Thrill of the Week: Coolest Candle Award

To wrap up our world culture week, I’m spotlighting one of the coolest decorations we own. And it is an India original!candleFor those of you scratching your head (“should I know what that is???”), it is a candle holder made of carved stone. The idea is to put a candle inside and the light is reflected through the carving, creating beautiful shadows in the room. I’m telling you, this piece is mesmerizing!


Just like most things around here at Oh, the Fun, it comes with a story… when in India, we stopped by the shop of a few stone carvers (this was on the second leg of our journey, in Mahabalipuram… yeah, say that three times fast). They all make amazing things, with such intricate carvings!

IndiaI fell in love with the handmade candle holders and decided to buy a medium/large one for my mom and give it to her for her birthday. Sometimes I feel so lame about the presents I give and I figured that this would actually be a really cool gift. And then, of course, I had to have one myself, so I treated Mitch and I to a smaller one. Fast forward a couple months (and that loooooong plane ride home) to my mom’s birthday- she loved it! And not but a day or so later did it roll off the bed onto the (carpeted!) floor and break into tiny pieces… I now know where I get this from. She was really bummed and I was sad that she no longer had the pretty piece. So I gave her mine, of course!

Fast forward about six MORE months… for MY birthday, the wonderful Reindel family (with whom I went to India with and who knew the whole story) gifted me with another one! I was thrilled and have been loving it ever since. There is really good news here: Although we got the originals from India (hence the reason that it was such a bummer that it broke!), the Reindels were able to find my new gift in 10,000 Villages (a store that showcases multiple artisans from various countries). So, if you were hoping for a lucky break, there it is! Hankering to add some Indian flavor to your space? 10,000 Villages is your solution! And let me tell you, this is a sure-fire way to add instant character to your house/apartment/dorm (and if you can’t burn real candles where you live, the Dollar Tree sells battery operated tea lights that flicker like real candles!).wreath and candle 054It is gorgeous in the day time and acts as a really neat piece of art all by itself. We have it sitting on our dresser in our bedroom and it pairs nicely with the Precious Moments figurine and picture frame.

wreath and candle 058Coolest part alert: When wet, the colors of the stone come to life and it turns from gray to beautiful reds and pinks.Candle Candle

Oh, and did you think it was great with the lights on? Let me just show you what some darkness and a bit of candle light do to this little one…CandleAwesome, I know. With that, I’ll leave you with one final picture to drool over. Don’t worry, I’m drooling as I upload them- you’re not alone.


Are you dreaming of your next adventure abroad yet? After this week of imaginary travel, I know I am… and I’m also interested in knowing: have you ever traveled anywhere that changed your perspective on life? Do tell!

Oh, the fun of adventuring 🙂


15 Things I Learned In India

Not my most creative title, but hey, sometimes it’s better to get straight to the point. If you were with us yesterday, you’ll remember that: 1. It’s India week and 2. our story started with a going away box for a girl named Jess. Playing catch up? You can read all about it hereAnd you might also remember that the next part of the story features a surprise even bigger than the box itself. Well, here goes…

Jess stayed in India until late May, when her mom (Sarah, who grew up there) would fly out to meet her and they would travel back together. Little did she know… I was sneaking along for the ride 🙂 Needless to say, I don’t think I’ve ever pulled a bigger prank (and I’m not sure I could ever top the suddenly-popping-into-another-country-unannounced bit), but boy was it fun:India India

And the fun didn’t stop there! Let’s just say… when you travel almost 20 hours to a destination, you don’t turn around and leave the next day. We spent the next two-ish weeks exploring, learning, shopping, and taking in the beauty of a new (to me) country. So with that, I bring you:


Please note: The following (most of it, word-for-word) comes straight from the journal I kept during the trip. These are things I saw or observed and thought were interesting. Some may seem silly or touristy or “how could she not have known that”, but the neat part about traveling is that your eyes are opened to a lifestyle that is different than your own. Not better, not worse, just different. Let’s just say- I was LOVING that I got to learn so much. Also, these observations were of a specific part of India- this is not to say that things are the same throughout the entire country.

Let’s do this.

1. The rules of the road are crazy and strange in that there are no rules. You drive on the left side of the road here. Well, actually, you drive on whichever side you want. When we got picked up from the airport, I went to get in the driver’s side by accident and they laughed at me. 🙂 There are no street signs or markings, but there are TONS of motorcycles, bikes, and people walking and there is no order to it. Everyone just pushes their way through. Also, honking is not reserved for emergencies or anger- people use their horns constantly. It’s almost as if to say, “I’m here!” or “I’m coming through!”. Eventually, the honking just becomes background noise to the people living here.India IndiaSidenote: It is not uncommon to see an entire family atop one motorcycle… I could not believe how good they were at balancing!

2. No drinking the water here. We only drink water from a sealed water bottle (although, I think that once your body got used to things, you could get away with drinking from other sources). That’s what I’ve been brushing my teeth with. Our host family boils and strains water everyday to fill up big water bottles. In terms of bathing, we just use tap water. Another common thing here is a “pour bucket bath”. Essentially, you use a bucket and pour the water over you… and that’s about as theological as it gets. 🙂

3. There are a lot of carbohydrates in the food! Rice, bread, etc. However, everything tastes SO GOOD! So far, I have tried: dosai (a fried, crepe-like thing), chopati, and parota, all with various dipping sides. Many of the breakfast dishes are the same things that are eaten throughout the day. Where we have specific breakfast foods at home, there are not specific meals that are meant for just breakfast here… at least from what I can tell. Something I’m noticing- the food comes out very fast here! I think it’s probably pre-made and then heated or cooked to order. Another popular item is mango, lime juice and soda.India

4. All (or most) of the dinnerware here is tin. Tin cups, plates, everything! (You can see this in the picture above.)

5. The laundry system is different. Everyone takes their laundry to the “dobe” (I might have made that spelling up)- who I assume is the one who washes all of the clothes. Then, everything is hung outside to dry all together. There is a big field in the valley filled with sheets! I don’t think everyone does this because some houses have washing machines. However, the kids on the school campus (where Jess goes) send all of their dirty clothes to the dobe once each week and the dobe washes, folds, and delivers them back! Man, I could get used to that…India

6. It is customary for families to hire a cook and a maid. The maid is called an “ina” and does all of the wash, cleaning, and looks over the kids. Our host family’s ina is named Mary and she is very sweet. Generally, the ina and cook stay with a family for many years, unless something goes wrong (ex. stealing, etc.).

7. The light switches here are opposite from home. Here, you flick the switch up to turn off and down to turn on.

8. One of the coolest things about walking around town is all of the street vendors! There are so many people selling their goods to make a living (which we don’t see as often at home) and it is neat to see (and taste!) a bit of everything. Below is a man selling cut mangoes with a hot seasoning sprinkled on top… such vibrant colors everywhere!


9. SQUAT POT. It is exactly what it sounds like. In the airport and at one of the restaurants we went to, they had these in addition to regular toilets. I had to use one a the restaurant- a personal first for me! 🙂 Essentially, it is a hole in the ground that you… no surprise here- squat over. Also, it is not uncommon for there to be no toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms. BYOTP!

10. The dress style here is very conservative. No one wears shorts (which I couldn’t believe because it was so warm!) and all of the women have their shoulders covered. Some of the men wear skirts made of light material. I wore longer shorts, skirts, or capris and shirts with sleeves while in Kodai.India

11. Money! The currency and difference in value was the hardest (but most fun!) thing to get used to. Currently (I just Googled it), 1 USD is worth 59 rupees. Compared to the US, everything is much cheaper to purchase in India. For example, a lot of the jewelry I bought was between 70-150 rupees, which comes to about $1.50-3.00. Needless to say, we did A LOT of shopping… and I really enjoyed putting my negotiating tendencies to the test- in another language!India

12. The water faucets are different. You turn them front to back instead of side to side.

13. When speaking English, some people substitute the letter “g” for “z”. I am told that this is more common for Southern Indian folk. For example, when were buying a purse for Jess, the man asked to check the “gip” (sounded like a soft “g” and he meant “zipper”) instead of “zip”. Jess said she’s also heard people say “gero” instead of “zero”.

14. Instead of saying, “It is 8:05”, people say “It is 8-5”. No “oh” sound.

15. There is such beauty in the expression of color here. Everywhere you look, there are beautiful colors, patterns, jewelry, beads- it is truly something to behold! This is my kind of place! I just love looking at the beautiful saris that all of the women wear. The coolest part is that everything and anything goes. There is no such thing as “that’s tacky” or “that clashes”. People wear color on top of color and pattern on top of pattern and it is simply lovely.IndiaIndiaSo there you have it- 15 things I learned/observed in India. Would I go back? Heck yes. Actually, all of this talk of travel has me itching to start planning the next adventure! To round out our week in India, tomorrow’s Thrill of the Week features my favorite treasure that we stumbled upon while shopping… to be continued.

Happy Thursday!


DIY “Going Away” Box

We are coming off a week of blogging neglect and I apologize… computer issues, mixed with traveling to far off places with no internet connection is a recipe for a week of no posts. But not to worry, we have so many things lined up for the next couple of weeks that are sure to make up for the MIA-ness. As this past weekend was a time of travel for most (we enjoyed an awesome mini-vacation to our beloved Chesapeake Bay and a day trip to Hershey Park), I decided to dedicate the rest of this week’s post that very notion… travel and adventure. Except this time, I’m not taking you along with me to the bay… we’re going to India baby! Let’s rock and roll…

This week is a special week because it marks the one year anniversary of a really cool adventure I had the privilege of being a part of. About a year ago, I packed two weeks worth of clothes and… wait, hold on. Let’s back up a bit…

In January of 2013, this sweet girl (who I got to know through a college internship) made a bold move and spent a semester abroad in Kodaikanal, India… oh, and did I mention: she was in 10th grade? Meet Jess:jess Yeah, she’s every bit as awesome as she looks… and brave too (I never would have had the courage to study abroad in HS)! Anywho, Mitch and I are close with Jess and her family and I knew Jess was excited, but a bit nervous to leave home for a semester (she was there from January-May) because it would mean leaving her family, school, friends, and youth group behind. Sooooooo, I took it upon myself to make her a little something to take with her. A “little piece of home”, if you will.

Meet the going away box:

box 3

That picture was taken right after I gave it to her- she was leaving for her 20 week adventure the very next morning! I wanted to share this project because it’s something you can easily do for someone else… have a friend or family member that is taking a big trip? Moving away? Trying something new? Could just use a pick-me-up? This may be the project for you… Here is the simple “how-to”:

Step 1: Tell people!!! (well, tell everyone except the person you are gifting it to) I sent out emails, texts, FB messages, etc. to as many people as I could think of that knew Jess, had been a special person in her life, or mentored her in some way. I asked them to send me a letter for her to open sometime during her stay in India- and the feedback was incredible. I got letters in the mail, digital copies which I then printed, original artwork from kids in her neighborhood… you name it, I received it.going away boxThe letter in the top left (“open me on the plane”) was from me and had a send-off message, along with instructions on what the box was and how it worked. There was an element of suspense to all of this because she wasn’t allowed to open the box until she read the letter and wasn’t allowed to read the letter until the plane ride and so on and so forth… cruel, I know.

Step 2: Sort It. The method for sorting is up to you, depending on the situation you are working with. I decided to divide all of the letters into 20 groups- one for every week that she would be there. The idea was that each week she would have 3-4 new letters to open.going away box

To keep things interesting, I capitalized on some “stand out” weeks too… above, you can see that Week Nine was “first week of March!” and Week 11 fell on her “half birthday week”. Valentine’s Day even made it into the mix…going away box

Step 3: Gather supplies. Along with all of the letters from her well-wishers, I raided Michael’s and A.C.Moore for other goodies to pack the box with. The box itself came from A.C.Moore (it’s actually a photo box) and was big enough to hold all of its contents, but not too large that she could not travel with it. The box came with a design, but I added a personal spin to the top with some scrapbook paper and painted wooden letters:going away boxgoing away boxbaby showers and boxes 052Other fun trinkets that made their way into the mix were: candy, a watch, a water bottle (that acted as the “package” to hold that week’s letters), a few scraps of material that she could use to get crafty, photos, and an itunes giftcard (that came with the half birthday week). By the end, that box was packed to the gills with letters and gifts for Jess’ opening pleasure. Which brings us to…

Step 4: Pack (good luck with this one). It’s all well and good to gather a ton of stuff for your care package, but if it doesn’t fit, none of the previous steps matter! It took a few tries, but eventually, I had a system that squeezed  in everything. Remarkably, we were even able to get the later weeks toward the bottom and the beginning weeks toward the top!boxThankfully, I had some help (meet Jess’ sister, Katie) and we got the bow tied on top just in time to give it to her!

box 1Step 5: Hand it over! At some point, you have to stop working on the project (which was harder than I thought because I had developed a strange bond with that darn box) and send it off with them. Trust me, it will mean the world to them that you put so much time and thought into it. And really, in the end, this was the best part…

box 3So that’s the quick “how-to”! Off she went the very next morning… and you’ll have to wait for the rest of the story until tomorrow. Here’s a clue: it involves a surprise that was way bigger than the box itself…

Update: Want to see the next chapter of the India Adventure? Check out the follow-up post here!

Anyone else make (or receive???) a going away box? They are serious work, but also serious fun. 🙂 Or maybe you’re now thinking of a person that could use a box of love from you and are grabbing your keys to take a trip to Michael’s? Go for it- I got your back.

See you tomorrow!


This project has been featured on the following blogs:

Pioneer Momma