A few weeks ago, I co-hosted a bridal shower for my sister-in-law Beth. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of weddings and all the hoopla that goes along with it, but I really wanted to help host a special and unique event for Beth. She’s helped me so much with watching Lucy and being a big sister when I needed one most. She’s literally one of the nicest people on the face of the earth. Seriously, like, all the time. It’s really annoying, but I love her anyway…
What started as a semi-potluck brunch somehow escalated into a French-themed cocktail party. Rightly so, I’ll admit, because Beth has always had a soft spot for la Paris ever since a trip post-high-school. Also, I’m pretty sure a cocktail party is what her extremely classy mother would have put together for either of her daughters’ bridal showers. So I pushed my sappy wedding critic aside, and pulled out my resources to help my fellow (five!) bridesmaids put together an event so very… Beth. It was fun yet elegant and the food exceeded my (already high) expectations. I just had to share the results.
In the wondrous age of social media, the five of us – hailing from New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida – were able to keep in touch throughout the preceding months. We kept a private Facebook page to keep in touch, share documents, and vote on menu items, craft ideas, etc. Pinterest was also quite handy to throw a bunch of ideas together and see what worked best.
With so many crafty ladies, I arranged a craft day where I literally pulled out any and every tidbit of ribbon, tissue, and paper to assemble a resourceful (aka free) arrangement of decor. Amidst tissue poufs and tassels to paper- and ribbon-wrapped glass vessels, we reminisced about our own weddings – the good and the bad. (Mine was definitely allowing my mother to “just pick up some flowers” for the church. I’m glad I have a sense of humor because multi-colored mums on a kelly green carpet might throw another bride into a fit of tears.) The arrangements were easy as pie to assemble before the event – a fellow bridesmaid and I cut fresh, local cherry blossoms and forsythia in bloom to fill the vessels, lemons gave a pop of yellow about the place, and I drew up some pretty labels to identify the French menu and cocktails.
The food was amazing! I was utterly impressed with not only the presentation and quality, but the custom menu so perfectly created. Justin Lingl from Root Catering Co. had spent time in rural France teaching English (and gathering culinary inspiration) so he was more than happy (and experienced) to craft a cocktail party menu for us. Baked goat cheese dip with handmade herb crackers, gougeres, crostini with olive and asparagus tapenades, veggie tartlets, and freshly broiled croque monsieurs and forestieres – each equally delicious. He paired the dishes with French-inspired, yet crowd-friendly, cocktails (and mocktails) including a basil lemonade, mojito, and a few Kir Royale varieties.
For dessert, Justin recommended his friend Tish Smith, owner of Foam Floaterie, an ice-cream and soda shop in Philadelphia with delicious and experimental pairings of homemade goods. Despite my own fondness for ice cream and floats, she is quite adept with all manners of baking and suggested a more authentic French cookie platter – citrusy madeleines, meringues topped with chocolate and sea salt, and limoncello macaroons. With our bellies full of Root Catering’s savory dishes, I was surprised so many had room for dessert – those cookies flew off the plate so fast, I barely had time to snap a photo! The perfect end of the evening was a delivery of fresh brews from my family’s Harvest Coffee Roastery.
The shower was so nice and simple. We used what we had and put on a great show. Beth loved it so much, she’ll be borrowing some of the ideas for the wedding itself – handwritten flags and markers, simple arrangements in pretty glassware… I’ll be sure to share photos after the big day next month!
In honor of Earth Day this year, I volunteered to go into my daughter’s preschool to teach her class a bit about sustainability. It was a lofty goal to teach a concept that is usually hard to explain to adults. However, I merged what I gleaned from a rather exhaustive online search for preschool Earth Day lessons and activities with my personal sustainable beliefs into a unique lesson plan.
First, we read “The Earth Day” by Todd Parr. While I don’t necessarily agree that children would understand the abstract correlation that reducing energy use would save saving polar bears and snowmen, I do appreciate his effort. (However, I honestly fear these children’s parents will think I’ve poisoned them with left-wing climate change conspiracy!) Despite my qualms with Parr’s broad analogies, I like the general message that we do all of these little things to take care of the Earth so it will take care of us – this is something we can all get behind!
Next up was a Pledge derived from the book. I picked 3 simple things that every kid should know in order to help take care of the Earth in their very own homes.
“I take care of the Earth so it can take care of my family, friends, and me.”
I will turn off lights to save energy.
I will turn off the water when brushing my teeth to use less water.
Then we played a game called, What can we recycle? I took a bag of “trash” (aka things from around the house that very well look like trash as well as things I fished out of the recycle bin and cleaned). One by one, I took items out and asked what it was, what it was made of, and if it could be recycled. If it could, it went into a paper bag (conveniently made with recycled paper). If it couldn’t, I asked if it could be used for anything else? There were string and clean popsicle sticks re-useable for crafts; a clean, yet old, partner-less sock for cleaning windows; and old books and stuffed animals that could be donated. Afterwards, the trash bag was empty, but the paper bag was full of recyclables and a re-useable grocery bag had items saved from the landfill for one or more uses. The teacher then told the class that she was bringing in a recycling bin to learn to sort their waste. Being as thorough as I usually am, I handed her a list of recyclable items from the township’s website. I let her know that she was fortunate to have a municipality that recycles sandwich bags and grocery bags since I have to bag them up and remember to bring them to the grocery store. I also let her know about Terracycle for the mountain of juice boxes the school must toss every week. When paper and aluminum are fused together, as in the case of juice boxes, recycling becomes rather difficult. However, some municipalities and programs are able to recycle these.
Finally, we had a mini recycle dance party. After sitting quietly for the lesson (mostly), I rewarded them with a little music. Jack Johnson’s “3 R’s” is a fun song that combines multiplication (“3 times 6 is 18 and the 18th letter of the alphabet is R”) and sustainability (“3 R’s we’re gonna talk about today: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle!”). If you are a nerd like me, you will be impressed. If not, there’s a fun little breakdown with musical solos for you. There are also some examples of reducing your waste (bring your bag to the market), re-using things (wearing older siblings’ old clothes), and recycling (learn it). All that aside, the girls had fun twirling and a few boys rocked some air guitar and drums.
Thanks for letting me get all of that off my chest – can’t really unload that to a bunch of 3- to 5-yr-olds. For a tree-hugging purist like myself, I struggle with how to explain conservation to my own kid, let alone a group of kids whose households differ in routines and beliefs. At the end of the day, though, it’s good to just help them better understand that we do these things because we care about each other and the Earth. I’m not quite sure they understood the lasting effects of saving energy or water, but the overall consensus seemed to be that they like polar bears, dislike the dark, and might take baths with less water. My goal was just to get the wheels turning and I’d say the mission was accomplished.
Found in Nature series by Barry Rosenthal is a collection of found objects washed ashore on beaches in NJ and NY. Beautifully curated yet a sad reality of carelessness for our Earth and each other.
Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop has decided to “get wise” in her daily, educational Instagram posts. After succumbing to the very real issue of “mom brain” (view her original post here), she started 2013 with a personal mission to reclaim her sanity. “[T]hose chubby miracles are actually tiny burglars that loot 7 percent of your brain. Maybe forever!” as she puts it. So far she has tackled subjects from plants and paints to TV shows and candy. I personally tune in every day, often sharing with my husband, to exercise my own fragmented mind. He’s partial the eloquent grammar lessons, and I’m quite inspired by the artwork itself. Her watercolor and ink drawings, as well as her paper cuts, are spontaneous and whimsical.
Christine is a mom and successful business owner (Yellow Owl recently collaborated with Schoolhouse Electric and was just featured in the NY Times today!) whose daily discipline of educational fodder should inspire mothers, new and old, to learn something new every day… and names of super heroes and Strawberry Shortcake’s friends do not count (anyone else’s toddlers know how to navigate Netflix?). Start following her posts on Instagram or Twitter and get smart. Now.
Happy spring! Despite the cold here in the mid-Atlantic, I’m getting good vibes from the budding flowers about and the crop of fresh music being released. I long for warmer weather to roll my car windows down and blast the stereo while singing the wrong lyrics. Yes, I’m “that” annoying car… only now I have a carseat in the back and test the limits of my child’s eardrums. Bad parenting, yes, but whatever makes mama happy makes for a happy family unit, eh? However, compared to last year’s toe-tapping beats, the early spring musical offerings seem to be coming in a little more casual and free-flowing, with simple acoustics and honest lyrics. Here’s are a few fave new tunes to hum while we wait for longer sunshine and greener pastures:
A rather large, non-legible sheet of paper arrived at my doorstep recently, reminding me of an important feat I recently added to my repertoire – a diploma for a Masters of Science in Sustainable Design from Philadelphia University. Yay! I completed my degree in early December, with a whopping 90-page thesis I still cannot believe I’ve written (this includes the title pages, images, and bibliography in there to sound extra impressive, too). But… now what? No more can you simply graduate and get a job in your studied field. You have to network and do free internships and apply everywhere. It’s exhausting. Additionally, I’m tasked with answering the question on everyone’s mind… “What exactly is ‘sustainable design’?” To which I have a standard answer to give inquiring friends and family alike: “It’s environmentally-friendly building methods and materials.” Simple enough, eh? I often get responses such as, “Like LEEDs [sic] and stuff, right?” from contractors or, “I love reclaimed wood and vintage things!” from starry-eyed mothers and aunts. Yes, yes. It IS those things… but so much more to me.
I started graduate school rather impulsively. After becoming a mother and looking for something more “green” in my field, I joined a young professional committee at a local USGBC chapter. I knew no one and wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but it found me. A chance meeting with someone who’d been in my shoes before led me to applying for the graduate program. A week later (I kid you not), I was in classes and still not sure what the hell I was doing. Most of my classmates were like me – needing a change from jobs that had nothing to do with sustainability, or wanting to advance their knowledge beyond the aesthetic green movement. The rigorous program really helped us focus on the aspects of sustainability that were important to each of us. For me, I realized that my passion for residential interior design and sustainability inspired me to know more and be more for my community. My thesis, entitled, “A Sustainable Home in an Age of Consumption,” initially grew out of a challenge from my professor to demonstrate that meaningful homes are inherently sustainable. I became consumed with the academic research on the topic, ranging from environmental psychology journals to US Census data to social impact business models. Today, I’m literally writing the book on my passion: the real value of home.
Now that the sting of all-nighters and PowerPoint presentations is safely in my past, I’ll have to indulge you on some interesting concepts soon. However, I’d love to hear your thoughts on family, food, traditions, and what is important in YOUR home. Leave a comment here or send an email to email@example.com.
Have you ever let yourself fall into a moment, suddenly with an acute perception of what’s around you? Or perhaps just found yourself there, staring at something you’ve looked at every day but never really seen? Whoa… heavy, right? The Jealous Curator‘s carefully crafted “Beautifully Boring” show at the Tanner Hill Gallery in Chattanooga, TN, celebrates artists who make the most of the seemingly mundane. Holly Farrell, Leah Giberson, Samantha French, and Mark Bradley Shoup each contribute far-from-boring works that give life to various places and things. Catch the show if you’re in town, or browse their works online… then see what “boring” catches your eye around your house or outdoors.
My father’s brother, my Uncle Andy, passed away last week. Our entire family is devastated and struggling to find peace with the news. This weekend, those who live close by gathered at my Aunt Isabel’s house to mourn the loss together. While we began arrangements and sorted through photos, something bittersweet and beautiful began to transpire. My father, the youngest of the family of fourteen (Irish Catholics, God love ‘em!), and his sisters started to share stories from their childhood. Most I had never heard before. Some sad, some funny. Like when my twin uncles were born and the family had no room in their home, so they slept in bureau drawers. Or how another uncle used to keep a pet squirrel in his pocket. Or the story about my grandma delivering my aunt by herself in an elevator. Or my grandpa who had to keep his helmet on at all times during the war because his fire-engine red hair would have tipped off snipers.
Despite our sadness, we laughed and sighed together, amazed how they all survived and were honored by their hardworking parents, who “put up with a lot of s#$%,” as Uncle Andy would have put it. For the ten remaining Johnston siblings – six women, four men – their lives have changed forever, but the stories that bind us as a family have come to be our silver lining.
Take 6 minutes and 42 seconds out of your day to be inspired by these industrial artists / restauranteurs / punk rockers whose high-low design innovations are inciting greatness and mayhem all at once.
While trolling through one of the blackest holes on the internet (that would be amazon.com), I came upon the work of Lilli Carré, a young cartoonist with hauntingly beautiful work. I originally judged her books by their covers (rightfully so, pretty as they are) and tagged a few for Lucy. Then I found my way over to her site, where I soon realized this ain’t no literature for youths. Well, not yet, anyway…
Excerpt from “Tales of Woodsman Pete”
While I’ll hold off on sarcastic comics for the tween age, I myself was inspired by her work, including her “moving drawings” and the Eyeworks Festival she co-directs with Alexander Stewart, exploring old and new forms of experimental animation. Check out her site, tumblr, and/or blog for more, because this artist is on the rise, kids.