March 18, 2019

Bura na maano, holi hai! (Don’t mind, it’s Holi!)

In the week leading up to Holi, a bunch of bananas sits on the island reaching a peak over-ripeness that is perfect for malpuas. Early in the morning on Holi, the tantalizing aroma of the freshly fried “banana pancakes” wafts through the house. Only about half the batch sugar-syrup drenched yumminess makes it to the evening family visits. The first one or two are consumed in the name of quality control — we can’t possibly serve imperfect sweets to the aunties and uncles! No one fesses up to having sneaked the rest throughout the day, but you know dad had at least one.

Maybe your family makes gujias instead? Or mathris? Whatever you make, Holi is an opportunity to indulge in all sorts of sweet delicacies after a day of playing with abeer (colored powder) and gulaal (colored water).

To the uninitiated, we introduce Holi as the festival of colors, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil, a welcoming of the spring season. A crazy fun time with friends and family. At its core, I think Holi is a celebration of the perseverance of faith.

According to the Puranas, King Hiranyakashipu’s faith is rewarded with a boon that makes him nearly invincible. But his faith is selfish, born of an ego that makes him forget that no one is above God (Vishnu). His son, Prahlad, on the other hand, has an unwavering faith in Vishnu. Spoiler alert, Prahlad’s faith in Vishnu triumphs over Hiranyakashipu’s narcissism.

In other mythology stories, Kama (the Hindu Cupid), interrupts Shiva during a meditative state and is immediately vanquished. Rati, Kama’s wife, meditates for 40 days, demonstrating her faith. This convinces Shiva to revive the God of love, and Kama’s return is celebrated as Holi, 40 days after Vasant Panchami.

All smiles, face covered in vibrant colors, after a fun time with friends.
Holi 2016 - a tamer celebration than usual
We smear color on each other because Krishna was afraid Radha and the other Gopis wouldn’t like him because of his blue skin, but his mother had faith the girls would see past his color and love him anyway.

As with everything in India, Holi is celebrated in a unique way in each state. From a seven-day mela (fair) in Kanpur (outside of Braj), to the Dol Jatra in West Bengal, where images or statues of Krishna and Radha are paraded through the town on a decorated swing, to Lathmar Holi in Uttar Pradesh where the ladies get to “beat up” the men with laathis (long sticks) in jest, and Holla Mohalla, a display of martial arts prowess of Sikhs in Punjab, Holi brings together entire communities in the spirit of forgiveness and uninhibited happiness.

Whether you’re in India, the USA, or Guyana, nearly everyone starts the Holi celebrations with a bonfire on Choti Holi, the night before the colorful celebration. This is a nod to the story of Holika, King Hiranyakashipu’s demoness sister who tried to destroy Prahlad in a pyre but ended up perishing herself.

If you’re celebrating a tame Holi, with polite smears of dry color on each other’s faces, you can deck out in whatever you like. If you’re like me and plan on taking a long shower afterwards, wondering how you still have color in your hair days later, you might have a designated set of “Holi clothes” that come out once year, faint patches of color a testament to past years of fun.

The day’s not over until you’ve washed away the colors, gorged on too much food and mithai, and enjoyed a silly, relaxed time with family and friends. The lighthearted day is our annual reminder that as long as we hold strong throughout the year, there will always be something to celebrate.

February 2, 2017

Goal Setting in 2017 - Free Download included

You've had a month to set, try, and break your resolutions. Ready for some real goal-setting now?

I used to set these too-vague, too-ambitious goals like "lose weight", "eat healthy", "blog more", blah, blah. In 2012 I even started blogging about my resolutions as a way to be more accountable. If I tell the world, I'll look stupid if I don't follow through, right? You can see it was easy to fudge the results (well, I didn't blog more, but I have plenty of drafts) or justify excuses (I didn't lose the weight, but I had a busy schedule & my back hurt, so really, how was I supposed to?).

For various reasons, 2012 was a pivotal year for me. I got fed up with the same old status quo lifestyle and motivated to improve, grow, learn, and develop myself. I'm no closer to perfection or anything. Instead, with each change over the past four years, I've noticed I feel more happy, satisfied, content, balanced, grounded ... aren't these the things we strive for in life?

2016 was a light bulb year. I scrapped making resolutions altogether. Resolutions are firm decisions and they sound like an ultimatum. They are too heavy with expectations and carry a tone of impending failure. My new strategy was to set up goals. Goals are things I can work towards. Goals are things I can break down into little steps and chip away at over the course of year. It's okay if I don't hit 100% on them, because any progress means I've achieved something more than what I started with.

With that in mind, I opened up Excel and got cracking in January 2016. Was I 100% successful on everything? Nope! Did I get closer than the three years prior? Abso-freaking-lutely! I felt so much better, more accomplished and satisfied, at the end of 2016 than I had in the years prior. I could chart my progress over the course of the year, adjust my expectations, and tweak my plans as I went along.

The spreadsheets were a good starting point, but I wanted to change the way I approached 2017. I did a lot of research, tapped into my business analysis and project management skills/tools, and customized some worksheets to create a package that works for me.

1. Reflect. I start with a sheet for reflection. Working on projects has taught me that it's important to look back and reflect on the things that did and didn't work. It's equally important to recognize the successes and learn a lesson from the failures or problems.

2. Dream Big. Then it's time to brainstorm/braindump. There's no right or wrong. There's no feasible or impossible. There's a just a blank page of space giving you permission to dream your biggest dreams, divulge your secret desires, and be as silly or serious as you want. If the dreams don't make you happy, are they worth pursuing?

3. Set Goals & Plan. Now it's time to start getting serious. I broke my life out into eight areas of focus: Personal, Finance, Professional, Health, Family, Friends/Social, Romantic/Relationship, and Spiritual. You can set one or more goals for each of these categories. Or you could skip some categories for now. Or you could replace them with other categories that are particular to you. The idea is to start organizing your long term big dreams into short term big goals. It's okay to keep it at "loose weight" or "read more" in this part of the planning.

4. Planning. Okay, now we start to hone in on the goals to make them manageable and achievable. I may have scoffed at the idea of SMART goals at one point (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound), but life just gets easier when you put your goals in SMART terms. If you're avoiding making a goal SMART, you're probably not committed to following through on that goal. Don't set yourself up for failure; come back to the goal when you are ready for it. The Business Analyst in me asserted itself by asking particular questions to help really sharpen my goals. The Project Manager in me was a tad gleeful over figuring out risks and resources. What can I say? I love my work!

If you follow me on social media, you know I like the reward system. It really works for me to celebrate small victories along the way to achieving my goal. So I built the proverbial carrots right into my planning worksheets.

5. Commit. I came across two lists of things to commit to in any given year: giving up, learning, seeing, etc. I liked the concept and thought it was a good brainstorming tool. Plus, I'm a sucker for lists. So I snagged the categories I liked from each version and compiled my own list.

As I tell all my project peeps - use what you like, scrap what you don't, and tweak it suit your needs. I hope the worksheets and my explanations help. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to see examples of my filled out worksheets.

Download Goal Setting Worksheets

UPDATE: I've tweaked the sheets a tiny bit (because there's always room for improvement) and added a bonus sheet.

6. Word of the Year. I discovered the concept as a trending new year thing in December 2015, liked it, and tried it out for 2016. I liked it so much, I took it to work and even had a word of the year for my professional life. These words (or phrases) worked like a mantra for me throughout the year, a touchstone that kept me in check and my efforts more focused. I really thing they helped me grow, be more intentional, and achieve more than if I'd been attempting my goals without them.

FYI 1: The information used to create my custom sheets are combination of my brain's way of organizing information, my BA and PM knowledge, and free-to-use templates by other planning-inclined folks. To the best of my knowledge, I haven't taken anything that is copyrighted or plagiarized from other sources.

FYI 2: This post was much longer in coming because I've been completely consumed by the political scene in the US. My views are very obvious on other social media platforms, but I'll try my best to keep this space neutral. 

January 18, 2015

Karma in Practice

I'm taking "you get what you give" to heart this year. Having already resolved to "be more conscientious" in 2015, I'm adding some goals, admittedly stolen from inspired by Kelsey Gryniewicz's post "15 Ways to Start 2015 with Kindness".

I'm not going with all 15 ideas, because let's be honest, change takes time and that's just too much kindness in one shot ;). I whittled it down to nine that really spoke to me, two of which will look familiar (and I've kept up with!!!).
  1. Year of Kindness Box - the idea is to fill up the box with things like thank you notes (Who writes those any more? Sadly, hardly anyone), compliments received (I can't believe I already have something for the box), moments of kindness witnessed or done, inspiring quotes, etc. Then I get to review at the end of the year or any time I'm having an off day. (side note: hello artsy-crafty project!)
  2. Create a Gratitude Journal - well you've already seen this on my resolutions list. I'm glad I went with doing a weekly journal instead of a daily, because I've already failed on my other daily aspirations. Much easier to set aside 5-10 minutes once a week, instead of a few minutes every day. I know, lazy me.
    Gratitude, thanks, journal, weekly, thankful, giving thanks, appreciation, appreciate, good stuff, good, life, positive, positivity, happiness, happy, people, grateful, gratefulness
    Simi's Weekly Gratitude Journal - 2015
  3. Three Compliments - Compliment the first three people you talk to. If I stuck to the first three, it would always be my family. I think I do this any way, but it won't hurt to be more conscientious about it.
  4. 52 Thank You Notes - Write a thank you note every week to a different person. I've "missed" the first two, but I'll definitely be doing this all year. And no email business. I picked up cute thank you cards from Target (a lot of them!) before I even read about or considered this "challenge." Thank you fate.
  5. Daily Positivity - Every day, think of a random person. Send them a positive positive message (text, email, social media post, phone call, letter, etc.). This is another one of those I'm sure I do this every day without thinking about it, but, again, it'll be good to put some real thought into it on a daily basis. Putting positive energy in the world should only mean that positive energy comes back, if Newton was really, really right ;).
  6. Volunteer - Another one that had already been on my list. Now to figure out how to accomplish this.
  7. Smile - Smiling is all sorts of good for you: release of endorphins, boost your immune system, and more. Say cheese!
  8. Self-Kindness - Do one kind thing every week for yourself - enjoy a treat you love, exercise, do something you love and rarely have time to do. For now, this is going to be my Art/Craft project of the week. If and when that becomes a part of my routine, I'll move on to something new. 
Now, to figure out what my bad habits are and which one to break. Introspection is hard! Who's going to help me with this one? ;)

January 5, 2015

2015 Resolutions

There’s something reassuring about having an outline of a plan for the coming year. Putting my resolutions on the web helps keep me more accountable (barring 2014) and gives me the satisfaction of checking things off into the “Done List”.

I've yo-yo'ed back into the double digits with my resolutions this year. I’m being a bit more diligent with the planning and success criteria with each. Hopefully that will result in more passes than fail whales. *fingers crossed*

2015 Resolutions

1.      Keep a closer eye and tighter fist on my finances. There may have been copious spending in 2014; some splurging, some necessities, and some way in advance, “just in case” purchases. Now that I’m a grown up with a career path and everything, I suppose it’s time to be a bit more fiscally responsible by
a.       Doing the 52 week money saving challenge.
b.      Limiting myself to 5 extras/splurges per month.
c.       Potentially getting a second source of income. Writing articles was fun for a bit. Or a personal shopper? There isn’t much of a market around here for that. I’ll figure it out.
2.      Do the PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge. If my math is right, that’s 52 books, so one book per week. And we’re already past week one. Oops! Better get on it. Any recommendations readers?
3.      Be creative
a.       Do one DIY or household project (digitizing all print photos) per month. This is more on the handy side.
b.      Do one craft project per week. This is more on the artsy side.
c.       Write a minimum of five lines per day. I’m definitely behind on this. Better start working on the 20 pending lines and work on today’s five as well.
4.      Break a bad habit.*
5.      Be more conscientious
a.       Maintain a weekly “Things I am Grateful For” journal. (First craft project of the year!). The original journal idea is a 365 
b.      Be more in touch with those who matter, especially my grandparents. The more advanced communication becomes, the harder it seems to get to be really in touch with those who matter.
c.       Do a good deed/get involved in social service or a volunteering effort. I used to do a lot of volunteering when I was in high school; while life wasn’t perfect, there was a sense of peace that I think volunteering gave me. I’m also a glutton for instant gratification, and nothing works better than giving back to the community.
6.      Learn a new skill. As usual. Poaching an egg is on my “bucket list” (see number 9).
7.      Vacation with Mishal. We haven’t hung out since Bermuda, which means it’s been too long. Time for another epic time together. What’s your favorite place to go for a relaxing time? I’m in the mood to just chill and take a breather from life.
8.      Visit a new place. This should, by default, be fulfilled by number 7.
9.      Revise bucket list and cross off one item. Poach an egg, make Crème Brule, try making a soufflé, visit a whole sub-bucket list of places, etc., etc... I’m still working on it.
10.  Take a risk* – huge maybe! In theory, it sounds good. I’ll let the year play itself out and see what opportunities come my way.
11.  Secret resolution – to be revealed if it’s a success. ;)

*Inspired by the 2014 resolutions on

January 3, 2015

2014 in Reflection

2014 was a blur. I say this every year, but really 2014 flew by so fast 2013 memories blended in a bit. It's been a year of learning, growth, and good moments, very few of which had to do with my resolutions. I'm okay with that because I burst beyond my Jar 'o' Good Stuff and had to break out a Box 'o' Good Stuff (both of which are missing really safely packed up). Top moments of 2014 were definitely the new (bigger!) home we've recently moved into, getting a mini-promotion in my job, and our trip to India.

Right, onto the 2014 Resolutions.

1.      Strengthen myself educationally and career-wise. In an utterly non-humble admission, I’m doing quite well in the career department. In the hierarchy of the New York state hiring system, I don’t sit very high. But in the skills and knowledge department, I've learned and applied more in one year than some (many) people have in their entire civil service career. I got lucky, having Business Analysis fall in my lap and turn out to be a perfect career switch.

I can’t imagine what dead-beat, entry-level job I could be stuck at right now, if things hadn't worked out in my favor (because an English degree and partial medical school experience can only get you so far). To anyone who is confused about their career plans, give state service (or federal service) a serious consideration; the job security and perks (such as health insurance) alone are worth it.

3.      Tap into my creative side more: painting, writing, dancing, photography, and whatever else I can get into. I haven’t necessarily done more creative work, but I've kept at it and the tail end of 2014 saw a burst of productivity. Photographic proof to be found at my Instagram. Especially fun were the projects at the Pottery Place and the one with the chalkboard paint. (PS – Don’t judge the results. I haven’t done pottery glazing in well over a decade.)

4.      Learn a new skill - always, always, always! Does putting together four bar stools all on my own count as a new skill? A men’s valet stand? How about re-familiarizing myself with the dreadful Facebook? I did become a Certified Scrum Master in March of this year, and have since applied those skills to my job. 

5.      Go on a vacation. I'd originally wanted to go on 2-3, but for now I'll settle for one vacation. My proper and uber long vacation was a month in India, and even that wasn't a vacation so much as it was a trip. Twenty eight days, ten cities, seven trains, five planes, two day trips, one major festival, an army event, and roughly 150 kg (330 lbs.) worth of shopping constitute something closer to an expedition in my books.

Curbside God, God, Road, statue, murti, bhagwan, sai baba, shiv, vishnu, holy, pious, prayer, India, Hindustan, bharat, puja, prarthna, temple, tree, mandir
Curbside Gods - Pray anytime, anywhere.

Fail Whale
2.      Cook more - there's Mom's collection of recipes to learn, plus so many recipe books that are just lying in the basement, collecting dust. The collection of cook books were dusted off, only to be boxed and moved to the new home (we have a new home). This was a washout resolution. I’ll considered it salvaged if I can poach an egg before the year’s end. That leaves me two days. Yikes! ETA: egg has not been poached.
6.      Read more! Good Reads tells me I didn't read much. I took in more profession-related articles and news pieces, which isn't the type of reading I’d meant when writing down that resolution, but at least it’s something.

7.      Blog more (haha, what an inspiring start!) Blogging was non-existent. Lots of good intentions, a fair few drafts, but nada on the actual blogging front. The good news is, this means I have plenty of drafts to polish up and present to you in the coming year.

8.      Cross off 1 item from my bucket list. I tend to avoid this as a resolution, but I think 2014 is the year to achieve something! I took a look at my resolutions list, and I believe it’s time to reconsider. The dreams of yesterday aren't necessarily the hopes for tomorrow.

September 1, 2014

Where has 2014 gone!?

Resolutions for 2014

1.      Strengthen myself educationally and career-wise
2.      Cook more – there’s mom’s collection of recipes to learn, plus so many recipe books that are just lying in the basement, collecting dust.
3.      Tap into my creative side more: painting, writing, dancing, photography, and whatever else I can get into.
4.      Learn a new skill – always, always, always!
5.      Go on a vacation. I’d originally wanted to go on 2-2, but for now I’ll settle for one vacation.
6.      Read more!
7.      Blog more (haha, what an inspiring start!)
8.      Cross off 1 item from my bucket list. I tend to avoid this as a resolution, but I think 2014 is the year to achieve something!

This year has positively flown, with no by your leave or excuse me. I swear it was May just yesterday, and here we are saying hello to September already. It doesn't make any sense. I didn't cook more (oops, #2), I didn't blog at all (sorry #7), and the only dent I've made in my creative exploration (#3) is stockpiling canvasses and paint as if it’s my job (I’m such a shopaholic!). I’d cross off a bucket list item (#8), if I could only find my bucket list (I swear I lose more stuff when I clean). I have done a fair amount of reading, exploring new authors and genres (#6, you can breathe). And I do still have 3 months to redeem myself, so maybe 2014 won’t be a complete wash. Four out of eight…is that a new record low for me?

This has been my first year as a non-student. Hello adulthood. I’m doing well at work (really well, thankfully). I've gotten a certification that makes my resume look a little prettier, and gives me useful skills that I apply to my work (#1 and #4, check and check).

I’d been working out pretty intensively in the first half of the year. That, coupled with a round or two of juicing helped me drop some weight and get healthier. Score for a non-resolution win! Side effect of working out: my back is busted again. Between doctors, meds, and physical therapy, I've been better, more functional for the past couple of years. But at the beginning of this summer I could feel my back reacting the same way that it had in 2012. Long story short, I was smart this time and went to a chiropractor right away. (More about that experience later…I promise!) Three months later, I’m doing much better, though still not optimal, and definitely not back to a state where I can be working out.

Which kinda sucks because we’re going to India in October (knocked #5 out of the park!). I’ll be going back after 10 years. Holy! I would have loved to be more in shape, but hey ho, this is my lot and I’m choosing to accept it instead of wishing and regretting. It’ll be a fairly long trip, with stops along a few places in northern India. I’m really looking forward to spending time with my Nana-Nani, meeting relatives I've never even heard of, and shopping. There’s an army celebration that we will be attending; it will be interesting to meet my contemporaries. Hello awkward times? Maybe it’ll be good times. *fingers crossed*

Despite the rushed feeling, there have been plenty of good times in 2014 - my "Jar o' Good Stuff" is so stuffed I've had to expand. I've been to three baby showers, which is exactly three more than I've ever been to. One ladies sangeet. One wedding reception. A few graduations. A birthday party that involved a belly dancer. A birthday party that involved a toddler. A random party that involved an uncle insistently serving everyone alcohol – now that was awkward! I made friends with kids who are now grownups, and observed grownups who have behaved worse than children. My social life has been entertaining (okay, more accurately, it’s my parents’ social life. In my defense, my friends are scattered around the world – Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, San Diego, India, Croatia…just a tiny bit hard to get together with these peeps from Albany, NY). I’m getting involved in…what do adults call extracurricular activities? Whatever it’s called, I’m doing more of that. The balance is definitely tipped to the positive side in 2014.

I just have to get cracking on the rest of my resolutions now, so ta!

March 22, 2014

2013 in Reflection

2013 in Reflection

2013 whizzed by so fast, I'm still dizzy! Overall, it was a good year. I participated in two research conferences, interned in a PR position (so that's one off my career experience "bucket list"), got a job, and graduated from UAlbany. If there were things that didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped, well these highlights have completely overshadowed them.

1. Keep up with blogging - I catapulted to 20 blogs in 2012. I squeaked in 21 in 2013. Thank God I worded my resolution as "keep up" not "blog very frequently" or "blog on a consistent/regular basis".

2. Keep up with reading - I'm not entirely sure how many books I read, but since I graduated with a degree in English, it was a fair number. (Irish literature ... not really my thing, as it happens).

4. Get a job - check!

5. Learn a new skill - again. Yeah, there's been plenty of on-the-job training and I've certainly picked up skills there. Plus the research conferences and the internship - lots of small and medium-sized skill picked up along the way from all of that.

9. Get back in touch with Caitlin - done. Now to make the effort to stay in touch. Something I'm not too brilliant at all the time. (speaking of which, excuse me while I go wish someone a quick happy birthday)

12. Get healthier - Am I at optimal health? No! Am I healthier? Yes. Lost some more weight. Hitting the gym more often. Eating better - no crash diets though. Those don't work. At all.

3. Do 4+ photo challenges - why do I bother? Unless you count half-assedly doing some Instagram challenge of the month series, no, this definitely did not happen.

6. Stop enabling Person X - This was just such an unhealthy way to think and go about things. Moving on!

7. Vacation with Mishal! - Because it's high time we hung out and were crazy together! I have the best times with this girl!

8. Move to Atlanta - All part of moving on with life. Whichever direction things go in, I think it's time I became more independent.

11. Do at least 1 crafty project - see. Now I'm being super honest. I'm not counting the spray-painting I did, because really, even a five year old can do that. *hangs head in shame*


10. Help Mom out more - baby steps. I'm just used to doing things my way in my own time. Gets awkward not being the person in charge when you're back home.

13. Make myself Priority #1 - over the course of the year I've learned to moderate this and work on the little things that add up to making myself #1. I'm going to (try to) put that into practice in 2014. *fingers crossed*

memory board, memory, to do, tasks, lists, list, task, things to do, board
Though the To-Do/Memory Board is roughly the same.
Jar, good stuff, 2013, memories, memory, life, happiness, happy, success, successes, jar o good stuff, good stuff
The Jar O' Good Stuff filled up quite a bit.

Maybe I can get crafty and put all of this in a scrap book. (Maybe!)

March 17, 2014

(Belated) Happy New Year! - 2014 Resolutions

This year is flying by even faster than the last. 2014 has been so cold, it's taken me a couple of months to thaw into things. It hasn't been quite the clean slate start that I like to have at the beginning of a year; the dust and faint marks of 2013 are still lingering in the air. I'm hoping the transition into Spring will blow out some of the stale remnants of 2013 and bring more focus to 2014.

My original list of resolutions disappeared on me. I think the piece of paper knew better and walked away in time for me to realize that 2014 isn't following any plans or intentions. January, February, and half of March have really given me a chance to reconsider, reevaluate, and revise my resolutions.

Hopefully this list is more comprehensive and realistic (in no order of priority):

1. Strengthen myself educationally and career-wise.
2. Cook more - there's Mom's collection of recipes to learn, plus so many recipe books that are just lying in the basement, collecting dust.
3. Tap into my creative side more: painting, writing, dancing, photography, and whatever else I can get into.
4. Learn a new skill - always, always, always!
5. Go on a vacation. I'd originally wanted to go on 2-3, but for now I'll settle for one vacation.
6. Read more!
7. Blog more (haha, what an inspiring start!)
8. Cross off 1 item from my bucket list. I tend to avoid this as a resolution, but I think 2014 is the year to achieve something!

2013's thirteen resolutions weren't 100% successful (2013 in Reflection), so hopefully eight is more realistic! 

December 2, 2013

Christmas Shopping with a Purpose - Top 5 Places to Turn to This Christmas

There's nothing better than piles of gifts under a Christmas tree. The rush of joy, the excitement, the happiness, are unbeatable. Except. They are. What's better than a pile of goodies? A pile of goodies that pay it forward!

christmas, shopping, tree, gifts, presents, shopping with purpose, shopping for a cause, social responsibility, one for one, buy one give one, special, buy, shop, smart shopping, responsible,

There are many ways to make a difference in our communities, especially around holiday season: volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to Toys for Tots, make a donation to your charity of choice.

You can also shop to change the world around you. Here are some places you can shop for both your Christmas list AND to help pay it forward. (And just in time for Cyber Monday!)

1. International Princess Project - a company that is "creating pathways to freedom for women escaping sex slavery" in India. Not only is IPP helping end human trafficking, it creates an opportunity for more than 150 women and girls to learn a trade (sewing beautiful "Punjammies") that help sustain a new hope and a new lifestyle. I'm all for shopping for "fashion that takes a stand against human trafficking" - the pajamas and shirts are truly beautiful and unique, and will be appreciated by any mom, sister, wife, girlfriend, daughter...

christmas, shopping, tree, gifts, presents, shopping with purpose, shopping for a cause, social responsibility, one for one, buy one give one, special, buy, shop, smart shopping, responsible, punjammies, international princess, project, pajamas, cute, india, custom, cyber monday, sex trafficking, human trafficking, slaver, self-sufficient, women, girl power,
With a sweet deal on #CyberMonday (40% off + free shipping on orders over $50),
they definitely have a spot on my Christmas shopping list.

2. Three Avocados - this one's for the coffee lovers (that's right, nothing to do with avocados). It's a non-profit that puts 100% of its net earnings to clean water in Uganda. Clean water is a global problem, especially in developing nations. There are many initiatives that are working toward providing sustainable clean water resources. The perk with buying directly through Three Avocados is, you're guaranteed that 100% of your money is going to be used to make a direct impact.

Having actually tried the coffee, I can confidently say it's delicious! A rich, warm coffee that makes you feel good for all sorts of reasons!

christmas, shopping, tree, gifts, presents, shopping with purpose, shopping for a cause, social responsibility, one for one, buy one give one, special, buy, shop, smart shopping, responsible, delicious, coffee, caffeine, water, cause, cafe, roast, brew, keurig, packaged, donation
Coffee for a Cause - packaged just right for Christmas! :)
Twitter: @ThreeAvocados

3. Blanket America - it isn't just about blankets. It's about all sorts of bedding, and towels, and window treatments. And helping. Most importantly, it's about the helping: "generating automatic donations" with every purchase, and helping the company's commitment to "ending extreme poverty." This "buy 1, give 1" model doesn't just help make a direct impact for the American community. It also contributes to disaster relief in Haiti and Blanket America's Choose Haiti mission.

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Beautiful bedding and blankets under your tree,
an end to poverty in the US and disaster relief in Haiti.
Twitter: @BlanketAmerica

4. Toms Shoes - a very straight-forward one for one company: every pair of shoe you buy means a free pair of shoes for children in need around the world. Toms has expanded to "providing prescription glasses, medical treatmetn and/or sight-saving surgery" for every eyewear purchased by you. Over 10 million pairs of shoes and 150,000 visions restored because of purchases made by us. Toms has a lot of other cute products as well - really, a little something for everyone! Every purchase leads to the delivery of provisions, healthcare, opportunities, education, and training for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
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$10 off $50 purchases, free shipping through December 2, AND a holiday gift guide - Toms has you covered!
Twitter: @TOMS

5. Warby Parker - a pair of stylish glasses for you or someone on your list means funding and/or glasses to VisionSpring and other non-profit partners, training for low-income entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own glasses-selling business, affordable glasses for communities across the globe, and lives that are bettered from your purchase. Warby Parker takes the "buy 1, give 1" and takes it a step further: the company doesn't just provide a product to the customer and an individual from the developing global community, it creates a community of self-enabled individuals and a chain of success stories - that's over 500,000 lives touched to date.

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A sweet new pair for you can mean vision for the first time for someone who was struggling before.
Twitter: @WarbyParker

Of course, your shopping at these sites doesn't have to be limited to the holiday season. These make great gifts or shopping experiences year round. The satisfaction of having paid it forward just can't be beat!

(This is not an exhaustive list of companies that follow a one for one model or support shopping with a cause. Some other social good companies are listed in this shop with meaning article. I'm sure there are many other companies - google is your friend!)

December 1, 2013

Gifts for Guys (especially dads)

alcohol, handkerchief, custom, customize, gift, present, holiday, christmas, father's day, special, dad, father, daddy, boyfriend, husband, brother, dude, guy, shopping, what to getWe've all been there. Father's Day sneaks up on you, or you keep putting off buying Dad a birthday gift in search of the perfect thing. Men are ridiculously hard to shop for, since you can only buy them so many wallets, belts, colognes, and ties before the collection turns into a hoarding.

Here are a few ideas I've recently turned to with great success:

1) Monogrammed handkerchief - I lucked on a set of these and picked them up because my dad uses a handkerchief on a daily basis. He absolutely loved them, to the point where he didn't open the box for a few months because they were "too special" and nice. Thankfully, he's since used them on special occasions (or when the rest are in the laundry!)

2) A bottle (or case) of special alcohol - if he's a beer drinker, find him some local brew. If he's into wine, treat him to an extra special bottle - you can even pair this with a wine tasting at a local vineyard if possible, or a fancy meal (some restaurants allow you to bring in your own bottle - check before making a reservation). If it's any other alcohol and he's running low, show him you pay attention and get him a bottle that he'll appreciate for some time.

3) Tickets to a game/show/concert that he would enjoy. If he wants to take you along, but you're not particularly into it - suck it up! You're doing something to make him happy, so consider all the times he's probably bit his tongue and gone along with what you want. It's only fair to return the favor.

4) A meal made from scratch - foodies love it when you make the extra effort, and everyone knows the way to a man's heart is through his stomach ;) If he's the one who's into cooking, find a local restaurant that does lessons in pizza making or whatever their thing is. Some places offer one-day classes in ethnic cuisines; if he's adventurous, that's an opportunity he would love.

5) A massage appointment - even if they don't admit it, most men like to be pampered once in a while. If it's been a stressful time, they'll really appreciate this...and probably get hooked!
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