Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sneak Peek this Week

Hi friends! I hope you enjoyed your long weekend and that you had a bit more sun than we did in California.  But not to worry, we didn’t let the rain stop us:
Do you know what you are looking at? 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My “Whole Package” Greek {protein packed} Orzo Salad

Hi and Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Yay!

My family will be BBQ-ing with friends twice this weekend {we’re just pretending it’s not STILL raining here in Nor Cal, seriously?} ……so in the spirit of efficiency, I am going to serve the same dish 2 days in a row!  I have been playing around with Orzo Pasta lately, and have created a few dishes that ended up being hits!  Today I’ll share my “Whole Package Greek {protein packed} Orzo Salad” with you.  That’s quite a name, huh? You should have seen the original name: whole-package-Greek {protein packed} lemon-feta-sundried tomato-kalamata olive salad. Then I realized I can just give you an ingredients list instead!



{note: my goal was to use the whole packages of most everything…I never seem to remember use up half-filled jars of things}

~1 pound orzo pasta

~6 TBS olive oil {doesn’t that sound better than 1/2 cup? it’s the same though!}

~1 pound feta cheese {or should I say, 16 oz.}

~1 can garbanzo beans {chickpeas…Trader Joes 15 oz.- this is how the title gets “protein packed” in its name}

~1 jar kalamata olives {Trader Joes 12 oz.}

~1 jar sliced sundried tomatoes in olive oil {Trader Joes 8.5 oz.}

~1 bunch parsley, approx. 3/4 cup chopped {this is a SUPER easy one to grow in the garden}

~1/2 cup toasted pine nuts {just bake them for 10 min. at 350}

~juice from 1-2 lemons {I’m on a lemon kick lately}

~pepper {& salt?}


Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain.  Rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking more.


Immediately after rinsing, place orzo into a bowl and stir in the olive oil right now. It keeps the orzo from sticking together.



While the orzo is cooking, you can do all of your prepping: chop the feta, half the olives, chop the parsley, drain/rinse the garbanzo beans, open the sundried tomatoes, toast the pine nuts & open the sundried tomatoes {I don’t drain them…just pour in the olive oil too}



Next, mix all of the ingredients you just prepped in with the orzo.


Finally, juice your lemon(s) and stir in.  Add a generous sprinkling of pepper {you should taste it to see if you want to add salt…I think there’s enough salt in the feta and olives that it doesn’t really need more, but you might appreciate the salt taste right on the tip of your tongue.

Serves 16. 

{Of course you could half the recipe if that’s too much…or freeze some?, but I needed enough for 2 BBQs and I wanted to use the whole jar of everything!}


Will you be doing any BBQ-ing this 3-day weekend??

If you are, check out my recipes for Cuban BBQ Chicken and also BBQ shrimp if you like!

Have a fun & relaxing weekend!  Smile!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beachy Mantel Details {summer mantel}

Oh, this is just too exciting!  I’m gearing up for my first ever mantel linky party!  When I first started blogging last year, I didn’t know what a linky party was and I didn’t have a mantel.  Since then I’ve done quite a bit of partying and decided I *needed* to install a mantel so I could keep up with the Jonses jump on the band wagon. {To see my mantel installation click here…and to see when I painted the fireplace white click here!}

Please allow me to give you a tour of my mantel, all dressed up for its first ever linky party!!



 My goal was a beach theme with aqua accents…so I was thrilled when I found this wonderfully shaped aqua bottle at Crate and Barrel. And, it was on sale for 50% off!

Next I used a couple of vases I had stashed away from flower deliveries over the years and wrapped them with jute rope {tutorial coming soon}.  I filled them with sand/shells.  I also filled the apothecary jar {which I picked up at World Market with my $10 off coupon} with sand and shells. I got the shells in  a huge bag from Michaels, with my 40% coupon. And finally I topped them with battery operated tea lights from World Market.

Speaking of coupons, did you know you can do a Google search for coupons before you hit the stores?  Well, at least the stores listed above.  I can always find coupons for 30-40% off for Michaels & Jo Ann’s.  Also, World Market usually has a $10 off $30 coupon floating around too.

Moving along…


 This water pitcher is probably 40+ years old. As a child, I can always remember this little guy filled with cold water in our refrigerator. I was lucky enough to inherit it a few years ago and have finally put it to use again! It’s fun to think of my childhood each time I glace over at it.IMG_6009

And the starfish is also from Michaels.  Waaaay cheaper than from Pottery Barn.  Well, I actually should take that back…PB Kids had a set of 4 the other day for under $20…that’s around the same price as this one.


I think this is my favorite find! I just love this jar. I found it at World Market, advertised as a bee catching jar. You are supposed to put something sweet smelling in it and I guess the bees fly in the bottom but can’t get out? Well, for me it was perfect for the mantel! Just look underneath, there is a hole the perfect size for a votive to sit inside {just make sure you use battery powered votives, not the real thing or you could cause a little explosion!} IMG_5419

See the hole in the bottom!



I told ya, it’s a wasp trap! But I think it’s too cute for those bad guys!  Plus, it’s aqua tinted….thumpity- thump goes my heart! Can you hear it?  IMG_6012

Next comes the sand dollars I’ve saved for 5 years since a good friend’s wedding. These were used for table assignments at their Hawaiian reception. {Our names are on the other side!}


Three little votive holders I made with jute string…and real candles this time!


Do you recognize this jar?! It’s one of the mason jars I painted myself. If you missed it, see the tutorial here.

Then I just filled it with beach glass which I picked up at Michaels.

{I started to raid my son’s own beach glass collection, which along with the beach rocks could have easily filled this jar…but he protested so it was just another excuse to go to Michaels. Bummer, huh!}


My son started to protest me taking this one out of his room…but when I promised to hang his new Star Wars posters I framed for him in its place {see them here} he quieted right down. This is an old PB Kids piece that I bought on HUGE sale like 6 years ago.


Finally that old pine mirror in the middle.  It’s been under my bed for the last, um, 9 years.  But not just 9 years under my bed…this is the 3rd house in which she’s sat patiently under my bed…just waiting for her chance again.  I’m thinking a very pale coat of turquoise would give her new life…we’ll see what I can come up with in the next couple of months…before it’s time to change this mantel for fall!

Now I’m not sure if you recall the first time I posted my finished mantel after building it, but I had a string of lights hanging from below:



They seemed kinda beachy to me…with their woven rattan look…reminds me of the ones Pottery Barn sells, but I got mine for half the price at World Market.  Here’s PB’s:

pbrattan lights

They’re cute, huh?  I liked them. But then I decided to take them down.  Why?  Well, I know that I want lights up there at some point during the year.  Christmas for SURE, maybe even Halloween/Thanksgiving….but I wanted the lights to be something extra special, not just an every day thing.  So I decided to take them down for the summer and most likely these exact ones will go up in the fall. What do you think?

So that’s it folks! My mantel’s ready to par-tay!! 

The Lettered Cottage

It’s gonna be fun changing it up with the seasons. Smile!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Little Garden Time

Do you remember my fall garden last year? I decided to pull out all the flowers from the planter box in our front courtyard and replace them with an edible garden.  With a nice winter harvest under our belt thumb {and broccoli rabe coming out our ears}, we were excited to plant a spring/summer garden this weekend. 
After 2 failed attempts to buy veggies from big box stores, we ended up at our local nursery where we picked up a cart load of wonderful looking organic fruits and veggies.  {The box stores do not carry organic and their selection is very limited.}
The garden bed was fairly well emptied already…we removed all the old veggies a few months ago and I weed every few days as I walk by.  One thing about having your garden in your front entry is that you’re motivated to keep it looking nice presentable.
So this is the before picture.  We just needed to pull a few more weeds and old plants and sprinkle on a little “Fresh Start” fertilizer and we’re all set. {I wanted to add our own compost to it, but it is not quite ready!  Almost…}
Turning over the dirt is so fun!
We could have done this all afternoon!
But we had to start planting eventually.
And here we are…about 85% finished.  We still have a few plants to add that were started as seeds on our kitchen window sill.
Left to right we have: 6 corn, 6 Swiss chard, 6 spinach, 6 salad greens, 6 arugula, 2 cilantro, 1 yellow squash and 1 basil.  Still to come: carrots, beans, and pumpkin…we’ll transplant those in another week or so…we started those from seeds.
Tomorrow I’ll show you our back garden: also a flower bed turned garden.  It’s filled with strawberries, tomatoes, and all sorts of herbs.  
Are you planting a garden this summer?  Even if it’s in containers it counts! Or just a few herbs on your window sill.  You can do it!  It’s so worth it.  Smile!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tissue Paper Votive Holders {craft for kids}

Hello friends!  Seems like it’s been a while…probably cause it has!  I’ve been a little lazy super busy lately.  For some reason this week, and month for that matter, have been exceptionally crazy around here.
But today I wanted to share with you a super easy craft you can make with kids of all ages.  I made these with 8 preschoolers a couple of weeks ago.  The kids all gave them to their moms for Mother’s Day.  These are a perfect last minute gift to give any female in your kids’ lives.  I’m thinkin’ they’d be a great homemade teacher gift, too.  
So here’s what you need:
~baby food jars
~multi-colored tissue paper {think: leftovers from all the gift bags you have stashed}
~Mod Podge
~paint brush
IMG_5628 mod podge
Ok, the directions are easy peasy chicken lemon squeezy {you can thank twin A for that one}
Step 1:  Tear or cut your tissue paper into small pieces {smaller than the height of the baby food jar}
IMG_5647 IMG_5650
Step 2: Cover jar with Mod Podge using a paint brush.  Then place tissue paper all over jar and cover tissue paper with Mod Podge.
Be sure to cover with a thick layer of Mod Podge on top.  More than you think necessary {if you’ve never used this stuff before.}  They should look very white.  But not to worry, it dries completely clear!  It’s Amazing!  Sorry I don’t have more action shots…but I was making these with 8 preschoolers, so my hands got a little too gooey to take pics!  But here’s what they look like drying:
Be sure to completely cover with tissue paper, the more layers the better.  And then a gloppy coat of Mod Podge and set upside down to dry.
See, it really does dry clear!  But you can see the places where tissue paper was thin or non-existent.  Put on as much tissue paper as you can! 
Then you can place a votive candle inside and voila, it’s that simple!
We light them each night at dinner.  My girls love them and are so proud they made them all by themselves!
And just in case you were wondering about the vase/jar…I posted a tutorial here on how to create your own “vintage” aqua mason jars!

Linking up at a fun for kids party at Smile Monsters!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

And the winner is…

…comment #85: Gianna, firstgiveawaywinnerwho would try Freschetta’s 6-Cheese Medley.  Yum!


Thank you to all my loyal readers who {hung in there despite Blogger being down} entered my first ever giveaway.

I look forward to many more giveaways for you guys…

FREE is good!

Have a beautiful week!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Oh they joys of technology!

Wasn’t life so much simpler when we didn’t have computers or cell phones?
Ok, don’t answer that….but seriously, we might not have been able to shop for anything in the world 24/7 {if it wasn’t at the local mall it didn’t exist}; we couldn’t price compare between 519 stores on Google shopping {and may have, sit down for this, paid $3 more for a pair of shoes than we needed to}; we might not have been able to research every possible kitchen design in the history of the modern world {but relaxed on the sofa at night, looking at pictures from a handful of glossy magazines}; we couldn’t reach everyone every second of the day {but then again WE couldn’t be reached every second of the day}; we couldn’t fire off emails/texts at lightening speed anytime a thought crossed our mind {we might have had to just sit on a thought for more than a half second, giving it time to digest}; we didn’t know what our old college roommate’s kid said at school today {but then again, we weren’t having to carve out time each day to fit in Facebook/Twitter/email}; we didn’t have all these amazing blogs that stress us out wondering how every other mom/blgoger seems to be able to do it all give us such incredible inspiration on every subject {but then again we didn’t have to worry about our blog’s first giveaway getting derailed half-way through because the server was down- seriously?
Ahhhh, life was so much simpler.

My First Give-Away!

UPDATE: Friday, May 13, 2011- I am so sorry, but Blogger has been down for the past two days and needed to erase and repost all posts created after Wed. morning (5/11), which this post was.   When they finally got this post reposted, it was done so without all of the comments/entries that were already made.  So if you made a comment/entry for this giveaway on Wed. 5/11 or Thurs. 5/12, please please re-enter!  Any entries made on Friday 5/13 are all set to go. 

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of FRESCHETTA®. All opinions are 100% mine.
Hey hey! I'm back with another day of excitin' news for me and YOU! 
Welcome to my first ever blog give-away! There are so many milestones we bloggers achieve: our first follower, our second follower, our third follower, the first follower who is someone we DON’T know, our first linky party, our 100th post {this is #96 for me}, our first year anniversary, our first sponsor, our first give-away, our first…..WAIT!! 
This is my first give-away!
Ok, enough of the chatter, let’s get down to business already…
So let’s start out by showing you what the give-away is for, shall we?
This beautiful bamboo cutting board and hors d'oeuvres knives:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DIY Made my day!

I woke up this morning to a spectacular surprise: I was featured on The DIY Showoff!
When you are a newish blogger, being featured on any blog is an honor…heck, just knowing that someone besides those you begged your family are actually reading your blog! But to find out that a very popular blogger has written a surprise feature about you, well that’s something to turn cartwheels over!