Archive | August, 2010

Vote for me! And here’s why! (aka, My Greatest Hits)

30 Aug

Sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming, but the voting period for the Black Weblog Awards is almost over! In fact, they’ll be over tomorrow! (for more information about the nomination and the process for voting, click this link.)

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with my work and are unsure whether you should vote for me. Fear not! For your consideration, here are some of my more popular posts:

Mid-Summer Check-Up: 42 Fun Activities to Give Your Summer a Boost

34 Ways to Combat a Gray Day! (or a sunny day, if you’re bored) (the sequel!)

Four Ways to Get Fit (That You Might Not Have Heard Of)

Have Your Meat and Eat it Too: A Introductory Guide to Flexitarian Eating

Should Guilty Pleasures be Guilty?

From Tanzania, With Love

and the post that started it all:

My Self-Happiness Manifesto!

Thank you to everyone who has supported through the nomination and voting process. Without you, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. Thank you!




Slowed Down Sunday – 8.29.10

29 Aug


One thing I can never get over is how quickly a week passes…I feel like I just posted last week’s SdS only a couple of days ago! Anyway, here’s my weekly dose of gratitude, from me to you:

♥ MICHAEL JACKSON – For all of you who don’t know, today, August 29th, would have been Michael Jackson’s 52nd birthday. Near the anniversary of his death, I wrote a post about my feelings for him as an artist, so I won’t recap it here. While I was pretty despondent then, I’ve decided that Michael’s birthday should be a day of celebration, not of mourning. I plan to listen to my favorite Michael songs all day and relive the amazing memories that I have attached to them, while appreciating the tremendous talent that created them. I’ll also be sprinkling this post with my favorites – because it’s impossible to just pick one!

♥ LOVELY PEOPLE – Okay, not just any people. But the people I’ve been interacting with on a regular and consistent basis have been fantastic. I’ve reconnected with my friends from last year in university – many of which I hadn’t seen all summer. Also, I got to meet my new staff for this upcoming school year in my residence hall, and I can safely say that I think it’s going to be a fabulous year. I have a lot of positive energy for the people in my social sphere, and I couldn’t be happier. Big things are on the horizon and I can’t wait. Plus, I’m already making plans to see the people who aren’t here with me in Pittsburgh and I can’t wait! My excitement for my plans could take up a whole post by themselves!

♥ AUTUMN IS COMING! – I love the seasons. Each and every one of them – because to me, every one of them brings something wonderful into my life, although some of them are less tolerable weather-wise than others (winter, I’m looking at you). I especially love the “moderate” seasons – autumn and spring because they are a lot more balanced than extreme, which suits my personality. So while I love summer, the season of sunshine, rain showers, sea breezes, swimming pools, ice cream, flip-flops and – my personal favorite part – summer vacation, I find myself pining for the days of autumn, where the leaves begin to change, football season gears up to start and you can finally pull your favorite trench coat and boots from the back of your closet. Hooray for Autumn!

♥ MISCELLANEOUS STARBURSTS – FavoRED Starburst packs (Starbursts with only the pink and red flavors – how convenient!); the fact there is going to be such thing as Planet Sheen; meeting in a coffee shop and talking about Tanzania; ADVENTURE TIME (can this show be on DVD already??); last week’s Project Runway; gummy dinos; color-coding my clothing; getting a *huge* package of dried fruits and pop-chips in the mail; having the freedom to try all sorts of things with my hair; the hope that I’ll FINALLY be able to learn how to knit; smiley face cookies; waking up, only to realize that you have the ability to snuggle back into bed; boxers with rainbows on them; making plans that frighten you and excite you at the same time

So that’s that! What is filling your heart with love and thankfulness this week? Let me know!



Weekend Link Roundup – 8.27.10

27 Aug


Hee! Isn’t that Kanye illustration hilarious? As you can see, I’m still trying to get into the swing of this posting schedule! Hopefully from now on, posting will be closer to on track. Here is some reading to get your weekend started on the right foot!

◊ On, The Ten Best Foods for Your Looks. Mmm…

◊ Are you a college student (or do you have a valid .edu email address?) You can get Amazon Prime for free for the next year! I signed up and I already love it.

◊ This may be one of those nerdy things that only I appreciate, but now you can sign into multiple Google accounts at the same time! Certainly makes my life a bit easier. By the way, Google Voice in Gmail? Awesome.

◊ On one of my favorite new blogs, Might and Main, Small Ways to Improve Your Life. Love it!

You’re probably not 100% satisfied with your life. While there are a million blog posts containing radical ways to change your life, the same small problems could continue to plague you even after a major life change. This post doesn’t have any extreme ideas, but it does have some small, easily achievable ways to improve your life.

◊ This is just beautiful: a sneak peek of Clarissa Hulse Fall Bedding on Aphrochic.

◊ Flickr has now added the Jazz Commons to their collection! Take a look and soak in the history.

◊ On White Hot Truth, The Manifesto of Encouragement. LAHV.

Some of my favorites:

Someone you haven’t met yet is already dreaming of adoring you.


Something is being invented this year that will change how your generation lives, communicates, heals and passes on.

◊ I feel like I am super late, but: Prop 8 has been overturned! Revel in the greatness on Oh No They Didn’t! Political.

◊ Meteor Swift Tuttle gave us the wonderful gift of flying, sparkling diamonds in the sky for free. Magnificent. Beautiful. Take a look.

◊ Remember when I mentioned Guerrilla Gardening in my Summer Check-up List? Well here’s how to do it: With pocket change. What a novel idea!

◊ Speaking of that Check-Up List, blogger Krystaface is documenting her experiences doing various items from the post. Freaking rad!

◊ I absolutely love Esquire. This self-improvement guide is really clever and worth a read.

◊ I’m glad this is getting more attention: The Song that Could End Malaria.

RIP Aaliyah. January 16th 1979 – August 25th, 2001

Music Video – VV Brown: Shark in the Water

26 Aug

When I found out that one of my favorite artists, VV Brown – who I’ve featured on this blog before in my first ever music feature – had released a new music video, I knew I had to post it here. This video was done in collaboration with Teen Nick and Degrassi (who here watched/watches Degrassi? Don’t be ashamed!)

As usual, VV Brown looks fly, fresh and fierce in this carnival motif (speaking of carnivals, I just mentioned the one I visited in my last Slowed Down Sunday post!)

Wikipedia says:

The song is a metaphorical record about anxiety, and was inspired by Brown’s experience with infidelity by a past boyfriend who liked to stalk her in his free time. The song is her first single to get high airplay on U.S. music channels and radio (neither “Leave!” or “Crying Blood” were able to achieve this). The song was also used as a promo for the summer run of the tenth season of Degrassi (previously titled Degrassi: The Next Generation).

Another random fact: The song was also re-recorded in the Simlish language of The Sims and is featured in The Sims 3: Ambitions. Huh. I can’t wait to hear that remake.

To keep the VV Brown-Degrassi connection going, here’s a bonus video of her covering “Best I Ever Had” by Drake, a Degrassi alum:

Are there any music videos that you’ve been enjoying lately? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, Tara

From Tanzania, With Love: Part 2

24 Aug

Week 2:


Obligatory Plug: Have you voted in the Black Weblog Awards yet? See this post for more information! Voting ends August 31st!

Okay! When we last left off, I was describing my time getting used to staying in a completely different country. But once we had our short cultural tutorial, we were thrown into our research and experience headfirst at a breakneck speed. That doesn’t just refer to our action packed days – though they were action packed before we began to settle into our research – but also Peter, our driver (more on him later) who took those windy, rocky, mountain-side roads like a champ. He zoomed along at top speed, earning both my fear and my admiration. It couldn’t be easy for him, considering those roads felt like a non-stop wooden roller coaster.

My Professor, Dr. Linda, does a lot of work with AIDS Control in Karagwe, helping families who are in need of help. They lived in varying degrees of closeness to our home in Nyakahanga, and the further we drove, the further we got from the limited amounts of urbanization that could be seen in the area. We spent a lot of time visiting these families – many of which were very different in terms of family dynamic – and learning more about them and their lives. Everyone we met was friendly and inviting and I think there was a lot of mutual curiosity and fascination as we interacted with one another, the children especially.

The children seemed to love teaching us more about their culture (even though it took us a lot of tries to get some things down!). You can’t say we didn’t try, though!


One example of something we tried to pick up was dancing, which, despite our best efforts, we never seemed to get quite right. People definitely found us funny, though.


After that, we visited the farm of a man named Mr. Boaz. It seemed like he grew every conceivable crop on his farm – from avocados to coffee beans to passion fruits to pineapples to bananas! But even with all that, he also kept a variety of farm animals on his property like goats, chickens and cows. He was a fountain of knowledge and could explain every plant and animal in meticulous detail. I, of course, took the opportunity to snap photographs of baby animals:


Tell me that is not adorable. He was only a couple of weeks old! I’m not sure that I find full-grown goats visually appealing but the babies are just too precious for words. And here, for your viewing pleasure, a couple more baby animal photos:


Baby goat!


Bunny rabbits!

After that, I started going to work. I primarily worked at WOMEDA, a non-governmental women’s advocacy organization in Kayanga. It primarily works in legal rights and economic assistance. Working at WOMEDA was an awesome experience and I met a lot interesting people, many of which I ended up interviewing for my research paper.

My primary function in the office was to digitize their records of the households that they served. It was a pretty big chore – they had shelves and shelves of records, all written only in Swahili. At first, it seemed endless; every time I completed a large stack, a staffer was ready to drop another one in front of me – but after a while I started to get the hang of it, which allowed me to have time to get to know the employees better and talk to the people who filtered in and out of the office. Some of the workers were university students like I was, and we spent time comparing experiences and talking about the differences between our homes. Many people loved seeing pictures of Snowpocalypse 2010, the awful snowstorm that ravaged the Northeast this past winter. The sheer amount of snow shocked them – one person asked me how I managed to keep from freezing to death! They also provided an interesting perspective on the day-to-day events in the immediate area and gave me insights and context on the things that I saw and heard around me.


WOMEDA’s sign!


And that’s WOMEDA’s office! This is where I spent many of my days.

Also during that week, we took a tour of various secondary schools in the region. That was …interesting, to say the least. While my experiences with the school’s administrations were mixed, I had a great time asking and answering questions of the students. Their questions ranged from the basic (“What’s your favorite school subject?”) to more difficult (“Has America’s influence in Africa been more beneficial or detrimental to the African society?”). They also raised a lot of interesting questions about the meaning of cultural identity and nationality. I described my visits in more detail on my Livejournal,  so you can read it there.

While all three of the schools were unique in their own way, one left a special impact on me: Bweranyanga All-Girls Secondary School. While most students had an air of trepidation approaching us (at least initially), the students of Bweranyanga treated us like old friends. Friendly would be an understatement. As soon as we stepped foot in the dormitories we were surrounded and questioned by tens of excited young girls who were dying to hear about us and our lives: What classes we were taking, why, what our favorite musicians were and our relationship statuses were among the topics of discussion. While there was somewhat of a gulf between me and the other students, I can’t express how instant the connection was between us and these students. A teacher mentioned that self-confidence and expressiveness for young women were qualities more readily found in all-girls schools, and from my limited experience, I can see where she’s coming from. I exchanged contact information with a few of the students and promised to keep in touch.


Two of my favorites. ❤

After that, we visited the Kagera River, which feeds into Lake Victoria. At this particular spot, it constituted part of the border between Tanzania and Uganda. It carries an extremely deep history, especially during the Rwandan genocide. I can’t quite describe how it felt to be standing in a place of such significance; it was intense, to say the least. It was even more jarring to consider the history of the river when compared to the tranquility and beauty of the scenery.


We spent a lot of time climbing rocks, checking out the wildlife and admiring the view. And there was this:


I won’t get into how long it took to get that picture together, ha!

And with that, I ended my second week in Tanzania. This entry was quite long, so I’m glad I opted to do this in four parts instead of two! Check back next week for part three, and stick around soon for my personal travel tips based on this experience.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Let me know!

xoxo, Tara

Slowed Down Sunday – 8.22.10

22 Aug


Snickerdoodles! I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written an installment of Slowed Down Sunday, my weekly ode to gratefulness and appreciation. I feel like there’s been so much going on that I hardly know where to start…but I’ll try! Many of these will get their own blog entries in the near future, so keep a look out for those! So here, from me to you, is a love-bomb, straight from the heart. Enjoy!

♥Tanzania! How do I sum up Karagwe, Tanzania in one mere paragraph? Good thing I am writing a series of posts about it. (With one coming on Monday!) It was an amazing, difficult, mind-blowing, life-changing experience that I am SO glad I did. I had a fantastic time and met some amazing people who I hope to keep in contact with for years to come. There were so many memories during that trip – and thankfully, my camera lived to tell the tale!  (Right on, James Dean! That’s her name, by the way.) I learned a lot about other cultures, international travel and even myself. I gained an appreciation for things I took for granted to a depth I would have never previously imagined. Plus, I learned to co-exist with bugs. Grudgingly.

The Lovely People in My Life – You don’t know what you’ve got till you’re on a whole other hemisphere, that’s all I’ve got to say. Even though the short time spent at home before I was back to school for another year was criminally short and I spent it being a hot, sickly mess, they still managed to make that time worthwhile. It doesn’t hurt that one of my best friends for the past decade (JEEZ, when did that happen??) happened to have flown out from California during that short time window. Righteous. Spending QT with the boyfriend and my other loved ones (and you all know who you are) certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Black Weblog Awards – Guys. GUYS. Thank you so much. It floored me when I realized that I made it to the finals of the Black Weblog Awards. Thank you, again. SO much. Of course, that means that your votes determine whether I’ve got what it takes to win it! So I guess you won’t hear me shut up about it until August 31st, when voting ends. Please consider voting if you like what you see on this humble little blog. For more information, see this link.

Misc love bugs: Short hair! (more info coming soon!) Nine hour cuddle sessions (although they were mostly spent asleep); crazy carnivals complete with greasy stuffed pizza, the experience that is The Zipper, riding on flying swings to Justin Beiber, and to top it all off, a huge cup of taro flavored frozen yogurt with tons of mochi! Sweet potato fries, cuddle sessions with my puppy, discovering the greatness that is Antoine Dodson (which is now my ringtone), enjoying Kinder Bueno bars (is there any way to get them Stateside??); getting totally absorbed in fiction for the first time in a while (I absolutely love the No 1. Ladies Detective Agency and the Millennium Trilogy); moving back to Pittsburgh and reuniting with my RA buddies and waiting for everyone else to arrive…

So: What’s lighting up your life this week? Share it in the comments!



Artist Feature: Dawn Okoro

18 Aug

Obligatory Plug: Have you voted in the Black Weblog Awards yet? See this post for more information! Voting ends August 31st!

Dawn Okoro is one of my favorite artists. I love the way she plays with composition and various mediums to create her striking images. I also think the subject matter she draws inspiration from is quite fascinating, as well. (For instance, the pictures included in this post depict women in various positions of power.)

But most of all, I love her striking color. Her vibrant palettes always seem to catch my attention on her website, even in grayscale.

More about the artist, from her website:

Dawn Okoro’s work is informed by the composition techniques used in fashion photography. Using oil, acrylic and pencil, she incorporates photography, collage, and ideas from popular culture. Her artwork embodies space, movement, pattern, design, texture, and color; as well as lived experiences and self-reflexivity. Self-reflexivity is a process by which she critically examines the experiences (exterior and interior) that shape her everyday life and those that surround her.

For more information, you can visit her official website or her blog. All images were sourced from Okoro’s official website.

xoxo, Tara