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Paying it forward | Let’s do this!

19 Apr

mom&dad

About a year ago, I started initiating random acts of kindness in memory of my mom, Annie. I wrote about the start of the project for my company’s blog series on inspiration. I had every intention of documenting these acts to inspire others, but life got the best of me and I found myself falling behind on the “documentation” part. What truly matters is that lots of happy little things happened and I can only hope that my kindness sparked others to do the same — encouraging a humble trail of human kindness in memory of my mom.

I only intended to do it for a year, but I’ve decided to continue this little project in her memory indefinitely — because the world needs a little extra kindness.

Since tomorrow, April 20th, marks 15 years since she left this earth, I’d like to encourage you all to help me spread some human kindness. You don’t have to make a grandiose or expensive gesture (though you certainly can!). I believe that small acts folded into our “every day” behavior often make the biggest impact.

So tomorrow, when you’re going about your usual business, DO SOMETHING unexpectedly kind. If you’re so inclined, please share it on Instagram with @lovelikeannie or tag your post #lovelikeannie.

To kick things off tomorrow, I’ve left a gift card with a balance at the counter of Diesel Cafe in Davis Square (a local business that’s very near and dear to my heart) that I hope helps a few strangers begin their day with a free coffee/treat and a smile.
What kindness will you spark?

xo
Maker

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Another Year! | Keeping it Clean in 2015

31 Dec

 

photo-2As I rise out of the wrapping paper debris and general holiday craze and settle in to enjoy a few days off (without any big obligations), I decided that I should get back to posting here.

In the spirit of a fresh start in 2015, I’ve set out to tackle a few household projects that have been looming over my head for the last few months. The biggest? Cleaning the inside of the oven. We cook a lot in our rental oven and are great about keeping the outside spotless (seriously, it looks brand new) but the inside…well that’s another story. Last year, I began a search for a less toxic way to clean the oven (most oven cleaners contain a bunch of harsh chemicals). I kinda gave up for a bit after striking out online & in local stores.

And then Jess found this post by one of our favorite bloggers. It worked like magic using items we already had in our pantry (baking soda and white vinegar). Seriously! I didn’t have to scrub much but be prepared to get on your knees & climb into the oven for an hour or so.

My tips:
1) Clean the bottom drawer/broiler last (I cleaned it first and had to clean it again because it got bits of baking soda paste in it as I was wiping out the oven) — I just washed it in the sink but I wished that I’d done it once at the end versus 2x.
2) Use a dish cloth or soft cleaning rag that you won’t mind throwing out afterwards. (I could’ve tossed the one I used in the laundry but it was a plain white flour sack towel that had seen better days to begin with so I didn’t feel guilty about throwing it away.)
3) The baked on spatter on the oven window didn’t budge…at all. The Kitchn also has a post about this and recommends a Norwex cleaning product. Hmmm, I might have to investigate.

On another note related to cleaning insides…mine…holiday treats and time off at home without a good post-holiday vacation grocery shopping have me feeling kinda ick. It’s not so much a New Year’s resolution. Rather it comes out of a need to get back to basics and pay more attention to what I’m eating — basically my body is telling me that it needs healthier stuff. I’ve thought about doing a cleanse (I’ve had good luck with “clean eating” cleanses in the past). I’m halfway through the book about Whole30 “It Starts With Food”. It’s super educational but I’m not sure it’s for me. I also saw this in our recent copy of Bon Appetit and thought it seemed like a good option. Ah, options! In the meantime, I’ve got almonds soaking for homemade almond milk (for smoothies) and I added some sautéed kale to my leftover pad thai lunch today. Things are looking up.

Have any cleaning tips or healthy eating favorites to share? Tell us!
Wishing you and yours an awesome start to 2015!

xo

Cleaning House | Minimalist Challenge Musings

16 Mar
a few of the "things"

(yes, even the dogs participated in the minimalist challenge & got rid of some of their damaged toys)

The challenge…
Inspired by this post on one of my favorite blogs, I took the “minimalist challenge” after reading more about it and these cool guys, the Minimalists. The challenge, in short, instructs you get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, two things on the second day, three on the third, and so on. Donate, sell or toss–each material possession must be out of your house by midnight each day.

From February 1 through February 28, I got rid of precisely 406 “things” (quite positively even more, because in all honesty, once I started, I couldn’t stop). Oh and by “things”, I mean actual things, not 406 beads and spools of thread. I counted multiple items of the same kind as “1 thing”. I photo documented it on Instagram @katedwyer. Realistically, in the last 2 weeks of the challenge, I lagged behind a little bit (because it was hard to keep up during the week). I didn’t let it get the best of me and approached the weekends with a list of areas to tackle next.

Let me tell you, there is something profoundly therapeutic and about taking a moment, or precisely 406 of them, to pause, re-assess, categorize and move on.

The purge…
In just 28 days, I gave away bags of fabric and yarn to friends, mountains of art/craft supplies to a another friend who’s an art teacher, donated a ½ dozen bags of items to GoodWill, shredded 2 large shopping bags worth of old bills/financial documents, recycled 3 more bags of old documents and scraps of paper, sold $100 in out-of-print magazines & vintage craft items on eBay and another $100 in clothing & accessories to a 2nd hand clothing store in my neighborhood.

I sorted, purged, cleaned, and reorganized. But I didn’t just haphazardly sort & toss, I THOUGHT about it all as I went along.
Why did I buy that dress­ and wear it only once?
What made me buy 3 of those cute little change purses?
Why haven’t I worn this sweater yet?
Why did I buy that ______ (paper, yarn, fabric, etc.)?
Why am I waiting until I’m “smaller” to wear these jeans again when they aren’t even in style anymore?
Why did I get everything for that [insert crafty endeavor] project and never start or finish it?
Why am I stashing all of these little items away to give as gifts?
Am I hanging onto these rusty floral pins because they were part of  my mom’s craft stash?
And so on…

 Here’s what I learned…
I have a horrible weakness for textile/fiber supplies. I have even less control if we’re talking vintage items, y’all. I had more fabric, felt and yarn than I’d ever realistically use. Sure, I could hold onto them & knit sweaters for penguins but well, would I ever get around to that? Oh yeah, and I’d have to learn how to knit. 

I love a good bargain to a fault. It’s led me down a path of buying something I don’t love because it’s “so marked down” and a slippery slope of purchasing too many art/craft supplies that I won’t ever use. I do this less often now, but I also used to buy lots of these “amazing bargains” to stash away for future gift giving.

I am very sentimental. Material things are material things and unless it’s an heirloom item or something truly meaningful, I have to learn to let go. I shouldn’t buy something because it reminds me of my mom­–I have amazing memories instead.

 It’s okay…I’m an artist. Hoarding under the guise of resourcefulness, while a very common trait of most artists, is not worth the stress (financial, physical, spatial, etc.) it may cause in the long run.

I shouldn’t keep anything in my life that I don’t love. In my experience over the last month, I’m mostly referring to material things but there’s certainly a much bigger take-away here (the Minimalists talk about this very thing on their blog). Surround yourselves with only the things and people you love. Life is too short to be smothered, physically or emotionally, by anything or anyone you don’t adore.

Moving on…
In the last 2 weeks, I’ve continued to go through all of the little nooks and crannies of our apartment with a “minimalist eye”. If it’s not something I’d want to pack up & take with me tomorrow if we moved, I more often than not, get rid of it. It’s also made me be a smarter/leaner shopper. I’ve resisted clearance items and kept an unwavering focus on quality over quantity. I’d much rather one quality, well made, pair of shoes than 3 cheaper versions. 

So friends, there you have it. For 28 days, I recycled, tossed, sold, shredded, gifted and ended up more empowered to embrace change than when I started this journey on February 1. I realize this may sound a bit melodramatic, but all of that “stuff” had truly taken over little spaces in my life and frankly, it feels amazing to have a little extra breathing room.

 There’s plenty of time left in 2014 for you to take the “minimalist challenge” and I enthusiastically encourage you. Everyone has a basement, closet, corner, bookshelf, dresser, cabinet, shoebox, or drawer of stuff just begging for this challenge. Go YOU!

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Happy Independence Day! | Reminder Recipe

4 Jul

It’s been too long, I know! But I’ve been saving up an amazing sweet treat recipe to share with y’all. Post coming later this week.

As you prepare for your Independence Day picnics and BBQs, just thought I’d remind you of this in-season recipe that’s a true crowd pleaser. It’s a perfect last minute one-bowl creation that’s refreshing & healthy (a nice departure from traditional BBQ and heavy creamy “salads”) — as you can easily add less sugar or alter any of the other ingredients to suit your taste. And…it’s very patriotic!

Hope you’re spending today with the ones you love.

xo

Braving the Storm | Blizzard Survival Tips

8 Feb

The predicted blizzard of 2013 is supposed to rival the blizzard of 1978 where friends report to me that they had no school for weeks and that people were lined up for miles to stock up on gas. In January of 1978 I was 2 years old and don’t remember anything, other than a photo that my family has of me, well the Jess toddler version, bundled up and propped up on a mountain of snow that was higher than my Aunt Katie’s ranch style house.

Fast forward to modern-day me, boss by day, happily married and mildly obsessed with my cat and two boston terriers. Kate is out-of-town in Arizona on business and she was supposed to fly home tonight.. mid-week she realizes that this is not going to happen. Logan is closed, there are no flights going into Boston, so instead of being trapped in an airport in Arizona all weekend, she is going to be here…
kate

Well, not exactly in San Francisco, but in Los Angeles to stay with our friends Addie & Channing since she couldn’t get a flight to the east coast. This leaves me to brave the storm alone, well not exactly alone I have to take care of our little fur family on this solo mission. So this post is dedicated to my plans to remain sane and occupy myself and the pets during this blizzard in between getting to and from work tomorrow.

Survival tips and/or preparation suggestions:

1) Rations: be sure you don’t wait until the afternoon of a snow emergency to get back up food and supplies. In the event that it has come to that, you will find that everyone in your city is in the same supermarket and that all of the milk, every single last drop will be gone. The best part about being a bachelor in a blizzard you can get supplies to make home-made pizza, Italian subs, and even double stuffed Oreos in order to help comfort you through the storm.

2) Pets: Make sure you have enough food and litter to last you 3 – 5 days. Provide them with plenty of blankets for warmth and added coziness during snuggling times. (see photo below)
stevie blanket
2) Pets Continued: Peanut Butter is your best ally. Place peanut butter in a Kong toy or hollow bone chew toy and this will keep your pup occupied for hours!
bone
3) Electric Devices: These days no one has a home phone, so be sure to charge your cell phone. This will prove to be useful in two ways, communication obviously, I mean Twitter, Facebook, Words with Friends, but also how else are you going to Instagram those cute photos of all the pets snuggling through the storm?

4) Bake: Most people have gas stoves these days, so kill two birds with one stone: bake something delicious to make someone elses day or enjoy baked goods during those 6 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy that you will probably get sucked into. Baking will also help keep your apartment or home warm too!

5) Netflix: Catch up on your Netflix instant queue, with a decade of Law & Order Special Victim’s Unit, or a documentary made by the former drummer of Hole, or the BBC Sherlock series on-line what else does one need?

So here’s to hoping we all stay warm, calm and collected during the storm. I know Kate will! Miss you 🙂

Saving the World | What Lovely Will You Beckon?

17 Dec

I feel oh-so-lucky to have been part of a small team of graphic facilitators that my company (Collective Next) sent to Dallas to scribe the talks at TEDxSMU. Not that I expected anything less, but it was a truly transformative experience. I mean, where else but at a TED or TEDx event could you witness a tiny 7th grader shock the stage with a booming poetry slam performance and then hear a talk about wabi-sabi (the Japanese term for imperfect beauty)?

I scribed a bunch of amazing talks at TEDxSMU but Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s talk Beckon Lovely and Save the World really stuck with me (click on the title to hear/see her full talk). I’m a born “maker” so I can’t quite imagine anything cooler than the thought of a bunch of strangers making things together — or a 10-day challenge to save the world through an amalgamation of lovely.

krouse_rosenthal

I beckoned lovely this weekend in the form of freshly squeezed orange juice. The loveliest thing about this pictured moment? It represents a little snippet of my weekend where time moved a little slower. I took time out of a busy Sunday morning to make something that I then sipped with the one I love in special little juice glasses that I had to get on a step stool to reach. It’s not something I would’ve typically done on hectic weekend morning and I’m grateful for Amy’s challenge.

lovely

What lovely will you beckon this week to save the world? And…you’d better hurry up…we only have until 12/21/12!

Pup Updates & the Kindness of Strangers | Giving Thanks

13 Oct

As I type this post, I realize that it’s too late for Canadian Thanksgiving & too early for American Thanksgiving. But just as I did growing up every night at supper & with every thank you note my mom made me write (yep, I still write them today), we try our best to express our gratitude each & every day for the things we feel oh-so-lucky to have in our lives.

A month ago, while I was in Portugal for work, Jess had to rush Stevie (our eldest Boston Terrier) to the emergency vet care because he was yelping, walking with a hunched back & shaking like a leaf. After a few trips to the vet, some tests and a whole bunch of worrying, he was diagnosed with a chronic degenerative condition called IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease, presenting in the vertebrae in his neck). The vet sent him home with medication (for pain & inflammation) and orders for mandatory 24-7 crate rest. Yes, that’s right, crate rest, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has to be carried outside <–> inside & to <–> from his food bowls and he needs to spend all day every day for the next 2 months in his crate. Seriously? Seriously! It’s strange & a pain (we live on the 2nd floor and our front stairs are steep & it means we have to take both dogs out separately if one of us isn’t home). But IVDD isn’t to be messed with as it could result in paralysis and/or very expensive surgery. So we’ll all be making the best of it.

At the end of the 2 months, Stevie will get re-evaluated & hopefully his neck will have healed enough that he can be more of his normal dog self — going for walks, snuggling with us on the couch at night, etc. Sadly he won’t ever be able to jump again or do some of his best tricks (like his “stick em’ up, bang bang, play dead” show stopper) & we’ll have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t jump on the couch or bed or on the dining room table filled with pies at our next family holiday (much to our utter amazement, we watched in disbelief as he boinged straight up off the floor & landed squarely on the dining room table at Jess’s parent’s house one Christmas). But we are so lucky that he’s still part of our little family and that the IVDD was caught very early.

We celebrated Stevie’s 5th birthday with pupcakes for all (remember this recipe?) and a small sigh of relief. Being in his crate certainly hasn’t changed his appetite…

As if the above wasn’t enough stress for two concerned pet parents, Ollie, our younger Boston Terrier (who’s always been a little “special”…SHHHH!) gave us a scare a little over a week ago. I got the call from the dog walker that I’d been fearing every time I saw her name appear on the screen of my phone (up until this call they were very benign check-in emails & texts…always a relief!). She’d lost Ollie during a hike in the Middlesex Fells.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Fells, it’s piece of conservation land (reservoirs, ponds, hiking trails, etc.) just North of Boston that’s over 2,500 acres large — taking up space in 5 towns. I knew when she called me at 11:30am that she’d already worriedly traced her steps several times (before she even told me so) before she called me. She reassured me that luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day and there were lots of people out & about in the Fells. He still had his harness & tags on and was trailing a 10 foot leash so surely he’d attach himself to another group of people & someone would call us in a couple of hours. She said she’d go back & look some more & her husband was leaving work early to continue the search.

I called Jess (who was also at work) & basically lost my sh*t on the street in front the office where I work, hiccuping details through tears. And then, we both went into crazy pants solution mode. Jess: texting/calling everyone she knew who might be able to help; me: posting a picture of Ollie with the few details I knew on Facebook. We both called nearby animal shelters, vets and pet hospitals, animal control agencies, local police, etc. It became a full-time job. (I’ll insert insane thanks here to both of our jobs/bosses. We are very very lucky.) Jess went to the Fells with a friend & her dog to continue the search. Work peeps & other friends joined, too. I stayed at work to wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make phone calls, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog, make & print posters, wait-for-someone-to-call-me-oh-we’ve-found-your-dog. But in that time of panic & complete & total solution mode, something really amazing happened — social media, did what she’s so good at doing, she put our cause on blast. I had complete and total strangers messaging me on Facebook, asking me if they could spread the news on listservs, message boards, etc. We had new (like we’ve-only-hung-out-once) friends going to the ends of the earth to spread the news even further before taking off to help in the search. I had friends emailing me saying that THEIR friends were going to the Fells to search for Ollie. There were texts and phone call offers of help. Friends who don’t even have pets were buying treats & joining the search. People, some of our nearest and dearest friends included, quite literally dropped what they were doing and joined the “bring Ollie home” party. It was totally and utterly amazingly overwhelming.

Now…the happy ending. At 5:20 PM I packed a thick folder of flyers into my bag and left for home. Jess was on her way to meet me there & we were going to come up with a new plan/approach. Ollie is small (about 20 lbs) and mostly white and I was sick to my stomach thinking about the dark, the woods and…the coyotes. I got off the T at 6:00 PM and took out my phone to respond to (yes, even more) friends offering help. That was when I got the best text ever from Jess: “Ollie’s been found”. I practically skipped the whole way home. Our dog walker’s husband had found Ollie near one of the reservoirs and he was okay.

I anxiously waited for Jess to get home with Ollie. I gave him a hug (REUNION!) & then carried him straight to the tub. He was smelly & dirty and very scratched/scraped up from his unsupervised “adventures” but he was HOME! Look how tired he was…

People are still “checking in” to see how Ollie is doing. Thank you technology, friends (new & old!), co-workers, family & concerned strangers — our hearts are still exploding with relief and gratitude.

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