Saturday Morning Breakfast…Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner

The bulls-eye (also known as egg in a hole or egg in a basket) has been a staple recipe in my family growing up. It’s simple, quick, and delicious for any hour of the day.

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Ingredients for the bulls-eye

Here’s what you will need:

A slice of bread, toasted

An egg

Mayo

Shredded cheese

Hot sauce

Non-stick pan

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Make the bulls-eye

Here’s what you do:

Heat the pan on medium-low

Toast the bread

Using a circular cookie cutter or glass, cut a hole out from the center of the toast

Spread the mayo on each side of the toast and place on the pan

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Crack the egg into the hole

Crack the egg into the center of the hole and let it cook for 2-3 minutes

Flip the toast

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Sprinkle cheese and hot sauce over egg

Sprinkle cheese and hot sauce over the egg and cover for another 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted

Spread butter or jam on the cut out hole and serve with the bulls-eye and some orange juice.

Enjoy!

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Yummmmm!

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50 Years After JFK

I am happy to finally be able to say TGIF! It has been a busy week and I get to have my first weekend in a while. But it was sort of a weird Friday. I woke up to one of the most gloomy and ugly days I have ever experienced weather wise. And, it turns out it affected a little more.

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The late President John F. Kennedy

Today marks 50 years after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. On November 22, 1963 JFK arrived in Dallas, TX where he was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded the presidency after the death was confirmed.

He was one of the most beloved presidents and most assessable to the public eye. Most American’s owned a television set, the latest source for information, which included televised speeches by JFK himself. His famous “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” was one such speech that was televised and has been looped in my history classes and on today’s news. He was young, charming, and handsome and the TV embraced that to the public eye.

The media and the popularity of the president proved this day to be one of the most iconic in the public memories that experienced it. I was not even a thought when President Kennedy was assassinated, but my parents were 9 and 12 and recall the day. My mother was home from school and remembers watching the reactions of her parents and siblings before the TV was flicked on and my father found out after coming home from school and sitting on the patio with his friend.

Several reporters today also recall where they were, what they were doing, and even wearing when they found out about the assassination. And while there are constant conversations about conspiracy theories, one thing stays the same in that Americans were devastated by the event and will never forget.

For me, I relate those vivid memories that people have about where they personally were when they found out to my own experience with September 11th. I was in 8th grade and just arriving to base camp after a two day backpacking trip. We were exhausted but excited to have made good time. But instead of a celebratory afternoon, we were gathered around and told what had happened. They gave us our journals to write in, but I had nothing I could write. I didn’t even know what the Twin Towers were.

I was so removed from the world. Sitting on a log in the middle of the woods, it was hard to grasp anything. It wasn’t until I returned home from the trip a couple days later that the news filled me in completely. To imagine seeing those images live, with no warning or explanation would have been confusing, frustrating and scary. That is why people remembering today can tell us, with such detail, what they were doing.

It’s a day to recall and I think the weather matched what a lot of people felt for many days after his passing. What do you remember about a big event?

 

Growing up in Russia

There are moments in everybody’s life when they grow up a little. Certain events or thoughts or words trigger something inside us that causes us to ‘age.’ We become more responsible or aware or understanding. The thing is, these moments are endless and thus, we are constantly growing up, or rather, learning from our mistakes or our curiosity.

One such event happened to me when I was studying in Russia for a summer program of Russian language and culture. I was there mostly for the culture. I am a terrible language student and can’t say I picked up much Russian other than the necessary phrases to survive in St. Petersburg for a month.

I stayed with a family about a 10-minute walk from Smolny University, but there was a bit of a commute to the inner part of the city. I used the bus system there and had familiarized myself with a route to and from the apartment and ‘down town.’

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Mariinsky Theater

My first week there, several of us met up and attended a fantastic Russian ballet. It was performed in the famous Mariinsky Theater. We sat in our own box, nibbled on treats, and bought souvenir mini ballet slippers. I still have my pair hanging off my door at home and they remind me of this night every time I look at them. The ballet ran incredibly late, but you wouldn’t have guessed it was passed midnight. In Russia, it stays light most of the night during the summer months. They call these the White Nights.

I said my farewells and got on the infamous bus 22 back to my side of town. St. Petersburg is basically a giant marshland so there are tons of bridges and at night, these bridges are drawn to let in and out ships. So there is a period of about 4-5 hours where you are stuck on whatever side until the bridges are put down again. Luckily, my apartment was on the same side of the river as the Mariinsky Theater.

The first part of the bus ride was uneventful. I wasn’t quite comfortable enough to sit back and read so I watched the familiar landmarks pass by, reassuring me I was on the right route. But the ride took an abrupt turn into unfamiliar territory. Suddenly I found myself on streets I had never seen. Or was I mistaken? Nope, I was lost.

The sun began to set, making the night eerily dim and my 20 or so minute ride home turned into a 40 minute one somewhere else. Something was very wrong. I gathered my things, pulled out my pocket map of the city, and made my way to the front of the bus. In the little Russian I had acquired in my weeklong stay, I asked the driver where we were. At the next stop, I had him point at the map. We were by a river. I looked out the front windshield and saw a bridge that was approaching quickly.

Before I could process even what direction I had ended up in, I was off the bus. There was no way I was ending up on the other side of the river for the night. I found myself at a dark bus stop. We had been told before our trip to be discreet about being a tourist and American students while in Russia. But I was desperate. I looked around. There was a stooped over drunk man on one end of the bench and a boy, maybe my age, or even a little younger, standing outside of the bus stop.

I basically ran to the boy, map opened wide, eyes even wider. He saw my desperation and had a surprising sort of calm about him. My first word out of my mouth, “do you speak English.” First rule, broken. I sorted out where I was, that the next bus wasn’t coming until 5:00 AM, and that the metro across the street was shut as well. His suggestion, hitchhike.

This is something I had never done even in my own  town where I pretty much knew everyone let alone a giant foreign country. But, it was my only ticket home, unless I wanted to hunker down for the night in the bus stop.

In Russia it’s actually a pretty common practice to hitchhike. You waive down any car and bargain with them. We crossed the street. I showed him on the map where I needed to go pointing to Smolny University. Second rule broken. He started to waive down cars heading in that direction. The first couple he spoke to and then waived on. I have no idea why; maybe the cost wasn’t to his liking, or the people? The third one was it.

He opened the door for me and told me that they would take me back. And without evening thinking I asked, “will you come with me?” Suddenly, I trusted this boy, and I trusted him a whole lot more than the plump couple squished together in the front of the little red car. He and I crawled in the back and we began our journey.

I tried to spot certain landmarks that I recognized but we wound through back ally ways and side streets. For all I knew, they were taking me back across the city to do what they wanted with me. All the disturbing things I had seen on TV or read in the paper suddenly seemed very possible. I even recall taking a breath and thinking, this is it. I will never forget that feeling of desperation and helplessness. I was in the hands of three strangers.

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Smolny University

And then, we came to an open round about and directly across from it was Smolny, the big blue onion topped building. I spat out, “that’s it!” We pulled around and stopped. I began to rummage through my purse, looking to the boy to see what I owed. But he was already handing the man our payment. We both climbed out and I asked what I owed him but he shewed my money away. I then asked how he planned on getting home. In broken English he replied, “don’t worry.”

I was shocked, but also grateful and thoroughly exhausted. I thanked him several more times, made sure he was OK the best I could, and turned to begin my walk home. I crawled into bed that night still amazed at what had happened when I realized, I hadn’t even asked what the boys name was.

This was the event where I grew up a little. It was the moment when I realized there was true danger out there and that I was quite unprepared to manage it on my own, but also that there are incredibly kind people that will help you and ask for nothing in return. The boy taught me a lot about humanity. I can still recall his face and demeanor vividly, but there is no name I can credit to him. I do hope every time I have told this story he feels proud somehow though, because he will never know how thankful I am for his being there and keeping me safe.

I found out that I was on the last bus of the evening, thus, bypassing my stop, and going a more direct route to the bus barn. I got a load of bad luck that could have gone many different ways, but I was swept away with incredibly good luck in somehow being paired up with a kind bystander willing to accompany me and pay for my ride home.

It’s always a reminder for me that people are good. The bad is so commonly emphasized, but these deeds good happen every day. Take a moment and think about any good deeds you’ve gotten to whiteness or experience or even do yourself. Share them!

Ravioli-Green Bean Lasagna

Food is a big part of my day. I am a muncher. My family calls it grazing, where you just sort of snack here and there throughout the day. People find it funny, doctors say it’s healthy, I just do it. And because of it, I have played around with baking and cooking here and there and I love it.

Now that I am officially fending for myself, homemade dinners everyday can be a challenge. I have those staple recipes I learned from my parents and a few of my own, but that’s a handful of food that can get pretty dull pretty fast. That’s when I pull out my cookbooks and magazine clippings of new found meals to try. Here’s where the real challenge comes in. Menus on a budget AND a time frame (like 30 minutes or less) that’s realistic to pull together after a sporadic work schedule.

This month’s Good Housekeeping arrived in our mail (I think by mistake). I flipped through the articles and spotted several recipes at the tale end of the issue. The headline read, “If you’ve got…cheese ravioli.” I read on. It listed three different meals using cheese ravioli within a 15, 20, and 35 minute time frame. I dog eared the page and pulled out my marketing list.

Guess what we had for dinner last night. Ravioli-Green Bean Lasagna. And it was delicious. Plus, we have some leftovers too (another thing I look for when I cook now as my boyfriend and I both pack lunches for work).

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Ravioli-Green Bean Lasagna

So, if you have ravioli and 35 minutes, here’s what you do/what I did:

Ingredients:

Frozen green beans

Part-skim ricotta cheese

Shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese

Grated Parmesan cheese

Jar of marinara sauce

12 oz. of Italian sausage frozen ravioli

Prep:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Steam 1 cup frozen green beans by adding 2 tbs of water and microwaving for 2 minutes

Mix 1 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella and provolone, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese together in a bowl

Assemble:

Pour and spread 1/3 of the marinara sauce in a 9×9 Pyrex baking dish

Pour half of frozen ravioli on top

Spread the ricotta mixture on top

Pour green beans over

Top with the rest of the frozen ravioli

Pour another 1/3 of marinara (you will have some left over in the jar)

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella and provolone, and grated Parmesan cheese to cover the rest of the ravioli

Bake:

Place the dish in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and slightly crispy on top.

This fed 2 + leftovers for 2-3 lunches. This was my take to the Good Housekeeping recipe.

Let me know if you bake this dinner and what your thoughts are. Any changes you made or alterations? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

The Character List

There is a selection of characters from movies, books, and play that have a special place in my heart. They are characters that somehow resonated with my little 5 year old self (and up) enough to be able to recall them today, although, sometimes not without questions as to why I was so attached.

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Rose Petal

Rose Petal: My next door neighbor had given me this movie. As I recall, I watched this movie over and over and over again. And, according to my parents, it was probably one of the worst movies ever. I only recall how awesome it was. I especially loved the beginning when it was live action, later turning into a cartoon.

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Barney

Barney: Yes, the big purple dinosaur. I have a picture of me opening up Barney for Christmas and my face tells it all. He was my hero. I probably watched Barny past the expected age, but I do remember it was because those kids along side him were pretty much my same age, and I thought how cool it would be to get to play too.

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Kirsten

Kirsten: My first and most special American Girl doll. I know this is more of a toy, but she did come with a series of books and is probably the single most played with toy from my childhood. I don’t think I ever even got through her first book as her friend was dying from an illness. It was sad and scary. But, I certainly spend hours making up her life and playing it out.

 

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Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children: I wanted to be one. The idea of fellow brothers and sister fending for themselves and making house in an abandoned box car sounded like so much fun! I had always sort of romanticized the idea of being an orphan and I have no idea why. I grew up in probably the most loving family and was happy, but orphans interested me and lit my imagination. Plus, it was an awesome chapter book (at least to a little kid).

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A Little Princess

 

A Little Princess: I listened to the book on tape before bed

and watched the movie (but never owned it). Again, something about orphans and fending for yourself.

I loved this story. She was a clever girl who was full of imagination and believed so much in others and her doll. She made people feel special in the way she told stories

and spoke of magic. I wanted her to be my best friend.

What are some of your childhood memories and favorite character?

Monday Monday

It’s hard to believe where Monday went. It was hard enough getting up and out of bed after a busy weekend, let alone getting back into the work week. On top of that, it was a must market Monday. Our fridge was pretty bare. So a Mexican food dinner out and a super market sweep has landed us in the tale end of our evening with our Monday night shows still in queue to watch.

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling drained already at the start of the week. But have no fear! It’s time to pull out more of my favorite YouTube videos! Here’s to round two:

Shit Skiers Say:

I’m from a ski town and growing up in that environment was awesome. This video hits on a bunch of funny quarks that are actually fairly accurate! Plus, it’s pretty appropriate to start with as this past weekend the slopes opened after a huge winter storm. The ski season is upon us.

Her Morning Elegance:

A friend of mine introduced this video to me while studying. Ha. yeah, YouTube is dangerous when you are trying to avoid procrastination. But, it’s a beautiful video that is so creative!

6 Easy Ribbon Hairstyles:

This is a perfect thing to try out, especially as the holidays come up! I love DIY and make up videos, but I rarely put them to the test. This one has some excellent and incredibly cute hair styling ideas with ribbons.

Hand Hug:

Brittani Louise Taylor, also know as BLT, is a happy go lucky YouTuber that is consistently positive and funny. I really like her S.O.S videos (shout out Sundays!). This is one of many worth watching.

I hope these perk up your Monday and the rest of the the week! Let me know which is your favorite!

 

Time

This Sunday has been something of perfection. But it only was that way because I let it be. One of the most difficult things I have had to adapt to is the conflict of schedules and having the time I want to do the things I love and spend the days with the people I love. It’s finding that happy medium to manage those moments of time when you can do those things. But sometimes those moments are not ideal.

For example, my boyfriend and I both had a Sunday off together for the first time in a while. But, there was an important meeting he had to attend in the morning. It was frustrating for me at first. I wanted the entire day with him to myself and when he first suggested I meet them for lunch, I wasn’t exactly interested.

In the grand scheme of things, I realized, this lunch was my chance to spend the time I wanted with him. It was not going to be ‘ideal’ but it was the best we could do. I turned out having a great time socializing with the guests and sitting beside my sweetie the whole afternoon.

To top the day off, we went to the movies in the evening, just he and I. We went to see the new film About Time and the concept of the film directly relates to this sort of lesson I learned today. Each day and moment is what you make of it, and you only get one chance, really, in life to make it your best moment.

The plot is fairly simple and predictable. (Spoiler alert ahead) A man has the gift of time travel passed down to him through generations. He is able to travel back in time to any moment in his life and make settle changes to better suit him. As he develops his ‘talent,’ his father guides him with his best advice and practices. His father told him, live one day like you would normally and the film goes through a mundane day of the mans life. He then travels back in time to the start of that same day, but observes all the things he missed. Basically, taking the time to smell the roses. I love this concept.

Trailer for the film About Time:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2194499/

But it is hard to put to practice. The message and lessons of About Time is that life is special and time is fleeting but it’s how we choose to use it that makes life bearable and hopefully beautiful. I know it’s sort of cheesy and a bit romanticized, but I can’t help but fully relate to this idea, with this afternoon being a perfect example.

So make your time worthwhile this week with the things you love and the people you love, even if it’s not how you might have pictured it. Tell me how you make the most of your time.

November Goes Nutty

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It’s November! You know what that means…

November has proven to be quite the month. Obviously, it’s National Novel Writing and Blog Posting Month. It’s also the month we celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends and turkey. But did you know, November is also National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month. No joke.

Yep, November has been donned the month where anybody and everybody can express their true appreciation for the crunchy or creamy spread. For me, there is always a jar of peanut butter in the fridge and I use it to create some of my favorite snacks and treats, or just to tide me over. Personally, I feel I give peanut butter it’s credit every time I pop a new jar open, but as November is officially it’s month, I suppose I’ll take a little extra time to express my true gratitude for the mouth watering and nutty staple.

Peanut butter has a long history, first dating back to BC 1000. Peanuts were ground into a sort of past. George Washington Carver gets most of the credit as a sort of inventor for the spread because of his promotion of 300 ways to use peanut butter. Either way, the stuff stuck around and I’m pretty sure we have gone way beyond 300 used for peanut butter.

While I think it’s safe to say most peanut butter lovers agree on how magnificent the creamy goodness is, there is one strong split and that is crunchy vs. creamy. Every person I have talked to about this has had a definitive answer as to which one is preferred. There’s hardly any debate even because they believe in their textured choice. I’m pretty much the same way. I’m crunchy through and through and there is no arguing creamy trumps it.

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Keep the oil in baby.

I grew up eating Adams Natural Peanut Butter (crunchy). Yeah, that’s the stuff that when you open the jar, there is a layer of oil on top of the peanut butter. The first time my boyfriend used the stuff, he poured the liquid out and spread, what he called, ‘the driest peanut butter in the world,’ onto a piece of toast. The key to making that natural stuff delicious is to blend the oils into the peanut butter. Of course, this is a time consuming, hand cramping, and fairly messy task.

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Peanut butter tool!

So, aside from peanut butter being a top invention, the peanut butter mixer is next! My family invested in this tool later than I would have liked, but it’s one of those kitchen tools that once you start using it there is no going back. It’s a lid with a handle on top and a medal hook driven through it. You unscrew the lid of the peanut butter off, replace it with this tool, and stir away, keeping all the oils in the jar and the hand cramping a thing of the past!

Well, now that we can properly prepare our peanut butter, it’s time to list some of those favorite snacks and treats!

Number one of my list is the classic midnight snack. Peanut butter spread on apple slices, preferably granny smith apples. Again, this is a rather time consuming task, but the reward is something delicious.

Peanut butter and jelly, toasted. A classic.

Ants on a log. Well, OK, I really only ever eat the peanut butter spread on celery, but that’s only because it looks too good to wait any longer. I’ll just eat the raisins later.

Peanut butter cookies! This is my specialty. I mastered this cookie using the biggest illustrated children’s cookbook ever (Kids’ First Cookbook). It’s still the recipe I use to this day. Sometimes simple is better.

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Munch munch munch.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. This was a treat I rarely got, but when I did, I would savor every last bite, popping the inside of the Reese’s out first and eating it before the bordering chocolate part. The fun size are even more dangerous to have around, especially when you keep them in the freezer. A little chill makes all the difference.

A spoon full of peanut butter. I know this sounds kinda grose depending on who you are, but sometimes that’s all I need. It’s one of those things that actually brings a smile to my face when I take a bit and the happy goes all the way down. And it turns out peanut butter (well, more so the actual peanut) is actually pretty good for you. It’s got lots of protein, potassium, and B vitamins. Simple, nutty, salty, cream.

What are some of your peanut butter favorites! Hey, it’s only November 16th! It’s not too late to indulge on the tastiness for the rest of the month. Share how nutty you are for peanut butter and join the club as it is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month after all!

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Signed with love.

DIY: Thankful Tree

Thanksgiving is around the corner and the filling holiday is stuffed with family, fun, and foody traditions. I decided to start a new tradition for my boyfriend and I this Thanksgiving by creating a Thankful Tree. I first heard about this from a colleague of mine and thought I would create my own version of the idea. It’s an inexpensive project that you and your loved ones can create together over the holiday.

Materials you will need:

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Materials for the Thankful Tree

  • Decorative paper – I used scrapbook paper from Michaels.
  • Needle and thread – I used the end of a paperclip and dental floss.
  • Scissors
  • A vase
  • Branches – My boyfriend and I collected dead branches on our walk through a park.

Here’s what you will do:

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Taking a circular stencil (I used a mini wine bottle), trace a circle on the decorative paper. Fold the paper several times, like you would a snowflake, and cut along the traced line. This will produced several circle cut outs. These will be used to write on and eventually hang on your Thankful Tree like ornaments.

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Using a needle or paperclip, poke a hole through the cut out paper circle about a 1/4 of an inch in from the edge.

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Thread the string through the hole and tie to make a loop.

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Write what you are thankful for this year on several circle ornaments using a pen.

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Position the branches in the vase to your liking. It may take a few goes before you get an arrangement you like. I trimmed several of my branches to better fit the vase.

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Hang your completed ornaments off the branches of your Thankful Tree.

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Display your Thankful Tree for all to see.  Keep a pile of extra circles near your thankful tree for guests to add during their visits or during your Thanksgiving feast. Soon, your tree will be filled with thankful thoughts from all the most important people in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving! Please send pictures of your family traditions for the holiday or your version of the Thankful Tree!

Monet Impressions

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Claude Monet, the Impressionist artist. Paris, France.

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Water Lilies

Fun fact for the day: It’s Claude Monet‘s birthday! The Impressionist artist was born in Paris, France in 1840. Before Monet, the outdoors were purely sketches.

He’s the one all the artists parked out in parks and on bridges with their easels need to thank for making painting outdoors a thing. His technique of painting changed everything with visible brush strokes.

He experimented with painting the same landscape during different times of the day and weather conditions, showing the changing colors and shades.

His most popular painting is probably the Water Lilies, a series of three canvases painted with oils. These were inspired in Monet’s personal garden.

I’ve certainly been one to admire the artist each month with a collection of his paintings in a daily planner as well as on various screen savers throughout the years.

In fact, I’ve got a bit of art hung up in the apartment that greatly reflects Impressionism. A landscape of what I assume to be New York City on a cloudy day hangs over our dinning nook. So you could say, I am naturally drawn to this type of art.

I love something so colorful and abstract, and yet across the room, hangs two black and white photographs of magnificent boulders. Sticking with the outdoors theme, but certainly taking a great leap away from brush strokes and vibrant colors.

It just goes to show how so many different styles can still speak to you with the same impact, but for different reasons. What sort of art are you into or interested in? Do you have any distinct favorites or do they kind of blend together? In celebration of Monet’s birthday leave a comment of your artsy thoughts.