Boston Yoga Mala

This weekend I did something insanely awesome – I went to a Yoga Mala. The first annual Boston Yoga Mala at the Boston Button Factory.

boston yoga mala

For those unfamiliar, a yoga mala is something crazy people do 108 sun salutations performed in a group. Yoga malas are done all over the world, often coinciding with the changing of the seasons. This yoga mala was for the Spring Equinox. While most normal people were getting their Easter baskets ready, I spent a casual 3 hours doing back bends, downward dogs, and yogi push ups. No biggie.

sun salutation a and b

Source: yogafoundations.com

Until a few months ago, I had never heard of a yoga mala. As far as I’m aware, Boston has never had a yoga mala before – at least not one independent from a yoga studio. Carrie Bresnick, a Boston area native, set out to change that.

Having spent a few years in hippy crunchy Los Angeles where she participated in yoga malas, Bresnick had a vision to host a yoga mala back in her hometown. An idea quickly turned into a Facebook page with invitations sent to friends, family, and anyone in town who had posted a selfie on a yoga mat on Facebook. Obviously, an invitation to the Boston Yoga Mala Facebook Page showed up in my notifications.

Likely caught after an inspiring yoga class or on a caffeine high, I signed up, blissfully ignorant to how strenuous yet transformative a yoga mala could be. Someone who puts 108% of herself into everything, I took the idea of a yoga mala in stride, assuming at best it would be awesome and at worst I’d get a good workout. So…how was it?

The Boston Yoga Mala was great! Despite the fact that my arms are so sore that I’m struggling to type, I would do it again. Set in the awesomely historic Boston Button Factory, Bresnick’s first hosted yoga mala was a success. The turnout was good for an inaugural event – about 20 participants.

boston yoga mala

Upon entering the Boston Button Factory, Bresnick greeted everyone with a warm smile, a bottle of water, and a small towel. The mala was co-led by Bresnick and Paula Passanisi, a forest yoga instructor from the The Yoga Joy Studio, in Gloucester. The 108 sun salutations were a mix of versions A and B, making the flow interesting and challenging.

Broken into 12 sets of 9 rounds of salutations, Bresnick and Passanisi gave participants an intention for each set. Intentions give you something to focus on during your practice – a friendly reminder of why you’re on your mat, what brought you to it, and what you hope to get out of the practice.

After almost 3 hours, we had completed 108 sun salutations at the Boston Yoga Mala and welcomed in the Spring…or at least the balmy 30 degree weather known as Spring in Boston. Although I’m sore, it was an amazing experience that I’m looking forward to doing again. Bresnick has plans to  host more yoga malas in the future – likely once a season. If you’re into yoga and challenging yourself, keep an eye out for events.

Namaste.

Why Every Renter Needs Renter’s Insurance

Two weeks ago, my apartment crapped the bed. Literally. An ice dam on the roof above my apartment caused water to collect in my ceiling. Water pooled and the ceiling directly above my bed, unable to bear the weight of who knows how many gallons of water, collapsed.

ice dam ceiling collapse

I was not present during the collapse and am physically unharmed. My bed, however, cannot say the same.

For almost two weeks, I stayed in a hotel in my neighborhood, relatively worry-free. I slept in comfort while my apartment, freezing cold from the hole in the ceiling, dried out and was repaired. I can’t afford a two week hotel stay in Boston – rooms start at $350/night. My landlord certainly didn’t foot the bill. So, how did I manage to spend almost 2 weeks in a Hilton? I have renter’s insurance.

Renter’s insurance is the best decision a renter can make. Similar to homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance will protect you against nearly anything that someone else cannot be held responsible for – including putting you up in a hotel when you’re displaced and replacing your damaged personal items.

If you’re a renter and you don’t have renter’s insurance, you need to get it today. Here’s why.

1 – Renters Insurance is Cheap

Many people think that renter’s insurance is too expensive to get. They’re wrong.

My policy costs me less than $200 a year – $179 to be exact. That’s about $15 a month – the cost of a fancy cocktail, a manicure, or a box of condoms.

I have a very conservative renter’s insurance policy, meaning that I have covered my butt with a ton of insurance – loss of use, replacement housing, injury to others, $500k in personal liability – if it’s insurable, I pay for it. All to the tune of $15/month.

Have other insurance like a car or boat? Like those pesky cable packages, insurance premiums may be reduced by bundling policies. See, you knew that boat was a good investment – bundle your insurance and save!

2 – Renter’s Insurance Replaces Your Stuff

The purpose of insurance is to make you as whole as possible after a loss. Renter’s insurance will replace your personal property (clothes, shoes, furniture, rugs, jewelry) after a loss caused by theft, fire, water, etc. Think your landlord is going to fork over cash for your stuff? Most leases state that a landlord is not responsible for replacement costs unless there is damage or theft from their negligence. You can try to fight it, but you’ll only incur legal fees, missed work, and a headache.

You don’t need to have fancy things to justify renter’s insurance. Your apartment smells like Swedish particle board and cheap clothes from Target? Join the club. But believe me, the cost of that stuff adds up.

In the case of my collapsed ceiling: my mattress, box spring, feather bed, mattress pad, comforter, brand new duvet cover, sheets, pillows, bed skirt, headboard, and cedar storage bags  under my bed were ruined. All of the clothes in those storage bags need to be dry cleaned. That’s something to the tune of over $3k. If I didn’t have renter’s insurance I would have to pay out of pocket to replace it all – or sleep on my couch forever.

ceiling collapse on bed 3 – Renter’s Insurance Provides Interim Housing

If there is a fire or flood in your house, can you afford to stay in a hotel for two weeks? You could couch surf or wait for your landlord to get around to worrying about you, but no one wants to couch surf and you know your landlord doesn’t care. Renter’s insurance can set you up with replacement housing – insurance companies may get a discounted rate on hotel stays for emergency situations.

I discovered that my ceiling collapsed at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night – the property manager of my building said he would figure out alternate housing within “the next few days.”  But when you have an 8-foot wide dripping hole in your ceiling and are breathing in lead paint, drywall dust, and potentially asbestos*, days will not cut it – I needed help immediately.

Within 2 hours of filing a claim the next day, my insurance company had a room reserved for me at a nearby hotel. When the property manager called hours later, he was astounded that I had found a place to stay – he still didn’t have an answer or a timeline for me. I stayed at a nearby hotel for a week in a half while repairs were made – something I was very grateful for once I discovered the hot tub on premises.

hilton hot tub

*NOTE: Replacement housing is not always provided. In my case, the apartment was deemed uninhabitable and dangerous due to structural – risk of the ceiling continuing to collapse – and health concerns – breathing in dust from lead paint (my lease included a notification) and possibly asbestos (some research revealed that the brownstone was converted to apartments during the reign of asbestos).

4 – Renter’s Insurance Claims Have a Low Threshold

I have a $250 deductible so the threshold for a claim is low. That means that I don’t have to wait until everything is ruined or my computer is stolen to file a claim and get help. The lower your deductible, generally the higher the premium. But my premium is still pretty low.

5 – Renter’s Insurance Can Subrogate Claims

As mentioned in the first section, landlords are generally not responsible for replacing things unless theft or damage was caused by their negligence. You may have a jerk of a landlord who treats your building like an abandoned truck stop, but taking your landlord to court and proving it will be a pain in the butt. Not to mention, if you can’t afford to replace your stuff and need your landlord to, you probably can’t afford a lawyer or miss work to represent yourself.

Avoid that hassle by getting renter’s insurance and getting your things replaced. After you’ve been compensated for the loss, your renter’s insurance may subrogate the claim. That means that if your insurance company thinks the landlord should be responsible for the costs, they will file a claim against your landlord’s insurance company. The insurance companies duke it out so you don’t have to. You probably won’t even know it’s happening, but rest assured that subrogation, or karma, will come back to bite your landlord in the butt if they were responsible for your loss.

In case you’re wondering, no one paid me to write this. It’s merely a public service announcement because I care. Have I convinced you to get renter’s insurance yet?

5 Things to Do To Make Other People Happy

Lately, I’ve been in a great mood. A stark contrast to the funk I was in around this time last year when I was miserable and unfulfilled both with my job and my personal life. For the most part, aside from the ongoing battle with Adobe Illustrator at work (I really hate that tool), things are very good right now.

I had been struggling with the fact that I’m no longer volunteering my time for good causes, something that is important to me. When I was living in New Jersey, I volunteered for a full-service domestic violence agency. In Boston, I don’t have easy access to those types of organizations: physical distance + a lack of time and transportation makes it tough to get involved.

So I’ve made an effort to do what I can for those directly around me in order to make the world a happier place. If you’re reading this and thinking, “What is she putting in her coffee?” that’s ok, I’m right there with you. My snark and sass are a still a huge part of me, but believe it or not, I’m actually a nice person.

I’m not one to toot my own horn or to post about charitable acts on Facebook. In fact, I find those posts annoying and disingenuous. I do nice things because I like to do them and because they make me feel good. But the winter is long and the days are cold and I’m sick of listening to people complain. So, if we could all just make a teeny tiny conscious effort to give each other a break by being nicer, that would be awesome.

Here are 5 itty bitty things that I’ve been focusing on to brighten up my day and hopefully someone else’s. None of this “pay it forward” or “buy someone’s coffee” or “send a useless gift to the first 10 people who comment on this post” type of thing. Just general, every day niceness, that has fallen by the wayside.

Here are 5 things to do to make other people happy:

Greet people. “Good morning” or “Good evening” or “Goodbye” are nice things to say. Acknowledge other people in this world. We’re so tuned in to our devices that sometimes we forget that we’re not alone. We’re all in this together. We might as well try to make it pleasant.

Thank People. Be kind. Acknowledge when someone else is nice or helping you – even indirectly. This winter was full of complaints. The ice, the snow, the lack of an efficient public transit system. Remember that as you complain about the ice and snow on your way to work in a warm office, someone is out there shoveling your ass out so you can arrive at that warm office. The failures of an organization shouldn’t be blamed on its workers.

Thank the people who do the things that you don’t want to do and get you the places you need to be. The person shoveling, the police officer who stops traffic so you can cross the street, the motorist who decides not to run you over while crossing the street, or your Uber driver. Always, always, ALWAYS thank your Uber driver – it’s a mutual rating system, you know!

Wish someone a Happy Birthday on Facebook. I fell into a habit of not wishing random acquaintances a Happy Birthday because, well, they’re random acquaintances and it’s just a birthday! But not everyone is as blasé about their birthday as I am and a birthday greeting could really make someone’s day.

In fact, I spent more time telling myself why NOT to wish someone a Happy Birthday it than it would have taken to actually DO IT. Who cares if you haven’t talked to them in years? So what if you only knew about their birthday because Facebook told you? Wishing someone a Happy Birthday is nice. That’s why I do it and why you should too.

Donate to Fundraisers. Even if it’s only $10. Donations are hard to get and that $10 will put someone that much closer to a fundraising goal they care about.

Last summer I did the MS Challenge Walk and raised $1,600 for MS research. This was important to me because my friend Jodi suffers from MS. Getting donations was like pulling teeth. I know how hard it can be. I also know how much that $10 from an internet random or high school prom date from Facebook can mean. So donate. It’s a nice thing to do and will brighten someone’s day.

Write Positive Reviews. If you like something, share it. Small businesses and professional services depend on word of mouth referrals and positive reviews. Help each other out. Tweet to a restaurant when you’ve had a good meal, post a review on Yelp, tell your friends about the gift you bought on Etsy. Throw glitter and happiness around, but hold the glitter.

Let’s do this and be nice to each other. Try it and see what happens!

happy dog swing

Food + Innovation: Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls

Food and innovation are two of my favorite things. Being a hungry person working in the tech field, I’m always excited to learn about new food and new technology. So when I heard about the innovative new Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls, I was excited to try them out. The yogurt pearls are balls of frozen yogurt wrapped in an edible fruit-flavored skin. These delicious frozen balls of magic are the product of a collaboration between Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt and WikiPearl Science.

stonyfield frozen yogurt pearls

A sucker for anything that tastes good, I try to keep sweets out of my house. Leave me at home with some dessert and you’ll find me scraping the bottom of the container with a spoon and a brain freeze in 10 minutes. For someone like me with no self-control, the spoon-free portion-controlled packaging of the Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls was perfect. And, at around 30 calories a pop, these tasty treats were good for satisfying my sweet tooth.

The philosophy behind the product is simple – a sustainable food packaged in its own skin, like how nature packages fruits. The result is a mess-free snack that can be eaten on the go, or in bed watching a movie with a glass of wine. I’ll let you decide how I ate mine. The chocolate filled coconut pearls were my favorite flavor of the four, but the chocolate filled strawberry ones paired better with the hypothetical red wine.

stonyfield frozen yogurt pearls

Image courtesy of Stonyfield

Aside from being yummy, Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are certified organic and Kosher. Want to get your hands on your own Frozen Yogurt Pearls? You can find them at Whole Foods! But before you go, make sure to print out this coupon, then let me know what you think!

Note: This is a sponsored post, but all opinions and sassiness are my own.

Lumberjack Chic: What to Wear With LL Bean Boots

Winters are rough for fashion in Boston. From sweaters to snow boots, fashion choices are bulky and limited when you’re trudging through an arctic tundra. The LL Bean boots are the “it” boot in New England, but let’s face it, they’re not the easiest accessory to dress around. Put commuting to work via public transit into the equation and you’re left with either changing shoes every time you need to go outside or being lazy and rocking your LL Bean boots all day.

I’m obviously lazy and choose to rock my boots all day every day at work. I work at a startup where I have the flexibility to wear what I want (read: anything goes) but it was still important for me to be fashionable.

And so I faced a dilemma – how to make LL Bean Boots look good with casual work outfits.

photo (8)

Doable, right? But it wasn’t that easy. Here’s the story. At first I had fun trying to make my popular and seemingly fashionable Bean boots look cute. I scoured Pinterest for outfit ideas and emulated them to the best of my ability. But as the days progressed into weeks, I realized that I needed to go off script if I was going to keep my feet warm and my ass from falling on ice.

back bay boston snow

I started experimenting, pairing different looks with my LL Bean boots hoping that I would find outfits that were more lumberjack chic than snow Yeti.

I paired LL Bean boots with layered Oxfords shirts, sweaters, and classic necklaces for a preppy look. This was my signature lumberjack chic look this winter. What you can’t see in the picture is the matching long underwear shirt and pants that made me feel all sexy warm underneath. I’m at least 5 pounds lighter than these pictures make me look thanks to long underwear layers.

oxford shirt sweater ll bean boots

I rocked the LL Bean boots with chambray shirts with cardigans and statement necklaces. When my jeans started falling down thanks to the silky long underwear, I broke down and bought some fleece lined leggings. I generally don’t wear leggings, but these were perfect for days when the comfort food proved to be too much for skinny jeans.

chambray cardigan ll bean boots outfitMost of my office worked from home on blizzard days, but I chose to brave the storm with my LL Bean boots, comfy boyfriend sweaters and cardigans, and long necklaces. These were the days I usually let my hair go wild for that sexy-windblown-by-a-blizzard look. I paired my fancy hair with my thickest wool socks and an extra friendly smile because I’m one of those freaks who gets excited by blizzards. Yes, really.

comfy sweaters and ll bean boots outfit

But the days came when I got sick of wearing boots and yearned for fun winter layers that would look cute with booties. On those days I threw caution to the literal wind and experimented with pattern mixing, pretending that I was wearing anything other than the clod-hopping Yeti-sized LL Bean boots. Desperate for any day other than winter, I even did my hair and makeup, hoping for some semblance of normalcy in spite of the feet of snow on the ground.

pattern mixing ll bean boot outfit

Warmer days, when the temperatures heated up to a balmy 20-something degrees, called for something flowy and spring-like. I mixed it up a bit, adding chiffon tops to the repertoire of valiant attempts to not dress like a lumberjack.

chiffon shirt ll bean boot outfit

At a certain point, I just gave up and embraced the insanity of winter. I even went so far as to pair lace tops and sweaters with my Bean Boots. I hoped that the dudes in jeans and hoodies at work wouldn’t notice the horrendous failure of mixing delicate lace with rubber-soled tumbled-leather boots meant for the Iditarod. If they did, they were nice enough not say anything. Thanks, guys.

lace shirt ll bean boot outfit

Today is another snowy day in the frozen tundra and another attempt at styling an outfit with my LL Bean boots. Do you have any favorite outfits with your Bean boots? Please share – I’m desperate for new ideas!