Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Tribute to my Mom mom

When we were going through photos for Mom mom's memorial, something that stood out to me very plainly was how chic and well-dressed my grandmother was. I remembered her from my childhood always doing her hair, but that seemed to be a trend started in her youth. Her lipstick, gold earrings and red sweaters highlighted her vibrant and loving personality so well. Mom mom was fun. She was hilarious (without meaning to be.) She was outspoken and voiced her opinions freely. She loved toast, tea, and General Hospital (the soap opera.) She always did her hair and makeup before leaving the house. She lovingly doted on her grandchildren. She was a strong and involved mother. She cared about her community. She was well-known and loved by all.

The photos of her highlighted so well her big and beautiful personality. Her beautiful smile. Her fun polka dot dress. Her children, dressed in coats and matching hats for church. It made me stop and think about my own preservation of self and life through photos. How am I portraying myself and others in snapshots? How am I being portrayed?

Something about blogging has always felt incredibly vain to me. I have grappled (with great difficulty) the concept of documenting my life and self through photos. Who cares about the experiences I have? What I eat? Where I go? What I wear?

But in sorting through photos, in Mom mom's 100 year old house, I realized this:
Our lives have so many facets. The way we present ourselves is one. Photographs capture a feeling in an instant -- a look, a smile, the day's outfit, our homes, our families. Mom mom is forever preserved in images from her wedding day, her travels, holidays spent with family and friends. This is a blessing to her family, who will never forget what she looked like. Though small details may one day fade, we can always turn back to our photographs, to be reminded of the idiosyncrasies of this wonderful soul. How she always wore white sneakers. How she never let herself get gray hair ;) What a boss lady she was. There are wonderful images of her sitting at her desk at work -- she was a working mom and a powerful woman, VP of Human Resources of the Royal Bank of Pennsylvania in a time when women weren't always given the prestige and respect they deserved. She had been retired for more than two decades when she died, yet people from her work came to her memorial. People she hadn't worked with in over twenty years came to honor her, and tell us how amazing she was at what she did. How she connected to others. How she made people valued. How she was respected and loved so dearly.

This is what a photograph can give us. A story. A story about a life, in all it's complicated facets.

More than ever, I feel compelled to tell the story of my own life. Perhaps to preserve it for generations to come. Perhaps to arm my own grandchildren, one day, with the story of our family through images that may one day be faded and somehow, with the every changing technology of our world, out dated.

It may feel vain, but clothes and images tell the story of our lives. Mom mom looked good in almost every photo. She highlighted her best self. Her best, and beautiful self is shining through those photographs. And we will always remember her as the lady in red sweaters, with red nails, and red lipstick -- with gold hoop earrings, black pants, and probably a black turtleneck.

She loved to travel. She loved her children. She loved her grandchildren. She loved her husband. She loved her family. And she looked damn good doing it.

I love you Mom mom, and I aspire to one day be as loving, generous, hilarious, caring, put together, and beautiful as you were. I see your soul in every photograph, and I feel your love pouring through them.

Thank you for all that you have ever given to me and our family.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How to get your Hygge on this spring

Oh my goodness, how is it MAY already and how did I only post ONCE in the entire month of April!? Things have been really crazy around here to say the least... what with getting engaged, throwing out my back, getting norovirus and being in bed for half the work week, my grandma having open heart surgery... flying to the east coast to see her and spend time with my family... I mean when it rains, it pours am I right?! My grandma is still in the hospital recovering from her second heart surgery but she is doing well and we are thankful and feeling hopeful that things will continue to look up.

So. Goodness knows I need a break!

One of my favorite concepts that a friend of mine introduced me to is "hygge" which has a lot of definitions but is basically the art of being comfy and cozy. I've always thought of myself as a hobbit, and this concept of hygge really speaks to me because it's basically all about self care, enjoying the little things, and being happy with what you have and where you're at.

Normally when people think of getting comfy and cozy they think of wrapping up in warm, soft blankets and cozying up by a fire with hot chocolate and fuzzy slippers. But you can get your hygge on in spring just as well.

To get your hygge on this spring I have the following tips:

- Keep your home stocked with fresh flowers. Change the vases, flowers and water often. Changing the water will help the flowers last longer. You probably have a beautiful vase shoved in a cupboard somewhere that you haven't used all winter that is just dying to be used! This is a great opportunity to use colorful vases and pitchers to brighten up your home and add some liveliness to every room. Pitchers double as great vases :)

- Wear some fun and funky socks. My feet are always cold even in spring! Fun and cute patterned summer socks are a nice way to "bundle" up on warm springy nights on the back porch sipping wine!

- Keep wine chilled in the fridge at all times :) Isn't a light white wine or rose just divine when the days are longer and the sun sets after 7:30?!

- Open your windows. Heck, open your doors if you can! Let that fresh air IN!

- Light some springy scented candles. I love candles that smell like fresh laundry for spring.

- Do some light spring cleaning. Out with the old! In with the new! If you have some wintery items you didn't wear all season that you don't love and that don't give you joy, get rid of them! Donate them! Give them to a friend! Sell them! Get rid of clutter and allow yourself to love every item in your home.

- Meditate. Hygge is all about slowing down and being in the moment. Even if you're new to meditation, take some deep breaths, focus on your food when you eat - really taste it, enjoy the flavors, feel the textures - (this is called mindful eating.) Try doing this at least once a day. You will feel rejuvenated and rejoice in the small pleasures of your life.

Monday, April 10, 2017

gift giving this wedding season

You guys… SH and I are ENGAGED!!! :D I am a fiancĂ©! I HAVE a fiancĂ©! Ah! It’s all happening! We could not be more excited to embark on this new journey together. I can't believe how lucky I am that I get to marry such a wonderful man. 

I have been daydreaming a lot about our wedding (and even the proposal, replying it in my mind,) but I'm also already stressed about finding a venue. Is that normal?! People told me this would be stressful. I guess I should have believed them! I'm trying to enjoy every moment and take in as much as I can because I want to remember this time as joyful and fun, not super stressful! 

Do you have any friends who recently got engaged? I have friends who just got married this past weekend, (congrats Ashley and Gary!), friends who are coming up on their one year anniversary of being married, and friends who are farther along in the wedding planning process than I am. I've been trying to think of some special gifts to give my loved ones in this exciting time, and whenever I think of unique, special gifts I think of Uncommon Goods. They support artisans and craftsmen from all over the world to bring you one of a kind gifts for the special people in your life. They're also committed to sustainability and being socially responsible on top of having ridiculously cute handmade products. How darling is this wine box:

I really want to give it to my friends whose one year wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks. Ugh, SO CUTE! And so thoughtful right?! I think they're gonna love it!

I read on some wedding blog that you should light a candle when you're getting ready on your wedding day so that years and years from now, when you want to remember that special day, all you have to do is a light a candle and the scent will take you back! Isn't that such a sweet, romantic idea? I love these because they combine my love of books and candles: 

They would also make a cute bridesmaid gift or nice table decor, don't you think?

If you want to gift a newly wed couple something super sweet but also super practical, why not gift them a custom address stamp? This one is so cute and I love that there are three designs you can choose from:

I would love to have one of these once SH and I are actually living together (actually, try not living in two different states, first!) It's such an exciting time and I can't wait to get deeper into the wedding planning and get closer and closer to our dream wedding. I love thinking about all the personal touches we can add, whether it's with our bridal party gifts or table decor. I'm trying to take it all in and embrace this new stage in life!

If you have any bridal showers coming up, or are planning your own wedding and helping your future hubby look for groomsmen gifts, look no further! Uncommon Goods has great gifts for every occasion, especially weddings!

Thank you to Uncommon Goods for sponsoring this post. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

This Money Saving Coffee Switch

As SH will tell you, I have long stuck up my nose at McDonald's coffee. I guess it's because I associate McDonald's with fast food and fast food with not being healthful. Here's the thing - I've been indulging in Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Illy which are all about $2-$5 depending on what type of drink you get. Multiply that by multiple times a week... or day... and you might be spending $50 in one week on coffee. $50! That's crazy, right?

The obvious solution is to brew your own coffee at home. But if you're on the go, as we often are, stopping at McDonald's for a coffee that only costs $1.09 seems like a pretty good money saving on-the-go coffee switch. The craziest part? Whether you get the small or the large coffee, it still only costs $1.09. I got the large yesterday and sipped on it all morning and into the afternoon.

It doesn't taste like the most amazing cup of coffee I've ever had, but for $1.09, I'll take it and put the money I'm saving toward something I really want in the future.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Clear the Clutter 101: The Spring Purge

Does anyone else ever get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff they have accumulated over the years? I know that I'm not alone... but it seems that clutter isn't something people really like to talk about.

Clutter used to be a source of shame for me. I felt bad that I had so much in my life that I wasn't using, appreciating, or enjoying. I felt burdened by my stuff. I felt overwhelmed. Tired. Ashamed. Constantly bombarded by reminders that I wasn't using the things that I already had and that I had become a slave to papers.  I wasn't really hoarding, and my room wasn't dirty. But... it wasn't the epitomy of cleanliness, either. And who needs calendars, gifted lottery tickets, and receipts from six years ago?! Honestly. Finally one day, enough was enough. I tackled the clutter with the tremendous help from my mother. In fact, I highly recommend enlisting another person to help you tackle your clutter, because things that feel sentimental to you, ("how can I throw out this calendar from 2014? It shows me exactly what I did that year!") are seen as trash to the other person, and are discarded accordingly. (I took a picture of the calendar to reference whenever I need to. Though honestly.... I doubt I ever will!)

Clearing the clutter out of my life has been incredibly freeing. I got rid of that chair (lovingly nicknamed, "crap chair") in my bedroom that housed unpacked boxes from my move for nine. months. Nine months! We moved it to the downstairs living room where it can be actually used... ya know, for sitting on. What a concept!

I'm going out on a limb here... and showing you my very real "crap chair" More like, crap corner!
I threw out old papers, calendars, and planners. I donated organizing containers I wasn't using and no longer needed (oh the irony!) along with candles, jewelry I never wear that wasn't worth much, books I had never read and probably never would read, art supplies, etc. I sold clothing, shoes and more high end accessories online (a post about that coming soon.) I gifted items to people who would actually love and use them i.e. I gave my coworker a sweater of mine that I didn't love, but was in mint condition, that she had been eyeing when I wore it to work one day.

It felt so good to gift things to people who would actually love and use my stuff!

In addition to my "crap chair" I also moved my desk and desk chair out of my room. This created SO MUCH SPACE. So much space! My room is now empty enough that when you stand in the middle of it, it sort of creates an echo when you talk. I also have an empty drawer in my dresser, completely void of anything. Oh how liberating it is to have an empty drawer!

All in all, my spring purge has lifted me mentally in SUCH a big way, I feel freer, calmer, more organized and in control. I felt so weighed down CONSTANTLY by my clutter that it had become part of who I was and how I felt on a daily basis! I can now enjoy my room as the oasis it is. It was very important for me to move my desk out of my bedroom because quite frankly I don't like working in my room. My desk was another "crap pile" gatherer, housing clothes I'd worn earlier in the week, discarded jackets, papers, etc. It was an eyesore!

I know that I'm not alone in feeling down in the dumps because of my clutter. So, here are some helpful tips I have for anyone looking to clear the clutter and do their own spring purge:

1. Just start. 
You will always come up with excuses on why today isn't the best day to start. I recommend starting say, on a weekend when you have nothing else going on. That way you have two full days to dedicate to clearing the clutter. My mom and I spent about 8 hours a day (no joke) last weekend unpacking boxes, moving furniture, ripping apart rooms and then putting them back together. The end result was so worth it!

2. Have trash bags and boxes on hand. 
Get your trash bags ready. You'll need some boxes for donations, too. I made a few different piles - trash bag for trash, box for donations, pile on my bed for things to give friends, etc. When a trash bag is full, take it out immediately. That will help clear up the limited space on your floor or in your living room. Also take the donation box out to the car immediately once it's full. If it's already in your car, it will be more likely to make it to Goodwill as opposed to if it just sits in your garage or hallway for six months. It worked out nicely for us because trash day is Monday. Our trash bins were overflowing by the time I was done but it was okay because the trash trucks came the next day.

3. Figure out what the source of your clutter pain point is. 
Mine is/was paper clutter. It was everywhere. As mentioned previously, I had 6 years worth of old paper that I didn't need. I had never really needed a paper filing system before because I wasn't an adult doing adult things like paying credit card, car, and medical bills. Once you've identified your pain point, move on to step four...

4. Create a system to tackle this pain point.
I needed a filing system. We got out an old filing cabinet and a bunch of folders and I started labeling away. I got a handle on my papers by setting up a filing system and creating folders for things like manuals/instructions, taxes, health, self-improvement, etc. Now when a paper comes my way, I know exactly where it goes, or it goes straight to the shredder.

5. Touch (almost) everything you own.
This might seem like a daunting task and it's probably because it is. Try to touch every item of clothing in your closet and remove anything that a) doesn't bring you joy any more b) brings you negative emotions, like that expensive shirt you bought that still has a tag on it, that you're regretting buying c) doesn't serve you d) doesn't FIT! I got a handle on my closet by combing through what I own and sorting into donate, give away, sell, toss. I had to touch every single item of clothing I owned for this to be effective. Same thing with jewelry. If you aren't ready to part with something, that's okay. Try putting it in a "not sure" box, and then seal it. If you don't miss it in three months, get rid of it! This applies to almost anything you own!

6. Identify the problem and then pivot.
I had to rearrange furniture for me to feel fully comfortable and free in my downstairs living room space which has now essentially been turned into my office. Here was the problem: The teeny little desk in my bedroom wasn't serving me. So what did I need? A large table that could serve as a desk and craft table. How could I make this happen? I had to pivot and think outside the box. Instead of using a traditional desk I would use an Ikea dining table (without the leaf) for my craft table/ desk. Now I have a space to work that serves me and brings me joy.

7. Work with joy in mind. 
I took every single book off of my bookshelf, picked out the ones to donate, and then rearranged them all by color. Now when I walk into my living room I feel so. much. joy!! Looking at the books so beautifully organized on the shelves makes me happy. It's the little things, people! Do things that create joy in your space and in your life.

My amazing joyful bookcase that I love so so much!!

I hope you enjoyed these 7 tips to help you clear your own clutter. What will you get started on today?

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