Friday, March 30, 2012

So close!

I'll finish my MSW in a little less than a month.. Eek! I have senioritis like I've never had before. I am just so ready to be finished and have my life back.

This is the list of things standing between me and graduation:

The end is so close!!!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quilts on a Ladder

I found this picture on Pinterest awhile ago, and I'd been dreaming about finding an antique ladder to hang quilts on ever since.

Love this one too. Especially covered in cashmere blankets. Sigh. As if.

Quick side note - when was the last time you said, "As if?" It seemed relevant in this post.

Fast forward to the day I decided I wanted a ladder for my living room. If you want one too, here's my advice. Good stinking luck finding one. If you can find one on Craigslist, it will likely cost a zillion dollars. And that's a huge IF. So unless you are already a garage saler / antique fair stalker, I don't know how you will find one.

Unless you are supremely lucky and the universe is smiling upon you.

I'm working on a project with a teacher whose parents love to antique shop. I mentioned months ago how much I'd love to have an antique ladder, and that if her parents found one I'd gladly buy it. This was pre-Christmas. It was awhile ago.

Fast forward again to last week. I came home from a meeting and saw this beautiful piece of wonderfulness next to my front door!

Even Instagram can't save my crappy photos. Oi.

I asked Zac where it came from and he said, "Some lady just came by and said it was for you?" My teacher-friend's parents had found it and gave it to me! And it's GLORIOUS -- It's about 8 feet tall, and has so many rungs, for so many quilts!!

My grandmother is bringing me some of her quilts when she comes to visit in June, but here it is filled in the mean time:

Do you love it??

It is SO tall!! Here's a view of it in the living room:

Another shot:

Don't worry. Taking a photography class is high up on my list of things to do after graduation!

If you're curious about the quilts...

  1. Second quilt I ever made... still my favorite.
  2. Quilt Zac's grandfather made. So precious that we have it.
  3. Quilt Gramma made me for Christmas a few years ago.
  4. Our Christmas quilt. It's a placeholder!!
  5. I love this quilt. My gramma pieced it by hand from scraps. We only saw her a few times a year when we were younger, and I remember her making it over multiple visits. There's even a square that I added that has my name on it! It's GIANT, and it's so special.
What do you think about the ladder? Be honest. It's more country chic than we usually do in our house, but it's so unique and I think with modern quilts it isn't too much? Reassure me, please!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Zappos. Has. An. Outlet.

Ohmygoodness you guys. ZAPPOS HAS AN OUTLET STORE.

I will pause a moment to let that sink in for you.

Zappos, as in, the best place to order shoes online in the history of all time because they have free 24 hour shipping to you and free 24 hour shipping if you need to return stuff and their customer service people are the nicest people of all time.

For our Friends Day this month, we went to Louisville where my friend Katie lives. After a super yummy lunch at a local pizza place (see here for how I can eat a little bit of pizza), we headed to the Zappos outlet store. It's about 20 minutes south of downtown Louisville, and I'll tell you, it's worth the drive.

I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures of the store, but it looks like your normal shoe store. Rows and rows and rows of shoes. Anything people return to Zappos for any reason gets put here. The most expensive shoes are 50% off, but there are some as low as 70% off their retail price. They have shoes as expensive and lovely as Kate Spade, and also some that at 50% off end up being $9. 

I was looking for some new work shoes, and I struck gold. For me, shoes are quality over quantity. You definitely get what you pay for. I've learned over the years that there are certain types of shoes I need to invest in - heels being a prime example. If you get the right pair of heals made by the right designer, you can wear them all day with no problem. It's always the cheapy Target versions that make me want to cry after about an hour.

Here's my booty:

These beauties are a deep brown color. And lovely.

Black, patent leather pumps to replace the ones I wore through.
Thank you to Calvin Klein for the extra padding!

I love accent shoes. My wardrobe has a lot of greys, whites, and blacks, and fun colored shoes or jewelry can spice things up. These are gorgeous in person, and extra padded again. 

Only one downside:

I tried them on in store, and they were comfortable. But I didn't walk in them. I got home and Zac said, "Those look high." To prove him wrong I tried to walk... and looked like a fool. So these will either take extra practice, an occasion where I don't walk at all, or just to be beautiful eye candy in my closet. 

Whichever way, I don't regret them!

Hey there beauties. Mommy loves you.

Grand total for three brand name pairs of dress shoes? $90. According to the original sales price, my total should have been closer to $300, so I'll take that!

Where have you scored great shoes??

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Most Delicious Mac & Cheese

Anytime I need a new recipe, I tend to go to Stephanie's blog Macaroni and Cheesecake and do a search there. She tries out so many wonderful recipes, and we must have similar tastes, because I always agree with her feedback. And our blogs were designed by the same person, so in blog life we're identical twins. Our little girls at the top look like sisters!

Last Friday, Zac and I were watching the news and they were covering a local fish fry... which of course, immediately had us craving macaroni and cheese. We've made decent mac and cheese from scratch in the past, but I remembered seeing a new recipe on Stephanie's blog recently and thought we'd try that one. Stephanie is on a quest to find the world's creamiest mac & cheese, and I'm happy to join her on that journey.

Side note / gluten update: It seems like I still feel okay if I cut way back on gluten. Right now I'm eating it one or two times a week and not having any side effects. Except for the one week where I sort of kept doing that a lot of times and then I didn't feel so hot. So - mac and cheese with no more gluten throughout the week is okay. Mac and cheese every day is not okay - for many, many reasons.

I couldn't eat this gloriousness without sharing it with you. I mean, look at it!

Ours looked that good too. Actually, ours was a little bit creamier because I splashed a bit more evaporated milk than it called for (per Stephanie's feedback). And it was DE-LISH.

Alton Brown’s Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese
Source: Alton Brown, Food Network via Macaroni & Cheesecake
1/2 pound elbow macaroni 
4 tbsp. butter
2 eggs
6 oz. evaporated milk (fat free is fine)
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for boiling
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground dry mustard
10 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Bring a large pot of water to boil.   Add a sprinkling of salt, then boil your noodles according to package directions.  Once al dente, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Add the butter and stir until butter has melted.
Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, evaporated milk, cayenne, 1 tsp. salt, pepper and mustard.  Once the noodles are cooked, drained and the butter has melted, stir the milk mixture into the noodles until incorporated.  Add in the cheese and stir over low heat until cheese has melted, approximately 3 minutes.  Serve immediately.
It makes a ton of mac and cheese. It would be more than enough for a family of four, especially if you ate it as a side dish. It heats up okay... not great. I think homemade mac and cheese is always a bit gritty when you heat it up the next day. This is about the same as all others when it comes to leftovers.
Yeah, it's yummy. Go make it immediately.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Etsy Shop Info

I'm a few weeks into being an Etsy shop owner, and I thought I'd give you some updates in case you were thinking about opening your own. Or are just curious. Whatever!

I'll be honest - I didn't open my shop to make lots of money. Or because I particularly love machine embroidering many, many baby onesies instead of working on other projects for myself. My real (selfish) reason for opening it was because I often make things I listed in my shop for others, and this took out the weirdness of figuring out how much to say I charged, or if there was confusion about if I charged. Putting a price tag on the things I make eliminates this issue without it being awkward.

I've had orders from a few people I knew already, as well as a few I didn't know. I always get nervous when I'm sewing for others, but everyone has seemed to like what I've made them so far. The things I make on my shop aren't secret products only I know how to make... they are things you need an embroidery machine and software for and many people, even crafty, sewing people, don't have that at their disposal.

So... and few of my handiwork items. And don't judge. My pictures are awful (as usual). I'm trying to get better!

                                  Personalized Easter Onesie or T-Shirt

                                                   Custom Personalized Cross Baby Onesie 

            Custom Personalized Easter Baby Onesie 

If you have an embroidery machine, you can make these too! You just need to get the designs. My favorite place to get them is Planet Applique. I can do a tutorial if anyone wants one, but you can probably find other ones out there pretty easily (which is how I learned).

My newest product are these:

                                      UK Drink Coozie

                                                  Monogrammed Burlap Drink Holder 

They are burlap covered drink koozies, embroidered with a design. They've even cuter in person! Again, not something I'm keeping secret. They're really easy to make, so I'll do a tutorial for that too if you want it!

So that's my progress so far. Until school is over (4 MORE WEEKS! AHHHH!!) this is about as good as it's going to get, but I think it's a good start??

Oh - and a view of a finished project on my cousin's sweet little twins!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

C-A-T-S, Cats Cats Cats!

We're watching the UK game today in our house... Go Cats!

I borrowed this image from a college friend, Mary Ellen, who designs gorgeous custom invitations, greeting cards, etc. You can visit her shop here if you are interested!

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, March 23, 2012

We have a winner!!

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway last week, and thanks to Amy at One Artsy Mama for giving away one of her beautiful necklaces.

Here's a reminder of what the winner will receive:

Custom Handstamped Pendant: One Word Sweet Peas in a Pod Necklace
Bird's Nest Pendant with 3 Blue EggsHandstamped "Faith" Pendant

Drumroll please! And the winner is.....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's...... BACON!

After some heavier posts about strengths the past few days, I'm going to switch gears and talk about... BACON!! Hopefully what you love about this blog is my ridiculous variety of posts. Apologies in advance to any of my vegetarian and vegan friends. You can skip this one!

This wrapped up my silverware at a breakfast meeting yesterday. Serendipity? I think yes.

We made bacon last night and I realized I'd never shared with you our method of cooking bacon that I absolutely adore. We make our bacon in the oven, and it's awesome. It doesn't get bacon grease all over your kitchen, cleaning up the pan is much easier, and you can control how crispy your bacon is much more easily.

To make bacon in the oven, line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. You can do it without anything on the pan if you don't have parchment paper, but clean up is much easier if you have it. You can put the bacon as close together as you need to - practically touching is fine.

Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until it's reached the "doneness" that you like. You can flip it halfway through if you want, but you don't have to.

When it's finished, let the bacon grease harden a bit, then lift off the parchment paper and throw it away. You'll still need to wash the pan, but it's much easier than when it's completely greasy.

And then... enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Strengths Part II

Yesterday I shared my experience with the Strengths Finder. It seems like a lot of you were interested, which I'm so excited about!! If you take the test, please send me your strengths (you can email me here!). I am really interested in learning more about you!

I took the test more than two years ago, and wanted Zac to take it too. He isn't really one for tests. Like, at all. I finally just bought him the book in October of last year, thinking he would take it more seriously once it was an actual possibility. And then I just gently reminded him about it pretty much every night.

So, he took it. In February. Yeah, it only took five months of nagging asking politely every day for him to do it. He's just not one for tests.

The hard part about this story is how I felt when I saw his strengths. I felt like the worst wife in the history of the world. Not only would I not have pegged some of them as his strengths, there were a few that I honestly didn't think I saw in him at all

I sent them to our friend Diane who is a certified strengths coach, and she was able to reassure me. She and her husband were our mentor couple during our pre-marriage work, and she said she could see all of them easily. The verdict? My nose was touching the picture frame, so I couldn't see the picture. I needed to step back and really examine our relationship and Zac's role in it to see his strengths.

There are 34 strengths total, and we don't share any of them. It's actually pretty rare to have too many in common with someone you care about. Diane (my life coach friend) and I have three, which is almost unheard of.

Here are Zac's top 5:
  1. Consistency.  People who are especially talented in the Consistency theme are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They try to treat everyone in the world with consistency by setting up clear rules and adhering to them.
  2. Adaptability.  People who are especially talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.
  3. Maximizer.  People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.
  4. Empathy.  People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.
  5. Harmony.  People who are especially talented in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.
I saw consistency right away - Zac is all about things being fair and equal. Adaptability was an easy one, too. He is the king of adaptability - and thank goodness, because you know that I am not. His adaptability is probably the number one reason we work as a couple. Harmony was easy for me to see, also.

What I didn't see so much? Empathy. There are so many times it seems like he doesn't understand me. Diane's explanation? I only notice the times he doesn't seem to understand me - not the millions of times everyday that he does. Also, Zac's not a big feelings talker, but that's not what empathy is. When people he loves are upset, he's genuinely bothered by it and feels what they're feeling. Just because he doesn't talk about it doesn't mean he isn't feeling it.

The other one that wasn't clear at first was maximizing, and now his maximizing is controlling my life. I don't know how I never noticed before, but he's really a perfectionist. If he can't do it perfectly, he won't do it at all. Which explains why I eat restaurant quality meals he prepares every night, the radiator cover in our bedroom is perfect (even if it took three weeks to build), and he wants to sweep the patio every single night. 

People's strengths can also be things that drive you crazy about them. Zac never wants to pick what we're having for dinner - which can be annoying. In reality, it's probably because his harmony strength is so high and he seeks to avoid conflicts. We've been able to integrate the strengths terms into our regular vocabulary, and you'll now sometimes hear us saying things like, "I'm just maximizing."

In case you can't tell, this has been a really cool experience for us. To clarify, on a scale of 1 - 10, I'm at a 52 and Zac is about a 6, but honestly, that's where we live for most things. It's a balance, and somehow, it works!

Oh, and my entire family should plan on getting this for the next gift giving occasion. Woo hoo - Christmas will be fun this year!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Strengths

I wrote a little bit about the StrengthsFinder here, but I didn't get into too much detail. A few of you were interested in learning more about it, so here you go....

The strengths finder test was developed by Gallup to help people uncover their talents. You buy the book (it's relatively cheap - usually $12-ish), take the online test using the code that comes with your book, and then read what your results mean.

And for me, it was life changing. That's not an exaggeration.


After you take the assessment, you receive a profile of your top 5 strengths. You only get 5, but trust me, that's enough. According to Gallup's statistics, there are only 8 other people in this world that have the same top 5 strengths in the same order as you do. Eight. And one might be a 93 year old woman, or a six month old little boy. Want to get really crazy? In the entire world, there is not one single other person who has the same 12 strengths as you do in the same order. NO ONE. As if you needed another reason to believe that everyone is here for a purpose (and the stress that comes along with finding out what that purpose is. Oh, is that just me??).

Here are my top 5 strengths with their short definition.


  1. Responsibility. People who are especially talented in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.
  2. Activator. People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
  3. Individualization. People who are especially talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
  4. Achiever. People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
  5. Input. People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
If you have a similar experience to me, reading this list will be very validating to you. Your strengths are likely things that you value, and also things that you assume everyone else has because you have them so strongly. 

The most amazing part is really focusing on where your strengths show up. My responsibility strength is probably why I feel so guilty if I don't blog on a regular basis. Individualization? The amount of time I put into picking out the perfect Christmas gift for everyone. Responsibility + Activator + Achiever + Input = my inability to say no to any opportunity. Ever.

Focusing on my strengths has been tremendous for my happiness, my career, my marriage, and my civic engagement. I've been able to narrow down opportunities that don't play to my strengths and focus more time and energy on things that do, which makes me happier and more productive (which makes my Achiever happy).

Most recently, the life coach I've been working with (who is a close friend of mine) helped me work through what's next for me professionally. I had applied to a PhD program to continue my social work studies on a part time basis. Would it feed my Input and Achiever needs? Absolutely. Would it be energizing to me otherwise? Probably not. Together we were able to work through that it wasn't what was best for me at this point, and the weight I felt lifted after making that decision was tremendous. 

Do I sound excited? I want you to catch my enthusiasm. Hopefully you don't think this is too hokey, and I also hope that you'll purchase the book for yourself. Oooh - Gallup, if you read this, maybe you should donate some books for everyone who wants one!! Worth a shot, right?

If you do figure out your strengths, make sure you use them. We'll talk more about that, don't worry. Tomorrow I'll fill you in on the exhausting process it was to get Zac to take the test, and how it's been really awesome to understand each other's strengths. Don't lose sleep waiting for it...

Monday, March 19, 2012

What is this funk?

Hi friends. I feel like I'm in a bit of a blogging funk these days. The weather here has been gorgeous lately... so I can't blame that. Let me quantify gorgeous for you:

That's in Ohio. In MARCH. I'm praying this doesn't mean my non-central air conditioned house will be a nightmare this summer, but it's already pretty warm!

Even the poor plants that were menaced by a puppy last summer and fall seem to be looking pretty good!

I spent hours last year untangling this clematis from an awful Virginia creeper, painstakingly saving its beautiful-ness.  Then Derby ate it. It's making quite the comeback though... I took this picture on Friday night and by Sunday night it had already grown to the next horizontal wood piece, which is at least a few inches. It has gorgeous purple flowers in the late spring / early summer, so hopefully those will still bloom this year!

Is anyone else in a blogging funk, or is it just me? I'll be all done with school in about six weeks (can I get an AMEN!), so maybe it's just this last little bit that's the hardest.  I'm definitely still mid-quarter life crisis, too. 

So what's new with you??

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Surprise -- A Giveaway!

Surprise! Today is a giveaway day! Did you expect it? No? Phew. I'm so sneaky. Without further ado, let me introduce Amy from One Artsy Mama!

Hi!  I'm Amy, aka One Artsy Mama, and I'm thrilled to be here today to do a giveaway/swap with Tara!
Today is actually a big day for one year blogiversary! So, to celebrate, I'm giving away a handstamped necklace from my Etsy shop!

As for me, in addition to blogging, I'm an artist, a dancer, a wife, and a mama.  I love everything artsy and am happiest when I'm creating something, especially when I get to do it with my 3 year old son, my "Little Crafter."

I've been married to my best friend for 10 years, and I actually have the coolest job in the world too as a ballroom, latin, and swing dance instructor!

  I'm passionate about Jesus and my family, and totally addicted to Starbucks.  Frappucino, anyone?  In my *spare* time, {haha} I love making jewelry like these handstamped pendants.  The winner of this giveaway will get to choose either a circle or a heart shaped charm with your choice of word{s} on it and up to three crystals or beads on a 16" chain.

            Handstamped "Chosen" Necklace Handstamped "Courage" Pendant
Handstamped "Semper Fi" Necklace 

Good luck!  And don't forget to stop by One Artsy Mama to check out Tara's giveaway {as well as 20 others I have going on to celebrate!}

Happy crafting!

I'm giving away something from my new Etsy shop on Amy's blog, so stop over there if you want to enter to win that too! Make sure you visit Amy's blog and consider becoming a follower - you won't regret it. 

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Couch to 5 K is COMPLETE!!

It's been awhile... but my Couch to 5 K challenge is officially complete! I wrote about it before here, and Derby and I did our final run to complete the program over the weekend.

We came home, and I told Zac that being finished was good news. The bad news was that now I needed to figure out what to do next!!

That's obviously not me. I don't live by mountains. And my sneakers are blue.

Here's the 411 of the experience:

  • Overall, it's awesome. Because it's not really that hard. Don't get me wrong - it's a workout. But it isn't so awful that you give up immediately.
  • I lost weight. Like, substantially. I've lost 10 pounds since Christmas, 6 of which I'll attribute to C25K (less gluten gets the other 4 probably - fewer carbs!). Not only that, but my body looks really different. None of my clothes are tight anymore, and I'm considerably less "jiggly." Win, win, my friends.
  • Derby loves it. The other day our neighbors were talking to Zac on the porch, but when we walked outside Derby walked right past them to begin our run. He also knows what putting my sneakers on means. He's so smart, that puppy.
  • It took me longer than the 9 weeks it's supposed to, and I'm okay with that. There were a few weeks I only managed to run twice, and a few times Zac came with us and messed up my routine. When he runs with us, we usually run half as far but twice as fast. Still counts, but doesn't fit with the program!
  • Slow and steady just works for me. I don't stress out if I don't fit a run in. I don't know that I'll ever run a 5K, but I can run for 30 minutes without stopping and it's pretty easy. I'll take that.
So there you go. I conquered getting into an exercise routine. Now that I've seen the results, I'm pretty sure I'll stick with it. I like how I look 10 pounds lighter, and that I don't feel guilty one bit if I sneak some white chocolate M&Ms. In fact, it's not really sneaking. It's more like, "these are good and I can have a few (bags) without worrying about it."

Has anyone else finished the program? What did you do next? That's what I need to figure out now!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I took the plunge... and made an Etsy shop!

Every so often, someone will suggest that I sell some of the things that I make. As my fellow quilting, crafting, and other artsy friends will probably relate to, it's always strange for me to put a price on something I make, or even think about people wanting to pay for items!

After making some presents for my cousin's new baby, I thought I'd take the plunge. I made an Etsy shop.

I launched it a week ago, and I've sold three items. How fun is that?? I've only listed machine applique designs so far, but I'm planning to add a few other things this weekend (hopefully!).

It's a strange endeavor for me, but it's also been pretty fun. Any suggestions for a new shop owner? I'm not looking to make it my full-time gig, but it's nice to earn a little extra money, and it seems like a fun hobby!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Being a grown up is... kind of awesome??

I had a Twitter conversation the other day with my cousin that accidentally got me thinking. I say accidentally because my brain runs so fast that I generally don't seek out additional things to wonder/worry about!

It started with me telling Abby how beautiful she looked in a new picture and that I can't believe how grown up she is. This beautiful cousin of mine is a senior in high school, auditioning for colleges where she can major in voice. She rocks.

She responded and said, "Thanks! Growing up is so much fun!"

Hmmmm. I'm not sure that's exactly how I would have put it. Growing up is so stressful? Sure. Annoying? Maybe. But fun? Really?

That's when I started thinking about it.... and the more I thought about it, the more I realized Abby is right (which means in addition to being beautiful and talented, she's also wise!). It's fun to have a house to decorate and make our own. It's fun to have a dog who knows I'm his mom and wants to snuggle with me more than anyone else. It's fun to have a job and actual money and a husband and all that stuff.

Sure, there's some stress and anxiety that goes along with it, but I really feel like I'm more myself at this point in my life than I've ever felt before. Being a teenager never really suited me. Same for college student. Don't get me wrong - I loved college (won't say the same about high school), but not as much as I love my life right now.

Do you feel like you're really "coming into your own" as you get older, or are you nostalgic for a time in your life that was just the best for you? Will I feel this way during every age now that I'm older, or am I just meant to be in my 20s?

Our Twitter conversation ended with me saying, "I think it's probably fun until you hit about 36, right??" to which Abby responded, "What?!? 36 is so young!!!"

And you know what? She's totally right.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Handmade Ryan Gosling

I know almost everyone has seen the "Hey Girl" pictures featuring Ryan Gosling, and many of you have probably seen the handmade version, but when a friend sent me the link this morning I couldn't resist. I got totally lost.

Here are a few of my faves:

                                   Submitted by Debi

                                                     Submitted by @meejay03

                                             Submitted by @omyfamily

                     Submitted by @kristenaiken

Happy Thursday. Swoooooooooon.                                  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Grow Your Blog

Amy from One Artsy Mama has a great series this week on growing your blog. I learned a lot from her posts, and thought you might enjoy them too!

Plus, she is a dancer, has a darling little guy to read about, and a fun Friday link party. Winning all the way around!

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