October 14, 2016

DIY Halloween Party Favors

A friend of mine is planning a Halloween party for her 14 year old daughter and her friends, about 20 kids, and she asked me to come up with some crafts to scare up fun at the party. Here is one of my ideas to delight young Halloween partygoers - a wonderfully ghoulish party favor everyone will want to take home - Spooktacular DIY Halloween Party Favors!

This is a totally affordable and easy do-it-yourself.  Most of the supplies I had on hand, I only had to buy the halloween self-adhesive stickers. The dimensional stickers were on sale at Michaels, the regular ones I bought at a local dolar store.

Tin cans are great for crafts and diy projects, and are virtually free! Always have some stored for future projects, just wash and clean out your food tins when you are finished with them, making sure there is no sharp edges on them.

DIY Halloween Party Favors

You'll need:
  • tin cans
  • spray paint (if it's too cold outside to spray paint, use a foam brush to paint the cans)
  • scrap papers - use two different patterns
  • halloween self-adhesive stickers
  • paper trimmer, or scissors
  • washi tape, or any other decorative tape
  • double-sided tape
  • pencil

How to:

1. Spray paint a can, inside and outside, according to manufacture's instructions, and let it dry completely. The reason to paint it inside and out is not only to have a nice finishing, but to make the bottom and top of the can part of the design, and to get that, the paper colors should contrast with the paint color. 

2. Roll a strip of scrap paper on the tin can, use a pencil to mark the height you want, and cut it to fit; then roll it again around the can to mark the diameter. The paper should be cut about 1/2 inch longer than the can diameter so one end will overlap the other.

3. Place paper wrong side up; adhere double-sided tape along each short end. Align and stick one end to can; carefully, wrap paper around can, then secure the other end. Repeat the same process with the other paper.

4. Add a piece of washi tape, or any other decorative tape, to cover the seam in the back. The last step is to decorate the can using self-adhesive stickers.

And you are done! So simple, so fast!

I hope this quick and stress-free diy helps get you into the spooky and fun spirit of Halloween.

"Trick or Treat!
Give me something sweet to eat,
give me candy, give me cake,
give me something sweet to take!"

October 7, 2016

Like brushstrokes of watercolor

I had planned for this week to post one of the delicious recipes we've been making using our homegrown tomatoes, yes we picked the last ones last weekend, but it did not happened as I planned, and you know why? Because on my free time I like to follow my heart, I like to do what makes me the most happy, and this morning I just wanted to take pictures of the last summer flowers I picked from my flower garden.

This is a spontaneous flower arrangement, it's not planned at all, some flowers are roadside flowers I picked on my morning walk, the hydrangea, phlox and black-eyed suan I planted myself, and each year it's a joy to see them blooming until late summer, sometimes, like this year, beginning of fall.

I think the result of mixing & matching these flowers in a natural, loose way is unexpectedly pretty. The color palette reminds me of the suble, layered brushstrokes of a watercolor painting, creating a lovely perfect bouquet. Don't you agree?

September 28, 2016

And the day started like that...

I guess, sometimes, we don't realize how badly we need to escape from the boring mundane situations of everyday life, and how enjoyable it is to travel, to visit new places, to learn about its history, experience its culture, meet new people, eat different foods, and most of all, spend quality time with the people we love.

A few weeks ago, we drove to Virginia. Brady and I are kind of history buffs on American civil war and colonial history, and for this reason only Virginia seemed the right place to visit, plus it has beaches and gorgeous mountains.

But this story is not a narrative of all the places we visited in Virginia, this is  a photography essay about one morning, the last morning I woke up in Virginia Beach. It was still dark when I got up, grab my camera and head to the beach, alone.

I was photographing every step of the sun rising, but then I stopped, something was happening at that beach. I looked to my right, and saw birds gathering at the pier, in silence.

When the sun rose they all started singing and dancing in the sky, graciously greeting the new day. I was mesmerized. I stopped taking pictures, and became intensely aware of that moment.

It's impossible to put my experience into words, but suffice it to say it was profound. At that moment, my whole reality shifted. I felt whole, complete, blissful, loving, free... part of something larger... at peace.

I had experienced it before, and believe many of you have too, it's when you forget yourself and become what you are aware of, it's when a strong sense of connection among all things on this precious planet takes over us. It's pure bliss.

I know it's up to me to keep that blissful feeling present on my life daily, but while I have not mastered it yet, I am becoming more conscious, calmer, seeking to let go of my fears and negativities

And whenever I fall back and desperately start looking for fulfillment in meaningless things, I can always look back at these pictures to remind me that inner peace is possible despite the outward chaos.

"When you arise in the morning,
think of what a precious privilege
it is to be alive - to breathe, 
to think, to enjoy, to love."
                                           Marcus Aurelius

September 16, 2016

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plantselfie

At the end of July, I invited some girl friends over for a garden-to-table backyard gathering featuring our home grown vegetables. We had such a lovely and fun day, plenty of seasonal and fresh foods, great wine and beer, and lots of laughs. 

One of my friends fell in love with my succulents and asked me if I could plant some in a vase for her. That request was quite unexpected, after all she is a master gardener and knows much more about plants than I do. Then she explained she has never had luck with succulents and looking at mine so healthy and happy she believed I might have a thing with succulents. I thought that was such a cute and nice compliment. 

So, gladly, I planted a few succulents in a vase she gave me, an old vase that belonged to her late mother.

Below is the succulents ready to go to my friend's home. I made a design with six different types of succulents, planting them apart so they have room to grow and live happily and healthy for a long time.
In stores, usually, I see vases with multiple succulents planted so close to each other that I don't know how they can breath, obviously they won't grow much, or be healthy for long.

By no means I am a plant expert, I'm just a plant lover. I do have many plants and they are healthy, so I told my friend the three factors I consider when I care for my succulents:

sunlight +  temperature + water

But this is not a DIY post, this is a post inspired by this month's Urban Jungle Bloggers topic - we are sharing our plantselfie!

I thought it would be fun to take photos of myself with some of my plants, but it turned out to be nonsense. I styled the scene, set my camera on a tripod, set the timer, then ran back to the scene... and everytime I tried, something was out of place. My hand, my foot, or my face, most of the time was cut off, and as I didn't want to be known as the woman with no face, I waited for Brady to help me.

That's why my #plantselfie post is a bit late since this topic was launched by Urban Jungle Bloggers on September 12th.

I don't understand why so many people like to take so many selfies and show them off to the world, but here I am, shy, and shameless, in a picture taken by Brady, showing off my face surrounded by some of my plants - everything for the love of them 🌿🌱🙈🌵.

September 7, 2016

Those little things... chasing the light

And so enters September... starting to feel like autumn around here...

The light has already changed... a low, softer, slanting light feels the rooms now...

The morning silence is broken only by the chirping and singing of birds, a shy sunlight cast a warm mellow glow through the window and kitchen door, and I can't resist to chase it with my camera...

Enjoying every moment as it passes, enjoying the beauty of everyday things that surrounding me, their shapes, lines, colors as the sunlight shines on them...

Every morning, before breakfast, I wander into my garden... the scent of freshness, the birds singing... 

Every day there is something new unfolding in the garden... new flowers, new weeds (!!!), surprise encounters with the so many creatures that share my garden space... Perks of living away from the city...

This morning, the sun did not shine, it's raining, a slow pace rain... I love the sunshine and I love the grey moodiness of a rainy day, I appreciate what I have...

Time to sit down for breakfast listening to the rhythm of the falling rain... perfect beginning to a new day, I would say.

August 30, 2016

Gratitude and an Eggplant Appetizer Recipe

Late Summer
Early mornings. Blue skies.
Cheerful birds. Colorful flowers.
Scortching sun. Stifling humidity.
Binge on ice cream.
Cold, freshly squeezed orange juice.
Over-heated look.
Incessant air-conditioner noise.
Scaring thunderstormes. Blessed thunderstorms.
Garden work. Freshly picked vegetables.
More garden work.
Light breeze. Pink sunset clouds.Blissful nights.
There is nothing quite like late summer in New England!

It's a love-hate feeling, I love it, but I've been feeling so tired. Gardening helps me to relax, it works like an antidote to the stress of everyday life, but the humidity has been draining my energy.

It's been hot, muggy, steamy even, not easy to be outside watering the landscape and garden twice a day, weeding out and deadheading flowers, yet I feel grateful when I come inside from our garden with a basket filled with gorgeous organic vegetables grown by us.

Brady built three vegetable beds and a raised bed for the herbs. This year, in the vegetable garden we've grown a variety of zucchinis, eggplants, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, and peppers. The potatoes in the picture are from our friend's garden.

The raised bed we keep in the deck, along with some pots where I planted more herbs. To just pop outside the kitchen door and snip off a few sprigs of rosemary, or a handful of scallions is wonderful!

We've had an abundance of vegetables this year, sometimes they seem to get ripe all at once, but before they go bad we share some with our friends and use them to make simple salads and try new recipes, like cooking zucchini blossoms.

Together, we cooked rolled eggplant with ground beef & mozzarella, zucchini chips, Brady's mother classic tomato sauce recipe, my mother's tomato & pepper vinaigrette (yummy!), and last Sunday, when friends came over for a visit, I made this delicious eggplant appetizer.

Eggplant Appetizer

This family's favorite eggplant recipe is the perfect appetizer for a party, or get together. It tastes divine if it is set in the refrigerator for a day, or two, before serving it.

This dish is simpleunforgettable, and bound to please everyone.

 1 large, or 2 medium eggplants
 1 large onion sliced thinly
♥ 10 ounces of pitted and sliced green olives (a little over a handful)
♥ 1 large garlic clove sliced thinly
♥ 1/3 cup olive oil
♥ 3 tbsp white vinegar
♥ parsley & scallion, to taste
♥ salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

ps.: reduce or increase quantity of ingredients to your taste; this is not a cake so you don't need to be precise.

Rinse, slice and dice the eggplant. Don't peel it.

Place the eggplant, salt, and water in a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked but still firm. Drain it in a strainer and let it cool completely.

Place the boiled eggplant in a bowl and little by little add onion, garlic, olives, parsley and scallion, toss them gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Last, add olive oil and vinegar, and toss gently to coat.

Transfer the appetizer to an airtight container, and place it in the refrigerator.

Serve cold, or at room temperature, with pita chips, pita bread, or as a side dish.

August 9, 2016

Ray of Light

One morning... catching the first light of the day in my garden...

Wishing you guys a sun-spangled day...

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