Archive | September, 2010

Slowed Down Sunday – 9/26/10

26 Sep


Hey everyone! I had a weekend – and what a weekend it was – on a fabulous retreat! Here’s a summation of my loves of the week:

Vira I Heinz Retreat! Overall, this was a weekend well-spent. I made new friends, learned valuable information and interacted with some amazing women. To talk to an amazing group of ladies who are clearly destined for big things in their lives was incredible – and I am honored and blessed that I can be among them. Plus, we had a ton of fun just hanging out, shooting the breeze and discussing our experiences. I would never leave this out, you know me – had some FANTASTIC food. The highlight of my culinary experience was at the Green Forest Churrascaria. I believe my reaction text read something like, “Turkey on a sword wrapped in bacon? This is a good day.” Lastly, this trip enabled me to update my Travel Bucket List. Who wants to go with me to Moldova?

Finally Cleaning My Room – Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m not the tidiest person. Don’t confuse this with “dirty”, because I’m clean…just cluttered. At the same time, I feel like my room is an accurate representation of my mindset. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, it is clearly reflected in the state of my belongings. When I feel together enough to keep things neat, it means a lot to me. Keeping organized is something I struggle with, so I’m glad – hectic schedule and all – that my room has a semblance of order. It doesn’t look like an Ikea ad yet, but it’s getting there. Heck, maybe I’ll tidy up some more after this post…

Getting Focused – This goes along with the previous point, but sometimes you need a short-term meltdown to put things in perspective and move forward. I think I have my priorities in clear view now, which is comforting. I have a lot of thinking, work and planning to do, but the end result will be so worth it.

Miscellaneous: Watching Project Runway online, where there are no commercials…(I absolutely love Mondo. I just want to hug him & be his bff); FINALLY getting to wear this dress; the prospect of wearing tights; the StayFocusd extension for Chrome (desperate times call for desperate measures, you know?); conversations about genital piercings over salad and asiago bagels; the fact that FeelGood Grilled Cheese is coming back; Junior Senior; keeping it real; apple cider; getting to dress up for a weekend; single-tasking (multi-tasking is a really hard habit to break!); realizing my nails have grown and they’re actually pretty strong (this is new territory for me)

What’s been good to you this week? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, Tara


Weekend Links – 9.24.10

24 Sep

Grand Taxonomy of Rap Namesfull-size/source

I really want that poster on my wall. Anyway, happy Friday everybody! I’ve been all over the place these past few days (Retreat! Exam! Meetings! More Meetings!) but here are some links so you can have some satisfactory weekend reading:

◊ If you read any of my links, make it this one. There is a new Girl Effect video, depicting the pivotal role girls and women have in eliminating global poverty. Watch it. For posterity, watch the first one, too.

Takashi Murakami has an art exhibit in the Versailles! I wish I could go back to Paris just to see it…

I’ve never looked at stairwells with an artist’s eye, but Flickr managed to me how beautiful they can be.

I love the color stories the various seasons tell. On Design*Sponge, they show the transition from summer to fall in photography.

Read this. Love this. Learn this. 7 Tiny-Big Life Shifters on White Hot Truth. This one applies to me especially:

1. Let go of my “check-my-email-in-the-morning-guilt.” Screw it. I LIKE to check my email first thing in the morning. It doesn’t mean that I’m a distracted workaholic, it means I’m an excited Creative who loves her friends and new friends and what she does with her day…life >> this actually led to LESS email checking throughout the day >> more creative space >> deeper meditation >> clearer ideas.

I love this: a letter to Kimberly Henry, a plastic surgeon advertising in the diet section of a restaurant’s menu.

On a lighter note, this is just plain pretty: a navy and pink candy wedding spread!

Design*Sponge collaborated with Currency to bring a series of posts about smart spending for people interested in great design. You can view the entire series of posts here.

Can tea get any healthier? Turns out it can.

Jam of the Week – Kylie Minogue: Aphrodite

Read an interesting news story? Write a bomb-ass blog post? See an amazing music video? Link me up, baby.

xoxo, Tara

What’s Your Power Anthem?

22 Sep


Is there a song that gets you energized? You know what I mean: the song that can make you drop everything and sing along when it comes on your MP3 player?

Is there a song that makes you feel like you can face the world and anything that can come your way? If so, darling, perhaps it’s your power song.

Having a song that truly inspires you can be incredible – there’s an immediate change in the atmosphere when you hear the opening notes and suddenly your entire mood can change for the better.  In my opinion, the power of music should never be underestimated.

One of my favorite songs like this is RuPaul’s “Supermodel”. This song came to me in a relatively dark period in my life. I felt really down about myself – like I was a terrible bore in a girl costume. I had decided that I had nothing notable to offer anybody because I wasn’t “particularly” anything – not particularly smart, funny, interesting, athletic or worthy of friendship. Of course, that’s total rubbish! Eventually I learned to quit doubting myself so much. And I say to all the other people who feel the same way: You’re a fabulous, radiant creature, and the greatest disservice you can do to the world is to keep it all to yourself. Share the love!

Maybe you don’t have a song of this type of your own – well, I’m here to help you!

Start by Mood:

There are songs that I love because they help put me in wildly different moods. While it might be hard to discover music based on the tone it sets, there are websites that make it a bit easier:

◊ Stereo Mood is a music radio website that has crowd-sourced stations sorted according to mood. While the basic ones like “happy” are represented, you can also find stations that are more specific, like “good karma” or “epic”. Give them a spin – you never know what you’ll find!

◊ Musicovery is one of my other favorites – similar to Stereo Mood, you can set the tone by clicking a point in a grid, pinpointing precisely what type of music you’re looking for.

◊ Pandora is another great resource – if you already know where to start, it can recommend music for you based on specific artists and songs that you’ve specified.

Are you still unsure where to start? Here are some more songs that make me, personally, feel particularly epic:

◊ Rock Star (Jason Nevins Remix) by N*E*R*D

◊ Covergirl by RuPaul

◊ Fighter by Christina Aguilera

◊ Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson

◊ Free Your Mind by En Vogue

◊ Hat 2 The Back by TLC

◊ Aphrodite by Kylie Minogue

Jordan makes light music

But now what?

Maybe you’ve found a song that has a strong effect on you  – the tune gets your blood pumping, the lyrics speak to you in a direct and profound way, what do you do then? You’ve purchased it at your retailer of choice and it’s now sitting comfortably on the Music folder on your computer.

Don’t stop there!

Perhaps you could make the song your ringtone, so you can be frequently reminded of the message. Maybe you could write the best lyrics on your mirror or post them somewhere you can see it. Maybe you’ll keep the song in mind for one of “those days”, where nothing seems to be going the way you want. That’s okay too!

Currently, my bedroom mirror reads: “I’m fierce and feeling mighty, I’m a golden girl – I’m an Aphrodite”, quoted from the amazing Kylie Minogue. Don’t just listen to the lyrics – absorb them and live them.

Are there any songs that you think of as your power anthem? Share them in the comments!




Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the song that gets me going every time, the song that makes me feel like I can conquer the world with my raw strength and power.

I’m so ready to get down to business and defeat the Huns. Just watch me.

29 Ways to Make the Most of Autumn and have Fun in Fall!

20 Sep

autumn falls...

Hello there, loved ones! If you haven’t heard, this Thursday, the 23rd, is this year’s autumnal equinox, signaling the end of summer, and the start of fall. Some of you are dreading the idea of stashing away your flip-flops and sun dresses for the next few months, but don’t despair! Autumn isn’t just the start of school and the end of shorts – and there are tons of ways you can appreciate it. Here are some ideas for things to do in the fall:

Experience the Season

♥ Experience the equinox! The autumn equinox actually happens at a specific time, not just a specific day. This year the equinox will be occurring at the inconvenient – for me, at least – time of 3:09 am. For updated times of the various equinoxes, you can check this website.

♥ Enjoy the scents in the air – I think that every season has a distinct scent. If you’re unable to go outside, items scented with cedarwood seem to help.

♥ Get into the spirit of back to school! Even if you aren’t currently enrolled in school, this can still apply to you. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get a definite enjoyment from cracking open new notebooks and opening a set of new pens (if you were wondering, Sharpie pens.) for the school year. Even if it’s as basic as a box of Ticonderogas, go ahead and treat yourself.

♥ Enjoy fall athletics like football, hockey or soccer (preferably yourself, but you can watch too!)

♥ Switch up your soundtrack – I’m going to have to retire some of my favorite sugary pop goodness for the next few months, unless I want to dream of summer. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I can forsee myself listening to a lot of Jason Mraz and Lauryn Hill. Kanye West’s College Dropout also tends to get a lot of play.

Get Out

♥ Give yourself a nature walk: One of my favorite parts of autumn is taking long walks and breathing in that nice, chilly air. Autumn (and spring, also) is unique in that the weather tends to err on the side of moderate, so take the time to enjoy the great outdoors before it truly gets cold!

♥ Find and attend your area’s local fall festival. It’s probably cheap, too!

♥ Collect leaves throughout the season as they change from green to brown and press them. It creates a neat gradation effect. Also, did you know that the activity of watching the leaves change colors is called “leaf peeping“? I didn’t!

♥ Spend some quality time out on a porch or deck: it might not be too appealing in the coming weeks!

♥ Indulge in some fall festivities – If you’ve never gone on a hayride, taken a trip to the pumpkin patch, or something similar – or if you’re like me and haven’t done so in over a decade – now’s the time! Wear overalls and plaid if you’re so inclined. On that note…

♥ One word: Oktoberfest. There may be a local variant if you aren’t close to Bavaria.

Treat Yourself

♥ Enjoy the return of sweaters and scarves. If you’re bored with what you already have, donate them and make your own!

♥ Support your Farmer’s Market – With autumn comes the end of the growing season, and as a result, many farmer’s markets and co-ops will be closing soon until the warmer months. My suggestion? Indulge in some locally produced goodness while you can. I just bought some peaches and apple cider and I don’t regret it one bit.

♥ Host and/or attend a potluck with friends or family.

♥ Swap your iced tea for hot tea (or hot apple cider, but I’m biased)

♥ Pull out your tights and leggings. Bonus points if they’re in a color other than a variant of black or opaque.

♥ Prepare for Halloween! I’m not the biggest Halloween fan in the world, I’ll admit but it’s grown on me in recent years, especially since I don’t want to let an opportunity to dress up as ridiculously as you like and ingest tons of candy to pass me by!

♥ Start adding cinnamon to your hot drinks. It goes great in Greek yogurt too…

♥ Enjoy apple products, unless you’re allergic of course – but for there’s always apples to apples

♥ Eat seasonally – This varies for people, but when I think of fall and food, the first thing that comes to mind -aside from Thanksgiving – is pumpkins. Which is fine with me, since pumpkins are so versatile. While I can’t make pumpkin soup in my dorm room, trading in my summer pina coladas for a pumpkin spice latte will help me ease the transition from summer to fall.

Try Something New

♥ Turn your old t-shirts into a quilt

♥ Spend a date at the museum, with yourself or with another – the new school year is the best time to learn something new

♥ Switch up your color palette –  Okay, I’ll admit: I don’t always select the colors of my wardrobe based on the season. But it does seem fun to trade my bright nail polish for a more subdued tone.

♥ Make a flower headband with leaves and seasonal flowers.

♥ Start wearing gold trinkets – to me, they only seem appropriate in the colder months! Flea markets, thrift stores and Goodwill are goldmines. Forever 21, too.

♥ Rakes some leaves and jump in them – Disclaimer: It would probably be best if you had some claim to these leaves but it’s not strictly necessary. Make sure there’s no dog poop before jumping.

♥ Watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown“. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

♥ Keep your air clean and fresh, whether you’re inclined to keep your window open or not

And finally…

♥ Make the most of your days – they’re getting shorter, after all!

Do you have any more suggestions? What activities just make you think of fall? Share them in the comments!

xoxo, Tara

Slowed Down Sunday – 9.19.10

19 Sep


Hi there! I hope your week was filled with excellence and awesomeness. Here’s my brief note of gratitude:

Serendipity – Have you ever had those times when things just fall into place? Your plans magically come together and things develop in unexpected and exciting ways? Things seemed to fall into place extremely well for me recently, from employment opportunities to stumbling upon a farmer’s market in the midst of a craving. My dreams have led me into some interesting places, but my life has been more sensational as a result.

Clean room – I have a confession to make: my room isn’t the cleanest thing in the world, at least not often. I’m not very organized, my chair seems to be the sanctuary for lost clothes, and you don’t even want to know what’s underneath my bed. Last night, even though a portion of my plans fell through, it gave me a reason to get down and clean this bad boy up. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? I’m going to savor the feeling of sitting on my freshly made bed and peering at my dorm, which currently resembles an Ikea advertisement. It’ll be good while it lasts!

Fun with Friends – I’ve had a great time getting in some girlfriend-bonding time, whether they live four minutes away or four hours away. Eating cupcakes, impromptu fashion shows, sprawling out on a sea of emerald-green, sharing sushi, watching Formula One racing over pizza and making mad plans for the future.

Miscellaneous StarburstsDozen Bake Shop – oh my goodness, a taste of heaven in my mouth; watching RuPaul’s Drag Race from the beginning (Nina Flowers! Ongina! Bebe Zahara Benet!); the delayed gratification of having “me” time – which, for me, is sitting in bed watching the Golden Girls with no pants while I eat cupcakes; finding out about free shipping deals at your favorite online retailers; long naps with the window open; fresh peaches; apple cider; my boyfriend cracking me up; seeing the rain FINALLY come so I can début my sick bubble umbrella and rain boots; starting back and kickboxing and promptly getting my butt kicked; relaxing with a passion fruit-mango smoothie after getting your butt kicked; having dreams about my 20th birthday party (unicorn cupcakes! petticoats! tie-die stockings! Chinese food!)

Soulstealer/What I Wore – 9.14.10

15 Sep

Hello everyone! Time for another photographic update! It’s strange how I always seem to be frolicking through flowers when I do these, isn’t it? Anyway, I felt it was time to début my brand-new hairdo (which I will reflect in my About Me page soon, promise!). These photographs are from the BB’s (my term for the boyfriend) visit up from Maryland. We went to my favorite spot in Pittsburgh, Phipps Conservatory to see the Agave tree bloom for its first and only time before it gets cut down.

Top: Charlotte Russe. Jeans: JC Penney. Bag: Handmade in Tanzania. Scarf: Necklush

Check out that blown glass sculpture! Phipps is full of them, and the artistry put in them is amazing. Every time I visit, I’m captivated by how lifelike and delicate they are in their construction. I can never imagine how one can take a solid object like glass and manipulate it in such creative ways.


I’m not exactly sure what this plant is, but it looks cool, doesn’t it? I feel like it’s an alien creature about to suck out my brains. Spooky! There’s a costume idea in there somewhere…

Or I could just dress up as the agave tree and my Halloween costume dilemma (another post for another time) would be solved. Ha! This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer”.


They also had these awesome sculptures made of plant debris and fallen branches from last year’s snowstorm. I like this one in particular, because it looks like some strange, ghostly vision of a flying unicorn.


And of course, you can’t forget the flowers. Every collection at Phipps is unique and stunningly beautiful. I’m lucky that I came on the last day of the summer show – the next time I come, which is bound to be soon, will be completely different!

Until next time,

xoxo, Tara




From Tanzania, With Love: Part 3

13 Sep


So we’re almost done! This is week three out of four in my study abroad recap. We’re reaching the home-stretch! You can read parts one and two here and here. As always, you can view the entire set of photos from Tanzania here.


The beginning of the week was packed. We spent one of the days on a whirlwind field trip through the city of Bukoba. But since Bukoba was four (or more, I don’t remember) hours away, we got to make a few stops on the way. First stop: baby orphanage. Look at them potty training! Aww!!  We got to play with babies and learn about the adoption situation in Tanzania. It was a very informative visit and one of the highlights of my trip, for sure.


After that, our guide Innocent led us to a forest found on the side of the road. He found an unassuming clearing to pass through and we found ourselves surrounded by greenery. My friend Lita described them as reminiscent of “Twilight Woods”, but since I’ve never read or seen Twilight, I’m going to have to take her word for it. Either way, it was gorgeous! We didn’t have any idea where Innocent was leading us, other than his assurances that it would be epic (my words, not his). After going around in circles for a little while – and I’m not sure how intentional that was – we ended up finding this:


A waterfall! This picture doesn’t really do it justice, it was absolutely magnificent in person. Apparently we weren’t allowed to jump into the water, but I found myself really wanting to. After the waterfall, we set off to Bukoba to do some shopping. Innocent apparently had other things in mind, so we rushed through Bukoba without doing a significant amount of haggling, although I wasn’t really interested in purchasing sardines or men’s shoes anyway. We loaded up into the Land Rover and headed off to the beach!


Okay, maybe not a beach in the traditional sense with a sandy coast, but seeing the water crash against the rocks while we peered across the expanse of Lake Victoria was still exciting. Besides, we’d end up on a sandy coast later that day. This particular coast was situated near a small church where we paid a small fee to stand on the rocks and take photographs.


One of said photographs. Those are my friends Ari and Lita, reminding everyone where we were. Haha!


After that, Innocent took us on a whirlwind trip of the city, where we got to stop by and see various sights, one of which was this charming hotel in Bukoba. Isn’t the scenery lovely? After this, we took the journey back to Karagwe, to prepare for another long day we had ahead.


After being completely exhausted from our tour of Bukoba, we woke up early to attend the wedding of Anne and Brighton (pictured above at the reception). I had never been to a traditional African wedding, so I was unprepared for the scale and length of the ceremony, but in many ways, this ceremony wasn’t traditional at all. Anne is a missionary from Denmark and Brighton is a Tanzanian minister. The wedding fused both of their cultures. One example: the wedding ceremony included scripture read in Kiswahili, English, Danish AND German! An interpreter also translated of the various wedding speeches during the reception into either Kiswahili or English. This caused some interesting moments when the bride used euphemisms and expressions that were hard to translate, such as, “I could see his eyes smiling”.

One thing I clearly remember? It was LONG. The actual ceremony started at 10:30 in a small church in Kayanga, after which was the wedding procession at about noon. From there, we went straight to the reception area, where we didn’t leave until almost 8:00pm! While it was an interesting experience, it was a test of my endurance for sure. In fact, we ended up leaving early – there were members of our group that were participating in the choir and didn’t make it home until past nine, but said the festivities were still going strong. I wish them the best of luck!

And that concludes my third week in Tanzania! Stay tuned for the last installment next Monday!