Monday, July 23, 2012

Thanks for the follows!

Hi friends, We've had so much fun together here at

And Blogger was a great beginning platform, but it's time to stretch our legs a bit and try new things.

Join the party over at

I hope you'll redirect your feeds and Blog Lovin' because it's so fun to stay in touch!

PS. I'd love to join you on Twitter, too. I'm @parscaeli!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The party's over here ------->

Have you heard the latest? Pars Caeli has moved over to:

The real party is over there. We're talking about art and creation today...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Funday Fashion Monday: To the Art Museum

Don't forget that Pars Caeli has a new home! Stop over at for all the latest.

Welcome to the week, friends! How was your weekend? I had a lovely one with the fam. We spent Saturday on the shores of Lake Michigan, digging big sand holes and riding on the truck/ship combo known as the Duck. Sunday we celebrated Rembrandt's birthday with a trip to one of our local art museums that was hosting a family day.

Have you visited an art gallery or museum lately? Have you taken your children? I took my two little ladies yesterday, and we came with our sketchbooks and pencils, ready to capture some inspiration. They loved every moment, and we could have easily spent more than our 2.5 hours waltzing through the galleries. If you haven't read it yet, check out Gabby's post on visiting art with your kiddos. Check the comments esp, great ways to get more out of the experience!

Here are some great summer finds for your next trip to the art museum (or anywhere else wonderful this sunny season).

Those shoes: A nice cork wedge to help you go up and down those flights of stairs as you ponder whether the modern art or the kinesthetic sculpture garden or the Renaissance oils were REALLY your fave.

These earrings: These lovelies are just the right amount of dangle mixed with a touch of sparkle.

That flattering tank: The levels of shirred fabric on this one compliment curves and the tone will coordinate with summer's great pops of color.

This sweater to keep you cozy: Not to be granny on you, but museums can get chilly so keep this bright mustard cardie in your purse or on top of the tank, just to show that you know how to mix it up with color.

That leather yumminess: This tote is supple, large, and can hold all the supplies you take into the museum and all the gifties you take home from the shop.

The sketchbooks and pencils: I find spiral-bounds to be child-friendly and ready to go anywhere they're needed. We stretched out on the floor right in front of our favorite paintings to capture the colors. These pencils are lead free, and they come in a CD case. Super handy and great quality for the price.

That, that skirt: My fave piece is the amazing tiered lace skirt. I've seen lace detail a lot lately, and this lace is done well and wearable. It comes in two colors, and you'll have a tough time deciding which is more awesome.

Pars Caeli has moved! Come on over!!

Subscribers, Blog Lovin' friends, and readers - I am, I'm ecstatic to tell you that I have a new spot for this lovely web home. It's in a great neighborhood, and you'll love the address. Bookmark it, switch up your feeds, and reroute over to:

That's right! We own it now. I'll be double-posting on this site and over there for a bit just to make sure we don't lose anyone in the move, but this great change means lots more organized, polished, and inspirational love will be coming your way. I think I'll throw an open house; I'm always looking for a reason to throw a party.

XOXO, see you over there for Funday Fashion Monday!!! MJ

Friday, July 13, 2012

A tri- to try in Photography

Terrific! It's Friday. What's going on this weekend? Don't let Friday the 13th get you down. Throw a superstition party and let everyone reveal their most believable superstitions (of course select your favorite Friday the 13th to watch as well). Celebrate with crepes on Saturday in honor of Bastille Day, and don't forget to head to explore some art and to pay homage to Rembrandt on his birthday (we'll be doing it!).

Here's a trifecta of awesomeness all wrapped around photography for you to try this weekend. My new camera is going to get broken over the next few days in prep for the Alt Channel class I'm taking on Tuesday with Justin Hackworth. Join me, and we'll both become pros at our DSLRs (I really do want to see all the great shots you capture of your kids! I promise).


(Not necessarily captured here.) I've got a need for some higher quality headshots/self-portraits. I am so horrible at finding a shot that I like, and I kind of find the whole process a drag. I found three simple reminders from a fellow blogger heading out to a blogging conference (where lots of photos are taken) that I want to pass on.

Have you tried this?

Angle yourself towards the camera, drop your shoulders, and lean into the camera, putting your weight slightly on your front foot.

I'm going to try it. I'll let you know how it goes. :)


Dave Cooper, talented hubs of Jen Cooper, over at Classic Play has some awesome suggestions on how to take better family photos.

My fave is #2:
2. Let it happen naturally and capture it. Your family is a living thing that moves. You need to move as well. Capture real moments. These are so much more rewarding to look at a month from now, a year from now, 10 years from now. Have you ever heard someone say “Remember that time we all stood up from the picnic table and stood in a line and you took that picture? That was fun. We should do that again.”?
There's more goodness over at Classic Play. Go and write down all that he has to say!


I'm discovering, with my new large camera, that a strap is essential. And though I don't mind loudly publicizing Canon, I'd like to go for something more special. Bri Emery over at DesignLoveFest posted a wonderful tut on crafting your own camera strap. Have you seen it? Go check it out.

Race you to Michael's for all the supplies!!

Do you have any great photography tips you can send my way? How do you make great art and look good doing it?

Thanks for a great week! Don't forget to enter our giveaway held in conjunction with the Playful Learning. Tell your friends, too. Winners chosen on Monday!

Until soon, XOXO, MJ

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Summer of Happiness with Fun

Helllloo, Thursday and Summer of Happiness bookclubbers! We're making our way through the inspiring chapters of Gretchen Rubin's useful guide, The Happiness Project. This week we're smack dab in the middle of F-U-N. Gretchen challenges herself to add more fun into her life through these resolutions:
  • Find more fun.
  • Take time to be silly.
  • Go off the path.
  • Start a collection.

First off, can I say that as a new blogger (here we are in month 3 of Pars Caeli) that I was interested to see how much of this chapter Gretchen filled with comments from her blog readers!

Anyway, this chapter poses the broad question: what do you consider fun? I identified with Gretchen's inner struggle of what I'd like to enjoy and what I do enjoy. Here's a useful definition of fun that she uses:

Fun: an activity that's very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn't create social harm, and doesn't necessarily lead to praise or recognition.
What goes running through your head? Where do you find the fun in your life?

Remember back to your childhood, when you were 10, what did you love to do? I remember being really delighted to be in the double digits when I turned ten. I spent lots of time swimming, playing tennis, hanging out and playing games with my family, reading, drawing...

Forgive me for not being more interesting...I still love doing all of those things. I've added a few more to the list of fun but that first list is a known quantity. I always have fun when engaged in those activities.

I identified with Gretchen's accumulation and time investment in blank books. Couldn't you just visualize her as a red-headed little girl, parked in front of the TV with a snack and all of her goodies, ready to make her next collage? I used to spend extensive time writing poetry and quotations in "fancy writing" (emergent calligraphy), and coloring the backgrounds so that I could hang them up or save them in a special sketchbook. (Gee, I am totally still 10.)

Here's a notion that stuck with me - the three types of fun.

1. Challenging fun: it's the most rewarding but requires the most work to step outside of ourselves.
2. Accommodating fun: having fun with/for the sake of others. It strengthens relationships and builds memories.
3. Relaxing fun: no coordination or heavy investment necessary but the passivity of it all makes us LESS happy than the accommodating and much less happy than challenging fun.

This blog is totally challenging fun for me. Just sayin'.

Alright. so it's time to set a resolution for the week, based on Gretchen's ideas.

Take time to be silly.

Though I love to joke, I'm not the best at silly. Silly can frustrate me or at least make me want to move on to the next task more quickly. But this week I'm starting off on my journey to put more silly back into my life.

How about you, reader friends? Where will you find some fun this week?

Thanks for stopping over! It's always so lovely to have you here.


Don't forget to enter our giveaway (winner announced on Monday)!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mommy and Daddy School: Immersion

It feels great to return to Mommy & Daddy School posts after a 2-week hiatus here at Pars Caeli. We've been learning and doing, and I'm excited to share and to announce a fantastic giveaway for you + a wonderful little person in your life.

Leading up to the fourth of July my kiddos were all about maps and travel and puzzles. So, we wrapped all of that curiosity into a fun week of learning about the world and our special place in it.

For those of you just joining us on this adventure, let me just say that my hubby and I are former teachers who love to learn alongside our kiddos, and we take full advantage of this in the summer. However, we also both work full-time and believe in encouraging our children to try new activities in the summer months. The long and short of it–we, like so many other American families–have to find ways to squeeze in, maximize, and set aside intentional time to learn. When trying to juggle professional demands, swim lessons, camps, nap schedules, and the other 12 things that come our way every day, this can be t-ough. And we're not miracle workers...just parents with a lot of high hopes so let me share with you our ways we immerse ourselves in learning. Maybe you can use these, too?!


1. Use every tool at your disposal in the library.

Libraries are still the best, beautiful place to find dazzling information. You can read, listen, create, craft, eat, drink, compute, and entertain in ours (it's really not mine, I just visit 3 times a week).
Trying to consider the developmental levels and interests of my three, we headed to the board books, picture books, and chapter books to see what we could discover about the United States. We also explored the non-fiction section, and each child selected a book about their favorite state. Great patriotic reads and simple historic books abound. Over at music we found great CDs of Americana set to tune. Schoolhouse Rock (a little too old for our kids) has some great stuff, and we found other simple movies/shows about the US. We could have explored maps, puzzles, computer games, magazines, audio books, and more, but kids need snacks, too, so we left with our stack of 20 books/CDs.
How great is that United Tweets of America, Twitter friends? It's a charmed book with a page for each state bird.

2. Time learning in the car is not time wasted.

We have a lot of life stuff to meld into our summer learning so, like it or not, we spend time hauling to and fro in the minivan. One of the ways we continue learning during transit is through music. There are so many great CDs with toddler tunes, nursery rhymes, children's stories, pneumonic devices, and, in our case for this week, patriotic songs. So we played these melodies over and over and had some great sing-alongs while sitting at the traffic lights. Hearing my 5-year old sing that Grand Old Flag was a hoot!

3. Technology is your friend in small quantities.

I love technology, but I know that my children need it in small doses for real learning to take place. We encourage digital learning, and we allow our three kiddos time on the computer, Ipad, and Iphones.

Two great apps that we utilized for learning this week: Stack the States (great for adults, too!) and Learn the States (so many great variations).

This is my favorite children's atlas. Lift the flap!

Along with these, we coupled real maps and altases. Breaking out the world map, we pressed sticky dots on the states and countries where are friends and family reside, and we were able to talk about the places that grandmothers and great grandmothers traveled from. Really a lovely exercise in story telling.

4. Make your toys work for you.

Those blocks can make a great compass rose.  Take the Matchbox cars for a pretend drive along Route 66. My Little Ponys can help the settlers pretend to discover the country in your dress-up gear. You get the idea.

When we started this theme, I thought, what can we use around that we already have? Thinking I'd come up empty handed, I went on a hunt and found map puzzles, talking globes, and a whole host of other toys we could adapt for this learning experience. The kiddos, especially the 2-year old, loved playing with old toys in new ways.

5. Parents are the first learners.

Children can read our enthusiasm (or lack thereof), and nothing hits home as well as when they see Mommy & Daddy learning something new themselves. I find interjecting (short) stories of my first learnings or retelling of "when-I-was-5-years-old" is really helpful as it relates to content. Knowing the song Mommy learned to remember all the states is more fun. Learning of how Daddy experienced New Mexico makes the state come alive.

On top of that, we try to investigate questions within our learning that my husband and I also want to learn. What is our state flower? Should we include one in our landscape? How long would it take to do that cross country roadtrip we're dreaming of? Sharing these questions with our kids, and allowing them to follow our thought processes and tools for investigation lets them know we care about learning so much we make time to do it, too!!

And on that happy note, I'm excited and delighted to announce our first big giveaway!! Through the generosity of the lovely Mariah Bruehl of Playful Learning, one lucky winner and their incredible young person will win a spot in the creative Ecademy series, Through the Lens. I've enrolled M, and she'd love to have a great new classmate!

To win, please leave a comment below. If you want a bonus second chance, send out a tweet about @parscaeli and @playfullearning, and we'll give you extra credit! The winner will be announced on Monday because I love happy announcements at the start of my week. Good luck!!

Happy Wednesday!

Congrats to Sandra! This giveaway is now closed. Stop back for more goodness!
Playful Learning: Through the Lens eCourse

Through the Lens: Explorations in Photo Journaling, Wednesday, July 18 - August 8, is an e-course that has been created for children (and their grown-ups) ages six through twelve. Participants will gain new understanding of themselves and the world around them by exploring a variety of photography and writing techniques while creating and adding to their own photo journals. The goal for this e-course is to nurture positive self-expression through photography, writing, and art—to discover and develop a strong sense of voice. It is also a wonderful opportunity for parents and teachers to join in on the process and to connect with their children or students in new and exciting ways.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Grown-up Goodness: Grill Time

What's up Tuesday! We're heading back into Grown-Up Goodness (to find more of this great stuff we adults can love all summer long, check out that word link over there ------>).

This week: grilling. When I was compiling my summer list, I thought of all the delectable tastes of summer. Last week I shared one of my new summer baking faves. And this week, I want to offer two super simple recipes that we've served to happy customers!

Grilling offers our family of five easy prep, splendid flavor mixes, and delightfully quick clean-up. My husband is our main grill master, which also means I get to take the night off when he mans the machine. Hoo-ray.

One mainstay on our grill: sweet corn. I'm a Midwesterner. And I love my corn. If you have not grilled the lovely ears yet, you must try it...the sugary, warm sweetness of it all.
Prep your corn by gently peeling back the outer layers of the husk. **Be sure that all of the husk remains attached at the base as you carefully dive into the corn silk.
Remove all the silk. Little hands are great helps here.

Wrap up your ears with the husks, turn upside down, and immerse in a large pot of water (with a dash of salt). This soaking helps prevent grill burn. We usually soak ours overnight, but in a pinch a lunch to dinner soak (4-5 hours) does the trick.
Grilling time is 10-15 minutes total. Make sure to turn the corn as you see a side of the husk drying or blackening. When the kernels turn from dull to shiny (and juicy!) then remove those golden ears.

From here you can just peel back the husks and chomp away. Or, you can grab a trash bag while you're out by the grill and keep the mess contained. Remove the charred husks outside and bring just the gorgeous kernels to the table.
I'm someone who could eat just corn for any dinner (my fave summer dinner = 2 ears of corn, salt, and a ripe tomato). The kiddos love lots of butter and a touch of salt on theirs. We've tried some great spices and parmesan cheese for other satisfying meals.
Another grill goody from this week: Feta Portabellas

First off, remove the stems from these jumbo treats. We grilled three for our meal. Wash the caps and set them aside to dry. In a bowl, mix 4T balsamic vinegar, and 4T olive oil. Add in 3t of minced garlic. Mix, mix, mix.

Pour the mixture into the caps. Pop it on the grill for about 15 minutes until the 'shrooms feel tender. For the last minute on the grill, add chunks of feta into the caps. Let those warm up and then remove.

So meaty, good, and flavorful.

My friend, Amy, has a great board with all kinds of grilling ideas for summer. Check it out!

Are you firing up the grill this summer for some grown-up goodness? Do tell!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Funday Fashion Monday: To the Movies

Hello friends!! Happy Monday. Were you roasting this weekend like we were?? We spent most of our time at the pool and added a nice trip to the movies as well. Brave was our family movie of choice (Have you seen it yet? What did you think?). Besides the gratuitous bear violence, I thought it was great, and I did make my children promise not to turn me into a grizzly. It made me reflect on the beautiful albeit challenging connection of mother and daughter. I feel really blessed to have that possibility twice over with my little girls.

Movies have been a part of our summer. We took a trip out to the countryside a few weeks ago to see our first family drive-in movie. I felt totally transported back to a different, simpler life, and my kiddos loved staying up, underneath the stars, to see the very colorful Madagascar 3. There are only 400 drive-ins still operating in the US, and I definitely had the sense that I was experiencing a bit of history, perched in the wide open parking lot. All in all, it was a whole lot of fun, and I highly recommend checking out a drive-in if you're anywhere near one.

So here's my relaxed, hanging-out-at-the-movies summer garb.

That shirt: Stripes say crisp, clean summer to me, and this soft tee from Loft kind of goes with everything I own (you, too?).

Those sandals: Another great flat to take you from the theater to the parking lot and even out to the concessions for a tub of popcorn. Love the color from Ruche.

Those shorts: Loft does these shorts so well. Not too short, not too long and comfy enough for lots of movement.

This necklace: I'm into long lately, and I can't resist a vintage butterfly.

That clutch: Most outings require a lot of stuff and, therefore, a big bag. Movies, not so much. The detail beading on this clutch from Target makes it feel extra special to me.

Those nails: Typically I'm a gloss, neutral kind of gal when it comes to nails, but there are so many fun summer colors out that I've been trying a few surprises. This blue from Essie makes me think ocean, and that's just about the best thought for a hot summer night. :)

Here are some pics from our trip to the drive-in. I'm sticking with the marketing and hoping to visit again soon!

I hope it's a wonderful week for you! Fun things happening around here this week with a great giveaway!! Woot, woot, I'll be announcing it tomorrow so please stay tuned.


Linked up with Join the Gossip, Sami's Shenanigans, and five30three for their weekend update bloghop.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A tri- to try

Happy Friday! It kind of feels more like Tuesday, but, hey, I'm going with it. We have plans for the pool, the sprinklers, and lots of icy drink around here for the weekend; it's going to be super hot.

I have a triad of ideas for you to discover over the for today, one for tomorrow, and one for Sunday.
Are you celebrating something this weekend? Perhaps 7/7 on Saturday or Video Game Day on Sunday? Well, even if you're not going to throw a party for either of those, here are some great ideas for frosting a cake. Kelly over at Studio DIY has some great tricks that can make even the least professional among us (pointing to myself) look ah-mazing. For little C's birthday, I disguised my lack of skill under rainbow M&Ms, and I was pretty pleased with the results and flavor.
Watercolor pencils are my new favorite art supply. They have the control of pencil and the blending ability and surprise of watercolor. When was the last time you took a sketchpad outside with some pencils or watercolors? Try it this weekend.

Undone hairdos are all the rage for summer. The messy bun, the roped pony, the loose braid–all beautiful and breezy. Anthropologie posted some great ideas for hair that shows the ease of summer. Here's M's version of a messy twist, designed and styled all by herself.
Hope you enjoyed the Tri- to Try. Wishing you all a bright weekend!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Summer of Happiness: For Parents

And, we're back! Hope your fourth was a great one. I had a lot of fun welcoming some great ladies over for a virtual pool party. For reals, we had a fabulous time with friends, lounging and watching children play.

When I see my children comfortably interacting with new and old friends, I find it easy to be happy in my role as parent...but this is not always the case, right? Parenting is our topic for this week's bookclub. Just to recap, we're doing a tag-along bookclub with Denise over at Hello Moxie. She posted on this chapter last week (while we have our fabulous guests staying over).

Here's what Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project set forth for herself as she came to April and exploring the relationship of parent and child: 
  • Sing in the morning. 
  • Acknowledge the reality of people's feelings.
  • Be a treasure house of happy memories. 
  • Take time for projects. 
I always cheat and read ahead to see what the goals for the next chapter will be and then in my head I assess whether I'd have any, some, or all of the same goals. This list of four struck me as an usual quad for parenting, and I was intrigued to read more. Her pairing of the title "Lighten Up" with Parenthood hit home for sure.

I'm proud to be the mom of two daughters - 7 yo M and 5 yo C - and one son, little L, age 2.
And when I read about what Gretchen described as fog happiness, I totally got it. Check this:
The experience of having children gives me tremendous fog happiness. It surrounds me, I see it everywhere, despite the fact that when I zoom in on any particular moment, it can be hard to identify.
Sometimes I grow frustrated with myself or my children because I don't feel, moment to moment, happy with where we are (I often feel tired, excited, ready). When I can have a bit of separation and can see more clearly, I realize how profoundly happy I am to be their mother and to walk with them through the many stages of development, and it all makes sense under the fog of happiness.

"To become more tender and playful..." is the target for Gretchen. I too have put this as a goal for my mom self on a number of different occasions.  I actually find it very helpful to observe other moms doing this well, and I think of a mom friend that I see in Church. She has 7 little people under her tutelage, and she handles them each with what I call, "soft hands." No matter how her children react/behave (good or bad), she always has a soft hand to encourage, console, correct. She's always reaching out to them, physically and sending them signals of her love through gentility and tenderness.

I adored her strategies for really listening to children's feelings. She's right, and I need to take into account how they feel more often (rather than pushing through with my agenda).

  1. Write it down - eg: "I'm going to write that down. Eleanor does not like to wear snowboots."
  2. Don't feel as if you have to say anything - Yes! More true with some of our children than others, but when C is frustrated, it's so good to just hug her for 2 minutes than always talk through a situation.
  3. Don't say no - eg: instead of saying, "No, not until after lunch" try "Yes, as soon as we're finished with lunch."
  4. Wave my magic wand - eg: "If I had a magic wand, I'd make it warm outside so we wouldn't have to wear coats."
  5. Admit that a task is difficult - eg: "Socks can be tough to get off."

I think the recommendation of being a treasure house of happy memories is a really smart one.
Because people remember events better when they fit with their present mood, happy people remember happy events better, and depressed people remember sad events better. Depressed people have as many nice experiences as other people - they just don't recall them as well.
I'm all about making up traditions, celebrating and reliving great moments, and this cause me to pause to think about how I share this all with my children.

So here's what I'm taking on for this week:

Acknowledge the reality of my children's feelings.

I feel powerful to have five strategies in which to do this so I'm excited for the happiness that's coming my way. 

Here's a final thought (aka pinnable) to leave you with...the four stages of happiness!
Happy reading, friends!! Do tell, how do you keep happiness alive in your relationships with your children?



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July, friends! Today we celebrate the great US of A and all of the men and women who have made all this celebrating possible.

In real life, we're headed over to a friend's house for a cookout/bouncy water slide kind of afternoon, and we'll finish it off with fireflies and fireworks in the backyard. On the blog here, I've decided to throw a pool party!!

I had an in-ground pool for two years when my family lived in a wonderful, warm climate, and I have such great memories of hot afternoons under cool water. These days I don't have the luxury of a pool in my backyard but I can still throw a great party, and I have one cooking for you!!

Louise, Mo (one of my favorite Canadians), and Jess have fired up some great recipes and fashions for you to kick back and enjoy on this beautiful day. Thank you, wonderful women, for coming over and setting the place on fire with your creativity. So, have a seat on the chaise, grab a glass of Southern Belle, check out what Mo's wearing, and be sure to grab a heaping helping of that orzo salad Jess put together.

Louise is a rockstar, and she runs the hot spot blog of Laid Off Mom. She finds greatness, creates beauty, and spins around town with her little ones with ease. She's also, "out to prove to everyone that being laid off is not the end of your life…but the beginning of a better world!!"  And she has made this delectable for us...
Catch more from Louise by following her on Twitter.

Mo is hilarious. And she also makes some great jewelry. And blogs. And teaches. Full-time. Check out her goods over at Mo' Funk Designs. She's also got some lovely pool apparel for us to look cool and collected for the fourth. Thanks for bringing your stylin' to the US, Mo (and I totally want that cover-up)!
Pool Party

Catch more from Mo by following her on Twitter!

Jess is a science educator by day, and a runner, reader, dog lover, and chef on the nights and weekends. She pretty much knows everything about everything, and she's cooked up an easy, scrumptious summer salad that I'm really looking forward to making for me. Here's Jess...

It seems the dog days of summer have arrived early this year. If you’re like me, your interest in cooking has hit a yearly low. Fortunately, all the wonderful fresh produce makes it easy to create simple, flavorful dishes, like this summer orzo salad.

I particularly love anything that allows me to incorporate farmer’s market finds and fresh herbs from my garden. This week, I was lucky enough to find some beautiful grape tomatoes, and decided to feature them as the star of a simple salad. I also decided that I would use my new favorite herb – boxwood basil.
I found this guy while shopping for herbs and veggies this spring and was immediately smitten. It tastes and smells just like a sweet basil, but the cute little leaves mean that no chopping is required! Less prep time = more time enjoying summer.

I love this salad because the light dressing really allows the flavors of the tomatoes, basil, and feta to shine through. It’s wonderful both hot and cold. It’s also very versatile. Substitute fresh mozzarella, cubed, for the feta, or add chicken or tofu to make this a more substantial main dish.
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side.

  • 1 1/3 cup orzo
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 5 oz feta cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Juice from one lemon (not pictured)
  • ½ - 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain well. Wash and halve grape tomatoes. Wash and finely chop basil.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice. Whisk to combine.
In a large bowl, combine orzo, feta, tomatoes, and basil. Add olive oil mixture and toss to combine.
Serve immediately if desired, or store, tightly covered, in refrigerator. Best enjoyed on a deck or patio with good friends and a glass of wine.

Yum. Yum. Yum! Thanks so much, Jess. To hear more about what Jess is cooking up follow her on Twitter.

And last but not least (there's always room for dessert), I wanted to bring the blueberry cobbler recipe featured yesterday on Grown-up Goodness for you all to enjoy with a jumbo portion of vanilla ice cream.
Loveliness!! I adore these kind of collaborations, and I just wish I could have these great ladies over for a real cookout (you would all get along so fabulously!!).

What's up for your Fourth? I'd love to hear.

Have an amazing Independence Day, friends. God bless America.


P.S. If you're interested in collaborating on something really fun, send me an email at'd be awesome to team up!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grown-up Goodness: Fresh to the Oven

Happy Tuesday, friends! It feels so good to return and celebrate all that is wonderful about summer for us grown-ups. I'm exploring the freshness of summer harvests today as I recap a tradition we celebrated this past weekend.

Do you pick? I mean, do you pick your own fruits and veggies fresh from the farm? We live just a mile from an incredible organic blueberry farm that offers nine different varieties of berries, and we make 2-3 journeys every summer to pick, and pick, and pick (and eat and eat and eat).

Our kiddos love the experience of the enormous. So many rows and rows of blueberry bushes are just the right amount of overwhelming goodness. As the girls have gotten older, they've grown to love the blueberry overall, also known as the strapped-on bucket to catch the motherload!
We picked for about an hour and a half and brought home a great beginning with eight pounds of fresh Spartan blueberries.
Now what to do with all of these?

C has eaten blueberries for every meal and snack since Saturday so we're already two pounds done with our first batch! Thankfully we're just steps away from our next pick.

My hubby makes blueberry pancakes for us every Sunday after Church. That's another two pounds that will go by quickly.

With a few of the remaining cups, I decided to try out a cobbler recipe I found from the great Pioneer Woman. Have you seen her stuff? Of course you have, she's so good. Well, about a month ago she posted her favorite summer desserts. I bookmarked and starred the post so that I could come back and enjoy when the time was right.

Uhm, yes, now is right!

Here's my adaptation of her blackberry cobbler for blueberries. This is all you need.
Preheat that oven to 350. Melt a stick of butter in the microwave. In another bowl, pour out a cup of sugar and then add a cup of the self-rising floor. Whisk together to get rid of the lumps. Add 1 cup of milk (I love all the one cup measurements...super simple!!) Now pour in the melted butter and stir again.

Coat a baking pan with butter - top, bottom, and sides. Pour in the batter. Place an even distribution of berries into the batter layer. Sprinkle on a nice, even layer of 1/4 cup of sugar (or more if you'd like).

Pop it in the oven and go read your favorite blogs for a whole hour. The smells will delight you, I promise.
And this is the beauty that awaits you. Scoop out a heaping helpful and top with vanilla ice cream. Yum, yum, yum.

Do you find summer a great time to bake? Or to pick fresh from the farm?

Thanks for hopping over, friends. Please come back tomorrow and join in the virtual pool party for the fourth of July!! Friends from the blogosphere and beyond will be coming over with recipes and fashions to delight. I'm so lucky.