Saturday, December 20, 2014

Life is better when it's observed. Yes? Yes.

This post is brought to you by the world around you, the desire to pull your head up out of your phone, the letter L and Little Observationist.

I am a painfully, often ridiculously focused human.

When I'm walking to the grocery store my brow is furrowed in concentration while I think about the ingredients I'm going to buy, how I'll prepare my meals, and if I remembered that coupon.

When I'm driving to a dinner party my brow is furrowed in concentration while I think about the friends I'll see at dinner, what topics I should remember to inquire about, and if I brought the right kind of wine.

All of this is to say, I'm not always great at observing the world around me. I'll scuttle past a blooming rosebush on my afternoon errands because my entire brain is occupied with thoughts of postage stamps and to-do lists. I'll breeze past a deliciously pet-able puppy because I'm just really busy thinking about snow tires.

Which is why I love Little Observationist. Steph has made a beautiful habit of really, actually observing the world around her and taking part in it. She takes lovely photos of it. She eats it (all of it - ants and gourmet meals alike.) She shares it.

Who doesn't want a little bit more intention and observation in their life?
I know I do.

Each month I host 1-2 sponsored posts. If you'd like 150ish words and five links devoted to your and your stuff, check out my rates and traffic info here or drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org and we'll get started!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Patience + Saying Yes

Four years ago, while sauteing garlic in this kitchen, I had a Big Idea. 

I'm sure you've had similar ideas - those 'Ohhhh-that-would-be-awesome-but-I-don't-even-know-where-to-start-and-surely-that-would-be-incredibly-expensive' ideas. I talked my friends' ears off, googled a few things ... and then promptly felt overwhelmed and not nearly rich enough to do anything with my Big Idea. I tucked it into my back pocket along with a million other things I'd theoretically like to do.

Someday. Eventually.

Two years ago, I was invited to a friend's birthday party at a bar far from my apartment with a guest list of people I didn't know. 

I so, so wanted to RSVP 'maybe,' post a funny birthday photo on my friend's Facebook wall, and then spend the night with my sofa and Broad City. But come 7 pm, I found myself in the same neighborhood as my friend's birthday bar and I had no excuse for acting the jerk.

I wished him happy birthday and settled myself at the end of the table between two dudes I'd never met. And the dude on my left turned out to be the person who could help me execute the Big Idea I'd tucked away.

On January 1st, I'm rather nervously ushering Yes and Yes's first app into the world. It's been a year and a half of writing and coding and designing with immeasurable help from Scott Puhl, Sara Miscontish, Alicia Johnston, and Darcie Defoe. The whole thing has been an exercise in biting off more than I could chew and then asking smart, talented people to help with the proverbial chewing.

On the official launch day, I'll tell you more about the app - what it does, where to get it, etc. If you'd like to be the first to know, you can join my email list or follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

At the risk of sounding deeply, deeply cheesy
what's way more important than this app is that it has reminded me 

We are who we surround ourselves with
Just because something's not happening now doesn't mean it won't ever happen
When we say yes + make the effort + get outside our comfort zone, great things happen

Also: great ideas correlate with sauteing garlic.

I'm so excited to share this with you guys! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

8 Things To Do During That Weird, Lazy Week Between Christmas and New Years

Winter fun ideas

December 26th - 30th sure are weird, aren't they? Your in-town friends are out of town and your out-of-town friends are in town and totally overwhelmed with social obligations. If you're working your 9-5, half your coworkers are out of the office and you'll spend an entire week organizing your desk snacks. 

It's a strange, lazy week. We're not quite ready to pull down the lights and we (re: I) aren't quite ready to dive into the green juices and spin classes of January 2nd, either. I want to enjoy my Week Of Nothing but I'm not particularly interested in taking on anything too impressive or productive. 

For the first time in the life of Yes and Yes and my self-employed career I'm taking alllll those days off. I'm not scheduling any posts, I'm not working with clients, I'm not quietly, secretly working on a big project. I'm going to do fun, non-impressive things.

Here are eight things I plan to do (and you might like, too!) 

1. Read wonderful, delicious fiction
During my time off I'm prone to doing ridiculous things like reading business and self-development books. I'm giving my brain a break and re-reading some of my favorite books: these (of course) and this dog-eared buddy. Everyone ever has recommended Studs Terkel to me so I can't wait to pour over his books. 

2. Wear all your closet orphans (and get rid of stuff you don't wear)
We've all got those cute tops we never wear or the skirts that don't match anything. It's amazing what happens when you force yourself to make it work. It's fun to pull stuff from the depths of your closet and work them into a coffee shop or office-appropriate outfit. You might like it! It might be ridiculous! And if it is, you don't ever have to wear it again. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can even purge your closet (here's how.) 

3. Try some new recipes from that pile of magazines
You can tell I'm a Grown Ass Woman because I have an enormous pile of women's magazines next to my bed. (That's the mark of an adult, right? Accrual of mail?) Each month I read them and each month I plan to make that kale apple almond thing. And then I eat popcorn for dinner again.

I'm going to go through my lady magazines, rip out those ever-loving recipes, buy the ingredients and fill my kitchen with lovely, homey smells and my belly with something other than popcorn or quinoa burgers. 

4. Schedule video call catch-ups with far-flung friends
I have gone months interacting with friends exclusively via the Facebook 'like' button. You had a baby = like! You ran a marathon = like! You've taken your eye makeup situation to a level that makes me quake with envy = like! It's high time I saw my friends' faces and heard their voices and got the blow-by-blow of what's going on with their jobs/relationships/bangs. 

5. Mix up some winter-friendly DIY beauty treatments
Now, I love a good yogurt aspirin mask, but that's more of an oily, summer skin kinda jam. This avocado lemon maskthis hair mask, and this cinnamon scrub would be lovely - particularly if they're applied while sipping peppermint tea and watching old episodes of Parks and Rec

6. Finish a few projects that are hanging over your head
I am captain "It's totally not a big deal, it really doesn't bother me" - about the cracked windshield, the Venetian blind my cat ate, my constantly crooked lampshade. But when I finally get around to fixing those non-problems I FEEL LIKE THE QUEEN OF THE WORLD.

I'm going to spend a few hours taking care of the those little, niggling problems during my down week. I imagine it will make me feel so powerful and capable I'll take to breaking things just so I can fix them.

7. Engage in a few good karma projects
I'm trying to get a head start on Santa's Nice List for 2015 and earn a few gold stars that I'll inevitably cash in on New Year's Eve. I think I'll work my way through some of these good karma ideas and hope that my NYE's shenanigans don't require a penance bigger than that.  

8. Be joyfully anti-social (if that's your thing) 
Did you know that I'm a friendly, chatty, packed-social-calendar introvert? By the time December 26th rolls around, I'll probably need a week of Quiet By Myself Time. Just Me And My Book Time. Haven't Unlocked The Door Or Left The House In Three Days Time. I can't wait!

What are you going to do during your weird post-Christmas week?

P.S. Did you know that I wrote a whole (free!) ebook devoted to actually enjoying winter? And I'm a third-generation Minnesotan of Scandinavian decent so this is pretty much and area of professional expertise.

photo by * // cc

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mornings In: Brazil

This is one of many Mornings In _______ posts in which gorgeous women from all over the world let us peek at their breakfast and beauty routines. Fun, right?

This post is particularly special to me because I spent the summer after college teaching English in Rio Grande du Sol, the southern most state in Brazil. I have such fond memories of that Pao de Queijo!

Hometown: Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, but live in São Paulo, SP
Age: 29
Occupation: Travel and Digital Marketing Entrepreneur
My alarm is set for: 7:00 AM

Most mornings I eat: 
Once I get up, I stumble to my kitchen to make myself a "green juice," to wake myself up. I'll throw collard green cubes (i freeze my greens!), cucumber, ginger, mint leaves, and coconut water in a blender. 

After I walk my dog and shower, I eat! I'll have a small loaf of whole wheat pão francês (in most homes, it’s a loaf of White bread) from the corner bakery. This is the staple food for Brazilian breakfasts, and is accompanied by butter, ham and cheese, or in my case, requeijão, a sort of cream cheese. I'll wash it down with coffee, and a banana or papaya. On days when I’m short on time, I’ll have an açaí juice and a granola bar.
My beauty routine consists of: 
Shower: It’s common to buy shampoos that are “salt free” in Brazil because it doesn’t dry your hair out as much. I like Granado Sálvia + Confrey (sage and comfrey) shampoo and conditioner. La Roche Posay gel on my face, and regular Dove bar soap. 

Post Shower: I use Natura's cotton scented body lotion, Tododia Algodão, and run a dollop of Flores e Vegetais leave in conditioner through my ends, and let my hair dry out naturally.

Face: La Roc Minesol Oil Control, SPF 70 every morning! I don't wear much makeup, but when I do, my go tos are: Natura's long lasting black eyeliner, Sephora mascara, Body shop powder, and pink contém 1g lip stick (with SPF!).

Then, I head to work by: 
My commute lasts about 2.6 seconds. One of the reasons I have such a complex and long morning routine is that I'm fortunate enough to work from home. That also means I need to have decent routine so I can produce and not Wake up and work from bed all day. I'll work from my desk or hammock (!) in my room, or with the news on in the background in the living room or my balcony to keep things interesting. 

Thanks so much for sharing, Poly! Any other Brazilian readers care to share their routine?

Monday, December 15, 2014

True Story: I'm A Lady + I Don't Shave

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Heather and her decision not to shave. 


Tell us a bit about yourself!
I live in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I'm 32 and a single mom of a 13-year-old. I work at a domestic violence agency. I follow offenders through the court system, run survivor/victim groups, do research, and other community outreach activities. I have an Etsy store and I sell zines! I love to write and do arts and crafts. I love doing research and I love biostats! I am involved with radical leftist and feminist activism, when/if possible. I have a BA in sociology and women's studies, MA in counseling, and a Master's in Public Health. :) I love school! haha.

When you were growing up, what were your feelings about feminism/femininity/etc?
I think I rejected femininity, yet I felt I had to be that way. When I was 14, I remember wanting to be a boy if I had a choice when I was conceived (haha) so I wouldn't have to "deal with being a girl" (whatever that meant).

I remember being told to keep my legs closed while wearing a dress and how I looked prettier with long hair. My mom pressed some of the feelings on me, but  also told me she was a "tomboy" growing up and got along better with boys. Yet, she pressed the boy/blue and pink/girl thing. My step-dad had a very rigid view of gender roles. He felt women and men both "have a place in society."

I don't ever recall talking to teachers about these things. My sister and I talked a lot about femininity as we grew up and we played with dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When my mom remarried, she had two more children and I heard a lot of "he's a boy ... he will do that" or "be a man!" I remember getting really angry about that and teaching my brother that boys and men are completely capable of crying and that it's okay!

No one talked to me about feminism at all! I learned about feminism when I started going to punk shows at 15. Punk opened me up to new ideas about gender roles. I met a lot of queer and gender non-conformity people at punk shows. The deconstruction of gender roles and sexuality were my first introduction to feminism, too! From there I was able to embrace all sorts of gender ideas and I felt more comfortable with it. I carried that into my parenting, too.

When did you stop shaving? 
I stopped shaving in 2006. I was 23/24. I've always HATED shaving. I felt like it was this weird obligation I had to do because I'm a woman. I started shaving when I was 13. I had a friend who stopped shaving and was super cool and supportive about it and she was like, "f*ck it, who cares?" So I stopped shaving and I felt so amazing! Seriously. It was like I needed someone to say what she said.

When you first stopped shaving did you find you were more or less likely to wear tank tops, skirts, etc?
No, but I did feel more self conscious at work and/or in professional settings. But honestly there were times where I wanted to show off my hairy pits! :) In a way, it kind of feels empowering.

How have people reacted to your decision?
Most of my friends did not care. When I was sleeping around, people did not care. The worst reactions I've had from people has been when I've been on walks with my daughter and I'm stretching my arms up with a tank top on or at the gym. I will hear some college boys yell, "SHAVE YOUR PITS!" and I usually tell them to f*ck themselves and flip them off. Honestly. Don't tell me what to do with my body, assholes.

Overall, no one has showed any weirdness toward me besides the college boys I mentioned. I've had weird looks from people that I don't know well, but that's about it. Luckily, I've never been addressed about it at a job. If I did, I would complain and not shave.

Have you ever shaved for a one-off occasion? Someone's wedding? Swimsuit season?

Have any of your friends been inspired to stop shaving?
Not that I know of. But I do teach my daughter that she has choices and she can decide for herself when she's ready.

Do you have any opinions about women who shave?
My opinion is that if you want to shave, shave. It's completely your choice. For me, part of feminism is about choice and I would rather not judge someone for doing something I don't do.

I would rather want they to do what they want rather than try to fit into some weird idea of feminism or patriarchy or whatever (like I felt when I did shave!). Also, who am I to tell someone what they can/can't do? 

What's one thing you've learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily life? 
When I first stopped shaving, I was a bit judgey towards women who DID shave. This whole process has made me take a step back and make fewer personal judgement about others' choices. Things don't have to be so black/white. Women don't have to shave but if they want to, they can. This also applies to men and other gender-identified people.

I totally get the argument of patriarchal standards and on some level I agree but I want women to be able to make their own choices and not feel pressured either way.

Thanks for sharing, Heather! Do any of you guys not shave? Have you ever tried not shaving? 

P.S. What's the point of pretty? and That time I went to a magazine photo shoot

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Web Time Wasters

Happy weekend, guys! As you read this, I'm enjoying the (relatively) warm temperatures of New Mexico, visiting my BFF of 22 year who had the NERVE to move to Santa Fe. Rude.

Highlight of the trip so far? Hand feeding alpacas!

Links for you!
Ha! I can't believe I never noticed this! 12 Female Characters Who Keep Shaving Despite Constant Peril

A good reminder: what you own vs. what owns you.
I’m not a minimalist or a nonconsumer, though I flirt with both ideas from time to time. I’m a mover and a wannabe traveler and a 20-something. My desire to put down roots in one place is at odds with the compulsion to move at a moment’s notice. Packing up my things has been a lesson in realizing what I own vs. what owns me. It feels soul-sucking to make decisions based on possessions.

Everyone I know, take note. A gift guide for cat ladies.

My 15-year-old (and honestly, my current) self really want these.

Wouldn't this be perfect for holiday parties?

Who should you marry? I'm so glad you asked.
Marry someone who has seen you ugly cry.
Marry someone you like. Someone you’d want to sit next to on a cross-country Greyhound trip with no bathroom or air conditioning, because they’re the only person who could somehow make that fun.

Discuss: The secret to success is "bitchiness"

Just another beautiful, overpriced thing I'd like to own.

For the holidays (or anytime of year) - 8 tips to incorporate social good into your business.

Oof. How do you have the race conversation with your 4-year-old?

A sweet and fascinating interview with Dionne Osborn, the vocal coach who turned Drake's voice around.
I told him, "Drake, good thing you're not trying to be this tough, hood guy. You had a bar mitzvah, for god's sake." I think he's become a better man for embracing every aspect of who he is. What you see is really what you get with him.

And a few Yes and Yes posts you might have missed: 5 ways to make your business sparkle, True Story: I'm 23 And Never Been Kissed, The art of self-love

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fun links! Self care + 'Healthy' cocktails + A Cheap Month In Paris

Bluuuurgh, productivity. Who carrrrres? Let's look through these links instead. Yes? Yes.

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!
facebook // pinterest // instagram

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!
twitter // pinterest // instagram

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!

Wanna see your stuff here? You can introduce your products and links to my 11,000+ daily readers for less than you'd think. Check out my rates and traffic info here or drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org to scoop up your own spot.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mini Travel Guide: Vanuatu

This is one of Mini Travel Guides in which expats and locals share their favorite things with us.

travel guide Vanuatu

Hi! I'm Gaea. I spent three years in the Peace Corps on the stunning islands of Vanuatu. I lived on two of the islands and visited as many of the other 80 as I could. I documented my adventures here.  

To really experience the diversity of life on these tiny islands you need to taste fresh baked laplap, hike a volcano, watch coconut-hatted dancers and drink a few shells of kava. Though each piece of this country has a unique culture and language, the things they share are broad smiles and bright laughter.

Must Go
The Outer Islands
Port Vila, the capital city and main international airport, was born from the blending of hundreds of culturally distinct groups who live on the outer islands. Head out of town and stay at a bungalow on the outer islands. Spend your evenings drinking kava with the papas or storian (chatting) with the mamas. You'll be treated like family and bungalows are great launching points for hikes, swimming or cultural experiences like gardening and dancing.

Tanna Island and Mt. Yasur Volcano
Mt. Yasur on Tanna Island is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Listen to the rumbling of the volcano as you hike three hours to the rim where the eruptions happen in front of your toes. Stay until Friday to visit the Jon Frum cargo cult, a religion that bridges the divide between Christianity and traditional beliefs.

Pentecost Island and Land diving
The land divers of Pentecost bless each yam harvest by leaping from a tower of lashed together branches with vines tied to their ankles. After two Kiwi travelers watched them dive, they created the watered-down version we know as bungee jumping. This ceremony only happens between April and June when the vines are the right, so time your trip appropriately. While you are there, enjoy the Jurassic Park feeling of Pentecost Island by hiking through the jungle to crystalline waterfalls. 

Must Do
The coral reefs surrounding the islands of Vanuatu are home to world-class diving and snorkeling. If you're a first time diver, get your feet wet with a single dive. For experienced divers, head to one of the many wrecks or look for sea turtles and dugongs among the coral bommies. 

Cultural festivals
Almost every island has a cultural festival to celebrate and share their dances, arts, language and history. Spend a weekend sleeping in a bungalow, eating food fresh from the garden and learning about the complex culture of one corner of the country. 

Drink Kava
Whether you head to a kava bar in town or drink in a traditional nakamal on the island, the kava experience is not to be missed. Kava is made from the root of the kava plant and tastes much like the ground it's grown in. Knock back your half a coconut shell quickly and then enjoy the view or the conversation.

Must Eat
The national dish of Vanuatu is rarely a favorite with visitors, but it is worth tasting once. This starchy meal is made by baking mashed bananas, manioc or taro in a ground oven. For fancy meals, the laplap is covered in coconut milk or meat. The more palatable option is laplap simboro, a version made by rolling the starch into “burritos” of island cabbage and boiling them in coconut milk.

Pineapples in Vanuatu are what the Greek gods dreamed of when they asked for nectar. Visit the Mama's market in downtown Port Vila in January for the best selection.

Cultural Tips
Smile. Everyone smiles and laughs at everything. Join in the merriment and be part of the fun.

The standard of dress in Vanuatu stopped with the missionaries. Men and women wear clothes that cover their knees and women are expected to wear skirts outside of town. Though men can go shirtless in informal environments, women should avoid wearing strappy tank tops or shirts that show their bellies.

Saying no to someone is rude. Instead, people will tell you what you want to hear, even if it lacks accuracy. 

Travel on the cheap
There are two ways to get places in Vanuatu: quickly or cheaply.
In town, the buses (16 passenger vans) have no set routes and will drop you where you are going in the order they picked you up. The taxis will take you directly there, but over charge you for the pleasure.

When traveling to other islands, planes are usually reliable but very expensive. Ships are cheap but may take a few days to reach your destination. If you have the time, bring a jar of peanut butter and some bread and make the ship ride part of the experience.

Most importantly, be flexible in your travel plans. Set up your return to be back in Port Vila a few days ahead of your international flight and then go with the flow. Whatever happens, there will be an adventure to go with it.

Thanks so much for sharing, Gaea! I'm sure lots of Kiwi and Aussie readers have been to Vanuatu - do you guys have any tips to share? 

photos by brian dearth // sarah cooks // gaea

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Two Sentences That Can Make Just About Anything Better

Just like every other human in the world I spend a significant portion of my life
a) saying stupid things
b) judging people for saying stupid things

I'll hate myself a little when I name drop or make a joke that I thought was 'edgy' but is really borderline offensive.

I want to turn inside out when I belatedly realize I'm bragging about my happy relationship to a friend who's going through a messy divorce or when I spend 10 minutes arguing a position that (upon further inspection) is totally, 100% wrong.

I kick myself for snipping at friends or joking about sensitive topics.

And (because I'm human) I'll internally roll my eyes anytime anyone else does these things.

You'd think that because I can intellectualize this very topic enough to write about it that I'd have the grace and wherewithal to stop acting like a jerk or judging others for acting like jerks.

To which I will say "you are giving me entirely too much credit, dear reader."

But I recently witnessed a friend recover from a verbal gaffe with so much grace and candor I immediately thought "I love you and I'm going to do that whenever I put my foot in my mouth. And I'm going to tell the internet about it."

We were nursing gimlets at a popular pub when my usually kind friend noticed a woman in a low-cut top and made a comment that was, well, not very nice.

I sort of blinked and gawped at her uncharacteristically mean comment. She looked me in the eyes and said:
"I'm sorry. That was totally uncalled for."

And then we went back to talking about how she should rearrange her living room.

She didn't make excuses for her comment. We didn't dwell on it or dissect it. She acknowledged her mistake and we both moved the eff on.

And I think this could work for just about any verbal misstep. You're calm, immediately self-aware and about a million times less hurtful.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"I'm sorry. That was awkward."
"I'm sorry. I don't know why I mentioned that."
"I'm sorry. That was unnecessary."
"I'm sorry. That was inappropriate."

Then talk about something else.

Of course (of course!) if you're regularly making hurtful comments, using pejorative terms, or sharing sexual escapades in the breakroom at work, I'd urge you to, uh, stop that immediately. These two magical sentences are not a fix-all for being an asshole.

But I'd like to believe that most of us are kind, good natured, fallible people who occasionally misjudge our audience or fail to think before we speak. When that inevitably happens, these two sentences can help us climb out of that hole we just dug.

What do you do when you realize you've misspoke or put your foot in your mouth? I'd love to hear how you deal with it!

photo by Kana TANUMA // cc

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New Thing: See The Sunset In Key West

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try; it's part of how I live my life on purpose. Some of these new things are exciting, many are terribly mundane. 

I would like to make the argument that the world can be divided into two groups of people:
1. People who listen with curiosity and an open mind when they hear everyone raving about something.
2. Curmugeons and a-holes (like me) who steadfastly ignore things till it's about five years after the fact and then we see what all the fuss is about.

Sometimes I totally get what all that fuss is about. I agree with the piles of tourists, the million awards, the critical acclaim. 

LolitaLoved it
Dollywood? There's a reason a bajillion people go there every year. 
Sending something to Post Secret? Those million readers know what's up. 

And then there are those much-lauded experiences/books/movies/foods that leave you a bit "meh-y." A bit "Well, that was nice but I'm not quite sure it's worth all the hubbub." (I'm looking at you, five-day cleanse.) 

I'm afraid the sunset in Key West falls under this heading, friends.
There is an entire pier dedicated to sunset viewing in Key West. Standing on said pier is a 4.5 star activity with 907 reviews on Trip Advisor. It's the 11th best activity out of 71 activities in Key West. 

And it's totally lovely!
(But I'm pretty sure it's exactly as lovely as any sunset viewed from any coast, ever.)  

Just for comparison sake, here are four sunset photos from South Dakota, Tennessee, Key West, and Maine. They're all pretty nice, right?

Of course, there are piles of amazing things to do in Key West.

Rent a bike! See the Hemingway house and cats! Pop into the butterfly house! Stuff your face with key lime pie! Wander around looking at houses and roosters! Poke around the graveyard and imagine you're in a mid-90s Stephan King novel!

Key West is a fascinating, gorgeous place and the sunsets are quite nice. 
But I'd suggest making them one of many reasons you go there. 

What tourist attractions and travel destinations have left you a bit shrug-y?