A smile and three ‘thank you’s

Dear Claire

 

It’s the first Friday of October, so Happy World Smile Day! It sounds as though you’ll have had lots to smile about in Italy!

This is World Smile Day in a nutshell:

  • The image of World Smile Day is the smiley face 😊
  • The smiley face was created by Harvey Ball back in 1963, in Worcester, Massachusetts.
  • He designed it as part of a goodwill campaign during the merger of two insurance companies.
  • But 1999 he was concerned that the use of the smiley face had become too commercialized, so he had the idea to use it as the symbol of a day to celebrate happiness.
  • The goal of World Smile Day is for everyone to do one act of kindness that makes one person smile. And thus the world will become a happier place.

From kindness to gratitude

I was reading about something else recently that is proven to make the world a happier place – over a delicious cappuccino, as it happened – and that is the act of gratitude.

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Happy Cappuccino

This white paper on the Science of Gratitude, published last May by UC Berkeley, cites many research studies, one of them showing that people who wrote down three things that went well over the course of one week, and identified the causes of those good things, reported increased happiness a whole six months after the intervention!

So on this World Smile Day, perhaps it’s worth us not only engaging in an act of kindness but also beginning the practice of deliberate gratitude. And to help make it a habit, how about thinking of three things for which we are grateful each morning, during the very activity that enhances a smile – brushing our teeth!

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Smiley Smurf

Of course the Smurfs may or may not be one of them….

Lots of love,
Sam

A postcard from Liguria

Dear Sam,

 

I enjoyed reading about the difference the Free Rice game has made to so many children and it was nice to start September with some good news!

Boat trips, food and sunshine…

For us, since W left school, the autumn has become a time to take a break and, you’re quite right that by the time you read this, we’ll be on our way home from Italy.  We’re visiting Liguria, in the north west, for the first time. I’m looking forward to exploring and our plans include a boat trip to Portofino, walks around the Cinque Terre and perhaps a visit to Boccadasse where some of my favourite Inspector Montalbano series has been filmed.

Cinque Terre

Of course, I’m also looking forward to some good food.  I gather Liguria is known for its olive oil, focaccia bread and seafood and that snacks called stuzzichini are popular, so those will all be on our menu!

Stuzzichini
Stuzzichini – snacks – perfect with a glass of wine.

When we get home, it will actually be time for me to go back to school myself as I’ve signed up for some classes, including Italian. I’ll have to try to get in some practice while we’re in Italia!

Much love,

Claire

A success story

Dear Claire,

 

Happy September! I hope you’ve had a nice break over the summer. We’ve been very busy so it’s almost a relief that it’s back-to-school time….

I saw a back-to-school post on Facebook today from Free Rice. Funnily enough it’s just about a year since we wrote our own post about about Free Rice, who host an online quiz and donate 10 grains of rice to the UN World Food Programme for every correct answer. Part of their mission is to enable education for children who would otherwise go hungry, and their news today is that over the past year the game scores have provided 275,000 children in South Sudan with free daily school meals. So I do hope everyone will keep playing and spread the word, and perhaps encourage their children to play too, if they want to get online once their homework is done!

This is another nice article to share with children about how the WFP’s Home Grown School Meals initiative links schools with local smallholder farmers. I know many of us might have been inclined to take our own school meals for granted, or joke about them being an endurance test (my school’s semolina-and-jam was my personal dread), so it’s a good reminder of how lucky we actually were.

If you recall, the UN World Food Programme is headquartered in Italy, and I know you are off to Italy again soon. Have a wonderful trip – I shall expect a postcard!

Love,
Sam

Breathing space

Pink lemonade in a glass jug wiht a vase of pink flowers

Dear Sam,

 

Yes, it certainly has been very hot here, too, so I was grateful for your tip for reviving tired bees .  I needed to put it into action when I found an exhausted bumble bee in our kitchen; I gave it some of the sugar solution on a teaspoon and after a few minutes it was wonderful to see it buzz off with a new lease of life.

Spending time with nature offers “precious breathing space” from modern life – Sir David Attenborough

The plus side of the hot weather is that we have more butterflies in the garden than I’ve seen for a long time.  I’m planning on following some more good advice from Sir David Attenborough by taking part in the UK’s Big Butterfly Count .  As he says, what could be better for us than spending some time connecting with nature.  And it can be done from a comfortable chair with an ice-cold drink…

Red admiral butterfly on lilac plant
Some good news – numbers of Red Admiral butterflies spotted during the 2017 count were up 75% on the 2016 result

Speaking of relaxing, it’s time for our annual break here at Staircase 9 17. Enjoy the summer and some family time – see you here again in September.

Much love,

Claire

Helping a honey bee

Dear Claire,

 

It was so lovely to see you in Oxford, and I do hope it won’t be too long before we meet again. We were certainly blessed with nice weather that weekend. Since our return here it’s been very hot indeed – and much the same for you, I believe!

We’re not the only ones flagging in the heat. The other day a friend of mine shared a post by Sir David Attenborough:

“This time of year bees can often look like they are dying or dead, however, they’re far from it. Bees can become tired and they simply don’t have enough energy to return to the hive, which can often result in being swept away. If you find a tired bee in your home, a simple solution of sugar and water will help revive an exhausted bee. Simply mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar with one tablespoon of water, and place on a spoon for the bee to reach.”

The rusty patched bumblebee was listed as an endangered species in the US for the first time last year and according to the UN it’s a global trend, with about 40% of the world’s pollinators under threat of extinction. Yet they are all so critical to us for pollinating the crops that keep us alive! So it strikes me that if each of us helps even one small bee recover, we’ll be making a difference to us all.

jars-2614897_1280.jpgOf course, without bees we wouldn’t have honey. And if for no other reason, that’s worth helping a bee on its way. As Piglet understood well, all good friends need a little honey sometimes.

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh.
“There, there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.”

Much love,
Sam

Looking back, moving forward

Dear Sam,

 

Well, what a tonic it was to spend time with good friends! Oxford was looking glorious, with the college gardens and parks at their most colourful, and I loved seeing the profusion of roses everywhere. As well as reminiscing about our student days, it was wonderful to look ahead and make some plans for our blog here at Staircase 9 17, too.  It was lucky that we came across the Turl Street Kitchen when we arrived, as it was the perfect place to start our discussions, with its combination of great food and coffee and its mission to support the local community.

The blog’s Home page has a new look

I’m glad we’ve made a few changes to the format of the blog and, as this year progresses, I’m looking forward to exploring our theme of wellbeing and ways of helping ourselves by helping others. Next month, we’ll start our new Friday Food for Thought series, where we’ll post an inspiring snippet to ponder. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with some wise words from Dr Johnson, once, of course, a student at Pembroke himself,

“Life has no pleasure higher or nobler than that of friendship.”

Well said!

Much love,

Claire