Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Year's Resolutions



I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I want to set “New Year’s Resolutions” this coming year.  In the past the only resolution I’ve been able to even somewhat keep has been “no more caffeine”.  I quickly abandoned that resolution the second the next New Year came around.  As it turns out I LOVE Dr. Pepper.  Having only ever really successfully completed one resolution I hesitated to sit down and really set some serious goals.  Would it be worth my time?  Am I just setting myself up to be disappointed come February when I have failed at all of my resolutions?  These are the questions I have been asking myself as the New Year approaches. 
After thinking very seriously about it, I have decided to set some goals for 2015.  I don’t want to call them “New Year’s Resolutions” because I think that just begs to not be accomplished.  I feel like I am at the best point so far in my life in so many different areas.  I finally have a dependable job that offers me reliable pay.  I might not make a ton of money, but I finally feel like I can set a budget and even put some money aside for savings.  I am in a very stable relationship with the most supportive of boyfriends.  He might not go to the gym with me and he might not like every new recipe I try out but he supports me no matter what.  If I say I want to eat healthier or want to go to the gym on a regular basis he is right there pushing me off my lazy butt.  I have a great friend who seems to have the same fitness goals as I do.  Granted she lives in Boise but she is always there to support me in my gym adventures, run races with, and vent to when I fall off the work out wagon.  I am in such a great place in my life that even if I fail miserably at each and every one of these resolutions I know I will still be happy and satisfied with my life.
So here goes. My list of goals for 2015.  I have thought long and hard about this and am only listing the most serious goals I want to accomplish.
Run a half marathon.  Kyrene (my race buddy) and I are really wanting to run the haunted half in October 2015. We are figuring out a serious plan to make this a possibility in the next few days.  While a half marathon might not happen this year, maybe a 10k?  We have accomplished a 5k, but can always improve and progress right?

Lose some weight!!!!  This hopefully goes hand in hand with running a half marathon.  As I have previously posted, I have gone up a couple sizes in the past year and a half or so.  Funny how that time line corresponds with how long I’ve been with John. . .   No I’m not blaming John for my weight gain.  Since starting to date John a LOT of things in my life has changed.  I’ve had a couple different jobs, we’ve moved a couple of times, we’ve gotten busier, etc.  Now that our life has kind of slowed down and at least stabilized a bit I think it’s a good time to get serious about shedding those few extra pounds and just being healthier in general.  My sister-in-law gave me some great ideas after I posted about wanting to be healthier.  She has inspired me to set a menu every week, which definitely helps me not go out to eat every night.  I hope to get better about eating healthier, going to the gym, and making smarter decisions in general.  Some subsets of this goal are:
a.       Stop the soda drinking.  You have no idea how much this pains me.  I seriously LOVE Dr. Pepper.  And I am addicted to caffeine.  I get a horrible headache without it and am a bit cranky.  But soda is bad for you and does not help with weight loss, so away it will go.
b.      Cut back on fast food.  If I absolutely HAVE to go out to eat I need to choose healthier options.  But ideally I won’t be stopping at McDonalds for chicken nuggets at all.  Thank goodness fast food joints have some decent salads these days J
c.       Go to the gym at LEAST 3 times a week.  The only adjustment to this is if I decide to go for a run outside while training for the big race.  But for the most part I choose the gym over outdoor running.  Something about being able to watch tv while on the treadmill makes working out a bit more bearable. 

Save some money!  I need to assign an actual dollar amount to this  but until I sit  down with my spreadsheets and pay stubs and figure out what I can feasibly afford to save every month I am keeping this pretty generic.  I’ve been working on paying off some debt (yay student loans!)  so that’s where a lot of my extra cash has been going.  I want to continue to keep ahead of loan payments but also put some money away for a rainy day.   I think I will focus all of my cleaning checks on paying off debt and put any money I make in overtime at Big Mountain into savings.  Or something like that. Like I said, I need to think this one through a little bit more.

Become a better couponer.  Yes I said it, coupons.  I first realized how much money I could save by watching Extreme Couponing.  Granted that show is a bit unrealistic.  But the reality is you really can save some serious money using coupons.  I have done it myself a time or two and have watched some youtube videos featuring real people in real situations save some serious dough.  I have finally found a blog to follow that really helps piece together great deals.  I just need to be dedicated to it in order to really reap the benefits of couponing.  I’ve been casually couponing for the past year or so but I really think I want to delve into this.  It takes some time, but I think the money I could save is well worth it.   We’ll see how beneficial couponing is I guess.

Alright so there you have it.  My most serious goals for 2015.  I really think I can keep most of these.  I just need to be dedicated to it, and not succumb to the laziness that I have fallen victim to time and time again.  Hopefully Kyrene and John can help me stay focused on the fitness goals, as those are the ones I really want to accomplish this coming year. 
I hope you all have success in any New Year’s Resolutions you might be embarking on as well.  Hopefully we can all stay motivated and have a great 2015!

Until next time,

Tara

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pinterest Crafting

Crafting has been a part of my life for a pretty long time.  I remember visiting my mom and grandma at local craft shows where they were selling their homemade goods.  They also had a booth at a local craft goods store back in good ol' Tomball. My mom has attempted to teach me to sew on numerous occasions.  She also tried to teach me how to crochet and successfully passed the skills of latch hooking and cross stitching down to me.  Don't get me wrong.  If I need to sew a button back on or fix a hole that is on a seam I can fix that.  And I can sew a straight line on sewing machine.  I just won't be busting out any one of a kind apparel pieces any time soon.

A few years ago I joined the wonderful world of Pinterest.  Pinterest is a great place to collect recipes, random quotes, cute animal pictures, ideas for a future home, and crafts.  At first I mostly used Pinterest for recipes.  I have cooked a few things off of Pinterest that turned out pretty decently.  As I spent more and more time on the good ol' Pinterest I realized there were a TON of crafts and DIY projects that I could do.  I really enjoy being crafty, but for the past couple years I haven't had the money or the time to really invest into crafts.  Or the space.  Craft supplies take up a LOT of space.  I have finally overcome 2 of the three big obstacles to crafting.  I have more income now than I did 2-3 years ago.  And I have a bit more spare time.  Still no space though.  Just ask John where all of my craft supplies are.  I'm sure he is thrilled about the pile of "junk" in one corner of our living room. :)

For my first official Pinterest craft I attempted to recreate this.  

Here is what I came up with






Obviously what I came up with is a loose interpretation of her original sign.  This is by no means perfect, or even what I wanted it to be.  But I wanted to finish what I started so I went with it.  Here is what I would have done differently if I were to do it again (which I probably will).

First I won't wait until the first of October to buy my wood letters.  I couldn't find the letters to spell out "BOO" for the life of me.  I looked EVERYWHERE.  Finally, after wandering around Hobby Lobby for a while, I came across a Halloween sign saying "EEK".  I decided to go with it. 

Second, I won't use this particular style of letters again, at least if I am planning on mod podging. It was pretty difficult tracing and cutting my scrapbook paper to fit the wood letters well.  If you look at this sign up close the paper hangs over the edge in places and it doesn't exactly match up on the swirly parts of the wood.  Oh well! 

Third I would figure out a better way to attach the ribbon.  I had been putting off this part of the project for a while and finally just decided to glue it on.  Or maybe I would use a plain colored ribbon instead of a pattern so that it didn't matter as much.  Either way I would do something different with the ribbon.

My wonderful boyfriend, being the awesome guy he is, actually helped me out with this.  I was trying to figure out a way to connect the letters.  Since I didn't go with "BOO" as my word of choice I obviously couldn't hang my sign the same way as the original.  John came up with the idea of drilling little holes and gluing some metal wire into each hole to connect the letters.  I think it came out pretty well.  Those letters aren't going anywhere!.  My boyfriend is so smart! I'm glad he came up with that idea.  My idea was to use wood glue which probably would have ended up a lot messier and a lot less sturdy.

Overall I'm on the fence about the sign.  It didn't turn out the way I originally thought it would, but I don't hate it.  I will try this again in the future (actually I have already bought more letters  and paper). I just wanted to get this done since Halloween is over.  There are a TON of Christmas Crafts I want to try out so it's time to move on!  When I try this project again I will definitely post my (hopefully better) results.

Are there any crafts you think I should try?  What do you think of this lovely sign?  Got any tips on what I can do next time?  Let me know!

~Tara

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Christmas Shopping

It is officially snowing here in Provo, Utah.  I am not a huge fan of snow.  I would enjoy it a lot more if it could snow when it is 60 degrees outside.  Unfortunately snow only comes when the temperature drops well below my preferred temperature range.  On the bright side, the first snow of the season means Christmas is coming!  I am not one of those people that puts my Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving.  I like to wait until at least December 1st to start getting in the Christmas spirit.  This year is a bit different though.  While I'm not busting out the Christmas tree and nativity scene yet, I have started Christmas present shopping.

I am typically the kind of person that waits until a week or two before Christmas to get all of my presents.  As my family has spread out across the country I have gotten a bit better at buying gifts for those that are further away a little bit sooner than that.  Last year, since I spent Christmas in Connecticut with John's family, I think I bought all of my gifts by the middle of December.  I'm pretty sure that was a new record for me. 

This year my family is all getting together for Christmas at my mom's house in Pueblo, Colorado.  My grandparents, mom, step-dad, uncle, aunt, 3 brothers, 1 sister-in-law, 2 nieces, 1 nephew, 2 sisters, 1 sisters' boyfriend, John, and myself are all gathering to spend a few days together.  I am SO excited.  I haven't seen my older brother and his family in a couple of years.  The entire family hasn't gathered for Christmas in a LONG time.  As you can see, there is going to be 18 people at the house. . . oh and 4 dogs, 1 cat, and a bird. This means there are LOTS of presents to be purchased.  Even if I only bought 1 present for everyone that is going to be at the house, that's still 17 presents to buy.  And lets be honest.  I have to get John more than one present.  He is my boyfriend after all.  And little kids are just so much fun to shop for.  Sorry bro and sis-in-law. . . I'm excited to spend Christmas with your kiddos and see them open presents. Be prepared for more than 1 present each :). 

Also, I REALLY love wrapping presents.  I love wrapping paper and gift tags and labeling gifts with the giant pen my youngest brother decided to give me for Christmas a couple years ago.  Target had a sale on wrapping paper the other weekend.  I went and bought 6 or so rolls of wrapping paper, all different patterns.  I don't think I NEED 6 rolls of wrapping paper, especially since I had 2 rolls in my closet from Christmases past.  But you can't have a bunch of presents under the tree all wrapped in the same paper.  That's just boring.  Obviously, with 5 or 6 different family units all bringing presents with them to my mom's, odds are there are going to be a bunch of different wrapping paper selections under the tree. But when all of the presents are stacked up in our computer room waiting to be sent to my mom's, I need some variety.  I don't know why I love wrapping presents so much.  I just find it so fun.  In the past I would blast Christmas music or put on a Christmas movie, sit down, and wrap away.  Since I'm having to wrap a little bit earlier this year, I haven't put on the Christmas music yet.  But in a couple of weeks when I am inevitably wrapping more presents, you better believe I'm gonna put on some TSO or the NSYNC Christmas album and wrap away. 

Family, I apologize for the amount of presents you might be receiving from me, especially the little ones.  I just love giving gifts and wrapping presents so much!  I'm trying to contain myself, especially since so many of us are driving little cars with limited space.

Friends and Family in Utah, if anyone needs or wants help wrapping presents, give me a call.  I'm not going to say I'm the best present wrapper, but I am enthusiastic about it.  While others might find it a tedious task, I happily look forward to it. 

Happy Christmas shopping everyone!

~Tara


Monday, November 10, 2014

Tara v. John: Music

John and I agree on a lot of things.  We like basically the same types of food.  We agree on the temperature setting of the house.  We can typically sit down and find something that both of us want to watch on tv. We both like sports.  But there is one thing that John and I do not agree on.  Music.  There are bands that both of us enjoy.  These typically fall under the classic rock genre.  Let's be real though, who DOESN'T like this:

Or This:

 Or This:


   John and I can jam out to classic rock and be perfectly happy.  Many Saturday mornings or Sunday car rides have been spent doing this. But classic rock is just about the only thing we CAN agree on as far as music goes.

I grew up listening to country.  My first cassette tape was a Clay Walker album.  My first crush was Billy Ray Cyrus.  My family likes to tease me about jammin to this classic in the bathtub when I was barely old enough to talk.


When I got older I discovered boy bands.  I LOVE NYSNC.   It wasn't that long ago that some of my college friends and I went to a Backstreet Boys concert.  If NYSNC ever goes on a reunion tour you better believe I will be there.  Boys bands (and I don't mean One Direction.  I mean Boy Bands from the 90's and early 00's) will always hold a special place in my heart.  I don't know of a person my age who can't bust out the dance to this great song:

Granted, John does appreciate the NSYNC. He can jam right along with me to this album (or he would if he hadn't returned his leased car with this CD in the CD player.  Yes I am still upset that one of the greatest CD's I had is now off in CT somewhere.  Some lucky teenage girl is going to stumble across it and really discover something great).

The vast majority of the time I listen to country music.  I really enjoy it.  I love the concerts, I love the music, and I love that, for the most part, I don't have to worry about the lyrics being inappropriate while I am listening to the radio at work.  Plus, look at this video and try to tell me that Luke Bryan isn't one of the most attractive human beings you have ever seen.


As I have mentioned on this blog before, my favorite band is Parachute.  They are NOT country.  But still great (in my opinion).  I try and go to all of their shows here in Utah.  I just think they are fantastic and I love them.  Here are a couple of my favorite Parachute Songs



Now for John.  His favorite band is an Australian band Karnivool:
I don't mind them, or some of the other Australian bands John likes.  As a matter of fact, if I ever get a tattoo, there is a line from this song by Hands Like Houses that is at the top of my list for potential tattoo images:

Bonus points if you can guess what line I would get tattooed!

Then there is the music John likes that I am NOT a fan of.  He listens to the hardcore rock or whatever you call it.  I call it scary devil music because there is screaming that makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.  Not ALL of it is horrible, but the vast majority of it I refuse to listen to.  Some of the bands John likes that fall into this category are We Came As Romans and August Burns Red.  I know there are more but since I try to avoid listening to it at all costs I don't remember the names of the bands.  We Came As Romans actually has some songs that I don't mind.  And they have a pretty sweet cover of Taylor Swift's I Knew You Were Trouble.  Check it out: 


I refuse to listen to the screaming scary music.  I will NOT go to a concert by any of these artists.  John refuses to go see country acts with me.  Neither one of us will even ask the other to attend such concerts.  We will find friends or siblings to attend, but we both know that asking the other to attend these types of concerts is pointless.  There are some concerts that, while we might not be thrilled about it, we will attend with the other person because we love them.  John will go see Parachute with me.  I will go see John's Australian bands with him. And for a while I would go see bands such as 4 Years Strong with John. Four Year Strong is a band that I actually don't mind at all if I'm listening to them on the good ol' youtube.  I know some of their songs and actually really enjoy listening to them in the car with John. 


 This is an acoustic version of one of their songs so it doesn't give you the full picture of who they are.  But still, they have potential to not be a band that I would consider scary devil music.

I have gone with John to see Four Year Strong twice now.  The first time I went I had just hurt my knee.  At that time we didn't know for sure what I had done to it.  All we knew was that it hurt for me to put a ton of weight on it.  John took this into consideration and tried to get me as close to the stage as possible.  Why as close to the stage as possible you might ask?  I asked the same thing.  Everything was honky dory great during the opening acts.  And then Four Year Strong came out.  The crowd surged to the front of the stage.  I was NOT in control of which way my body was moving.  I got kicked in the face by a crowd surfing idiot.  I looked over at John and said "You can stay here with all the  BO crazy people but I'm headed to the back of this venue as far away from the crazies as possible".  I will give John made props.  He did come and stand in the back with me until Four Year Strong was done with their set.  And then we left.  My knee was killing me but I toughed it out because John really likes them and I really love him.   
A few months later John informs me that Four Year Strong is coming back to Utah. And they are headlining.  I wasn't thrilled, but I figured he could be asking me to go to a worse show.  So I hesitantly agreed to attend the concert with him.
Well that concert was this past week.  The venue had been changed from a place we had been to before and really liked to a loading dock.  Like a legit loading dock.  It was literally a garage, half inside half outside.  You know what it's like attending a concert in a garage?  HORRIBLE!  The acoustics were awful.  There was NO space.  And it was kinda cold. John and I got there early enough to secure a spot right next to the stage.  In the grand scheme of things the best place to be if you want to be able to see a band like Four Year Strong and you are attending a concert in a garage and you don't want to me in the middle of the crazy people and the crazy mosh pits and the horrible body odor is right by the stage. The only problem with being right by the stage is that it often means being right by the speakers.  Shows like Four Year Strong tend to be very bass heavy.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  I left the show last week with what seemed like NO hearing.  And being right next to the stage didn't even mean I was immune from the mosh pits and BO.  In a venue that is literally a garage there is NO space. I still got the pleasure of not being in control of which way by body moved. I still got to be surrounded by the lovely aroma of BO. I still got the pleasure of crowd surfing idiots.  It was SO MUCH FUN. . . NOT!  
Luckily I have an awesome boyfriend that realized I was not enjoying myself.  After John had heard all the songs he really wanted to hear he guided me through the crowd of people and let me leave.  I felt bad because I know that John really likes Four Year Strong.  I just couldn't take it anymore.  I am not cut out for those kinds of shows.  I don't like not being able to hear.  I don't like not being in control of my body.  I don't like smelling BO.  On the drive home from Salt Lake John told me that he would not ask me to go to another concert like that again unless he absolutely could not find anyone else to go with him.  I am forever grateful for that. I don't think I could handle another experience like that.  I am not opposed to Four Year Strong as a band, but I am not a fan of what happens at their shows.
John and I both love concerts.  Seeing a band you love live is just so awesome.  I'm sure there will be many more concerts attended by John and I in the future.  John and I have learned about some great bands by going to shows such as Four Year Strong.  I hope to continue to expand my musical horizons by attending shows with John.  I just might stand in the back by myself from here on out :)


Friday, November 7, 2014

Roasted Garlic Clove Chicken

John and I LOVE garlic.  When I say love I mean we are obsessed.  Garlic is by far our all time favorite seasoning.  Whenever we cook anything (aside from dessert type things that is) we always add garlic.  It is just SO FREAKIN Tasty!  Any recipe that calls for an overload of garlic is sure to be a winner in our book.

 One night after watching some Ghost Hunters I decided to watch an episode of Ten Dollar Dinners I had recorded.  (After watching a show like Ghost Hunters I have to watch a less intense show before going to bed or else my imagination will run wild).  John came out in the living room and watched it with me (10 Dollar Dinners, not Ghost Hunters.  He thinks Ghost Hunters is stupid).  In this particular episode of Ten Dollar Dinners Melissa D'Arabian was featuring this Roasted Garlic Clove chicken.  John and I immediately decided that this was a recipe we HAD to try.  Melissa just made it sound so tasty.

In my attempts to be healthier (see previous post) I made a menu this weekend for this upcoming week.  Obviously the Roasted Garlic Clove Chicken recipe had to be one of the first meals we made!  I don't know how healthy this recipe is, but I'm going with it's healthier than heading out to McDonalds for french fries and a burger. 

Here is the recipe as it appears on the Food Network website (serves 4).  I obviously scaled it down a bit to fit my needs.  I've also included some cooking tips brought to you by yours truly.

Ingredients:
8 chicken thighs (I used bone-in.  She doesn't specify but in the recipe she mentions cooking skin side down)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head garlic, separated into whole cloves and skinned, about 20 cloves (John and I probably used 10 or so for just the 2 of us)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon flour
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 lemon, juiced (I didn't have a lemon so I just used lemon juice)
bread for serving

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Salt and pepper liberally and allow to temper on a cutting board while you prepare the garlic. 
In a large ovenproof saute pan over medium heat, cook the whole garlic cloves in olive oil and butter, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. (Might I recommend waiting until ALL of your garlic is skinned before adding any garlic into the pan.  You would think this would be obvious, but John and I just kinda started cooking and threw garlic in the pan as we got it skinned.  This resulted in some cloves being a bit on the crispy side).
Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside. Increase the heat to medium high and brown the chicken skin-side down until the skin is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over, sprinkle on herbes de Provence. Add the garlic back to the pan and place hot pan in oven. Bake the chicken until cooked through, about 25 minutes. (It took our chicken, just 2 thighs, bone-in, about 20 minutes).
 Once the chicken is done, remove chicken thighs and garlic to a platter. Place the pan over medium-high heat and sprinkle the drippings with flour and stir to incorporate. Deglaze the pan with the stock and lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the chicken on the platter and serve with bread for sauce-mopping and garlic-spreading.


sorry for the less than pretty picture.  I was so excited to eat this I forgot to take a picture until halfway through the meal

John is not a big fan of sauces so he didn't use any of this sauce other than what was already on the chicken.  I thought the sauce was DELICIOUS!  I poured some over the top of my bread, the chicken, and the mashed potatoes we had.  Because John and I love garlic so much we were eating the cloves with the bread.  The cloves sort of spread into a delicious garlicky paste with a butter knife but I will admit to just sitting them on top of the bread and eating them that way. Seriously we love garlic!
As you can tell from the picture, I was so excited to get this deliciousness into my belly!  I forgot to take a picture until half way through my meal.  This chicken (which we served with spinach and mashed potatoes) is definitely a recipe for us to hold on to and make time and time again!

Stay tuned for more tasty recipes.  But have no fear, I will not be strictly posting about food from now on.  I have a Halloween party to document, my first (almost) completed Pinterest craft, and a bunch of other things coming up to blog about. 

Until next time!

~Tara


Black Bean and Couscous Salad

Sometimes when I get bored at work and have forgotten to bring a book with me I get on the good ol' internet and search for recipes.  I definitely don't NEED any more recipes in my arsenal considering the fact that I have had a subscription to Cooking Light since 2011, but it's not like I keep my magazines at work to flip through.  Last week I was searching allrecipes.com list of "healthy recipes".  I stumbled across this recipe and realized that: A. I had actually had all of the ingredients on hand to make it and B. It sounded both delicious and relatively easy to prepare for my lunches.  Here is the recipe, with some tweaks and tips.

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked couscous (I only used like 3/8 of a cup because that was all the couscous I had at the house and since I was just making it for myself I figured that would be enough)
1 1/4 cup chicken broth (according to Cooking Light the proper ratio of liquid:couscous is 1 1/4 cup to 1 cup.  Scale this down accordingly.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup frozen corn, thawed (I just used a can of corn, drained)
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained (I just used one)
salt and pepper to taste

I also added some halved cherry tomatoes because I thought it would be tasty, which it was.  I think I used 8 or 9 tomatoes total. I wasn't really counting thought

Directions:

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Stir in couscous. Cover pot with lid and remove from heat.  Let stand 5 minutes.
In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, and cumin. Add green onions, red bell pepper, cilantro, corn, beans, and tomatoes (if using of course).  Toss to coat.
Fluff the couscous and break apart any chunks. Add to the bowl with the vegetables and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


I LOVE the taste of both vinegar and cumin.  I used a bit more of both and added some to my tupperware of salad when I packed it for work. I was able to make this from start to finish in about 20 minutes or so.  That includes cutting all of my veggies.   This recipe is really tasty.  I packed some tortilla chips with my lunch and used this almost as a salsa of sorts.  But trust me this recipe stands well on its own.  It refrigerates really well and is delicious cold.  If any of you ever decide to make this and add anything else PLEASE let me know.  There were a bunch of suggestions on allrecipes.com if you want to explore those.

Yay for eating healthy and trying DELICIOUS new recipes!

~Tara