of lights. It looked so nice that various guests were surprised when they came in to see that it was not a real tree – just a beautiful, 2-d light structure.

The problem was, none of us wanted to take the lights down. They created such a magical, cozy effect. Then, I saw this idea for a DIY lamp.  I took down all of the lights, and filled a tall glass vase with a string of lights. So easy! Our multicoloured lamp looks cozy and joyful in our living room. (See picture)

The great thing about this lamp is that you can choose one colour of light to create the feeling you want, and coordinate with your decor.  I simply used the lights I had, but there are many ways to apply this idea to your space and needs. (Consider the possibilities:  Red lights for a special Valentine dinner, white lights for an elegant year-round look…)

My son was initially pretty bummed out when I took down our Christmas lights, but after a couple of hours he said the lamp was growing on him. “Actually, it’s pretty charming. Like a star jar.”

February: I love to read books (so why resist?) month

There is something I just love about having a stack of books by my bed, so that at any moment I can reach over, grab one that suits my mood, and fill myself up with ideas and stories.

Last summer, my mom started passing along a bunch of old Reader’s Digest condensed book collections. These collections varied in decade, published from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. They are perfect to read before going to sleep or just to relax because they tend to have lighter themes and be relatively shorter in length. It has also been a great way to add variety to my reading because the selection includes books that I may not have otherwise considered.

Lately, I’d been craving a good read, so I turned to these collections, and wound up reading the childhood memoir of Marcel Pagnol, “The Days Were Too Short”. There is something magical about Marcel’s writing.  He leads you along unsuspectingly with this beautiful imagery and then, suddenly, with one sentence,  he evokes a powerful and unexpected reaction. In this way, I found myself gasping in surprise, bursting into laughter, and at one point tears. It is simple, honest, powerful story-telling. Accompanied by charming, whimsical illustrations, the experience is a complete delight. (See image above.)

What a treat.  That is just one of the reasons why I love reading. Yet, sometimes, I find myself resisting the desire to read a book.  It’s a small kind of resistance: like when I am going to bed, and I’m tired so I don’t want to concentrate.  Or the lure of reading on-line instead.

But reading a paper book is a very different experience than reading on the internet. I don’t need to look at all the research to prove it to myself; I just need to observe the way I feel after doing each activity. When I read a book, I am relaxed and soothed in a completely different way than if I’d read an article on my iPhone. The way it engages me is different, too.  Reading a book takes me to a deeper level of concentration, a complete immersion into an enduring experience.

I am not saying one shouldn’t read on-line articles!  Just be aware that each activity provides very different kinds of benefits. Listen to your body after 30 minutes of reading a book vs reading on-line, and you’ll see what I mean.

February is I love to Read Month. As I head into this month, I want to make a point of reading books at bedtime, at least on most nights.

Reading books is one of the most rewarding habits to nourish at home.  It is a simple, inexpensive way to enrich our lives, delight our imaginations, and broaden our understandings. I can’t wait to find the next group of books to stack on my night table!

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To sign off today, I leave you with a memorable quote from The Days Were Too Short. Pagnol’s father always said these were the most beautiful words in the French language:

“Hope is not needed to undertake a task, nor success to carry it through.”

How do you interpret that quote?

 

Travel, Moving, and Finding Meaning: a TED Talk by Pico Iyer

The Age of Movement

Image used with permission: http://www.aliciaandneilphotography.com/

Click on the link at the bottom of the post to listen to today’s TED Talk:

“More and more people worldwide are living in countries not considered their own. Writer Pico Iyer — who himself has three or four “origins” — meditates on the meaning of home, the joy of traveling and the serenity of standing still.”

Changing our surroundings is a way of waking ourselves up.  The longing to travel is often fuelled by the desire to see the world and our lives through different eyes, and to change our perspectives.

Even more profound is the experience of moving.  If you have ever moved, you know how deeply it can affect your view and understanding of the world, and of yourself.  A small move within the same city can affect you, never mind a change of country or province.

In his TED Talk, Pico Iyers considers how living in the “Age of Movement” is transforming us, and suggests that “stillness” is the best way to find what travel and moving can teach us.

Finding Stillness and Meaning

At about the 9th minute of his TED Talk, Pico shares an experience he had in a retreat at a hermitage.

He talks about “retreat” and silence not as a lack of noise, but as the presence of peace: an experience that helps us to rediscover who we are, and make meaning of all the movement in our lives.

His description makes me long for that kind of stillness and solitude – and maybe some day I will spend a few days at a hermitage on a beautiful mountain!  In the meantime, though, scheduling that kind of retreat is pretty hard for most of us.  It got me thinking: is there a way to create  intentional “retreat”  in our regular lives, at home? 

Rebooting:  Retreat in Our Regular Lives

In his Talk, Pico encourages us to find simple ways of intentionally incorporating “retreat” into our “every-day” lives.  While this probably means something different for each of us, here are some suggestions of ways to build more “retreat” into our lives:

Yoga. For several years, I used to practice yoga and meditation.  The focused breathing on the pose is one thing that approaches the experience Pico describes.  I find it hard to make the time to do this lately, but perhaps I need to start again.

Meditation.  Even if you don’t have time to do yoga, a couple of minutes of regular meditation can bring much needed stillness into our lives.  I will provide an in depth post on this interesting topic soon. There are also many books on the subject. For beginners, the key is to focus on the breath for a minute or two.  Just breathe easy, and if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath.

Walking.  Walking has benefits similar to a retreat.   When you are mindful of nature surrounding you – yes, even urban outdoor settings are part of nature –  you heighten the benefits.  If you can occasionally include an outing to a park or out of town,  all the better! Yesterday, my mom and I drove out of town, and took a  brisk one hour hike in the cold (- 27c), sunny day.  When I was done, I felt like a new person.  To sum up: a good hike is amazing!

Nature.  Related to the point above is the simple act of connecting with nature.  Whether you can go to a park at lunch break, work on your garden, bike ride around your neighbourhood, sit in your back yard, or go on a camping trip, being outside and interacting with nature reconnects you and is a type of “retreat”. In our first six years of marriage, my husband and I lived in an apartment on the 10th floor. In the summer, spring, and fall, we would sit out there watching the birds and world go by. It was wonderful to watch the distant trees sprout buds, turn green, and eventually orange, all from up above.

These kind of activities may not be the same as going on a solitary retreat, where you can walk and think and meditate for three days straight without the interruptions of daily life.  However, they are activities that are accessible, inexpensive, and can help us reconnect with ourselves on a regular basis.

Do you have ideas on how to find stillness and peace in your life?  Have you ever gone an a retreat?  What was the experience like?

Click below:

Ideas on How to Simplify Christmas

So Many Reasons to Love  December

I love December! The charmed month that brings the longest night of the year, and the promise of longer days ahead. It brings twinkling lights and sparkling snow, walks in the fresh northern air, the smell of pine, the brilliant blue winter skies. It means time spent with friends and family, the wonderful aromas of delicious food and tasty wine.   When I assess what it is that I find so magical about December, I realize it has very little to do with shopping, or receiving material gifts. The things that make this month magical for me have everything to do with spending time with loved ones, and savouring life.

How to Enjoy the Holidays… Your Way.

With all of the pressure to buy, spend, out-do and out-decorate, though, we sometimes wind up feeling more stress than joy.  It is important to remember that we have the choice to make changes, and create a simpler season for ourselves.  The key is to make decisions that are right for you and your family, based on what you want your Christmas to be, not the expectations dictated by a commercially driven holiday.  

Simple Ideas for a Simpler Christmas

Our family tries to keep things pretty simple at Christmas, but we enjoy celebrating together and doing some sort of gift exchange. Everyone always buys presents for the children, though we try not to over do it.  However, we tend to be quite minimalist with the adult gift exchange.  Some years, we pick names and only buy for that one person.  This means that we can put more thought into the gift.  Also, my husband and I don’t always buy each other presents, or we keep the gifts small, fun, or really wanted (Example: I love books, but rarely spurge on them for myself – I just use the library.  So, at Christmas, my husband will often buy me a book he knows I love).   When deciding on gifts, remember that unique and creative gifts are often way better than the latest and greatest piece of plastic.    Another way we simplify is that we reuse gift bags and decorations… I am still using the artificial tree and the ornaments from my childhood!  My son loves it, and putting up that old tree has become  quite a family tradition.

How Would You Like to Spend This Christmas?

Early in December is a good time to reflect on how we’d like to see the season unfold. Ask yourself: How would you like to spend your time this December? What makes this month special for you?   Make a list, and prioratize – identify which activities are most important to you.  Then, remember the list when planning your engagements and gift exchanges for the season.  You can’t say yes to everything, so use the list to help guide your choices.  If necessary, consider making a few changes to how you’ll approach the holidays this year.  As my mom always says, “There are a lot of stops between everything and nothing.”  Small changes can make a difference.

Enjoy Christmas and December, too.

Celebrating a simpler Christmas keeps December from becoming a frantic month, and it gives you the opportunity to really enjoy the activities of the season.    It has been a win-win for us:  less packaging, less shopping, less pressure, less waste, more time to do the things that matter, more time to spend with the people who we love, more money in the bank or contributed to a charity, more contemplation and more health.

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Home, Life, and Living.

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So here’s to December.  In an imperfect world, and with all it’s challenges, may it still sparkle with some sincere joy.  Thanks for stopping by homehurrah.com.  I can’t wait to share my next post with you!