Happy Easter!

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. We had a wonderful Easter, filled with too much candy, a thwarted stake-out, a dream fulfilled, and a delicious meal. On Saturday, my children declared that they were going to stage a stake-out to watch for the Easter Bunny. Izzie went on an all out search for the play tent that they hadn’t touched in three years. I almost didn’t have the heart to tell her I had donated it when I cleaned out the hall closet. After about half an hour of her searching, I got up the nerve to admit what I had done. She was not impressed. For many reasons. Not to be discouraged, she decided she would create a tent out of a tarp and some blankets. So, she got to work gathering her things. She and Nate packed a bag, snacks, got out blankets – they were totally prepared.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “there is no way you two are sleeping outside all night!” Mainly because I knew that would mean one of us would have to sleep out there with them. Now, before you go thinking that I’m a jerk of a parent, let’s get some details in order. It was going to go down to 35 degrees overnight. That’s cold. Additionally, though we live in suburbia, it is quite common to see fox, deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, etc. meandering about. I’m not up for that. Sorry. Maybe when it’s a little warmer, and we have a legitimate tent, with sides, we can reconsider. Here’s what their “tent” looked like:


In my defense, I did try and reason / compromise with her. I let her know how cold it was going to be – she assured me that they had plenty of blankets. I suggested that they could fall asleep outside and that Craig and I would transfer them to their beds when we went to bed. Oh, no, she was not having that. Then, I tried putting my foot down. That was not received well, either. Finally, we came to an agreement. As long as we could eat breakfast in the ‘tent,’ they would sleep in their beds. Ok! Sounds like a plan! Peace was restored. The funniest piece of this was eavesdropping on her conversations with Nate, where they planned their next move and worked together against the great force of evil – Mom & Dad. I know, I know, these are not skills I should cultivate, but at 5 and 8, it’s still funny.

Anyway, they woke up Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn, in their own beds and looked out the window to the trail of eggs! (Please ignore the thistle – I’m going to get out to the garden soon. I promise.)


They were super excited to find their baskets and Izzie was over the moon when she discovered the hair color chalk that she had been wishing for for weeks.


Easter dinner is without a doubt, my favorite holiday meal. Typically, my father’s side of the family gathers at my cousins’ house for dinner. Like most of us, we all bring different dishes, but the menu is pretty much the same. Ham, pineapple soufflĂ©, candied sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, corn pudding and a vegetable.

I was in charge of the vegetable. I couldn’t decide on one, so I brought two. Both make excellent additions to any meal. I made Ina’s Spinach Gratin and Smitten Kitchen’s Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions. I was looking for a recipe that didn’t use anything canned. No canned soup, no canned beans and zero canned fried onions. I was excited to find a recipe on a trusted blog. This did not disappoint!


Those are real mushrooms!! There is nothing light about this dish, but nothing about it is processed, which made me happy. I didn’t take a ton of photos, because Smitten Kitchen has beautiful ones and great pointers for making this – please be sure to visit them and peruse further.

The spinach gratin has been a go-to recipe for years. It is creamy and cheesy and delicious. I love it. Period.

The real hero of my cooking day was my All-Clad Weeknight Pan that I got for Christmas:


This pan is perfect for making casseroles, where you need to mix pasta or vegetables with a sauce – it is 4 quarts, so it can easily accommodate a pound of pasta along with your sauce. It transfers right to the oven, so there’s no real need for a casserole dish. Speaking of sauce, it is perfect for making sauce, because of it’s curved sides – it resembles a much larger saucier. There’s tons of surface area for sautĂ©ing, too. All around, it’s a great pan – I can highly recommend it! (P.S. I am not in cahoots with All-Clad or Crate and Barrel – I am simply a faithful believer and user of All-Clad and wanted to share the love.)

To those of you who celebrate Easter, I hope it was a wonderful day and that you enjoyed your meal as much as I did!

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The Madhatter’s Ball

For the past few months, I have been completely immersed in the planning for a big fundraiser for my children’s school. This year’s theme was Alice in Wonderland. As the Party Chair, I was responsible for making this theme come to life. Which, I was more than happy to do…I take my party planning responsibilities very seriously.

I gathered a crack team of volunteers as my committee and we got to work. We wanted guests to feel transported to Wonderland, through sound, sight and taste. We wanted them to feel like Alice, a little off-center. I think we did a pretty bang up job.

The party was held at The Old Mill in Rose Valley. This historic building was the perfect setting for our plans. As guests arrived, they entered through a ‘card vortex.’ Hundreds of playing cards, in varying sizes were affixed to a bracing structure to create the sense of chaos. Kristin, our resident problem-solver / engineer (not to mention, very creative and talented woman), devised and built the structure.


Once guests entered the building, they were greeted with an ‘Eat me, Drink me’ table, where we had little vials of potion, Cosmopolitans and Sazaracs, and miniature cupcakes. We worked tirelessly to craft the perfect cocktail, it was really hard work. Kiersten, an integral member of the committee, without whom much of this vision would not be possible, made both the cocktails and the cupcakes. 


Here’s a close-up of the cupcakes:


And the bottles of ‘potion’:


I got these fabulous 2-ounce bottles from ebottles.com - they had a nice selection, if you want to buy a lot.

To enter the ballroom, guests had to peel back the velvet curtain to reveal Wonderland! Once inside, they immediately felt “10 feet tall” as they walked through the giant flower garden:


One of my uber-creative committee members, Sue, did the lion’s share of constructing 39 of these giant flowers!! The impact was incredible.

Folks were also greeted by this guy:


To honor the many generous sponsors, who made the event possible, we created this art installation, which we called, “Through the Looking Glass”:


You’ll see in some of the frames we featured photos of students, past and present. We gathered old frames from Goodwill, auctions and donations from families, spray-painted everything gold and created this collage of frames. Tara, another one of our incredibly talented committee members, her husband and our beloved woodshop teacher did an outstanding job constructing this beautiful piece.

We also scoured auctions and thrift shops to curate a vast collection of tea pots, tea cups, old books and other accessories to use as our tablescapes:




This was my favorite – do you see something out-of-place in the flowers?:


Every table was unique, and wonderful!

Above the central table, we created a suspended base, from which teapots and teacups toppled from:


This was quite an engineering feat – constructed and executed by Kristin. Super kudos to her.

Up on stage, Tara created our ‘Hookah Lounge.’ She constructed a giant mushroom which was surrounded by moss-covered sections of tree trunks. Seating was provided by pallets, layered with textiles and pillows:


What you can’t see in the picture above is how she even created the ‘gills’ underneath the mushroom’s cap. The detail on this piece was amazing.


No detail was overlooked – she even made tiny mushrooms, nestled into the moss growing on the tree.

Here’s what it looked like, with the cool mood-lighting – can you see how the mushroom is lit from underneath the cap???!!!:


Oh, and do you see that crazy cool chair to the right of the mushroom? One of the parents heard about the theme and let us borrow her two chairs – they were a perfect addition to the space.

Everyone was encouraged to wear their finest hats – and our Head of School was no exception! Tara and I created this beautiful Madhatter’s Hat for him:


Complete with a hand-lettered, tea-stained, burnt-edge price tag – just like in the original illustrations by John Tenniel (with a little artistic interpretation, of course!).

I can honestly say that I had so much fun working on this project. I am so lucky to have had an amazing group of women to work with. Not only were they incredibly talented, inspiring and hard-working, but the were so much fun!

P.S. I now find myself with a giant collection of china and old books, which I have no use for. Stay tuned for an eBay auction!

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Happy New Year!

Our New Year’s plan came together rather last-minute. I was trying to organize a play date for my daughter because we all just needed a little break from one another. She and her brother had had enough of playing together. Cabin fever had set in. In a big way. Luckily, the mom I was chatting with had the genius idea of combining New Year’s and a play date. Everyone wins!!

However, my house had taken on the look of four people, living in a space without actually cleaning up after themselves. Every surface had some project going on – Lego’s, Barbie’s, Gingerbread Houses, boxes turned into houses, laundry, Easy Bake Oven, etc. It was a total disaster. Oh, and, what to cook? It’s New Year’s – I can’t just throw spaghetti on a plate! I need to make it festive!! Plus, it has to appeal to five little kids. Sure. No problem.

I decided to break one of my cooking rules and make a different meal for the kids, because I had my heart set on delicious, hearty, melt-in-your-mouth short ribs on creamy goat cheese polenta from The Pioneer Woman with roasted Brussels sprouts and I knew my kids wouldn’t go for it.

For the kids, I picked Ina’s Parmesan Chicken with Skinny Fettuccini Alfredo from Gimme Some Oven and steamed broccoli.

Dessert – Chocolate Chip Lava Cookies from Kevin and Amanda. There was no need to make a separate dessert – chocolate chip cookies, oozing chocolate, with vanilla ice cream? Yeah, I think that should make everyone happy…

Now, here’s where the ‘twist’ came in. Literally. On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I decided to go work out. Let 2013 end on a positive note. Well, 2013 had other plans for me. We were warming up, just taking a little jog outside. I finished the jogging portion and started walking towards our next exercise (which the instructor was calling suicides – awesome) and my ankle just caved underneath me and brought me to the ground. Just for walking. Both my pride and ankle were in searing pain. I was helped to my car by a couple of classmates and I got my sorry butt home to the couch, with a bag of ice.

Surrounded by the squalor of my house and not one recipe started, I had no idea what to do. My husband and daughter decided to rally and became totally committed to pulling off this dinner party. I sat on the couch, and directed traffic and gave cooking tips, but everyone really stepped to the plate and made it happen. At around 1:30, I got up and started moving around – slowly. It was a full family effort.

The short ribs were flavorful and tender:


Izzie breaded all the chicken and helped with the short ribs. My little eight year old is becoming quite the chef. The alfredo was really good – didn’t taste ‘skinny’ at all. The polenta was creamy, flavorful and so good. Sorry I don’t have pictures – I was back on a chair with a bag of ice and a large glass of wine when all of this was going on. There was a lot happening at the last minute – both the polenta and alfredo were made right before serving as was the chicken - so it was a bit of a juggling act. I would not necessarily recommend this.

The chocolate chip lava cookies were ridiculous. You should make them. You will be very happy you did. Don’t forget the ice cream.


Even the table was festive. I never got around to the flowers, but, oh well.


At the end of the day, we had a great night. I think it’s safe to say these kids had a blast!

 the girls

It never would have happened without the help of my husband and daughter. Along with the patience and help of our dear friends. I thank them from the bottom of my heart!

2013 has brought some epic highs and some equally epic lows. I am happy to close the book and learn the lessons of 2013. Looking forward to a year of growth and pursuit of long standing dreams. Wishing you all a bountiful year, filled with peace and prosperity.

Happy New Year!!


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Welcoming New Neighbors (a little late…)

I live in a great neighborhood. It’s set back and quiet, we have block parties, the kids know each other and we hang out with and like our neighbors. So, when a new family joins us, I like to welcome them with a little something. Usually, that something can be measured by how long it takes me to get it together to walk down the street and deliver said something.

Well, let’s just say that this last gift took a LONG time. So long that two new families arrived. So, I decided to step up my game a little:

basket 2

Here’s the second one:

basket 1

Oh, and I made one more to give as a birthday present to my sister-in-law’s mom:


So, at the end of the day, this didn’t take a lot of money, or effort. A little bit of running around, just because there were specific items I wanted to include, but you could easily accomplish this with one or two stops.

I wanted to incorporate some homemade elements with a few complementary purchased items. I have my homemade strawberry jam on hand, which lent itself to a tea theme. I made some Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies from The Pioneer Woman and stacked them in cellophane bags that I had on hand. 

For the store-bought items, I started out at Homegoods, where I found the baskets, dish towels, cocktail napkins, the cute mugs and scone mix (in the birthday basket). Next stop, Home Depot, where I bought the small pots, the plants and the chalkboard paint. Final stop, Target, where I bought the tea and hand soap. I realize the soap is a little stretch from the tea theme, but it smelled good and it was pretty.

To put the baskets together, I painted the small pots in chalkboard paint and wrote little notes on them:


I then filled the baskets, starting with a layer of packing/craft paper in the bottom, so the elements didn’t get lost in the basket. On top of that, I put some crinkle cut paper, from Nashville Wraps, that I had left over from my son’s birthday party goodie ‘bags.’


 Then, I arranged the elements in each basket, using the dishtowels as buffers and as a way to prop up the more important items. I’m pretty psyched with how they turned out. I’m hoping my tardiness was forgiven…


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Reptile Goodie ‘Bags’

I’m not a huge fan of goodie bags at birthday parties. They are usually filled with cheap, crappy stuff, that just gets lost in the most unfortunate places. However, I recognize that my kids and their friends freaking love a goodie bag. So, who am I to deprive them of that? When it came to my son’s recent reptile-themed party, I wanted to come up with something that the kids could use, but something that wasn’t super expensive.

Granted, it’s possible I may have spent more than most people do on goodie bags, but, sometimes I get carried away. I get so focused on the theme that I lose site of the bottom line. I’m working on this.

Ok, now that we’ve gotten past that, I was inspired by the jars I’ve been seeing on Pinterest with the animals adhered to the top, painted all one color. I thought it might be fun to find a jar, that could double as a ‘terrarium’ of sorts. In the end, I was able to transform this simple glass jar from the Dollar Tree:

glass jar

Into these totally adorable goodie ‘bags.’

goodie bags2

All in all, they weren’t terribly difficult nor were they terribly time consuming. Ok, they were more time consuming than your average goodie bag, I’ll admit that. But, they were fun, and I like to do stuff like this.

To dress up the outside I printed out the labels and hang tags from my printables package from AR Party Printables. For the labels, I used Avery self-adhesive paper (full-sheet) and cut them into squares. The hang tags were printed on heavier paper and I trimmed them to size, using a straight edge to guide my knife on a self-healing cutting mat. You could use scissors, but I don’t have a steady enough hand and the edges always look uneven when I do it that way. Then, I bought two cans of spray paint, formulated for use on plastic, one in brown and one in moss green. I spray painted the plastic lids and the plastic frogs that I found at the Dollar Tree.

lids and frogs

Hello, little froggies:


A note about spray paint. Follow the directions on the can. I bought paint from two different manufacturers and the directions were different. The green paint instructed me not to do extra coats after the paint had completely dried. Well, they were right about that… I decided to ‘touch-up’ a couple areas after the fact and the existing paint started to crackle (if you look closely at the picture of the final jars above, you’ll see the crackling).

Once they were completely dry, I used a hot glue gun to adhere the frogs to the tops of the lids. I mixed and matched, instead of keeping the color uniform.

Inside the ‘terrariums’ I made a bed of ‘crinkle cut’ basket filler that I bought from Nashville Wraps. This site is an awesome resource for gift giving. If you are into packaging and wrapping, give yourself an hour or so and pour through this site.

shredded paper

By the way, there is NO way I needed this much basket filler. I may have used a total of one bag – and that’s pushing it.

Now for the contents. The shining star of these terrariums were the reptile shaped recycled crayons that I found on Etsy. Not only because they are awesome and totally relevant to the theme, but because the vendor, MadeByMaxx, is actually a young kid in Oklahoma who has a shop on Etsy. He makes them himself and his mom helps with the transactions and shipping. This is what arrived with my shipment:


I mean seriously, how could you buy your molded, recycled crayons from anyone else??

The other focal point in this terrarium was a sheet of stickers. This was a bit challenging, because I need to find something that would fit into the jar. Here’s what I found:


I stuck those in the back (half of one sheet), as a ‘backdrop’ of sorts, then filled the rest with the crayons and plastic reptiles from Dollar Tree.

goodie bag stuff

They turned out great and I’m hopeful that the kids are using their little jars for something fun at their homes!

goodie bags

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An epic reptile party

My darling son turned five recently. Like many five year-old boys, he loves reptiles, bugs, dirt, puddles, etc. When it came time to plan his birthday party, I knew I needed to incorporate one of his loves. Enter the ‘Reptile’ theme… The highlight of this event was the live reptile show, given by Snakes-n-Scales, - in my living room. I’m still trying to forget the fact that a boa constrictor was IN. MY. LIVING ROOM. (Please forgive the lack of focus in this photo – I must have been shaking. Or rocking back and forth.)


Regardless of the live animals, we had a theme – and once I have a theme, there’s no stopping me.

First stop, Etsy. Hours and hours on Etsy. Because, that’s what I do. I have to look at and analyze every single reptile related item available on Etsy. Seriously. Anyway, I found an adorable printable package that had the invitation, and a series of printables from AR Party Printables. We worked together to customize the invite and other items. I was able to carry this theme through every element of the party.

Drink Tags (blog post coming soon!):

drink tags

Grown-up Drinks – Blueberry Mojitos:


This is super simple – I used a 2 inch circle punch to make the tags and took a little piece of adhesive putty and stuck it to the side of the mason jar. Clean-up is simple, because the putty just comes right off and you are ready to use your mason jars for another purpose!

Goodie ‘Bags’ (click for more detail):

 goodie bags2

 Kid’s Drinks – Green Punch:


Aren’t these adorable? I used half pint mason jars. I found these little lizards at the Dollar Tree and adhered them to the rings with a hot glue gun.  The ‘lid’ is just a cute cupcake liner that I found at Michael’s. Punched a hole in the middle of the liner for the straw and voila!

Flower Arrangements/terrariums:

flower arrangement

I already had these cool hurricanes. I filled the bottom with rocks I got from the Dollar Tree and added some plants from my water features(however, you could do this with plastic ferns or other artificial plants). Then we added in some of the plastic reptiles that we also sourced from the Dollar Tree, put water in the bottom and that was our centerpiece.

The turtle-shaped pizza:


I used a turtle shaped cookie cutter, rolled out Trader Joe’s pizza dough, put on a little pizza sauce and cheese. To save time, we pre-cut the shapes and par-cooked them before the party. All we had to do at party time was add the sauce and cheese and bake.

The alligator-shaped cupcake display:


I found this idea in “Hello, Cupcake”, a book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. It has lots of great ideas – if you love baking and cake decorating, this is a fun book. Theirs looks a little more professional, but it was about 200 degrees that day and the icing was so soft. Oh, and we don’t pipe icing on a regular basis, so, here you go. I still think it looked awesome – many thanks to my mom’s patient hands and piping skills.

In addition to these menu items, I served fruit salad, soft pretzel sticks and assorted sandwiches. Everyone had a blast. The other kids who love reptiles got to see and touch many of these reptiles, which was a huge thrill. Even the kids who were a little hesitant around reptiles seemed to have fun.  It was a huge success, despite the excessive heat. Parents and kids felt free to linger – which to me is always a sign of a good party.

Many thanks to Snakes-n-Scales, the folks who gave the presentation. All jokes aside, they did an awesome job. Nate was thrilled and they made sure all the reptiles stayed far, far away from me, which was much appreciated. They also ensured that all of said reptiles returned to their respective tubs and left my house. If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or parts of New York (check out their website for specific coverage), I would highly recommend them. They are also a reptile rescue center, so the money you pay for the party goes towards helping animals.

BTW, did I mention there was a boa constrictor IN. MY. LIVING ROOM.???!!!! Not to mention, an alligator, python, lizards, giant turtles, I could go on…



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Homemade Vanilla – an easy gift idea

As fall approaches, I begin to think about the holidays and gift-giving. At least the homemade gifts that I’ll hand out to teachers and neighbors and friends who invite us over. For years, I’ve made strawberry jam and while I still made jam this year, I was looking for something a little different to give people who have gotten jam year-in, year-out. I wanted to find something that the kids could help with along with something that most people would appreciate getting as a gift. I came across a post about homemade vanilla. Seemed simple enough, so I decided to give it a try. Two ingredients, cute bottles and time. That’s it.

To get this project going, you’ll need a vessel to put your vanilla in. I chose these adorable 8-ounce Boston Bottles from Specialty Bottle.    


Next item is some really nice vanilla beans. You’ll need three beans for every cup of liquid. I did a Google search for vanilla beans and Beanilla.com was the best source that I could find. Very highly rated and reasonably priced. I purchased a half-pound of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans which yielded enough beans for 18, 8-ounce jars of vanilla extract. They were beautiful, filled with seeds and smelled divine.


Next stop, liquor store. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you saw that I posted a picture of a shopping cart, filled with large vodka bottles, being pushed by my 7-year-old. Well, this is why I was buying the vodka. Did I mention I like to involve my kids in these projects? Well, I wasn’t kidding.


Oh, and, by the way, I grossly miscalculated how much vodka I needed. I only needed two and a half 1.75 L bottles. Luckily, I figured that out before I made the purchase, but the picture was already on Facebook.

Now you have everything. Only other supplies you need are scissors, funnel and a 1 cup measure (if the kids are helping). First step is to prepare your vanilla beans. Cut each bean in half and then in half length-wise. This makes for great division of labor. My 5-year-old did the cut in half:


And my 7-year-old cut them in half length-wise:


Once all of the beans are cut, distribute them into the bottles (3 full beans per bottle) and fill with vodka.


Screw on the lids nice and tight and voila! Homemade Vanilla Extract. You’ll want to let the bottles sit for a couple of months to allow the beans to really flavor the liquid and turn it nice and brown. During this two-month period, give the bottles a little shake every week or so, just to encourage maximum extraction. I’m still working on what the label will look like, but I wanted to give everyone enough time to do this themselves, if you wanted to get it done in time for the holidays. I’ll be sure to share the final product when they are done!


One final note, the total cost per bottle came to $7.40 - less than half as much as the fancy stuff you’d buy at specialty shops. If your homemade gift budget is less than that, you could certainly opt for the 4-ounce jar and cut your supplies in half. I would recommend investing in quality ingredients over cutting costs on cheaper vodka or lower-quality vanilla beans. Quality over quantity, always. Good luck!!


Here’s what it looks like after one month:


As you can see, it’s gotten a lot darker. Still needs more time, but it’s good progress! I even used some in a batch of cookies and they tasted great.


Here is the final bottle. This is after two full months of steeping. You’ll see it’s that deep, rich color that you would expect from vanilla extract. Loving the label too. I purchased the floral border from Sweet Shop Design on Etsy. I downloaded the following two free fonts: Madame Klara and Janda Cheerful. There are tons of free fonts out there on the web. I usually find great compilations on Pinterest. I have a board dedicated to favorite fonts: http://www.pinterest.com/goodatev/graphic-design/ - feel free to follow along!

Final product Vanilla 



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Canning with ‘Food in Jars’

Yes, it’s true, I can. I love to ‘put up’ the bounty of summer. I’ve canned a lot of different things – jams, tomatoes, marinara, jalapenos, apple sauce, etc. If you follow me on Facebook (which you should!), you’d have seen that I am looking for a good bloody mary recipe to can. I would say that I am a mid-level canner – I know enough to get a good seal, but I don’t yet have the confidence to stray too far from a recipe. Which is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to learn from a master canner and super talented cookbook author, Marisa McClellan. She has a wonderful blog / website, dedicated to canning, called Food in Jars. She has written a beautiful cookbook, also called ‘Food in Jars.’

bookI have been following her for a while. When I first got into canning a few years ago, hers was one of the websites I devoured to get my bearings. She’s got lots of great pointers, recipes and anecdotes that helped me feel confident that I, too, could can.

Now, before you get too excited, please don’t picture her and I, two bloggers, hanging out in the kitchen, canning. As much as I would have loved that, I actually attended a class that she held at a local library. She stood up in front and hosted us all for about an hour, giving great information and answering all of my, er, our questions. All the while, she was making a small batch of apricot jam. Which was delicious, by the way.

As I mentioned, I consider myself a mid-level canner. Which to me means, as long as the recipe is good, I will be successful. But, if I have to guess at anything, I sort of panic and don’t know what to do. I have had several failures recently with getting the jam to set. Which means, my jam looks more like a fruit syrup (see photo below). Jam should not move freely about the jar. Contents should not shift during flight. The first time it happened, I thought maybe the pectin I used was old. When it happened again recently, I was mad. I needed to get to the bottom of this problem.

bad jam

All the recipes that I follow use pectin and I use normal, every-day pectin. I’m too afraid to go low-sugar, or God-forbid, none at all. These recipes all say ‘boil vigorously for one minute – only.’ I’m terrified to go any longer, I mean, what in the world will happen to my jam???!?! (See what I mean? Panic.)

Turns out, I wasn’t cooking it long enough. Duh. Thank God for Marisa – she totally calmed me down and assured me of the issue at hand and how easily corrected it is. She reminded me to do the saucer test – put a saucer in the freezer while you are cooking your jam. To test the set, drop a little on the saucer and put it back into the freezer for a couple of minutes. If it has formed a skin while in the freezer, it is set. If not, keep cooking.

Thanks to Marisa, I have a new-found confidence. I am going to open up those bad jars right now and try to fix them!! I read a quote recently: “A winner is a loser who tries one more time.” I think it was in reference to weight loss, but whatever, it applies to this too. I plan to be a winner today!

If you are thinking of getting into canning, I would recommend trying to catch a class with her. Follow her on Facebook – she announces all of her upcoming classes there. If you can’t get to see her in person, check out her website. She has a real no-nonsense approach to canning that will put anyone at ease.

Carrie and Marisa

Thanks for your time and help, Marisa!! Anytime you are looking for some canning company, drop me a line!

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I love mojitos!!

I am a huge fan of mojitos. The refreshing combination of mint, lime, rum and soda water are incredible. Definitely a summer staple for me. I also love mojitos that have been doctored with fruits and different flavors. The basic mojito is a great starting point for lots of flavor combinations.

Recently, while procrastinating on Pinterest, I came across a recipe for Blueberry Mojitos from The Novice Chef. Of course, I was drawn in by the word ‘mojito’ but as I read the blog post, I was mesmerized by the gorgeous photos. Plus, this delicious concoction was pictured in a mason jar. I just love anything in a mason jar. If you want me to pin something of yours, put it in a mason jar. I will pin it, that’s a fact. 


I changed the recipe a little, to my taste – doubling the mint and the sugar, but otherwise kept it the same. Mine are much more purple, which I don’t totally understand, but they were still pretty and more importantly, delicious.


I made up a huge batch and served these at my son’s birthday party. I always like to have a little something for the parents who come and sit through these parties. They are great fun for a five year-old, but for the parents it is often a labor of love. It’s always a nice surprise to be remembered. Not necessary, but nice. For all you parents, who will be sitting through a kid’s party this weekend, I hope there’s something as beautiful as this waiting for you as your reward for being an awesome parent. Enjoy!

 mojitos close up

Blueberry Mojito
Serves 2
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  1. 1 cup fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish
  2. 4 ou. white rum
  3. 20 fresh mint leaves
  4. 4 tsp sugar
  5. Juice of 2 limes
  6. 6 ou club soda
  1. In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries until smooth.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine the mint leaves and sugar. Muddle together with either a muddle, or a wooden spoon. The sugar helps to release the delicious oils from the mint leaves. Add the lime juice, rum and blueberries and shake well.
  3. Divide mixture between two ice-filled glasses, and top off with club soda. Give the drinks a stir and garnish with a sprig of mint, a lime wedge and some extra blueberries.
Adapted from Blueberry Mojito, The Novice Chef
Good at Everything http://goodateverything.net/

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Easy, flavorful summer dinner idea

 I don’t know about you, but, I’m hot. And not in a good way. It’s sticky, humid and generally gross here on the east coast. I am currently hiding up in my air conditioned office – “working.” At some point, I know I’m going to have to switch gears and think about dinner. If I don’t, I risk my daughter telling on me – and I don’t want a bad reputation.

As I think about options requiring the least amount of heat, I am reminded of one of my favorite summer dinners: Summer Garden Pasta by Ina Garten. This dish is the epitome of summer flavors. It is bursting with sweet tomatoes, delicious basil and flavorful garlic. The angel hair pasta soaks up all the juices and is a perfect, light accompaniment to the tomatoes.


Before you say it, I know – Ina, again??!! Just bear with me – it’s awesome, I promise. The only heat required for this one is the boiling water for the pasta.

This is one of those recipes where quality of ingredients are key. There are so few ingredients, each one plays an integral part in the flavor of the overall dish. Use the freshest ingredients possible – as tomato season approaches, visit a farm stand and get them fresh from the source. Fresh basil and garlic are a must. Also, this recipe makes a TON! You can easily halve the recipe, or, make the whole thing and eat the leftovers cold out of the Tupperware (not that I’ve ever done this).

 Here’s what you’ll need:


4 pints cherry tomatoes, 6 cloves garlic, 18 basil leaves, olive oil, 1 pound angel hair pasta, 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (if you like a little heat).

Mince the garlic, chop the basil and cut cherry tomatoes in half and combine with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (if using) in a large bowl (you’ll need the space for the pasta later). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least four hours.


When you are ready to eat, boil a big pot of salted, oiled water and cook your angel hair pasta according to the package. Make sure your pot is big enough so your pasta has room to move, to keep it from sticking together. Stir it frequently.

Before you pour all the pasta water down the drain, reserve a little, just in case you need it to loosen the pasta when you mix it with the tomatoes. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and mix the pasta and parmesan cheese with the tomatoes and toss well. Serve in large pasta bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese and basil.

See, wasn’t that easy? Stay cool, my friends.


Summer Garden Pasta
Serves 6
A simple dinner, filled with the flavors of summer.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
4 hr 25 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
4 hr 25 min
  1. 4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  2. Good olive oil
  3. 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic (6 cloves)
  4. 18 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
  5. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  6. Kosher salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1 pound angel hair pasta
  9. 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for serving
  1. Combine the cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, basil leaves, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for about 4 hours.
  2. Just before you're ready to serve, bring a large pot of oiled, salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the directions on the package. Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and some extra fresh basil leaves and toss well. Serve in big bowls with extra cheese on each serving.
Good at Everything http://goodateverything.net/

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