4.15.2014

Marathon Monday 2013: one year later

Praying for all the victims at the #bostonmarathon. (Photo from yesterday. Mom, we're ok!)

It's been one year. Long enough to stop jumping at every siren. Long enough for that week to stop coming up in every conversation. Long enough to feel safe again. But not long enough to walk down Boylston without remembering. Not long enough to keep it together when I hear stories from that week and from survivors. Not long enough to stop reliving every moment when the television networks reflect on the events that transpired. Not long enough to forget how thankful I am for those small moments and decisions that kept us and our friends safe, for the brave people that saved lives, and for the love and support that followed.

marathon aftermath

That Wednesday, I went downtown to see the memorials sprouting like spring flowers around the crime scene perimeter. Messages covered every surface. Flags and t-shirts draped over the temporary fences. Piles of flowers formed haphazard gardens dotted with stuffed animal ornaments. Next to them, cameras and spotlights trained on empty chairs as news correspondents waited for something to report. Behind the fences and barricades were armed officers in camouflage and protective gear, pacing next to armored vehicles. Blocks away, I could make out tiny figures cloaked in white, slowly going over every inch of Boylston Street, looking for answers.

marathon aftermath

Thursday evening at work, after earlier inaccurate reports of a suspect in custody, we clustered around the first computer that was able to load the live stream of the FBI press conference, then wondered how long it would be before the two men in the photographs were identified. We did not have to wait long.

At 6:18 a.m. the next morning, Ian and I were jerked awake by a text message that didn't quite make sense. "Don't know if you guys heard the news, but STAY HOME!" Was it from Monday, somehow lost in transit?  What else could warrant such a dire warning? But without knowing, we couldn't go back to sleep. We turned on the TV. It felt like the world was falling apart all over again.

marathon aftermath

Under lockdown, we stayed on the sofa and watched the reports unfold while checking in with our coworkers who live in Watertown. We heard stories of waking up to the gunfight, and SWAT teams knocking on the door to search the apartment. But they were all safe. We watched as an army of police, arriving in MBTA buses, converged in the mall parking lot just down the street from our office. Every station rolled footage of the slow and methodical search, interrupted only by bursts of police activity, and interviews as officials pieced together the story of the previous night and chased down leads.

marathon aftermath

That evening when Governor Patrick finally announced the lockdown was over, his directive to "be vigilant" was less than reassuring with a suspect still at large. We made dinner as coverage continued, and wondered how we could possibly feel safe enough to go outside the next day. An hour later, breathless reporters crouched low and spoke to jostling cameras, unsure of what the sudden activity and loud bangs meant, and suddenly a boat was surrounded and it was over.

But it wasn't over. Not for the victims and their families. Not for the suspect and his family. Not for the business owners whose stores were shuttered. Not for the runners who didn't cross the finish line. Not for the medical teams tasked with healing the injured. Not for the city that needed to find a way to move forward.

marathon aftermath

A week later Boylston was open again, with a message of solidarity. Boston Strong. Over the past year, businesses, bodies, and lives have been put back together. The Sox won the World Series in a triumph that felt like salve to a city on the mend. Scars still show, but they're now reminders, not of the terrible things people do to one another, but of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.
Boston is a city of love stories now.
    —Robert, founder of Dear World
I am still in awe of how our city pulled together, and continues to support each other. A year ago, someone asked if what happened made us want to move back to Kansas. I think it is the opposite. I'm proud to call Boston my home and be a part of this incredible community. Boston Strong.

Last year, I wrote a response to the events of Marathon Monday 2013 (if you're looking for something more lighthearted, check out the posts and photos from past Marathon Mondays: 2013 | 20122011 | 2010).

4.11.2014

living green: a search for greener products that actually work

My journey toward greener products has been a roller coaster. Motivated by my desire to be more eco-friendly, minimalist, and frugal, I started replacing personal care and cleaning products with natural versions whenever I ran out. I researched and tested different store-bought and homemade concoctions, with mixed results. More than a year later, I finally feel like I'm settling into products and routines that work for me, and decided to share (inspired by Elise Blaha times two and Sherry Petersik). Not everything is homemade and cheap like I originally hoped, but I have found I need fewer products, and what I have lasts a long while.

greener products

Ian and I both use Dr. Bronner's castile soap for body wash. The 32-ounce bottle lasts us for months, making it very economical, and the peppermint scent is refreshing. I did have some dry skin issues over the winter, and temporarily swapped Dr. Bronner's for Method moisturizing body wash. However, the dry skin might have been due to a few less successful experiments with natural lotions. I love coconut oil, but it didn't seem to be enough for my dry winter skin. For now I'm using Aveeno daily moisturizing lotion, which scores well on GoodGuide, and Burt's Bees almond milk beeswax hand creme before bed.

I tried the no-shampoo method with a baking soda cleanser and an apple cider vinegar conditioner. It knocked out my dandruff after just two washes, but I soon discovered it was over-drying the rest of my skin, leaving it painfully itchy (a recurring issue for me, it seems). I started testing shampoos and conditioners with high marks on GoodGuide. I like Aubrey Organics, but every month or so I need to use a 50/50 apple cider vinegar rinse to get rid of buildup. I'm currently trying Yes to Carrots and love it, but know the use of "fragrance" isn't ideal.

In the smelling good department, Ian and I both use Tom's of Maine toothpaste — with fluoride because Ian has had cavity concerns — for minty-fresh breath. And after a series of epic fails with natural deodorant, I'm a huge fan of Soapwalla deodorant cream (purchased at Follain). It doesn't prevent sweating, but even after long bike rides around the city I don't have a noticeable smell, and the formula is designed to absorb moisture. (Bonus: it doesn't discolor my clothes at all.) I apply a few drops of jojoba oil before applying deodorant, again, to keep my skin from drying out.

greener products

When we moved to Boston, I began having more issues with blemishes. I blame the climate. It was frustrating but manageable, until last year when I stopped regulating my hormones with a pill—after almost five years, I was finally fed up with the side effects. I tried both eco-friendly and not-so-eco-friendly acne solutions, and became militant about hydration and changing pillow cases at least once a week. But it just kept getting worse, and the blemishes were becoming painful. I finally went to a dermatologist and came home with a prescription. It cleared things up, but I wasn't thrilled about some of the ingredients and warnings.

Meanwhile, I discovered Follain. Tara recommended Shamanuti's charcoal cleanser, seaweed toner, and face oil moisturizer, which have worked well for me. Since my prescription brought my face back to a good place, I am hoping my current routine can maintain it. If not, I know Tara has a few other products I can try before I resort to refilling those prescriptions. I also use a honey and cinnamon mask when I remember. Yes, I smear honey, which is antibacterial and loaded with lots of healthy things your skin can absorb, on my barely damp face and leave it for at least ten minutes.

I don't wear much makeup, so I wasn't motivated to spend extra money on new products. But after I developed an allergic reaction to my eye shadow, I made the switch to organic and have had no issues. I know I could improve on a few of these product choices (Mineral Fusion in general and Burt's Bees lip balm get low scores on GoodGuide), but makeup is a slow turnover for me. I'll get there eventually, most likely via Follain. Currently I use Jane Iredale dream tint moisturizer with SPF (purchased at Follain), Mineral Fusion blush, and Burt's Bees beeswax lip balm. For special events, I add Mineral Fusion mascara, and bareMinerals foundation and eye shadow (I picked up a couple samples at Sephora, but now use eye shadow so infrequently I haven't actually purchased any yet). And coconut oil works great as makeup remover.

greener products

For cleaning, I love Method everything. I looked into homemade cleaners to save cash and space, but the experiment fell short of my expectations. Then I discovered Method products are generally ranked very high on GoodGuide for not only the greenness of their products, but also their commitment to the environment and society. Plus the products look good and smell even better. Sold. The only non-Method cleaning product we use is Trader Joe's dishwashing detergent, because it's cheap and we're happy with it. (I recently have heard good things about Better Life, which gets equally high GoodGuide ratings for ingredients, and plan to give them a try.)

Method favorites: sweet water hand wash, daily shower spray, antibacterial toilet cleaner, fresh air laundry detergent, squirt + mop wood floor cleaner (almond scented and floors are oh so shiny!), clementine all-purpose cleaner, and lemon mint dish soap.

It's not easy for me to get all of these products locally (particularly the extra eco-friendly refills), so I often buy from SOAP.com. Orders of $49 or more ship free, and if you're new, you can use ANNA7968 to get 20% off your first order. I personally don't get any perks when anyone uses this code, but every referral donates up to $30 to the FEED foundation.

And that's it! All of the products in our bathroom and kitchen. I know there is always room for improvement, and going green looks different for everyone, but I'm so thankful I've gotten to a place where I'm happy with both the greenness and effectiveness of the products I use.

If you're curious, we keep a running list of the green habits we've tried to incorporate into our life.

4.07.2014

a shopping date in the South End

shopping in the south end

I discovered Follain several months ago, on my quest to find natural but still effective skincare. I read raving reviews online for Soapwalla deodorant cream, which Follain carries. And while I stopped in just for the deodorant, Tara, the owner, quickly won me over with her friendly demeanor and vast product knowledge. (A post on my journey into natural products is coming soon, and yes, it includes Soapwalla deodorant cream.)

The next day I gushed about Follain to friend and coworker Ingrid, and we quickly decided we should go together. However, we didn't make concrete plans until I read Anna's post about her South End small business tour, featuring Follain. It was the motivation we needed to finalize our shopping date.

shopping in the south end

We started at the South End Buttery for breakfast and hot beverages to go, then headed to Niche, recommended in Anna's post, to indulge our shared love of houseplants. I was impressed with the selection of succulents and tropicals, and we admired the artful terrariums scattered around the store.

shopping in the south end

We next headed to Davids Tea, which I had also gushed about to Ingrid. The staff is always super friendly and helpful, and the tea is delicious. We checked out the new spring blends, then spent 15 minutes sniffing a wide variety of staff recommendations based on our likes (we even got a free iced team, before narrowing down which teas to take home.

We ended our date at Follain. The store is beautiful and refreshing, with white subway tile, plank shelves, large windows, happy plants, and a giant farmhouse sink. It was busy, but Tara still made time to chat with us about the products we were considering, making sure we found products that would best suit each of our needs.

Tara's passion for healthy and environmentally friendly skin and body care is infectious. She's tested countless products and only the best end up on her shelves. That curation takes the often overwhelming task of shopping for greener products and makes it manageable, even fun. Follain has definitely become my go-to resource as I continue my transition to greener skincare.

Ingrid and I had a great time, and I'm sure we have another South End shopping date in our future!
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