A Little Creative Inspiration

For almost a year, I have dreamed about visiting the DeCordova Sculpture Museum & Park, located just 15 minutes from our house. A year. Thankfully, I’m on a bit of a high after a surprisingly wonderful weekend with my nephew, Max, and me in Vermont (more on that later) and decided it was about time to visit this amazing place.

DeCordova did not disappoint!

DeCordova pass and heart sculptures

DeCordova pass and heart sculptures

The juxtaposition of modern art in the woods is consuming, in a way. You can’t help but admire how the light touches the sculptures, or how different they look depending on the angle of view.

Sculptures in the woods at DeCordova

Sculptures in the woods at DeCordova

The gift shop – in itself – was absolutely inspiring. I left there feeling like I needed to get home and create immediately… and look up 150 different books and artists that I just HAVE TO know more about.

The museum is small, but diverse. One large, open gallery featured some beautiful – and totally creepy – sculpture art by an artist that pulls her inspiration from the haunting words of Emily Dickinson (her home is on our travel list for August!).

Amazing Sculpture by artist Lesley Dill

Amazing Sculpture by artist Lesley Dill

There is a gorgeous cafe in the museum where we got a bite to eat. It was small but, like the museum and gift shop, perfectly curated.

flower bouquet in cafe

flower bouquet in cafe

But my favorite part of the experience was – by far – how intimate the viewing of each piece was. When I think of a museum, I think of packed fine arts galleries of paintings and an occasional sculpture. I think of a white, sterile space that keeps your eye on the art – and only the art. At DeCordova, the art and the environment are one in the same. The placement of the sculptures in very well done, and it definitely translates into your viewing experience.

creepy but cool garden guardian

creepy but cool garden guardian

ice-like sculpture at the back entrance to the museum

ice-like sculpture at the back entrance to the museum

 

I left there feeling inspired, rejuvenated, alive.  And, believe it or not, Max had a wonderful time too!

Max + Julie

Max + Julie: Standing next to the sculpture he thinks looks like “a boat” on the roof deck of the museum, overlooking the pond. Absolutely one of the best views around. Add the sculptures and the private vibe, and I would live there in a heart beat!

 

The entire trip cost us $5 to get in (thanks to our local library pass program) and $4 for a coffee and yogurt in the cafe. I would say it’s money well spent!

 

XOXO,

Julie

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De-clutter your life FOR GOOD

This is the first of a series of posts on decluttering, clearing house, getting rid of all that crap I carried from apartment to apartment for years for no reason. This is a series about transforming from “I might need that some day” to “if I need one, I’ll get one”. It’s what comes when we settle down. When we find a place to plant roots, even for a time. And when we feel emotionally secure enough to let go of the extra in our lives. And it’s incredibly liberating. Follow along with me on Thursdays through August as I explore this topic and give some thoughts on how you can do it too.

Buy this stuff! Selling our used stuff

Buy this stuff! Selling our used home items at our first yard sale

In June Chris and I held our first yard sale ever. While we have always been very big supporters of reuse and resale – going out of our way, at times, to make sure our used stuff found a home – we have never been organized enough to hold an event. It wasn’t until our neighbors asked – and reminded us several times – to participate in a neighborhood yard sale that we finally decided it was time to give it a try.

It was a great success. And it felt great to basically give things away to other people in our region. But it also got me thinking about how this happens – how we acquire so much that we need to set up a “free” sale almost annually.

An event by any other name is still the same event.

People have never been more connected to the rest of the world like they are today. Thanks to technology and social media, we can have global conversations on any – and every – subject imaginable. And we manage to do it with relative ease. If you weren’t aware of the cultural challenges associated with language and communication, you might not recognize how remarkable it is that so many individuals have successfully managed to conduct global conversations in less than 260 characters on Twitter. After years working in international development, I still can’t wrap my head around it.

So when terms like “what to call the event where you sell your old, used crap to people in your driveway/yard/garage” still carry heavy localisms, it is – to me – a fascinating lesson in the preservation of local culture.

Let me give you an example.

I have spent the majority of my life in Eastern Massachusetts and Western Maine. I attended UMass Amherst, in Western Massachusetts, and briefly lived in Connecticut for a summer. In each of these relatively small places, the name of “what to call the event where you sell your old, used crap to people in your driveway/yard/garage” is different. It’s been referred to as a yard sale, a thrift sale, a garage sale, a tag sale, a rummage sale, an “antique market” (BIG stretch), and a junk sale. And this is just the places I have lived in New England!

I’m not the only one fascinated by this. The University of Wisonsin Milwaukee is just one of many universities to study geographic differences in language. This is the UWM map.

And what is really interesting, if you have the time, is this story from NPR’s Here and Now, an interview with Harvard University professor Bert Vaux, the man who created the local dialect quiz that was featured in the New York Times this past December.

And with all this attention paid to selling your extra crap, you have to wonder – consumer culture aside, even those of us who are conscious customers fall into the trap of acquiring large volumes of things we don’t need. What’s up with that?

Baby Max sorting through boxes before we moved last year

Baby Max sorting through boxes before we moved last year

Do we really need that? Moving to new digs means moving all that crap too.

At this time last year, my husband and I – along with my mother, separately – were asking ourselves that same question. It’s a strange coincidence to see so many branches of our family looking to relocate and downsize all within the same year, but trendy for good reason: we have all arrived at the point in our lives where we are done with the financial stress of living at or outside of our means.

And as we have each, separately, taken on the process of packing up all the things that we have acquired over the course of years, we have all come to the same conclusion: I just don’t need all that stuff.

What is that stuff? How did we acquire it? Why do we hold onto it?

Those are questions far too complex to address in a single blog post, so let me just say this: while difficult, time consuming, and emotionally exhausting (at times), downsizing, parting with the “extra stuff” in your home can be one of the most liberating, relieving, and uplifting things you ever do. And when you sell it all at a yard sale, you gain peace of mind knowing that other people will get to enjoy the treasures you acquired in a whole new way.

Check back on Thursdays as I discuss reuse and downsizing for a better life (it’s true!).

 

XOXO,

Julie

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#100 Happy Days

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!

 

This is the fifth installment of #100HappyDays and I love this project.

100 Happy Days: Photos 37-45

100 Happy Days: Photos 37-45

 

We have arrived. I’ll tell you, this is it. This is life in its sweet spot. We are enjoying the hell out of each day. We are playing. We are relaxing. We are happily pacing ourselves. It’s a feeling we haven’t collectively shared – as a family – in a long, long time.

These pictures capture small bits of so many happy experiences – a friend’s wedding, visiting my sister’s wedding venue, the Anthropologie storefront on my way to drinks with good friends, Max happily running through a city park, books that I’m reading, flowers from our yard, herbed foods and homemade jams.

Which reminds me – at some point, in our small suburban lot, we have cultivated a surprising amount of food and flowers. And I can’t wait to share the spoils with everyone!

But – by far – my favorite moment (you’ve guessed it) is that picture of Chris and Max, napping in a park that overlooks the ocean. I cherish and appreciate the moments they steal in between the obligations our busy lives. And seriously – the scene itself is a dreamy version of what you imagine Cape Cod summers were to affluent families 100 years ago: taking naps while the water laps on the shore, feeling the light sea breeze on your face, digging your toes in soft grass while you lazily lay under the shade of an old tree…

 

view of the shore

view of the shore

shoes on the rocky shore

shoes on the rocky shore

 

This summer is all about the ocean. It’s the salty air, the breeze, the mild weather this summer has granted us. We keep going back there. And we can’t get enough.

 

XOXO,

Julie

 

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Phone Photography Project!

Last year I took the Big Picture Classes Phone Photography Project and was immediately convinced of two things:

1. it was time to finally convert to an iPhone

2. your phone can do so much more than you thought.

 

Looking back on the photos I took at that time, I’m still impressed with myself.

Selection of Photos from Phone Photography Project 2013

Selection of Photos from Phone Photography Project 2013

And while I would love to take all of the credit, the truth is that the class – and the instructors – pushed me to think differently about how I capture the places and things I see every day.

This was especially meaningful last year, as we packed up our city life and moved to a small suburban town. It was bittersweet. And capturing those last moments – a summary of moments that reflect the years we spent in the city we grew to love – gave me the emotional time and space to say goodbye to adopted routines and favorite coffee shops with a gravity and finality. Of course, we still discuss moving back regularly…

Anyway.

When Big Picture Classes announced the second installment of the course – Phone Photography Project 2 – I was all in. The start date – July 17th – was a countdown on my calendar for weeks.

And now it is here.

And I’m SO excited!

If you are interested in this workshop (a workshop I can’t recommend enough!), there is still time to sign up here. Or, you can take the self-paced Phone Photography Project from 2013 here.

#BPCphonephotographyproject to follow along on Instagram. (also linked through my feed)

Later this week I’ll chime in with my favorite phone apps for editing your phone photos.

 

XOXO,

Julie

 

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Spring Forward

For several years Ali Edwards has started her year with a word. No resolutions or promises to break, just one little word to check back on for guidance or reflection. As she describes it, “You live with it. You invite it into your life. You let it speak to you. You might even follow where it leads. There are so many possibilities.” This year is all about moving forward. So join me on this journey and let’s see where it takes us.

 

It’s been a while since I wrote about my one little word: Forward. But I assure you, it’s not because I lost interest. So much has changed these last few months…

One. For starters, it’s summer.

We are so happy it's summer!

We are so happy it’s summer!

Two. We’re very happy that it’s summer!

Three. My inlaws are back in town!

Meme and Pepe are back!

Meme and Pepe are back!

Four. So many projects have been done around the house!

Five. Our family is semi-officially growing in a weird, nontraditional – but awesome – way. (Eventually I’ll explain)

Cal and I at a school ice cream social

Cal and I at a school ice cream social

Six. We’re planning for a Happy Family Movement summer. With a bucket list. The kind of summer that we wanted to have last year, but couldn’t because we were too busy.

Seven. We’re eating better, experimenting with food, and having fun doing it.

Eat good food!

Eat good food!

Eight. We’re also growing some of that food.

Grow that food!

Grow that food! (these are potatoes)

Nine. We’re loving this life in ‘burbs.

Group photo after a family jog

Group photo after a family jog

Ten. I read a bunch of books.

Spring reading list

A selection of some of the books read this spring

 

More to come for June/July as we delve into summer vacation, warm weather, and getting happy.

 

XOXO,

Julie

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#100 Happy Days

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!

 

This is the fourth installment of #100HappyDays and I love this project.

100 Happy Days #4

100 Happy Days #4: Photos 28-36

 

It’s that perfect time in New England: warm enough to wear shorts, but not hot enough to stay out of the sun. Our garden is producing zucchini and strawberries each and every day. Usually that means Max eats the strawberries straight from the vine (even the unripened ones) and I steam/pan fry/grill the zucchini. We’re still in the honeymoon phase with zucchini, though I can tell it’s going to fade quickly with the pace the crop is growing…

I love the pace of this time of year. The excitement of  the end of the school year. The anticipation of vacation, reading books, adventures, and new things to come. Thoughts on the people you will meet, the friends you will grow closer with, the ease of being occupied but not overwhelmed. I look forward to these moments each year. And each year my mind bubbles with ideas on what we will do and how we will fit it all in. Which is why I’m working hard on our summer bucket list. While most of the ideas are there, I haven’t decided how to display it. But when I do, you will certainly see it.

Happy Days!

XOXO,

Julie

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This place that I love

small tidal pool on a natural bedrock jetty. great swimming spot, but mostly i love to sit there and think.

A small tidal pool on a natural bedrock jetty. Great swimming spot, but I love to sit there and think (meditate).

There is this place that I love. It’s half a day’s drive from here. And if you went there, you would think it was nice, but not special. Not as special as I think it is. Because most of its magic comes from years of memories of others. Some of those memories are mine. Many of them are my mother’s and her mother’s and their friends.

And each year that we travel there, during each brief visit, we are transfixed. Set in place.

You see, time stops there. It reduces to a pace so slow that you can count a thousand moments as the second hand passes each minute, each hour. And time empties itself into more time. Night comes. Morning comes. And each time of day is magical.

That is my happy place.

Pink clover

Pink clover

 

We were last there in 2012 during our “baby-moon”. It was our last hurrah before Max entered our lives and shook it all up. So we drove. A lot. We saw places and things we wouldn’t be able to see for a long time. We lingered. We brunched. And we savored each moment as its own unique point in time.

Belly photo

Belly photo. It was a very large belly!

We watched the sun rise from the deck of our bedroom.

Sun rise in Nova Scotia

Sun rise in Nova Scotia.

We explored.

The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

We drove A LOT.

Driving the cabot trail

Driving The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

We hiked.

Cape Breton, NS

Our Family with one on the way. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

We appreciated old things.

Boat at Historic Village, Nova Scotia

Boat at Historic Village, Nova Scotia

And we can’t wait to go back!

Chris + Julie at the red sand beaches of PEI

Chris + Julie at the red sand beaches of PEI

So this summer, thanks to my mother’s persistent convincing, we are going back. And I’m counting the moments until we leave.

The photos you see were taken in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Provinces, Canada. And there is so much more to show you.

 

XOXO,

Julie

 

 

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A place for the garden tools

Our house came with plenty of strange nooks and scrapped-together cabinets in which to hide everything you own, but the functionality was sorely lacking. Tool storage is a great example of this, but – of course – so are many of the projects we have shown so far: the pantry, built-in bookcase, etc..

One of my arguments for delaying the purchase of a house (I love the city and still miss it daily) was that we would have to buy all the stuff to maintain a house – a lawnmower, shovels, paint supplies, building materials, rakes, and the list goes on. Somehow, this – along with visions of graduate school – was enough to deter Chris from pushing to purchase a home before we were settled. Though, I’ll be honest, what I really wanted was to get married before we bought a house.. but that’s a story for another day. ;)

We designed a small backyard shed complete with shingles and a roof, but the volume of work, the permitting requirements, and the cost made it out of our reach for this year. Still, with a 2-car garage that barely holds two cars, a necessity during the winter when on-street parking is banned, we knew we would need a place to store our yard stuff.

And that’s when Chris had a brilliant idea (I’m usually the idea person, so this is a big deal people!): we would build it under the ugly stairs that lead to the second floor apartment.

Storage shed Step 1: remove lattice and make a slanted roof

Storage shed Step 1: remove lattice, set the support beams, and install a slanted roof

Of course, when Chris and his dad get going on something, they don’t stop until they’re done. And within a couple hours we had a wonderful, functional space to store our garden tools out of sight and out of the weather.

Chris and Max building the doors

Chris and Max building the shed doors

the final product

the final product

Storage Shed Complete!

Storage Shed Complete!

Using scrap wood from other projects and items we had around the house, the entire project cost was less than $150. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon!

It still needs some organization – like hooks and space savers for the tools and another roof, door, and shelving to store the pots – but it’s substantially improved from where it was.

If I had to offer a lesson, it would be to think differently and get creative with storage. Maximize the closet space without reworking your entire space. Sometimes small projects are better, especially for your pocket.

XOXO,

Julie

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#100 Happy Days

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!

 

This is the third installment of #100HappyDays and I love this project.

100 Happy Days #3

100 Happy Days #3: Photos 19-27

We’ve been working a lot this last week: pruning the roses, fixing the door, weeding the garden, replacing our bed, cleaning our patio, and even trying new recipes. So, naturally,  that glass of my favorite Rose (wine) on a warm summer evening was very well received.

We ate dinner outside that night – casually, without occasion – for the first time. It was beautiful. So beautiful that I offered to clean up while Chris started Max’s bath time, just so I cold linger. And I loved that moment. I lived in that moment and for that moment. I was fully present. I was relaxed. And I was renewed.

A moment to reflect

A moment of reflection in a quiet space

Everyone needs moments like that. To reflect, to appreciate, to be mindful and present. So I encourage you to take your gratuitous moment – however brief – when it happens.

 

XOXO,

Julie

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Inspiration Monday

I’m working on a selfie project. I  know what you’re thinking: UGH. SELFIES.

<insert I’m-so-above-that insult here>

Selfies. Let’s face it: there is a contentious, generational divide between the teens/twenty-somethings that overshare them and the baby boomers who loathe the very mention of “self.” As a member of a generation in between them, I see both sides.

I was raised in a world where “selfish” was one of the worst insults you could say to someone. And while I agree that each of us needs to consider how our interests, motivations, and decisions affect the world – and the people – around us, I just don’t believe that being selfish is all that bad. Furthermore, being “selfish” has nothing to do with taking a selfie – or 100 hundred selfies, for that matter – a day.

Selection of photos from my selfie challenge.

Selection of photos from my selfie challenge.

In previous posts “take a picture of it” and the recent “100 Happy Days”, I mention that photos are a great way to gauge how you are feeling. If you’re feeling insecure, sad, stressed, unhappy, it shows up in a picture. And the kind of picture I’m referring to is a selfie. The prospect is a little scary, right?

It shouldn’t be.

All of this is just an introduction to this video about selfies, which is beautiful and inspiring and absolutely worth the 8 minutes it takes to watch.

I hope watching the video will convince you – as it has convinced me – that it’s okay to take pictures of ourselves. That we should take pictures of ourselves. That we should look at ourselves, be introspective, and come out loving what we see.

Because when you love yourself, that’s everything.

That’s the key to being a good person, a good friend, a good neighbor, a good coworker. It’s a better world when we’re happy. When we’re all happy. And that has to come from you.

More on this as the project evolves. You’ve been warned.

;)

 

XOXO,

Julie

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