Seeing the Everyday.

A magazine that doesn't try to convince, impress, embellish, or exaggerate.  Just simple, pure, ordinary, everyday beauty.  Incredibly inspiring.  Visually captivating.

Making iced coffee.

Having worked for Starbucks Coffee Company for 12 years, coffee is both an everyday staple and personal indulgence in our home.  In all forms...espresso, drip, press, [even] instant (did you know- Starbucks now offers instant?), bottled, liqueur...and iced.

Transitioning out of the fast-paced corporate world and into the equally fast-paced domestic one, over the past few years, has not been a purely smooth ride, but an absolute life changing journey that I've never regretted- not even for a tiny second.  Initially, I missed the simple pleasure of having a [FREE] coffee beverage anytime of the day.  Really missed the connection with others over a cup of coffee, or the much needed moment of quiet contemplation accompanying the sips.  Since regular trips to Starbucks were no longer free an "affordable luxury," I decided I had to create a little of the 'Starbucks world' that I missed the most, in my own home.  And let's be honest- The intermittent boosts of caffeine don't hurt... for tackling the never-ending dish washing, the constant laundry, and the funnest of them all- the toilet cleaning. 

Iced coffee is a summertime favorite.  A perfect afternoon treat to enjoy alone or with friends.  A huge hit at any birthday party, beach trip, or picnic.  And very simple to make:  1) Choose a coffee rich in flavor.  2) Brew coffee as you normally would (via a drip filter or a press), *but use twice the usual proportion of coffee to water (making it double-strength).  3) Fill a pitcher with ice cubes (cubes should be twice the volume of brewed coffee).  4) Pour finished hot coffee directly over the ice cubes (ice cubes will both chill and dilute coffee to the proper strength; only add ice to serving glassing when ready to drink).  See below for serving suggestions.

I like to drink iced coffee with vanilla infused simple syrup and milk.  It tastes great with cinnamon simple syrup as well.  Sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract is another option, that gives it a different, rich flavor.  If you don't have time to brew a batch of iced coffee, you could pour leftover coffee into an ice-cube tray, freeze, store in a freezer bag, and then use them to chill regular-strength coffee.

Vanilla Infused Simple Syrup

Makes 1 1/3 cup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean

Slice the vanilla bean in 1/2 lengthwise.  Add all ingredients to saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, until sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Strain syrup into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Summer fun.

Although summer has been here for 2 weeks, I finally had the chance to sit down with the kids and ask them what they'd like to do this summer.  Throughout the year, there's so many times that I hear, "We need to do__________!" or "When can we do__________?"  A lot of their requests and 'to-do's' are really simple and very doable- like using the Snoopy snow cone maker (that sits very lonely in the garage), or playing a board game, or making smores in our back yard.  Yet, it's so easy to let the days...and weeks...and months pass us by- without doing any of these things.  I am determined not to let that happen this summer.  I was planning on making a 'summer fun wish list' today and happened to see this post from the SHIM + SONS blog in my Google reader early this morning.  Perfect timing and lost of good ideas for summer activities.

Plus, she shared a very cool downloadable 100 summer photo opportunities list via Kelly's blog.  More simple ideas for summer fun- and a reminder to capture it!

And here is one more great idea for eliminating (or reducing) those two dreaded words that never fail to come out by the 2nd week of summer.  I love this "I'm bored" jar from the Skip to my Lou blog because it puts the responsibility of entertainment in their hands, relieving a little of the "ENTERTAIN ME!!" pressure.  This blog is filled with tons of summer activities and crafts- many of which are included on our list:).

I {heart} fred flare.

Have you heard of Fred Flare??  It is the ideal store for purchasing gifts that are unique, fun, and stylish.  Perfect place to go for the hard-to-buy-for-teenager or the friend-who-has-everything...or if you're just plain sick and tired of shopping at the same ol' boring places.  Sometimes it's fun to veer away from practicality when shopping for a gift.  Brings out the inner kid (who likes silly stickers, red balloons, and candy sprinkles)- in both the giver and the receiver!

Not to mention that they have great sales.  And lots of them.  IN FACT:  Now until July 1st, you can use the discount code "summer" to receive $10.00 off of any $25.00 purchase! 

Here are some of the fun things I've purchased @ this fabulous store.

All images via  

From left to right, top to bottom: 

silly face stickers; pop art color camera; camera photo album; measure your love cups; love & toast mini perfume (sugar grapefruit); juno cheeseburger phone; t-shirt graffiti marker kit; the small object labels & stickers; wacky bandages (cupcake); bookworm bookmarks; sprinkle heart ring; polaroid notes; cool jewels ice cube tray; love on toast stamp; mini tape gun; wacky bandages (tattoo); fondue for two porcelain mug; the nancy drew cookbook

A jar of memories.

I was so inspired by this post from one of my favorite blogs that I had to create a memory jar.

That day.

And post about the cuteness that has quickly filled it.

The red note was given to her by a boy in her soon??

[Very] Last minute gift ideas for your favorite dads...

 ...or [very] early Christmas gift ideas.

a very, very cool book for today's generation of techie dads 
 Image via 
Reviews + the chapter list here

 a magazine for the tech savvy-gadget lovin-info cravin-trend junkie
 Image via

a book for the dog lover sophisticate...with a sense of humor 
Image via 

a book for the gardening dad who enjoys a little self-sufficient living
 Image via 

a man's man book for the foodie
  Image via

Another perfect salad...and Katie Lee.

See?  I mention my love of food and now the floodgates are open for food posts galore.  Actually, for one- it's been a busy week, in which I've needed to cook various dishes for different events, and for another- my garden post represented me getting back in the kitchen after a little cooking hiatus.

This sugar snap pea and radish salad is my other favorite salad to make for picnics, potlucks, parties, you-name-it.  It goes perfect with Mexican cuisine, in which I typically have a hard time incorporating "green" side dishes that are lighter (and healthier) than the main course, but complimentary to the overall menu and just as tasty.  For example, this past Cinco de Mayo, I made this meal (with the exception of the dessert and cocktail), but wanted to include a healthy side dish... hence the discovery of the easiest, prettiest, make-ahead salad that I've ever made.  And very tasty too.
Images via press article in Women's Health

As you have probably noticed at this point- if you have clicked on any of the above links- I am a fan of Katie Lee.  Given that she entered the celebrity food scene in the midst of, or due to, her [former] marriage to Billy Joel, and that she is a mere 32 years younger than he, her reputation is varied.  Personal life aside, her unpretentious style (simple yet classy) of cooking and entertaining has strongly resonated with me over the past couple of years.  I've made countless recipes from both of her cookbooks, watched all of her cooking segments on CBS, and read many of her articles.  Her passion for cooking is inspiring and she (and her recipes) has definitely held her own in the food world, and in my kitchen.

A perfect salad.

I made this orzo salad a couple years ago, after hearing Giada rave about it during her show.  I mean she really talked it up...How she makes it all of the time and always has it in her refrigerator. How she makes extra so that she and Todd can eat it during the week. How it can be made ahead and served at room temperature. How it- well, you get the point.  

So, I of course had to try this "amazing" salad recipe.  It did not disappoint.  I have since made on many occasions- baby showers, teacher appreciation lunches, cub scout potlucks, picnics, etc.  It has been a hit every time, for the epicurean and non-epicurean crowd alike.

Garden upgrade.

I am a little amazed that I've been blogging now for a whopping 2 and a 1/2 weeks and I have not yet mentioned my one true love...FOOD.  Ryan and I are self proclaimed foodies, trying to raise little foodies (*side note: click here to see a fantastic 'raising foodies' blog).  Love to cook together [with the help of a little wine].  Love to eat.  Love to watch others cook.  Love to buy cookbooks.  Love cookware and kitchen stores. Love farmers markets.  And Love growing our own food.

...which brings me to our new and improved garden!  In the past, we've had a container garden for growing a few herbs, fruits, and vegetables from early spring to late summer.  It was nice and easy to plant and maintain, and gave us the confidence to expand and experiment a little each year.  

This year, we decided to take the leap to raised garden beds.  Ryan and my mom's husband built wooden planter boxes.  The kids enjoyed helping us choose the plants and seeds (especially the watermelon, pumpkins, and chocolate mint, discovered by Jacob).  Hope we get a nice little crop!

* If you have any gardening tips or summer recipes, please share! *

Books for the young @ heart.

I recently bought a couple of these books (and bought the other two a while back) for my children, and find myself enjoying them immensely...just as much as they are.

a perfect, wordless summertime book for a little girl...and her mom
 Featured in Cookie Magazine
Image via

a book for those living a life of caution, avoiding the 'edge'
 Learn more here 
Image via 

a dictionary for the curious soul
 Image via

 guiltless pleasure for the list-makers of the world
 Learn more here & here
Image via

Summer shoes.

I have a love/hate relationship with shoes.  Love having plenty to choose from.  Hate shopping for them.  The hate usually wins over the love, which leaves me literally shoeless upon entering each new season...meaning I have a very bare minimum selection of basic shoes that have weathered through last year's season.  It doesn't help that I tend to be a rich girl trapped in a poor girl's bank account in the 'shoe department.'  So, once again, procrastination prevailed, leaving me with nothing but boots and flats.

So yesterday, I spent much more time than I'd like to admit stocking up on shoes.  I must say, having places like makes this process much easier.  Great discounts, free overnight shipping, super easy returns.  Here are my buys...crossing my fingers (or should I say, toes?) that they all work out.

little disclaimers:  1) all shoes purchased on sale from and Victoria's Secret. 2) needed both basic colors that are both comfortable and versatile...and cute, hence the gold, silver, brown, and black. 3) bought 2 similar 'flower sandals' (yellow and silver)...but I really liked them both! 4) cover-up purchased from v.s. 5) note to self: Do not wait until the last minute next year, or next season, rather.
cover-up via v.s. ~ gold sandal via v.s. ~ yellow flower sandal via v.s. ~ silver flower sandal via v.s. ~ black wedge via endless ~ retro havaianas sandal via endless

Unusual picnic spots.

Image scanned from 'April 2008 issue' of Gourmet

At the first glance of summer, gears are automatically switched- from eating indoors to out, from doing projects, or renting a movie to getting outside, being active, and having lots of picnics.  Lately, Hailey has been asking begging to visit her old schools, both her elementary school which unexpectedly closed down last summer, and the preschool that she attended.  We finally made it to both, and discovered that both were excellent spots for a picnic.  They were completely empty, allowing us to sit wherever we want, for as long as we an empty park in a remote area.  Now, not quite as remote (or pretty) as on the beach in Italy, as in the photo above, but a little different from the norm, and just as quiet and peaceful, which is exactly what we needed.

My favorite crafting tool.

I do not consider myself an avid crafter, but I do love to create handmade gifts, labels, tags, and cards.  A couple of years ago, I was on a mission to find an adhesive strong enough to apply strips of ribbon to several Christmas Cards.  I wanted the cards to look like a Christmas present (with the card being the "wrapping paper," decorated by my kids).  I needed the ribbon to lay flat, so that I could attach a little gift tag right in the cross section.  Nothing worked- glue or tape.  The glue seeped through...didn't hold the ribbon flat, or in place...was a sticky mess.  The tape...too wide or thick...didn't even stick to the ribbon.  While discussing this with an employee at Michaels, she recommended the Xyron Creative Station 
And that is when I discovered the the crafting tool that I could not live without.  
It worked perfectly for the ribbon and I used it for all of the gift tags for the center of each card.  No need to mess with tape or glue!  I have used it for many, many projects and it has been really helpful for homework assignments too.  Here is a little example of lunch-box notes that I turned into stickers, using the handy, dandy sticker maker.

Speaking of graduations...

here are some of my favorite cards to celebrate the occasion, which is right around the corner.
All cards can be found at the very cool site, Jack Cards, which deserves an entire post of its own (coming soon), but if you can't bare to wait, click here.
Inside Message:  "You Rock"

Life tips and ice cream.

Image via
A very good friend of mine has a daughter that will graduate from high school this month.  I, among others, have been asked to share a few "Life tips" that will be part of her graduation present.  Having been a psych. major, I tend to have a soft spot, for what I like to call "self-awareness" books.  As I glanced at the trusty ol' collection, I pondered over who I'd like to provide a little punch of inspiration to get me started.
 Hmmm... Eckhart?... Maya?... Dr. Laura?... Dr. Phil?... Mr. Rogers?... Kermit? (Told you- a soft spot.)
And then, I came across a little pink book, Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream, that happens to be my favorite "self-awareness" book of them all.  Any book that tells you to eat more ice cream is right up my alley.  In a very short, sweet, and simple way, Erma captures everything that I would like to share as a life tip to a graduating student, a friend, and especially as a reminder to myself.  I'll leave you with one of my favorites from this lovely little book.
"If I had my life to live over again... When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, 'Later.  Now go get washed up for dinner.'" 
After a busy month of projects, appointments, and never-ending To-Do's, this touched a little nerve.  Okay, time for a some ice cream...and maybe a nightcap too.

Happy Tuesday.

I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing Memorial Day weekend.  Ours was filled with a big gardening project (I'll share more on this soon!) and lots of cooking (and eating) with family and friends.  I'll be back later today with a longer post...just wanted to share a little beauty to start your day.
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