Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stumptown Brew KitsApril 8, 2014

All coffee connoisseurs bow down to Stumptown. Their roasts, their education, their products are all tried-and-true, tested for perfection. I’m especially loving these Brew Kits, aptly named for the typecasts we coffee snobs fall into. I wish I could say I was a Voyager, but my purist design self (and, um, lack of wilderness skills) lands me squarely  in the Chemist category.

(Don’t worry Dad – Harvest Coffee is still my number one… but Stumptown is a close second!)

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Out of Print ClothingMarch 31, 2014

We’ve received such great gifts for Leo from friends and family. A favorite is this Little Prince onesie from his cousin Henry (and AK & UK!). Not only is it one of his papa’s favorite stories, but I’ve become a fan of the company who made it. Out of Print has a collection of clothing and accessories for all ages with classic and quirky books in mind. They boast that their clothing is “treated to feel like your favorite book (that one you have to read eleven times).” That is exactly how this onesie feels – soft and worn-in. But my favorite part about Out of Print is their socially-minded mission: in partnership with Books for Africa, a book is donated to a community in need for each product sold. Head on over to their website to see more, including staff book recommendations on the Bookshelf and their wares in the wild at “What’s Your Story?

Superfudge | 1984 | Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! | In the Night Kitchen

A little smile…

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Greenbuild 2013: My EP StoryDecember 13, 2013

Following up from my Greenbuild post, here’s the (long) short version of how the DVGBC‘s Emerging Professional committee helped save me:

In 2010, I was a few years into my career as a residential interior designer. It was a job I thought I’d always wanted, but it had started to feel a great lack of… something. The projects were challenging and helped to build skills, but they were not my personal style. However, the aforementioned “something” ended up being the realization that my own values for sustainable design were never going to be implemented in this particular firm. My tree-hugging attempts to “green” the office by recycling and introducing sustainable products were fruitless. Our vendors weren’t even interested in selling “green” products and therefore rarely offered sustainable options or education. I needed to find an outlet or someone to share my views with, which is when I decided to try the DVGBC. I called the committees coordinator, described my interests and goals, and she helped my zero in on a few committees to try out: Residential Circle (now defunct) and Emerging Professionals. Though I did not feel as much of a connection to the RC agenda, I became enthusiastic about the EP’s mission and goals.

With the EPs, I was with others feeling the same frustrations in their careers, each motivated to do something about it. I began to volunteer for things I didn’t know much about, like inviting speakers to the group for lectures, fundraising for events, and being in a pilot mentor program. Something strange began to happen – I was networking without even knowing it. The speakers I was asked to invite were big architects in the city, giving me a straight connection to the top of some of the city’s most prestigious firms. The Earth Day of Service event I helped with (i.e. called and begged vendors for free food) ended up involving Mayor Nutter and the Murals Arts Program for a community mural and garden. The mentor program hooked me up with some amazing and strong female professionals in the region who took great interest in my career and ambitions. I should also mention that, as a result of one of the many green happy hours (best way fellow greenies like to network), I went back to school and began my own firm. There was even a time where I led a panel at a local Best of Greenbuild event, partnering with the IES‘s EP group, and ended up being a speaker myself in front of an audience – what? Me? I sometimes think, Did I really do all of this? I just jumped in with both feet, ready and willing.

Fast forward three years, and I have a Masters of Science in Sustainable Design and am still growing my sustainable design network and portfolio with my own firm. I’m not sure where I would be professionally had I not taken the initiative to join the DVGBC’s EP committee. Perhaps Philadelphia’s sustainable network of professionals is extra friendly, because most people I’ve met in this circle are eager to have others who care about their work with a triple bottom line. Though I’m less active these days in the committee (another kid on the way, ya know?), I still am glad to share my EP story and help others find their way.

Photos via my instagram.

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Thank you, Dear VeteransNovember 11, 2013

Sending a big thank you to all of our veterans today. My great-grandfathers, grandfathers, and several uncles have served our country proudly, including my late Uncle Andy. Here he is commemorating his father’s honor on Ie Shima Island in Okinawa, Japan. I’m quite grateful for people like him, defending our freedom.

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5 yearsSeptember 13, 2013

Today is my 5th wedding anniversary with this guy. He puts up with my crazy and I put up with his “good cop” parenting method, video games,  sports (?) so we complement each other in our mutual tolerance, er, love for one another. That’s what it’s all about, right?

Happy Anniversary, HT.

Love, your wife.

Photo by Doug Holton, 2008

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First day + more newsSeptember 5, 2013

Lucy had her first day of school today, which means I had my first day of freedom in a while. While I miss the nugget, she was so excited to go back. She is in the same class with the same teachers and knows most of her classmates, so the familiarity is quite comforting. With all this child-free time, what shall I do you ask? While I’ve been doing some interior design – mostly CAD drafting for another firm, small project management, and Form +Function design development – I’ve been quite engrossed in my family’s coffee roastery. We will celebrate one year at our shop on October 20 and it’s growing in leaps and bounds! We are all excited and anxious since the business is still new and, of course, has growing pains. E-commerce, wholesale, open markets, oh my!

Speaking of growing pains…

We are having a boy! Or, as the ultrasound technician joked, possibly a girl with a third leg (I didn’t say it was a good joke). We are over the moon and quite excited to have a “rich man’s family,” as several people have congratulated us on (despite neither of us never having heard of the phrase). We feel rich, indeed, to be able to experience raising both a daughter and a son. We intended to only have two children so finding out the sex helped ease my nerves about what to expect. I still have no idea how to raise a boy, but we’re seemingly decent at raising a girl. I think we’ll do fine. Now the hard part… names! We have a few in mind but won’t know until we meet the fella.

My excitement has already led me to start filling up the nursery Pinterest board, and I have half a mind to conquer the mountain of girl clothes and toys I’ve hoarded in the attic. However, there’s always that tiny fear that the ultrasound was wrong (which happened to a friend), like finding out there was a twin hiding behind (which happened to an acquaintance). I’m due for another ultrasound in 12 weeks so we’ll see if anything changes. In the meantime, I’ll have to add this little guy to my list of clients because there isn’t much room for him in our home yet. Fortunately for me, this may lead to renovations including a better office

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A move or a baby?August 5, 2013

Every year seems to bring a new accomplishment:

  • 2006 – Graduated from Drexel.
  • 2007 – Bought a house.
  • 2008 – Got married (then pregnant).
  • 2009 – Had the kid.
  • 2010 – Began grad school.
  • 2011 – Started a business.
  • 2012 – Graduated from Philadelphia University.
  • 2013 – Move or get pregnant?

The deal was that after I finished grad school, we would either move north or have another kid. We were undecided once the time came. Lucy had begun school in the fall of 2012 and my business relies on local, reliable vendors and sources. Moving would mean uprooting, but doing so later would be more difficult. After visiting friends in my husband’s hometown of Portsmouth, NH, we started looking for houses. This happens quite often when we visit because we are in love with the town. The housing market was quite dismal, as we expected, but something else occurred to us… we renovated our house ourselves. We ripped it down to studs and made it a home. To leave it behind and move somewhere we hadn’t poured our hearts into felt strange. That’s not to say we will never move. We could always get another fixer-upper (my husband is shaking his head as he reads this). However, we decided it wasn’t the right time to relocate so… baby it is!

In January 2014, we will welcome another little one into our home! We are all very excited here, and I’m hoping you won’t mind as I probably add a little more baby-related posts, tweets, and pins. Lucy is already picking names (Princess Barbie for a girl or Score for a boy) and planning for her role as a big sister (wearing my clothes? I don’t think she gets this part…). Tom and I are planning a potential renovation to best fit another human in this live/work/sleep place we call home. 5 and 1/2 months to go!

Portsmouth photo by Beaupre Photography

Pregnant photo from 2009, 7 months along with Lucy

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Earth Day for 5yr-oldsApril 22, 2013

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.”

  1. I will turn off lights to save energy.
  2. I will turn off the water when brushing my teeth to use less water.
  3. Recycle!

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.


a silver liningFebruary 4, 2013

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.

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a la alisonJanuary 28, 2013

Anyone remember a ways back when I asked you to vote for my friend Alison of a la Alison? Her braised pork belly tacos ended up winning the contest for Best Chili Pepper Recipe and is now being featured in Food52’s latest cookbook. So proud of this lady! She’s been gallivanting around the world being all pretty and talented lately. Like you, I follow her on Instagram (if you don’t, you’d better) and I dream of the places she explores and meals she shares.

Instagram by @alaalison

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