Thursday, February 5, 2015

One Year Anniversary Gift

I am a big fan of gift giving, so before our first wedding anniversary in October, I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to give to Jeff. Something meaningful, personal, and preferably made of paper were high priorities on my list and I scoured Etsy for options. I hadn't found anything that I had to buy, until a former classmate shared a project that she had created on Facebook. Jessica Crowell is a fellow Oregon alum who had recently started a new career as a letterer and illustrator. On my first visit to her website and blog, I spent an hour looking through all of her posts and I was sufficiently in love when I reached out to her to inquire about a custom piece of my own.

I knew I wanted to incorporate colors from our wedding or our bedroom - silver and gray with pops of either purples or blues - and the song "You're All I Need to Get By." In my opinion, a duet is a perfect wedding song. It incorporates two voices, two points of view, the two parts that make a whole. Marvin and Tammi sing about love, sacrifice, and inspiration, and the music is guaranteed to get your foot tapping. This song means a lot to me and my relationship with Jeff and I knew I would be happy to see the lyrics hanging in our home every day. We ended up settling on silver and blue to match our bedroom decor and as soon as I saw the depth of color and texture in the flowers, I knew it was the perfect choice.

Jessica was immediately on board with whatever I wanted to accomplish. She had great ideas about how to include the most important lyrics, she was willing to experiment with colors and accents, and she was delightful through and through. She was efficient in sending me samples and answering my questions, and when she sent me her first draft, it was better than I had imagined. I don't think I've ever been so excited for a gift to arrive! I found beautiful blueish gray wood frames at Michael's and presented these to Jeff on our anniversary getaway in McCall. They now hang over our bed and we admire them constantly.

Thank you, Jessica, for this perfect gift! I highly recommend working with her on any custom projects.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

At Home with Modani

If I love anything, it's a good style collage, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to create my dream contemporary living room utilizing a few home products from Modani, a furniture company specializing in affordable modern pieces. I have a few rules when it comes to home decor and fashion - I like things simple, clean, and most importantly, comfortable. I love neutral pieces with pops of color, a little pattern mixing, and personal touches. My living room is filled with beloved books, art, keepsakes from family and special trips, and lots of photographs. I also love curling up with Jeff and our pups, so a cozy and welcoming space is key. For this collage, I tied together the modern lines of Modani furniture with my favorite accessories that turn a room into a home. Check out Modani's modern sofa collection for more inspiration!

Modern Comfort with Modani


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy New Year!


One week into 2015 and it already feels like it's going to be a whirlwind year. We spent the holidays on both sides of the country, celebrating Christmas with Jeff's family in Boise and bringing in the new year with mine in New York, and I'm still recovering as I jump back into work. 2014 was incredible - we thoroughly enjoyed our first full year of marriage, bought a house, had lots of mini vacations with family and friends, welcomed Hazel into the roost, and buzzed around like crazy people at work and at play. As 2015 approached like a rocket, I gave a little thought to what I hoped the new year would bring. In an unlikely move, I'm not making any resolutions this year. I usually say the same old things - I'll hit the gym, I'll be a more communicative friend, I'll try a new hobby. While those are all extremely worthwhile activities that I hope to do, I don't want to tie myself down or feel any guilt looking back on a year of my life. In addition to the many blessings that came across my lap, 2014 was a year of loss. As we work through times of sadness, it is gratifying to allow ourselves to believe that there is nothing more important than what is right in front of us. I can focus on the experience at hand, learn and grow from it, feel a greater connection to my loved ones, remember what a beautiful and fragile thing life is. Through these losses, I am reminded how much I want my life to be, while pulsing and vibrate, simple and easy and free of expectation.

I hope, not resolve, to take care of myself, to be patient, to be open, to be true to what I want, to love and laugh with abandon, to not sweat the small stuff, to be adventurous, to be comfortable. Goals will come and go, but I hope that this year, I'll pay attention to all the little things that make up the big things. If it works, focusing on my health, sharing love with my people, and exploring will come naturally and often. Now let's go take 2015 by the horns, shall we?

Happy New Year, may it bring you happiness and all the good that makes life sweet!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Restaurant Review: Blaze Pizza

Since going gluten-free three years ago, I have found substitutions for almost every food that I loved in its previous form. One exception has been pizza. I make cauliflower crust pizza all the time, and I buy the Udi's crusts on occasion, but I have missed ordering pizza in a restaurant like all the other girls. In other words, I'm seriously deprived, so when Blaze Pizza contacted me with pizza coupons and I saw gluten-free crust on the menu, I was elated and ready to chow down.

Blaze introduces a unique and fun concept - for one price, you get an 11-inch individual pizza with all the toppings you like. Think of it as the pizza version of Chipotle or Subway, except there are no additional costs for adding on more extras. After you've customized your pie with your favorites, the chefs fire your pizza in a blazing oven for 180 seconds until it's piping hot and crispy. For me, the individual size and selections are the perfect way to enjoy pizza. Each diner gets exactly what he or she wants and while sharing is always an option, the personal pan size means that you can convince your friends that it's all yours.

Jeff and I headed to the brand new Meridian location on Saturday night around 6:00 p.m. and were impressed to find the place completely packed. Families with cheese pizza lovers, young couples on double dates, and resident foodies filled the tables while I eyeballed their selections. The place smelled amazing and I couldn't wait to place my order. All of the crusts were being pressed to order, and the gluten-free option was made on a different machine. As soon as we ordered, our server asked about any allergies so she could make sure to alert the assembly line. The next step was to select toppings, or in my case, cover mine with almost everything. I topped my pizza with red sauce, fresh and grated mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Italian sausage, black and kalamata olives, caramelized onions, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and a pesto drizzle. Jeff chose one of Blaze's signature pizzas, the Meat Eater with pepperoni, crumbled meatballs, red onion, mozzarella, and red sauce. We also selected local craft beers and two salads - a classic Caesar and a roasted veggie with Gorgonzola. 

The pizzas are served on brown paper and a silver pan and the salads and drinks are located in a refrigerator case by the cash register. After grabbing a table and Parmesan and red pepper flakes, we dug in. I was in heaven - the dough was chewy and crispy, the pizza was hot, delightfully saucy, and all of my toppings complemented each other perfectly. Our salads were cold and fresh, though I would have benefited from a bowl or plate instead of eating out of the plastic container. The environment was loud and lively, not exactly a romantic date spot, but a great place to grab a bite and take in the atmosphere. I tried my hardest to finish my pie but fell two slices short, so to the to go containers I went. The boxes, which come in half and full sizes, are made of eco-friendly materials, like many of the other items found in the restaurants.

Our Blaze experience was excellent, and we'll definitely be back. The gluten-free crust rocked my world and everything we ate was delicious. I love the concept and the price point, which makes Blaze accessible to every diner. I highly recommend checking out the Blaze Pizza in your area!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Giving in Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving week! I am very excited for a few days off to eat my favorite foods with my favorite people and enjoy one holiday that is all about being thankful. For many, it is also the beginning of the shopping season. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and my favorite, Giving Tuesday, will take place and our economy will be stimulated with lots of spending. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to look at your own life and consider your blessings. While I can do this any old day, I am always more tuned to my gratitude as the holiday season begins, and reminded of those less fortunate. Last year, I posted a gift guide of a few of my favorite charitable organizations. This year, I’m sharing a few tips and a few ideas for how to get involved in giving back.

Tip #1: Give to the organizations that matter to you
Everyone has their opinions, the cashiers are asking you to round up, the commercials on television are encouraging you to give, but you shouldn't feel guilted into making contributions to every cause. Learn about the organizations that are most important to you and focus your financial energy there. That being said, a few pennies for the Salvation Army aren't going to break the bank so give if the giving's easy!
Tip #2: Do your research
Websites like Charity Navigator are there to help ensure that the charity you’re donating to is actually going to put your money where your intent is. Unfortunately, and for lots of reasons, there are organizations that only donate a few cents to every dollar that you give, with the rest of your donation going to overhead or administrative costs. Once you know what area you want to give to, look into your options and pick the one that is able to donate the most to the cause.
Tip #3: Stay local
I am biased because I work in development for a local hospital, but I see every day the impact that local donations have on our organization. National charities are amazing for certain causes, but helping the people in your community makes a difference that you can see. For things like the animal shelter, the food bank, and of course children’s hospitals, give locally and know that your neighbors and friends are grateful.

Idea #1: Incorporate charity into your holiday gifts
This may a mildly controversial topic because there are people out there who don’t appreciate charitable gifts being made in their name. I am not one of them, and I have received livestock from Heifer International that I adore and wish I owned in real life. If your recipients love presents and you love giving them, add a small donation to another gift. Every dollar truly makes a difference and your recipient may feel compelled to pay it forward.
Idea #2: Get something new, donate something old
Thrift and second hand stores are in need at this time of year as well, so if your list includes a new coat for Christmas or Hanukkah, donate the one that’s in your closet from last year. If you have kids, encouraging them to collect a few gently used toys for the children’s hospital or books and stuffed animals for the shelter can help you clean house and provide gifts for those who need them.
Idea #3: Turn Girls’ Night into Give Back Night
This is a great idea for any time of year – round up your girlfriends and turn your happy hour into a night of serving food at the soup kitchen or raking leaves for an elderly neighbor. A group I’m in recently painted pottery for our food bank’s annual event – the bowls are donated to the event and people buy them back filled with delicious soup from local restaurants. It was fun, creative, and we even had wine! 

There are seemingly endless ideas and opportunities for giving back this holiday season and throughout the year. When you’re thinking about what you’re thankful for this week, imagine how you can help others. Every kind gesture makes a difference.