Eat: Summer Pasta.


Ask and you shall receive!  I posted last night's dinner on Instagram right before we sat down to eat, and several people mentioned that they would like the recipe, which I'm more than happy to share!  This pasta dish comes from Food Network Magazine, with some minor tweaks (at the bottom).


Gather: 

Kosher salt
12 ounces mezzi rigatoni or other short tube-shaped pasta
2 bell peppers (red and/or yellow), halved, stemmed and seeded
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/4 cup almonds
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon
8 ounces bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves torn
Freshly ground pepper

Do:

Preheat the broiler. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Shake off the excess water.

Meanwhile, place the bell peppers cut-side down on a foil-lined broiler pan, add the garlic and broil until charred, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover and set aside about 5 minutes.

Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and toast, shaking the pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Squeeze the garlic from its skin onto a cutting board. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt; mince and mash the garlic into a paste with a large knife. Peel the roasted peppers and slice into strips; transfer to a large bowl. Add the garlic paste and drizzle with the olive oil. Finely grate about 1 teaspoon lemon zest into the bowl and squeeze in all of the lemon juice. Add the bocconcini, basil, almonds, pasta, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; toss.

Tweaks:

This is a pasta salad, but I always serve it hot.  If there are leftovers, though, they are delicious cold, so you could really eat this either way.  Because my husband prefers meat with his dinner, I usually add either sauteed chicken sausages (I love Aidells Roasted Garlic & Gruyere Cheese, shown above) or simple grilled chicken breast that's been marinated in Italian dressing and then chopped.  I usually add raw spinach in the last step, which wilts nicely once the hot pasta hits it.  If you can't find the small mozzarella balls, it's perfectly acceptable to cut up a big one, which I often do.

This can also be make gluten free by switching out the pasta with a gluten free variety, which I've done before.  If using sausage, make sure it is a gluten-free version, or just stick to the grilled chicken.

This recipe is amazingly tasty and is easy to make, but it took a couple of times to coordinate all the things going on.  It's not complicated, just a lot going on at once and totally worth it.  It makes a ton and like I said, it's great for leftovers.  Enjoy!

Friday Finds.

Happy Friday!  How was everyone's week?  We've been super busy over here, and I have some great things to share with you next week!  For now, though, I've scouted out some pretty finds, and today is mainly about accessories.  Apparently I must be in a shopping-for-myself kind of mood.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/187494161/personalized-bracelet-monogram-leather?ref=favs_view_3
Sweet Auburn Studio

Which color would you choose?  How could you even just pick one??

https://www.etsy.com/listing/178271222/grecian-headband-goddess-headband?ref=favs_view_2
the nestled bird

This would totally make me feel like a fairy princess.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/185803398/dipped-aqua-mug-with-squared-rim?ref=favs_view_12
 Center Ceramics

I just want to sit on my couch with tea in this mug.  It doesn't take much to make me happy.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/183896777/green-leather-sandals-with-peep-toe?ref=shop_home_active_10
Adi Kilav

Can we talk about these shoes??  Stunning!!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/167439318/rose-cut-diamond-ring-14k-yellow-gold?ref=favs_view_4

I love these delicate stacking rings, and there are so many stones you can choose from.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/96603813/slate-gray-sketch-book-guest-book-coptic?ref=favs_view_8
Nickel Plate Press

The colors of these books is so fun and modern.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/175056863/brown-leather-tote-bag-distressed-brown?ref=favs_view_15
sord

I want. this. bag.  NOW.

Which would you pick?

Have a great weekend!

Good Reads: June.

Even with our crazy new summer schedule lately, I'm managed to get some reading in.  Sitting and getting lost in a story is one of my favorite things to do, and I don't get a ton of time to do it lately, so it generally takes me a long time to get through a story.  I've got a quick rundown of a few of my favorite reads lately:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/240126.The_Glass_Castle
Good Reads

I read this as the suggested book through the book club I joined, and while I ended up missing the meeting due to vacation, I really enjoyed this one.  This is an autobiographical story, detailing the author's nomadic childhood with two parents who really didn't want to be parents.  The fact that she and her siblings not only survived but thrived is amazing.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/96677.Shelf_Life?from_search=true
via Good Reads

I picked this up because it was about working in a bookstore- one of my ultimate dream jobs.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the story took place in Springfield, MA, just 20 minutes from where I grew up, so almost all of the towns and landmarks she mentioned were familiar to me, and so therefore I had an instant connection to the story.

Anyway, the author is detailing her foray back into society after battling cancer, and how the bookstore helped her back on her way.  I knew it was going to be a good story when she started talking about helping the librarians in the local bookmobile, saying, "I loved the stamping. I loved the filing. I loved all the bits of paper and the lines and boxes that needed to be checked, and I believe that was the start of a lifelong office-product fixation that causes me to slam on the brakes at the sight of a Staples."  I have loved office products since I was a child, and my most gleeful moment of teaching was being handed the supply catalog and being told to pick what I need. (swoon!)  Definitely a fun read.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12875258-tell-the-wolves-i-m-home

Another book club pick that we'll be discussing this week, this tells the story of 14-year-old June growing up in the 80's, dealing with the death of her beloved uncle from AIDS, the tyranny of her older sister Greta, and the appearance of her uncle's unknown boyfriend.  Set in Westchester County and New York City, this is a really interesting tale of family and family secrets, as well as growing up and high school life.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18054175-the-good-luck-of-right-now?from_search=true

I just finished this one last night, and I only picked it up on Thursday, so it was obviously pretty interesting, but the one-inch margins on each side of the print helped, too.  This one is the story of a middle-aged man (Bartholomew) who, after living with his mother his whole life, now fat and jobless with no ambition, has to deal with her death and how to move forward.  Written through a series of letters, he winds up on an unexpected journey with a cast of quirky characters, and just when you think it can't get any stranger, it does, but in a good way.  The one thing was, there is an obvious secret in the story (at least it was to me) and I kept waiting for Bartholomew to catch up.

****

What have you been reading lately? (suggestions please!)
Looking for more suggestions?  Follow our group Pinterest board, Good Reads.

A Day in the Life: Tuesday

I have always wanted to do a Day in the Life photo post, but anytime I've actually thought of it, half the day was already gone and then I'd forget by the next morning. But it's something I would like to do as part of the whole get-to-know-you-better type of posts I mentioned on Monday. I am always fascinated to learn about other people's lives, seeing how they spend their time. I think it's one of the reasons I love Instagram so much. Our schedule varies widely from day to day around here, one day being focused on the house and kids, another day focused on Milo and Molly, some days spent totally out of the house, and so on, so I figured that starting on a random Tuesday is as good as any.


7:15 am: Wake up. This varies with the husband's work schedule and/or the awakening of children. Today was later than normal. When the husband gets up, so does Casey- onto the bed so we can snuggle, because I am horrible about getting up.  Gus popped up shortly after, leading to our standard morning stalling activity: reading books in bed.


Greta appeared shortly after that in inside-out, backwards pants.  Never a good sign, but it turned out okay.


7:45 am: Peel myself out of bed and start the morning routine: kids' breakfasts, dog's breakfast, start the tea water, empty the sink from the night before, check email in between each step, and sit down to eat breakfast, by the time of which someone has finished their breakfast and wants seconds.



8:00 am: Breakfast, tea, and blog reading/social media catch-up, the kids usually are off to play for a bit in their rooms.  Gus gets dressed and begrudgingly makes his bed.


8:45: Tame the wild beast that is my hair.  I am way, way, way overdue for a haircut.  Flat iron front and center.


9:15 am: Get Greta dressed, grab snacks, and make sure we have everything we need and are ready to leave as we have errands and swimming lessons to get to for 11:00.

9:30 am: Get in the car.  Forget two things and have to go back in.  Finally make it out of the driveway.


9:30-10:40 am: Errands.  We somehow managed to hit up five places in this time span, which could go more quickly but articles like this one scare the bejeezus out of me, so in and out it is for all three of us.


11:00 am- noon: Swimming lessons.  Gus is taking an intensive beginners course to help him get comfortable getting his face in the water and basic water safety.  Two days in and he is loving it.


12:30 - 3:00 pm: Playdate at our house with two of Gus's besties from preschool.  Five kids total.  They have a blast and the moms get to sit (briefly) and chat.

3:00- 4:30 pm: Set the kids up with a quiet-time video, clean up the mess, and take a brief sit-down on the couch with a cup of tea.

4:30 pm: Start the dinner prep routine.  Cook, eat, and clean the dishes.  I have no photo of dinner because we were too busy eating it and I forgot, but I made this and it was great.


6:00 pm: Hang out in the backyard while the kids play in the sandbox and with the neighbors.  Make backyard plans that may or may not happen.  Enjoy the warm but not overly hot weather.

7:00 pm: Start cleanup and drag the kids in for baths and bed, done by the husband while I round up stray toys and straighten the small disaster made upstairs earlier in the day.

8:00 pm: Shower.


8:30 pm: Snack and blogging.  Sometimes this is listing items, sometimes email answering, sometimes blog reading.


9:30 pm: Help the husband prep for an oral licensing exam he's taking as this is being published.  Wish him luck!  We've been reviewing every night this week.

10:00 pm: Lights out.  Wonder what time someone will be down in the morning.

(edited to add: 1:37 am: Awoke to crying.  Got up to administer Tylenol to Gus who was having leg cramps.)

It was a busy, kid-intensive day, so not much else got done, which means the other days this week will have to be catch-up days for things like laundry and shop orders.  There's always a balance!

Be Yourself.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/154675355/oscar-wilde-be-yourself-inspirational?ref=sr_gallery_2&ga_search_query=be+yourself&ga_ship_to=ZZ&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery

I was washing the dishes last night when I realized that the next day would be Monday, which in Blogland is the prime posting day.  You generally start off on your best foot on Monday- when everyone is back to work and back to their computers- with something big and important to share and then work your way into the week.  And so as I was standing at the sink I realized that I had no posts ready to go, and the posts that I do have in draft aren't nearly ready, and I didn't have anything great  there to share with you.  And with that statement, let me explain.

In my blogroll right now are some large blogs and some small blogs, almost all ladies who post rather frequently, with lovely content meant to teach you something new, show off a great product, give you the top 5 best whatever, and explain to you how to blog and use social media to the fullest.  I realized last night that I have no such type of post in the works and there would be no time to whip up something at that point of the day (or probably the next day and the next day), so Monday was going to be a wash this week.  But then I got to thinking about it, my mind wandering as it does when I'm doing any sort of mindless task like dish washing, and realized that said blogroll has probably ninety percent posts like the ones above.  Everyone seems to be out to offer up a quick DIY, provide you with the top nail polish colors of the season, explain to you the latest and greatest app to make you a better blogger, and enthrall you with pretty pictures taken on the perfect weekend away. 

But what I find that I am lacking in those blogs, ones I find myself skipping over day after day, are the personal posts. And I don't mean in-depth personal/deep dark secret territory, but just hey-how're-you-doing-posts that talk about what they're up to, what they're thinking, how they're feeling about something.  In this Pinterest-driven world of blogging for money and secretly hoping to score a book and/or movie/television deal, everyone is out to be an expert on something (or everything).  And while I love a nice tutorial and I probably need some tips on using social media properly, when it's nearly every single post nearly every single day, it starts to feel lacking and forced, as though every post needs to present with some awesome information.

I miss reading posts getting to know the blogger behind the blog.  If I discover a new blog I think I may want to follow (and I do take some of Bloglovin's suggestions) I want to find out something about who's writing the blog.  Sometimes I can tell right away that I'm not going to be interested in what the blogger is talking about, but then there are some blogs that are so visually appealing that I'm sure I want to keep following even though I have no idea who's behind the words and the pretty pictures.  So while I still want to offer a mix of content because I think it makes for a more interesting blog, I do plan on trying to write some more personal pieces.  I don't plan on doing sponsored posts any more, and I don't plan on having any/many guest posts unless it's something that really jives with my blog.  And overall, I think that's the best way to get to know me and be engaged with me and what I have to say.

Does anyone else find that these "professional posts" are becoming the trend?  Do you like to read them or do you find them lacking?  Can you share a great blog that you have to follow and read a new posts right away?  (Two of my favorites are Little Nostalgia and Betsy Transatlantically.)  I'd love to hear what you have to say.


Updating the Shop.

It seems as though when I pay attention to the blog, I ignore the shop.  If I'm making new items, I forget to clean the house.  If I'm cleaning, I'm writing blog posts in my head, but not on the computer.  It's a vicious cycle, but I'm learning that as long as I'm focused on something and getting something done, it's all good.

This week has been shop stuff.  I finished off a set of personalized zip pouches for Greta's preschool teachers as part of the end-of-the-year group gift.  Then I made another set for a friend for her son's preschool teachers.  I love them all and how different but fun they all are.



I know as a former teacher, I would have loved getting one of these for a gift.  Coffee mugs get old after awhile.  (Gift cards for coffee do not, however.)  Find them at Milo and Molly, or customize your own!


Keychains are in the shop with more options coming.  These also make great teacher gift (hint, hint) or would be awesome for a high school graduate going off to college.  They're going to have to carry their dorm room key somehow- may as well be stylish!


I've also been working on fabric jewelry.  Cover button earrings and rings are in the shop, with necklaces on the way soon.  I'm having a lot of fun with these, and they're great for using little bits of fabric.  Did I mention these make great teacher gifts?

I'm really drawn to all the bright colors and patterns- I have to hold myself back on ordering more fabric before I make a dent in what I've already got stashed.  I've been thinking about bringing back some baby items, and I'm trying desperately to think of things for men, to no avail.  Help a girl out if you have an idea.

Easiest Blueberry Muffins.

I love the spring and summer because it means that fruit and vegetables are fresher and more readily available (and because of that, cheaper too).  One of my favorite things to make for the kids are blueberry muffins, so I thought I'd share a quick and simple recipe for the best blueberry muffins ever.  Yes, ever.  They're super quick and require few ingredients and we're on our second batch in just a few days' time.



Gather:

1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 egg

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Do:

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well for even distribution.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients (aka make a bowl-shaped pit in the flour but don't get all the way down to the bottom of the bowl).  In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients into the flour well and mix until just combined.  Add the blueberries to the batter and fold in carefully as to not break the berries.

In a standard sized 12-muffin tin, fill each well 2/3 of the way with batter.  Bake for 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees until the edges start to brown lightly.  Cool for a few minutes and then move the muffins to a wire cooking rack.

Or, do what we do and take them out of the pan piping hot and eat them.  Either way.  Just don't get burned.

I mean, just look at the results:




I can honestly mix these up with my three-year-old helping me and it takes about five minutes (with him pouring and stirring).  Give them a try!

Vacation.











We spent the past week on vacation- our annual road trip to Florida to see my in-laws.  We are road warriors, leaving at 3:30 in the morning and getting there at 9:30 at night making as few stops as possible so we can just get there and be done with being in the car.

We enjoyed the warm weather and spent some time at the beach.  We caught lizards and searched for turtles.  We visited a wildlife park and saw alligators, manatees, and squirrels eating Cheetos.  We watched thunderstorms roll in and we swam in the local river.  Thankfully, some of us also slept in the car on the way home, entirely missing the state of New Jersey.  We had books read to us, we took walks with the dogs, and we ate out a lot.  A good time was had by all.

We always stop at a hotel on the way back and this time we made it to Alexandria, VA.  We took Casey for a walk down to one of the local parks, which was just filled with people taking in the perfect weather, and I snapped a few shots of the houses on our way down there, which were just amazing to look at.




And that was just one road.  We didn't make it down to the main downtown area, opting to let the kids swim in the hotel pool instead, but I could probably spend hours wandering if we were to go back.

Here are some thoughts from the road:

1. Driving through New York City and northern New Jersey is fascinating, especially in the Elizabeth/Newark area where the airport is across the highway from the seaport.

2. The New Jersey Turnpike is becoming more and more awesome with 6 lanes about to open most of the way down.  South Carolina should take note, as two lanes really isn't cutting it.

3. Driving through Virginia from Washington D.C to Richmond sucks every single time, no matter what day of the week or time of day, except for 6 am on a Sunday.  The traffic is incredible.

4. Georgia is my favorite state to drive through on the way down, because it means we are out of the endlessness that are the Carolinas.  I live in a small state and am used to getting through multiple states in a short amount of time.

5. No one really mistakes those cell phone towers for trees, do they?

6. People in general do not know how to drive.  Pass on the left, cruise in the right.  Do not stay in the left lane if you are not passing someone at a productive rate of speed.

7. Frank's Diner in Jessup, MD is our breakfast stop on the way home every time because it's just that good.

8. There are entirely too many tolls between Connecticut and Virginia, especially coming north.

9. Gas is cheaper in just about every state along the eastern seaboard than it is in Connecticut.

10. It's good to be home.

How was your week?  Anyone else do some traveling?