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A Sunday Lesson

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It was another busy weekend in our household. It seems like all we ever do is run around and let life pass us by. That’s just the way things go sometimes, though, I guess.

This evening, I was given a much-needed reminder to look for beauty and happiness in the simplest places and to just enjoy the present moment. As I watched the sunlight dance on my dogs’ faces as they took their positions in their favorite window-watching spots, I was brought into a better frame of mind. I was reminded that life is beautiful, precious and joyful, no matter how busy, how monotonous, how predictable, how unpredictable, how whatever we may think it to be in a certain place in time. Nothing is guaranteed in life and all we have is the here and now, so we may as well enjoy it before it becomes a faded memory.

It’s something I sometimes forget when I get wrapped up in work and in the day-to-day going-ons of life and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. So, this evening, I urge you to take a moment to stop whatever you’re doing and just take in your surroundings. Notice the details in the faces of the people who are with you. Notice the color of the sky above you. Notice the fragrance in the air around you. Notice the change in temperature as the sun prepares to set. Notice the song of the nighttime insects. Just take notice of the world around you and be aware of if and how it affects you. Do this tonight, do this often and most of all, do this when you need a reminder of what life’s all about.

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Happy Sunday, everyone!


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No One Wants Stinky Pits. Not Even Vegans

Since deciding a few years ago that I wanted to detox my life and steer clear of as many chemical nasties as possible, one of the first things I did was swap out all my personal care products for more natural and, of course, cruelty-free versions. I’ve never really been super brand loyal, so these switches were easy to me. I found great new shampoos and conditioners, face wash, soaps and cosmetics. The hardest thing for me to replace, surprisingly, was deodorant.

‘Come on!’ I thought to myself… ‘How hard is it to find something that smells good, lasts for most of the day (I’m outside walking all day, remember…), doesn’t contain too many crazy chemicals and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?”

Pretty damn hard, apparently.

It took a lot of trial and error and more than my share of stinky pits before I found the solution that worked best for me. Here’s a rundown of the brands and products I tried, and my experience with each.

Tom’s of Maine Long-Lasting Wild Lavender Deodorant

Lavender is my favorite scent in the entire world, so when I saw this at Target, I decided to give it a try and hoped it would be my new go-to deodorant. For a while, it was. It smelled heavenly, it lasted pretty much all day and I didn’t need to use a lot of it when I applied. Then, one day, I developed a reaction to it. My pits became red and began to burn after I applied it. The deodorant foamed up and it was just a gross, painful mess. I chocked it up to the fact that I had just shaved and thought it was bad irritation, but from then on, it happened after every time I used it. Into the trash it went.

Crystal Deodorant Rock

Deodorant from a rock? Sounded legit to me, so I gave it a shot. It was easy to use — just wet your pits and swipe the crystal across a few times — but it didn’t do a great job of keeping me smelling fresh. I thought it left a yucky-feeling residue behind, as well. I tried it for a few weeks before tossing it for something else.

L’Occitane Verbena Deodorant Stick

This French skincare line has long been a favorite of mine, so in frustration and tired of having nasty pits, I gave one of their (pricey) options a go. The verbena deodorant stick (no longer available from the company) smelled great, but the scent quickly faded and I found myself having to reapply many times throughout the day. It also left my underarms feeling moist, which got annoying quickly. And so the search continued.

Toms of Maine Long-Lasting Fresh Apricot Deodorant

Since Tom’s is so readily available at grocery stores and discount stores in my area, I had to give it a second try. This time, I gave the apricot scent a shot. It smelled nice, but didn’t last long at all. Another one bit the dust…

Jason Soothing Aloe Vera Deodorant Stick

With horrible reminders of the lavender fiasco, the “soothing” label completely drew me in for this one (good job, Marketing team!), but I soon found out that it hadn’t won me over. It wasn’t a very strong scent and not surprisingly, didn’t last long before needing to reapply.

At that point, I felt like I was out of options. I didn’t want to spend any more money on products that didn’t work and I felt terrible throwing away what I hadn’t used. I considered, for a minuscule moment, attempting to make my own deodorant, but the thought of that terrified me. So, it was either walk around being stinky or go back to the dreaded conventional, chemical-laden deodorant. Of course, my self-consciousness got the best of me and I reluctantly made the switch back to my old stick. Thankfully, that change didn’t last long.

Herban Cowboy Natural For Her Maximum Protection Blossom Deodorant

The “sniff test” is always a must for me before I buy a personal care product. If it doesn’t smell good, I won’t buy it. And when I sniffed this one in the aisle of Whole Foods, I hoped it’d be THE ONE because it smelled so damn good!! Luckily, it was, and it’s now a staple in my home. It goes on clear, so there’s no icky white residue on dark clothes, it smells great, it lasts for most of the day, it smells great, the stick lasts a long time (I bought my first stick at least three months ago and there’s still a decent amount left), oh, and did I mention that it smells great?!

This stuff makes my pits happy. :)

So there you have it — my absurdly drawn-out and oftentimes frustrating journey toward smell-goody, chemical- and cruelty-free pits. Whew!!

Fellow vegans, hippies, naturalists and anyone else who doesn’t like using conventional deodorants — what’s your favorite kind to use?


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DIY Memory/Wish Frame

finished memory frame

Yesterday I threw a party for my parents’ 50th birthdays and I’m happy to say that it was a huge success! Everything went just about as smoothly as possible and after the party concluded, several people mentioned to me that they thought I should go into party-planning. What a compliment, right?! That would be a fun career, but there’s one problem — I really can’t stand working with people. Maybe I could be a pet party planner??? Is that a thing? Does anyone know? Hmmm. I think I’ll just stick to pet-sitting…

Anyway… I think the things that made the party so great were the little extra details. They’re the things that always leave the biggest impression in my mind, so I like to include as many as I can into events that I host to make a positive and lasting impression with my guests. I made centerpieces that incorporated photos from my parents’ childhoods and early life together, I asked guests to bring along a favorite photo of my parents to build a photo collage in the shape of the big ’5-0′, we played a trivia game featuring questions about my parents and I made a memory frame for guests to share some of their funniest, silliest and most memorable moments of my parents’ first 50 years.

party centerpiece

The memory frame was a big hit and I think it was my favorite part of the party. It was super easy to make and would be great to use for a wedding or for a milestone birthday or anniversary.

If you’d like to make your own, here’s what you’ll:

  • a large frame (no back or glass — just the outer frame)
  • twine, string or ribbon
  • paper
  • mini clothespins (I found mine at Target, but I’ve seen them in craft supply stores, as well)
  • scissors

 

To assemble:

    1. Paint your frame, if you’d like. I trash-picked mine (I’m dead serious!) and it looked a little beat up, so I opted to give it a few coats in a color that matched the party’s theme.
    2. Wrap one end of the twine, string or ribbon around the top edge of frame and tie in a knot on the back. Weave twine between alternating edges of the frame to make a zig-zag line to hang memories.
    3. Cut paper into desired shape and size and ask guests to write their memories or wishes on paper and attach them to the string with mini clothespins.

 

frame

Here’s the frame I used — freshly trash-picked!

Try out this memory/wish frame at your next event — I think your guests will think it’s super fun and creative and by the end of the party, you’ll have some really neat mementos for the guest(s) of honor. They can keep the memories on the frame and display it that way, if they’d like, or they can do what my parents plan to do and made a scrapbook from the memories, along with some photos from the party.

Do you like planning parties? What’s the coolest little detail you’ve ever seen at a party or gathering?

P.S. – I’m now on Twitter! Follow me @jeneroushelping (It’s really bothering me that I couldn’t fit the ‘s’ on the end! Can someone come up with a better handle for me?!). Oh, and don’t forget, I’m on Facebook, too!


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I Didn’t Write This, But You HAVE To Read It!

I love pit bulls and can’t wait to have a bigger house so we can add a few to our menagerie, but I know not everyone feels this way about them.

Regardless of your own opinion on pit bulls, please take the time to read this article, which was recently published in Esquire. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and beautiful and I’d be willing to bet it changes a few perceptions of this very misunderstood and misrepresented class of dogs.

Read it! Then let me know what you thought of it. And if you have a pit bull of your own, tell me about him or her. I’m a sucker for a good animal story!


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Cowlection

I don’t know how I didn’t know about this sooner, but apparently, Friday was Cow Appreciation Day! I don’t know who deemed it so — it looks like Chick-fil-A uses it as a big marketing ploy, so maybe they had something to do with it — but it doesn’t really matter because for me, every day is cow appreciation day. Cows are not only just my favorite animal ever, but they also take up a lot of space in my home. No, I don’t have any beautiful bovines of my own (yet, anyway!), but I do have a pretty nice cow collection going on, or a cowlection, as I like to call it.

Wanna know what kind of cow stuff I have? Here ‘ya go:

 

cow solar cow

solar dancing cow

 

cow flag

garden flag

 

cow dust plug

phone dust plug

 

cow chalkboard

chalkboard

 

cow blanket

fleece blanket (the dogs think it’s theirs)

 

cow canvas

canvas portrait (This is actually Thunder, from Farm Sanctuary!)

 

cow collage

mosaic collage

 

cow jim shore 2

Jim Shore statue

 

cow jim shore

and another Jim Shore

 

cow mug

mug

 

cow shelf sitter

shelf sitter (which I trash-picked! It still had the tags on it. Her eyes are a bit crooked, but still so cute.)

 

cow stuffed animal

plush

And finally, my two favorite pieces in my cowlection:

cow yoga cow

yoga cow figurine

 

cow calendar

yoga cow calendar

 

There you have it… Yes, I know I come off a bit crazy, but I can’t help myself when it comes to cows!

Anyone else cow-crazy like me? What’s your favorite animal? What kind of stuff do you collect?


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Weird Girl

Hey, blogosphere! I’ve missed you this week!

I’ve been crazy busy with my summertime pet-sitting schedule (and playing with my new Vitamix!! :) ) and am just now getting a second to breathe.

Ahhh…

I didn’t have much time to work on any substantial posts this week, but here’s an original poem I’ve been working on. It describes the ways in which I view myself and I think some of you can relate to it on some level:

weird girl

Weird girl’s different

she’s complex

she’s strange.

Weird girl sees things differently

lives differently

thinks differently.

Weird girl’s fueled by her passions

and driven by her heart.

Weird girl’s a thinker

a dreamer

a doer.

Weird girl likes different things

she needs different things

she wants different things.

Weird girl is not always what she seems

but she’s always true to her soul.

Weird girl thirsts for knowledge

and helping

and experiencing.

Weird girl doesn’t always “get” the world

and sometimes, it doesn’t “get” her either.

Weird girl wants to change the world

she can

she will.

Weird girl wonders why there aren’t more like her

but then she realizes she’s glad there aren’t.

Weird girl is wonderful

and powerful

and smart.

Weird girl is beautifully,

perfectly,

me.


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Friday Faves: Loose Leashes by Ron Schmidt

If you’re a fan of cute dogs (and, really, who isn’t?!), then you need to check out Loose Leashes, a collection of more than 75 uber-adorable dog photographs from artist, Ron Schmidt. I first discovered Ron’s work in an art gallery in Cape May. I’ve always admired fine art, but I’ve never had the urge (or the budget) to actually purchase anything. Until I saw this: mudmuck.ronschmidt_1024x1024 And decided that I had to have it. Seriously?! Is that not one of the cutest things you’ve ever seen?!?! Yeah… I thought so! The little guy reminded me so much of Checkers and I just loved the name of the print: “Mud & Muck.” I did a lot of begging and pleading and finally, I was able to coerce Ant into letting me get it. I felt like a kid on Christmas! We found a perfect spot for it on our wall and I headed to Ron’s website to learn more about him and his work. What a talented and great guy he is! Not only are his photographs absolutely delightful, but they really capture the spirit and personalities of dogs in a whimsical way. Ron also collaborated with his wife, Amy, on two books: Dog-Gone School and Loose Leashes. Both titles feature Amy’s poetry, accompanied by Ron’s photography, for a fun reading (and viewing) experience that dog lovers of all ages will enjoy. Oh, and Ron gives back a portion of his proceeds to animal-related charities and donates his photography skills to animal rescues in his home state of Massachusetts!!! How cool is that?! In addition to Mud & Muck, we’re also the proud owners of “Out of the Park,” thanks to my mom and dad, who gifted it to us two Christmases ago. ron schmidt And, my mother-in-law got me a Mud & Muck t-shirt that I use as a sleep shirt. I’d post a pic of it, but I’ve worn it so much that the image is almost completely faded away and it’s looking pretty tattered these days. But I love it! We also had one of Ron’s calendars a few years back. At the end of the year, I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing away such cute images, so I have it stored away for future use. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, yet, but I’ll figure out  a way to reuse it, I’m sure. If you’re looking to spruce up your home with some fun, new, smile-inducing art, or if you need a gift for the dog-lover in your life (me, maybe???), head over to the Loose Leashes site and have a look around. You’re sure to fall in love with at least one of Ron’s pieces, but you’ll probably want them all!

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