Guest Post at Unexpected Elegance

So I don't know what I've done lately to get invited to all the cool parties, but it must have been something good.  

Last week I got to do this fun interview with Kirby and now today I get to hijack Angela's blog over at Unexpected Elegance.

Come on over and check it out.  And while you're there, stay awhile to browse Angela's blog.  I'm a little bit obsessed with it.  Check out this tablescape she made using lettuce leaves, roses and avocados.  

I know, right?!



Pottery Barn or The 99 Cent Store? You be the Judge.

Found this at the 99 Cent Store yesterday... 

Is it my imagination, or does it look an awful lot like this (from Pottery Barn)?

(Right down to the rooster and the "County Fair"?)

Well even if it weren't identical to the five-times-pricier-Pottery-Barn version (which is totally is), I would still love it.

Because with these, you can do fun things like this:

Taken at my daughter's birthday party.  Read more about that here.

And at a dollar apiece I wasn't missing out on that!

(So I might have bought them all.)

Find any good bargains lately?  Feel free to share them in the comments!



Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a few fun things in the works here at `a casarella.  First up on that list is this amazing giveaway.  Today I'm partnering with several great bloggers to give you a chance to win a $180 gift card.  Wouldn't that be a great way to start the summer?    

All you need to do is follow the steps below.  The more actions you take (liking the various blogs on Facebook, following us on Pinterest, etc.) the more chances you get to win.

Thanks for playing and good luck!

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway US Can

Sponsored by these 18 fabulous blogs:

PhotobucketHappy Hour ProjectsGirl in the Garage Stow-and-TellUSuburble Three Mango SeedsRestoration Redoux buttonStorywood DesignsMrsHinesClasspostcardsfromtheridge

The Rafflecopter will walk you through the process to enter.

Contest runs May 28 - June 7, 2013. Open to U.S. and Canadian residents age 18 and over. The blogs above have pooled their money to sponsor this giveaway; it is NOT sponsored by Amazon. The more entries you have, the greater your chances of winning. Good luck!



Women Who Blog and the Bloggers Who Love Them

When I first started this blog I thought it was going to be more story-driven.  I envisioned a lot of long wordy narratives full of TMI and over-sharing.  Instead, the blog took on a life of its own.  It evolved into a place where I share the things I do as opposed to who I am.  And that's fine.  In fact, it's more than fine.  I am loving it and for some weird reason people keep coming back so I guess I'm doing something right.

This departure from the story-telling makes it extra fun when someone comes along wanting me to tell stories or share information about myself.  And that's why I loved participating in the Friday Feature over at Women Who Blog and the Bloggers Who Love Them, written by the hilarious Kirby from Kirb Appeal.  The questions are short and kind of silly but they were lots of fun to answer.

I would be oh-so pleased if you stopped by the post and checked it out!

And thanks, Kirby, for giving me the opportunity to blather on about topics ranging from grosgrain ribbon to the Doobie Brothers to high tea with a drag queen!



Bargain Hunting

Things have been busy here at `a casarella.  I have some exciting stuff in the works and look forward to sharing it with all of you soon.

I haven't been too busy to do a little bargain hunting, though.  Nor was I too busy to write a little post about my finds.  

I got all of these at a store that I had never been to before.  Well, that's not exactly true--I had been there under a different owner but now it's a completely different store.

Though they call themselves a thrift, none of the items are actually donated.  Instead they buy estates, overstock items, and things from storage lockers.  In fact, one of the employees told me that the owner and her husband are slated to be on the next season of Storage Wars.  How cool is that?!  

As you can imagine, the prices are a bit higher under these circumstances than they would be in your average thrift (though not necessarily as high as an antique shop).  In fact, I almost walked out upon seeing the prices but I'm glad I didn't.  Things go on sale every day (between 25% and 50% off) and as you walk towards the back of the store, the prices get better.

Here's what I scored:

The brass candlesticks were 25% off bringing them down to $3.00.  I added the candles when I got home.

The sea foam green CatherineHolm striped bowl was definitely my favorite find!  It has some chips and some rusting, but I still think it's absolutely beautiful.

The beauty below is not an antique.  In fact, it still had its original tag from Z Gallerie on the bottom.  I got it for a third of the original price.  That's more than I usually like to pay for second-hand, but I absolutely love it, it's in perfect condition, and I probably would have paid full price if I had seen it new in the store.

The last item is this little brass box shaped like a quail.  It cost $3 and I thought it would be a cute ring holder.  I found the exact same item on ebay listed for $40 so I guess I did okay.

So how about you?  Any good thrift finds lately?  If you've written a post feel free to link to it in the comments!



Washi Tape Paper Lanterns

Washi Tape.  What can't you do with it?

From cute flags...

...to gift wrap...

You have to admit it's a most-versatile crafting medium.

Add it to a plain paper lantern (you know how I love to dress up a plain paper lantern) and the results can be adorable:

I can think of so many uses for this cute craft, everything from party decorations to inexpensive decor for a baby's room.

Have you made any Washi Tape crafts lately?  Done anything interesting with a paper lantern?  Leave me a link in the comments.  I'd love to check out your projects!



Strawberries with a Chocolate Cream Cheese Filling

So this happened today...

It was fate, really, that these two items should meet and become one...

I'm just so glad I was the matchmaker.

(Because it also meant I was the taste tester.)

You can find the Philadelphia chocolate spread next to the regular cream cheese at the grocery store. 

I made an x-shaped cut in the top of my strawberry, and, using a makeshift pastry bag, squirted the filling in the center.  

Try it and I think you'll agree that it's a match made in heaven.  

(Or my kitchen, but really, they're practically the same place...)



A sure sign of spring....

Signs of spring are everywhere around my house:

The peach tree is blossoming.  

The air is warm.

And there's a silent auction basket sitting on my dining room table.  

I'm not exactly sure why spring and silent auctions go hand-in-hand, but they do!  

And much like last year, I am once again making a basket to be auctioned off (though for a different cause this time).  

For this one I picked up some plastic wine glasses, a wine opener, and some wine charms at Homegoods....

I put them all in this darling insulated picnic basket.  

(Can't you just see yourself using it at a Fourth of July picnic??)

Then I made a cute little tag with my Silhouette...

And finally, I added two bottles of wine.

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the wine (and no, I didn't drink it ;)  but I can assure you that the whole thing looks great all packaged together.

Now I just need to bid on it  ;)

Happy Spring everyone!!



Facilitating the Appreciation--Redux

I will be taking a blog hiatus for the next week while my daughters take a trip to Neverland (i.e., they are performing in "Peter Pan" and next week is "tech week" in the theater--a very busy time for a theater mom).

But next week is not just tech week, oh no, it's also Teacher Appreciation Week.  And in honor of that most important of weeks (so says this former teacher), I am recycling one of my more popular posts: "Facilitating the Appreciation" (a post about teacher appreciation week from the perspective of a room mom).  If you're looking for good TA gifts, check it out.  (And excuse the awful photography; it's nice to see that I've improved a bit over the past year ;)

Teacher Appreciation week is something I don't remember from my childhood. Heck, I don't even remember it from my teaching days.  Nowadays, though, it's a big deal.  If you log into Pinterest and type in "Teacher Appreciation Gifts," you'll get roughly a jillion hits.

I suspect my former math teachers would frown upon my liberal use of the number "jillion."

(And perhaps that frowniness is why I never gave them any teacher appreciation gifts...)

But moving on...

So, next week is Teacher Appreciation week and as a room mom I have to--how shall I say this?--facilitate the appreciating.  Yes, that's me: the facilitator of appreciation.

Usually it works a little something like this:  Room moms conduct a survey at the beginning of the school year to collect valuable nuggets of information from the teacher: "What's your favorite color?" "Where do you like to shop?" "What's your favorite restaurant?" etc.   We then use those answers to guide us during the holidays, the teacher's birthday, the end of the school year and, yes, Teacher Appreciation Week.

Typically during Teacher Appreciation Week we try and do a little something each day: Have your child wear blue on Monday!  Everyone brings in a piece of fruit (for a Stone-Soup style fruit basket) on Tuesday! etc., etc.  The problem is that some parents have three kids in three different grades.  This means that on any given day you might have one kid bringing in a banana, one kid wearing chartreuse and a third kid providing a daisy for a class bouquet.  That's fine for one day but five days gets a little old.  And confusing.

Not that I'm saying the teachers don't deserve the appreciation.  They totally do.  In fact I would prefer to give it to them in the form of a big fat raise but that's gonna have to wait until I'm queen of the world.  In the meantime, my co-room mom and I wanted to make the week simultaneously nice for the teacher and manageable for the parents.

This will involve some classroom funds (which thankfully we have), some shopping, some baking, and a touch of creativity.  The end result will be a week filled with small gifts, sweet gestures, a few lunches and one large(r) gift at the end.

I should note that many of our parents will be doing their own gifts, but those who don't want to-or can't-will be covered by us. Of the gifts that we're doing, there are two that I'm particularly proud of and wanted to share here today:

The first is the only thing we actually asked parents to do.  I have to give credit to my fellow room mom as this was entirely her idea, but I love it.  We asked that each child pick out a book from his or her personal collection to donate to the classroom library.  We provided them with homemade "book plates" to affix in the inside front cover.  On the book plate they explained why they liked the book they chose.

My daughter picked Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes.  Here's what she wrote in her book plate.  (The erasure on the word "purse" looks awful in this picture but not so bad in person):

(I blacked out her name which accounts for the box on the bottom.  And I know there are a million talented people out there who could do a waaayy cuter bookplate than that, but we kept it simple and I think her teacher will appreciate it despite its simplicity ;)

The other gift that I really enjoyed is Pinterest inspired.  (Except it kind of isn't.  Variations on this idea have been around forever.)  Apparently this teacher has a thing for chocolate chip cookies.  (I know because my handy survey tells me so.)  So I turned to one of my favorite cookie recipes.  (Found here.)  

Then I stacked the cookies in a cute spaghetti canister (which was my idea, though I wouldn't be surprised if others had done it before me):

Finally I attached this:
It says, "Thanks for making us into such smart cookies," except it doesn't show up too well in this picture.  

And here is the end result:

I'll be presenting her with these tomorrow to kick off the festivities.  

Do any of you have a great teacher appreciation gift to share?  (If it's on your blog leave me the URL and I'll pin it to my "Resources for Room Moms" board.)

Update:  If you would like information on where to buy the jar pictured above, click here.


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