Monday, September 2, 2013

25 Acts of Kindness

I hope you all enjoyed a fun and relaxing Labor Day weekend! I spent a few days on the Cape with friends, taking it easy and avoiding the craziness that is Boston's prime moving weekend.

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago and finally want to share it...

Every year around the second week of August I start hearing the inevitable question, "What do you want to do for your birthday?" And every year when I'm asked that question my answer tends to be, "I don't know," "I don't care" or "I don't want to make a big deal out of it."

Yes, I'm an often overbearing type-A planner who jumps (often too quickly) at the opportunity to plan things for others, but when it comes to planning something that leaves me as the center of attention? No thank you, I'll pass.

Awhile back I read an article (I couldn't find it to share with you, but found a similar one here) about a woman who celebrated her birthday by committing as many acts of kindness as the number of candles on her birthday cake. It was such a fun message, and since I'm a sucker for a good life lesson, this year I decided to try it for myself.

1. Pay it forward. I paid for the man behind me in the drive thru at Dunkin' Donuts last weekend. It may sound odd, but I've done this a few times (mostly around the holidays) and it always makes me smile thinking about their face when they're handed their free coffee and told to have a great day. 

2. Be appreciative. I bought simple flowers for my wonderful roommate/best friend, who outdid herself planning my birthday festivities as a reminder that I think she's awesome.

3. Kill 'em with kindness. People who leave stingy tips at restaurants bug me. You never know what someone's story is or what kind of day they're having, so even if you don't get the greatest of service - kill 'em with kindness. I had a less than impressive waitress at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago, and instead of reflecting my disappointment in her tip, I chose to be generous... and left a smiley face on a napkin. 

4. Reward goodness. On that note, I had an awesome waiter at a different restaurant last week. He was incredibly thoughtful and helpful and just genuinely nice. I love nice people. We left him a great tip as well and thanked him multiple times for making our experience such a great one.

5. Speak up. I sent a card to a friend who I haven't seen in far too long, but have been thinking about a lot lately, just to say hello and let her know I miss her.

6. Acknowledge those who inspire you. I donated $25 to Chase Your Dreams Now, a wonderful foundation that was started by a close (and awesome) family friend to honor his sister and nephew by supporting kids in the pursuit of their dreams. 

7. Find ways to give back through your passions. I finally tested out the Charity Miles app, which allows you to raise money for charities just by completing workouts.

8. Be a source of love and support. I picked up some things to send to my little sister who just moved into college for the first time. I learned while I was home last weekend, however, that she's pretty set with care packages at the moment, so I think I'll save this one for a later date!

9. Donate what you don't need/use. In my cleaning spree a couple of weeks ago I donated two bags of clothes to goodwill. 

 10. Round up. I clicked 'yes' on the option to round up my total purchase of Duck Tour tickets and donate the change to charity. More and more businesses are doing this, and while it may only be a few cents added to your purchase - it all adds up.

11. Help a stranger. In the age of smart phones and hand-held GPS technology this one doesn't happen as often, but I helped two people who stopped me on my walk home from work and asked for directions.

12. Promote brains (and crayons). While I was shopping for care package items for my sister, I picked up some school supplies to donate to a local program.

 13. Remind those you love. I cooked a nice dinner for my boyfriend, just to remind him that I think he's pretty special.

14. Just add sprinkles. I followed up aforementioned dinner with homemade cupcakes, since he had been claiming that I never bake for him (lies).

15. Share inspiration. I've shared a few quotes in the past couple of weeks, but this one from my last Thursday Thoughts post is my favorite.

16. Sweeten someones day. I baked blueberry banana muffins for some awesome people I'm lucky enough to call my co-workers.

17. Spread the word. As a Marketing professional, and as a consumer who utilizes reviews on a daily basis, I know how important recommendations can be. Thus, I took some time to write glowing reviews on five of my favorite restaurants on Yelp. 

18. Teach. I helped a woman at the laundromat learn how to operate the washing machine. 

19. Donate more. While wrangling up old clothes to donate, I also collected and donated a bag of old textbooks and other books that were just taking up space. 

20. Give a smile. I sent a card to a friend of mine who has been pretty sick lately, just to reminder her that she's loved. 

21. Spread the love and discover. Few bloggers will argue that they'd prefer not to get positive comments on their posts. In an effort to spread some kindness, and read some new blogs, I went on a blog comment crawl, clicking through from blog to blog and leaving nice, positive comments. 

22. Don't be a jerk. I consciously made an effort to be a nicer driver, let people in and stop being so impatient. I live in Boston, people. This is difficult sometimes. 

23. Spread some sunshine. I also made a conscious effort to smile at strangers and say hello. This, I like to think, is pretty normal for me, but is sometimes harder to do after a long day. Instead of imposing your exhaustion, stress and frustration on others, make someone smile or laugh. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel.

24. Put away the technology. This is something I constantly battle, I'm always connected. But I've made an effort to put the iPhone, laptop, etc. down and just enjoy what (and who) is around me. This is one I'd like to continue to work on.

25. Say thank you. Like many other things on this list, I'd like to think that I do this on a daily basis, but I know it can get lost in the shuffle of life. I've tried to say thank you a lot more in the past couple of weeks. To my family, to my friends, to the people who make my coffee, even to the waitress who's service was less than impressive. Oh, and thank you to you. If you're reading this, you're pretty special in my book.
Now, I don't usually solicit birthday presents, but if you're feeling really generous today and want to join the celebration...

Do something kind. Share it with others, feel good about yourself, and let it make you smile. 

Leave a comment and tell me about it! I'd love to hear about an act of kindness you did for someone else, recently or in the past. 

Have you every been the recipient of a random act of kindness?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

1. Fact: when I was younger, I used to see my parents, family and friends with key chains and think, "I can't wait until I'm old enough and cool enough to have a key chain like that." Now? I don't know what the heck I thought was so cool about it but mine is getting a little too clunky for my liking. Oh the random things we wish for as kids.

2. I'm finally trying to add speed and hill training back into my workouts. For awhile when I was just starting to get back into running, I shied away from doing anything but slow and steady paced runs. This week I did a short progression run (WU, mile 1 (10:00), mile 2 (9:41), mile 3 (9:20), CD) followed by a shorter trail run the next day with plenty of hills. My hips/glutes are super tight today, so trying to remember to stretch and foam roll when I can, but so happy to have some variation back.

3.  This:

4. I don't like crunchy cookies. The softer, the better. I prefer dough, actually, but for some reason the directions always say bake. Oreos are my exception. A weakness of mine, if you will. My mom bought me this cookbook for my birthday after we tried out the bakery for lunch earlier this month when she came to visit. Earlier this week my little sister and I tested out the recipe for homemade Oreos. Oh my. They were delightful.

5. It's cool and rainy in the Boston area today. I'm diggin' it. The bf and I are planning to order pizza and (hopefully) watch a movie. I'm thinking of picking up the Great Gatsby without asking his input, since I've been dying to see it since it came out in theaters.

What's on your keychain? Or something you remember wanting as a kid that adults had?

Chewy or crunchy cookies?

Favorite pizza toppings?
I'm totally boring and almost always opt for cheese. If I'm making homemade pizza I'll be a lot more adventurous with toppings - veggie and avocado or BBQ chicken usually.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Tired Birthday Girl

Three days later, I'm finally getting a chance to sit down and scroll through the many Happy Birthday wall posts that so nicely graced my Facebook page on Saturday. Truthfully, as much as I appreciate the social media love, my weekend was as far removed from the wonderful world of the web as it has been in a long time... and I'm OK with that.

In the few seconds that I feel like I have had to myself in the past several days, I wondered how I would write this post. Recapping a weekend packed with 25th birthday celebrations and time spent with family celebrating the life of my Grandmother and Uncle. I can't say that those were two events that I was looking forward to pairing together, but it wasn't about me and I was grateful in the end to be surrounded by the people who mean the most.

So, for now, I'm choosing not to write any lengthy recaps, and leaving you with a simple birthday photo and a promise that I will share more soon. For now, this tired birthday girl is getting some much needed sleep and enjoying time with her family that doesn't involve plans scheduled down to the minute.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Thoughts & Blueberry Banana Muffins

1. Lately I've been having trouble falling asleep, which seems to have made waking up in the morning that much more painful. No, but really, those first few minutes after my alarm goes off, I kind of feel like the world is ending. I know I don't help my cause by pressing snooze 10,000 times, I just can't help it. I need to fix this, and fix it soon, since it's clearly not going to get any easier in the next few months once it's totally dark outside until at least 7am.

3. I came up with a new business plan idea! Recruit handsome men for runners to hire to help them stretch out after workouts. Anyone want in? Seriously, I think this has potential.

2. It's back to school season. This terrifies me. Not only does it bring back those nostalgic, "I remember when I was packing up to head back to school" feelings, it also brings a nice slap in the face of, "Hey Sarah, you're an adult. Get your butt out of bed and go to work." That abuse I consider tolerable, but chaos throughout my beloved Target? No, thank you. Aisles lined with massive cardboard bins filled with items to be snatched up by desperate college students who don't even realize that no, you don't actually need purple toaster for your dorm room.

4. Today begins a weekend filled with birthday festivities! Yes, it's true, I turn 25 on Saturday. I've been brainstorming ways to get out of it but haven't come up with anything good yet. I'm pretty excited though, since I'll be spending my time celebrating with lots of people that I love - including Kenny Chesney and Eric Church who so nicely agreed that Countryfest should be held on my special day. Aren't they thoughtful? Tonight I kicked things off with a fantastic mani/pedi after work, followed by dinner with a handful of my favorite people. I have the best girlfriends, they seriously make my world go 'round.

5. I made you guys muffins! Well, kind of. I made muffins and am sharing the recipe with you so that you can return the favor. This recipe is based on one my Dad has used for years and is one of my favorites. Simple and yummy. Enjoy!

Blueberry Banana Muffins
yields ~18 muffins
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 medium ripe banana (mashed)
1 cup+ blueberries (+ if you're ambitious, or like me and just love blueberries)

Combine flour, sugar, milk, oil, yogurt, egg, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl with a whisk until incorporated. Add banana and blueberries, mix well with a rubber spatula.

Spoon batter into lined muffin pan until cups are ~3/4 full. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Are you a morning person? Any brilliant tips/tricks to get out of bed?

Something you brought to college with you but never actually needed?
I remember convincing my step dad that I needed a tool kit (like, hammer, nails, screwdriver, bolts, etc.) going into each school year. I might have used the screwdriver once, which is debatable. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Easy Snack Ideas

In case you haven't figured it out already, I'm a planner. I don't do surprises well, and my day is just peachy when everything goes according to plan. I'm also a snacker. I'm hungry ALL. THE. TIME. Especially when I'm running a lot. Or even when I'm not. What can I say, I love food. 

I'm not a big fan of running around in the morning trying to piece together breakfast, snack and/or lunch options. Rushing usually leads me toward poor decisions. Sure, that roll of thin mints counts as breakfast, why not? As a result, I try to plan ahead and make it easy to make the healthiest choices possible when it comes to things to munch on during the work day. 

We all know that convenience is huge when it comes to snacking (and meal planning/eating in general). Pre-made munchies are easier to grab-and-go, and if those pre-made munchies are healthy? Winning all around.

1. Snack size baggies - great for portion control!
2. Restaurant cups and covers. I buy these in bulk at iParty and use them for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Dips, salad dressing, you name it. So convenient.

3. Trail mix with chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit. Make your own or buy in bulk.
4. Grapes
5. Strawberries (with fruit you can even use your little cups for some Greek yogurt for dipping!)
6. Kettlecorn
7. Cookies. There's nothing wrong with a little indulgence, but pre-portion them and leave the sleeve at home!

8. Crackers and cheese
9. Baby carrots and hummus
10. Celery sticks and ranch
11. Smartfood or lightly salted popcorn
12. Almonds or other nuts

Set aside some time on Sunday evenings and prep several snack bags for the week - you'll thank yourself later.

Happy snacking!

What are your favorite go-to snacks during the week?

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Weekend Collage

Similar to last weekend's festivities, it's safe to say I may need a second cup of coffee today. I swear I'm not complaining, since it was all good stuff, but I'm opting to keep this recap short and sweet with a collage of pictures.

Longest run (and pain-free) since March? Check.

Four concerts in five days? Check.

Sarah is totally spoiled? Double check. Trust me, I know... and am so grateful.

Country concert or rock concert?
Love both, couldn't pick one or the other. Love me some hip-hop on my iPod but no desire to see it live.

How do you drink your coffee?
Iced (always), a little extra milk and no sugar.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Yes, guilty. Published Friday AM again.
It feels like another gorgeous fall-like day in Boston and even though it's still August, I'm totally OK with it. If you could combine the long days of summer with the crisper temperatures of fall, I'd be one happy camper.

1. I'm thankful for: spending time with girlfriends. Between birthdays, concerts, dinner and froyo dates, and even early morning workouts, I've spent a lot of time with my girlfriends in the past week or two. Things have been busy lately, and though plans with them are still plans, I've really enjoyed them.

2. I'm frustrated with: running. This is not a new one. Coming back from an injury after having taken several months off of running is... surprise... not fun. Trying to come back in the middle of the busiest part of summer? Crazy. My mileage has plateaued around 3.5 mile runs, and though I have had a couple of strong ones, for the most part my workouts have left me tired and feeling really out of shape. I'm focusing on keeping things in perspective (I really have only been easing back to running for a few weeks), staying positive and continuing to make it a priority.

3. I'm loving: This perspective...

4. I'm listening to: Parachute. All day, every day. They're a band I fell in love with awhile back when they popped up on my Matt Nathanson Pandora station. Since then, I've downloaded a few songs here and there. When I discovered they'd be playing in Boston at a small venue in Cambridge, I jumped at the opportunity to grab my girlfriends, some tickets and go. The concert was Wednesday night and it was one of the best I've been to. Seeing them, and seeing them in a smaller, much more intimate venue was just awesome. If you like Maroon 5, Matt Nathanson, Mat Kearney, John Mayer or any similar sounding alternative-meets-rock-meets-pop-meets-R&B type music, check them out. Or just do it because I told you to.

5. I'm craving: All things fall. This weather has me all kinds of confused. I see pumpkin spice lattes, baked apples with cinnamon, crockpot meals and casseroles, and I can almost taste them. In my defense my Twitter and Pinterest feeds seem to be confirming that I'm not alone in these cravings. I won't wish away the freshness and simplicity of summer veggies and meals on the grill or tossed together in a salad, but sometimes a girl just needs gourds and comfort food in her life.

Enjoy your weekend!