Archive of ‘Living & Giving’ category

Caleb’s Charitable Birth Announcements

I used to hate getting my mail. It always seemed like nothing but endless bills, junk mail, and random offers. Recently though, wedding invitations, thank you cards, and birth announcements have started to break up the clutter of blah being delivered by my mail lady. I love receiving these little bits of sunshine and have tried to step up my correspondence game. So, before Caleb arrived, I already knew what kind of birth announcements that I wanted to mail out.

Many of my friends and colleagues have used Tiny Prints for their cards, so I snagged a credit for the site on Zulily and got to shopping. I had no idea that when I was ordering Caleb’s birth announcements that I would be helping children in need. However, that is exactly what happened when I selected these cute cards from Tiny Prints for our friends and family.

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Tiny Prints has a collection of birth announcements and stationery that helps to support the work being done by Baby2Baby, a non-profit organization that provides low-income children, ages zero to 12, with diapers, clothing and all the basic necessities that every child deserves. While I didn’t intentionally select this particular design for that reason, it serves as an added bonus.

I am so grateful that our family was both blessed with items that we needed and also in a financial position to buy anything that we didn’t get as gifts. I can’t imagine the stress and worry that many parents face when it comes to preparing for a new baby. Organizations like Baby2Baby serve a very important role and deserve all of the support that they can get. To learn more about the work they are doing, visit their website baby2baby.org.

Learn more about Tiny Prints partnership and check out all of the items in their charitable collection here.

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When Spring Doesn’t Get the Memo

This morning, I woke up to a snow-covered balcony and plenty of flurries falling from the sky. *checks calendar* Yep, it’s March 23rd, but it’s also March 23rd in Chicago. As such, spring’s true arrival seems to be a bit fluid and totally up to Mother Nature. So, while I’ve been shifting my wardrobe to brighter colors and neutral heels, winter has not-so-politely asked me to pump my brakes.

Sigh.

In an effort to not be so bummed (or pissed) about this, I’ve decided to think about five things that I can do to keep my sanity during this transition period between winter and spring.

1. Load up on hot cocoa. Ever trying to wean myself from coffee, hot chocolate has become my go-to drink when I need to warm up and treat myself at the same time. The Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate Mix ($10.50) from Lake Champlain Chocolates is sure to make you feel warm on the inside while also supporting fair trade. Anyone else a fan of spicy chocolate treats? I’ll talk about my obsession with cocoa chili powder another day.

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Warmer days (and drinks) in Miami

2. Invest in an incredible throw. Curling up on the couch with a cozy throw is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, it’s basically a must-do on Sundays. While perusing Instagram the other day, I stumbled across some beautiful alpaca wool throws made by Sackcloth & Ashes ($99-$109). For each blanket that you purchase, they will provide one to your local homeless shelter.

3. Brighten my space with some beautiful blooms. I’ve been on a hunt for tulips and peonies to brighten the mood in my apartment. I’ve also been lusting after this bouquet from Flowers for Dreams, a Chicago company that makes a donation to local charity with each order. Pretty, right?

Medium Spring Bouquet, $55

Medium Spring Bouquet, $55

4. Flip off the frigid temps with a brightly-colored mani. After a season of “Lincoln Park After Dark” and similar shades, my digits are ready for lighter colors. I chose a stone gray polish over the weekend, but I’m eyeing something a little more fun like this yellow from Pear Nova for my next trip. If the sun won’t come to me, I’ll create my own sunshine.

"Heavy Meadow" by Pear Nova, $11.50

“Heavy Meadow” by Pear Nova, $11.50

5. Spread some warmth with cold weather supplies. If you still need to break out your gloves, hats, and thick socks, then you know that those without homes/living on the streets still need those items as well. Reach out to your local shelter or community housing group to donate any cold weather items that you can.

What’s it like in your neck of the woods today? If it’s still cold and snowy, how are you coping with this transition period? Any additional tips to share?

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Being “On Purpose” with Kate Spade

I’m not sure when it happened but I am slowly morphing into a Kate Spade accessory junkie. From the wedding shoes that I never wore to the my favorite leather sneakers or the office supplies slowly taking over my desk, I am a little gaga for KS accessories.

That’s why I was pretty excited to find out about the “On Purpose” line of items from Kate Spade and Saturday. Before you roll your eyes, I know that these products have been available for months. I just don’t get around to blogging that much, in case you haven’t noticed! Anyways, I was reintroduced to the collection last month when this adorable clutch was being shelled for Valentine’s Day.

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While I could have planned a couple of outfits around this cute clutch, my February budget wasn’t set up for such a treat. However, I couldn’t let that stop me from grabbing something from the collection. Aside from giving me a dose of cuteness, I really like the fact that these pieces promote trade and entrepreneurship in Rwanda. Did you know that the 150 people who make these pieces are helping to support their local community of 20,000? That’s good in action.

So, which piece am I going to purchase? Well, at this moment, Saturday is taking 40% off of everything (yes, everything) so I’ve decided to buy the yellow beauty below.

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On Purpose Beaded Bracelet, $25

 

I think that it will be perfect for curing my winter blues. Okay, I take that back. I don’t want to put too much pressure on my new bracelet. Let’s just say that it will be a great addition to my wardrobe.

To check out some BTS photos, check out Saturday Pinterest page.
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Gifts That Give Back Under $50

Happy Sunday! We’re in the home stretch now for holiday shopping, especially if you’re planning to purchase items online. In my second gift guide, you will find items that folks ranging from foodies to techies will love. My favorites? The Giving Keys sweatshirt and the LSTN wooden headphones. Check out the roundup below.

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1. This book is what happens when celeb chefs unite for children, $26

2. A must-have item for the resident do-gooder in your crew, $50

3. Of course charity:water designed a cool wooden phone case, $35

4. How about pairing these winter mugs with a hot cocoa kit, $48

5. These six lip colors help support the MAC AIDS Fund, $40

6. Smell good and do good with this perfume from Clinique, $38

7. Give the gift of snuggle with a cute throw, $30

8. A little pop of color in the home is always a good thing, $38

9. These chocolates are almost too pretty to eat (almost), $30

10. Zebra wood headphones make a great gifts for music lovers, $50

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P.S. Looking for charitable gifts under $25? Here you go.

Gifts That Give Back Under $25

Happy Holidays, everyone! With two weeks until Christmas, we are deep into gift-giving season. Every year, I come across gifts that give back, but I’ve never compiled an official gift guide. That ends today (obviously). I’ve compiled three guides designed to meet various budget needs.

First up, gifts under $25.

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1. The cutest moccasins for your favorite little one, $21

2. A little ankara makes this tee perfect, $18

3. Gold leather earrings perfect for a night out, $24

4. This handmade teensy beanie makes a great baby gift, $23

5. Kiehl’s is giving its famous crème the “Norman Rockwell” treatment, $18

6. May your note cards be merry and bright, $12

7. “Build your tomorrow” with a little arm candy, $15

8. Give these cool pencils and support Kenyan children’s education, $10

9. EOS and Nicole by OPI bring you the best stocking stuffer, $10

10. These unique coasters support Haitian artisans, $20

The UNICEF note cards are my favorite for sure. See anything on this list that you like? The next two guides are on their way. Stay tuned!

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Where Has The Passion Planner Been All My Life?

I like to make big plans. In fact, I make so many big plans that I actually have an execution problem. Meaning that, I probably only execute 25% of what I think about. This isn’t the blog post to discuss why that is. However, if you’re interested, you can read my post about my challenge with finishing what I start. Because of this issue, I’ve been trying all types of things to get me from the big idea to the actual “doing.”

I keep a day planner but have found that it doesn’t always help me work backwards from big idea to the little tasks that I need to complete. I keep a notebook for the doodling and idea brainstorms but then get annoyed that there’s nowhere to jot down dates and actionable timelines. I make weekly to-do lists broken down between home, personal, passion, and community but always end up with something falling through the cracks. So, here I am with one day planner, one notebook, one half-checked to-do list, lots of big ideas, and no true (paper-centered) way to keep everything together.

Until…

Last night, one of my Facebook friends shared a link to the Passion Planner project on Kickstarter. From the name alone, I was intrigued. I clicked the link and was led to the brilliant video below.

WHOA. My brain started shouting from the rooftops, “This is IT! You need this!” And, that brain shout was actually followed by a verbal gasp and loud “Oh my God. YES!” To break it down for you, the Passion Planner brands itself as “the life coach that fits in your backpack.” It is essentially a sketchbook, day planner, journal, and inspirational source all in one. For a notebook-loving, day planner-toting, scribbler queen such as myself, this idea is pure gold. I needed in.

Apparently, my reaction was not that uncommon considering that this project has received nearly $300K pledges and over 9,300 backers – including me. Last night, I immediately ordered one for myself and am anxiously awaiting its arrival in January 2015. I’ve never made small plans but I haven’t been to good about executing the large ones. I’m so excited to have this tool in my future world.

In the words of Daniel Burnham, Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.

Amen.

To learn more about the Passion Planner, you can head to the website. If you’re on IG, you might also be interested in their feed. There are lots of great motivational quotes shared on a regular basis (@passionplanner).

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Volunteering in the ‘Burbs

Six months ago, I swapped my Chicago (proper) address for a suburban one (*sobs*) and have been adjusting to life ever since. There are many practical reasons why I chose to move to the suburbs, but the most important one was my husband’s declaration that he would never live in the city of Chicago. I begged and tried to sell him on the virtues of my hometown, but it was a no go. I get it.

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So, now I’m out here and am trying to substitute many of my favorite Chicago (proper) activities with acceptable suburban versions. I know where I can get jerk chicken (25 minutes away) and found a great nail spa in town. One of the things that I was really concerned about was finding volunteer opportunities out here. While there’s a tendency to think that the suburbs are perfect, the truth is that many people out here need assistance as well. So, how could I help in my new neighborhood?

Well, the first sign that I received was the sight of a food drop-off bucket for the Self Help Closet & Food Pantry of Des Plaines in a grocery store across the street from our house. This is probably my favorite way to give back because I can just buy extra staples or canned goods on sale and place them in the container. I found out that the Food Pantry has regular volunteer opportunities so I hope to help out there one day.

Another opportunity that I’m really excited about is the Breakfast for Baby activity hosted by my local Salvation Army chapter. On the second Saturday of the month, families with little ones under a year old can come out for breakfast and the opportunity to “shop” for diapers and other baby supplies.

Between the above opportunities and the listings on the Hands On Suburban Chicago website, it makes me feel better to know where and how I can give back to my community. This isn’t to say that I won’t ever volunteer in Chicago (proper) again. I love my city too much to do that. Besides with my annual service challenge on the horizon, I need all of the service learning projects that I can find! More info on that to come. Until then…

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Image: Daily Herald

Nesting (Unplugged)

Bless_Our_Home

Does fall automatically trigger the urge to nest? I believe that I fell down the domestic rabbit hole on August 15th. We’ve been in our new place since May and I just haven’t been in the mood to be a homemaker. That was up until a few weeks ago. Now, I can’t seem to pull myself away from Pinterest for decorating tips. I make stews and desserts. Oh, and let’s not forget the Powerpoint slides that I created to help guide my interior design projects.

Is this normal? Maybe I’m finally starting to settle into my reality that I am a suburban wife now and my single city girl days are done. *pours glass of wine*

So, let’s talk about the projects that I’m really looking forward to completing over the next month.

1. Reupholster two ottomans that I purchased about seven years ago. The fabric is beige microsuede and I’m over it. I’ve been scouting Jo-Ann Fabric for some great swatches and have narrowed it down to four patterns. Hopefully, I can make a decision. #LibraProblems

2. Find the perfect turquoise accents for my living room. My color palette for the space is brown/orange/cream with turquoise mixed in. I will probably kickoff my search at Home Goods and Goodwill. Both stores have a great selection of knick-knacks.

Room Inspiration (Source: Pinterest.com)

Room Inspiration (Source: Pinterest.com)

3. Let Pinterest guide me to the perfect apple pie recipe. My husband wants pie but this city girl has never attempted such a dessert in her life.

4. Track down my Moulin Rouge poster and (finally) hang it in my kitchen. The movers left my framed poster on their truck and they finally found it. It is the ooh-la-la piece that my kitchen needs.

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5. Set up the home office. Currently, our office is filled with boxes of books, office supplies, bins of Red Pump materials and the couch from my old apartment. I’m thinking that we will need lots of storage and a big bookcase to help us get started. I’m in charge of organizing the room. My husband is responsible for furnishing it.

There are probably other things that I could add to this list, but I’m trying not to overwhelm myself with the pressures of domesticity. Up until Monday, I kept experiencing minor anxiety attacks while trying to find the perfect dining room table. Luckily, we were able to snag a beautiful Ethan Allen table (plus six chairs) for an incredible price from a couple preparing for a cross-country move. #Blessings

I wish I could say that I was going to do some before and after shots, but I’m not that evolved. I will promise to snap some pics on Instagram. Who knew that I had a domestic side? My mother is probably in heaven grinning from ear to ear. We’ll see how this goes!

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Laced Up and on the Move

I have been trying to become a true runner for yearssss. Last year, with my sister’s encouragement, I finally completed a 5K during the AIDS Run Walk. It was a sweaty, ugly completion, but at least I crossed the finish line. With my 2013 accomplishment in mind, I jumped at a couple of opportunities to get my reignite my interest in running while supporting two separate but worthy causes: fighting hunger and supporting children’s hospitals.

After completing my first 5K!

After completing my first 5K!

Today marks the beginning of the Miracle Marathon, a cool event to support my local Children’s Miracle Network hospital. Before you fall out of your seat, this is not a traditional marathon. Instead of running a bajillion miles at one time, everyone just commits to run one mile/day from September 16th to October 12th (my birthday!). If only all marathons could be so simple, right?! I’m looking forward to this running event because it is such a simple idea and will help keep me on track for the next item on my fall race agenda.

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That item would be Run 10 FEED 10 on October 19th in Chicago. I have a confession about this event. I signed up a couple of years ago but never ran it. *winces* So, I have to redeem myself and prove that I can complete a 10K, even if my legs and lungs turn against me. I’ve been doing training runs, but am nowhere near where I need to be. Thank God for my trusty dusty training plan. It is giving me the confidence that I need to prayerfully knock out these miles.

With all of this running, I have been on the prowl for a great pair of running shoes but I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, I would love to hear any suggestions for becoming a better runner. Help!

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Giving Back with #HashtagLunchbag Chicago

If you’re looking for a fun way to make a difference and meet new people, then come out on Saturday, 8/23 to help the #HashtagLunchbag Chicago team prepare and distribute lunches to fellow Chicagoans. It’s been almost a year since the last time that I participated, but I’m excited to get back into the groove. It’s such a blessing to be a blessing, and you will have a great time while doing so.

The meetup location is at Lacuna Fitness (645 S. Clark, Chicago) at 10a. You can follow @HTLBChicago for additional updates. Hope to see you there!

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