Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring Cleaning

It's April 16th and it feels as if spring has finally arrived. Spring has historically felt like a time for re-birth, providing us with the opportunity to enter the future with a positive outlook. For most people, the new year is when they create resolutions that they hope to carry throughout the rest of the year, but I find the emergence of springtime to be the season when I feel compelled to find the new me. Perhaps its the birds waking me with a gentle song in the morning, or the fact that I experience the sunrise every morning, but the resurgence of warm weather leaves me feeling positive and assuredly revitalized.

This Spring I am trying to live "cleanly", but what on earth does that mean? For me this means eating food that requires assembly as opposed to food that is immediately edible upon opening a bag or jar. It also means exercising my body the right way, keeping my apartment organized, not overeating. These are all things in my life that I struggle with. I am writing this blog post so everyone that reads it can keep me accountable when I fall off the wagon.

I always seem to lack the willpower to keep going...but I am determined to make these changes in my life once and for all. I have already made exercise a daily part of my life by finding a style of exercise that I enjoy taking part in. I have been attempting the food portion issue but items from both the dangerously sweet and dangerously savory always derail even my most assertive efforts to eat well. There are certain things I have realized that I could never give up and I have decided to eat these things in moderation. When it comes to organization, I have surmised that I pick one room a day that I will focus on keeping clean. My disposition usually leaves me overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning every crevis of the house at one time so I usually do nothing (I understand this logic is flawed, blame the human condition, not me).

I hope these proactive approaches to living life well will keep me assertive, strong, and above all, motivated to reach my goals.

I have been feeling nervous about posting as of late, mostly because blogging is a strange form of communication. I type a whole bunch of things and I don't know what kind of reaction people feel when they read this informal journalistic article. There is always a small voice asking "who cares?" "what could I say?", but in order to get past that, I must keep going.

Therefore, thank you...thank you for helping me reach my goals, supporting the decisions I make, and being a part of my life, past, present, or future. Make this month the beginning of something new. Take the time to make a goal, make a timeline for yourself, and work to reach it. We are capable of so much, and are far stronger than we ever dreamed we could be. Become who you want to be, and start today.

As always

Living upward,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Anyone can do it


It's been a blog drought lately, but I am back and ready to type my face off!

Lately, I have been finding myself loving the DIY trend. I have been very interested in learning the skills necessary to make things from scratch. Today is an update of how everything has been going in my quest to live using raw materials.

First, tarts:

Baking has always been top of the list of things that I want to learn how to do in my life. Therefore, I have been baking up a storm lately. (This is delicious, but highly bad for my figure so I am a big fan of sharing. Let me know if you want a homemade baked item!)

I began with a gluten free fruit tart for a dear friend's birthday party, I roughly followed this recipe from Food Network's website: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/raspberry-tart-recipe/index.html

I didn't have a number of the ingredients so I substituted to the best of my ability. I used amaretto instead of brandy and I used vanilla extract instead of vanilla.

The crust was pretty simple, but the gluten free flour becomes slightly crumbly which made getting the tart out of the pan incredibly challenging. Anyway, I followed the remainder of the recipe exactly and it came out incredibly delicious!!

 The jelly mixture is was gives the fruit the fantastically perfect look that makes fruit tarts look absolutely delectable.

 This photo mostly shows off the beautiful tart pan I found! Who knew Target was so diverse in its color options?!
My second tart was a lemon tart, also from the Food Network website. Find the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lemon-curd-tart-recipe/index.html

I used regular flour for this version but am lacking in the area of food processor so I had to hand grate the lemons and then mash them into pieces as small as I could make it. I then followed the recipe as written.

First, I made the dough and refrigerated it....

 While waiting for the dough to cool, I made the lemon curd...

 The pastry has to be half baked, pierced with a fork and then returned to the oven.

This was the most challenging part, heating the lemon filling. It requires the baker to stand and stir until the filling heats and thickens.

The slightly browned crust, ready for the filling!

The final product.

Next, sewing:

When going to the store to look for throw pillows, I realized how insane spending over twenty dollars for two squares of material and stuffing truly is.

 Therefore, I wanted to start to sew again. First, I made this guy for my bedroom...

Next I attempted to make a pillow for a friends birthday....

He had "written" a song (by written, I mean that loosely as this song was mostly a representation of what happens when a young Pittsburgh gentleman puts his best 'yinzer' to music) So I decided to put his lyrical genius on a throw pillow for his couch. Here is a close up of the embroidery that I attempted.

Here is the final look from the front.

Final look from the back....

Can't move on without a showing a good side angle...

I went to creative reuse lately and found this cool material that I thought would be perfect for napkins...I understand that sounds strange but I don't know how else to describe it. You never know when you may need cloth napkins right?

So, first I cut out four 14" squares. I wanted 12" squares and figured that each end would lose about a 1/2" once I sewed them.

First I turned the fabric over twice.

Then I ironed the ends to keep them in place...

Of course, when sewing...pinning is still a necessity.

Here are the napkins pre-ironed and pinned.

I chose this funky orange color because I thought it would accent the tan of the fabric.

 Here is one of the corners up close...

 After I sewed all of the napkins I ironed them again, just to get rid of any remaining creases.

The final product!!!!

 Ok, after sharing a bunch of pictures and showing off all of my most recent projects I need to make something clear. ANYONE CAN DO THIS. Besides precision, time, and a few materials, you need little else to create any of the above items. I want everyone out there to take the time to be creative this week. People always assume that creativity means making something out of nothing. For me, creativity is creating something out of something else!! Find time to make something, it doesn't matter if you buy a coloring book and take twenty minutes to very carefully make the picture come alive with all 100 colors crayola makes. JUST MAKE SOMETHING! The feeling of accomplishment afterward will make you so proud of yourself!

Until next time...Living Upward,

Monday, March 11, 2013

An offer of Marriage

What a beautiful weekend!! There is always that distinct moment when you realize that the grey skies and falling snow will soon be replaced by blooming flowers and the sound of lawn mowers on weekend afternoons. My mom always told me that spring was around the corner when you could hear the birds singing first thing in the morning.

This weekend, I heard the birds...and the sun was out...and it was warm. To me, this means spring is close which makes me a  happy camper as I begin another week (I feel 80% confident that just because I said those fated words it won't be nice until May).

I have been debating about what to blog about next but I thought I would be totally obnoxious and post about the very successful proposal of two of my very dear friends. We will call them "Boy and Girl"...I was lucky enough to be a part of their proposal and was given the very neat-o opportunity of helping to set the site up for said event.

"Boy" did an awesome job of finding the site and made a really fantastic contact that let us use the space however we saw fit. He chose to use The Priory hotel on the Northside because they have a really nice courtyard which has an 'oasis in the city feel'. If you would like to see their website,
click ---> http://www.thepriory.com/gallery.php

Ok, once "boy" found the site, he asked my boyfriend and I to help him with the overall setup. We decided on Luminaria leading up to the proposal site, some well placed lanterns, and flowers to create a simplistic, romantic scene. After determining the logistics, we needed to set up an intricate lie to get "girl" to come to the priory without suspecting anything. Boyfriend and I are good friends with this couple and on each Friday in lent we try out a different fish fry in Pittsburgh, thus we decided that boyfriend should call and cancel on them at the last minute. This would require them to go to dinner on their own. We then asked them if they wanted to meet at the Warhol at 9:00 (they needed a reason to head north of the city). "Boy and Girl" would then arrive to the Northside early and need to grab a drink somewhere...of course, The Priory is the best place to do that.

Now for the set-up. First I stopped at the florist to pick out the flowers, I decided on daisies with green filler to mix the feel of spring and winter together.

 I also got a dozen roses to create the LED tealights (I got the original idea here: http://pinterest.com/pin/239887117623805362/). Here's how I assembled them:

First I took the petals off...

 I then took spray adhesive to glue them around the tealight, smallest petals first

Here's how they came out:
 I decided to put the flowers under the tree, I felt like it made the ground more fairy tale in appearance, as if lighted flowers were magically growing from the ground.

The picture below is the very beginning of the set-up, first we put the lights around the tree ("boy" found the lights at Target, they were solar powered LED). We were concerned about the mix of LED lights with traditional bulbs, but I ended up being happy with the differentiation between the two. The LEDs added a twinkle to the overall ambiance, and the white offset well with the pink of the roses. 
The next picture shows the luminaria lit, as well as the flower arrangement and lanterns around the fountain. The fountain area was not in working order since in was winter, so we had to do some improvising to hide the plastic protecting the inside of the fountain. I liked the big lantern being offset by the flowers hanging over the edge. 
 Here is a closer picture of how the area looked straight on....

 They even left the lights in the grand hall on for us, and the stained glass was so beautiful! I could hardly stand it. The stained glass was boyfriends idea...he's a smart cookie.

 This is the view from the opposite side of the courtyard. The red door is where boy and girl entered the courtyard from.

 The site at the end, I was pretty happy with how it came out.

Now, the pièce de résistance. I couldn't end the blog post without showing a picture of how the ring was displayed. "Boy" found this really nifty flower holder. It seemed obvious to put a single rose inside of it and place the ring so it was hanging from the rose.

 <--------- cute, right???

             From the side   --------------------------->

 Of course, she said yes. How could she not after such an elaborate lie! She was completely surprised and the two are now happily planning their future together. It was such a blast setting this up and I couldn't be happier for this lovely couple. They are so good for each other and I can't wait to see what wonderful things they experience together.

Just give me a call for all your planning needs ;)

Keep an eye out for more crafting, baking, and living upward.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow Day

 Outside my apartment looks like this right now...

#snowday #imateacher

Henry Keeps looking at me like this...maybe he's mocking me? Wants me to pet him? Tough to say.

The day off has prompted me to think about what parts of my life I feel are most important to put on here. I frequently leave out very small details of my life because I am embarrassed or concerned about how others will see me. Well, I need to change that...today...

I need to come clean about something. If I am going to live upward and live whole I need to mention how I fight a battle with my appearance daily. I have been feeling very dissatisfied with my body lately and I realized that the amount of fat in my body is at an unhealthy percentage! YIKES. In the past, I have tried going on crazy diets, removing all sweets from my diet, processed everything, fried everything and I DO NOT have the will power for that. Those of you that can do this, mad props. I begin to feel locked in a teeny tiny box in which I become claustrophobic and terrified.

So.....I decided to try something new.

What if I made small changes to my diet, made exercise a habit, and found technology that could help me reach my goals? Technology? We do live in the 21st century...why fight the battle alone?

After much research, and comparison I decided on the "Jawbone UP" as my friend and confidant in the world of weight management. It's a pretty cool gadget! It tracks steps, sleep, and you can enter in food data as strictly or lackadaisically as you choose. It's pretty neat-o!

It's even my favorite color!

Down to business (I feel like CNET doing a review or something)

 Nothing that exciting, just figured I would share some pics of what it looks like.

<------------ What it looks like when you plug it in


This is how it breaks down your steps ---------------------->

....I'm not sure why I picked yesterday, my longest active was 11 minutes. Totes embarrassing.
<-----------------This is how it breaks down sleep.

Not a half bad night of sleep for me!

I would certainly recommend the Jawbone to anyone who is as anal about tracking progress as I am (I should be getting paid for this fantastic advertising job I am doing right now).

This little guy is part of my campaign for a more complete me. I find that instead of sitting around I want to get up and move so I can meet my daily goal of 10,000 steps and that I go to bed earlier so I can reach 100% on my sleep goal. It's like having a cheerleader that doesn't cheer but keeps score...so...it's more like a scorekeeper....whatever....it makes me move.

The "UP" is obviously not a complete package, I mean it doesn't put healthy food in my mouth or keep me from eating half a bag of Starburst jelly-beans like I did last night *whoops*, but it gives me honest data about how I am doing.

Now that I have made this whole post about a silly product I should get back to the reason for writing today. As a child of the millennium I still came from parents who told me to clear my plate before I left the table and that wasting food is a mortal sin. It seems that  this has come back to haunt me as we all live in a society which serves three to four servings at a single sitting. When food is in front of me I feel like I HAVE TO EAT IT, WHAT IF IT GOES BAD?!?!?! Anyone out there with me?

 I get embarrassed that at the ripe age of 23 I am already waging a battle against weight and feeling confident in the way I look. I am not trying to lose tons of weight and I don't want to buy into diets...I don't want to make crazy changes. I don't want to obsessively weigh myself every week praying that the Cabury Mini Eggs I ate in the last week won't reflect on the scale, it's not fun. Why is no one doing this the right way? What is the right way? All organic? Low-carb? Paleo? Nuts are bad? Nuts are good? Balanced? Eating fruits and veggies, but only fruits in the morning? No carbs after 11 am?

This is why I have decided to live whole. I eat when I am hungry, but I try to get the most bang for my theoretical buck. I make sure to have protein, vegetable, good fat, and lots of water with all my meals. I am making exercise a part of my routine. Some days I eat too much...some days I drink alcohol...but I keep telling myself that the most important thing to remember is that tomorrow is a new day, a day in which I can choose to give up or stay on the bandwagon. So far, I have stayed on the bandwagon.

Here's to hoping that I continue my journey...

Living Upward,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Beginning

I guess you could say that I recently entered into the terrifying "adult world", as my brilliant and beautiful friend Callie Hanau would say, "2012, the year we got cut-off".

So, now what?

I graduated from college with a degree that proves unimpressive in helping me find a job and  I am stuck in limbo. I am realizing that college did nothing to prepare me for the very fast paced world we live in. I was trained my whole life to go to college, get a job, make money, save for retirement.  What if I don't want that? What if I want to think creatively and make myself and those around me better people because of what I do in life? It seems that I missed the boat on how to find a fulfilling career. It seems that every idea I have has been created or done way better than I could ever dream...talk about frustrating. I frequently feel as if I am standing in an aquarium. The whole world is just beyond the glass, I can see it, I can smell it, but I can't reach it. In this world, everyone else seems to know exactly where they are headed but I am stationary, unable to move.

Thus, I am starting on the ground floor. I am entering into a world full of uncertain futures, lack of financial stability, and a long road to feeling accomplished.

Upon searching the internets (yeah, I said internets...it's the plural of internet) there are tons of blogs about fitness, about crafting, cooking the DIY phenomenon,  being a mom, beauty tips, but what about those of us that aren't sure what our niche is yet? Those of us that watch 15-20 episodes of poorly directed TV shows on netflix because we have nothing better to do? What should we do, besides look for a slightly satisfying job? (see above for prescribed life goals)

Therefore, I am blogging. Maybe no one will ever read it. I may put these ideas to paper (well...sort of) only to help me reflect on my own thoughts an accomplishments. I decided to call the blog Living Upward as a constant reminder that I am trying to live better, cleaner, and stronger. I have no idea exactly what it will turn into, but I certainly hope it will help me, and perhaps others, feel better about the uncertainty "the future" holds.