Sunday, February 11, 2018

Experiences Over Things

So by now you know that I'm currently in the thick of a No Shop February and while it's not without some challenges, it's very much improving my outlook and my will power to boot. It's not hard to see that "things" don't bring me happiness but that hasn't stopped me from trying to buy my own happiness in the past. I love to shop but as I've examined that last few years of my life I've discovered that by purchasing anything that that's caught my eye. well, I've done myself a great disservice. Frankly put, I don't appreciate what I have, proven by the piles of clothes that sit in baskets that I inevitably forget about until they cycle back through to my line of sight. What I'm getting at is that there are better ways to spend my money and time than by buying things to add to the pile of things that I don't appreciate to begin with! I looked back through my instagram for photos (because I was too lazy to take new ones) and also to see if I lived by the mini mantra "experiences over things" and you know what? I have been doing it so really, now, it's about putting these goals here, cutting the spending on the unnecessary so that when I really do find something I love, when I buy it, it will truly be special. Here's how I plan to experience life, rather than fill it with things...

Learn Some New Skills

It's been almost two years since I learned to knit with the beautiful people over at The Third Piece. Even before that, I was always taking the occasional soap making or sewing class (to brush up on my skills) ... I just love to learn how do to new things because I've always enjoyed "making"! I have varying interests depending on my mood but one thing I know for sure is that taking in a class or learning something new from a friend, it feeds my soul. I recently learned to macrame with a visiting artist to The Third Piece and have been knotting at my leisure since... and since getting the coveted grape colored mixer this past Christmas, I've been baking up a storm. Boston Public Market Kitchen has great cooking classes with awesome themes using farm fresh ingredients from local purveyors. I have no business being as excited as I am to learn how to make a cheese souffle but well, I love cheese and baking so the Baking School Essentials is on my "to do" list! I plan to visit the Kitchen over the course of this Spring and Summer to really hone some of my cooking skills and maybe bring some friends along. You know I'm willing to do things alone but with friends, it's that much better.

No matter the area you live in any area of the country, all you have to do is search for community classes and you're sure to find that your city or town offers a wide variety of courses whether you want to brush up on your photography or try your hand at pottery. I think it's also really important to support your community in this way. A lot of people spend their valuable time preparing these courses for the public to learn and engage with one another.

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Go on Big or Little Adventures

Whether I have my kids with me and we're headed to the zoo, or I pre-schedule time away, I am a firm believer on taking little adventures or even big adventures but that's not really in the cards for me for the foreseeable future... which is fine, really. I have to say that taking the time to go places, experience new things, sights, foods, all of that is important even if it's right in your own backyard. This past year, I went to my first Wanderlust Festival in Stratton, VT and it was a joy, truly. I went by myself as you might remember and I reconnected with what I love, with my own thoughts and yes, I did a lot of yoga. I met some really cool people, some of which I have actually still kept up with and you know what? I think I might go again this year because the vibes are all there, I intend to spend more time outdoors this year and I want to see what they have up their sleeves for us.

Finding the fun in our every day is important too. We had a variety of museum and zoo memberships last year which we plan to renew this year because life is for the living even when the plans aren't "grand".

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Raise Money/Volunteer for Worthy Causes

I try to do this all year long. I makes me feel good to donate my time and/or  my money because as I have mentioned before, I am very fortunate to have what I do, that it's almost 100% necessary that I give back. It feeds the soul. There are causes and charities that are near and dear to my heart as I am sure there are organizations near and dear to yours. Spending your time and energy giving back is worthwhile in many ways, not just a different way to spend your time.  This year, I am focusing on a few different organizations that are worthy of my full attention. Yoga Reaches Out is headed into it's 8th year and I couldn't be any prouder to be on the planning committee again this year. If you are in New England, I encourage you to either register to join a team or to donate to someone (maybe at random?) who looks low on fundraising; it will make you feel good. I'm also looking forward to supporting Moms Demand Action as well as raising funds for Save the Children and Cradles to Crayons. What's your favorite charitable organization?

Music, Music, Music

Recently, I've really been making music more of a priority. Wesley (my three.5 year old) has really been showing more natural interest in music, playing instruments, dancing, singing... I can tell that it's going to be a passion of his. He asks me every song that comes on the radio what it's called and who is it by... yes, this can be as annoying as it sounds but truthfully, I will answer him every single time and you know what? He already has shown a love of artists. Every time Thunder by Imagine Dragons comes on the radio he says "it's our favorite song!" and you know what? I love that. I used to go to multiple concerts a year but as with many things, it's gone on the back burner because, KIDS... but now, I'm buying those concert tickets, I'm planning in advance for things I love. We're taking in a Guster festival this Summer and I'm hoping to hit up Kesha/Macklemore with my Swartz crew in the warmer weather. It may not be a million shows but they're enough to quench my musical thirst.

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Try New Things

It's hard to be BIG time adventurous in the #Momlife I'm currently leading but there are things that can be exciting to try! This past year, my cousin, our dear friend and I bought a Groupon for Pole Dancing/Aerial Acro/Flexibility and it most definitely pushed us out of our comfort zone but moreover it was really so much fun. Sometimes when we challenge ourselves, we can feel exhilarated by how well we do when we just muster up a little courage. Try indoor rock climbing, row, belly dancing, salsa, pottery... literally anything really. My motto is that I'll always try something once. I may like it, I may not but at least I tried.

Feed Your Soul with Relationships

This one is a big one. Finding people who truly "get" you is super important. I have found a group of people, my core people and I try to nurture those relationships. Some are family, old college friends, girls I grew up with or even people that I've met through blogging or my W.E.L.L. Summit community. These are people that have the same values, passions, love for life and most importantly, good hearts. Spending time with these people, tending to these relationships, is an amazing way to spend my time. Have you thought about the people who bring you joy even if you're just watching a movie in your pj's? How can you let these people know how much you care? How can you strengthen these bonds?

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I wrote this post to put down the ways that I plan to experience life rather than fill it with the unnecessary material things that I've grown accustomed to. It is my hope that perhaps I could give you guys some ideas on ways to incorporate more "life living" into your every day and this should hopefully result in some real happiness, which is pretty awesome, right?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

No Shop February

When Danielle of A Sequined Life and Natalie of Wear You are Now were like NO SHOP FEBRUARY, I jumped on board without a hesitation. It's become very apparent to me that as my children are getting older (and larger), the space that we are working with seems to get smaller. We are very fortunate, my family. We have a lovely home in a great community and we're able to have the things we want... but that doesn't mean that I need all those things. Actually, I have plenty of things (clothes, shoes, makeup, etc) that I almost have no right wanting more when there's whole lot of people who don't have what I do. Plus, the "things" don't buy me permanent happiness, they just don't... but I'm not going to take this down a depressing route lol, because it's really a fun challenge that these girls have put together, one that I am so happy to be embarking on... and who knows, No Shop February could turn into No Shop March (but let's not get carried away just yet)!

The participants are joining in for various different reasons and are aiming to do some fun things with the things they have already! Some are looking to build capsule collections with their versatile, classic pieces. Some just want to clean out their closets, weeding out the clothes that just don't get any play and therefore are kind of wasting space. It's really just a great way to keep some extra moola in our pockets though. When you really pay attention to what you're spending on coffees, shoes, makeup, little extra odds and ends... well, that adds up. If we're paying attention to everything for one month, it will certainly help us get better acquainted to where that money goes on a monthly basis and I'm betting we'll be surprised at how much we save and how much more mindful we can be with our spending, even when we're not taking part in a "NO SHOP" challenge.


I have become a sucker for clicking through email campaigns from my favorite brands. You're offering me a sale and also show me items that I've looked at in the past, well there's a pretty good chance I might buy it after you remind me how much I liked it in the first place. The thing is though, this online shopping thing give me only momentary happiness. Well, it also gives me happiness when it arrives but it's sort of only superficial. I've been thinking a lot lately about the correlation that I've always had between shopping and attempting to make myself happy. I'm putting this to the test this month... and I gotta start by unsubscribing from every dang email that offers me sales on the daily!

Also, I'm going to put this here as another way to maybe feel held accountable but I want to maybe make some things this month. I've been stockpiling fabrics for years and I need to make the sweaters and dresses that I've been thinking about. Or what about the jewelry that I've got the supplies for but just never make the time? I think that if I combine the will to keep myself from shopping with the will to make some new things, I won't just be proud of what I didn't do (shop) but of what I did do (make things). Again, I have two young children at home who sometimes push me to the absolute limits of sanity but on the days that they don't, I'm going to make something. That's a promise!

Follow along with me and the ladies who are on this lil' adventure this month:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Local Lovin': The Urban Grape + a Giveaway!

Wine and food, literally two of my favorite things to be honest. Before we had kids, the husband and I used to go wine tasting, take our time choosing our favorite wines and food pairings and were once awarded most amazing wine buyers on a trip to the Finger Lakes (we awarded it to ourselves). Anyone who is in the throws of having young children and being tasked with maintaining your sanity knows that it's hard to keep up on your fine wines and what's the newest food craze that you've got to try... but when Hadley Douglas at The Urban Grape was like "Hey Amanda, do you want to try to regain some of that coolness again?" I was like yes, please and thank you. She didn't really ask me that but she might as well have! The folks at The Urban Grape, an awesome, eclectic wine shop in Boston, MA is not only a place to stop and grab the perfect bottle of wine. It's a store whose owners think about drinking in a different way. more progressively you might say. I met Hadley last year at a "real women" photo shoot with our mutual gal pal (Astrid of Tapered Collection) and to say that I had a crush from the onset, would be an understatement. She's cool, funny, smart and voices her opinion (which you know I love). I was thrilled to snag a copy of her and her husband's new book "Drink Progressively" and thought it would be wonderful to learn more about her, The Urban Grape and obviously, WINE!

Give us a little background as to how The Urban Grape came about. What initially drove you to start your shop/brand/book?

I really have to give my husband the credit for this one! It was his dream to open The Urban Grape, and I found myself along for the ride at first, but then jumping in with both feet. TJ had been in the restaurant industry for a long time, and knew he wanted to bring that kind of hospitality to Boston’s retail wine world. Our business partnership works because we are good at keeping what we do for The Urban Grape separate – I sell the store and he sells what’s in it. Building the UG brand has been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I’m so proud of how I’ve been able to help TJ articulate his vision for the store. Our new wine education book, Drink Progressively, really grew out of this partnership – it’s his knowledge, seen through my lens. It’s just kind of how we approach life!

What inspires you about wine?

No wine experience is ever the same, twice. Wine is so malleable. Your experience with each bottle is influenced by your mood, what you’re eating, who you’re drinking it with, what the weather is like. It’s widely known that terroir (the soil, air, temperature, etc) around the vines and grapes influences the wine in your glass. But it’s more than that. All of the experiences about that wine influence your pleasure with it. That’s why we wanted a beautiful store and an educated, friendly staff. Wine is grown in the most beautiful places in the world, it should be sold in beautiful places too! Your relationship with that bottle starts the second you walk into our store.

I love the way that you have shaped your business. You're making choosing your wine different than the average wine shop. What does it mean to "drink progressively"?

The concept of “Drink Progressively” is based on a system that we call The Urban Grape Progressive Scale, which categorizes wine by its body instead of by its varietal or region. Basically, we’re saying if you think about five principles of wine – light, medium, or heavy bodied, lemonade, and hot chocolate – you can understand the basics of wine without ever having learned the name of a grape or region. The Progressive Scale rates the body of wine on a scale from 1-10, with one being the most light-bodied (think skim milk), five being medium-bodied (think whole milk), and then being the most full-bodied (think heavy cream). From there, think about lemonade and hot chocolate. Light-bodied, brightly acidic wines have a time and a place, as do rich and full-bodied wines. Once you learn the principles it’s easy to pair wine to food and know what to drink, and when!

What do you love to do in New England, when you aren't busy running your business?

I’m a New England girl, through and through! I love to hike and snowshoe with TJ, our sons, and our dog Zeus. I love the beach just as much as I love the mountains. Yoga is my passion, and I wish I had more time for it – that’s my 2018 goal! JP Centre Yoga in Jamaica Plain is my favorite studio. I’m very into healthy eating, so you’ll find me in the kitchen every day, cooking for our family (a lot of my family recipes are in Drink Progressively!), so to that end I love farmer’s markets and my weekly CSA box delivery. I love my friendships with other women, a lot of whom are small business owners themselves. We’re a bit of a tribe. And as a family we have fallen hard for the Celtics this year. I want to adopt Jayson Tatum as my third son. I’m obsessed.

You have certainly found success and obviously I have a huge girl crush on you! You have a new book out which is awesome, where do you see The Urban Grape headed in the future?

Before I can get into the future, I have to say that the definition of success is a really tricky thing. I’m very hard on myself, and always striving to do better. So is The Urban Grape successful? Sure it is, but there is always something more to accomplish or fine-tune. But when I think of success, it’s not The Urban Grape that springs to mind. It’s my family. I’m really proud of who we are as a family, of who are sons are growing up to be, of our values, and our desire to make the world a place that works better for everyone. I can’t tell you where UG will be in a year, but I can tell you that my favorite part of every day will still be having family dinner around our kitchen table – paired with wine, of course!

PS. Special Treat time! Hop on over to my Instagram post to win a signed copy of Drink Progressively for yourself!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Night Out with #XfinityMoms

*This post was sponsored by Xfinity though all thoughts are my own.

Last week while my parents were up visiting, the man and I decided to combine some blogger business with a date night. We headed up to the Xfinity store at 3rd Ave in Burlington to have some tasty holiday inspired sips and snacks while learning all about what the team at Xfinity are working on this holiday season. I know it seems silly to take my husband with me, but listen, he likes gadgets and so it wasn't too much of a stretch to take him with me to play with some of the new grown up toys at the Xfinity stores. We joined some other local Moms to listen and learn.

I think it's hard for this non techy Mama to get into all the business that goes into your wifi, internet, mobile, cable and so on and so forth. I usually leave this all the my husband but when Xfinity put it into terms that I could understand, it became a whole lot more interesting. From the super high tech voice controlled remotes, you can not only search for your favorite movie, there's less to fuss about with your fingers. Add in the "Kids Zone" and parental controls, you can actually leave the room without your kids turning on some too too adult programming (because you know mine would!). They've got some really fun things on demand as well, like the Santa Tracker this holiday season, if that's your family's kind of thing!

If you're looking to control your "home" and such on the go, Xfinity mobile makes it really easy to carry it with you on your mobile device whether it's your phone or tablet. You can stream something like 200 TV channels and 40K online movies to your devices so on the go entertainment is covered, not to worry. They've also got some pretty amazing apps to check in on your home's security and energy management while you're out if you're signed up for Xfinity mobile service. As a busy mom who often forgets things, this is one less thing to worry about since you can do it on the go. Forgot to turn the thermostat down? No problem with the Xfinity suite of apps. You can get started with Xfinity mobile for as low as $12 a month as long as you have Xfinity internet. They offer an unlimited plan for $45 which totally makes sense if you have a big data lovin' family!

I think of all the things I learned about last week, my absolute favorite was the xFi pods. There's a spot in our bedroom that absolutely is too far from our router. I can't surf the nets while laying in bed, which is sometimes a bummer. With the xFi pods, you can boost your signal and get internet to all corners of your home, which to me, is clutch when I just want to relax with a Netflix show before bed. These are most definitely on my list of things to snag! I know for a fact that if you visit a store, they would be happy to answer all your questions and find a solution that fits your needs. It's nice to be able to work with people to create the right amount of "tech" needed for your home and family!

You can find your local Xfinity Store here and check out all their offerings on their site. Thanks for having us Xfinity, Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 18, 2017

peach for active yet hip mamas

*Peach and my stylist Peach Alissa gifted me items for this review.

You may have been seeing Peach and their casual cool work/out wear on the nets recently. The ladies over there are certainly doing their best to spread the good word about their awesome athleisure-wear but I didn't get a peek at it until one of their stylists, Alissa, contacted me about checking it out. We chatted about the brand, my lifestyle and what would work best for me Peach-wise before trying them on for size.

As a Mom to two busy boys, it's imperative for me to be comfortable. I hate to be like "comfort is key" but dude, it really is. I can't be bothered to wear clothes that dig into me, are ill fitted or don't move with me as I am on the go. That's why "athleisure" wear has become something of a necessity to me... but I don't want to look frumpy dumpy you know? I told Alissa all about my lifestyle, and she totally got it. We talked about my body type and what makes me feel comfortable, and she totally got it. It was nice to actually work with someone to find what would be the best fit both literally and for my lifestyle.

We ended up deciding on the very popular Margot Funnel, the Nina Legging, the Velvet headband and the Modern Boho pant, all which seemed to be very versatile and stylish (+comfortable) staple pieces for my wardrobe. I love everything but I have BEEN LIVING in the Margot Funnel (in soft pink) and the Modern Boho pant. Can we talk about the epitome of comfy! The clothes are Made in the USA and sold by a network of stylists so you most definitely feel that there's a personal touch to the experience... and I just love that.

It's not hard to love a brand that creates comfort without losing the cool. If you'd like to speak to a stylist, I highly recommend working with Alissa and the team at Peach. You won't regret having that human relationship to guide you in shopping for your next favorite clothes!

You can follow Peach online, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter