Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Birthday Gift!

So I wanted to do a post on the gift I just got my BFF for her birthday this year...
I think it is the CUTEST gift ever, and I think you would really enjoy how I put it together!
She got me an insanely cute gift for my birthday this past year, so I definitely had to get her something!

On my trip to Peddler's Village, PA with my mom, Aunt, n Cousin a few weeks ago, I found this ADORABLE little candle holder in a candle shop!  I thought it was SO pretty, so I just had to scoop one up for her! (I loved it so much that I actually bought myself one too :-X) 

Also on my trip to Peddler's Village, we spent a good chunk of time in this beautiful new age shop that had all sorts of cute glittery cards and art.  I found this little birthday card, I thought it was absolutely adorable to go with her gift!

The maker of this card is PAPAYA.

They really have some BEAUTIFUL stuff <3 p="">

So silly me, I bought my bff a candleholder with no candles!!!
On a trip to Walgreen's, I found some AMAZING scented tea lights.
I bought her one Gardenia (these smell so spring fresh!)
and also one pack of Apple Cinnamon, because it reminded me of Autumn, which is right around the corner! It's my BFF's favorite season, as well as mine, so I knew she'd just LOVE these!

While my cousin and aunt were here, we also hit up Marshall's, where I found this adorable gift bag...
It is so colorful and whimsical, I thought it went perfectly with the gift!
I always save my tissue paper when I buy new stuff from Victoria's Secret, so I used some bright pink tissue paper to fill the gift bag...

So I put all the goodies in the gift bag, and then wrote a personal little note on the card...

I decorated the inside of the card, as well as the envelope with some rubber stamps that my mom had gotten me for christmas a few years back...

I thought they were so adorable, and she would really get a kick out of the bratty characters...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend Project: Welcome Mat

How was your weekend!??! Mine was relaxing despite my never ending battle with this respiratory infection.  It's been about 2 or 3 weeks now, and it will just not go away.  I went to the doctor's on Friday and she put me on an inhaler to help me breathe and clear some "residual" mucus. If it doesn't clear in a week I might just ask for an antibiotic, cuz this is just ridiculous :-( 

I'm exhausted, haven't been sleeping at night, every time I fall asleep, I wake myself up choking and gasping for air. It's horrible, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy :-( 

Anyway, to kind of brighten my spirits, my mom said she had a project for me to do on Saturday...

She has had this welcome mat that had faded horribly from years of outdoor use in the dirt and sun... 
She asked me if I would paint it really colorful for her, so I was excited to do an arts n crafts project! 

I started applying the paint, but the fuzziness of the rug was absorbing the paint too much , and I wasn't getting the vibrant colors that I wanted right off the bat.  
So I decided then to add a coat of modge podge gloss on first in order for the paint to glide nicely across the surface and have the pigment dry nice and bright.


I also added some metallic paint to give some details a nice magical sheen to it! 
My dragonfly came out so beautifully, I am so happy with it! 
I also had some green glitter paint that I added as well...
It's going to sparkle so nicely in the sun! 

This is my progress so far, it was ALOT more work than I had thought it would be, so on Saturday I only got done as much as you see in this picture above... 

Because soon it was dinner time!! 
I had to clean up the table because we were dining Al Fresco tonight!

My dad had made a crockpot of Veal Stew which was 


I must get this recipe from him!

Have some bread to soak up the broth!

That was yummy!

So today I managed to work a little bit on the welcome mat, but not much because I had set up shop outside but then it had started to rain :-( 
I cleaned up quickly so I didn't take any progress pics today....

But I WILL show you what we had for dinner today...

Sunday in my house is always pasta and sauce day...

Every Sunday my dad puts different things in the sauce, sometimes pork or beef chunks, sometimes meatballs, but today it was garden eggplant!!

It was so delicious...

After dinner I just took it easy...
I started watching Game of Thrones, 
Avi has been raving about the show, 
so I am trying to catch up to him so then we can start watching it together.

After an episode, I took a nap, tried to get used to my new inhaler, and then we watched Breaking Bad.
We are TV junkies, I must say.
Totally Guilty! 

Well that is all for now... I will post more on the welcome mat when I make some more progress!!

Ta ta for now! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cooking With Ashley: Mushroom & Broccoli Risotto, Gluten Free Pasta With Lemon Yellow Squash, Spinach, & Shrimp, and Garden Tomato & Cucumber Parmesan Salad

So yesterday my BFF Ashley and I had set a date to get together and do some Arts n' Crafts!

I was still feeling a bit under the weather so we decided to hit up the health food store because a friend of ours was raving about Oregano Oil which is said to be good for respiratory health and many other things.  Ashley was also telling me how a friend of hers was suggesting that she go on a gluten free diet, because all her life she has had eczema issues with her skin.  In efforts to clear up her skin once and for all, she really wanted to try out some options to see if she would be able to follow through with a gluten free diet.  Last year, my dad had also tried the gluten free route, so I am very familiar with some gluten free products and had pointed her in the right direction as far as alternatives for certain foods go.  We are both Italian, and cutting out pasta altogether is pretty much sacrilegious!  

So I picked up some Oregano Oil and she picked up some Gluten Free Pasta to try out...

Our Arts n Crafts Day turned into a Cooking Party!! I also remembered I had leftover mushrooms n spinach from last weeks soup post, and I wanted to use them up before they went bad! I hate wasting food! 

We tried out some gluten free dishes that she would enjoy eating, and that are super easy to make as well!

The menu for this cooking party was 
Mushroom n Broccoli Risotto
Gluten Free Pasta with Yellow Squash, Spinach, n Shrimp
Garden Tomato n Cucumber Salad

So we started with our 
Mushroom Risotto

For this recipe you will need

Olive Oil
1 Clove of Garlic
Chopped Mushrooms
( you can use fresh Broccoli, but I had the last bit of a frozen bag left, so I wanted to just use the rest)
1/2 a Small Onion 
(also had this onion being saved in the fridge so I just used it to get rid of it)
1 Cup Arborio Rice
1 Cup of Water
1 Cup Chicken Stock
Parmesan Cheese
White Wine
(You can use cooking wine if you have it on hand, but I just used regular wine I had around the house)
Salt n Pepper

So we're going to start off prepping our veggies, so first dice up your mushrooms and onions and throw them into a bowl along with your broccoli heads.

Next mince your garlic and coat the bottom of your pan with extra virgin olive oil.
How magical does that look?!? 
Can't you just smell it from there?

Once that is simmering nicely, and before the garlic turns brown, add your bowl of veggies!!
Let those really simmer and cook through nicely before adding your rice....

Once your veggies are pretty much cooked through enough, you want to add your 1 Cup of Arborio rice.  I really love this rice because as it cooks it starts to form this creamy like consistency and it is 

Now once you add your rice, stir that in with the veggies and make sure all of the grains are covered in the oil until they start looking clear. Once all of the rice is covered in the oil, you want to add 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of chicken stock. 

Now STIR!!
Lower the heat, and put the lid on and crack it a bit...
Let it cook...

While that is cooking we are going to prep our veggies for the next dishes!

So my parents came home this past weekend with some vegetables from my grandmother's garden!
They brought home some yellow squash and fresh cucumbers!! 
I just had to try them out in some dishes!! 

The next dish we are going to make is 
Gluten Free Pasta With Lemon Yellow Squash, Spinach, n Shrimp
(We tried out the gluten pasta for Ashley, but feel free to use regular pasta for this dish if you so choose!)

1 Pound of Gluten Free Spaghetti 
(We used Schar Brand)
1 Yellow Squash
Half a Bag of Baby Spinach
1 Clove of Garlic
1 Stick of Earth Balance Vegan Butter
Olive Oil
Handful of Shrimp  (Fresh or Frozen is up to you)
Salt n Pepper
Half a Lemon 

So first we're going to chop up our squash... 

Now this is just a matter of personal preference, Ashley didn't mind the squash skins on , but I think next time I make it, I would peel the skin off first.  Even after cooking them and steaming them for 20 minutes, the skins were still really hard and crunchy to the bite. It was a bit too thick for me...

Next if you are using frozen shrimp, defrost them in some lukewarm water.
Not hot, or they will cook! Let those defrost for a bit while you chop your garlic.
Yes I use LOTS of garlic for my dishes... I'm Italian, what can I say!?!?
At least I keep the vampires away :-B

So oil your pan, turn up the heat and when that gets nice and hot, add your garlic.
Before that browns, add about half of your butter. Let the butter melt a bit so the oil and the butter start to make a nice little sauce. 

Now add your squash to the pan! 
Put a lid on that and let those steam!

Start a pot of salted water for your pasta!

While those are steaming, Let's check on our Risotto!

It looks like the risotto is absorbing all the liquid very nicely, 
stir more!!
The key to good risotto is to keep stirring and keep between low and medium heat...
Oh also at this point, I added some white whine 
( I love any dishes with a little splash of wine, 
a tablespoon should be enough), 
and Ash added some Parmesan cheese! 

I would also strain the defrosting shrimp at this point, rid them of any tail shells, and cut them in nice sized chunks. This way more shrimp is spread evenly throughout your pasta once you mix it together.

While I handled the risotto and squash, Ashley prepares us a nice little salad with our 

Garden Tomatoes n' Cucumbers!!

Ashley made a nice little vinaigrette with Olive Oil, White Vinegar, Honey, and Salt n Pepper
She added some grated parmesan cheese to the mixture, onions, and finished it off with a dried cranberry and honey roasted almond mix by Almond Accents...

While Ashley is mixing up our salad, I added our spinach to our now tenderly cooked squash along with the other half of the butter, and let that melt over the veggies...

We took a little interlude while things were bubbling away to dance and twirl eachother to some Joni...

Your pasta water should be boiling by now.
Add your pasta and stir with a pasta ladle to prevent it from sticking together.

Now just an FYI for anyone cooking Gluten Free pasta for the first time...
As you are cooking it and tasting it to see if it is done, it does have a very cardboardy, fake kind of taste, and it is going to taste a little "off" until it is fully cooked.

If you are used to pasta with gluten and eat it often, switching over to gluten free pasta is a bit weird at first, but the taste is pretty manageable, and with the right ingredients it can be delicious! 

While your pasta is cooking, now add your shrimp to your squash and spinach mixture!
We add this last because shrimp cooks very fast, and we don't want to overcook it
Now salt n pepper it, and add your half a lemon's juice to it...

Make sure you are still stirring your pasta and taste to see if it's done. 
It's a bit tough to eat gluten free pasta al dente, you want to make sure it is cooked all the way through so it doesn't taste like cardboard lol! 

Strain your pasta once that is done! I would not rinse the pasta with water, I'm not sure about gluten free pasta, but with regular pasta, rinsing it rids the pasta of all of it's starches, and in traditional Italian cooking, we like to keep in all of that flavor! So right after you strain the pasta, put it into your large pasta bowl, and dump in your Squash, Spinach, and Shrimp Mixture! Mix everything together! 

Isn't that just BEAUTIFUL!!?!

Our Risotto is done as well! 

Let's bring our salad over to our table!

And our yummy pasta!!

Today we're dining Al Fresco!!

Ashley is waiting to try out our concoctions! 
I think she will do just fine with her new gluten free diet, 
Let's wish her the best of luck!
Are you thinking about going gluten free, or have you already tried such a diet?
How did things turn out for you? 
Did it soothe what ails you? Have you had success?
Comment below and please let us know!

We hope you enjoyed our recipes for today!
If you try them out, please let us know how they turn out..
And also comment below and let us know if you have any questions as well!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Painting Class With Aunt Fi Fi : Fishies

So I finally had some time to sit down today and edit these photos from this past weekend!
I attended a painting class with my Aunt Fi Fi on Friday night! It's always so much fun to go to these with her, she is such a little ball of creativity and talent. She has been going to this woman's classes for years and once in awhile I tag along when I really like the project they are working on. 

The woman who teaches the class is Cathy Monaco.
She teaches flat brush & dry brush techniques and boy is she a character! 
Half the class is spent laughing at the things that come out of that woman's mouth...
The classes are taught out of Cathy's basement, the number of people in the classes used to be a lot more, but there was only the 3 of us students for this one...

Below is a pic of Fi Fi setting up her station, and along the wall are Cathy's paintings she's done throughout the years...

Here are most of the colors that we used for the background...

The first step is to paint the background like a gradient with a lot of water to blend the 3 different colors together for the water.  Then we had to paint the whispy little seaweed strands the Calypso Blue to give it the impression that it is in the distance.  We also did some smaller fish like this as well...

I did not photograph every single step because I had to keep up with the rest of the class, so I photographed what I could.  We also used a few more colors for the fishies...

Aren't they so cute!?!
This is what the final piece looked like when I was done painting at the end of the class...

Both Fi Fi and I were not happy with how our shading below our seaweed plants came out...
Cathy also suggested that we glue seashells to the painting... 
Right away I remembered that I had some little seashells, rhinestones, and a seahorse that I could use to glue it on...

It didn't stop there though, I had the sudden urge to glitter the WHOLE THING and make it look like a magickal underwaterscape scene!!! 

Here is the finished glittered product!

I used some moss to cover the shading that I didn't like as well!! 

These yellow fish sparkle so nicely in the sunlight!! 
I had some flower confetti i used to top off my seaweed with
and centered them each with sparkly rhinestones...

My mom saw it and remembered she had a tiny starfish that she has been wondering what to do with for a long time, so she said "OH I HAVE JUST THE THING FOR THIS TO FINISH IT OFF!"
So she gave me the starfish and I put that on as well! 
Now it has the perfect home!!

I forget the names of these types of fish, but Cathy told us during the class...
I added some black glitter to them, but not all the way through because I did't want to ruin the white dry brushing effect that makes the fish look see through and reflective....

I thought these fishies were the perfect summer project, and I am so happy with the end result!!

Thanks Fi Fi for the class, 
can't wait to go again soon!