Nielson Family Benefit Silent Auction: African Hand-woven Baskets

Welcome and thanks for visiting today!

For your bidding consideration are unique and beautiful, hand-woven South African baskets.

Because each artist and each basket is unique, I cannot guarantee a specific design or colour, however you may certainly specify a colour scheme/design that you would prefer and every effort will be made to find baskets to fit within that. My mother (living in South Africa) will then go to the market and purchase them specifically for you! Yes that's right! You could have your very own African market personal shopper. Those are rare these days you know.

These baskets provide endless practical and decorative uses. I hang mine on my walls and use them to collect loose change, keys and the endless assortment of "hair pretties" I find abandoned around the house. I can honestly say that they are constantly admired and are a truly unique decorative touch. If you would like a vibrant and original piece of genuine African art, and the opportunity to help a lovely and deserving family, please place your bid in the comment area.

Please feel free to post any questions in the comment section and I will respond as soon as possible.

You may choose from one large basket (these only come in neutral colours and are about 20 inches across)

Some closer detail

or : A set of three smaller baskets, keep scrolling...keep scrolling! These baskets are approximately 7 inches across.

1. Patchwork

2. Teal star

3. Turquoise star

4. Green patchwork

5. Navy star

6. Fuschia star (the edges of this basket are faded from many years of hanging in the sunshine).

7. Purple cross

These baskets are as beautiful from the bottom as they are on top

How this silent auction works: (from the auction organizer)
Please place your bid by leaving a comment with your Bid Amount in the comments section of the item you are bidding on.

Following the close of the auction, the winner will pay for their item via the Stephanie and Christian PayPal account. The winner will then forward the PayPal receipt email to the auction organizer who will then contact me with the winner's shipping address and email to send the item.

Please bid in increments of one dollar. The auction will end at Midnight EST on Sunday, August 31.

Thank you so much for your generosity to this great cause! Please visit Design Mom who is orchestrating this huge event for a list of other auctions going on right now. (There is some amazing stuff out there!)
Sept 1, 08:
CONGRATULATIONS LISA! Thank you for your generous bid. Please email me asap so we can get this out to you!

Funky Drains and Ballpoint stains

Here are two short and sweet household tips which have alleviated great sadness in my land. Perhaps you already knew of them. But if you didn't, behold your salvation!

Dilemma 1. Omigosh the smell! The smell is going to kill me! Nothing will make it stop! We must move.

When your kitchen sink/garbage disposal smells like something died in there...GAH eeeeeeuw you can pour every known drain cleaning agent known to man down there, (don't though, drain cleaner is not good for garbage disposals oh no, not good at all) or you can take apart the garbage disposal and clean it thoroughly... or you can get.

A cup of ice
A liberal amount of baking soda
A cup of white vinegar
A lemon (cut into quarters)

1. Pour in the liberal amount of baking soda (like half the box worth or more...when it comes to baking soda more is better. Unless you are actually using it to bake. You can let that sit for a while. I buy the giant boxes for just this sort of purpose. Baking soda and white vinegar. Together there is nothing they can't do. (except get out ballpoint pen stains but more on that later)

2.Make sure your kids are there to watch because when you add the vinegar to the baking soda it makes an awesome foamy science experiment.

3. Add the vinegar. Enjoy the bubbles. Ooohhhhhh coooool.

4. Let it sit for a bit, go check your email, come and comment on my blog. Come back. Add some more vinegar, watch for some more foaming. Let it sit, load your dishwasher, have a snack

5. Toss down the ice, and the lemon and flip that switch. Listen to the satisfying crunching sound, smell the yummy lemon as it is shredded down there.

There that should do it. If it didn't, repeat the process again. That should definitely do it.

Also a tip for the future which I learned from the great and mighty internet: garbage disposals get to smelling like death because people don't run the water long enough to flush them out after "disposing". If even a little tiny bit of something gets attached to the blades it is going to smell bad man..real bad. So don't be skimpy with running the water after you have crunched stuff up, it needs to thoroughly rinse (imagine if you washed your pots with a perfunctory little splash of water..that would get really gross really quickly and things can wrap around those blades easily) . It seems wasteful but combine it with rinsing some dishes or some other kind of water running necessity.

Thank you to Julie and Cyndi for leading me to the light through the shadow of the valley of deathly smells with this recipe.

Dilemma 2: Why Gracie! Why did you decide to "colour" a piece of paper with a ballpoint pen on your lap, while wearing your best Sunday dress? Why did you encourage your small brother in his one and only nice pair of Gymboree khaki shorts to do the same? Why don't you use the Crayola washable markers which litter your room in all their colourful and washable glory. Why Gracie? Why do you hurt me in this way?

Ball-point pen stains. Don't even bother with the Shout people. This is the one time the Shout can't do a thing for you. None of those stain removers can. Well maybe one of them can but none of the plethora that I have tried. That ballpoint pen is there to stay. Sad. UNLESS!

1. You have some hairspray. The cheaper the better.

2. Take a white paper cloth or towel and stick it under the stain (so that it does not bleed from one pant leg into the other, that would just be very annoying).

3. Then take your el Cheapo hairspray that you bought from Big Lots and spray that scribble into oblivion. You will see it get all runny. Blot, blot, blot and blot some more and then wash. Ball point pen all gone. It's a beautiful thing.

I keep a cheap can of hairspray in my stain fighting arsenal (but don't be putting it on top of your dryer because heat + aerosol= not a good idea.

Hey!! Pllllllllllllllllease come back tomorrow (Thursday) to participate in the silent auction for Stephanie and Christian Nielson. Visit Design mom for more details! It's going to be huge! And awesome!


I wanted to be sure my visitors read this today. It is the daily update from Stephanie (nie-nie's) sister Courtney and it is amazing. It made me think about my own thoughts through this and I have to admit, although this is so horrible and unthinkable in so many ways,we hate that it has happened to this beautiful family, and none of us can bear to think of the suffering they are enduring (I have had moments of real panic when I allow myself to imagine what they may be enduring, and will have to endure).

But if I am honest, in my core, I too have had a hard time using the word "tragedy" to refer to it largely because of the amazing attitudes and eternally based perspectives of the family involved and because of our understanding that this life is a tiny blip on the eternal radar.

I know the Nielsons and their families will endure this trial well and that the glory they receive in the long term will be incomprehensible.

Although I am sure their family's sorrow for their suffering must be profound, there has been an undeniable peace and joy emanating from them from the very beginning, a calm conviction that God would intervene and His will would be done and when His will is done, there is no tragedy. I know they have been lifted and supported by angels and have had their perspective widened and deepened in a way that those of us who aren't as personally touched by this may find it hard to comprehend. It reminds me of the words to one of my favourite hymns, "as thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be".

I know that Stephanie has a divine mission that she was sent on this earth to fulfill, and I have a great conviction our loving Father in Heaven will work everything that has happened into His great plan for her and her family, and for the great work He has in store for her. She has already touched countless lives including my own in so many positive ways. I know that she and her husband are being ministered to by angels and supported and comforted by the power of the Atonement. I am sure that she is hearing and learning amazing and beautiful things as she sleeps with the veil between Heaven and Earth so very thin.

I know that her inner beauty will shine through regardless of what happens with her physical healing.

Here are her sister's thoughts and update for the day: she is a true heroine. Thank you so much for your prayers. I know they are contributing to many miracles.

At this time I am asking for more prayers for a dear friend of mine and her family. Julie lost a family member to a plane crash in Guatemala over the weekend. Please pray for their comfort.

What I'm watching when I should be sleeping...

I am not generally a watch movies again and again type of person, (my gnat like concentration span barely allows me to get through them the first time), but there are a couple that I just have to watch every time they are on.

This one is one of them. I could never figure out why, because several of the characters are realllly irritating (including the leading actress) and the premise is ridiculous. Or is it? Dun dun duuuun......

This evening as I am watching it yet again, it dawns on me that the simultaneous frantic searching and being repeatedly thwarted is exactly what Aaron and I were doing the week before we met up again at Ricks college. I mentioned in the epic tale of our meeting/marrying that we were both sort of overcome with this intense (and extremely unexpected) need to find each other. I remember waking up one day and it being my mission. I even wrote it in my journal. "Today is going to be a good day. Today I am going to find my missionary". I remember telling my bemused newly found friend April about this goal. I clearly remember the determination and optimism that I felt. I'd had several days of malaisey home sickness but on that day I had resolve baby. I knew what I had to do. And I was not alone in my stalkerish ambitions.

Just before our wedding I remember overhearing Aaron talking to my mom, describing his search for me as "an ache, I needed to find her" (yeah even I was a little bit nauseated to hear it put that way, but really...I related, it had been the same for me). I don't know what all the big urgency was about but I guess this is why this movie works for me. Unlike that silly British girl who messed everything up in the first place, with her silly experiments, I don't think it was fate leading us, but I do believe the Spirit was involved in a big way.

And yes, granted, our union is not quite as wildly improbable as this movie..or was it? I mean when you think about the odds of a South African city girl marrying an Idaho farm boy, they are fairly improbable. Thankfully it did not require breaking any existing engagements or laws or major bribery to get together (although Aaron was starting to raise some red flags in the admin office with his obsessive asking for my class schedule).

Like the movie, it did require a good deal of traveling and an utterly complete and very rapid life change for me. (I still don't think I have recovered from the shock of it all..seriously. But worth it) .

An unfortunate non-coincidence was that it did not all culminate at Rockefeller Plaza. The Ricks college bookstore was just as romantic though right?

And you know that scene at the end when he is lying in the snow looking up at the snow falling? Well that first night after we found each other again (sounds so melodramatic considering how low key our initial meeting was) and we were in the library writing the ironic letter to my parents, I saw it snowing outside and I was wildly excited. I had only seen snow falling once before (and I was 5 at the time). We rushed outside and stood watching the gently falling snow in the street light. It was completely magical for me. I could feel the snow landing on my eyelashes which I thought was ridiculously romantic and I felt that it was appropriate that it was happening with the person I knew I liked more then anyone I ever had before. (It was probably completely lost on snow-immune Idaho boy though..I will have to ask...)

I know I have told this story before, but I don't think it included these little details so thank you for your indulgence.

In short (or very long), I now get why I love this movie so much. Not to mention that Kate Beckinsale and I could be twins. Totally. And Aaron and John Cusack? CLONES!

I have been to Serendipity in NYC with my sister Shona and it is magical. I have the most beautiful mug from there which I drink from most days. One day I am going to go there with Aaron. And then we will re-enact the rest of the movie. I can't wait to see Aaron grab the obnoxious Hermes guy from behind the counter by his lapels and shake him up a bit...That part is going to be awesome.

Another coincidence? I heard this song when I accidentally downloaded it to my iPod a year or two ago (one day I will explain how all this accidental downloading occurs), and it quickly became one of my favourite love songs of all time. I only realised it was from this movie quite recently. Also? Aaron bought me my first pair of gloves.

Post-Aaron reading addendum:

He remembers the thrill of the snow-fall in clear detail as he had not seen snow for 2 years. He says that he was looking at me with the snow falling on me and that there "was nothing else in the world". He also says he was thinking that he might have a slight chance with me at this point. I always thought our relationship was clearly established by then. It had been like.. hours.

Also: our first kiss was in a park, at night, in the snow.

Also: you get that I was joking about the Kate Beckingsale's twin thing right? Cool. But I'm totally serious about Aaron and John Cusack. CLONES I say. Ok maybe not clones.

Balloon wishes..

Yesterday we took part in the world-wide balloon wish launch in honour of Stephanie and Christian Nielson and their family.

Stephanie and Christian are in critical condition following a plane crash last week.

Through her blog, Stephanie (aka Nie-nie), uplifted and inspired many people, many people who wanted to express in some way how much this amazing family is in our hearts and prayers.

We joined in at 8pm EST last night in Ohio. We hope that sometime very soon they will be able to see these pictures and all the others that have been taken around the world, and know how much they are appreciated.

Thursday next week has been declared "Nie-nie day". Check back here then for something special!

Scenes from Hocking Hills....

We decided to finish off Summer break with a fairly impromptu trip into the great outdoors. We grabbed a random assortment of things, threw them in our van and drove hopefully toward the Hocking Hills area. Of course as per tradition, we got lost by at least an hour. Add this to the fact that we left late (oh what a surprise) and that as we got closer we drove into the most torrential rain-pour. It was literally coming down in sheets, we could not see a thing. Deafening thunder! Blinding lightening! By this point it was 9pm, and we knew we still had to stop to buy one or two things we'd forgotten. Like food.

Aaron and I started hysterically laughing imagining how much fun it was going to be with 4 whiny tired children, setting up our tiny tents in the midst of a flash flood. I said a few fervent prayers and within moments we drove out of the storm, onto perfectly dry roads and never saw another drop for the rest of our trip. In fact the weather could not have been more perfect for some hiking and some camping.

We were bemused by the fact that in a campground of hundreds, we were one of maybe a handful that were actually camping. Ie: we had not brought along an RV half the size of our house (you think I am exaggerating? Not so much). Our two little pup tents looked exceedingly primitive and humble next to the the trailer with the Direct TV hook up. And there we had been feeling like princesses because we'd brought an electric skillet to cook breakfast on. The trailer you see in this picture was about 1/3 the size of most of them. We were probably considered the ghetto of the campground

So the campground wasn't the best but the Hocking Hills area is so beautiful. We had last been there 4 years prior and agreed that hiking around it was far more enjoyable without toting a newborn on your chest and a tantruming two year old on your hip. The kids were fascinated and hiked for a long time before they remembered that their legs were tired.

Skipping stones..endless hours of entertainment

Benj and Gracie reading about Old Man's cave. An old man really lived there. In that cave. Then they kicked him out and put a plaque there instead so people could come and read about him without having to see (or smell) him. Nah not really. He is buried in there.

The "Lion King" rock. Doesn't it look like the one where all the animals gather to welcome baby Simba?

Finny doing his best not to smile. (On principle)

Cliff jumping

Huge beautiful butterfly. Butterflies seem to be far more cooperative photo subjects then bees. This one actually stopped what it was doing and came and posed for me. Very polite, the butterflies. I suppose they are less busy. Once the whole transformation from a hideous worm thing is complete it is really all about being admired isn't it?

After a few hours of hiking we were hot and tired so after lunch we discovered a beautiful big pool and relaxed. We are trying to create another Bill Bryson fan

Hooray, not one but three water-slides! They tried to all come out of these chutes simultaneously but Benj is still in there somewhere.

After sleeping on a sinking air mattress all night, I suppose this is comfortable. We all learned that camping creates quite a bit of sleep deprivation.

This boy conked out right in the middle of everything. I was amazed at how many people almost stepped on him. (My shrieking, "look out" helped though)

After all afternoon in the sun we went home to skewer stuff on sticks, stick them over a fire and eat them. Because we are mountain men. Grunt!

Some things were more combustible then others.

The fine art of marshmallow roasting

Finny observing the hawk/eagle/large bird of prey which made it's nest in the tree right over us. Happily it did not carry him away for lunch.

Crocodile Gabe-ee

It was a wonderful relaxing way to wrap up the Summer break. We have resolved to do this more often. I made a list of "stuff you need when you camp" for next time. It is helpful to have something ito scrub the greasy skillet for instance. A red serviette is really not that effective. We did have the soap so that is something. Also, a tablecloth. We may be mountain men but there is no need to be uncivilized about it.