Almond Clusters

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These little bite size gems are decadent, and dare I say-kinda healthy.  If my kids beg me for dessert, this is what their going to get.  In order to get the most health benefits from your chocolate, you want to opt for 60% cacao or higher.  I added organic/unsweetened coconut to some of them because we happen to be a family that loves Almond Joy’s.  I use roasted-unsalted almonds, but raw almonds would be a better choice for those that are truly trying to maximize the health benefits of these yummy treats.  I am not sure how soaked nuts would taste in this recipe, but again, it might be worth a try.  For those of you not familiar with this method, soaking nuts is supposed to make them easier to digest, as well as make their nutrients more readily available.  I am not a huge fan of soaking, unless it’s to make things like cashew cream, which is delicious!  Anywho, Skip the double broiler, and melt the chocolate chips in the microwave-it’s much more convenient! I’m not going to give measurements because honestly, it’s just not necessary.  Pile your almonds into cute little mounds on parchment  paper, and cover with your melted chocolate.  And if your feeling jazzy, dust a sprinkle of chunky kosher salt, or sea salt over the top.  Voila! 
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Xo-Tara

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How Fulfilling…

It’s the weekend.  You know, that glorious two days a week when you try to cram it all in.  Time for yourself, projects, quality time with the kids.  Fulfillment is a word that comes into my mind more often than what is probably acceptable.  It’s like a current that flows underneath my life and taunts me.  I am constantly asking myself, “Am I fulfilled, is “this” fulfilling?” And most of the time I think it’s because I don’t feel fulfilled, at least not in the way I want to be.  I like to think that there’s some sort of extraneous reason for this lack of fulfillment, but in all honesty I think it could also just be-ME.  By nature I’m a “doer” I make things, read things, take notes on things, clean things, make lists about things, cross things off of lists.  Serial watching The Carrie Diaries with my tween (which may or may not be what were doing right now) is not exactly on the list of fulfilling ways to spend a Saturday.  But…why not?  It’s not that I don’t find it enjoyable-it’s that I have this illusion-this idyllic preconceived view of what I think the weekends should be like.   Reading, painting, crafting with the girls, writing, making new recipes…I want my weekends to be all-encompassing.  I have to fit all the things I love to do into two days, because who has the time during the week?! Even though I get to spend my weeks at home watching babies (which I adore) I am like everyone else out there working a 9-5 job-I wish weeks away all for two little days that go by in a flurry, leaving me wondering where all the time went?!   The truth is that when the weekends roll around I’m exhausted, even things that I find enjoyable seem like work, like a quota that needs filled.  I don’t know if I’m in some sort of funk-winter blues, perhaps?  Maybe I’m just going fucking crazy.  

I like to think I’m someone who finds joy in the little things, but this issue of being truly fulfilled has always plagued me.  It often happens that I sit and try to think of something I did on a particular day that was fulfilling (other than taking care of kids) and I am dumbfounded.  I know I sound ungrateful, and I certainly don’t mean to be.  I am someone who documents lots of extraordinary (to me) moments in my life-the simple unadorned pockets of time when I feel truly happy-satisfied-not seeking something more.  I should feel lucky that I find happiness so easily, and frequently but I, like many others, am searching for more.  More from my life, more from my days, more from myself.  It all seems very greedy, searching for more fulfillment in one’s life, especially if it means more time for ourselves, and Maybe it is.  I want everyday to be truly fulfilling, and quite frankly even I find that quality about myself to be utterly annoying!  I think I’m this way for many reasons.  I am a worrier, and I have been since I was a little girl.  A doctor once told me I had generalized panic/anxiety disorder.  Duh.  I’m sure I should “generally” be taking a cocktail of Klonopin swirled in with some Xanax-but luckily I am not one for self-medicating.  The point is, when you’ve had an immense fear of dying your whole life, you get a little preoccupied with living your life to the fullest. (gag)

After all these years I (obviously) am not any closer to figuring it all out, but that won’t stop me from trying.  I do know that there are things I can do each day to feel more fulfilled.  Some of it starts with documenting.  When I feel truly happy, you know, the kind of happiness that leaves you sort of floating around the periphery absorbing the beauty of the moment-I write it down.  I write in as great a detail as I can muster.  More often than not, I find myself writing about these particular moments as they unfold outdoors.  Last year I was waking early to get up and walk a few miles before kids were up.  It was a truly magical time.  There is a certain solitude when walking while the sun is still rising, and everything around you is caught in between wakefulness and dreaming.  Regardless of getting up before the birds, I found a great amount of fulfillment from that practice, and coincidentally had a lot to write about.  I need to remember to look out for these moments each day.  Time for myself is not easy to come by, so I have to occasionally learn to look elsewhere for these moments.  Just as we (hopefully) wake up and put on clean clothes each day, these moments too will change.  They will show up in different faces, at different times of the day, in different places with different smells, different feelings.  I don’t know anymore if I’m talking about fulfillment or contentment-maybe both-or maybe just about happiness, but I do know that I have work to do.  I also know that whether they are the same thing, or just have a lot in common, recognizing happiness in my everyday life will help me to feel more fulfilled.  I know I have some shit to figure out, but in the meantime I will try to be aware those seemingly ordinary moments, so my days don’t continue to go by in a frenzy, because I am not OK with that.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a house to clean… 

 

DIY Yarn Wall Hanging

I recently came across a yarn wall hanging on Pinterest, and absolutely fell in love.  As with many things that I believe sort of cosmically cross my path, I became instantly obsessed with the idea of creating one of these works of art.  I know obsession seems like a strong word, but that really is the only way to describe it.  It’s all very quick, you know.  And it’s not crazy to think that it’s all kind of serendipitous.  It was the same type of scenario that fueled me to make the Shakshuka.  These wall hangings are clearly not some type of trendy new decoration, and while they never go out of style for bohemian interiors, I imagine that after the 70’s their popularity waned a bit.  But I think it’s a safe bet to say they are resurfacing.  Online retailer One Kings Lane introduced an artisnal line last summer, and they have profiled several weavers, also offering their works for sale.  Anthropologie also recently sold wall hangings such as these.  All Roads Design, a husband/wife creative team, has an amazing Tumblr showcasing many of their gorgeous creations, which are some of the very weavings sold at Anthropologie.  Yarn wall hangings add such lovely texture to a space, and with cute shops like Purl Soho selling such gorgeous yarn- it’s hard to exercise restraint.  I started an entire Pinterest board dedicated to yarn wall hangings to gather inspiration before I set out to make my own.  I searched high and low for a tutorial, and after many exhuasted attempts not being able to find what I was looking for, I decided I was going to have to figure this one out myself.  The only problem is…I don’t know how to mother effin weave.  While I do want to attempt weaving at some point, (my husband just bought me a loom to try!) this DIY takes a much more simple route.  Two words…rag rug.  First let me show you a few of my favorites from Pinterest. (For source, click image)

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When I got the wild hair up my ass that I absolutely had to have one of these, a rag rug was the first thing that came to mind.  Luckily I had one lying around that had never been used, so I started with that. The rug I used is 2’x3′, though I folded it in half to make a smaller wall hanging.  Originally I wanted to make a design directly on top of the rug, weaving my yarn through it, but I wasn’t thrilled with the way it was turning out.  So, I made long tassels out of cream colored yarn, and fed them through to the back of the rug and tied it.  I did this all along the bottom.  Next I used Fabri-tac to glue on some hot pink, and black yarn strips directly to the rug.  Then the most fun part of all.  SEQUINS.  I glued on an entire row of sequins, and then glued some  “here” and “there”.  I love the final look, it’s my Ode’ to a Moroccan wedding blanket.  We just used a strip of wood in between the folded rug and nailed it directly into the wall, But you could hang it on a decorative dowel/hanger for the ease of moving it.

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What I didn’t tell you, is that these photos were taken in my dining room!  No more purple Ikat walls.  Remember when I talked here about our dining room revamp?  Well, It turned into a complete do-over.  It’s not 100% finished, but I’m going to share the progress with you next week.  It’s pretty delicious!  

*I bought, and Love the Charles Bukowski print from Etsy shop Alphonsinne.  

XO-Tara

Glittering Sea Urchins

Hiya! I hope everyone had a wonderful, and relaxing weekend.  I did a few craft projects, talked about philosophical life questions with my husband, read, drank copious amounts of coffee, and watched two great movies (Blue Jasmine & In A World).  

I know I generally don’t divulge a lot about my life here, and I had no intentions of this being/becoming a “personal” blog, but I do fancy myself a creative writer-and coincidentally an over sharer.  Long ago during the hazy days of Myspace (if you think really hard, you’ll remember when it used to be cool) I kept an online journal, and it was my pride and joy.  I shared everything.  Poetry, mothering woes, decorating projects, art, relationship issues, issues I had with myself, nothing was off limits.  It was this cathartic swirling vortex of my neuroses, and for some reason people read it, and moreover, people liked it.  In an effort to get back to that pour my heart out kind of writing, I’m going to start a new tab on this blog called “ramblings”, because well, that’s exactly what it will be.  Maybe a few people will read it, maybe not.  It’s more for me, it’s an effort to be authentic and share the “real” bits of life, the sometimes not so pretty bits that many of us keep locked up inside, until they bubble over into a massive nervous breakdown.  That might be a slight over exaggeration  but you get the point.   

Now, as a reward for sitting and listening to me (and trust me you haven’t heard the half of it) I’m going to show you how to make something pretty, and sparkly.  It’s kinda sorta DIY.  It does involve an electrical cord/socket-so try to not to electrocute yourself.  This DIY was a gift from my dad a couple years ago, but it’s something everyone loves, and people always ask where I got it.  I just recently updated it with glitter—ooooohhaaahhhh.  My mom has had a sea urchin night light for as long as I can remember, but large urchins are not easy to come by like they used to be.  The larger Urchins are not able to be harvested anymore, so nowadays when you buy urchins individually they are on the small side.  If you search Ebay you can find a few lights with a large shell-like this, but they run about $25-30 bucks.  (search sea urchin night light) An individual urchin like the one I have will cost you about $3, so obviously it’s much more cost effective to make your own.  Basically you just drill a hole in the bottom of a piece of wood (big enough for a night light socket to fit in) You can find a socket/cord set like this on Amazon, or probably at your local hardware store.  You could stain/varnish your base, paint it, decoupage it, the options are endless!  That’s basically it.  Get a piece of wood-make it pretty, drill a hole in it, insert your socket , put in a light bulb, and Voila!!  So the next time your on vacation, grab a sea urchin and create one of these magical lights.

urchin bottom   This is the bottom of the light, where the socket goes. 

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Xo-Tara

Shakshuka

The name of this Israeli tomato and egg dish is now one of my new favorite words.  I simply cannot stop saying it-I think my husband wants to punch me in the face.  Though I do love saying Shakshuka (Shack-Shooooooka), I much rather eat it.  Usually my family doesn’t need an invitation to toast a baguette, and shove it into our face holes, but with this dish it’s practically a requirement! Praise be to Jesus, I thought the day would never come that someone would advise me to dip hunks of bread into a tomato based sauce and plow them into my mouth.
shak1I had never heard of this dish before, until seeing it one day in a magazine.  I’m sure it was fate, because instantly I had an immense craving for this mysterious Shakshuka, and had make it.  It was like my mind cut and pasted all the different flavors from a Rolodex of previous food experiences, and shot some imaginary concoction of what this recipe might taste like right into my mouth.  Seriously, ya’lls-I could taste it!

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The ingredient list is simple, and other than poaching the eggs in the broth, which might make some people uncomfortable (poaching is either love or hate) it’s a really easy dish to prepare.  I followed this adaptation by the amazing Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen.  I heart her big time.

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Go make Shakshuka for dinner and tell me if you loved it as much as I did!

XO-Tara

Use What You’ve Got…

As discussed in my previous post, you know, the one I posted weeks ago?! I had high hopes for the mantle going into 2014.  I’m sure the fact that so much time and attention goes into planning my mantle decor seems ludicrous to most people.  But, it honestly was about more than that.  Sure, I’m an obsessive decorator who’s dreams consist of wallpaper samples and paint swatches, but the obsession over the mantle wasn’t merely about decor, it was more about being a showcase of inspiration.  I am an avid resolution maker, and not just each new year.  ALL.THE.TIME.  I crave change like a Big Mac.  It’ s a blessing, and curse.  Now, obviously the mantle didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned, and that is OK too.  I did buy a few prints that I had envisioned for it, but I ended up liking them better in our new and improved dining room, which I will share soon.  That’s the thing about planning, you can’t be too rigid because then you don’t allow room for things to happen organically, and no one wants their decor to feel forced and stuffy.  I ended up using things I already had to decorate the mantle after the holidays, with the exception of the white vase which I scored at Target on clearance.  I bought two, and I am kind of in love with them! While it’s not filled with the things I had originally intended, it is inspirational, and it doesn’t cost anything to decorate with things you already have!  I have a framed card that Ava made me for Mother’s Day, lots of family photos that I clipped on using the glitter pins that held the advent calender, and I even kept a few paper fans up there, because they are fun, and add a touch of whimsy that makes me smile.  
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Vintage Light Reflectors & Holiday Sadness

*Update* I wrote this post weeks ago, but got caught up in a dining room revamp, and then the holiday hubbub swirled in around me like a cyclone, and plus during that whole time my washer was broken.  It.Was.Hell.  I persevered, and decided on sharing this anyway, because as you will see later, it’s completely different than how I had planned it to be-and that’s OK.  It was a happy-organic process, and I succeeded in what I set out to do, which is avoid the depressive state that happens after the Holidays when all the sparkly, pretty things get put away.

Please tell me that I am not alone in the fact that I experience a profound depressed state after the holidays are over.  After its no longer customary to throw glitter on everything, and eat sugar cookies for breakfast.   Putting away the lights, the wreaths, the tiny reindeer, the Christmas villages, all the shiny baubles-it’s all just too much.  It’s not just the putting away of these “things” that is difficult, it’s the spirit and wonder of the season that seems to go into hibernating with all of it…that’s the problem.  This year I am obsessing about the mantle, I know-I know, first world problems.  I have a game plan and it involves a string of vintage reflector lights.  Martha mother effin Stewart has done went and sent me into an E-bay bidding frenzy.  She is to blame for the countless hours I have spent on E-bay-furiously searching for the perfect set of vintage light reflectors.  The one page feature, titled “Powered Flowers,” had me swooning, and I knew I absolutely had to hunt these down.  Why, you ask?  To add to my already outrageous amount of Christmas decorations?  NO!  Guess again…These lights are part 1 of my Happiness After The Holidays plan.  2014 is going to start off with shiny lights, apothecary jars full of confetti and glitter, inspiring typography prints, and lots of pretty blooms!  It’s a good plan, right?

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After days of searching, and many bidding wars.  Yes, WARS, (Some of these are very sought after, and can go for quite a bit of moolah) I found the perfect set (pictured above).  I got a 92 piece set of vintage light reflectors for $15, which is amazing considering a 49 piece set had just went for $50!!  I got lucky!  Originally when I saw them in the magazine, I was thinking of a DIY version, but Tiffanie Turner from the Corner Blog beat me to it.  She came up with this amazing DIY tutorial for reflector lights, and they are absolutely beautiful.  I recently stumbled on her blog, and I fell in love.  Her crepe paper flowers are spectacular!

So here is my blueprint for trying to dodge the post holiday slump:

This print from Rifle Paper Co. has been calling my name, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy it for le mantle.

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These prints from Etsy seller Alphonnsine also need to be mine:

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I think these prints layered with a few photos, stacks of books with bright spines, confetti filled apothecary jars, colorful vintage reflector lights around the mirror, and fresh flowers are going to be better than Prozac! Obvs, when I’m done I’ll totes share the finished product.

XO-Tara