'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.)


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!


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.  



Nonni's Italian Easter Bread

Hello internet!  It's been awhile—but that's a story for another time. Today, well, today I'm here to discuss something far more important than my absence:


No, no, not carb-cutting or any insanity like that.  I'm talking about carbs you should consume.  For Easter.  (Because they are delicious.)

Specifically, I want to share this recipe for my grandmother's Italian Easter Bread.   If you arrived here by searching for Italian Easter Bread then you likely know what it is and should probably just strap on your apron and get to work.  However, if you have never heard of Italian Easter Bread... well, you should still strap on your apron and get to work.  (Because this here is good stuff.)  AND it's my Nonni's recipe.  (And Nonni knew her way around the kitchen.)  AND she would have been 105 yesterday (so we kind of owe it to her to give it a try, no?)

The one pictured below was made by my mom last Easter.   And in case you were wondering, you can definitely color the eggs.  Just remember that you place the eggs into the dough raw, and then they cook along with the bread.  So if you're dyeing hard boiled eggs at the same time, just make sure you keep them separate (or someone might be in for a surprise).

Click HERE for a printable version of the recipe.

Buona Pasqua, everyone!


Retro Inspired Patio Space

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that I am into my fourth year of blogging.  Where did the time go?  Looking back at the archives it is interesting to see the evolution of the spaces that I've featured since January of 2012.

One example is my backyard which I've written about on several occasions.  (You can find those posts HERE and HERE.)

It's pretty obvious that I love my backyard—always have—so when Wayfair asked me to write about my dream patio, I almost passed.  I mean, I kind of already have my dream patio, and, as evidenced above, I've already written about it.

But then I began to wonder... what if I could start over?  What if I could create an entirely different space?  What if I had a blank canvas and cost wasn't an issue?  What would I do under those circumstances?

It was then that I realized I should absolutely write this post.

You see, my current outdoor spaces are very homey/comfortable: big cushiony chairs, lots of faux wicker, warm tones, etc.  Clearly that's a look that I love but it's not the only look to which I am attracted.

More and more I find myself being drawn to fun, colorful spaces, both indoors and out.   In addition, I love furniture and accessories that have a funky retro vibe.

With this in mind I created the mood board you see below:

7.   Crosley Griffith 4 Piece Seating Group

Doesn't this just make you want to throw a pool party so you can invite Gidget and all of her friends to hang out, drink root beer floats, and play lawn games in the backyard??  

(No?  Just me?  Okay then...)

I'm not going to go through each item since the links above contain all of the important details.   I do want to say that the entire look started with the blue seating group in the center (#7).  Once I found that I just kept building around it.  Some of my other favorite pieces include the cheerful Crosley Radios (which I loved so much that I couldn't choose between them) and the Carmel Stripe Beach Towel (which I am going to purchase as soon as I hit publish on this post).    

And then of course there are the pink flamingos—because you can't have a colorful, retro backyard without pink flamingos...

If this has whet your appetite for more colorful backyard wares, check out my newest Wayfair Idea Board entitled, "Dreamy Retro Patio" for additional items not pictured above. 


Mid Century Modern Mash-Up (Compliments of Chairish)

A few weeks ago while my sister-in-law and I were sitting around discussing decorating (as we are wont to do), she turned and asked me, "Have you ever heard of Chairish?!"  When I told her that hadn't she quickly exclaimed, "Oh, you have to check it out!  It's like some great little antique shop met Craig's List and had a really cute baby!"  Needless to say, with an endorsement like that—not to mention the clever name—I had to log on right away.  I quickly agreed with her assessment, and in addition to bookmarking their site, I also began following them on Instagram.

You know that thing that happens when you hear about something for the first time, and then suddenly you begin seeing (or hearing about) it elsewhere?  Well, about two weeks after that conversation, I received an email from the good people at Chairish.  They asked if I would like to curate a mood board highlighting some of the Mid Century Modern pieces from their site.  (You can find those HERE.)

Little did they know that I am currently in the middle of transitioning my daughters' playroom into a den and that I've been envisioning a sort of Mid-Century-Modern-mash-up for the space.

The whole thing was so serendipitous that I just had to say yes.  (And for the record, there is no compensation involved; I just felt compelled to do it given the circumstances.)

What you see below is one of many mood boards that I could have created.  Seriously, the possibilities are endless and I just know I will going back for more.

1. Jensen Modernist Art California Artist Yellow
2. Original Contemporary Abstract Green Painting 
3. Framed Haha Ink Drawing
4. Truncated Isocahedron Pendant Light
5. Navy Velvet Mid-Century Sofa
6. Tony Paul Attributed XO Wire Frame Table
7. 1950s Allan Gould String Chairs - A Pair
8. Premium Flokati Rug in White
9. Worlds Away Hudson White Lacquer Gold Leaf Chest
10. Suzani Gulkurpa Accent Pillow

Let me tell you about what I did choose.  I designed this room around the couch.  I'm sure you've noticed that blue tufted velvet sofas are all the rage right now.  While I love blue velvet, I'm not so fond of the tufting.  So when I saw the gorgeous Navy Velvet Mid-Century Sofa pictured above—with its beautiful blue velvet, but without the formal tufting—I knew it had to be my focal point.  

I thought the Suzani Gulkurpa Accent Pillow would add a fun and unexpected pop of green, which is my favorite color.  There were so many neat pillows to choose from that I'm sure I could go back and pick ten more if I were so inclined.  

There was also a fantastic selection of art.  Pictured above are three pieces that I thought would go well in the room, though, much like with the pillows, the choices were endless.  I especially love the Original Contemporary Abstract Green Painting which I thought went nicely with the couch and pillows.  The Framed Haha Ink Drawing was just funny and I thought my kids and their friends would enjoy that touch of whimsy while hanging out in the room.  

I went back and forth about whether or not to add a coffee table to the design.  Again, there were some great ones to choose from.  In the end, however, I decided to leave the space in front of the couch clear so the kids could sit on the  Premium Flokati Rug (not from Chairish, though I found out later that they do have one).  Across from the couch there will be a televsion on the wall.  I wanted a piece to put underneath it which could serve as storage for remotes, video games, etc. and I thought the Worlds Away Hudson White Lacquer Gold Leaf Chest would do that nicely.  I also thought the gold leaf went well with the pair of 1950s Allan Gould String Chairs.  (To say I am obsessed with them would be an understatement; I don't know how comfortable they would be but they sure look cool.)  

When I saw the  Truncated Isocahedron Pendant Light I just had to add it to the design.  I love the shape and I thought it paired nicely with the Tony Paul Attributed XO Wire Frame Side Table.  

Though I am by no means a professional decorator, I sure had fun playing one on the internet! If you happen to check out Chairish after reading this post, let me know.  I would love to see some of your favorite pieces.  
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