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Summertime: Action, Adventure, Amazement!

9 Jun


I tend to spend a lot of my time planning out the future, maybe it’s the Capricorn in me. Conveniently enough, it’s summer, the time for big dreams and huge plans.  After all, I spend months brainstorming summer plans (just look at my most popular post today, Mid-Summer Check-Up)!

Moving around and seeing new things inspire me: they feed my ambitions, drive my writing hand and push me to do and see more.

What I’m Seeing…

+Northern California! I’m going to Suisun City for a family reunion and I am SUPER excited – I’ve never been to California before. I look forward to basking in the sunshine, frolicking on the beach and touring the Jelly Belly Jelly Bean factory. Don’t ask which one I expect enjoy the most.

+Orlando, Florida – Where I’m going act a touristy mess. (I have my limits though. No fannypacks.) I’m going with my family to Orlando. I would love to go to Disney World, but it’s expensive, especially if you want to see all of the parks. (though if I were to have to go to ONE, which one does everyone suggest? Just in case.) I am, however, going to Universal Studios to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Expect copious amounts of butterbeer, which probably isn’t the best plan, considering I love rollercoasters.

+Seeing the Savage Beauty exhibit in NYC. I have never been this excited for an exhibition in my life. It is totally worth an eight-hour pilgrimage. Plus, I’ve never been to the Met before. Of course, being me, I am already searching Yelp for where I plan on eating.

+The Hesselbein Leadership Summit – Frances Hesselbein is a force of nature. I can’t wait to bask in her knowledge and meet amazing, driven people from the around the world. Pittsburgh, here I come…back?

What I [should be – will be] Doing…

I want to do a ton of things. I haven’t ever written these down, but the inimitable Alexandra Franzen inspired me with her strong words and naked ambition. So why not?

+I want to be a renaissance woman, with skills in all kinds of trades, from scuba, to sewing, to kung-fu to cooking.

+I want to surround myself with electric, fantastic, brilliant people.

+I want to luxuriate in romance, passion, cuddling and great sex

+I want to continue pushing my body to its limits – more running, jumping and climbing.

+I want to continue trying new things, even things as simple as jumping into dancing water or riding a bicycle in a dress

+I want to connect to The Source – by remaining humble, mindful and meditative.



What do you want to accomplish this summer?

xoxo, Tara


I Have Too Much Stuff! -The Update

6 Jun


As you may know, I decided to do a short-term New Year’s Resolution – I would stop shopping for new clothes, starting in the beginning of my spring semester at college – January 4th, 2011 – to the end, May 1st, 2011. Effectively, four months. No shopping online, or in stores (or yard sales, or estate sales…). I wouldn’t accept gifts of clothing from my mother, and I abstained from purchasing shoes and accessories as well. The only clothing I purchased were to represent an event (I have a shirt from my university’s production of The Vagina Monologues), things I actually needed (didn’t happen), or replacements for things I already had.

I’m a big proponent of detoxes – my first one was in high school, when I spent far too much time watching Vh1 programming than necessary (Even though those countdown shows and decade retrospectives were quite entertaining). I cut myself off of television for a week and while it was difficult to entertain myself for the first few days, I quickly realized that I was missing far less than I thought.

Quitting something cold turkey is difficult, but for some habits, it is a serious way for you to face your dependence head on . Having an established end date gives you something to look forward to, but often times, by the time you’re finished, you won’t miss the habit as much as you thought you would and you may even be better off without it.

So, how did I do?

I still haven’t bought anything and I am going on five months.

Now, before I go overboard with the self-congratulation, let me admit that it is partly because I’m having the same problem as before: I have far too much clothing and I have no idea what to do with it all! Now that I’ve moved back home, the problem has gotten even worse. I have cramped drawers that are already occupied with clothes, plus all the dirty clothing I brought from school, washed and (eventually) sorted into their proper places.

At this point I have donated three full trash bags to charity but I am still running out of space. Worst part? I haven’t even unpacked most of my clothes from school yet! We’ll see how this all works out, but in the words of Tim Gunn:

This concerns me. (Also, what happened to Andrae?)

However, before I rain all over my achievement like Eeyore’s cloud, let me just say, for someone who loves online shopping as much as I do, this was no small task. So if you’re considering doing a shopping detox, here are some tips!

  • Start with what you have.

This seems really obvious, but the first step is going through the clothing you have in your closet and drawers. If you truly feel like your wardrobe is offending your sensibilities, make a day of stuffing it into garbage bags and hauling it over to your nearest charity. You’ll feel their weight lifted off your shoulders, I guarantee you. The most obvious place is Goodwill (the anti-gay controversy surrounding the Salvation Army leaves a bad taste in my mouth), although there are plenty of local organizations that would love your gently used wares.

In this cleaning process, you’ll probably be shocked at the clothing you forgot you owned (sometimes in a bad way, but I won’t judge).

  • Repurpose and Remix!

Just because you haven’t worn a certain dress in ages doesn’t mean a simple rehemming, or strategic placement of accessories won’t make an old outfit seem brand new again.

One of my favorite fashion blogs, Kendi Everyday, runs a regular challenge called 30×30 Remix: where you take 30 items from your closet and use them to make 30 outfits, for 30 days. (Abstaining from shopping is optional, but I think it is a nice touch) Her next one is coming up this month, so feel free to jump in and try it!

  • It’s okay to window shop!

I struggled at first with the feelings of clothing jealousy, especially in the opening stages of my detox. I would shamelessly covet the striped sailor blouse my friend wore to the cafeteria, the buttoned denim skirt I’d see walking past the art building, the fashionable looks I’d see on blogs and on the street in Pittsburgh.

And of course, I’d feel a pang of longing when my favorite stores announced sales and coupon promotions in my inbox; one of the websites I frequent has a whole feature dedicated to this! However, if you don’t really need something, you’ll be saving more by not buying it all than whatever the coupon is offering. (Unless, of course, they’re giving you something for free…)

The point is, it’s okay.  It’s okay to ogle cute things and sigh enviously that they aren’t populating your closet. You just can’t let it dominate you, or else the detox will be miserable. Besides, you’d be surprised what kinds of inspiration you can use from street style and fashion blogs to give you new ideas to try on what you own.

  • Realize the difference between “want” and “(sorta) need”

Unless you’re lacking a clothing staple like a work suit, or weather appropriate clothing, chances are you don’t need most things. The need is often proportionate to the trendiness of the item.

Going on a detox is excellent for deducing what you truly want (thus, sorta need) and is an impulse buy. While a fantastic one-time deal may have to pass you by, most things will still be around once the detox is over. If you find yourself still head over heels, go for it. Chances are, however, you’ll have forgotten all about it in no time flat.

With that said, don’t be shy, go out and try it yourself! And if you aren’t detoxing off of shopping like I was, what about things like television, gluten, facebook, soda, avoiding workouts, caffeine, or …self-doubt?

You never know…

xoxo, Tara

Confessions of a Recovering Hater

28 Mar


Hi, my name is Tara and I’m a recovering hater.

The most common definition of hater, according to Urban Dictionary, is someone who cannot be happy for another person and focuses on negativity (the subject of hate is oftentimes a successful person). It is not necessarily borne out of jealousy; rather it often comes from the wish to knock someone else down.

Keep in mind, I think “hater” is a tired word that people overuse. However, I can’t really think of another term that aptly describes the behavior pattern I have in mind (if you have another, leave it in a comment, and it would be much appreciated).

My Hating Story

The peak of my haterdom was in middle school and early high school although in later years, my hating has toned down substantially. However, recovery is a continuous process and the tendency for hating may never fully go away.

When I was younger – think eleven – I went through that terrible (at least, to me) stage called puberty. I was suddenly a lot more insecure about everything, from my hair, to my acne, to my braces, to my fashion sense, to my body shape, to my intelligence and everything in between, culminating in a less-than-stellar sense of self-worth.

I didn’t exactly know how to make myself feel better. But when I saw the funny, popular people in school but also on television and the internet, the most entertaining were the ones who had killer put-downs and acerbic wit. That’s who I wanted to be. I became a gossip. I became vicious. I hated.

When I saw someone who I could feel superior to – maybe due to their fashion sense, or my opinion on their intelligence, or their looks, or something else equally pointless – I didn’t miss the chance to come up with a “smart remark”. It didn’t matter if they were higher or lower than I was on the arbitrary social totem pole in grade school – those lower had to stay there, and those higher could stand to be brought down a few pegs. Eventually, it became something of a pastime.

I didn’t really consider the effect my words and attitude had on others; to me, it was all in (mean-spirited) fun. Until I heard through the grapevine about how much a particular girl in my class despised me – I had hurt her feelings and made her angry on several occasions. My “source” mentioned her anger-fueled desire to exact violent revenge on me. She never did, but that was enough of a wake-up call – my behavior was toxic and needed to stop. Immediately.

But it certainly wasn’t overnight – it took me several years before I was able to say I had broken the habit.

Are You a Hater?

It’s tough to label yourself with such a reviled term, but admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

Do you…

  • Pick on people who you perceive as “beneath” you? Or try to bring people “above” you to your level?
  • Try to delegitimize or minimize the achievements of others?
  • Assume the worst of people more successful than you are?
  • Generally focus on the negative, rather than the positive?
  • Spend more time analyzing the lives of others instead of your own?

Just for clarification, having feelings of dislike for legitimate reasons is completely different from hating. Being critical of something or someone is very different from being negative just for the sake of being negative.

How to Deal

Do the traits above apply to you? There are solutions. This is some tough love.

  • Realize it’s a Process – You can’t grow out of your negative ways overnight, especially when it’s an ingrained habit. Often times, the best way to combat unnecessarily mean-spirited thoughts is to catch them as they happen and stop them going any further.
  • Give People a Break – It’s easy to make snap judgments based on your split-second perceptions, but consider the fact that you might not know their situation before you ridicule them.
  • Mind Your Own Damn Business – Yes, it is that serious. Many times when these thoughts arise, there are more pertinent things that could be occupying your mind. If you’re insulting someone who you find “lower” than you, why is this allegedly insignificant person so important that you have to talk about them? If that person is “higher” than you are, why are you investing yourself in the life of someone who is (probably) not invested in yours?
  • Don’t entertain negativity and gossip – I’m not going to lie, some people’s critical jokes are extremely hilarious (see: Kid Fury) and everyone has their crabby days, but making a regular habit of it is simply a bad look. If you’ve surrounded yourself with a group of friends who commonly tear down others like a pack of vicious jackals, a close examination of your relationship is in order. Sometimes the solution is as simple as redirecting the conversation to topics more personally relevant to the group or maintaining positivity.
  • Avoid the phrase “keep it real” – Aside from the fact that it’s extremely dated and played-out, there’s a major difference between being honest and just using frankness as an excuse for rudeness. Besides, Keeping it Real can often go wrong.
  • Address your own shortcomings – This is a deeper, more permanent solution. There’s usually a reason for being super-negative,  based on issues you are having with yourself – often feelings of inferiority. People who are secure in themselves don’t feel the need to keep people in their place or to bring others down. Examining these issues are the key to solving the problem on the deepest level.

Any thoughts or additions? Let me know in the comments.

xoxo, Tara

Help! I Have Too Much Stuff!: A Shopping Intervention

12 Jan

Clothing By Iris

Picture it: Maryland. Right after New Year’s.

I have an extremely large suitcase, filled to the brim with both clothing I had brought from school and had purchased or received over Christmas. The hulking purple creature uncomfortably squeezed through the hallways of my house, settling in its comfortable fate weighing down the back of my mother’s car as I departed for my home-away-from-home in Pittsburgh. Let’s not even talk about the two shopping bags that came with it.

You can only imagine the fun times that were had when I realized I had to take a flight of stairs to my dorm room later that night. If you hadn’t realized by now, yes, I was clearly a passenger on the struggle bus.

I won’t even get into the fact that it took me at least three days to find the courage to open that behemoth and start putting those things away in the limited space that I had.


Simply put, I have WAY too much stuff.

Has this situation ever happened to you?

You quickly decide that you don’t want something in your wardrobe anymore, because it fits poorly or you got it in junior high, or it’s out of fashion. But at the same time, throwing it away seems like wasted money (What if you lose weight? What if one of your little cousins could use it? What if it becomes retro?) so you keep it. Just in case. Meanwhile, it piles up, creating a maelström of clothing that chokes the life out of your closet and swallows the clothing that you do intend to wear.

Inevitably there are articles of clothing that become a lost cause, as I grudgingly accept that my favorite pair of leggings has been sucked into the abyss, never to be seen again – or I forget that I had owned them in the first place. What do I do next? Buy duplicates. And the cycle continues.

And thus, the experiment was born.

It was a delightful coincidence that one of my favorite bloggers, Gala Darling, has a similar conundrum, and is trying a similar challenge. Mine?

No more shopping, for the rest of the semester.

That’s four months. From now, till May 1st.

I’m not counting essentials on this list, or replacements of unusable items that I already own. This primarily applies to clothing, but I’m going to try to limit my consumption of things like books, trinkets and the like as well.

I have been slowly but surely preparing for this day, as I pare down my wardrobe, giving articles of clothing away to charity, Goodwill and family. Difficult, but manageable.

Even harder is the itchy feeling in my fingers when my favorite online retailer beams their latest lookbook into my inbox, or when my “shopping” folder in my inbox gets filled to the brim with coupon promotions and free shipping codes!

Or the longing when I see inspirational fashion photos in my feed reader or tumblr dashboard and I want to replicate the look. It’ll be a temptation, but I’m going to try to stay strong!

But I need to make a change – so I will! Time to break the chains! Funnily enough, this happens just as I invest in a tripod to take outfit photos to improve my style sense.

I’m not sure exactly how this is going to work – if anyone has done a shopping detox before, your advice would be amazing – but I’m surely going to try. I’ll provide an update in the beginning of March, after two months have passed.

Have any of you gone on a shopping purge? Have you ever considered it? What are your thoughts?

In Defense of Writing Letters – An Open Invitation

7 Dec

146/365 send me your love in my mail box

Letter writing is a lost art. I’m looking to change this. (Hint: You’ll see how at the end of this post.)

There are clear reasons for the decline of the written correspondence  – in the world of e-mail and cellphones, writing a message and mailing it off to be received days – or more! – later by your person of interest just seems…inefficient. So why bother writing anything at all if you can type it (or text it?). Time is money, right?

Taking the time to write a letter – or any other form of written message – can mean far more than just simply expending more energy and time to get your point across.

Plus, it sets you apart. Yeah, it sure was nice of you to shoot off a “thank you” email to that bigwig after your big job interview. And surely, your friend will appreciate the “happy birthday” you left on their facebook wall among their other dozens (perhaps hundreds?) of other notifications. But what does that lack? Effort.

And that – effort – is what it all comes down to. Getting a hastily typed note is better than nothing, sure. But taking the time to handwrite your message shows that you feel that this person is important and awesome enough to warrant your time, but also creative energy – after all, you’ll lessen the odds that they’ll be the recipient of a generic form letter.  And who doesn’t like to feel important and awesome?

Plus, it can’t be denied how great it can feel to receive a letter in the mail, period. I know it is for me. I get excited even if I know it’s coming. While I do enjoy seeing a personal e-mail embedded amongst the clutter in my inbox , picking through junk to see a personally addressed letter is far more exciting, because it’s special. Not everyone has the time or interest to mail things and I know this.

Now,” you may be saying – “what if I’m one of those people who doesn’t have time? I’d try and become a massive failure!” Well, I’d respond – start small! You won’t fail. Not everyone can be a letter-writing extraordinaire overnight – and if you are, I’m seriously impressed! Skip these steps and go on with your bad self. Otherwise, you may be a bit stuck.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Start writing thank-you e-mails. This may seem counterproductive, but if you aren’t used to it, it’s good to get the hang of it. Plus, gratitude never hurt anybody. Throw some additional thank yous in your daily vocabulary just for the heck of it.
  • Personally mail your birthday cards. This may be weird if your friend lives down the road, but if they’re scattered nationwide (or even worldwide!) it can mean a lot more than a facebook post. Obviously it may not be feasible (or worthwhile) to do this for every friend, but it’s worth it to recognize the most important ones. Just try to prepare in advance (in other words, write down their birthdays somewhere you’d remember) so you’re prepared.
  • Holiday Cards. This is great practice and is coming up soon! Sending a burst of holiday cheer can brighten the day of many a person – and you aren’t on as strict a deadline as a birthday. I’ve had a lot of fun writing holiday cards the past couple of years and it’s a practice I hope to continue in the future. If you don’t have anyone to mail a card to, fear not!
If you want to sharpen your trusty letter writing skillz, feel free to send one to me! You can express interest in the comments if you want (we can iron out the mailing details later), or just shoot me an email (psst – xoxotaratara [at] gmail [dot] com). I’d be more than happy to dish a piping hot serving of holiday delight your way in return.
Holla at me,

World AIDS Day

1 Dec

Source: Equalitopia Blog

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day, a world-wide international initiative designed to spread awareness and education, commemorate those who are living with AIDS or have passed away from AIDS and to celebrate victories in access to treatment and prevention.

Today is an opportunity for widespread involvement and attention to this important issue and each one of us can make a difference. In this information age, you can send help with something as simple as a text message. However, if you are unable to donate time or money, you can help by increasing the awareness of both yourself and others.

Here are some resources if you’d like further information or would like to get more involved:

If you have any more links or resources, feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll edit the post. Thanks!
xoxo, Tara

Light up Night

22 Nov


In case you didn’t know yet, I absolutely love the holiday season and I firmly believe that it is one of the most wonderful times of the year. So it was a no-brainer that I would want to head down to Downtown Pittsburgh for Light up Night, an annual celebration to kick off the holiday season. The tree you can see above  is one of the many trees in the area that were lit for this special night, but none other than Pittsburgh’s mayor, Luke Ravenstahl was present to initiate the lighting of this tree in particular. I especially love how they incorporated the building behind it as well! This year was special – it marks the 60th Anniversary of Light up Night in Pittsburgh, and accordingly, they did it big, with a celebration that spanned two days instead of one. Unfortunately, I only went on Friday as I spent Saturday enjoying Harry Potter and picking up my sister, but that is an entirely different story!

This year, I went with a group of friends and unlike last year, where I had a bit of an epic fail, I managed to not only catch a glimpse of the tree as it was lit, but also get a good view of the fireworks as well. Downtown Market Square was absolutely packed with spectators from all over Pittsburgh. Here’s a video I took of the tree as it gets lit:

Here’s another video, of the tree flashing as well as the fireworks that were shot off in the area (one thing I’ve noticed about Pittsburgh is that it LOVES its fireworks). Of course, these were nothing compared to the firework extravaganza that was to come later on that night.


This is the tree that was standing in Fifth Avenue Place – it also got lit, but unfortunately, I missed that one as my group and I spent a few minutes looking for it, only to realize we were around the corner! I don’t have any pictures that would give it a good sense of scale, but this is a tree decoration that is draped across the surface of a building downtown. If the one in the first few images was thirty-three feet tall, this one must be gigantic! Most of the Light up Night festivities were going on in this area, with music, food, ice sculptures, light up toys and decorations and even performers:


This Buddy lookalike was walking around on stilts in front of Fifth Avenue Place downtown. He agreed to take a picture with us, but my friend Jess had to kneel on the ground to include all of us in the shot!


After we spent time in awe of the trees and navigating the ultra-crowded food court in the mall, the group made our way to the Andy Warhol bridge to take in the fireworks. We came early to get a good spot, but we had to endure the biting cold and classic rock covers while we tried to pass the time. I don’t know why my face looks so angry – maybe it’s because I had to use my scarf as an ear-warmer before they fell off my head. That, or I wasn’t a big fan of the music. Either way, the fireworks were well worth the wait and started promptly at the advertised time of 9:38 (don’t ask me why the time was that specific, I have no idea).


Here is an excellent glimpse of the fireworks they shot off that night. It was an epic twenty-plus minute show, that included a medley of Christmas music and at one point, a shower of fireworks raining down from the Roberto Clemente bridge itself, the bridge directly facing the one we were standing on (!!). It wasn’t possible to get the entire show on tape, but here’s the grand finale for your consumption, if you couldn’t be there:

(Psst! You can watch this and most of the other videos on this entry in HD!)

After that, we braved the heavy crowds from both Light up Night and that evening’s Pittsburgh Penguins game to catch a bus back to Oakland. If you want to see the rest of my pictures from Light up Night (including the photos I took last year!), just visit this link.

xoxo, Tara