Tips on Staying Well

Pandemic or not, the fall and winter seasons can get stressful. Focusing on your mental health should always be a priority, but in 2020, you may be feeling more out of sorts than usual. Because October 10 is World Mental Health Day, here are a few Toad Tips (disclaimer: we’re def not doctors) for improving your emotional well being and keeping it together amidst the chaos. Be well, friends.

The key to accomplishing anything is making the time to do it.
Less commitments, less presents, less events… oh look, less stress. 
Honestly, when has a grilled cheese (or any comfort food) NOT made you feel better? If you like garlic, give this recipe a try, and if you’re feeling a little gourmet today, try the Toad original Frankenfromage (you won’t regret it). 
4. 4-7-8 BREATHING
Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7, breathe out for 8. Ahhhh.
Or a walk or a fresh air break — ignore your screens and connect with nature, even if it’s just for a few minutes. A little sunshine goes a loooong way. 
Check up on friends/neighbors/family to let them know you’re thinking about them. A little ‘hey, how have you been?’ can go far for both parties. Because even in times of social distancing, social well being is just as important as ever. 
Move, feel, stomp, jump, breathe, listen… let the music set you free, baby. Here’s a favorite Toad playlist for movin’ and groovin’. 
If one day you feel like conquering mountains and the next you’d rather snuggle up in front of the TV….or if you said you were going to cook but decide to get take out…know it’s a-ok. Self-compassion (aka taking it easy on yourself) is a key factor when thinking about how to improve mental health. And self care can take all types of different forms. 
If you’re a newbie, it might seem intimidating, but luckily there are many different types of meditation, and it’s a great way to improve your mental health. So if transcendental meditation sounds scary, the good news is that you can start slow with something like mindfulness meditation or yoga meditation. Check out this blog post on how to meditate for beginners, from our own Sustainable Materials Manager/resident meditation expert Natalie.
Expressing gratitude has direct ties to improving mental health. We think a gratitude journal is one of the best, tangible, ways to make this a priority. 
So, there you have it. Some of our favorite activities and habits to help improve mental health and overall well being. Stay well!
If you’re worried about someone or would like emotional support yourself, the free Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United states. Call: 800-273-8255

Disability Employment Awareness Month: Person-First Language

By Sarah Armour, JJ’s List Business Assistant & Disability Awareness Player

The language we use often defines the way we think about things and people, including people with disabilities. When referring to people with disabilities, we at JJ’s List prefer to use something called person-first language. 

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What is Person-first language?

Person-first language is an effective and appropriate way to describe or to refer to someone with a disability. Person-first language literally means putting the person before the descriptor of disability when you are describing someone and you need to refer to their disability. It describes what a person has, not who a person is. For example, if you need to explain that a colleague has a disability, we prefer you say “my colleague with a disability” instead of “my disabled colleague.”  And if you aren’t sure what to say, it is okay to ask the person how they’d like to be referred to.

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Why is Person-first language important?

Person-first language is important for a few reasons. Using person-first language makes us focus on the person instead of the disability. It’s more respectful. I am a person with a disability, but I want to be known as someone who lives and works in her community. I don’t want to be labeled. It’s alienating and can make people feel less than. Plus, my disability doesn’t define who I am or what I am capable of.

Secondly, using person-first language makes good business sense. People with disabilities are customers, too! In fact, people with disabilities are the fastest-growing consumer base in the country. Treating them respectfully is good for business and good for your bottom line.

To be more inclusive, let’s focus on how we are similar to each other instead of focusing on our differences. You can start by using person-first language

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Author Sarah Armour

Players_blogcrop is a social enterprise of Search, Inc that helps businesses meet the needs of customers or employees with disabilities by incorporating disability-aware marketing, customer service and employment best practices into core business strategies. Our small but mighty team is an integrated team with and without disabilities. We work together to spread disability awareness throughout the community with our Disability Awareness Trainings and to help individuals with disabilities build essential skills necessary for independence and employment with our Hop on the Bus to Independence Workshops. also provides a platform for individuals to self-advocate and bring about social change by posting reviews about a business’ disability awareness and to express themselves by blogging.


The Science of Smiles

The “smiley face”…you know, that big yellow smiling ideogram that has become a worldwide pop culture reference used in daily (more likely every minute) communication to express how we feel? It actually has lots of meaning behind it, and when delivered in person as a “true smile” it has even greater benefits (than in a text, snap, post or email).


Ron Gutman did a great 7 minute TED Talk where he shares nuggets from many different studies on the science of smiling. It’s a quick watch but if you’re really pressed for time the short of it is, we should all smile more and here’s why:

  • • A famous yearbook study by Matthew Hertenstein reveals a correlation between yearbook smiles and better marital relationships as well as overall life happiness.
  • • Ernest Abel and Michael Kruger’s Baseball Card Study found those players who smiled in their pictures turned out to live on average seven years longer than those who didn’t.
  • • The good news is we’re born smiling.  Babies smile in the womb and once born continue to smile, even when sleeping.
  • • Regardless of race and culture, smiling is a biological expression of all humans used to express joy.
  • • More than 1/3 of humans smile more than 20 times a day.  
  • • Children smile as many as 400 times per day, which is why being around children makes us smile more.
  • • Darwin’s Facial Feedback Response Theory, the idea that smiling can make you happier and frowning can make you sadder or angrier — that changing your facial expression can intensify or even transform your mood.
  • • One smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2K bars of chocolate or receiving up to £16,000 / $20,000.
  • • Smiling can reduce stress enhancing hormones and increase mood enhancing endorphins.
  • • Smiling makes you appear more likable and more competent.



Based on all of this, it would seem pretty obvious that smiling is good for you.  But beyond just you, smiling is also good for those around you.
We have something called mirror neurons which are brain cells that code the actions of other people and also our own actions, essential brain cells for reading social interactions. Mirror neurons act as an inner imitation to the actions of others that in turn lead us to simulate the emotion. So, when you smile at someone their mirror neurons trigger them to smile. That smile then triggers the positive feeling we associate with a smile, and all the benefits that go along with it. Basically you can think of the whole chain of events as a neurological cascade of good vibes…for everyone involved in the exchange. 
So now to the question of in today’s world where we walk around in masks, how do we continue to spread happiness? It’s simple, keep smiling, even behind the mask.
Psychologist Paul Ekman, who studies facial expressions, described a “true enjoyment smile” as showing up in the crow’s feet or laugh lines area of the face, with the eyes narrowing and crinkling. A genuine smile — also known as the Duchenne smile — engages the orbicularis oculi muscle around the eye; a fake smile does not. As further proof of being able to see a smile even when partially covered, Janine Driver, a world-renowned body language expert, pointed out that when a baby smiles you still know it even when his or her mouth is covered by a pacifier. Net net, it’s all in the eyes.
So whether digitally or in person, smile more.

9 Podcasts to Listen To

Something that continues to bring us together – WFH be damned! – is swapping Netflix recs, must-read books, new album reviews, and of course, podcasts. Since September 30th is National Podcast Day, here’s our list of the best podcasts to listen to this fall… or you know, forever.

Song Exploder

Music lovers, rejoice! Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Produced and edited by host Hrishikesh Hirway, this podcast is a love letter to music. Each episode is a deep dive into the creative process that went into crafting a great song, straight from the artists themselves. Episode 150, Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way is a classic, but you really can’t go wrong.

The NYT Daily

20 minute episodes that dig into one topic that’s dominating the headlines. Produced by The New York Times and told by journalists and subject matter experts (and excellent host, Michael Barbaro whom we’d love to get a slice of pizza with). Knowledge is power, so stay in the know. New episodes Monday – Friday, ready by 6am EST.


Stuck inside or just yearning for wide open spaces, this podcast focuses on the natural word and how we use it. With solid reporting and long-form storytelling, host Sam Evans-Brown draws you in from the first words (he’s a former environmental reporter). You don’t have to be a whitewater kayaker, an obsessive composter, or a conservation biologist to love Outside/In.

You Must Remember This

Miss heading to the movies? Listen to this podcast about the first century of Hollywood filmmaking. It’s a fascinating take on the glamor, glitz, and grit that built the silver screen scene over the decades.


This short podcast series is a must listen for all. This 2019 audio series from The New York Times was produced for the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The 6-episode series, hosted Nikole Hannah-Jones, examines the long shadow of that first salve cargo that landed in Virginia in 1619 – and examines how historical oppression and systemic racism has affected the Black experience in America since.


If you love food, history, and science, you’ll love Gastropod. Recommended by Helena – our resident Podcast Queen – she loves Gastropod for its “cool food facts.” Ever wonder about the underbelly of the lobster industry? Or the real origins of pizza? Or what the most dangerous fruit in America is? (It’s the watermelon, FYI).  Grab a snack and take a listen – “Dinner plate invasion” is Helena’s fave.

Code Switch

Named after the phenomenon of mixing languages and dialects depending on the context, the Code Switch podcast cranks out informative episodes about race, ethnicity, culture, and how they play out in our lives and communities. New episodes are updated weekly and hosted by Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Maraji. It’s a great way to listen to various perspectives on current events.

Pre-Loved Podcast

We love anything about the circular economy. This podcast is a weekly interview about rad vintage style with guests you’ll want to go thrifting with. Hosted by Emily Stochl, episodes cover style, running a fashion business, sustainability, slow fashion, the stories behind incredible vintage pieces, and why second-hand is the best hand.

Bear Brook

We couldn’t write a podcast recommendation list without a binge-worthy true crime podcast. This one comes from New Hampshire Public Radio and it’s a decades-long mystery that follows the twists and turns of a serial killer. It’s a cold case that calls into question human nature and criminal justice system. Someone call Olivia Benson!



Girls’ Night in 2020

From Black Lives Matter to COVID pandemic to hurricanes and heatwaves, 2020 has us rethinking everything – birthday parties, office culture, grocery shopping, book clubs  – and the latest change up is Girls’ Night. September 22 is National Girls’ Night (who knew?), so here’s our take on girls’ night – 2020 style.

Virtual Book Club

Diversity of thought is part of what makes humans (and women!) such a unique species. And when it comes to books, there’s no shortage of different perspectivse. So bring together your book worms and pick books that purposefully offer a different perspective.  Read books by women from other countries, or books by women with different upbringings and backgrounds. If books are too much of a commitment, round-table a recent article that you all read. You’ll be surprised – even in conversation with your closest friends – just how much you didn’t know.

Socially Distant Happy Hours

If you’re in town – BYOB, bundle up, and get back to the days of picnicking. Parks, beaches, backyards, bonfires, campsites… there’s no limit (other than the general 6 foot distance).

Recipe Exchange

Part of what makes us unique are the traditions we get passed down from generation to generation, so share that with your friends. Host a Zoom cooking night each month where someone else is a “host” – they’ll walk everyone through a recipe that takes 30 mins or less to prepare. Everyone is in their own kitchen, with their own ingredients following along. Now’s your chance to let your inner Samin Nosrat shine! (Bonus: when you’re at home, no need for a DD).

Yes, It’s Okay to Talk Politics

Dialogue is where progress happens. If you are passionate about a cause or a candidate, gather your girlfriends and give them a rundown on why this is important to you. Let them know succinctly (in 5 mins or less) why you are passionate about a particular cause, then give them the floor to ask questions and offer counter opinions. Pro-tip when it comes to talking about politics and policy: Let people know how the issue personally affects YOU or your community. Be realistic – you can’t be passionate about everything, so don’t come out hearts a ‘blazing for every issue and every candidate. Stick to the things you are truly passionate about, 1 or 2 issues max (schedule another Girl’s night if there are more). It will be easier for others to see your perspective if you can keep it focused, keep your cool, and be open to hearing others. Dialogue, FTW!

Phone Banking & Letter Writing

Let’s say you and your friends support the same candidate or cause; you can skip the discussion and go right to grassroots campaigning. Give your girls’ night an activism twist and organize a letter writing night or an afternoon of phone banking (yes, wine is a fine accompaniment to both). It might feel awkward at first (and definitely uncommon for a girls’ night) but helping a cause will make you feel like a million bucks.  

Food or Toy Drive

With shorter days and the holidays just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to start planning a food or toy drive with your friends. Spend your next girls night talking about logistics and get a goal and a plan together for how you can pool your resources and make a positive impact on your community. Pro Tip: Have your friends reach out to their co-workers to multiply the impact!

Plan a Girl’s Trip for 2021

2020 was the year of canceled plans. So get a girls’ trip on the calendar for next year. It can be the trip of your dreams (sailing around Greece, anyone?), a 3-day backpacking trip in your local mountains, or just a staycation at your place (or whomever has a dishwasher). Either way, when it’s safe to hug and laugh and lounge and play in close proximity again, grab the chance and soak it all in.



What To Read This Fall

September 6th is Read a Book Day, so if you’re in the market for a new read, here’s what the Toads are whipping through for our unofficial fall book club.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko

Part history lesson, part epic adventure novel, a story about a boat has never been so gripping (no offense to Moby Dick).  In 1983 during the legendary El Niño floods of the Colorado river, a small crew set out to chart the fastest dory ride down the grand canyon — 277 miles against the odds. It’s a book about the triumph of the human spirit, the sheer awesomeness of nature, and a history of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, the Glen Canyon Dam. Makes you want to white water raft… or not.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

To be fair, anything by Coates is worthy of your time, but if you haven’t read any of his books, this is our favorite place to start. Written as a letter to his son, this book is the story of Coates’ awakening to the truth about Black belonging in the world through a series of experiences — from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, the South Side of Chicago to Paris – he drops you into a world that is clear and vivid. It’s a beautiful wake up call for all and a welcome confrontation of our present with a hopeful vision for the future could (will?) hold.

Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrations by Jules Feiffer

Simply put, this classic is a blast to read. Milo, our young protagonist, is sitting at home bored out of his mind (familiar?) when a tollbooth appears to whisk him off to the Lands Beyond… so why not? Give the COVID headlines and election updates a rest and just get in the tollbooth. It’s world building at its best – fantastical but tangible, childlike but oh-so-poignant. Pure delight.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a distance runner. And his beautiful memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk about Running, is a unique contemplation on the crafts of writing and distance running, especially as one ages. Well-worth a perusal – even if you’re not a runner at all.

Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Liberia’s first democratically-elected female president. In an election driven by the grassroots mobilization of female street vendors and traders, Sirleaf’s “rise to power” is a beautiful case study in community building. If you want perspective on female leadership, the power of passion, and a dollop of African history, this book is the ticket.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (strongly recommend audio!)

From stand-up to slap-stick to grammy winning musician (and the BANJO no less!), Steve Martin is a national treasure. Sure this is a memoir about a great comedic genius (so, yes, it’s quite funny), but Born Standing Up is a tale of grit. Because anything worth doing is not just about the passion — it takes lots of work, even when you’re not sure of the road



Still at Home: Quarantine Crafts

Anyone else starting to fee like Tom Hanks in Castaway, but in the best way? This summer of work from home and cancelled plans has forced us to find new DIY projects and joy in the simple things like sprinkles and onion peels (keep reading, it’ll make sense). Here’s what some of  the Toads have been up to in recent weeks. Who knows what next month will bring… 
Guin, Head of Women’s Design 
I’m customizing a bed for the back of the Forester! ☺ I’m starting on it tonight. Hopefully going to give it a go this weekend up in Big Sur. The back has about a 3” bump that I’m leveling out with gym floor puzzle pieces, and I bought a 3” foam mattress that I’m going to cut to size to maximize sleep space in the back – it’s tight for two adults and two dogs! We plan to just keep the dogs in the back on the mattress when we’re cruising, pack the floor of the back seats, toss the Yeti cooler out at night and utilize the rest of the cargo in the rocket box on the roof. Pandemic summer continues!
Sam, Toad&Co Freeport Associate 
I’ve been cooking up a storm and I recently made homemade Pop Tarts! I didn’t have food coloring for the sprinkles so they’re all dyed with natural colors from stuff you’d find in the pantry. Delish. 
Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager 
Does dying old grungy white clothes with food scraps and spices count? 
*Editor’s note: Yes, yes it does. Here’s a step by step guide for how to tie-dye naturally.
Sarah, Toad Culture Queen 
I started making my own candles – but not just scented candles. I reuse old glass pasta jars, or almond butter jars to make them, and I put dried flower petals to decorate the top. I top them off with a few gems throughout that “appear” as the wax melts.  And, as a geologist, my rock collection is out of control. I have rocks that I have collected from all around the world, purchased at trade shows, and tumbled myself. My rocks, minerals and crystals are displayed on every surface of my house as well as on designated shelving. I decided I wanted to put together an Excel log categorizing and identifying each rock and then creating labels and lighting units for all of my displays. The displays are indoors (for the top tier rocks) and outdoors (for the second tier rocks). I am hoping by the end of the pandemic basically have a minerology exhibit in my house. 

How to Host an Outdoor Movie Night

Light the citronella candles, pop the corn, and use the cooler as a footstool – it’s an old-fashioned outdoor movie night! And since staying in is the new going out, this is the perfect summer to whip up the backyard (or side yard or front porch or driveway) cinema that you’ve always dreamed of. Here’s our tips for how to host a (socially distant) outdoor movie night for any budget.

Step 1. Pick a spot

If you have a plain white wall that’s flat, you’re in business and skip to step #3. If not, find a spot where you can set some chairs up – you’ll want to be at least 8 feet away (depending on where your projector is). Next, consider if you are hanging a screen or if you are using a screen on a stand. That will determine if you need any hardware to make your screen.

Step 2. Make a screen

There are a ton of ways to make a screen depending on your budget, time, and desire to use power tools. But the one thing that all screens need – regardless of means or mode – is to be pulled taut. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Get an old, white sheet or shower curtain and use some heavy-duty double side tape (a LOT of it) to pull and stick the edges of your fabric to the surface. This method is temporary and only works with lightweight fabric, but it’s just about as thrifty as they come!
  • If you’re using something more heavy duty like a white canvas or drop cloth, cut a small hole in the top left and right corners and hook onto some nails or S-hooks. To pull it taut, fold the bottom of the fabric in and sew a small pocket with open hole on either end. Run a wood dowel or curtain rod through the tube pocket to weigh down the screen.
  • If you’re up for a trip to the hardware store, you can build a 100” frame for under $50 and a few hours of DIY. You’ll need a few 1 x 4 plywood beams, a handful of nails, a staple gun, and white blackout cloth. Think of it as a giant painter’s canvas. Here’s a good YouTube tutorial we’ve used before.


Step 3. Hook up an A/V system

Like the screen set up,  there are about a zillion ways that you can hook up an A/V system depending on your budget, desired lumens, and whether or not you NEED to watch Jurassic Park in surround sound. You can buy projectors from anywhere up to $5,000 or a $50 mini projector that hooks up to your cell phone.

Do your research and figure out which one is right for your budget and needs. If you’re just testing the waters, ask around and see if anyone has one you can borrow for the night. If you do buy one, we recommend shopping local. And even if it’s a big chain store, shopping at the local branch keeps jobs in your community and your carbon footprint lower!

Also, don’t forget about the sound! Some projectors have a built-in speaker, but we suggest plugging in an amp or a speaker to get the full effect! Who wants to listen to listen to American Graffiti out of a rinky-dink speaker? Not us.

Step 4. Pop the corn

Seriously, what’s the point of a movie night with no popcorn?  Save the microwave stuff for the winter and pop the kernels over some high heat. Toss it with all the yums.

  • Plain old butter and salt
  • Sugar, salt, oil of choice (aka DIY Kettle Corn)
  • Brewer’s yeast and coconut oil
  • Olive oil, dried herbs and garlic salt


Step 5. Invite some friends

Or keep it just your family – up to you. Invite friends and neighbors (assuming you have 6 feet of space to spare between friends) and tell them to BYO blankets and chairs. Extra air fives if they add something to the cooler.

Step 6. Pick a Movie

The reason for the season. A few of our summer favorites…  

The Goonies – The classic

Coming to America – For the grown-up movie night

Step into Liquid – When you’re dreaming of waves

Searching for Sugar Man – Good tunes, great story

Dirty Dancing – Gives “family vacation” a whole new meaning

Dazed and Confused – We get older, this movie stays the same age

Sister Act – Gospel music meets the mob. Make it a double feature with Sister Act II

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – Don’t forget your heels


Bringing Optimism to our Cities: One Color at a Time

Over the last several weeks, a lot has changed in our daily lives. We’ve gotten more familiar with our own four walls than we may have ever thought possible (seriously, has that rug always been that color?!), and when we do venture out, things look pretty different. In many places, our neighborhoods are empty and plywood covers the doors and windows of our favorite local bars, restaurants, and shops. But amongst all the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings, our optimism is one thing that continues to propel us forward.

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When our Lizard Lounge store in Portland, OR, had to shut its doors due to the pandemic, it was boarded up and no longer gave off those feel-good Toad vibes that we know and love. So when designers from architecture and design firm Gensler reached out to us about sprucing it up, we couldn’t have been more excited. To brighten the canvas around our cities, these designers have volunteered their time to partner with small business owners to create vibrant and inspiring murals that reflect the distinct personalty of each business – and the promise of better times to come.

Color Speaks — a research project spearheaded by Gensler’s Seattle office — was initially created to study how color can bring hope and optimism to the future of our cities, and how applications of color in the urban environment affect our behavior and collective well-being (and if we weren’t already excited enough, this research is right up our alley — this spring, we too drew inspiration from the psychology of color).



These designers are using this initiative to encourage others to join them in revitalizing storefronts and transforming abandoned streets into beautiful splashes of uplifting colors and positive messages of resilience and hope. To date, the Gensler Portland team has painted murals at four locations around the city, and conversations are underway with even more business owners. Since initiating this project, more Gensler offices around the nation are joining in to beautify their own cities. And until Lizard Lounge reopens, passersby get to experience some seriously good vibes from the outside.



Feeling inspired? Here’s how you can get involved. The team has created a free tool kit (containing a list of necessary supplies, “paint-by-number” guide, and helpful tips) that walks even non-artists through the process of painting their own murals. Just contact the team through the Color Speaks (@colorspeaks_) Instagram page to get one.