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Cleanup & Hike: Praia dos Lobos, Santa Maria Azores

Cleanup & Hike: Praia dos Lobos, Santa Maria Azores

Praia dos Lobos is a popular sunset viewing location for coastal hikers and locals on the North West corner of our island. It's an easy trek and not far from the local ocean pool, playground, bar/restaurant and small seaside community of Anjos -Making it a great location for a family friendly cleanup event.

Unfortunately this rocky  beach (mixed with sand) is full of micro-plastics. (Plastics small enough to scoop up in your hand like grains of rice). The North and Westerly winds deposit them along the shoreline especially after larger seas, heavy winds & storms. The micro-plastics are usually a mix of preproduction plastic nurdles and plastics that have degraded or broken down with time (usually decades) spent in the ocean. This kind of plastic is extremely difficult to clean (especially from amongst the rocks) and aside from ghost gear is the most dangerous plastic pollution for coastal wildlife and sea life and it gets into the food chain. It is estimated that today 1 in every 3 fish in the ocean contains plastic. 

This is why we chose the location for our next community cleanup with the OceanLit Cleanup & Coastal Conservation Project and our local Marina's organization: Clube Naval.

We lucked out as we had beautiful beautiful weather conditions and worked for just over 2 hours with 24 volunteers (locals, sailors on long stopovers, divers & tourists alike), 5 children and 3 dogs and in this time we were able to remove 37kg of microplastics and 50kg of marine waste & fishing materials. (keep in mind these tiny plastic pieces way well under 1gram each!) And that felt good. 

Thanks to our local Santa Maria Blues Organization in Anjos, we were able to enjoy a seaside BBQ (vegan friendly options too!) with volunteers to celebrate our efforts. Not sure which is better - working to make a difference or building community.  : ) I guess the answer is both. Building community while doing good, that's where it's at! 

 
 

 

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Island Wide Cleanup - Building a Community that Cares

Island Wide Cleanup - Building a Community that Cares

Our usual cleanups that began as a family affair have blossomed into something much more wonderful....We began inviting friends to join and then friends of friends came along, and somewhere along the line our cleanups matured into gatherings and official events for our island community.

In December, we held our first community cleanup in Anjos which kicked off our Winter Cleanup Sessions with such good vibes that we decided to make it an annual series of events during the winter season.

With that experience under our belt, for Earth Day, we wanted to tackle something special that would encourage even more volunteers to come out, and so came the notion of doing an island wide cleanup, thinking that if it was successful, we could make it a tradition.

Once we set out to do it, it kind of gained a life of it's own - first our incredible volunteer leaders, then sponsors, and many others came on board helping us to promote it. 

And despite having to change the date last minute due to weather, it turned out pretty well! We had about 80 volunteers positioned at all of our major ports - Anjos, Praia Formosa & Prainha, São Lourenço and Maia. With their help, by kayak, boat, truck and on foot we removed more than 1/2 TON or 500 kilos of ocean plastic and marine debris from the coastline of our small island in only 2 hours. And perhaps best of all, we had fun doing it together!

From the 80 volunteers, about 15 children joined us, actively lending a hand and raising awareness for the future.

We are grateful to the local Asas Atlantico Radio Station who helped us to promote the event (we had our first radio interview in Portugese!).

We are super appreciative for the support from two of our local restaurants, Bar Anjos and Ponta Negra as well as the Associaçao dos Amigos do Maia who all came onboard without even asking!! They all made sure our volunteers were well hydrated and fed!  

Many thanks again to everyone who helped make it happen - It is such an amazing feeling to see people come together and work to create something positive, to care for our ocean and appreciate the natural beauty of our island. 

Santa Maria, best Island ever.

🙌🏼🐬🌊

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Ilha do Sol: Island Paradise in the Azores

The Açores (Azores in English) are a group of 9 volcanic islands located in the middle of the Atlantic, half-way between Europe and the Americas - quite simply the middle of nowhere.

Our island, Ilha de Santa Maria, is known as the "Ilha do Sol”. When describing it, they say it is like the child of Hawaii and Ireland. There are more cows on the island than people. Only one traffic light. At times it seems as if the entire population of roughly 5,000 knows each other; if not by face, then by car or truck. We have seamount diving, some surf, small forests, old ocean pools and a couple of waterfalls; walking trails abound, and a little charming town by the name of Vila, which we like to call “the City".

Here, time stops, and the outside world is forgotten...

 

 
Sailboat at dusk, São Lorenço Santa Maria Azores
Black and White Hibiscus Bloom
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After the Storm: Winter Family Cleanup Sessions

After the Storm: Winter Family Cleanup Sessions
image credit Alex Nabaum

It is during the winter when the winds are high and storm surges strong that keeping our coastline clean becomes a real challenge. Just after the storm ends & the sun comes out, our work begins. At low tide, you can usually find our family at one of the local beaches cleaning up what we can, and if the waves are good after, we hop in for a bit a surf. 

This year, we decided to share the tradition and invited others from our community to join. And so, the Winter Family Cleanup Sessions were born. We hosted our first organized beach cleanup with @monk_surf along the Northern coast of Anjos on December 2nd this year.

We weren't sure what the turnout would be, considering our Facebook Event had only 3 attendees confirmed and one of them was our own family lol : ) But 22 volunteers (both adults and children) showed up to participate which was awesome!

We met some great people and successfully removed over 100 pounds of ocean plastic, ghost gear & trash together from the rocky beach in under 2 hours. Bar dos Anjos, the local restaurant and bar, generously offered free water to all volunteers.

Most importantly, we had fun empowering the next generation of kids to make a difference : ) With good vibes all around, we will definitely be doing it again -and maybe even catching a wave or two after...

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Slow Island Life & Days in the Sand

Slow Island Life & Days in the Sand

 Our slow island life continues into the winter. With the kids in school and with opening our store in Vila, we still have ample time for trips to the beach for some surf and bare foot morning cleanups...though the water is getting chilly now, and we need our cozy socks and certainly enjoy our wood burning stove for warming up afterwards.

 Two and a half years have passed now for us here in Santa Maria- writing it doesn't seem like much - only two and a half. But that small number sums up our life here, and so it feels much more substantial than it sounds - this two and a half.

 Two and a half years - that's 902 days. Enough time to completely shift & restart, to build community, to make new friends, to find balance and begin to thrive. Time to create, to turn inspiration into something tangible.

Enough time to feel at home.

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Going with the Flow & Aligning Work with Our Values

Going with the Flow & Aligning Work with Our Values

Flashback to almost two years ago- to our makeshift home studio where we first began tinkering with creating jewelry from ocean plastics. 

You see, we had moved to the island of Santa Maria to start a new life - and had no idea what we would be doing outside of raising our children, slowing down and learning to grow green things in the earth. 

In creating the jewelry, it sort of happened naturally - the concept evolved from us simply being salty ocean lovers who found ourselves at the beach everyday combined with seeing the ocean plastic problem first hand.

We were surfing, doing family cleanups, and along the way discovered these “treasures” that were too beautiful to take to the recycling center; so we began collecting these ocean stones and experimenting with ideas / dreaming up designs for jewelry.

To align work with our values and daily life was always a goal, to turn work into practice, practice into lifestyle...and then, well, we do what we do - create. And that is how the jewelry and the brand was born.

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Lovin' Jean-Marc Barr & the Big Blue

Lovin' Jean-Marc Barr & the Big Blue

We love the ocean, old movies, music, and dolphins? who doesn't!

Jean-Marc Barr starred in one of our favourite films, The Big Blue by Luc Besson. It's a liberal depiction of the free-diving adventurer Jacques Mayol.

Mayol was French, but born in Shanghai and learned to free-dive in the oceans of Japan. (How cool is that??)

He would later write the book, Homo Delphinus: The Dolphin Within Man. For those uninitiated, freediving is the art of diving deep on a single breath of air. Divers say it's like being at one with the ocean. Mayol was the first to reach a depth of 100 meters (330 ft)

Jean-Marc, who portrays Mayol, is a French/American but born in West Germany (a country that no longer exists!). He studied philosophy at UCLA, The Conservatoire de Paris, and the Sorbonne, before moving onto acting in London, eschewing "big" roles to focus on work that inspired him.

What's not to love about these two: obscure & beautiful, bilingual & multicultural, AND they both...wait for it...dove with DOLPHINS!!! 💥

 

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Must Have Been...Living Slow & Days Pre-Internet

Must Have Been...Living Slow & Days Pre-Internet

It’s a Tuesday evening here on the island of Santa Maria in the Azores. “It Must Have Been Love” plays on our vintage marantz stereo receiver and outside there is a saturated double rainbow over the ocean we can see from inside the house...there’s magic in the air.

It’s 6pm, the time of day when the local Radio Clube Asas station plays dreamy 80s hits, the time when we usually all come inside to wind down from the outdoors- and we slow down.

The mood has us thinking of the days when this music played regularly on the radio- days pre-internet. There was such a magic to that time- Life was so different. How do we bring that back?

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Life Reset, Becoming an Expat & Building Dreams

Life Reset, Becoming an Expat & Building Dreams

A year ago we were unpacking a half container from our previous life in Canada and settling into our new home here in the Azores. We were laying out the design for our first book, selecting paper qualities and working on print timelines. We were developing concepts for our first jewy collection and tinkering anxiously with instagram as a medium to connect with the outside world from out here in the middle of nowhere. 

We adopted a wild island kitten (Jiji), spent many days at the beach, in our garden, and hiking the island. We planted (and failed) and tried planting again (more successfully) our first trees, flower bushes, palms and fruit/vegetable garden.

We weathered our first winter storms, walked our dogs dreamlike through the Calheta fog and witnessed numerous moon and sunrises - embracing the natural rhythm & seasonal cycle of our island. 

We began learning, practicing, & stumbling through Portuguese (our daughter Etienne became fluent). We launched Neon Joyride, published our first book, and wrote a few more. We all began learning to surf. We hosted our first visitors, and were able to share our new world with our family and a few close friends. We said goodbye to a family member and our dog Whiskey walked through the Lion's Gate. We all made some new friends. 

Tomer & I turned 40. My mother said it right- our 40s are when we come into our super powers. We still have our youth, our health, some wisdom, & enough life experience & energy to make things happen - to live the life we choose, to follow our true paths.

In the last year, we have all become more aware of our choices - and of how to live more consciously, more sustainably. It's a process that takes time & intention. We chose to live slower, lighter & with less. And it feels better than ever! I have learned that even slowing down takes time - even on a small island in the middle of nowhere... 

Still learning to let go & to go with the flow. It sounds easier than it is, but it's been so good...learning to just breathe again and listen to the universe, to let it guide you. So much of this year has been redefining what feels good, individually and for us as a family.

The journey continues and we all grow. Moving both onwards and backwards in a loop-d-loop fashion, turning our previous life and selves inside-out, focusing inward, growing outward.

Through all of the change, this past year has been spent together, with each other and our children...I am so grateful for that -Knowing that we have filled our time here with meaningful moments. We continue to seek, to grow, to create, to connect on deeper levels with each other and ourselves. Gardens blooming inside & out. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, but we have been blessed to get a lot of both!

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Why the Cactus?

Why the Cactus?

Many people ask us why we chose the cactus as an icon for our logo. If you know us, you know we are sun lovers- and cacti need a lot of sun, like us! This is what initially drew us to the cactus, but as we began to think of how slow a cactus grows, it seemed even more appropriate. The cactus symbol seemed to reflect us as a family as we were looking to embrace a slower lifestyle.

A cactus doesn’t need much- just plenty of sol and a bit of water. We too were looking to live a simpler life -full of love and soul. We were also looking to live with less...less stuff, less waste, less work, less consumption, less impact, less noise.

Cacti also thrive in rugged natural landscapes and we were in transition to the beautiful raw island of Santa Maria in the Azores archipelago- which just so happens to have many types of cacti!

Another fun fact- my husband and I met each other in Austin, Texas- so a cactus is also something that reminds us a little of our southwest roots- which brings us full circle. 

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