La dolce vita.

If you've read my previous posts, you may know that Ryan and I enjoy the simple [cheap] pleasures in life... camping ~ board games ~ blackberry pie ~ The Biggest Loser (to feel motivated after eating the blackberry pie, of course) ~ gardening.  Just your average, easy-going [boring] couple. 
We do have 1 little luxury that we have come to take great pleasure in.  Wine tasting.  Now, if you've never been  or have no specific desire to go, I totally get it.  I felt this way about four years ago.  I didn't understand why you'd want to pay money to stand around with people you don't know and take little sips of wine... when you could just enjoy a glass with dinner, any day of the week, if you are so inclined.  And this is even after I watched Sideways. 
When Ryan and I went to Santa Barbara for the weekend a while back, the 'bed & breakfast' owner recommended that we go on a wine tasting excursion.  We were kid-free and in slight bliss at the time, since I had just made the big decision to stop working [and start living].  Wine tasting sounded like a perfect way to celebrate our new adventure.
Wine tasting & us- a perfect match.  And really, the wine is only part of the fun.  That day, we found a new passion and a wonderful way to remember that time in our lives (4 short years ago) when we decided to stop letting life lead us... and start leading it.
Needless to say, each year, we seem to find more and more opportunities to visit California's vineyards.  This past weekend, we celebrated my brother-in-law's birthday in Paso Robles.  An ideal way to say goodbye to summer, and hello to Autumn.  Here's a little summary of our wine tasting excursion... 
coffee in the mornin'.  
capturing the beauty. 

moments of connection...
... and silliness.
an amazing view, and "free" wine glasses to take home.
a quick stop for tacos in Santa Barbara on the ride home.
*How was your weekend??

D * I * Y *

Do It Yourself. Because you can, want to, or can’t afford otherwise.
Just maybe then, I can be COOL like Claire and clever, like Tina.

Here is my DIY To-Do list.  All manageable, economical, elementary... right (shamelessly asking begging for a little encouragement here)???  I figured if I shared them with you- my 20 readers, and 5 loyal commenters (you know who you are), then I'd be accountable for following through on what just may brew into a little obsession, or a complete mishap.  STAY TUNED...

1) spray paint something
2) wall paper something

3) label something
4) reupholster something
5) magnetize something

6) concoct something
7) fabricate something
8) frame something

*Are YOU a DIY member??  Any projects or mishaps you'd like to share?

Finding the {happy}.

With school starting and a jam packed to-do list for Ryan and I (despite the fact that he took the day off... despite the fact that it was our 13 year wedding anniversary... despite the fact that we had NO kids for a large part of the day) today was a day that could have been not-so-happy.  But we did a little digging and found it... the {'happy'-  that is-} anyways. 
Jacob got to wear his neon green shoes to school.
(and we were able to spot him from miles away when we picked him up from school)

Hailey got to step out of the house and be the social butterfly that she was created to be.
I got to practice the messy bun technique (yes- achieving messy hair is actually a skill).

Ryan got to do the dishes.

Just checkin' to make sure you're awake!

In the midst of many to-do's, Ryan got to enjoy a little R&R.

Who needs romance, adventure, and spontaneity anyway???
I'll take normalcy with this guy any day of the week.

Recipes: tried & true.

Last weekend, it was cupcakes, mojitos, and a summer stew... a reflection of our attempt to savor the remains of summer.  This weekend's meals were based primarily on function and ease.  A weekend of back-to-school preparation, bedroom overhauls, Good Will, moody kids, and weary parents.  I still managed to get a couple of WINNER recipes that fit the bill of function and ease- but at the same time, brightened spirits and provided little pockets of 'end-of-summer reprieve.' 
Ryan and I actually made this Buttermilk Farro Salad during the week, on a night that the kids were away.  What drew me to this recipe was the large amount of dill, the idea of a buttermilk vinaigrette, and the combination of zucchini and radishes- which I've never paired in a dish.  Despite the fact that I got distracted and let the farro soak for far too long, I loved the combination of flavors going on in this salad- sweet zucchini, peppery radishes, and tangy dressing.  I'd definitely make it again, using either farro (cooked right) or another grain, as well as fresh corn.
More than sharing the recipe, I'd like to share just how much I adore Heidi's cooking philosophy, her focus on natural, whole foods and ingredients, her fascination with cookbooks, her detailed articulation of her creative process in writing and cooking each dish (from the moment that the dish was inspired, all the way through to it's completion), and her "no-holding-back" mentality when it comes to dishing out tipsideas, techniques, and tweaks/substitutions/adaptations for every recipe... truly allowing you to get in the mind of the chef and inspiring you to be the chef in your own kitchen.
On Saturday, the stars were aligned (+ the ingredients in our refrigerator) for us to make this wonderful dish of Spanish Style Chicken with Saffron Rice, found at an enriching and motivating blog, Live and Enliven.  I had not yet tried Ana's recipes, but in light of her many talents, her clear and simple priorities, her raw passion of life and food, and her generosity and willingness to share her heart and talent, I knew any recipe of hers would taste incredible.
And believe me, this was.  This meal will create such wonderful aromas in your kitchen, that it is impossible to remain in a sour mood (not that I would know from experience, or anything).  Literally, the spirit (and appetite) rises with the addition of each ingredient.  An incredible combination of flavors.  And Ryan, although not picky or ungrateful in regards to eating, is not usually one to rave about a dish.  But this was another story... a  clear request for it to be made again. 
*Cooks Note:  As the recipe states, you can use saffron or turmeric.  I used turmeric, since I had it on hand.  Also, I used parboiled brown rice- prepared earlier in the day and set in the fridge on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and covered (to let the kernels dry out a little bit, ensuring that it didn't get mushy when fully cooked).
Last recipe of the weekend, prepared bright and early on Sunday morning, was Kim's Homemade Granola.  Last year, I began making my own granola, using Katie's recipe.  A perfect staple to use as cereal, a topping, or snack- and much healthier than store-bought.  Yet, I've gotten a little behind as of late, in the 'homemade' department.  Last week, I saw Kim's lovely post [and gorgeous picture] and put it at the top of my 'to-make-this-week' list.  It was a very simple recipe, tasted great, stocked us up for a busy week ahead, and served as a great hostess gift for my mom this past Sunday. 
But of course, I could not write about one of Kim's fantastic recipes without writing about Kim, and her fantastic blog- 180 | 360.   This was one of the first blogs that I discovered, prior to having my own.  I was drawn in immediately by her stunning photography, and then lured to stay longer [and learn more] by her poetic, witty, deliberate, deep- yet light, writing style... what I like to call 'down-to-earth sophistication.'  I have only been reading for a few months and every time I read a new post, I get stuck in her corner of the web- 'back-reading' stories of nature, health, life, family- being entertained, made aware, and inspired. 
I did go a little "link crazy" on you in this post, but I do hope that you look into these recipes and blogs further, as- I assure you- it will be well worth your time. 

Photo editing is fun.

Yes, the title is a bit elementary, but a kindergartner, in a fully equipped playground, is what I become when I play in the wonderful web of photo editing tools.  Of course it is gratifying to learn to navigate your way through Photoshop or Lightroom... yet equally time consuming and pricey.   When you're ready to get creative with your photos [or simply enhance, touch-up, organize, or arrange], Free and Simple are good friends to play with.  

Jacob and I had a blast - animating, polodroiding, distorting, saturating, framing, collage-ing, and doodling.  If you want your 12 year old son to think you're super cool, or simply want to have a little FUN, head over to Picnik, FotoFlexer, or one of the other many online photo editing sites (see here & here). But a little addictive - so be careful.

* Once you get and idea of what each program has to offer, you can use the tools in conjunction with one another.  Just edit and save your picture, then upload it onto another site for additional editing. 

Here is a sampling of our fun.

{Most of the following images were taken by Jacob; Originals on the left... Edited on the right}

Color sketch - FotoFlexer
Orton-ish effect - Picnik

Picture taken in B & W setting; Doodle effect - Picnik

Cartoon effect - FotoFlexer

1960's effect - Picnik (+ a little cropping & red-eye removal)

Before any effects were added...
Painting effect - FotoFlexer


 Image via

I love reading the daily confessions of Ree, the infamous Pioneer Woman.  A true highlight of my morning blog reading.  Back in April, Jora posted her confessions and concluded by asking if we had any that we'd like to share for ourselves.  A bit delayed, but...
  1.  Although blogging has done wonders for my soul- not so much for my waist.
  2. If we do not give Jacob a cell phone as he enters the 7th grade, he will be one of the only kids in his entire middle school, without one.
  3. If my piles of laundry could form a rebellion against me, I'd be an instant goner.
  4. The other day, I posted a comment on Ree's blog letting her the world know that I miss the days when Jacob was Tinky Winky for Halloween.
  5. I own 74 cookbooks - but have yet to purchase an iPod.
  6. Three of the above include beverage recipes only.
  7. I actually came to enjoy the Teletubbies.
  8. I eat bulgar for breakfast, enjoy sipping a glass of fine wine, make my own pizza dough ... but put a bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese in front of me ... and all of my gourmet/foodie instincts fall by the wayside.
  9. Sometimes I wish we lived on a farm.
  10. I've never purchased a Domino Magazine.  
  11. I like Barry Manilow.
Whew... That does feel good.

Anything you'd like to get off of your chest??  At least humor me, so I can feel better about myself.

Recipes: tried & true.

Last Monday, I shared recipes that I'd seen on some of my favorite blogs.  I'd tried them for myself over the weekend, and wanted to pass them along for you to enjoy -  with my little seal of approval.  For me, the weekend is a perfect opportunity to try new recipes - recipes spotted in one of the many cookbooks on the shelf, shared from friends, clipped from magazines, printed from the web, or bookmarked from blog posts.  It keeps things fresh and it simply feels good to try some of these recipes, instead of letting them sit in a recipe abyss.

So again, on this lovely Monday morning, as we're all trying to exit the weekend mode and plan for the week ahead, I'd like to share a couple of 'blog recipes'... tried & true.  I don't know if this will be a regular thing, but for now, it works.

It is a rare moment that I can pass up an opportunity to try a new strawberry cupcake recipe.  I've been wanting to make these for the past few weeks, and I'm sure glad I finally put my mouth mind to it.  The Traveling Mama  is one of my favorite newly discovered blogs.  I stumbled upon it not long ago, and when I am there, I am transported to a new world - of Morocco and Denmark, of foreign languages and flea markets, of creativity and passion, of sowing your oats and following your dreams.  These cupcakes did not disappoint.  They were moist and delicious.

The only change I made was that I made a strawberry glaze instead of a frosting... 1/2 cup pureed strawberries whisked into 3 cups powdered sugar (cupcakes can be dipped in or glaze can be spooned on).  *The glaze works great for doughnuts and zeppole as well!

I made a make-shift Sardinian Blood-Orange Mojito last week, but tried it again this week, with TJ's Blood Orange Soda.  Very refreshing.

And the last recipe of the weekend was prepared by Ryan for dinner last night.  This one came from a lovely blog - a peachtree city life - that I truly just discovered, like on Friday afternoon!  I, being the curious gal I am, clicked on her blog simply because I liked the title... and I'm so glad I did.  Mac & cheese, DIY projects, reading, purple blankets, gardening, and family - all described in an unpretentious, eloquent, {subtly} humorous way.  I can't wait to dig in- to more recipes and more unread posts:).

What caught my eye with this Frogmore Stew is that 1) it's a simple summer dinner that can be prepared in one pot and enjoyed in one bowl and 2) it is Claire's grandmother's recipe... and I just can't pass up a grandmother's recipe, because these are, in my humble opinion, simply the best dishes - even if it is isn't from my own grandmother.  And it was a perfect Sunday dinner.

Have a wonderful week and I hope you try these recipes for yourself!

The late summer terrain - Part 2.

Sorry to leave you hanging on the edge of your seats in anticipation, but the wait is now over.  If you missed part 1, click here.  Otherwise, let's jump right in.

What I didn't mention yesterday was that Terrain, founded in 2008, is essentially an outdoor Anthropologie, created by the 'Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie company'.  Unlike many garden stores, the items offered at Terrain are designed with beauty and function in mind - and they are reasonably priced as well.  Like this chicken flyswatter.  Who would think a flyswatter could be so darn cute?  Or this colorful knife set?  Seriously.

More summery finds...

for the chef

{I featured these yesterday, but these chalkboard labels are also great for kitchen storage bins, jars, etc.}

Have a wonderful, *summery* weekend.

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