Friday, May 27, 2016

Charter Our Community + Rebuild Together- Worcester MA

*This post was sponsored by Charter Communications as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.

This past Saturday, I woke up early, hit the road in my jeans and gardening sneakers to meet up with a group of volunteers from Charter Our Community and Rebuilding Together at a home in Worcester, MA where we would be joining together to make that home a better place to live in. I've always wanted to be involved in some sort of  "volunteer build" but I guess I never thought how rewarding (and tiring) it would truly be until I was in the thick of it. Charter Our Community is the charitable initiative that Charter Communications' (as in the cable company) has put into place that helps provide support and the means to improve the unhealthy living conditions that unfortunately affect many of those in our communities. Their goal is to improve 25,000 homes in their footprint by 2020, which I think is amazing. 

It's easy to take your home for granted, if you're like me and are fortunate to have support and the ability to keep my home in good condition. I'm lucky to have a very lovely roof over my head and in regards to that, I rarely worry about it... but not everyone is like that. Some worry about the security and condition of their homes, sometimes with nothing they can do within their power to change their living conditions. COC knows the importance of "the home" and works all over the country to find those in our communities that could use a helping hand (or many helping hands) to make their life through their homes, a better place to be. In my case, Charter Our Community partnered with Rebuilding Together to focus on rehabilitating the home of Nancy, a widower whose home was in some dire need of work on the exterior and interior.

Nancy couldn't wait to adorn her Charter Our Community t-shirt from the start of the day. I could tell upon meeting her, this was a very special experience for her. She was getting some much needed updates and frankly some much needed TLC to a home that had fallen into disrepair over the years. We weren't the first volunteers on site. A group had come earlier in the week to prime and start painting the exterior siding of her home. Other work that was being done by previous volunteers and my group included, demo on Nancy's deck and replacing it, replacing the cabinets and flooring in the kitchen, repair in her bathroom, sanding and repainting her bulkhead, repair on stairs and an interior closet, painting her shed, yard work and more. As you can see, the list was long, but many hands make light work, and it was heartwarming to see so many volunteers on site that day, chipping in to make Nancy's home a better place to live in.

I worked with Charter employees who took time on their day off (or even went to work after) to volunteer with the group. I partnered with Wendy to attack a bulkhead (photo below) that need to be sanded down and repainted; we did a banner job on it let me tell you. After our lunch break, I volunteered to help one of project managers, Brian, put in some flooring... and let me tell you, partnering with Brian was probably the best and worst thing I could do. While I loved learning how to cut and fit pieces of flooring with Brian (such a good dude and hard worker!) and it was very rewarding to get the kitchen floor down... boy oh boy was it very painstaking work. But you know what? It was TOTALLY worth it. Nancy's kitchen looked fantastic and she was elated with both that and her deck (which I'm jealous I didn't get in on that demo, since it looked FUN!) because it was something she could take pride in. Heck, I took pride in helping her and the Charter Our Community and Rebuilding Together team!

What these organizations are doing shouldn't be ignored. The health and happiness of the people living in our communities, our neighbors, is important. If you're able bodied and looking for hard work that makes a difference, these are the types of initiatives that you want to be involved with. I saw firsthand the affect that something like this has on an individual who needed help. Nancy was happy to have us buzzing in and out of her house, spending the day helping her. You could see it in her face, the ways that she thanked us all day. I gave Nancy a huge hug before I left and thanked her for letting us into her home but she said "No, Thank You for everything you've done today." Warms my heart to infinity and back. I was one of the last volunteers on site that day, not because I had to be but because I wanted to see some things through. I told Heidi from Charter Our Community that I would be back next year, and I meant it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

DIY: Driftwood Jewelry Mobile + a Giveaway

I have been trying my best for the past few years to keep my necklaces from tangling up with one another. It's kinda hard unless you have the right stuff, baby. I recently saw some interesting driftwood pieces on etsy and decided that rather than spending $50 on something, albeit very lovely, that I could make on my own, well, DIY style. The only difficult thing about this DIY was finding the driftwood, and even though I wanted to find the perfect piece wash up on the shores of my dreams, I ended up resorting to finding a seller online. The DIY is fairly easy and you can do pretty much what you want, to achieve the perefect size for your wall!

I started by snagging some driftwood off of Etsy, though you could probably collect your own if you live near the beach or a body of water. I found this to be a quick and affordable option that didn't require me to dry my own wood. The only other things needed were glue. twine and white vinyl mug hooks. You'll want something with a small screw at the end.

It's really as easy as tying your twine around the ends of the drift wood then gluing into place, leaving slack to bring down to another tier of driftwood and twine until you've achieved your desired length and tiers. I went with three, then spread my hooks out as evenly as I could. marking the spot before installing. The driftwood is soft so screwing your hooks in is no problem at all. To add a little something something, I painting some of the driftwood gold to bring the cool level up. You could do anything you want to snaz it up or leave it looking au natural. It's up to you.

I'm always happy when I'm able to get some of my crafty goodness up on the blog so this week, I've teamed up with four other bloggers this week to Spring into Creativity, showing you guys some great crafty or DIY projects and also to giveaway $100 to Micheals! Isn't that awesome? Check out the bloggers below and enter to win in the rafflecopter. Giveaway runs Monday 5/23 through Sunday 5/29 and is open to US and Canada. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Tips on Putting Together the Perfect Wedding Gift

Tis the season, my friends... it's wedding season. Over the past few years, I have been invited to countless weddings and subsequently countless wedding showers. Everyone knows that you can grab a gift off a registry but to put together a really memorable gift, that is the goal; to stand out among the massive amounts of presents with something really cool. Over the years, I have come to follow a few simple tips that have left my gift recipients happy, I'm sure of it.

Start with the registry: I know I just basically said forget the registry but that is not what I meant. The registry is what I use as the foundation of the gift. Couples register for items for a reason. They either need them or really want them. In any event, the folks getting married are expecting to see things from their registry so it's safe bet to start with those items. I normally choose a few items and decide on a theme for my gift. As an example, a recent wedding gift, I purchased kitchen items from the registry.

Grab a useful basket, reusable bag or stylish bin to house the gift: Forget the gift bag or wrapping paper that will just get thrown away. If your gift isn't a convection oven, try giving the recipient something they can use again. A cute basket can always be reused; the same goes for stylish totes or organizing bins.

Include your favorite wedding related items: The registry is good and all but there are often things that I want to gift to the happy couple but don't want to be the only thing they receive from me (see above reasons for the registry). Do you like wedding figurines or commemorative ornaments? That is the type of thing I am referring to. Personally, I love the idea of getting the couple some matching Mr. and Mrs. glasses with a sweet white bottle of wine. This is always something I love to see at wedding showers and I love being the one to bring it there. That being said, it would be considered a fluff gift, which is why registry items are important to build on.

Add an inside joke: Do you and the bride to be, or groom to be for that matter, share a private joke or humorous story? Add a little something to the gift that reminds them of that funny moment. Keep in mind that it's best if the memory you share is appropriate for Grandmas since they will likely be watching the gifts being opened. What funny addition did I bring with my most recent gift? I picked up a fern at my local supermarket and labeled it a "Love Fern". If you've seen "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days", you're in on the joke.

Finish the gift with something handmade:
Are you a maker? Do you have friends that are? Adding a handmade item to the gift can make this gift that extra step of personal. If you specialize in something then add a few to the gift. Your friend will likely know you put in the effort and will appreciate it. Picking up something off Etsy or at a vintage market can have the same effect too. It's the personal touches that can make your gift that much more special.

If you don't have an inside joke or something handmade, you can never go wrong with useful items that everyone needs. As long as they don't cheapen the gift entirely or correspond with your theme, you're golden with the little extras and that little extra thoughtfulness.

If you go a little above and beyond in your gift giving process, it will not go unnoticed. Your friends will be please and you will feel like a gift giving rockstar, especially when you hear people gush about how great your gifts was... and don't forget, add a bow like the cherry on top of the sundae! PS. Don't forget to include gift receipts!

Do you have any tips on putting together the perfect wedding gift?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Yoga Reached Out 2016

If you've followed me the past few months, you know that I've been raising money for Yoga Reaches Out, a local organization that fundraises for Boston Childrens Hospital and their wellness programs. It's an amazing event that is charitable but when you're there, it's almost too fun/energizing/special... you almost feel like raising money was the least you could do. The money we raised this year is going to help the families of Boston Childrens by providing experiences to help them get through the traumatic illness and time spent with their children at the hospital. Caring for these people and making them stronger for their families, is a worthwhile (and amazing) effort!

The day was awesome. I could stop at that. I met Sarah Gardner (creator of YRO!), I got to see Well Summit Tribe member and friend Sara Divello speak, I found some new Sage Tonic cleansing pads haha... and of course, I took part in some majorly challenging yoga seshes. I could have done all this and left a happy girl but when you open yourself up to new experiences and let yourself "feel", you can always take something unexpected from a day. For me, a lunch time Journey Dance was that thing at YRO. Journey Dance is a "dynamic conscious dance form that combines freestyle and structured movement to inspire you to get out of your mind and into your body." I thought it was silly at first but when a teammate invited me to dance during lunch, I was certainly glad that I did. It was freeing not caring what I looked like and it was almost as if I were breaking down some internal barriers to get to some feelings. Sounds odd; it kinda was but it was special, that's for sure. I actually want to go to another Journey Dance event. It was great exercise but it was more than that, it was meaningful.

I didn't bring my camera so you're getting a combo of snapchats and phone pictures but I think you can get an idea of what a fun and special kind of day it was. To be in a room where Tom Brady sweats, surrounded by 900+ of your "friends", is a real quality way to spend a Sunday. I'm hoping to be more involved every year I go, raising more money, inviting friends along and always allowing myself to be open to new experiences. It's not just fun, it's not just fundraising, it's a real way to connect with people and feel the "good vibes".

And a HUGE thank you to all those that donated to my fundraising efforts. I appreciate you more than you know and was so touched by the folks that helped me along the way. Big shout out to lululemon Chestnut Hill and local calligrapher Posh and Prep for helping me add some sassy mats to the fundraising cause! The three winners of the mats just happened to be bloggers, which warms my heart that my tribe supporting me in reaching my goals: Congrats to Elizabeth Crane Swartz, Kelly McAuley and Jessica Levy! You gals rock!

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