Monday, February 27, 2012

So.... life is crazy.

I don't know what it is about 2012, but I think it's totally out of control. And not just for me -- it seems to be that way for most people. It's as if the high energy first few weeks of the year just never slowed down again. Being out of town at the beginning of the month didn't help... and now it's almost March!!

It doesn't help that I seem to be smack in the middle of a quarter life crisis. A friend of mine made me laugh the other day as she talked about her father's midlife crisis, but since he's so careful and anxious, she said he likely planned that crisis. Yep, that's me. Not exactly proud of it.

What I am proud of - and excited about - is the work I've been doing to work through it. I've been meeting with a wonderful mentor and friend, who is a certified Strengths coach. Sidenote: if you aren't familiar with the Strengthsfinder, buy it immediately. It is life changing.

Diane is helping me work through what comes next for me. I'm graduating in May, which seems like a great time to re-evaluate what's next for me and my family. I'm so happy at work, and am not planning on that changing, but I want to try to focus in on what makes me happiest and plays to my strengths.

If you're interested in learning more about the Strengthsfinder, I'm happy to fill you and use myself and my darling husband as examples. The good news is that I managed to do a lot of sewing this weekend. I'll have pictures once the products get to their recipients later this week!

Is anyone else having a crazy start to 2012, or is it just me??

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Picture Wall Close Ups

Yesterday I promised you close ups of some of my favorite things on our picture wall. This wall is a mix of things, but I do have a few that I just love the most. Let me warn you now that I take terrible pictures normally, but pictures of pictures taken at night time are especially awful.

This is my very favorite shot from our Trash the Dress session, which gave it the prime spot on the picture wall. This is a bridge that usually has cars on it, so we had a lookout at either end and did this shot quickly!! The wind blowing my dress is my favorite part!

This is one of the very first pictures we ever took together, and it makes me smile!

Oh, I love everything about this. The day of our wedding it downpoured. I mean, rained cats and dogs. Rained so so hard. We had to take pictures inside at a Conservatory, and there was a woman there sketching. She walked up to my sister and handed her this -- it's me! Isn't it amazing??

Just when I think the last one was my favorite. This is a picture of Zac's grandfather taken more than 50 years ago. My favorite part? How much it looks like Zac! We've had three friends ask what Zac was eating in this picture -- I love how they resemble each other so much!

This is my grandmother and her brother when they were younger. Isn't the reflection so neat? When you're looking at it in person, it's really difficult to tell which side is right side up.

So there you go -- a close up of our picture wall. Is there anything you display that you love that I haven't thought of yet??

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Picture Wall Re-Do

Our family room was one of the first rooms we decorated when we moved in. There were some things (like buying a couch) that just couldn't be avoided unless we wanted to sit on the floor.

I love this room. It's where we spend most of our time, and I really do think it's comfortable. There are a lot of bright colors (the pillows, the rug, and the pallet art), but the neutral walls and television cabinet provide balance.

There's only one part of this room that's always felt a bit off to me, and that is the picture wall. We had envisioned a wall of photos that wrapped around our sectional similar to the way the couch wraps around the wall. But, and I'm not completely sure why, we just never accomplished that goal.

Here's what I'm talking about:

As a side note, we paid $8.99 for the lamp hanging over the couch at IKEA. It's the best lamp ever.

Do you see what I mean about the picture wall? We thought that the mix of frame colors would be awesome, but it wasn't. We thought this would be the punch of color the room needed, but it wasn't. We thought this would be a lot of pictures and make the wall feel full, but it didn't.

We went to IKEA to get some more frames. We went like fools and didn't measure or count out how many or anything. We just bought a bunch of different sizes and got SUPER lucky. We were short two small frames, but that was it.

The next step was to create newspaper templates of all of the frames. This didn't take very long at all, and it was well worth the effort.

Hey there, pre-Christmas advertisements.

I know some people lay out their frames on the floor, but that doesn't work for me. Fun fact you probably didn't know - I am terrible at visualizing things (which is probably why I struggle so much when I'm sewing patterns). This helps me get a better idea of the actual layout.

Looks easy, right? WRONG. Fast forward SEVEN HOURS LATER, and we finally got to this point:

This process was exhausting. We started with the large frame, and worked out. We didn't want the frames to be completely symmetrical, but we also didn't want them to be too wonky, either. We initially wanted the whole thing to be a large rectangle, but ultimately we had to give up and allow the bottoms to be staggered. I'm really glad we did this -- it's one of my favorite parts about it now!

We pulled some pictures from the old picture wall, ordered some new ones, and found some other frame-able things laying around.

Together, they make magic!

Side note about the naked lady? I bought her at a farmer's market in Seattle. I brought it home and showed it proudly to Zac. He said, "You bought a naked lady?" and I said, "What naked lady? I don't see a naked lady?" He turned it right side up. And I said, "Ohhhhh...." And I took these pictures before putting in the last two pictures. Oops.

We are thrilled with the results. I think the change to all black frames (so they pop on the white walls), putting them closer together, and adding more frames solved our earlier problems. The wall adds a lot of color to the room, and also lets us display some of our favorite pictures and memories.

Hope you like it, too! Tomorrow I'll share close-ups of some of my favorite pictures, but in the meantime, click HERE to see the blog parties where I'm linking!

And just for fun, a blog picture outtake...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

See Ya Later, Gluten!

This post will likely seem random to a few people, because if you don't know me in real life, you don't know that my stomach hurts. A lot. Like oh, every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. And for my entire life. As in, as a baby, I had stomach aches on breast milk, which is supposedly quite rare.

I've tried everything. According to the GI doctor, there's nothing wrong with me, this is just my lot in life. So pro is that I'm not dying. Con is that sometimes it sure feels like I am.

My younger sister gets similar stomach aches and decided to try going gluten-free just after Christmas. Within a few days, she felt completely better. She has hardly had any issues in the past month, which was good enough reason for me to try.

And it's about all I have left to try. I tried tracking my food, giving up dairy, every OTC product that exists, and to no avail. Which, if I have a gluten sensitivity would make sense, since gluten is in almost everything.


The last time I ate gluten was Monday night (February 13).  The last time I had a stomach ache was Tuesday the 14th. I won't say that I'm 100% yet (apparently it can take a little while to "detox" from the gluten) but I feel so much better. Amazing. Enough for me to have drank the kool-aid (not literally. That probably has gluten in it).

My friend Ashley has Celiac. She has it rough. Like, so so so so much worse than me. She's been gluten free for over a year, so she sent me some great advice. If you're curious about giving up gluten, read on!

"First off, gluten affects people differently. The one thing that I think is pretty obvious when you start looking into it is that we are a society eat way more gluten than we should--and in that way it affects everyone to some degree. You will start to find out really quickly (if you are being very strict) that we use gluten as a filler in a lot of our foods. So, the good news is that I think most people that cut gluten feel better to some degree because we just consume more than we are made to in the first place. Some people, once they "detox," can reintroduce the gluten foods they like, and just scale back on the amount of (what I would call) "bad gluten" you eat without even knowing it. Some people also have a gluten allergy--which can lead to the GI issues--some have an intolerance, and then others have Celiac which leads to more violent reactions that get worse over time because the disease causes damage to your intestines when you eat gluten. Good news--when you cut gluten you will see more benefits than just the tummy problems clearing up. Another friend cut gluten and her mental health drastically changed! I know I noticed I had a lot more energy and was less "foggy" and she noted the same things.

Okay, so what is gluten? To really detox you have to be really diligent in checking labels. It's annoying at first, but quickly becomes second nature. Also, you just stop missing the things you cut out, I promise! Gluten is a by-product of wheat. Wheat includes a lot of things like barely and some other grains.  

Here are the things to look out for (some you will know, some you may not, all of which have gluten):
Wheat (Duh)
Oats (You can find gluten free oats--it depends on how they are processed.)
Soy Sauce (I put this because it is used in a lot of meals--more than you think!)
Any Wheat Germ, etc.
Caramel Color (Found a lot in soft drinks, juice drinks, baking supplies (vanilla extract, etc.) and candy)
Modified Food Starch (Found in almost everything. Used as a filler. Check the Allergy Info or Research.)
Modified Corn Starch (Same as above. Non-modified of both of these are fine!)

You'll find that although that list is short, it rules out a LOT of food because of the last three--which is kinda disturbing when you think about it because none of those are naturally found in food. 

What you CAN eat:
Rice (Any Kind)
Any Rice Noodle
Glutamate (You'll see it as an ingredient. Not actually gluten.)
Obviously anything listed as gluten free
Any and all alcohol EXCEPT Beer and Malt Beverages. But all liquor is good because of the distillation process it does through. :)

Safe things to eat out:
Mexican food is relatively safe--just substitute corn tortillas.
Thai food is relatively safe because they don't usually cook with soy sauce.
Meditteranean food is pretty easy. They really don't use flour too much in anything other than soups.
O' Charley's potato soup. I list this because it is important to me.
Chipotle Bowls. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT to me.
Balsamic Dressing (Most other dressings are a no go.)
Skyline. Seriously. Gluten free chili, baby!
Coke Products!!! (As of April 2011 they changed their process to make everything gluten free!)"

Ok, it's Tara again. It sounds like a lot, but it hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. I actually had a much harder time cutting out dairy. You can still eat potatoes, corn tortillas, some chips... and honestly, I didn't need to eat that much bread anyway. And I feel better, which makes it easier to keep going.

So, it's early. And who knows where this will go, but for now, it's helping so I'm going to stick with it. I guess I just want you to know so that if you bring me dinner you'll make it gluten-free.

Did I trick you? Were you really going to bring me dinner?? Because my poor husband could probably use a night off from cooking, and pizza is out of the question now!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Sweet Baby Boy Quilt for a Sweet Baby Boy

When my friend Claire told me she was pregnant last summer, I was so excited! Claire and I met in college - actually, before the very first day of my freshman year. She's the reason I joined my sorority (she promised me cake. What can I say? I'm weak!), and we spent the next four years being inseparable. It turned out that our parents live about two miles from each other, and we helped each other get ready (in different years) for our first dates with our husbands. 

Claire and Brian found out they were having a boy in August, and I got sewing. I took this quilt with me to my gramma's house to quilt on the long arm, and it was the last one we did. Which means we did this one by generator during Hurricane Irene. Not sure it's my finest work, but Claire and sweet little Charlie seem to like it!

This quilt came from the same book as the animal quilt I made, and it's definitely worth the purchase. It's a great book. You can find it on Amazon here. You could get it from a library, but the templates are really big - I mean, really big - so copying them would be tough. This quilt for Charlie is one of the reasons I bought the book, and I was excited to finally get to make it!

I think the semi truck is my favorite part! I had a hard time finding fabric for the back, but once I saw this, I was sold. I love the road signs and the bright colors!

The sweet mama-to-be sure seemed to like it!

Charlie came almost a whole month early, so good thing this quilt was ready. The sweetest part of the whole thing? Seeing that darling little boy enjoying his quilt!

Nothing like cute baby pictures to make Monday feel a little less like Monday. Click HERE to see the blog parties where I'm linking!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Simplify: Week 2

Last week's simplify challenge was to show up early. I've spent the past week focused on getting places with breathing room to spare. And honestly? It's been great.

Keys to success? Setting my phone so it reminds me 45 minutes before an appointment and then again 30 minutes before. That's my key to start wrapping up whatever I'm working on, and with 30 minutes to go it's usually time to pack up and head out the door.

I will definitely try to make this a habit. It's nice to drive to a meeting and not worry about being late. Plus, I can usually knock out a task or two on my phone if I arrive at my destination early.

So... my second week's challenge.

Ramsland defines two minute pickups as tasks that are too short to write on a to-do list, but that slow the pace of your life if you ignore them too long.

Examples? Unloading the dishwasher. Adding a frequently called number to your phone. RSVPing to an event. Filing a paper on your desk. Labeling a binder. Hanging up your coat. And so on.

I can easily see the benefit in this if I just look at my house. If I take the time to put things where they go, my house is clean. Small tasks done multiple times quickly are much easier than the time it takes to dig out from under them.

For the next week, I'll focus on doing things now that can be done quickly. I won't walk past something that needs to be taken upstairs when I'm going that way. I will hang my clothes up when I take them off. And dang it, my life will be better.

Or something like that!! Does this task fit your life? Are you super good at two minute pickups already (hey Mom!) or could you use some work in this area too? Any tips for success?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Resolution Check-In

I mentioned in my 2011 wrap up post that I probably should have checked in on my resolutions throughout the year, instead of just at the end of December. In an attempt to do that, here's a review of my progress so far... just remember that it's early!

1. Try to "have it all," but don't go crazy when I can't. 
I feel like I'm on the right track with this. My amazing new boss at work is great in this aspect. I was worried about preparing for an event last week and she said, "Wait. What happens if you forget something? Nothing. It's okay. Don't worry." Amen, sister.

2. Schedule a monthly date night. 
Bad news: we didn't formally do this in January. Because we forgot and the month went by too quickly.
Good news: we have been focused on spending more quality time together. And I'm going to remember this month!

3. Stick to an exercise routine. 
I am really proud of this. Derby and I finished Week 7 of Couch to 5K last week! It's still not easy, and making time for it is the hardest part, but we're doing it.

4. Make enough time for my hobbies. 
Reading books - huge fail. Sewing - did more in January, but it fell off the final two weeks. Need to focus on this one again!

5. Stick with our budget. 
Still on track!

6. Stay present. 
The conference helped me re-focus on this, and I'm trying. It's harder than I thought, but it's worth the effort!

7. Stay organized. 
This is going better at home than work, where I'm just feeling overwhelmed. Working on it!

8. Take a vacation
WE BOOKED IT!!!!!!!! We are headed back to our honeymoon location (aka - paradise) at the end of April!!!

9. Stick with my blog
I'm making great progress! It's still not quite as regular as I'd like, but at least I haven't disappeared for months at a time!

The best part of reviewing my goals? I'm actually doing better than I expected. Thanks for being my virtual accountability partners.

How are your new year's resolutions and 2012 goals going?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Zac and I aren't huge V-Day people. It probably has something to do with the fact that Zac has had to work every Valentine's Day since we met until this year.... the restaurant business is not kind to couples. And I'll be in class all night. I guess the universe just doesn't want this to be our holiday.

I did make him a card, if printing a card off the computer count as making? I'm wishing I'd gotten him this card instead, because I'm all romantic like that.

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'll share with you a few things that I love. And hopefully you'll share some of yours with me!
  • I LOVE when I'm sitting on the couch and Derby jumps up next to me and snuggles into my lap. He's so cuddly and warm.
  • I LOVE when I have happy hour with just one or two friends. There's something re-charging about that.
  • I LOVE sitting down for dinner with my family and getting up an hour later because we're laughing too hard to finish dinner right away (joke credit here goes to Beth).
  • I LOVE weekends with no plans. This weekend will be almost that way, and I can't wait.
  • I LOVE dreaming with my husband about house projects, future plans, and just our future in general. I should note that he loves this significantly less than I do, but he's a good sport.
  • I LOVE waking up and thinking it's almost time to get up - but you've actually have hours left to sleep. Score.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gift for a Photographer

Our wonderful wedding photographer has become a friend of ours. When I found out she was having a baby, I knew I wanted to make her something fun. And, as always, Pinterest came to the rescue!

This image links back to a search on Etsy, and I can't find its original owner. Sorry about that. This is the best I can do.  Here's the inspiration I found on Pinterest:

Isn't it fun? Rachel's baby is a boy, so obviously hers looks a little different. But, Rachel might also someday have a girl, so I didn't want to make it too boyish. You've already seen the camera tag blanket as part of my Tag Blanket Tutorial, but there's more! Here's my version:

I loved it once I made it, but I thought it needed something else, too. Hence, another tag blanket!

Here's a close up so you can see it better:

I love it! If you're interested in making your own set, here's the tutorials you'll need. You can make it with literally any shape (as evidenced by my peace sign onesie set).

Click HERE to see the blog parties where I'm linking!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Simplify: A Challenge

I checked out this book from the library this week on a whim. A total whim, but I am so glad I did.


This book is incredible. I pride myself on my organization and productivity, and I'm pretty good at it. But, I'm also a time management junkie, and I love to learn more. It isn't too often that I find a book that really makes me say, "Wow! That would make a big difference for me!" but this one has. Multiple times.

The book is divided into 30 sections, for the 30 days of a month. The author has a habit to change or a suggestion to fix in each one. Not all of them apply to me, but many of them do.

I'm going to take one topic and attack it each week. It isn't the beginning of a year, or even a week, but I'm just going to jump in. Feel free to jump with me!

This week's challenge is:

I'm almost never late. In fact, I'm often even earlier than I need to be. That's not my issue here. My issue is that even though I'm early, I always feel like I'm rushing to get out the door. Ramsland attributes this to not handling small things ahead of time (like getting gas), trying to finish just one more thing before you head out the door (guilty), or you don't schedule enough time to get out the door.

I'm mostly guilty of the first two. It's ridiculous that every time my gas light comes on, it surprises me. I wait to get money to pay someone until the last minute. I almost NEVER put the directions to where I'm going in my calendar so I have them right away, and I even sometimes don't put the name of the person I'm meeting when I get there. And I have a lot to do during the day -- if I can get to a few more things, surely that will be a good thing, right?

Wrong. All of that adds up to me rushing. A lot. Which makes me anxious, which I'm trying to avoid. So... my challenge for this week is not only to show up on time, but to leave myself a cushion so that I'm not worried as I travel. Where it won't matter that I hit every single red light between here and my destination.

In future weeks we'll talk about what to do with your extra time if you arrive a little bit early, but for now, the goal is to get out the door on time and travel stress free.

(I think this post is making me look disorganized, which makes me anxious, but I'm going to focus on the fact that you're my friends and you won't judge me too harshly).

I'd love for you to join me for this challenge series. And get the book from your library or the bookstore. This is one I think I'm going to invest in. Worth. It.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What I'm Pinning

I love Pinterest. Words can't even describe how much I love Pinterest. There are so many things that I love about it - seeing what my friends are into, saving ideas, becoming inspired for projects.

The thing I love best however, is that it's an insight into my psyche. Just kidding - that's creepy. But a little bit, it is! I like to look back on what I've recently pinned to find patterns. Oh - every room that I've pinned has grey walls? Note to self, paint a room grey. Things like that.

Here are a few of my most recent pins so you can psychoanalyze me!

Funniest thing EVER. You mix water and chicken stock, freeze some treats and toys inside, and your dog will behave for hours. Sometimes I just pin things that make me chuckle.

A guide on what vegetables to plant next to each other in your garden. I am yearning for spring. And cheaper vegetables.

I am looking for an excuse to drink more wine.

I have been running for six weeks. That totally justifies a pan of these, right?!?
Quick, someone have a birthday!!!

I have a new found love for crocheting. And at least twice a week I say, "Zac, have you seen my crochet thing? I think it's blue. I don't remember where it is. Do you have it?"
He does not. Nor does he find looking for it amusing.

Who actually has a house like this? WHO? Because I want to move in with them.

You can follow me on Pinterest and see what else I'm loving these days by clicking here:

Follow Me on Pinterest

I'd love to see what you're pinning! If I'm not already following you, please leave me your Pinterest name in the comments so I can!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What a great weekend!

Wow... What a crazy, fantastic weekend. I spent the whole time - and I literally mean the whole time - learning about mindfulness and meditation. I am overwhelmed yet at peace at the same time, and can't wait to share some of what I have learned with you... I just need time to process everything first!

We had a great flight out here, for which I am so grateful. Having a positive flying experience makes flying so much easier for me the next time, which is good since I have three more trips before May! Check out this view from the window flying over the Rocky Mountains.

Being on California time is great. We have been going to bed early but that means getting up early too. I was able to run on the beach at sunrise this morning - so cool!

And when did I become that person who video chats with her husband mostly so she can see the dog? This is the longest I have ever been away from Derby and I miss him! Note to self: get a life.

I hope you had a great weekend, too!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Leaving on a jet plane

I'm headed to San Diego this morning for an amazing conference on mindfulness and youth. I can't wait to share the cool things I learn with you when I return.

Please send calming thoughts and prayers my way as I'm flying, which you know I hate to do.

The conference will be so worth how much I hate to fly though -- it looks amazing, and it's a great opportunity for me!

Oh, and this is what our hotel looks like.


I guess I can suck it up for a few days... See you next week!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Things worth splurging on

In our house, we live on a budget. Not a crazy, super tight, no one is allowed to have fun budget, but a budget nonetheless. Our budget has "fun money" built in to it so we can go out to dinner, buy fabric (though Zac doesn't really buy fabric - he plays golf), etc.

I think we live pretty frugally. We don't buy many things we don't need, we clip coupons for grocery shopping, and we don't buy anything we can't pay for immediately.

That. Being. Said. There are a few things in this world that I will splurge on. Where it's worth it to me to spend the money to get higher quality products. Some of these things might surprise you, and I'm sure this list is different for everyone, but here's my list of things worth splurging on.

1. Bedding.
I know that nice bedding is expensive, but to me, it's worth the cost. We are talking about something that you will spend 7-9 hours of your life wrapped up in every single day. It should feel nice, you should love it, and to me, it's worth splurging on. The upside, of course, is that nice bedding lasts longer and you'll have to replace it less often.


2. Fabric.
Quilting and sewing is my favorite hobby because it lasts forever. Honestly, if I'm going to put the time into creating something for someone else, I don't want them to eat it. Or open it and throw it away. I want it to last for a long time. If I'm going to put the effort and expense into something, I want it to last. Which is why I'm willing to splurge on quality fabric.

This is not my stash. I wish. Came from here.

3. Dog food.
Weird, right? We feed our dog this all natural organic crap that I can't believe we pay a ton of money for. But... I just don't feel right feeding him something where the main ingredient was "chicken byproducts," which is what the first food we bought said. And, the better the food, supposedly the better behaved dog you'll have. Our dog is (usually) very well behaved, but I'm not taking any chances!

4. Pots and pans.
Zac got most of our pots and pans before I ever met him, but I'm an All-Clad convert. They are crazy expensive. Ridiculously expensive. But you only ever have to buy them once. Our stainless steel pans should last us the rest of our lives. Winning.
Ours are slightly more loved and less shiny than these bad boys.

5. Clothes.
This is definitely evolving as I get older. Now, it's important to me that my clothes fit well and last a long time. I am willing to invest some money in pieces that fit well, flatter my body, and are classic additions to my wardrobe (like a great black suit). I don't spend much money on "trendy" pieces, half because I admit that I'm just not trendy, and half because they tend to fall apart after one or two wears. Now, I need to say that I still buy all of my nicer clothes on clearance or sales!

6. Our cleaning lady.
I will give up cable before I give up our fantastic cleaning lady. Yes, we pay her a lot of money, but coming home to a perfectly clean house every other week is worth every single penny. We (I - Zac doesn't really care) had to accept that we were never going to be able to keep our house as clean as we wanted to. Plus, I hate cleaning. And I'm not very good at it. But it stresses me out to have a dirty house. This money is a contribution toward both a clean house and maintaining my sanity, so worth it to us.

What items do you splurge on? Is there something that's expensive but you just can't live without? What are you not willing to cut from your budget, no matter what?

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