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June 22, 2017

4th of July

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Grilled Prosciutto, Fresh Mozzarella Garlic Toasts with Fresh Basil | Easy Summer Entertaining Recipes

Prosciutto & Fresh Mozzarella
on Grilled Garlic Toasts

makes 24 toasts
1 baguette
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons of olive oil
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, sliced
6 slices of prosciutto, thinly sliced
sea salt & cracked pepper
fresh basil, chopped

Prepare the bread by slicing it into thin slices.  Grill bread just before serving.  You can do it under the broiler in your oven, or on the grill.  Brush the bread with olive oil on one side.  If broiling, place them on a sheet oiled side up and place them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.  Be careful not to burn!  If grilling, also grill the bread for 1-2 minutes.  When you remove them from the grill or oven, let them cool slightly, then rub the raw clove of garlic on each piece.

If grilling, brush the other side of the bread with oil, the put that side down on the baking sheet or tray.  If you are broiling in the oven, just keep the toasts on the sheet with their toasted side up. Top each piece of bread with small, thin slices of prosciutto.  Then, top each with a slice of fresh mozzarella.  Grill or broil the toasts for 2 minutes, or just until the mozzarella begins to melt.  Remove from the grill or broiler and top with salt, pepper and fresh basil.

Ready to go on the grill along with some artichokes (Grilled Artichokes recipe here).

The toasts have been grilled, now I'm ready to top them with prosciutto and cheese.

Hot from the grill - these are great as an appetizer or as part of dinner... like deluxe cheese bread.  I often serve them when we're having a vegetarian soup or pasta, then Mike feels like we've had something hearty with meat.

I like to serve these with another grilled appetizer favorite - Grill Artichokes with a Lemon Caper Aioli.  Both make great appetizers or as a side with a steak, grilled fish or kebabs.

To find more of my Entertaining Essentials, stop by my store of specially selected favorites.

June 13, 2017

Summer Shrimp Boil | Easy Entertaining

After the kiddie parade and a brief break for some running (for Emma... I had pizza), we made our way all the way to St. Louis to celebrate the Fourth at my sister's house (remember her kitchen?).  They hosted a fabulously simple Shrimp Boil for their friends followed by a walk to the 18th green for fireworks.

The Boil was the perfect thing to serve for the 4th - it is much like the annual Clambake we host at our house... that we still need to schedule for this year.

 Jill, Baby Kate, Samantha, Emma & Me


Corn waiting for its turn in the boil.  Aaaand a bottle of Blue Moon, of course.

Jill's husband was in charge of the Boil - he seasoned the water with Old Bay, peppercorns and onions.  It was so delicious - wonderfully seasoned.

Shrimp Boil
serves 8

1/3 cup of Old Bay Seasoning
1 onion, quartered
1 tablespoon of peppercorns
2 pounds of potatoes
2 pounds of smoked andouille sausage, 3-inch pieces
4 ears of corn, cut in half
2 pounds of large, shell-on shrimp (15-20 per pound)
4 lemons, halved
1 baquette

Bring a very large pot filled with water to a boil (a 12 quart pot, or so).  Keep adding the ingredients to the pot one at a time until everything is in - it will all finish cooking at the same time.

#1 - Season Water : Add Old Bay, onion and peppercorns.
#2 - Add potatoes, cook for 10 minutes.
#3 - Add sausage, cook for 3 minutes.
#4 - Add corn, cook for 3 minutes.
#5 - Add shrimp, cook for 3 minutes.

Remove from boiling water and "dump" onto papered table.  Serve with lemon wedges and chunks of baguette.

Perfect outside summer entertaining - casual and bountiful.

Cousins enjoying their "rocket dogs" and each other : )

Such sweet girls.

Here are some essentials for your Shrimp Boil, or any summer party.

A sturdy apron & hot pads.

Skimmer for pulling that seafood out of the big boiling pot & Tongs for serving.

June 12, 2017

Summer Smoothies | Taking a real break

Summer Break

It may be very obvious around here, but I'm taking a little hiatus the Summer.  For me that means making a strong effort to focus on home and family vs. work.  I love sharing here and building my store, but every now and again, I need to regroup.  I need to simplify our routine, simplify our obligations and take it down to basics.  Summer is the perfect time for that.  I feel like this whole idea of beautifying by simplifying is the root of my brand and it really helps me get back to it when I make an effort to truly live it.

Busyness is a problem in this world.  Most of us have to/feel like we should be busy all of the time.  Such the rebel as I am (eh?) I try to reject this as much as possible.  I would like my family's life to be less busy, less obligated, less committed and consequently, more full.  I want Emma's summer to be full of downtime and "her" time so she can be comfortable not running at a full tilt her entire life.  I'm hoping that teaching her to be content with simplicity and content making due with just being (instead of being entertained) that she will spend less of her days chasing what's next, depending on others for her content-ness and more time just enjoying and being responsible for her own joy.

So, this is the first summer (since middle school...?) that I have taken off from work.  Emma is going to camp one morning a week so I can come here and make sure the boat is still afloat.  Thanks to Laurie and my pack/ship team, the store can run without my daily help - yay!  

I've always believed that "work" didn't have to look or even feel like work.  However, with the growth of the store, I've spent way too much time at my desk over the last year and I'm ready to stretch my legs.  I'm also excited to mentally remove myself for a while to re-commit to this dream and lifestyle of simplicity and enjoying.

(I have been taking photos of our dinners, projects and such along the way and will share periodically.  The photos will be a little more casual than usual, as most will just be snapshots before dinner or mid-project.)  

I'm spending free time immersing myself in magazines (the kind you hold in your hands) and cookbooks.  I'm making a real attempt to garden and work in the yard.  I'm doing housework, working on a couple of home projects and trying to pretend just for a couple of months that I don't have a job.

Emma is working on her cartwheels.

She is playing, discovering and being 4.
We cook together, walk to the grocery store together, do chores together and take naps together, but she is in charge of her day - her playing, her boredom, her happiness.

I'm enjoying watching her become more independent, stronger and resilient.

Her last day of school in May.

I know it is not realistic for everyone to quit their job for the summer.  During my busier times that still include work (the rest of the year!), we make an effort to say no to too much, to have some time that is just for being at home.  Even a lazy Saturday morning walk to get donuts can make a week of work melt away.

I hope you are all taking a break of sorts this summer to simplify and redirect.  The sacrifice of whatever you need to give up is worth it.

Summer Smoothies

Each day we take a walk and have a smoothie.  I'm much better at exercising when food is involved.  There is no kale or protein powder in here, just yummy fruit - so yummy and smooth.  When we were in Seaside this spring, I was spending $8 each morning on one of these at a food truck - yikes!  These cost about $0.75/each at home : )

This has become my favorite formula to make :

- Orange Juice with Mango
- Frozen Organic Berries (cheaper that fresh!) : I keep them in my kitchen containers in the freezer for easy access.  I buy mine at Target, about $10 for a giant bag of blueberries and strawberries.
- Banana
- Chia Seeds (recent addition, not pictured) : Bought a huge bag of organic at Costco for $7.  They add iron, omega-3s, etc.  Taste like tiny strawberry seeds.

Plastic Kitchen Containers are restocked.

When we lived with Mike's parents during our reno, I was convinced that I needed a fancy ($$$) blender after using his mom's.  But, when we moved back in, I was more interested in furniture than smoothies so I settled for this $20 one from target.  I have to say - works so good!  I'm glad I didn't spend $500 on a blender just for smoothies.

At the beginning of the week, I fill the large container with strawberries and medium one with blueberries.  My goal is to use up the entire container of each by the end of the week.  Then, I at least know that I had a substantial amount of fruits mixed in my diet.

So far, our summer diet consists of Tomatoes and Mozz salads, BATs (avocado instead of lettuce), waffles or muffins for breakfast and cheeseburgers on the grill for dinner.  And these healthy smoothies... all about balance ; )

They are great to-go in my Clear Cups & Lids.  These are essentials that I can't live without!

June 09, 2017

Summer Table Inspiration from Blessed Mama of Baby Girls

One of my store customers, turned friend, Patsy from @BlessedMamaofBabyGirls , shared this photo on her Instagram last week after hosting friends for Memorial Day.  She combined a blockprint tablecloth I carried last year with this year's French Blue Gingham Napkins plus some pops of red and flags to make a perfectly patriotic setting.  I love seeing how my talented customers use my products - especially by combining them from seasons past.  And how great is that Martha Stewart plaid cloth she layered underneath?  I plan on recreating this table for our 4th of July party - hopefully mine can look as good as Patsy's!

We have just a handful of the Gingham Collection left for the Summer, so it is your last chance to claim them.  Here are some other items that will help you complete the look!

Willow Vases

I have a new version of this vase available, with curved sides that bow in for easy arranging.  There are two sizes a small and medium, available.

Basket Trays - Set of 2, Nesting

I use these for displaying napkins and flatware, as a platter for appetizers or in the center of our ottoman.  There is something about a basket that makes everything feel homey and casual.

Willow Hanging Basket

Welcome your guests in style by adding flags to your hydrangea basket.  The basket comes with water tubes to keep fresh flowers fresh.

Mini Cherry Pies

Is there anything more American than Cherry Pies?  These are so easy and cute in their petite stature.
Having a stack of seasonal paper cocktail napkins is always a good idea for last minute entertaining.  These Red & Navy Stripe will be great for the entire summer.

 In the summer, I keep bunches of hydrangea everywhere.  Adding flags makes them festive - so easy.

These candles will look great all summer long.  I especially love the "Mom's Hydrangea Blue" mixed with the red and blue for a summery take on patriotic colors.

Our DIY Window Boxes look great with boxwoods and flags.

Flags and hydrangea everywhere!

I've had a couple of people ask, do I do flags all summer long?  I typically put them out for the 4th of July and keep them through Labor Day.  I usually still have spring pansies in bloom in the boxes for Memorial Day, so hold off until the 4th.  The pansies are coming out this week and the flags will go in!

Happy Summer!

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