Posts tagged food
Alexandra of Alexandra Hedin: 12 Blogger Christmas
AHhhhh! Only one more day of Blogger Christmas left!! Trust me, you'll be glad you stayed until the end. Today's feature is Alexandra from Alexandra Hedin. Alexandra whips up parties with drinks, treats, and sweet decor. She also lives in an incredible firehouse and has three totally adorable children.


If 2014 is going to include some celebrations (big or small), make sure you take a look at Alexandra's goodness.
I left my corporate job when I had a baby in 2008 and needed something to do every day – that wasn't related to the baby. I started a blog towards the end of that year just to keep myself entertained.  It was positively dreadful. I started taking the blog seriously when I realized someone, other than my mother, was reading it regularly. I love sharing information – seeing things that I have created impact the lives of others is what keeps me blogging. Even if it's just inspiring another mother to pour herself a cocktail.  
I believe that colorful people are the most fun people and I believe that everyone should be fun.  On my blog we have fun, we are fun, we love fun.  I hope to inspire readers with recipes, crafts and inspiration that are crazy easy.  It must be easy or no one would do it.  And if no one had fun, life would be tragic.  

My favorite posts are the ones that have inspired other people {and that have gone viral}



My wish for the blog is always the same :: that I will inspire people to do something fun. Whether it's a picnic for dinner with your kids – or a cocktail to toast the weekend.  

Have fun.  Be fun.
Alexandra's magic has been seen recently in Better Homes and Gardens and Land of Nod catalogs. She's planning an extravagant mini-party at Alt Summit, and I can't wait to be a party goer!! Alexandra has some creative adventures up her sleeve for 2014 so tune in for the latest inspiration.


On the eleventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Alexandra Hedin.


On the tenth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Raincoast Creative Salon.


On the ninth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Frock Files.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Improvised.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Bring Joy.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Minnow + Co.

On the fifth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt.

On the fourth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design + Life + Kids.

On the third day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Stitch Go.

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Trouvé Magazine.

And Lulu the Baker !

P.S. Tomorrow's final blogger is the coolest!! Can't wait to reveal this multi-talented woman!!! I'm not even giving hints on this one.


P.P.S. #30 Sketch Day 4 - Words that my independent grandmother would say in the last decade of her life. I am just beginning to understand their meaning!


Raincoast Creative Salon and Sandra: 12 Blogger Christmas

Happy Saturday to you!! I have a great read for you to enjoy over a cup of coffee or tea (maybe even a great glass of wine). Today's blogger is Sandra of Raincoast Creative Salon. I first fell in love with her work when she interviewed artists in their work spaces and talked about what inspired them. She is a masterful photographer, and she's always coming up with creative collaborations and approaching new topics for her audiences. Enjoy!!

I started Raincoast Creative Salon in January 2012 because I had recently moved to Vancouver and wanted to make some friends who shared similar creative interests. It also was a commitment to making my own creative work a priority. I had spent far too many years putting my creative life on the backburner.


Two weeks later I zoomed off to the Altitude Design Summit in Salt Lake City where I knew no one! I spent a lot of time leaning against walls getting the guts up to talk to people and made some great friends. 


What keeps me blogging is those same two things. I've built a wonderful creative community (can I tell you even MORE how I love that we are no longer limited by geography for finding our kindreds???). I've spent two years learning photography, photoshop, lightroom, and illustrator. I've learned all sorts of social media and upped my writing game. It's creative - I can do whatever I want. And last month I won second place in the juried Canadian Weblog Awards in the category of arts & culture. 


I'm a food and still life photographer. Raincoast Creative Salon is the online home for what I love: creativity, creative process, art, photography and travel. I also share stories about my own creative projects.
You'll find me on Instagram where I host #foliophoto Instragram projects with Christie of Bedsidesign. In real life I host an evening Salon series in Vancouver, Canada for arty types. And last month Melanie Biehle and I launched We Are the Contributors, a community and publication for creatives.

It's hard to narrow it down to three. And looking at the three I picked, they ALL are collaborative posts in some way - I love working with others.


I'm a big fan of series and columns as you get to explore a topic in more depth and from different angles. The first "fave" is my Creative Couples series. I'm fascinated by the creative process of artists. Add in a relationship and you have interviews with couples who are creative AND making it work. It's real and there are useful insights for all of us.


My second fave is the first post in another series that the supremely talented Erin Cassidy did for me called Art One Oh One. The series is a fresh, hip take on the history of modern art and this first post is about Abstract Expressionism.


And my third fave post is the first one in ANOTHER series that I did with Jen Cooper called Talking About Creativity. In this post we bantered about jealousy and got a HUGE response. We're all dealing with it, right?


My biggest wish for my blog is that it's inspiring. First, that it'll inspire people to make creating a regular part of their lives. 


Second, that it'll inspire people to build an online and real life creative community. Even though many of us are extroverted introverts, I believe that we need a creative community to support and share and inspire.



Now that it'll be down in writing, I'd better make these things happen, eh? Seriously, though, my first wish for my blog in 2014 is that it'll be a springboard for more food and still life photography work. My second wish is that is that I'll continue to meet and get to know more creatives. And my third wish is that my blog continues to be a starting point for creative collaborations.
Be sure to add Raincoast Creative Salon to your blog reader and join in some of the new projects that Sandra has on her plate! Undoubtedly she'll be showing off some really yummy bites that she's just created as well.
On the tenth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Raincoast Creative Salon.


On the ninth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Frock Files.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Improvised.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Bring Joy.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Minnow + Co.

On the fifth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt.

On the fourth day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design + Life + Kids.

On the third day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Design Stitch Go.

On the second day of Christmas, Pars Caeli gave to me Trouvé Magazine.

And Lulu the Baker !



P.S. Tomorrow's Day 11 Blogger can whip up an amazing celebration! Stop back tomorrow to par-tay!

P.P.S. Today's sketch for the #30sketch project is inspired by the true words of Beth Ables, a featured artist and blogger on Trouve Magazine. If you're a creative of any type, take a quick read. You will nod in agreement with every line.


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!


Living vicariously: Italy

Happy Monday, friends! How was your weekend?? Mine has been filled with work, and this week is looking like more of the same. No stress here, though, I've got rockstars filling in and taking us on a little vacation from the norm.

Kicking off an awesome week is my pal, Tara!! She's sharing all the loveliness that is ITALY here with us. She is soaking up "la bella vita" with her three adorables (look that scarf-donning cutie!) and super hubs...and doing it all with amazing style. Watch this...Here's Tara.

Photo by: Erika Saari Williams, Oscar Elnes Photography

A little over three years ago, my husband and I had the lucky opportunity move to Italy. We’ve had the time of our lives here, but we return to the US in one short month. We’ll bring many new things home with us, the most special of which is our family. Just the two of us made the flight over, but five of us will fly home; our fun twin sons are nearly three years old and our sweet daughter is eight months. We’ll also bring lots of other things—Italian home furnishings, new recipes, and many, many bottles of wine. The best things we’ll bring with us, though, are intangibles. We’ve truly been inspired by the way our Italian neighbors live, and I’d like to share three lessons that they’ve taught me in the hopes that—even without living here—they may inspire you, too.

Lesson One: People and relationships are the center of life. 

Family and friends take precedence over other obligations in my corner of Italy. I’ve observed this primary value play out in so many different ways during our time here; at the mom and pop store a couple of doors down from us (and in most of the other stores), they close the store for a day if there’s a family event going on without worrying about losing business. All around town, shopkeepers know their customers because they talk to us (more than small talk, too). And the people waiting in line while we chat? They don’t huff, they don’t puff, they don’t shift from foot to foot, impatient to pay and anxious to get out. They just wait, and sometimes they join in the conversation. When I’m walking down the street, I’m constantly stopped by people who want to coo over my children and ask me all about them. My three kids under the age of three aren’t a “handful.” They’re a blessing. We all walk away smiling. It’s a way of life here…people connect. Families and friends share meals together, lingering over the food and wine and water, and they talk. Again, even strangers who are dining in a restaurant with us will smile and share small pieces of conversation. It’s absolutely lovely.

In today’s world, there’s so much to do, and we all have various responsibilities. But we have really benefited from the pace of life here, which I think comes from the value that Italians place on people. I know that we won’t be able to replicate the exact same atmosphere everywhere we live, but I do know that we will try to remember the good that comes from putting people—not money, not things, not other obligations—first. I’ll take with me a readiness to say no to superfluous responsibilities that don’t help me honor my family, my friends, and even the strangers I meet along the way in life.

Lesson two: Look good, feel good.

We moved here when I was very pregnant with twins. I was big. My feet were swollen. What did I see when I walked out onto the street? Women (and men!) who were put together, top to bottom. No one was wearing flip flops. No one was wearing yoga pants. I was intimidated. Really, NO ONE was wearing yoga pants or flip flops. Ever. And I noticed quickly that if I did wear them, people gave me a sideways glance.
Photo by: Erika Saari Williams, Oscar Elnes Photography

The Italians who walk around my city center just seem to have this innate sense of style, and they are lovely to behold. And here I was hugely pregnant, and then a new mom of twins. You could say that initially I felt a bit resentful that in order to go out and about I had to get dressed, do my hair, and put on make-up or risk having people give me the sideways glance. But I quickly realized that the days I did get myself together, I felt much better about myself. And so I did it more often—almost every day. When I spent 15-20 minutes putting myself together physically, I felt more together mentally and emotionally. I found the time to make myself look nice during the most harried and sleep-deprived time of my life, the time when I was most susceptible to not showering and wearing stretchy pants every single day. Now I’m so thankful to the folks who would have given me a sideways glance, because it taught me that taking some time for myself could completely shape the rest of my day (and my week, month, life!). Fake it ‘til you make it, perhaps?

When I get dressed, I feel like I have it together. When I feel like I have it together, I’m more likely to do the things that actually put my life on a positive trajectory. I’m more likely to actually get my life together! It’s crazy, but if I have a cute outfit on, my hair looks presentable, and lipstick has touched my lips on that day, I’ll want to feel even better, so I’ll exercise the next morning. I’ll prioritize eating well, and I’ll keep exercising. Then I’ll have more patience with my children, I’ll get more done if I have any ongoing projects for work, and so on. Of course, not every day goes by smoothly just because I’m wearing make-up, but I’m far more likely to get into a funky mood when I’m wearing yoga pants and dirty hair. The funky mood benefits no one—not me, not my kids, not my husband. When I look good, chances are I’ll feel good, and so too will the people around me.

Lesson Three: Simplicity is best, especially when it comes to food.

My Italian neighbors embrace simplicity in life, to great effect. Their clothes are simple (if exquisitely made) but beautiful. Their vacations are simple—spend time in nature, whether it’s in the mountains or at the sea, eat well, and relax. Coffee is simple—small, strong, sometimes with milk. No decaf-soy-nonfat frappuccinos for them. Their food is simple but oh-so-delicious. Simplicity is where joy is found.

I love all of these mini-lessons, but I can say with certainty that my life and my family’s life have been changed forever by the Italian culture of food. Even before we moved here, I tried to eat well and make food from scratch using whole foods, but life here has added much to my knowledge base of how to shop for, prepare, and eat really delicious, simple food.

In my weekly visits to our fresh market (almost every Italian town has one—once or twice a week, sometimes more, merchants set up tents to sell fresh fruit and veggies, cheeses, and fish, and often lots of other things), I became friends with the owner whose fruit and veggie stand I frequented. I would go to the market with an idea of what I wanted, and she would tell me if a certain fruit or veg was good or not that week, and often she’d suggest another fruit or vegetable (usually vegetable ) that I ought to try. And then she’d tell me how to cook it and what to serve with it. As I go through the list of new produce I’ve tried in my head, I feel pretty confident saying that 90% of the new veggies.

I’ve tried have been cooked (using a couple of different methods, for differing periods of time) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. And they’ve all been delicious. From the fishmonger? I’ve bought a whole octopus, boiled it in water with celery and carrots, then made a salad out of it with potatoes, olive oil, and salt. Unexpectedly delectable. I’ve learned to make a pasticcio (what we think of as lasagna, although there are about 50 different variations up here and honestly don’t resemble American lasagnas) from fresh noodles, a cream sauce (quickly made from butter, flour, and milk), and a sautéed vegetable like spinach, mushrooms, or radicchio. Mouthwatering.

The two great commonalities of these examples? 1) They are simple—seriously. These meals don’t take a ton of time to prepare, and they’re usually right around five ingredients (plus salt and pepper). Further, they don’t require advanced cooking skills. The more often I began to cook this way, the faster and easier it becomes. Win! 2) The ingredients are in season. I know cooking in season is becoming much more popular in the US (thank goodness!), but I’ve really learned to eat seasonally here because it’s all that is available. Markets certainly don’t carry foods that aren’t right in season (I can’t even get strawberries right now—they’re only available mid-late spring, then they’re gone!), and most supermarkets don’t either. Some out-of-season foods are available frozen or canned, of course, but it’s typically not the way Italians eat, and for good reason. Foods in season taste best! My meal repertoire and our palates have grown significantly because we focus on eating what’s available.

And speaking of in season…I’ve learned how to leverage what is in season to make cooking simple food delicious (and still varied) year round. Tomatoes aren’t in season all year round, even in Italy. But in August, five kilos (that’s over 11 pounds!) of San Marzanos (to me, one of the most delicious types of tomato) costs five Euro ($7-8). The bounty is just amazing, and it inspired me to start learning how to put away foods. When you have really delicious summer produce that you’ve canned yourself (and you know what’s in it—or not—from no salt to a piece of basil to no BPA in your canning materials), it makes it far easier to make an incredibly simple, flavorful dish in the winter, even when you’re tired of squash and potatoes.

Ahhh….Italian food. I’m going to miss it. But I’ve learned that by eating in season (and by canning some foods that are so abundant and delicious in season so I can also use them out of season), it’s really quite easy to cook nourishing, wholesome foods for my family. Using simple recipes that feature few high-quality ingredients, Italians find beauty in their food. They’ve inspired me to do
the same, wherever we live.

I’m looking forward to living these lessons as we move back the USA and in the coming years, and I’ve been lucky to learn them in bella Italia. But I’m sure many of you already knew what became clear to me here. Tell me—what are your tips for making these lessons a reality in your daily lives?

What do you think, friends? Is this not the fabulous life?? XO, MJ (and Tara)

It's a good mom day when...

My mom is fabulous at a great many things. Some I recognized even as an awkward, mall-bang-wearing (not a word), self-conscious teen. Many, many more I have discovered like golden Easter eggs in the great hunt of parenthood.

She and my dad have been so gracious to come and stay with our family during the first few weeks home with each of my new babes. And, let me tell you, my mom can whip a house in to tidy, sparkling clean order like nobody I know, and she can do it with breakneck speed and still be raring to cuddle or cajole her precious grandchildren.

Growing up in my house, with my mom as the lone chef, I sat down to a hot meal every night, served family style with just the right amount for each of us and always little waste.

During my new mommy days, when my mom and dad stayed with us, my mom put on the apron (literally) as head chef, coming in with her meals and menus already set and a grocery list preplanned for my father's day trips. Those weeks, though exhausting and surreal, were totally heavenly and peaceful for me as my sweet mother added the delicious smells and necessary order that my new (and now forever) chaotic life so needed.

My mother knows how to present a meal. She presents a snack. She presents a drink. In creating her menus, she considers nutrition as well as color combinations, food placement, and dish selections. In my home, I watched her find new serving dishes, carefully fluff and arrange the food on my plates, and fold my cheap paper napkins into something special.

This gift is one of those I overlooked as a youngling, and one that I, now in her shoes as a mom of three, totally get. And I realize that all of these little (and significant) ways that she cared for me through her meals and treats and presentations made me enjoy food more and in the end make some better choices.

We all know just how beautiful the colors and textures of food can be, and we're blessed to have so many beautiful food blogs out there to elicit intense salivation (check out Dawn's amazing food photos that I swear I can smell through the screen). 

But before I had those, I had my mom, and I'm trying in little ways to incorporate her energy. I completely feel like a rockstar mom when our food looks like I want to take out my iPhone and snap a shot (and I get a great laugh out of little L asking me why I'm taking pictures of grapes). My children have a visceral reaction, too, though they would not be able to name it, much as I was unable to do the same in my parent's home.

It's a good mom day when the grapes are sliced and placed in a pretty white bowl. I've achieved the simple, true act of pouring out the love I've been so graciously given.

Love ya, Mom.


MJ Kocovskifood, kids, love, mom, style