'A Casarella


Where in the World Have I Been?



Is this thing on?

Yeah... it's been awhile.  I know.

The blogging began to dwindle in 2015 when I took a part-time job (a job that—P.S.—I would not have been qualified for had it not been for this blog!)

The blogging completely stopped last year when we decided to move.

Now if you're a diehard reader—and you probably are if you stuck with me through the blogging drought—then you might remember THIS post, the one in which I described all the places I have lived and how I hoped never to leave San Diego.  I am pleased to report that we have in fact not left San Diego, just bought a new house.  

Our LAST house.  

(Dear Lord, please let it be our last house.)

And the house, while in a most amazing location, needed some work.  (Well, a lot of work.)  And thus the blogging drought.  I have been busier than a one-armed paper hanger.  But also all the more reason to get back to blogging.  I can't wait to show you what we have done around here.  

You see, we knew for several years that our previous house might not be our last and once we came to that conclusion we really scaled back both in terms of projects AND purchases.  Now that we have (hopefully) landed in a more permanent spot, our goal is to do more permanent projects and make more permanent purchases.

This brings me to today's topic: art!

Art is something I have been obsessing over as of late.  I am excited to populate my walls with art that I want to keep, not just art that will fill up a space.   Don't get me wrong: I loved much of the "place-holder-art" donning the walls of our last place, but I am excited to invest in some pieces that we will keep for years to come.  Now when I say "invest," I don't necessarily mean that it has to be expensive.  I mean, I'm not ruling that out, but I envision our walls being an eclectic place where expensive pieces share space with less expensive, but perhaps more meaningful, ones.    

One idea that has been percolating in my head for quite some time is to do a gallery wall of maps.  Specifically I would like find maps of those special cities in which we have lived.  (Again, read THIS post...)  I think it would make a great conversation piece, not to mention a special bit of nostalgia. I decided that it would be fun to use artistic renderings of maps (as opposed to actual maps), and that I wanted to use maps from different sources.  One of those sources is a site called Modern Map Art.  

Now this is where things get fun...

A few weeks ago an artist from Modern Map Art reached out and asked me if I would like to receive one of their prints in exchange for a blog post.  As I've mentioned in the past, this is a common occurrence.  Often I decline because the product isn't a fit for my blog.  If I do accept, it is because the item is something that will be of use to me, i.e., something I might have purchased on my own.   This, however, was the first time I have ever been contacted by a company that I was already interested in doing business with and I was STOKED.

The best news is that they did not disappoint.  I received this BEAUTIFUL 18x24" print (they come in many different sizes) on heavy duty paper.  

For my first map I chose an image of San Diego but if you check out their site, there are many other cities. (And colors!)

Were I to get more, I might choose this map of Madison, Wisconsin, the city where my husband and I met:

Alternatively I could have gotten this print of Chicago, the city where we lived for over a decade and where our younger daughter was born:

I keep thinking of ways one could use them.  Know a young couple just starting out?  A framed  map would be a great wedding gift.  You could get them a map of the city in which they plan to honeymoon, the city in which they met, or the city in which they plan to live.  The possibilities are endless.  

As should be obvious from my comments above, I have been compensated with a map in exchange for this post, however, don't let that stop you from checking out their site.  I really do love their products!


Mother/Daughter Shopping Day at Carlsbad Premium Outlets

Recently my daughters and I were offered to opportunity to go on a mother-daughter shopping trip at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets here in Southern California.  The idea was that the girls would "style" me for Mother's Day.

Now I get a lot of offers via this blog, and I tend to turn down the majority of them.  This, however?  This was too fun to pass up!  I love spending time with my girls and it's something that's become difficult as they get older, more social, and more active.  

The girls were on board too—really on board, as a matter of fact—except, sadly, my fifteen-year-old was not able to join us when the time finally came.  (That biology test wasn't going to study for itself.  Sigh.)

So, off to Carlsbad I went with one very enthusiastic eleven-year-old stylist in tow.  In fact, that's her below, posing with what would become the centerpiece of our adventure: a simple black dress from the Ann Taylor Outlet.  

Once we found that, we were off and running.  Our goal:  to accessorize the dress with items found at the mall.

Our next stop was a few steps away at the Nine West Outlet where we spotted this little number:

In the end we agreed that a) this shoe is super cool! but b) it didn't quite "go" with the dress and c) I was entirely likely to hurt myself if I tried to walk in it.  That being the case we moved on to the Bass Outlet where I fell in love with these beautiful, ruby red, wedge sandals.  (Super-comfortable, and far less likely to result in a broken leg.)

Fortunately they got the thumbs up from my stylist who had the final say in all of my purchases.  If she said no, I listened.  (Which is why I might be returning solo some time in the near future! ;)

From there it was off to Ralph Lauren where we bought this simple pair of gold hoops.  I haven't worn anything bigger than a stud earring in years.  It was fun to be taken out of my comfort zone and I have to say that I just love these earrings!

Our search for the perfect bag was unsuccessful.  Don't get me wrong, this place is purse heaven what with Kate Spade, Kipling, Dooney & Bourke and so many more all under the same roof; we just didn't focus our energy on that part of the outfit.  So while there were a few contenders at Fossil and Coach (see below) we ultimately left them behind.  

Also left behind were these gorgeous enamel bracelets from Kate Spade.  (But if anyone would like to buy one for me, I will not complain!  Aren't they pretty?)

The bracelets remind me that I did make one additional purchase at Ann Taylor: the necklace you see below.  I loved it so much that I put it on as soon as we stopped for lunch at Ruby's Diner (where my daughter snapped this picture).

Now I don't know if you've even been to Ruby's but they have some delicious looking milkshakes.  And I was entirely prepared to buy one for my patient little companion except she had something else in mind: Godiva! (She's no dummy...)

After browsing the selection she finally settled upon a chocolate covered strawberry.  (So I had to have one too.  Yum!)

Our final purchase was made at Bare Minerals.  I've never used their products but have always been curious about them, and a mom-focused shopping trip seemed like the perfect occasion to go in and have a professional show me how it's done.

Ladies (moms!) can I take a moment to say how great this was?  Honestly, how often do we take time out to pamper ourselves?  If you answered, "rarely," (or "never") or even if you didn't, you might want to take advantage of the Carlsbad Premium Outlets Mother's Day festivities:  From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 7th guests can treat mom to a fun, fashion-focused experience where shoppers will enjoy activities such as makeup application tutorials, bra fitting sessions, a cooking demo, jewelry cleaning/inspections, a "we love mom" photo booth, and much more!

While I had foundation expertly applied, my daughter had fun taking snaps around the shop.  (Turns out tween girls can take selfies using any kind of device, even a DSLR!)

Despite having fun with photography, both of us were feeling a little tired by this point.  So after a quick stop at the Crate and Barrel Outlet (where my daughter took a rest on the furniture) we wrapped up our retail adventure and headed for home.

Once there I laid out my swag (where it got my fifteen-year-old's seal of approval).

And now I have an outfit for Mother's Day!  Thanks so much to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets!  (Although they sponsored this post, the opinions expressed are completely my own.)


My Must Have Kitchen Items

Recently I wrote a post about our morning routine and, in it, I shared a favorite product: my Nespresso machine.  In that post I referenced a long abandoned blog series about things that make me happy.  (And by things I mean, well, things.  Like stuff.)  And that got me thinking: what other items do I have lurking around the house that the rest of you need to know about?  

The very first item that popped into my head was this Boos Block cutting board.  The reason I thought of it?  Because it's awesome! Every person who encounters it falls in love.  As you can see, this cutting board actually attaches to the corner of my counter, increasing the amount of space I have to work on.  Isn't it great?  Perfect for a small kitchen (assuming it's a small kitchen with a corner).

Another must have kitchen item that I love to share with people?  This multi-dish kitchen timer that my mom gave me for Christmas two years ago.  Funny story:  I admired hers so much as she cooked Christmas Eve dinner that I even took its picture.  Little did I know that she had one waiting underneath the tree for me.  My mama knows her girl.  (And her girl loves kitchen gadgets.)

Below you will find links to these items, as well as several other must-haves for the kitchen.  (That adjustable measuring cup?  Just get one.  You won't be disappointed.)

Cutting Board Corner Counter Saver Cutting Board I am obsessed with this cutting board. If you have an L-shaped counter, you can attach this to the space where the two counters meet. It not only provides a great cutting surface, but it also increases your work space. In addition to being really sturdy, it is also beautiful. People are constantly asking me where I got mine (the answer is Wayfair)! Measuring Cup Good Grip 2 Cup Adjustable Measuring Cup Have you ever tried adding peanut butter to peanut butter cookie dough only to leave half of it behind in the measuring cup? This little gizmo allows you to retrieve every last (perfectly measured out) drop of sticky ingredients like butter, oil, honey, and more (it works kind of like those push pops you used to get from the ice cream man). Now that I have one I don’t know how I lived without it. Multi Event Timer Plan and Prep Multi Event Timer This timer is actually four timers in one. Plus it comes with a small whiteboard (and dry erase marker) so you can keep track of multiple dishes. Anyone who has ever made Thanksgiving dinner knows how brilliant this is!
Cookie Sheet Airbake 3 Piece Natural Aluminum Cookie Sheet Set Last fall I was asked to bake 100 sugar cookies for my daughter's cross country banquet. I knew it was going to be a big job so I decided to invest in new pans. Some quick research revealed that these Airbake cookie sheets are the way to go if you want perfect cookies, and they did not disappoint. If you bake with any kind of regularity, you’ll want to buy these! Tablecloth Jardine Tablecloth Couleur Nature is my favorite brand of table linens. The patterns and colors are gorgeous and I always get compliments when I use them. I bought two of the Jardine tablecloths to use for a huge outdoor party we threw last summer. Then at Christmas I realized that the pattern was just as appropriate for the holidays as it was for summer entertaining. Huge bonus! Milk Frother Aeroccino Plus 4.48 Oz. Milk Frother I recently wrote a blog post about the Nespresso Aeroccino, but my love of this frother is worth another mention.  If you like lattes, you must invest in one! It makes heaps of delicious milk froth with the push of a button (and clean-up is a breeze as well).
Popcorn Popper Hot Air Popcorn Popper Last Christmas I bought my girls this air popper. Little did I know that it would become a family favorite. We probably use it four times a week. Air popped corn is healthy, delicious, and easy to make. We love popping a big bowl after school or on family movie nights.

So now I have to ask you:  do you have a go-to kitchen item that you can't live without?  Is it something I need to know about?  Something I need to own?  If so, please leave me a comment!



I'll Eat You Up I Love You So!

How many of you immediately knew the origin of the title of this post?

Well, those of you who did will want to stick around because I have a really fun giveaway for you!

(And those of you who didn't need to go to the library and check out Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.)

Recently, while on Instagram, I happened upon this adorable print from Love Too Design.  

I was immediately taken with it because the quote happens to be something I say to my daughters all the time. 

My daughters, it should be said, are eleven and fifteen, so the fact that we still quote this picture book (on a very regular basis) is a testament to the staying power of Maurice Sendak.

When I made this observation to the ladies at Love Too Design, they sweetly offered to send me a print!   (Which my fifteen-year-old immediately commandeered for her room.  See below.  I have yet to tell my eleven-year-old about this development.)

The best part is that they also sent me another copy to give away!  This would be a perfect item for decorating a nursery or playroom.  

In order to win:

I will pick one winner at random and make the announcement on Instagram tomorrow (4/7/16) morning.

Good luck!


How to become a morning person in two easy steps!

Like many households around the country, mornings at mine can be sheer madness.  Backpacks and sports bags and instruments need to be packed.  Children rush around, choosing outfits and deliberating over hairstyles.  

Seriously!  Doesn't it look like we're packed for a weekend away?

Well, we're not.  Around here we just call that Tuesday.  

(It's enough to make me want to go back to bed!)

Thank goodness for my Nespresso Inissia Espresso Maker.  

If I had ever finished the (long neglected) blog series about things that make me happy, the Inissia would definitely have made the list.  

(Hectic mornings are so much more pleasant with a cappuccino in hand.)

That's mine pictured below and it is one of the best purchases I have made in a long time!

Like a Keurig, a Nespresso machine uses pods to make individual cups of coffee—but that's where the similarities end.  This is not a glorified Keurig.  This stuff is good—really, really good—so good, in fact, that I no longer feel tempted to make regular trips to Starbucks or the Coffee Bean. 

Because why go to Starbucks when you can stay home in your pajamas, engulfed in the chaos of the morning?

(Maybe I just answered my own question?)

But for those of you whose answer included the need for some instagram-worthy milk foam, well, let me introduce you to the Inissia's little companion: the Nespresso Aeroccino Plus Milk Frother

This bad-boy makes the. best. froth.  (With almost zero effort on my part—as in, pour the milk and push the button—which is great on a hectic morning.)

 Seriously, look at that!

It's almost enough to turn you into a morning person.

While the above post was sponsored by Wayfair, all opinions are my own.  

As in—I would totally have written about it anyway.  

And if you lived in my neighborhood I would invite you over to have a cup.  

(Because I love introducing people to cool stuff!)



Easy Raspberry Brownie Bites

Want to know a secret?

I am a cheater.  

It's true.  I'm a Cheater McCheaty Pants.  

Don't worry, it's nothing sinister.  I'm not cheating elderly people out of their social security checks or anything like that.

It's just that... well... I'm the kind of gal who wants all the glory and none (okay, very little of) the work.  

Is that so wrong?

Those beautiful little confections you see above?  Those are a prime example.  Easiest thing in the world to make but, when I do, people act like I'm some kind of genius.  

So to atone for the sin of cheating, I'm going to do something incredibly kind and selfless:  I'm going to share my "recipe" with you.  

(Okay, truth be told I already shared this recipe with you back in 2012.  You can find that HERE.  So why am I sharing it again?  Because I've made it even easier than before.)

And now you too, can be the belle of the potluck (without even breaking a sweat).

(You're welcome.)

Okay, first thing you need to do is gather the following "ingredients":

One container of pre-made brownie bites (found at most grocery stores including Costco)

One jar of seedless raspberry jam (whichever brand you'd like)

One container of raspberries (washed and dried)

One bar of milk or dark chocolate (which will ultimately be broken up and melted in the microwave)

One bar of white chocolate, also melted (I often have to go to the baking aisle for this)

In order to make those five ingredients...

... look like this....

... just watch the video below:

And now you can be a cheater just like me!

Again, you're welcome.  

© 'A Casarella | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Created by pipdig