Getting My Kumbaya on

Okay, so here's the deal: this is going to be kind of a sappy post.  All kinds of sentimental.  If that isn't your thing you might want to stop reading now.  (Don't say you weren't warned.)

So I've talked a number of times about blogging, both why I started and what I'd like to get out of it.  As it turns out, my favorite thing about blogging is something that wasn't even on my radar until I'd been doing it for a few weeks: the friendships and connections that keep springing up as a result.  

Not that I didn't want connections, I simply wasn't looking to make them via the blog.  (In my mind that was what Facebook was for ;)  I'm not sure why, I just hadn't envisioned blogging as such a give and take type of thing.  But of course, this is the internet and nothing is done in isolation.  Nope, if I write something in the morning I'm often getting feedback before lunch.

And so far, the feedback has been so... nice.  No, not just nice.  Nice doesn't cover it.  It's also been interesting and... somehow fulfilling.  I've gotten feedback from people all over the world.  Like New Zealand (I'm looking at you Simoney).  Or Italy (okay, I suspect this woman stopped by because my blog has an Italian title, but she stayed long enough to leave a comment: "Sono fantastiche. Bravissima. Ciao," and I now follow her blog which I faithfully translate from Italian to English).

And of course there are all the friends that I've made here in the US.  One in particular, Linda from It All Started With Paint, stopped my my blog in its infancy (which admittedly was only a few weeks ago ;).  Her encouragement really inspired me to take things up a notch and I am oh so grateful.  She also sent some really nice blog-friends my way (seriously, she told a bunch of people to come read my blog--and they did!) and now some of them are also dear blog friends (ahem, cough, Karianne). 

Believe it or not, I'm going somewhere with this.  

You see, yesterday I was awarded The Liebster Award.  


In one day.  

For those of you who aren't familiar, Liebster is a German word which means "dearest" or "beloved". It can also mean "favorite". The idea behind the Liebster Award is that it's given to up-and-coming bloggers (with fewer than 200 followers) in order to create new connections and bring attention to some wonderful, growing blogs.

And now I get to pass the Liebster Award along to someone else!  Here are the rules:  

1. Link back to the person or people who bestowed the honor on you.
2. Pick 5* blogs with less than 200 followers to pass the award forward.
3. Leave the awardees a comment informing them about their designation.
4. Post the award on your blog!

The two bloggers who bestowed the award on me were Lisa from Budget Design Girl and Emily from Sweet Bliss Bakery.  

Lisa is clearly a kindred spirit.  We're both Midwestern transplants (living in Southern California) who are doing our best to feather our nests without breaking the bank.  Her home tour is beautiful and she's done some amazing projects (like this vintage desk redo).  

And Emily, well, just go to her blog and click on the cupcakes tab.  Trust me, you won't regret it!

Thanks ladies!!

Now accepting an award is easy but the bestowing part is always a challenge for me.  The last time someone gave me one I was so paralyzed by indecision that I simply never followed through.   (I still feel ashamed about this.)  Truth be told, at that early stage in my blog, I just didn't feel qualified to give anyone an award.  (I kind of envisioned the recipients going, "Who are you to be giving me an award?" which is silly when you consider all the nice things I've just said about the blogging community.)  

Now that I've been at it a bit longer I feel a slightly more qualified to give out the Liebster (*though I've only picked three recipients as opposed to the usual five).  

Here they are:
  • Sara from Everyday Sadie.  Sara is funny and I love funny.  (Here is an excerpt from her "About Me":  I'm a coffee-connoisseur (read: addict)... and I've been married so long I'm practically a sitcom.  See?  Funny.  (Plus this recipe looks awesome!)  So please, go and check her out.  (Tell her I sent you ;)
  • Next up is Courtney from Thoughts From the Birdhouse.  At some point Courtney quietly came by my blog and became a follower.  When I stopped by to return the favor I was delighted.  Courtney is smart and articulate and I love her blog.  In short, I totally want to be Courtney when I grow up.  The problem with that?  I'm also totally old enough to be her mother.   Yup, Courtney is in high school.  (And I am sooo glad that she'll be running the country when I'm old and in need of care.)
  • My final pick is a person I know in real life.  Her name is Sabine and our daughters do children's theater together.  Sabine is a true Renaissance woman.  Her "real life" job is something technical (that I don't understand).  At home she's a mom to three beautiful (tri-lingual) children.  She's also an amazing cook (did I mention she's French?) and an avid crafter.  In her copious amounts of free time ;) she started The Tech Foodie a blog that chronicles all of this.  The blog is new, but she's already posted some amazing recipes and I'm sure there's lots of great stuff to come!  Please be sure to check her out!
So that's it!  The Liebster award is just the latest warm and fuzzy thing that's happened to me since I've begun blogging.  Can't wait to see what's next ;)


Help Me Internet!

Hello internet friends I need a little favor and I was hoping y'all could help a sister out. It's actually not me who needs the help. It's my friend Sheri who sent me the following email:

"My son's birthday is April 1. Since it's April Fool's Day, we always try to do something fun/crazy instead of just cupcakes for him to take to school. Last year we made little hamburgers out of cookies. They came out pretty cute!! We've done dirt cake with worms and a few other fun things. I thought I'd check to see if you had any ideas for me for this year!! I have been looking but haven't found anything that really caught my eye. If you think of anything, or see anything that looks fun, will you let me know?"

I was just about to get my Google on when I thought, "Wait, I have all of these crazy-creative people at my fingertips. I should ask them..."

So here I am, asking all of you... anyone got any good ideas? If you think of anything you can find me trolling around Pinterest. I'll be the one searching for food disguised as... something else.

(Yup, that's just what I did.  
And then I started her a Pinterest board called "Sweets in Disguise." Check it out.)

She went with the candy sushi:

Rice Crispie treats rolled around gummy worms, sliced and wrapped in green apple fruit roll-ups.


Auction Basket, Part Two (aka: Wrapping Things Up.)

(If you didn't read Part One, please go here.)

So when we left off, I had three auctions baskets assembled, two of which needed to be wrapped.  

Honestly, I don't claim to be great at this wrapping part.  Cellophane tends to give me agita.  If you're looking for a blog about perfection I'm definitely not your gal (though I can probably refer you to 100 gorgeous blogs that will fulfill that need).  If, however, you're looking for a blog that will make you feel good about yourself in comparison, well, my friend, you've come to the right place!

So without further ado, here is my process, warts and all:

To begin with I got out my "tape" and my cellophane.  Tape is in quotes because I don't actually use tape for this.  Instead I like to use glue dots or, in this case, a "dot glue runner," because they're less visible. 

 I also used two large rolls of cellophane.  I still had tons left over from last year.  

I decided to place the insulated tote beneath the large Trader Joe's Sampler basket (as opposed to including it inside).  It seemed to fit better that way.  So I put the insulated tote on top of the cellophane.  (It was actually two rolls of cellophane criss-crossed over one another to prevent big gaps when it was all gathered up.)

Then I put the basket on top of the tote...  
(Don't worry.  I remembered to snip the tag off that basket.)

...gathered the cello from one roll up in a big bunch...

...and temporarily secured it with a large twist tie.

Then I gathered up the second roll of cello and repeated the process until it looked like this:
See all of that extra cellophane sticking out at odd angles around the sides of the basket?  That's where the glue dot runner comes in.  If a piece of cello is sticking out in an awkward fashion, pop some glue on it and then fold it over so it sticks snugly to the side of the basket for a more streamlined look.  (Unfortunately I couldn't apply the glue and take a picture so you'll just have to believe me.)

Then it was time to tie up the basket with some decorative ribbon.  I had some of my favorite paper ribbon set aside just for this occasion but strangely, I couldn't find it anywhere.  Fortunately, I had tons of Christmas ribbon available as a substitute.

So I tied the ribbon and slipped the twist ties off from underneath it.  

And here's the finished product.  
(I'd like it to be a little neater but the tote underneath the basket made that kind of difficult.)

And wait a second... what's that?  
(Do you see it?  Right there in between the honey butter and the Papardelle?)  
Yup, you guessed it; I had wrapped my decorative ribbon right into the gift basket.  
See!  I told you that I'd make you feel better by comparison. 
(Don't worry, I was able to get it out ;)

And here's the finished product (without the extra ribbon...)

At this point I was left with one more basket to wrap.  Being smaller it was easier.  
I didn't need to use two rolls of cello for one thing...

...and I got to use my paper ribbon.

I love this stuff.  It's so easy to work with and it curls so nicely.

And there you have it!  Two auction baskets wrapped and ready to go!

I'll try and remember to let you know how much they went for.  :) 


A Tisket a Tasket a Nifty Auction Basket

When I was little sending a kid to public school was relatively effortless.

Your parents signed you up.  You went.  The end.

Nowadays things are a bit more complicated.  You see, we live in California, and in case you hadn't heard, our schools are in a bit of trouble.

Now this is the part where I stop and tell you how awesome my kids' school is.  Truly, it is an amazing place.  In fact, their school (and the school system in which it exists) are the primary reason we moved to our neighborhood.

One of the things that makes it so amazing is the dedicated school community (teachers, administration & parents) who regularly step up to fill in the gaps that result from state budget cuts.  One way this is accomplished is via the "Foundation," an organization whose primary objective is to provide financial support to enhance curriculum (specifically in the areas of technology, art, music and science). 

The Foundation holds fundraisers throughout the school year but the biggie is a gala/auction held every spring.  Auction baskets for this event are donated by every classroom.  Room moms are in charge of this effort.  (Have I mentioned that I'm a room mom?  Are you surprised?)

Each class does things a little differently.  Some room moms collect money for the basket at the beginning of the year.  That way the other parents don't need to worry about the basket beyond a $5 donation in September.

Other classes come up with a theme and have parents donate items relating to that theme for inclusion in the basket.  I've done it both ways.  This time around my co-room mom and I decided to ask for the money up front so we didn't need to go back to the parents for another donation in the spring.

We decided to do a Trader Joe's basket.  We had $110 in donations.  The end result was actually three Trader Joe's baskets.  I'm going to show you what we made and how we made them.

Most of our money went towards dry goods from Trader Joe's.  It was obvious that we were going to get more than one basket out of our money so we decided to do one "Italian" basket and another "TJ's Sampler" basket.

Here's what we included in the Italian basket:
From l-r: Italian wine, pesto sauce, Italian blood orange sparkling soda, salami, two kinds of organic pasta, Puttanesca sauce, Paresan crisps, Italian olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, Chocolate almond Biscotti & Bruschetta sauce.  

 Confession:  the Italian "basket" isn't really a basket.  Instead we put all of the items in a reusable TJ's tote.  It's not technically an "Italian" bag but the colors have a warm, Tuscan feel.

Basket number two actually ended up being numbers two and three.  Here's what they included:

Prosecco and Pomegranate Sparkling Soda

Chutney, Three Cheese Pasta Sauce, Pineapple Salsa & Honey Apple Butter

Himalayan Pink Salt Crystals & "Everyday Seasoning" (both with built-in grinders)

Calimyrna Figs and Chocolate Orange Sticks

Dark Chocolate Crisps (Chocolate covered potato chips!!)

Bistro Biscuits

Organic Corn Chips and a Basmati Rice Medley

Pappardelle Pasta (pictured with the aforementioned sauce)

Cans of Caffe Latte, Fair Trade Bolivian Blend Coffee, English Breakfast Tea & the Bistro Biscuits

Oatmeal & Honey Pure Vegetable Soap
Each year I like to make a personal donation to the basket beyond my family's monetary contribution.  This year it was the Cooking with Trader Joe's Companion Cookbook.  I love it because it's just the right size to slip into your purse so you can bring it to TJ's and shop away.  

Our final item was this TJ's oversized, insulated tote.  I have one and I love it!

With the ingredients gathered it was time to assemble the basket.  At this point I had about $5 left in the budget.  I knew that Michael's had these baskets which are often my go-to for auctions.  Originally priced at $9.99, it was on sale for 40% off.  Then my cashier scanned an additional 40% off coupon from behind the register.  (I don't think she was supposed to do that but I'm glad she did ;)

I had some of this in my garage, two bags to be precise, probably left over from last year's auction. There are all kinds of things you can use for cushioning in your basket.  I like the free stuff I find in my garage ;)

Spread it in the bottom of the basket, saving some to fill in any gaps.

Then start adding items...

and shifting them around...

...until you're pleased with the arrangement.


Now if you're anything like me, most projects have at least one glitch.  In this case it was the fact that my stuff was too heavy to fit in one basket.  I was really afraid the bottom would fall out so I decided to remove some things in order to make a third, smaller basket.  

Fortunately I had this thrifted beauty in the garage.  I found a stack of them at Goodwill awhile back and just knew I'd be able to use them.  (Plus they were in pristine condition.)      

I was out of the natural wood fiber but had plenty of this from Easters-past:

So I picked a few items that seemed to "go" together and made a little "Cafe Basket."  It contains the coffee, the tea, the cans of caffe latte, the Bistro Biscuits and the dark chocolate crisps.

So now I had three auction items, two of which needed to be wrapped.  
(I left the Italian bag as-is.)

Looking at this post, I realize that it's starting to get a bit... lengthy.  I think I'm actually going to break it into two parts and document the wrapping process next time.  

So you can just call this "to be continued...."

(Part two found here.)



Paging Virginia Woolf

The other day as I was wasting time on Facebook perusing Facebook for blog inspiration, a link to this popped up on my feed.

It was written by the lovely and talented Karianne over at Thistlewood Farm.   (Have you seen her blog?  Seriously, go over there right now and take a look.  Total home d├ęcor porn. )

So in her post Karianne gave us a little behind-the-scenes glimpse at Thistlewood Farm.  Specifically she showed us where she blogs.  And as it turns out, she blogs in exactly the same place I blog: the kitchen.  The difference, of course, is that Karianne’s kitchen looks like this and mine, well, let’s just say mine doesn’t.  (Probably explains the difference in our blogs.)

And I have to admit that this is a bit of a sore subject for me, the fact that I blog in the kitchen.  Because it’s not just the blogging I do there.  It’s also the bill paying, the phone call making, the permission slip signing--I think you're starting to get the picture...

Now don’t get me wrong, I *know* how lucky I am.  I mean, this is the view from my kitchen window and I promise you that I’m grateful for it:

Yes, that is a giant inflatable swan in the pool.
She's my Beyonce.
(If you don't understand that reference please click here.  You will not regret it.)

However I find it somewhat ironic that the person who runs the home, the one who spends the most time here, the person whose job title has the word home (as in HOMEmaker) prominently displayed within it, is the one person in the home who lacks a room of her own.  (Every so often I need to get back to my English teacher roots and throw in a literary reference or two.  Just bear with me.)  

Each of my daughters has a bedroom and together they share a playroom.  My husband has an office and, although it’s also a guestroom, he has another office at work and that one is all his. 

I have a spot at the kitchen table. 

My laptop stays there, open and running all day long, and unless I've been uber-productive there’s generally a stack of papers nearby that needs sorting through.  It’s really not very pretty.

So in answer to your question, Karianne (that one about where I blog) well, here it is, warts and all:


It may not be terribly glamorous but it’s all mine.  

(That is until more than five people want to eat at the table.  Then I have to share.  ;)) 

So, I gotta ask:  Where do you blog?
© 'A Casarella | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Created by pipdig