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.
Write a review
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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Drink of the week (a little late)…

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw this picture of a delicious Lemon-Thyme Tequila Spritzer last Thursday:


You also saw that I promised a recipe Friday, which has long since passed. Here’s what happened. After sipping on several of these beauties, I decided that I needed to play around with the original recipe, which didn’t happen until much later in the weekend.

When I started this blog (a distant three weeks ago…) I knew that I wanted to share tried-and-true recipes. I want my readers to be able to come here and know they are getting a great recipe. I promise that I will never post a recipe that I have not tested, tasted and approved. Lots of the recipes I will share will be from other sources. I will always credit and link to the original recipe. However, there will be many times that I will put my own twist or infuse my personal taste on something, which I will also share within the post. 

This recipe is no different. The original inspiration for this recipe came from a post on Pinterest, from another blog, Love and Homemade Recipes. I am a big fan of herbs in my cocktails, so I knew I had to give this one a try. The original recipe is lovely – though, I felt I wanted to tweak it a little for my tastes.

Here’s what you’ll need:


Organic lemons, sugar, thyme, good tequila (I use Patron), and sparkling water. First thing you want to do is make the simple syrup. If you are able, make this in advance, so it has time to cool and the thyme can to infuse the syrup. Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, the zest of 2 lemons and a bunch of thyme (the more you add, the more thyme flavor you’ll get) in a saucepan. If you are unable to make the syrup in advance, put more thyme in. Bring syrup to a low boil and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Let syrup cool completely. 

By the way, does everyone have a zester? It is an indispensible kitchen tool that will make quick work of the zesting task. I also use mine for grating small amounts of parmesan cheese or shaved chocolate. This is what one looks like. You can buy them at any kitchen supply store.


 Ok, back to the recipe. Squeeze the juice of six lemons and strain the juice into a small pitcher (1L). Add 1/2 cup tequila to the pitcher, the cooled simple syrup, a handful of ice and fill the remainder of the pitcher with sparkling water. Stir well. Float some lemon slices and sprigs of thyme in the pitcher for decoration. Fill some pretty glasses with lemon slices, a sprig of thyme, ice and the spritzer and enjoy!

This is a delightfully refreshing drink – I hope you love it as much as I do!

Lemon-Thyme Tequila Spritzer
A deliciously refreshing summer cocktail.
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  1. Lemon-Thyme Simple Syrup
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 1 cup water
  4. 2 organic lemons, zested
  5. 10 sprigs thyme
To prepare drink
  1. 6 lemons, juiced and strained
  2. 1/2 cup good tequila
  3. sparkling water
  4. ice
  5. lemon slices
  6. thyme sprigs (for garnish)
  1. Combine sugar, water, lemon zest and thyme sprigs in saucepan. Bring to low boil and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes. Cool completely.
  2. Strain simple syrup and pour into a small pitcher, combine lemon juice, tequila, a handful of ice, and fill the remaining space with sparkling water. Stir well. Serve over ice with lemon slices and a sprig of thyme for garnish.
  1. Try to make the simple syrup ahead of time and leave the thyme sprigs in the syrup to infuse more flavor.
Adapted from Kelly Brisson, The Gouda Life
Good at Everything http://goodateverything.net/




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Learning something new

I had the most enjoyable Sunday afternoon yesterday. My friend Megan, who I have known longer than I can remember, came over for a visit. She and I were the best of friends as children. We would have great sleepovers, we went to sleep-away camp together, we were Brownies and Girl Scouts together, her mom made us silver dollar pancakes in bed, her father tied my beloved teddy bear to a tree with a ransom note… You know, the usual kid stuff. But best of all, we played Barbies. All the time. Here we are in 1981:


Cute, right? Here we are today:


I know what you’re thinking – did she just post the same picture twice?? Nope – the second one was taken just yesterday. I promise. Anyway, she is also very good at a lot of things – she is a gifted artist, award-winning, even – she won the public vote in the Washington Post 2012 Holiday Craft Contest for her stunning Pysanky eggs.

She is also an avid knitter. Knitting is something that I have never tried – though, not so long ago, my friend suggested someone make a Bauble Sheep Pillow for our annual fund raiser at our kids’ school (we have two sheep on campus – so the pillow would be a huge hit). I thought, how hard can this be??? According to several of my friends who knit, it could be pretty difficult… So, I decided I should learn how to knit, so someday, in the not so distant future, I could produce this fabulous sheep.

Megan generously offered to teach me and I had my first lesson on Sunday. I thought I would make this post a tutorial, but the truth is, I still have a lot to learn. And a lot of practice to do. Instead, I’ll share the websites that Megan recommended for great tutorials and guidance – knittinghelp.com has tons of short videos that you can watch to perfect your stitches. She also suggested ravelry.com, an online community of knitters and crocheters. It’s hard core, but a great resource as one gets more into it. Folks post pictures of their projects along with patterns, yarn, suggestions, etc. For instance, over 75 people have already done the sheep project – if things don’t work out, I’ll just offer one of them some cash…

In order to advance to the sheep, Megan gave me a homework assignment – 4 dishtowels. All different patterns. If I can master those, she assures me that I can master the sheep. I’m about 1/4 of the way through my first dishtowel. I’m getting the hang of it.


I’m a long ways away from baubles, but, you know me, I’m good at everything, I’m sure this will be no different…

The added bonus is that Megan also taught my daughter, who was reluctant at first, but picked it up again this evening. Instead of reading stories tonight, we knitted together. It was really sweet.  

Lots of love, Carrie

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The proper thing to bring to a potluck…

Ok, truth time, I didn’t just bring Sangria to the potluck. I didn’t want to look like a complete boozebag, so, I also brought Ina Garten’s Pesto, Pasta and Pea Salad. It is always a hit and makes a lot. I made a few changes to the recipe, just for convenience, however, Ina’s recipe is fabulous on it’s own. 

I love Ina. I think anybody learning to cook should pick up at least one of her cookbooks. Her recipes are simple and delicious. I have never made anything from her cookbooks that has disappointed (some will say that she uses a bit too much salt, so, just be careful there…). I always know I can trust her recipes. She tests the heck out of them and our palates seem to be a match.

Plus, her husband, Jeffery, is about the cutest man on the planet. They adore each other so much, and it just puts a big grin to my face every time I see them together. It is my dream to cook with her one day. She has been such an inspiration to me, she has taken risks and worked hard to build her business, all the while, pursuing her passion.

I’ll stop with my lovefest. For now. On to the recipe!

First, you’ll need two pounds of pasta – the recipe calls for two types, bow-tie and fusilli. The two just give a little contrast and pep up the salad a bit. Use your judgment – if you only want to use one kind of pasta, go for it. 

dry pasta

I cook them separately, in well-salted, oiled water, to ensure even cooking. If you have time, you can dump the first round of water and boil a new batch of water for the second pasta. However, don’t sweat it if you are rushed for time. Just re-boil the water and cook pasta number two. I’ve done it both ways, and can’t tell the difference – and no one died. Put the cooked pasta in a large bowl and toss with some olive oil to keep it from sticking.


While you are cooking the pasta, prepare the dressing. You’ll need pesto (I used pre-made, but this would be even better with fresh pesto),  pine nuts, frozen (defrosted) peas, frozen spinach (defrosted and drained), lemons, mayonnaise, and parmesan cheese.

In a food processor, combine the spinach, pesto, and lemon juice. Puree together. Next, mix in the mayonnaise.

mixer mayo

Pre-heat a dry pan over medium heat, and toast the pine nuts until golden brown. Make sure the pan is big enough for the pine nuts to lay in a single layer.

 pine nuts

Once the pasta has cooled, combine the pesto dressing, peas, pine nuts, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Mix until all is evenly combined.

final salad

That’s it! You’re done. Now, go sneak a glass of sangria.

Lots of love, Carrie

Pasta, Pesto and Peas
Serves 15
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
16 min
Total Time
36 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
16 min
Total Time
36 min
  1. 1 pound fusilli pasta
  2. 1 pound bow tie pasta
  3. 1/4 cup good olive oil
  4. 1 3/4 cups pesto (packaged or homemade)
  5. 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  6. 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  7. 1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
  8. 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  9. 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
  10. 1/3 cup pine nuts
  11. 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  12. 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook pasta according to packages, separately, in well-oiled, salted water. Set pasta aside in a large bowl and toss with some olive oil.
  2. In a food processor, puree the spinach, pesto, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and mix well.
  3. Pre-heat a dry pan to medium heat and toast the pine nuts in a single layer until golden brown.
  4. Combine pesto mixture, salt, pepper, parmesan, peas, and pine nuts with the cooled pasta. Stir until well combined. Season to taste.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Good at Everything http://goodateverything.net/
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