doing good in detroit {and elsewhere}

Friday, February 17, 2017
Cirque is an annual masquerade event hosted by the DIA's Founders Junior Council, supporting the museum
In conversation, a very long time ago, I heard my grandmother muse, "charity begins at home." 

Those words, coupled with what I could now see as her very intentional actions, sang in my ears. They can, of course, be translated to mean a variety of things. Charitable priority should be given to blood relatives. Your community should be the core of your giving nucleus. Your commitment to giving back as a family grows charitable children. Whatever it was that she quietly opined, I couldn't say.

But what I can surmise is this: Look to your family, your block, your neighborhood if you want to create immediate impact. 

So many of us, day in and day out, plan to donate our time, things or hard-earned cash to worthy causes. But at the end of the day, or right around April 15th, intentionally giving back is often near the very end of our to-dos. And instead, guilt languishes every time we avert our eyes from the person standing on the corner with a wilting cardboard sign or recycle a donation pledge pamphlet that came with a sheet full of tacky return address labels.

Truth is, finding ways to give back is easy. Especially in a city like Detroit, so ripe with opportunity to create big and diverse impact. Whether your passion lies in supporting the arts, helping the homeless, working with children, greening our grounds, you can do so while doing some good at the same time.

Sample a variety of do-good tactics and find what you're most comfortable with. The most important thing, after all, is simply that you're doing it at all.

Roll up your sleeves
If time is what you've got to offer, you've landed in the right town. Non-profit volunteer opportunities are available all over Detroit and in addition to adding value, there's a good chance you'll forge some new relationships along the way. I've really enjoyed spending a couple of Thursday mornings with Open Door Ministry (based at the Fort Street Presbyterian Church), which includes assisting in providing hot meals, fresh clothes, haircuts and other basic needs to the homeless and underprivileged folks in our area. The organization is routinely looking for volunteer support from those who can give up a Thursday morning, and also accepts clothing and warm-weather accessory donations, as well as body care products or care packages (clean socks, toothpaste and toothbrush, etc.).

Put it on autopilot
Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries makes it easy to set up monthly donations online and you can commit as little as $10, which goes a long way over the stretch of a year. Or, if you'd rather save up and splurge, the program offers an annual holiday campaign, where interested individuals (or companies) can adopt a family and provide each child and adult with their desired - or needed - gifts. You can even join in to volunteer at the event where families arrive to see Santa, enjoy a holiday feast and open their gifts. My girlfriends and I rallied as a team this year to take care of one of the roughly 100 families that DRMM was able to support, although it's worth noting that they have a long waiting list of families that would love to participate, if enough adopters were available.

Spend smart
Did you know that Capuchin Soup Kitchen runs a retail bakery called On the Rise? Justifiable cinnamon rolls. You read that right. By shopping (grocery or otherwise) at locations where profits are sunk right back into the organization, you're getting far more bang for your buck. Cinnamon rolls, people. Cinnamon rolls.

Join a board or pick up a pro bono client
Mix pleasure and profession by offering up your talents to an organization in need of assistance. As an example, I formerly served on the board of the Detroit Institute of Arts' young professionals auxiliary, the Founders Junior Council, helping to support their marketing and social media efforts as the chair of a committee and in turn, I was even privy to some very cool behind-the-scenes art tours and opportunities, not to mention hanging with a group of fun, like-minded folks.

Go glitzy in the name of good
Like many organizations, Founders Junior Council hosts fun and fancy events to rake in some extra donation dollars for the museum and have a good time while doing so. Each winter, the organization hosts Cirque (that's the invite in the photo above), a masquerade that takes place in the museum's Great Hall, and every summer, Fash Bash brings out all of the city's fashionable folks for a runway show. A portion of every ticket directly supports museum initiatives and is tax-deductible, too.

Later this month, me and the mister will swirl some wines in support of another local organization that assists area youth in succeeding in school and career goals.

And let's be serious, we're going to be drinking wine on a Saturday anyway, so why not have a solid excuse?

NOTE: Let me be real clear ... these are just a handful of organizations that I've enjoyed working with in our area. There are SO many more, and if the first email or hand raise doesn't solicit a response, please, try again. If you haven't scoured the web yet for something that fits your interests and availability, consider checking out a site like, which makes finding the right fit a breeze.

Or shoot, leave a comment with your suggestions for others, if it's your style ;)

on repeat: a throwback playlist

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Our condo has fallen into a musical time warp.

Lately, the sounds that have felt truest are those far, far from the Hit List. Whether I’m baking on a Tuesday evening or cleaning bathrooms on a Saturday morning, the below playlist has been on repeat, much to the chagrin of Trevor, who’s only officially complained once, so far.

But these were the beats that played on the stereo in my dad’s garage, that hummed in the background on long road trips with my parents. They’re comforting in the same way that your mother’s perfume might be, the valleys and peaks of a song you’ve heard one thousand times.

They’re the lyrics that I thought I knew really, really well and that I actually have been making up words to my entire life.

And when I’m doing my own thing, or just alone in the house, they’re filling it with the most lovely sort of lively. (An antidote to the bells and whistles of whatever ESPN show might be airing at the moment.)

I’m remembering for the first time in a while how impactful music is, having come out of a bit of a podcast cave, which stole most of my commutes (and admittedly, even my shower time) for the past year.

So here’s my goal for February. Music. More of it, and less of the other distractions. And for the person I live with and the guests that visit, perhaps a bit of variety baked in – just not quite yet.

And a side note, I’ve also awakened to the beauty that’s Amazon Prime Music. (Ummmm… how did I make it through nearly two years of membership without realizing this resource existed?) Stations like Classic Rock and The Beatles are my alternate go-tos and I love that I can save them into my own playlists with one click, as well as the fact that it’s free with Prime membership, naturally.

drinking your greens

Tuesday, January 17, 2017
One for you and one for me.

There was a point in my life when I would wake up early every morning to press vegetables through the juicer. Not so much, these days. 

But a weekend? A glorious, snowy weekend, nearly demanding that you stay under a blanket and off the slippery roads? Well, I can definitely manage some juicing then. 

Since fresh juice options aren't plentiful downtown, I try to stock up with bulk essentials - apples, celery hearts and spinach - so that there's always something on hand to juice at home, but that can also be used for snacks and cooking. Because in reality, dragging a chair over to the tallest cupboard to pull down the actual machine can seem like a lot of work sometimes.

(Side note: If you're also in Detroit, Go! Smoothies on Clifford Street looks promising, but it's always closed on Sundays when I have the time and energy to scout out a new place ... and the new Drought shop in the Dime Building also seemed perfect, until I realized that it's all pre-bottled selections.)

My go-to recipe, which I use with this hand-me-down Sharper Image juicer: 

Five-Minute Sweet Greens

- 1 apple, any variety (or "sweetener" of your choice - carrots or pears also work)
- 1/2 celery heart (typically, five stalks, including the leafy innards)
- 4 cups baby spinach (packed tightly into the juicing column, two cups at a time)

Steps: Wash all produce. Chop apple into quarters, and run through juicer. Juice all celery stalks. Turn off juicer and pack spinach into juicing column; turn on and run for a few beats longer than normal, allowing the spinach juice to flow as you turn off the juicer switch.

Finally, carefully remove produce discards and place once more into the juicer column. "Re-juicing" allows additional nutrients to be squeezed out, and more fibrous particles to make it into your drink. 

There you have it. Simple. Healthy. And actually, pretty damn good. 

Smoothie Alternate
If you're looking for an even heartier version, simply make it a smoothie. Use a high-quality blender (like Vitamix or Blend-Tec) to whip up the above ingredients with a few ice cubes and a dash of rice milk. 

Juice prep. The outcome? Always very messy countertops.

decoding the decluttering movement

Monday, February 1, 2016
Stuff. Stuff.

It wasn’t until I was packing up my two-bedroom, one-person condo to move into a one-bedroom, two-person home that I realized just how many “things” I had accumulated over the course of three years. Between piles of unworn clothes, stacks of books, and miscellaneous small appliances, it became glaringly obvious that all of my perceived self-control was maybe, er, nonexistent.

The excessiveness was shocking at first, and then disappointing, and then just disgusting.

What I hadn’t realized during my slow and steady compilation of crap was that all of these “things” that I dreamt would make my life easier (i.e. That “perfect” dress for the party; that “necessary” cupcake holder for the birthday girl’s treats – seriously) were actually becoming the bane of my existence. A new piece of clothing here and there meant that I was spending my Saturday organizing my closet. The odds and ends that didn’t have a proper place to be stored were lugged into the garage to move elsewhere … eventually. And slowly, all of it – all of the crap – was mounting bit by bit on top of my shoulders, creating this weighty feeling that nagged at me constantly.

A clean house was never really a clean house when there were bags of donations waiting, books needing sorting and shelving and shelves of décor needing dusting.

And it just so happened that while in the midst of this move, one of the bloggers that I’ve followed since my days in banking PR – Blonde on a Budget – was discussing the same predicament, albeit on a different level. Cait, who was willing to take extremes that make me shudder, declared a shopping ban. (If you’re interested, she’s outlined her experience in these two posts: How to Start a Shopping Ban and How to Complete a Shopping Ban.)

That was, of course, one solution.

Simultaneously sweeping that nation was also a “light” version of minimalism, found in the best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It’s seemed as if everyone is in the mood for a bit of decluttering.

For me, well, I was looking for a bit of a Goldilocks solution, something “just the right size,” something that straddled the line between mild and radical change.

I don’t like a stark house. I like the warm, cozy vibes that come with candles and throw blankets. So, while I want to streamline the “stuff” that fills our home, I also want to keep the pretty pieces that don’t do much more than make me smile.
(I love the concept of pretty minimalism that’s talked about in this Slow Home podcast, by the way.)

Even as my wannabe-minimalist ideals evolve, here are a few tips to consider for those folks just starting to grapple with a less-stuff lifestyle…

Digitize the paper stuff. Pull the plug on the printer. The paper trail in our lives can be never ending if you don’t have a digital home for your important documents and files. I’ve used MyPBWorks for years and love the easy access but secured space for whatever I want to keep on hand.

Ditch the duplicates. You likely don’t need three soup ladles, and let’s be real. Those things jam any crowded kitchen drawer. And that iPhone 4? Go ahead and drop it into the tech donation box at your nearby big-box retailer. Simply getting rid of the outdated technology and the it-never-fit-quite-right jeans allows you to better see and select among your favorite things.

Don’t jump in the deep end. Box up all the things that you’re not 100 percent sure you can live without out, but that you also don’t want to get rid of them. Then, hide them on yourself. Put them in the farthest corner of the basement or garage and try your damndest to forget about ‘em. If you haven’t touched the box in three months, hand it over to the Salvation Army.

working for the weekend

Friday, January 15, 2016
Sunday rituals: CBS Sunday Morning News and a stack of reading materials to devour

As someone who trudges into an office space Monday through Friday, with work travel frequently blurring into my weekends, I place an extremely high value on my "free" time. But let's be honest, those glorious hours when we're off of work are hardly "free."

Between rummaging through the refrigerator for dinner inspiration, running errands and squeezing in a bit of time to binge watch my current Netflix obsession, there's barely time left to sum up the energy for our closest friends, let alone broader social circles.

And more than anything, I try to avoid those commitments that you squeeze in partially out of guilt and partially because you just want so badly to enjoy the company of great people. Because when it comes down to it, anytime that I'm trying to force fun, it just doesn't work. Forced fun makes me grumpy.

But relaxed, laughter-filled, wine-and-cheese-induced fun... now that's rich. That is the sort of stuff that feeds my soul in the most satisfying way.

Last year, one of my wise friends gifted me Shauna Niequist's book Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes and it sparked the tiniest fire within me. It took that anxious "I can't cook a damn thing" attitude and turned it upside down, smacked a smile on it and patted it on the back. It taught me that what's important - people and warm, cozy food and candles and a bottle of red wine - are really all that you need. Nothing fancy. Not even matching place settings.

And with that, it all became clear. My desire not only to accept more invitations, but to extend more invitations, became not only easier - but critical. Part of slowing down in my life meant intentionally carving out precious space for family and friends and then creating a comfortable and inviting space for it.

In his TED talk, "What Makes a Good Life?," Robert Waldinger digs into data gleaned from the longest study on happiness to date. Study participants - now in their nineties - continue to prove that what matters most is not career or money, it's strong and connective relationships, and the ability to maintain and nurture them.

And for those of us who fall into the that's great but I really, really don't have the time category, I found an incredibly interesting nugget of information in the recent New York Times' article, "You Don't Need More Free Time," which politely bashes the notion that you just need an extra hour in your day. Even if you were somehow granted your existing income without having to work for it throughout the week, you would still reach your optimum well-being during the weekend, it surmises. That's because everyone yearns to experience life with others, leaving our lottery winners feeling lazy and lonely while everyone else trudges away.

Balancing the quiet and calm of time spent solo with purposeful and powerful interactions among my favorite people is my current sweet spot. It's a goal that I've set for myself, and that I'm having a blast attempting to achieve.

a simple + satisfying kick-start cleanse

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Not going to lie. Last night, nearing the end of my three-day cleanse, I poured the surprisingly rich Island Coconut blend into a big, ol' red wine glass.

A girl's got to get her indulgence where she can.

As a part of hitting January's "refresh" button, I've upped my game in terms of clean eating. (Much like everyone else in the nation. The only difference? I have a wedding in three months, SO, girl's gotta get her rear in gear.) To kick-start the effort, I took the easiest approach that I'm aware of, which is an order-it-up, six-bottle-a-day cleanse by Jus by Julie. I've done it before and I'm fairly certain that if my budget allowed it, I would do it weekly.

It was wonderfully easy. Each day, you drink all six bottles in the order they're numbered. It's filling. And it's actually pretty darn good tasting, too.

Each time I've ordered, I've had success in digging up a discount code so that I pay approximately $100 for the pack. For three days worth of sustenance, that's not too painful.

And the end result? I really do feel better, having cut some of those salty, chocolatey and alcoholicy cravings that I swam in during the holidays.

I have yet to nail down a sustainable workout regimen, but for the past couple of weeks, I've started each day with a series of yoga poses that have left me with a pleasant soreness the following morning. And now that I'm back to eating solid foods and heartier proteins, I'll be once again leaning on Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide, which is a tone-up PDF that I've used in the past.

The reason that I find it to work best for me is due to its simplicity - it's a printable document that you can also pull up on your computer or mobile phone screen. You can do it at home or in a hotel room, or outside, with no other crazy equipment contraptions that cost a zillion dollars. And it kicks your butt. It really, really does.

Taking small steps like this cleanse do wonders to make me feel more in control of my health and well being. And worth noting is the fact that our mindset plays a critical role in our success. This Huffington Post article, "Can Changing Our Mindset Improve Our Health and Wellbeing?" is a few years old, yet it raises important questions whose answers often lay in the our own outlook on mindfulness.

I've never bought into the fad diet approach, but I do believe that cultivating a healthy relationship with our bodies begins with having the utmost respect for the foods we're ingesting, and the time and energy spent understanding how they fuel us.

Of course, there's always room for cake, right?

my introduction to intentional living

Friday, January 8, 2016
On a walk at the cottage
Growing up, our household was a slow-friendly sort. Where traditional "living rooms" in the typical American home often go untouched, ours was a well-used respite from the TV... a big, long couch and cozy chairs all faced one another, and through my entire life, I congregated there for not only lazy morning conversations over coffee, but some of the most important discussions ever had with my parents.

That sort of leisurely dialogue - legs outstretched and magazines always within reach - seemed so normal to me. It wasn't until after college when a guy that I'd been dating seriously (notably, one who didn't last) complained after a few visits home about all that time spent talking without the comforting buzz of a TV nearby. Apparently, it made him uncomfortable. Hello, red flag.

Don't get me wrong. I'm probably clocking in far too closely to the average joe that watches more than five hours of the tube a day. But, I'd like to think that reliance isn't part of the equation in my case.

That said, one of the most instrumental parts of my life growing up was Northern Michigan. In our family's small lake cottage, without cable or internet... but with fishing and baking and napping and Boggle, we had plenty of space and plenty of quiet. We spent quite a bit of time there and it was, without a doubt, my favorite place. It didn't teach me to slow down; it forced me to slow down.

It's been sold, for several, necessary reasons. And I miss it terribly.

But really, slowing down is only part of the process. The other piece, which I feel is pretty critical, is simplifying. And that is where I find myself now.

Last fall, I sold my condo to move in with my fiance, and that meant taking serious inventory of all of the shit I'd collected over the past few years, which had mysteriously grown to fill all of the space in said condo. Purging (through loads of donations and strategic Craigslisting, of course) felt medicinal.

And now, in our lovely one-bedroom loft, I don't miss any of it. In fact, life feels easier when I have only my favorite sweaters hanging in the closet. It feels more luxurious, actually, which is funny because one might think that ridding yourself of most of your things would make you feel slighted.

Nope. Not yet, at least.

So, this taste of intentional living (a dose more mindful, a bit less hectic) whet my appetite. I spent the last half of 2015 delving into some thought-provoking resources on the topic and I'll be sharing plenty of my favorites here.

With a hustlin' city surrounding us and the constant whir on sirens going by, it's tricky to turn home into a hideaway. But I'm going to try.

What triggered you to slow it down? 

I loved this little wooden bridge.

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