Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Family Pumpkin Carving Contest Results!

On Monday night, I got together with my family and we had our annual pumpkin carving contest. I posted photos of our pumpkins on Tuesday without revealing who carved which pumpkin. I asked for you to vote on your favorite design and opened the polls via my blog, Instagram, Facebook and good old-fashioned text messaging. 70 people sent in votes, and two pumpkins clearly took the lead. Here's who did each pumpkin:

Family Pumpkin Carving Contest

Stephen, my mom's boyfriend, did "the face," which was actually the end result of a bunch of different ideas that didn't end up working. Mom did the spider, Stewart did Van Gogh's Starry Night, Daniel carved the cactus landscape, and mine was the simple wraparound stars & polka dots.

So who won the Best Pumpkin award this year? STEWART! Congrats, buddy... you were the winner this year and I think we all can see why... his carving skills are immaculate.

The voting breakdown was as follows: 26 votes to Starry Night, 24 votes to the spider, 13 votes for the cactus landscape, 7 votes for the stars & polka dots, and sadly 0 votes for "the face." Thanks to everyone who voted!

Below you can find a little breakdown of how each pumpkin was created.

Carved Spider Pumpkin, Van Gogh Starry Night Carved Pumpkin

These two were the pumpkin favorites, that's for sure. Mom created her spider pumpkin by freehand drawing an outline of a spider and cutting it out. She then used a pumpkin engraving tool to freehand her web, shaving off little bits of the outside of the pumpkin at a time. After her web was finished, she added back in the cut-out spider for a popping 3-D effect. Her pumpkin was definitely the spookiest and most stand-out worthy of the bunch.

Stewart—whose pumpkin last time suffered an accidental slice that cut off half of his grim reaper design—knocked it out of the park with his pumpkin this year. He created his Starry Night design by freehanding from Van Gogh's Starry Night painting. We have a bunch of pumpkin artists in our family, I tell you what! We can't draw, but we sure can carve! He first drew an outline of the cypress tree and then carved out the moon with a knife. Once he had his base pieces set, he began engraving the pumpkin with an engraving tool, working really quickly because he had to get to Quidditch practice. He freehanded all the engraving, and just kept shaving off little bits at a time as he went. When he was satisfied with the engraving, he took a pumpkin hole punch tool (I have no idea where Stephen got it) and punched out his stars. Stew's pumpkin took less than an hour and he was the first one finished. High five dude, you killed it.

Cactus Carved Pumpkin, Star Wraparound Carved Pumpkin

Daniel's pumpkin—my favorite of the bunch—was a cactus landscape design, inspired by the childhood backyard he had growing up in Arizona. Daniel didn't base his design off a photo or anything he'd seen on Pinterest... he just sat down and started cutting the design, using a simple pumpkin carving toolkit carving saw. He freehanded the whole thing and didn't know how it was going to turn out until it was all finished. His design was simple and looked like a beautiful desert sunset... it was just awesome.

My pumpkin, the simple one of the bunch, was accomplished by using a small pumpkin carving saw and just freehanding little and big stars around the entire pumpkin. Once I had my stars cut out, I went back with a hole punching tool and just punched out random holes. While my pumpkin may not be extraordinary, I think if you had several pumpkins with wraparound designs, they would be so cool as fall-festive party decor.

And Stephen's pumpkin, "the face," was the conglomeration of many ideas that just didn't end up happening. Stephen initially punched out several holes in the top of the pumpkin and filled them with broccoli sprigs—we think he was going for hair—but he didn't like the look of it so he bailed on that one. Then he decided to use the stem as a nose, and the face just sort of happened. Poor Stephen, no votes for you. Whenever we do contests like this, Stephen is notorious for trying to do the elaborate and incredible designs, and while the ideas behind them always sound really cool, the end result usually just ends up being "too much." But that's why it's fun to do contests with Stephen... because then it's easier to win! (Love ya, Stephen!)

Anyway, our family pumpkin carving contest was a blast. This was the first year I haven't won (last time I won with a wraparound calico kitty design, complete with 3D ears—she was so cute!). I think my favorite part of the whole night was the huge slice of New York-style pizza I had while contemplating my design. Yum! Did your favorite pumpkin win?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lacy Black Dress

Lacy Black Dress and Stilettos
Dress: Material Girl for Macy's, Sandals: Candies (similar), Earrings: Target (similar), Bracelet: c/o Mimi Baby Boutique
Lacy Black Dress
Black Stilettos with Rhinestones
Lacy Black Dress and Stilettos

This is a dressy look for me! I wore it to the wedding reception for my dear friends Zoë & Jeff, who got married earlier this month in California. Their in-town reception was this past Saturday and it was so nice to get dressed up and celebrate with them.

I have been looking for a dress with sleeves that can be either dressed up or dressed down, and I think this one by Material Girl—which I just picked up Saturday from Macy's—fit the bill. Plus, it was less than $50, so the price was right. I look forward to styling this with tights and boots and possibly even a leather jacket this fall.

Would you believe I've had those stilettos since I was 16? My mom bought them for me back when I was going to acting & modeling (ha!) classes and auditions, and those were my runway shoes. In fact, I even wore them on the runway in New York during a big modeling & acting conference. Needless to say, I didn't get "discovered," but it sure was a time for the memory books. These stilettos may not be hitting the runway these days, but they are staples in my closet that I hold on to for fancy parties or whenever I get the chance to dress up.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Family Pumpkin Carving Contest

Carved Pumpkins

Since I was a kid, carving pumpkins as a family was always one of our favorite fall traditions. In the more recent years, we've put a competitive spin on our pumpkin carving and we've turned it into a big family contest (we also do the same thing with gingerbread houses at Christmas time). For the past couple years we've asked neighbors to pick their favorite designs—but this year, I thought it would be fun to take the poll to my blog to see which pumpkin YOU guys think is the best.

And here's the fun part, I can't tell you who did which pumpkin... you simply have to pick based on the design alone. The pumpkin carvers last night included: me, Daniel, my mom, her boyfriend Stephen and my brother Stewart. I told my family I'd keep the "polls" open (via my blog/Facebook/Instagram) through October 30. Take a peek at our designs below...

Family Pumpkin Carving Contest, carved pumpkins

So what do you think? Which design is your favorite? Please leave a comment letting us know below... can't wait to share the results with my family!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Faith & Positive Thinking

Difference between faith and positive thinking, faith quotes, inspirational quotes

One of our pastors quoted this yesterday while she was teaching our pre-service class. She had heard it long ago from another pastor, and I wrote it down. It was the only bit of notes I took during yesterday's class, and yet it was so powerful.
"The difference between faith & positive thinking is positive thinking only works when you're thinking. Faith works all the time."
That used to be me before I found my faith. Miss positive, bubbly, optimistic outlook. Miss never-had-a-bad-day. But what happened when I did have a bad day? I fell hard, and I never understood why.

How many people can you think of who consider "something" to be what keeps them happy? I know people who, for them, running is what takes away their stress. Or singing. Or dancing. Or writing. Or reading. Or lifting in the gym... or other things, too—other things that aren't so positive... like drinking (for me, it used to be a margarita—or several—that took my cares away), drugs, addiction & self-harm. BUT WHAT HAPPENS when those things go away? What do you have left?

I'm so grateful for my faith and the fact that I don't have to do each day alone. I am guided, I am protected, I am filled to the brim with happiness and a radiance that doesn't come from me. It's faith. And it's beautiful.

I know that this blog has readers of all different backgrounds, beliefs, and walks of life. And if this post isn't for you right now, that's OK. But if you think it might be, leave a comment or send me an email. No matter where you are today or what's keeping you happy, just know I'm thinking of you & I'm overjoyed that you're here reading this. Have an awesome, awesome day.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Village At Meridian

The Village at Meridian in Meridian, Idaho

On Monday I posted about one of the best new restaurants to hit Idaho, the Yard House. It is planted right in the middle of The Village at Meridian, a new center-point of town that's located only about 5 miles from where we live. The Village just had its Grand Opening last Friday and it's unlike anything we've ever seen in Idaho. It's so not Idaho, in fact.

The Village has awesome restaurants, some of which include: Yard House, Kona Grill, Chipotle, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, Big Al's (which also has a bowling alley & arcade) and my favorite little sandwich shop, Which Wich. The shopping is also great with stores like Loft, White House Black Market, Francesca's, Gap and Nike. Bonus—our favorite gym in town, Axiom, is also setting up shop, so I can't wait to get my sweat on there once it opens. They also have a public market on Saturdays and a cinema.

The Village at Meridian is also the best new free outdoor concert venue in the area. There was a big concert last Friday, and last night when we visited Kona Grill for happy hour there was another concert playing some hot Monster Mash hits.

And—yes, there's more—since it's in Idaho and there's room to spare, there's also Kleiner Park, which spans over 58 acres and features Bocce ball, basketball courts, play fountains, volleyball courts, fishing ponds, community gardens, and acres upon acres of open grass to use however you may please. You won't find a park like that in a big city!

The Village is just gorgeous with its big, beautiful trees, strung lights hanging from the trees and buildings, outdoor lounging areas and warm fire pits, and the center fountain (which was done by the same people who did the fountain at the Bellagio in Vegas) has hourly music & light shows that make any trip worth it. Check out some of the photos of The Village at Meridian below.

The Village at Meridian in Meridian, Idaho
The Village at Meridian in Meridian, Idaho
The Village at Meridian in Meridian, Idaho
The Village at Meridian in Meridian, Idaho

I'm so excited for this brand new Meridian hot spot. It's pretty busy with all the new action right now, but if you can find yourself a comfy couch and fire pit to hang around while you enjoy the sights and sounds at catch the water show, it's such a great place to be.

This was NOT a sponsored post. I'm just an Meridian resident who is in love with the new little part of town. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

No Filter

Leaves changing in the fall, fall leaves, trees in Boise, Idaho

Sunday afternoon, I was walking around my backyard and having one of those moments where everything was beautiful—the bright blue sky, the leaves of every color imaginable, the rocky gray stones that surround our fire pit, the spiky needles of the new evergreens Daniel just planted, the olive green house that belongs all to us—and it just didn't seem fair to let that moment pass without taking a photo to capture it.

I know that not every person who reads this blog will get to experience the bright leaves and changing of the seasons, so here's a little view of what the maples in my Idaho backyard are doing at this very moment. It's truly beautiful and makes me appreciate every little thing we have.

Leaves changing in the fall, fall leaves, trees in Boise, Idaho
Leaves changing in the fall, fall leaves, trees in Boise, Idaho
Leaves changing in the fall, fall leaves, trees in Boise, Idaho
Leaves changing in the fall, fall leaves, trees in Boise, Idaho

I don't know what it is about these colorful little leaves, but they make me think. They make me grateful. They warm my heart. And they bring a smile to my face. When you take a moment to appreciate the little things & the beauty they behold, isn't it amazing how everything else begins to get just a little bit better? Today is a good day.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall at the Rowe House

Fall trees in Idaho
Pumpkin table decor

Fall is in full swing here in Boise. The top photo is the view from our backyard—so many colors and so many kinds of trees!—and the bottom photo is our kitchen table decor of the moment. We don't have much else up in the house that screams "fall," but the little pumpkins are enough for us. The coasters were a wedding gift from my dad's fiancè—she made them for us!

It seems like this time of year—along with the turning leaves—brings change after change. Sometimes it's work related (last year at this time Daniel was just starting a new job), some times it's emotional (don't even get me started with all my ups and downs lately), and sometimes it's changes that you never even saw coming. Either way, year after year as the leaves change, so do I... and this year I just hope my "colors" are as pretty as those bright leaves. Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An Easygoing Look

Bright neon scarf and a casual outfit
Top: Nikibiki, Jeans: Express, Flats: c/o Fit in Clouds, Scarf: Marshalls—no tag (similar), Lemon Earrings: c/o BBgraceDesign, Endless Hoop Earrings: Kohls, Rings: c/o The Vintage Pearl
Mini lemon polymer post earrings
Mini lemon polymer studs
Bright neon scarf and a casual outfit

I cannot get over the colors going on in Boise right now. Greens, yellows, reds, oranges, purples—the trees are changing before our eyes over here.

This outfit is pretty much all I've been wearing lately. Black top, bright scarf, skinny jeans. I need that Nikibiki one-size-fits-all top in every color... it's so comfortable, never stretches out, and keeps me warm! I buy mine at my local Apricot Lane store, but I know you can find them online, too.

Also, the mini lemon studs from BBgraceDesign that I'm wearing are on sale right now for $5.95. They also have a bunch of other sales on fun earrings, like their candy corn studs, fruit and flower studs, and their awesome gear cog studs—great for the steampunk fan in all of us. Get a jump on the holiday shopping and pick up a pair (or three) for some easy gifts... don't forget to buy a pair for yourself!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Yard House

Yard House at The Village at Meridian, Idaho

Friday evening, the Yard House opened at The Village at Meridian, and I was grateful to be invited to attend the Grand Opening celebration. I was given a reserved table, so Daniel and I invited our good friends Casey and Erica to try out Meridian's hottest new spot. As I was running around taking photos, I bumped into our other good friends David and Katey as they were walking in, so we invited them over to our table... the more the merrier!

The Yard House didn't officially open to the public until 8:00 pm, so we were there to preview the location and try samples of their most popular dishes. We sampled their ahi poke, firecracker wings, seared ahi, Korean BBQ beef, chicken garlic noodles, spinach cheese dip, summer salad, cheeseburgers, egg rolls, crab cakes—the list goes on and on! Everything was absolutely delicious, and I'll tell you what—we didn't think we'd be able to get full by simply eating "samples," but they just kept coming and coming. Their staff was on point and the food was so delicious! For dessert, we were treated to mini crème brûlées, and I'll be honest with you, I had two... they were absolutely divine!

The evening was spent over laughs and good times, and delicious delicious food. If you're local to the Boise area, give the Yard House a visit—you won't be disappointed. I know Yard House has locations all over the United States, so chances are pretty good that there's one near you if you're not in town.

Yard House at The Village at Meridian, Idaho
Yard House at The Village at Meridian, Idaho
Yard House at The Village at Meridian, Idaho
Yard House at The Village at Meridian, Idaho
Yard House at The Village at Meridian, Idaho
Yard House at The Village at  Meridian, Idaho

Thanks again to the Yard House—the food was delicious, the service was amazing (Bree, you spoiled us!), and we are all anticipating a return visit. Thanks for making The Village at Meridian the place to be!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Rest of the Story: A Blog Post From My Mom

Preface:  In May, my mom and I ran the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon. After the race, I asked her to write a post about our running history together, and I should have known that it would have been more than just a running post—it was one of those heartwarming posts that I'll always look back on with a smile. Since we just ran another race together, the City of Trees Marathon, I thought I'd bring Mom back for another post. Enjoy.

Mom and Daughter Running Together

What do I write to add to a daughter who’s written about everything concerning our marathon? Here goes:

I’ve done marathons before—White Rock in Dallas, Boston, Cincinnati Flying Pig and now Boise’s City of Trees. It is almost a parallel to our life journey across the United States. There are moments and memories that really stick out. I’ll not ever forget the last 2 miles of Dallas as it was so brutal with the rain, cold and blisters. I won’t forget the exhilaration and feeling of accomplishment at the end of Boston which was the best moment of my life. The fun in training with a team for Cincinnati will always be remembered. The Boise City of Trees is like a combination of all of those. It had the absolute fun factor with all the planning and training with Annelise. It had the absolute pain of Dallas in those last 2 miles. And it had the incredible feeling of accomplishment of Boston since it has been 12 years since my last marathon.

My favorite part has been the memories with Annelise, all the little things. Laughing over my Disney tunes that I listen to. The people we see all the time that we've nicknamed on the greenbelt—Calvin (think underwear [showing on a guy] that we see each time), Tai Chi Man (get a life), Jalapeno Boxer Boys (can their shorts be shorter?). And the TALKING that we've done. We've talked about EVERYTHING—even the stories about chafing, blackened and missing toenails, bodily movements and blisters. Those are all major conversations on those long 18-20 mile runs! All you runners out there can sympathize.

We've been able to share so much over these past few months. We've packed a suitcase of memories that we can visit over and over again by looking over our journey in the collage of pictures. It certainly wasn’t easy. I certainly don’t want to run another marathon. But I will always cherish the time I spent with my daughter—my friend.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We Ran a Marathon, May as Well Run a Half Marathon, Right?

Mom and Daughter Marathoners, Bright Running Outfits

We may have just finished a marathon, and call us crazy, but we signed up for a half marathon in two weeks on November 2. Boise's "long race" season (half marathons & up) is about to come to a close, so we couldn't miss one of our favorite half marathons in the area. It's called Zeitgeist, and it runs from Garden City up to Hidden Springs, and up and down several of the surrounding Boise foothills. The course is on pavement and dirt roads, and it's best known for it's elevation changes and scenic valley views.

We ran Zeitgeist back in 2009 and finished with a time of 2:02. I was recovering from a nasty case of the flu virus, so it wasn't our best time, and we're excited to run it this year to see how much we can improve. If we can hold a pace faster than that for an entire marathon (which we did, since we finished in 4:03), we know we can run faster for a half.

It was actually pretty funny—Mom and I got the Zeitgeist email reminder at the same time just a couple days before our marathon. She emailed me "Let's do it!" just as I was leaving her a voicemail asking if she was up to do it with me. As soon as we heard/saw each other's messages, we signed right up!

Considering that I'm not actually able to walk without pain yet, I know that I'll probably be feeling it this and next week during the last bit of training, but I'm just excited to round out the year with one more big race under my feet. Here we go again...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Printing the Memories

Print smartphone pictures with Printic App
Print smartphone pictures with Printic App
Print smartphone pictures with Printic App

A couple weeks ago, I was contacted by Printic—a company that prints HD smartphone pictures—to see if I'd like to try out their products. I've heard of services that print photos from your phone, but I'd never tried anything like this. I downloaded the Printic App to my phone (it's free!), selected my photos (I picked the matching outfit photos from the marathon training I did with my mom), put in my personal information and submitted my order. The whole process took about a minute and a half, and within 3 days, I had a little orange envelope sitting in my mailbox filled with my printed photos!

I ordered this whole set to give to my mom as a gift before our marathon, but when they came and after I saw how delighted she was to receive them, I wanted my own set so badly that I went back on yesterday and ordered a duplicate of each print, plus a couple more from the race-day. I can't wait to create a collage of all these prints and hang it with my race medal and bib number.

I did receive my first set of prints for free, but I wasn't paid to write this post... I just love this easy photo-printing app! When I ordered my second set, they were $0.99/print and the shipping is always free. Plus, I'm signed up for Printic's email newsletter and they're always having special deals. Yesterday, they were having a 2 for the price of 1 deal, and I was able to send the last photos with matching outfits that my mom didn't have yet to her for free. Now we both have matching sets of all of our matching outfits. That's 18-weeks of memories that I can fit in my hand and treasure forever.

If you haven't tried Printic yet, use code ASPRINTIC (enter code on HOME screen BEFORE you select your photos) thru 11/16 for one free print. Love it!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Now On Google+

I've finally taken a moment to set up a Google+ page and profile. Do you use Google+? Click the Follow on the left to subscribe to my Google+ page, hit the +1 to recommend me to others, and/or click the Follow on the right to follow my personal profile.

Monday, October 14, 2013

City of Trees Marathon

City of Trees Marathon, Mom and Daughter running a marathon together

We did it! After 18-weeks of training, we finished the City of Trees Marathon! And not only did we finish, but we ran the entire race, talked the whole way, high-fived and thanked every volunteer we could, and enjoyed every little moment—even the ones that hurt!

We began running at 8:00 am sharp right in downtown Boise and traveled all over the city, from Southeast Boise to the North End. We even ran by the zoo and got to see the giraffes as they ate their breakfast. Daniel and his parents were along for the ride and met us every six miles or so—taking photos, cheering us on, and giving us high-fives. They were the best cheering section! We also saw some of our friends at mile 4 (thank you, Kari & Gregory!), and we had a big cheering crowd at the end to cheer us across the finish. What a blessing it was to have each of them there... it really helped the time go by faster and kept us in good spirits to know we would see familiar faces every hour or so. I can't even begin to tell you how much it helped. It's what kept us going!

As far as the race goes, we finished in 4:03, in 80th and 81st place overall out of 250, and 33rd and 34th out of the women. My mom even got 3rd in her age group! We had some killer-fast (for us, anyway) miles, completing them in 7:45, 8:00, 8:15... they felt great. Our average mile was about an 8:45, which is much faster than the 10:00 minute-mile we had trained at. But ouch... our last 2-3 miles were just dreadful and we clocked them in at around 10:30 minute-miles. We were so tired! We talked & laughed all the way through mile 16, and around mile 18 my feet started to hurt. By mile 21, we were both pretty tired but kept churning through the miles, and I had lost pretty much all feeling in my feet at this point. At mile 24 we were both just done. We wanted to be finished so badly, but still had 2 more miles to go. When we saw the finish line, we held our hands above our heads in a "We did it... FINALLY!" expression of joy, and we didn't care about one single thing except for the fact that it was over!

Post-race, I drank more little cups of Gatorade than I ever though possible, Mom got stung by a bee (of all things... seriously) while waiting for a free massage, and we joked and laughed with the friends and family who came out to support us. When we finally got to have some lunch, I downed a giant hot chocolate (it was heavenly!), and barely choked down 1/3 of a cheeseburger. I was not hungry at all... I just wanted a nap! And let me tell you... that post-race nap was the most glorious nap. Oh, it felt good!

You know, I don't know if I'll ever do another full marathon again (half marathons are where it's at!). I enjoyed the experience... but not that much. But it was definitely something that I am glad I did & I'm even more glad that it's been checked off my bucket list. One and done, right?

Here are some fun photos from the race, with captions underneath. Enjoy!

City of Trees Marathon
Staying warm before the race.
City of Trees Marathon
Heading to the starting line. Our outfits were BRIGHT! 
City of Trees Marathon
Ready to run!
City of Trees Marathon
And we're off!
City of Trees Marathon
All smiles at mile 6... this was right after the biggest "hill" of the race. What an awesome course it was!
City of Trees Marathon
Cruising through mile 12 on the greenbelt.
City of Trees Marathon
Mile 18—we started to feel it here, but you couldn't tell based on the smiles we had for our cheering section.
City of Trees Marathon
High-fiving Daniel's dad through the pain at mile 21, overlooking Boise.
City of Trees Marathon
It didn't matter what mile it was, I was excited and dancing through all of it. This was mile 21.
City of Trees Marathon
THE FINISH! 26.2 miles in 4:03... we did it!
City of Trees Marathon
Daniel was the biggest trooper the whole day. He was so proud & gave me many sweaty hugs and kisses afterward. I think he was just as glad that we had finished (and that the training was finished!) as we were.
City of Trees Marathon
Our post-race support group. Thank you Sean & Sydney, Daniel, Adam, Dan & Michelle, and Alan for coming out to cheer us across the finish line!
City of Trees Marathon
Reppin' our official City of Trees medals & sweatshirts.
City of Trees Marathon

THANK YOU AGAIN to Daniel, for being there through all the training & for coming and supporting us through the entire race—I love you so much! To Daniel's parents, who were the best darn cheering section I've ever had! For all of you readers & friends who encouraged me & sent sweet prayers for the race—I didn't feel my two injuries once during the entire race! And most of all, thank you MOM, for being my training partner and for giving me an 18-week experience I'll never forget. It's so special that we share this hobby together. I love you, Mom!