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On Disconnecting to Reconnect

First and foremost, I must apologize for my lack of presence here.  I made a promise to myself and my readers – months ago – about creating regular posts again.  I was unable to keep that promise.  I am hoping to be better at this now that life seems to have become a bit more steady.

Yesterday evening I finished my graduate school homework early and therefore have more time this weekend to enjoy myself, and I am looking forward to the – hopefully – relaxing days ahead.  The first thing I did when I finished my work yesterday was to brew myself a cup of green tea.  As I did, I knew I had to return to cornsilk doll.  I have schemed and hatched many new revelations since I last posted here, and I am excited to tell you about this time-saving one: deleting my Facebook app off of my iPhone.

I am one of the masses when it comes to an unhealthy attachment to my electronic devices – especially my cell phone.  It comes with me to work, it helps me navigate my commutes, entertains me on my off-time, and connects me with friends and family.  I have been in a steady relationship with Facebook, that social media monster we all know and love, for 11 years now.  Eleven years.  The time really does fly by!  Once, I used Facebook to connect and chat with friends and family.  However, this trusty companion has slowly morphed over the years to become a brain-fogging, time-consuming, information-twisting, Buzzfeed-loving mess.  Yet, I was anxious to disconnect my cell phone from that ever-growing stew pot of information and, sadly, misinformation.  

I’m here to tell you that I successfully went cold-turkey.  I simply deleted the Facebook app, and I haven’t turned back since.  I no longer feel the need to constantly be checking my social media for updates, crossing my fingers for likes, hoping for comments.  I am actively forcing myself to take part in life – especially out in public – rather than hide behind my cell phone, flipping through another non-article that hasn’t been fact-checked or housing multiple spelling errors.  

It is with a delightful weightlessness that I can tell you my life is more simple without that app.  What a difference it has made in my life.  In a world that is more and more transfixed with the screen, I am able to look up and drink in my surroundings.  This, simply because I removed an app from my phone.  

Decluttering my phone was anxiety-ridden; I won’t lie to you.  There is a “fear of missing out” that has become so prevalent these days that the simple act of deleting a social media app seemed like a make-or-break decision, at the time.  However, I am here to tell you that deleting the social media monster from my phone hasn’t put me “behind in the times”.  In fact, I successfully swapped Facebook’s news media for the more reliable BBC app (which I absolutely love).  It’s amazing how something that was formed under (assumedly) the best intentions – to connect people with each other – has now become warped in more ways than one.  

As you can see, my phone is love-worn.  It’s a device I use every day, and has the ability to provide information, connect me with friends and family however far away, or snap a picture of a fleeting moment with the kittens (now cats).  I am not trashing my phone entirely, only a single app, but it feels as though my beat-up old phone is brand new.  I no longer am using it to lust over what I do not have or wasn’t able to experience, but to glory in that which is important to me – speaking with my family and friends, taking pictures of beautiful moments, and following a news media outlet that does the research and takes pride in their work.  Deleting one app has had therapeutically simplistic benefits in my life.


I have deeply enjoyed reconnecting with my surroundings, everywhere that I go.  I no longer have my nose glued to my phone as I swipe through other peoples’ lives while I’m walking to-and-fro, eating lunch, grocery shopping…I am free to look up and around.  Disconnecting in this way has helped me reconnect in many other ways.  On my walks now, I no longer bring my phone but a small flower-pressing kit.  I no longer sit up in bed, straining my eyes in the dark while flipping through pictures of other peoples’ escapades.  I am free to wander the world as I like, unshackled by social media constraints (and don’t misunderstand me here, they are constraints on a simple, more thoughtful lifestyle), and it has been a healthy, beneficial, wonderful modification to my life.    

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My Week in Commodities

It’s been a long time, my friends out there in the wild tech world!  I am so sorry for taking such a hiatus.  I am pleased to be back here, sharing the love of simplicity and function with you!  There have been so many changes in my life since I last posted that I thought I’d restart my experience here with something “easy”, photographs of the commodities I love enough to fill my little home with.

These tiny succulents, a brilliant candle, and a bright, book on self-possession.



A linen closet both functional and lovely (isn’t that hand-felted dragon by Vermont artist Amy Felske just darling?).IMG_8005


Little accents that provide wonderful memories for little windowsill plants.IMG_8006


A corner meant just for my peace of mind, and a pinch of escapism.IMG_8018.JPG


Lastly – not a commodity – it was Gatsby and Penelope’s third birthday this past Wednesday.  Obviously, I had to share a picture of dainty kitten (or, not-so-kitten-anymore) paws.IMG_8012



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On A Simplified Holiday

This is a long overdue post.  I must thank you all for your patience as I slowly acclimate to having less time at home to enjoy the space I love.

Today is such a special day.  Sadly, I am not home in Vermont to celebrate this holiday with my family, and Sawyer is currently on-campus working on his portfolio for the end of his semester.  At home alone with the kittens, a mug of hot chocolate on a chilly, cloudy day, and listening to the soothing trickle of the kittens’ water fountain, I am feeling particularly at peace.

Most holidays are a grand affair in my household.  I love the hustle and bustle of preparing a fancy feast (cat puns, tee tee), laying the table, getting the ambiance just right… But today, I am sitting back with my mug, my cats, and a good book instead.  IMG_7597It feels good to relax.  It feels just right.

Today, I haven’t vacuumed.  I haven’t cleared the clutter of cardboard boxes I’ve kept for the kittens to play in.  I haven’t mopped the kitchen floor, or scrubbed the sink, or even decluttered the desk.

What I have done, though, is uncover a quiet, simple joy in laying the table for dinner, in making a few Easter dishes to go along with the Vermont’s own Harrington’s spiral ham we are grateful to my parents for providing us.  I am delighting in the peace of falling into a good book (for anyone looking for a new read, Rachel Lyons’ debut Self-Portrait with Boy, is phenomenal [the link brings you to the NPR article that drove me to get this read]) and hours of warm snuggles on the couch with sleeping kittens under our throw blanket.

Life is busy.  I have finished one graduate quarter, only to begin another tomorrow morning.  There is constant hustle and bustle in everyone’s lives.  It is so important to remember that we all need our own time to decompress.  I have spent this holiday on doing just that.

I think that this post celebrates a gentle yet triumphant return to CornsilkDoll.  I cannot wait to share what I have been up to with you all.  Happy Easter, and a light-hearted April Fool’s Day, to you all!

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On Sustainable Lunches

Another weekend has come and (almost) gone.  Parent reports, snail mail composition, cleaning the apartment, and grocery shopping were on a self-sustaining to-do list.  To step away from the hustle and bustle of a busy weekend, however, I decided to take a walk.  I have been decidedly more active recently, now that the weather is beginning to warm up (my spirit animal would be a bear, I definitely hibernate in the wintertime).  It is sunny and brisk and all I needed was a spring jacket.  All the usual paths seemed a little too stale, however, so I thought I’d pack up a small lunch for Sawyer, who is spending the day in studio with architecture work up to his eyeballs.  There is something quaint about a paper bag lunch.  With a collapsible bowl of goldfish and a slice of pizza left over from last night folded into a sustainable cloth wrap, I made my way to campus.

Four days out of five, I bring my lunch to work.  Not only do I save money by not eating out on my lunches, I also have time to go for walks on nice days instead of spending time in my car driving to a suitable lunch place and then sitting in a Panera/Subway/etc. to finish eating.  I never go anywhere without my trusty eco-friendly orange spork, which I’ve had since my undergraduate career.  I also have collapsible food containers that – while are made of silicone – I still use out of guilt (I can’t bring myself to throw them out and have them sit in the landfill for…well, forever.  However, I not-so-recently discovered Bee’s Wrap, which is handmade by a dedicated group of women in Bristol, Vermont (shout out to my home state!).  It is a sustainable, compostable, eco-friendly beeswax and cloth food wrap that I can use with just about anything.  Bee’s Wrap is a Green America certified business with a vested interest in the environment, healthful kitchen habits, and social change.  I couldn’t be more smitten with the product they create, and the wonderful honey-wax smell that the wraps have is just icing on the cake.

Real talk: Duke University’s Center for Sustainability and Commerce says the Average American generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day, all adding up to a whopping 220 million tons of waste per year.  55% of that waste is channeled into landfills, even when two-thirds of our household waste can be composted.  I have written before about the benefits of composting, especially in a small apartment setting, and continue to stand behind those sentiments.  I am also focusing on my foods’ carbon footprint.  In-season fruits (or going without), filtered tap water rather than bottled, and certified organic foods versus synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are all things I am focusing on when I travel to the grocery store.  There are so many different ways to reduce our carbon footprints that it’s easy to take the first step toward creating a more sustainable future, while also moving ourselves toward a healthier and more thoughtful lifestyle in the process (I highly recommend checking out Racing Extinction’s “Eat Better to Save Animals” interactive page [equipped with educational links galore, I might add] if you’d like to receive further information on how you can reduce your foods’ carbon footprint).  I’m not perfect, however: I buy myself the occasional fuji apple, I forget to bring my reusable bags into the store with me until I’m halfway down the checkout line, and even wander into Trader Joe’s from time-to-time.  I’m guilty of this, mostly because I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the price tags.  But I forgive myself knowing that my intent is to live a more thoughtful and simple lifestyle, and for the most part, I do that (click here if you’d like some advice on how to go organic on a budget!).IMG_6790.jpg

Finally, my lunch bag.  If one isn’t careful, one can end up with several different lunch bags, but only use one or two of them.  I knew that I only ever wanted one lunch bag, so I needed something that I knew I wouldn’t “grow out of” in a year or two.  So I picked a coated polyester Doggie Bag made by Scout.  It’s refreshing color scheme and simple pattern will, in my opinion, remain “in style” for a lifetime (and I’m hoping that’s how long this bag lasts me!).  With the bag’s dimensions, I am able to fit a lunch, little bottle or thermos, and a snack easily inside.  This past summer I used it to tote a six-pack of hard cider to a BBQ in Conshohocken.

When I decided to simplify my life, I -understandably – already had stuff.  I had to be selective about the things I threw away – knowing that many of them would end up in landfills, unable to break down and decompose.  Items like my collapsible containers were given new life, as I couldn’t get rid of them, and they also inspired me to shop more selectively in the future (glass pyrex is my go-to choice now).  I kept the plastic spork I had gotten during my undergrad rather than swapping it out for a more preferable bamboo or SpudWare version.  Moving forward, I am striving to be as simplistic and thoughtful as I can to reduce my footprint on our world that needs us to speak on its behalf.

Happy munching and lunching, friends!

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On Perseverance

Oh, man. After a night of hard cider mixed with champagne, a tacos-for-dinner date night with Sawyer, a good nights’ sleep, a few Saturday morning mimosas, and a slow in-service work day today, I am finally ready to face the beast that was my last week at school.

The week started off wonderfully, we decorated our Valentine’s Day bags and discuss who we love (i.e. mommy, daddy, brother, sister, etc.) on Monday. Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, was a success because we had music class and sang songs about love and friendship, and then we had our Valentine’s Day party! The cupcakes, CapriSun juice packs, and the scavenger hunt for love bugs were all big hits and the kids were excited to participate in the activities. But then, Wednesday happened. It must’ve been a combination of the Valentine’s Day sugar rush wearing off and the cold weather keeping us cooped up indoors, but the children were little devils. For the rest of the week, “no running in the classroom!”, “we don’t hit”, and “please say your sorry to your friend” were staples in the audio reverberating around my classroom. My assistant teacher Alyssa and I joked about making tape recordings of our voices for these specific occasions so we could have a break.img_6883-2

Don’t get me wrong, there were moments between all the chaos that were sweet. I appreciated every hug my students gave me when I came in in the morning, the kiss on the cheek I received from one of my students on Friday afternoon, and the happy smiles I could see after finishing a good book during Circle Time. Those moments shine through the darkness of a tough week, but it was a tough week nonetheless.

I’ve heard that October and November, especially on new teachers, are especially difficult. I started teaching in early December, and as such, I haven’t yet experienced the DEVOLSON (“Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November”, coined by the anonymous teacher-blogger who authors Love, Teach). But if there was a DEVOLSON-type phase for mid-February, I am stuck in the thick of it. According to the New Teacher Center, I may be entering what is called the Disillusionment Phase of my first year as a teacher. While I don’t have many of the things that elementary and high school teachers have coming up – such as back-to-school-night, parent-teacher conferences, and my first formal evaluation (yet) – there is certainly a certain pressure one feels while taking care of some odd 20+ 2/3 year-olds.

It’s an exciting time, teaching this age group, because everything is new and developmentally stimulating. Going potty by oneself and living to tell the tale is a major accomplishment and deserves a high-five each and every time thereafter. Making paper plate art, tracing the letters of the alphabet (and sometimes our names), and beginning to pencil circles and figures on our own is a prodigious achievement. I enjoy every overly-excited explanation of exactly what happened when they left the room with Alyssa to go potty, as well as every hug, high five, and hard-earned sticker that I give out to my kids.

I have recently begun work on returning to school for a masters in Education, catering toward elementary levels. Finally – I tell my loved ones – I’ve found my passion. While I’m excited to take these next steps, I’ll certainly miss the classroom I have found myself in charge of now once I’ve completed my certification.

Persevering through difficult days/weeks has been made easier (and more simple) knowing that I have found such a passion in the education field. Even on the toughest days, I know that my presence has impacted someone, that I have made a child happy by sitting with them to do a craft or giving them a high-five after a successful potty mission. After a long day, I look forward to coming home, relaxing with my cats on the couch, and setting up a craft for the next day, despite how tired out I am from a day of chasing children around. Instead of feeling like the “Fun Police” when I ask a child to stop running around the classroom four or five times, I look forward to the next activity I get to do with them.

Perseverance after a long day/week at work is similar to perseverance when striving for a more simple and thoughtful lifestyle. Instead of dwelling on what could be and how much there still is to do, I have chosen to focus on the accomplishments that have already come out of my work and look forward to the next venture that will bring me closer to my goals. There are so many unpleasant things already, I choose not to focus on the negatives from a draining day and instead try to refocus my energies on the positives – whether they be the small instances of success as a teacher (i.e. a child remembering their “please” and “thank you” during lunch, the hug I received from a student as soon as I walked in the door that morning) or the fresh start each new morning provides. These are the simple things that allow my days at work to become thoughtful and more simplistic in themselves.  Not to mention it’s always a great feeling to tack up last week’s Activity Boards with student work, photographs, and a nice write-up of our activities and reflect on how much we accomplished together.

I would love to hear your stories on perseverance, especially when it comes to the work environment! Any job, any profession – teachers aren’t the only ones who have bad days! Let me know how you handled the stress and what kept you going when you felt drained at the end of the day.

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On Becoming a Teacher & A lesson in Minimalism

I am finding that – with Sawyer’s hectic school schedule this semester – I spend a lot of mornings alone, even on the weekends.  Today was such a day.  Sitting at the table alone with toast in one hand and a pen and pad of paper at the other, I brainstormed lesson plans for my classroom.  While I have been absent from cornsilk doll, I swapped out employment.  In the wake of current politics, I decided that it was finally time to stop working a day-to-day job and find a career that speaks to me and influences the world in a positive way.

That career, for me, has been teaching.  I am currently at a Pennsylvania private school teaching a classroom full of eager three-year-olds about friendship, animals, and (in the interest of the upcoming holiday) what it means when we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I have been teaching for almost three months and I could not imagine doing anything else now that I’ve discovered this passion.  However, I am finding (and my best friend, a first grade teacher, can also attest to this) that the profession easily allows for the accumulation of stuff.

Stickers, art supplies and examples of completed projects have all found their way into my previously tidy little apartment.  Not only did I not have enough space for the three binders I bought to keep student records, teaching records, and substitute plans and guides, now my space found itself home to labeled banker boxes of children’s books, projects pages that have yet to be used, and boxes upon boxes of craft supplies waiting to be squabbled over by acutely excitable toddlers.

What I have found is this: having previously been practicing a more thoughtful and minimalistic space, I have been picky about what I have invited into my space now that I’m a teacher.  I have kept a fastidious watch over my Year-At-A-Glance sheet that I’ve made as well as the lesson plans I’ve drawn up and planned my classroom activities up to a month in advance.  This allows me to both be prepared but also retain my own sanity as well as the sanctity of my accommodations.  (At least the kittens don’t seem to mind the new stuff that does make it’s way into our apartment.  Their favorite thus far has been the easter egg submarines craft, that are now roly-poly toys filled with catnip or treats, depending on how generous mom and dad are feeling that day…) img_6780

I have been pleasantly surprised at how contained and simplified I have been able to keep my teaching when it comes to bringing work home with me (and lets face it, we all bring work home with us at one point or another, some of us more than others).  I often find myself completing crafts for the week ahead so that my class will have examples to look at while they complete their own craft.  This means I have to have a small stockpile of paint, construction paper, and other crafting supplies at my fingertips while at home.  I have a small box of paint, paper, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, etc. that I keep under the bed for just such occasions.  It is nice to keep the box out of sight when it’s not being used, and it doesn’t take up the vital space I need in closet space (thank goodness!).  The binders have found a home at the bottom of my linen closet.  They fit easily between the portable folding ironing board and the wall, so they aren’t too much of an eyesore and they act as a cat deterrent as well (they used to hide back there and I’d close them in the closet without knowing it!).

My kids take their projects home with them at the end of the month.  Therefore, I don’t have to purge the classroom quite as selectively as I do the finished “examples” I have made of our projects that somehow weasel their way back into my space when I come home at night.  In my last recycling bin, I disposed of a construction paper 2D cheetah face, a painted egg carton steam engine, and a trace-your-own constellation of the Big Dipper that I made with star stickers and chalk.  Example work (because who doesn’t need examples when you head out to your “next big thing”?) that I’ve kept have been a cupcake liner panda bear and a thumbprint painted tongue depressor caterpillar; they both live in a pouch in my teacher binder with lesson plans, Year-At-A-Glance, and reference sheets.

Keeping papers, materials, and clutter in general at a minimum as I continue to work in this profession will be a constant goal of mine.  Keeping the chaos of stuff down to a dull roar is all I can ask for as I continue to learn what I will need in terms of supply and demand for the classroom.  I realize that the collection of children’s books will only grow larger as I progress as a teacher, but hopefully they will be put to personal use as well when children of my own come along (don’t worry mom, it won’t be any time soon!).  A small bookshelf will be installed in the next couple of months to help organize the classroom from the personal books, and a secretary desk is also a dream of mine to keep clutter at bay on the dining table (right now I’m using the table as a base of operations for all things school-related and it gets to be a little overwhelming sometimes).  img_6781

But, in the here and now, keeping the stuff at bay seems to have become easier today than it was a month ago, and I can only hope that it will continue to grow easier as the time passes.  I remember my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, who only needed to make minor adjustments to her lesson plans for each year, because everyone knew exactly what we would learn (for example, we would make model globes, and drop an egg in a box rigged to survive a two story drop from our teachers’ roof) and everyone looked forward to that.

I would love to, one day, be that kind of teacher.  Until then, we’ll keep it down to a dull roar.

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On the Enneagram

After a month’s long hiatus, I am finally ready to renew my commitment to this blog.  I apologize to all those who have supported me along this journey and have thus been disappointed in my commitment to writing here.  I want to thank you for not giving up on me, and assure you that you mean a great deal to me.  I hope that my blog will continue to instills inspiration and provides knowledge.  But enough – we know how much time can be wasted by steeping ourselves in our regrets; I will move forward with a strengthened pledge to write, here, several times a week.

Two weeks ago, my mother and I were talking over the phone during my commute home from work.  It was a conversation like most of our conversations, “how are you”s and “what have you been up to”s were exchanged before we reached the meat of our chatter.  We talked about work, food, and – chiefly – family friends.  One of her friends, Alison, had introduced her to a book that  Alison’s son, Alex, uses quite a bit in his profession as a mental health therapist.  My mom told me that she had been skeptical at first, and disappointed in the results that the free online test had delivered, but as she read more about her results she began to see the correlations within her life that backed the tests’ findings.

I couldn’t tell you when I became interested in personality tests (perhaps its all the Criminal Minds that I’ve watched over the years): but using my Facebook as a testament, I do enjoy taking them (whether it be a psychologically-backed test like Myers Briggs, or “What Disney Princess Are You?”).  So when my mother introduced me to the enneagram, I was unabashedly interested in her results.  I had her read long explanatory paragraphs out of the book she had gotten from Alison about the enneagram and its results.  When I arrived home from my commute, we hung up and I took the online enneagram quiz that my mom had inboxed me while we were talking.

When the Enneotype “Type One: the Perfectionist” flashed across the screen at the end of the test, I wish I could say I was surprised.  There were a couple of Types that I wished I could’ve tailored my answers toward – but lying to myself wouldn’t get me anywhere.  Thus, thirty minutes after having hung up the phone with my mother, I called her back to tell her my results.  She dutifully read me excerpts from the book about Type One’s, and I felt a combination of elation and revulsion at the words of a stranger describing my personal life, code of ethics, and deep set beliefs with astounding accuracy.  Twenty minutes later, I hung up the phone with my mom for a second time, with her promise that she’d send me the book ASAP.Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 7.55.02 PM.png

As with most things, the enneagram has a margin of error involved.  This margin was described to me as such: “red isn’t just one shade, there are thousands of different shades that fall into the category of red.”  True (and sadly, I can’t put the whole blame of this on Crayola’s shoulders alone).  When I received the book my mother sent me, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by counselor Ian Morgan Cron and Enneagram master teacher Suzanne Stabile, I immediately flipped to the “Type One” chapter.  The first section written down breaks up the Type One personality into three subcategories – the healthy, the average, and the unhealthy.  Obviously, I have traits that fall into each of these subcategories.  I kept reading.  I nodded at positive judgements and sighed over negative revelations.  I learned about “Ones” as children, “Ones” in relationships, “Ones” at work.

You may ask, why are you writing about your self-help enneagram book on a blog about living as thoughtful and as simple a life as one can manage?  That’s a straightforward question that deserves a straightforward answer.  I am writing about the enneagram because it has explained things to me about the way I think and act that had not been made clear before my introduction to this book.  It has interpreted my need for a clean bathroom sink, an organized kitchen cabinet, and an artfully arranged coffee table bedecked with perfectly asymmetrically stacked coffee table books and a cheerful candle not as Obsessive Compulsive, but as having high expectations of myself and others – the way in which I look at the world.  Thus, it has become clearer to be – through this study – why I want a simple, thoughtful lifestyle.

I haven’t truly focused on myself in my blog, as of yet.  Rather, I have focused on the things, my surroundings, that have been made simpler by my sorting, dismissing, and cultivating hand.  I have focused on the how but not the who.  Before reading this book, I would have explained leaving the discussion of myself out of my blog as a way to allow you – my readers – to imagine yourselves in my stead (sort of like the way a realtor impresses upon those who are selling their home that they must remove their photos from the walls and personal affects so that potential buyers can imagine themselves in the space).  Now I realize that I have been leaving myself out of my writing because I am flawed – imperfect in my search for the wholly simplistic, thoughtful lifestyle.  IMG_6771.jpg

This study in enneagrams, starting out as a fun quiz and a book to quench my curiosity, has grown into something that has allowed me to take a step back and observe my actions in a way that aids my understanding and expands my knowledge as to why I want the lifestyle that I practice.  I have suggested taking the quiz to my friends, Sawyer has taken the quiz (he is a Type Seven: the Enthusiast), and, obviously, my mom has taken the quiz (we’re still encouraging my sister to take it, as we are very curious as to what her results will be).  If you are interested in taking the quiz I took, it’s free and takes about 5-10 minutes to complete.  Please, please feel free to contact me about any comments or questions you may have!  I enjoy hearing from you and welcome any and all feedback!

Have a wonderful Super Bowl Sunday, all!

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A Simpler, More Purposeful Look at New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!  Tonight is the night that we lift our heads and hearts to the heavens and both hope and resolve to do “better” in the coming year.  Whatever the “better” might be for each one of us, however, brainstorming new year’s resolutions is the shared tradition of many.  For 2017, though, I urge us all to forgo the “sparkly new self in six easy steps” approach to our resolutions and aim for substance rather than hasty keywords.

What I mean by substance rather than keywords is this: swap out that gym membership you would rarely use to donate that money to a substantial cause, such as a foundation you appreciate or a cause you support.  Instead of making a frivolous purchase on new clothing that you’ll wear a couple times before donating to GoodWill or giving away, invest in decor items for your home that you know you’ll keep for a long time and that you’ve been eyeing for a while but haven’t had the money or reason to make the purchase.  Swap out that old futon for the couch you’ve always wanted.  Buy that piece of art from the local artisan you love.

Resolve to delete without opening those pesky “a better you in 3 weeks or less” emails you’ll receive starting tomorrow morning.  There is enough negativity spread around without putting yourself down as well.

Make firm arrangements to improve and enhance your community.  My mother gives 4 hours a week to Meals on Wheels to give back to her community, I volunteer at my local ASPCA on the weekends to socialize with cats and walk and groom the dogs who are still waiting for their forever homes.  In other words, find something that you are passionate about within your community and act to support and strengthen it.  Be uncompromising when it comes to your betterment of your home, neighbors, and surroundings.

Give back.  Support our earth the way the earth supports us.  For those fortunate enough to have beautiful lawns and gardens, plant trees and create compost hubs.  For those of us in urban areas, freeze your compost and donate it to your local compost sites (a quick Google search of local compost drop-offs will bring up agencies where you can drop your compost on a weekly/bi-weekly basis).  Unplug electronics you aren’t using.  Give up eating meat and dairy products for one day a week to cut down on gas emissions and carve away at our dependence on the meat and dairy industries.  Shop local, visit a co-op rather than chain grocery store.  Turn your heat down when you aren’t in the house.  Donate to organizations working on the benefit of all things.

In short, everyone, we can all feel successful in our resolutions if we intend to achieve something of consequence rather than those ambiguous self-improvement goals that are mass marketed to the populace and rarely taken seriously.  When you truly dedicate yourself to a resolution that betters more than just yourself, whatever it may be, the sense of achievement becomes greater and your community become impenetrable against adversity.

In 2017, I would like to lower the carbon cost of what I eat by buying my food products from local co-ops and minimizing my meat and dairy consumption.  I would love to hear from you about your resolutions for 2017!

Still need some ideas?  Here are a couple amazing sites that might help you get started!



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On Building a Simple and Thoughtful Lifestyle, Beginning with Gratitude and Mindfulness

My mother and I had a telephone conversation this morning that I can only describe as warm.  It left me feeling good.  It made me miss home and her advice and the ability to meet for lunch in town during a busy workday or stop by after dinner for a movie.  My relationship with my mother is not perfect – it never has been or will be – but it is one of love and respect for one another.  After I hung up with her, the warmth I felt was wonderful, and I wouldn’t be doing her justice if I didn’t mention my gratitude for her presence in my life.

I’m not too proud to admit that being grateful for the special things in my life – be it little or big – is difficult to do every day.  However, with the holidays coming up I’m trying to be extra mindful of all the wonderful gifts in my life.  Despite the everyday stresses, I am working toward a better awareness of the gifts I’m given every single day.  Enjoying the now, the present moment, is so much easier when you aren’t focused on hindsight or foresight.

The topic of gratitude and mindfulness is near-and-dear to my heart.  I truly believe that if we choose to live in a more mindful atmosphere and allow ourselves the reflection on our gifts, a simple and more thoughtful lifestyle can be borne from that choice.  It is something that must be worked at – I am always working toward that lifestyle – but the rewards reaped from that effort far outweigh that which might be forfeit.

I’ve gathered together some simple tips and tidbits that have helped me focus on the here-and-now rather than the could’ve-been’s and can-be’s.

  1. Unplug it.  Feeling inundated with too much noise?  Whether it be real noise such as the television or radio in the car or digital noise on social media and the Internet, we are always actively searching for that next bit of entertainment.  With so many options of things to fill your mind up, there is hardly any room for peace.  I like to practice at least 30 minutes of quiet in the morning and at night to focus on the positive aspects of the day and remind myself of all that there is to be grateful for.
  2. Slow down.  Similar to unplugging ourselves from all the constant dings, pangs, and beeps of the world around us, slowing yourself down leads to gratitude and higher productivity levels.  When we’re no longer multitasking during every item on our busy daily agendas, we are given a chance to notice what may have been lost in the more active moments of the day.   Taking a few moments to focus on breathing or one thought you had that you promised yourself you’d come back to allows us to focus our energy into the special things, both big and small, that we might overlook each day when rushing from one thing to the next.
  3. Let go.  Life is hectic, especially during the holiday season.  Instead of asking yourself one hundred questions about the presentation you gave at work or the list of groceries you gave your significant other that might be missing one or two items, allow yourself to stop.  When the action is over, let it be over.  Fretting over what cannot be changed only creates unneeded stress and shortens the mental view of the “big picture”.
  4. Enjoy life.  Hand-in-hand with letting it go, a lot of us – myself included – allow our fretting to get in the way of our enjoyment of activities and things that usually bring us happiness.  Instead of enjoying a movie with your significant other, you’re anxiously going over the notes on your company’s latest acquisition that may have had an error in them.  Instead of going out to dinner, you stay home because you don’t want to see the dip in your finances.  This one is difficult, folks, and I am still struggling with it, but it allows for so much clarity once it’s achieved even just once that you’ll want to continue achieving it over and over.

These four guidelines have allowed me to feel more gratitude and enable more mindfulness throughout my day than I had before.  They enable me to focus on the already-great aspects of my life rather than the could-be-better’s.

The holidays are a time to reflect on the gifts you have been given as well as the gifts you continue to receive.  Permitting yourself to see how fortunate you are enables you not only to decompress before, during, and after your day but also reveals those things that should be celebrated.  For me, I feel the most gratitude for my parents at home in Vermont, my sister away at school in New York, my little family here in Philadelphia, my brilliant friends both near and far, the roof above my head and the space beneath.

During the season of giving, I’d love to hear some of what you are most thankful for receiving.  Large or small, no story is insignificant, and I can’t wait to hear them!

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Deliberate Dishes : Holiday Cranberry Mimosas

Sawyer and I celebrated our Thanksgiving 2016 without family this year.  Both of us had a slew of emotions about this, but we made the day incredibly special from dawn ’til dusk (and beyond, as dusk is around 4PM nowadays).  As I proclaimed in my last post, I am not a professional chef – or anywhere close.  But I did want to do something special in the morning as my family usually had a nice breakfast together before the cooking starts.

Forgoing any sort of extreme breakfast foods (anything that needed more than a toaster), Sawyer and I had jam on toast with decorative holiday mimosas.  Entering adulthood in Vermont, I’ve been spoiled with a craft brew house around every corner and the ability to buy alcohol in a gas station convenience store, grocery store, etc. instead of the designated spirits shops that I have to visit when I’d like a drink in Philadelphia.  None of the brews and ciders I enjoy are trucked down to Philadelphia, so I have been branching out into new breweries.  However, I can always fall back on old faithfuls like a good prosecco – which is just what happened for Thanksgiving.

Here’s what you’ll need (and, trust me, it’s simple):

  • 1 lime (organic)
  • 1 teaspoon organic cane sugar (Wholesome brand or similar)
  • 1 bottle pure cranberry juice (Lakewood brand or similar)
  • 1 bottle of your favorite bubbly
  • 1 12 oz. bag of organic cranberries (Fresh Meadows Farm or similar)
  • Bamboo toothpicks (however many drinks you’ll be serving is how many toothpicks you’ll need)

I knew with making a cranberry mimosa that I needed to break the bitterness a bit (mainly for Sawyer’s tastebuds, as I have a hankering for sour/bitter), so I experimented with sugar rims.  I used fresh squeezed lime juice to dip the rims of my glasses in before coating the top with sugar.  I dedicated a clean plate for both the lime juice and the sugar coating in order to keep the rest of my glass spotless.

Second step is add the bubbly – however much you would enjoy.  I tend to lean toward 1:1 when making mixed drinks, so I poured my bubbly to about halfway up the glass.  Add to that the cranberry juice and you’ll have a completed drink.

One final touch I added to make the drink more festive was to create a cranberry garnish.  I picked out 3 cranberries per drink to skewer on a bamboo toothpick and lay across the rim of each glass before serving, just for that special oomph to bring the simple drink to the next level.  IMG_6737.jpg

As quick and easy as they are delicious, I felt confident in sharing this simple yet adorable holiday drink with you all!  Cheers!