gifts for teachers

I have to tell you that I am pretty excited that picnic season is here. As you may have noticed, I really really like picnics. Which is why I’m so excited to share with you the most amazing pesto you will ever taste.

A friend of ours makes this pesto from her own basil and gives it away every Christmas. Every year we devour it and rave about how good it is. I finally decided life is too short to have amazing pesto only in December. So this year I asked, and this friend of ours was good enough to pass on her recipe. (Thanks, Jaime!) We’ve been making it nonstop since. Several dinners have revolved around this pesto. And I expect several summer picnics yet to come will revolve around it too.

The recipe is so impossibly easy. I wish I’d started making it years ago. There’s no special process. There is, however, one secret ingredient: butter. Basil and butter? How can you go wrong?

I included a free printable label for you. I thought pesto might be a good addition to my list of DIY wedding favors. Plus this will make a great hostess gift. Just sneak it in the fridge with a little thank you note while no one is looking. When your hostess discovers it she will love you, and when she tastes it she will love you even more. I’ve included a blank label too. Just in case you’d like to use it for some other treat.

Download from DropBox by clicking here: Printable Pesto Label, Printable Label Blank

Or download here: Pesto Label, printable (4012)
Leafy Label, blank (4424)

(Printing tip: You can open these files as they are, or, if you’d like to change their size, insert them into a Word document as a picture. Then you can resize as you like.)

Jamie’s Amazing Homemade Pesto

4 cups packed basil leaves
5 cloves garlic
½ cup butter
2 cups parmesan cheese
olive oil
a handful of pine nuts or walnuts

Put first four ingredients into bowl of food processor in order given: mash as many basil leaves in as you can, just as long as you leave a few inches of space at the top of the bowl, then add garlic (the Trader Joe’s pre-peeled stuff is great), slice up the butter on top, and dump the cheese on top of that. Pulse and gradually add olive oil until mixture is the consistency of thick paste. (Taste at this point and see if it needs more of anything.) Add nuts and continue to blend. Once done, spoon into jars and keep in fridge until ready to enjoy. Yields about two cups.

I’m sorry to tell you that my basil is store-bought. But I am tending to my herb garden dutifully, and I’m hopeful that I’ll get to use my own basil very soon.

Did you know you can use walnuts in pesto? Pine nuts are great too, but I like that with walnuts you can occasionally bite into a big chunk of nut. Yum. In fact, I threw in most of my walnuts and processed the pesto for a while, then threw in a few extra and gave everything just a few whirls so I’d be guaranteed a few big chunks.

I love how bright springie green it is.

Happy picnicking!


I think a fabric bloom is just the thing to give mom on Mother’s Day, don’t you? Something lovely for her to pin on to make her feel queenly. I’ve seen so many beautiful fabric flowers floating around that I thought I’d gather them here for a little inspiration in case you’d like to buy or DIY.

buy Heart of Light | Grosgrain tutorial | 100 Layer Cake tutorial

buy Emersonmade | Miss Priss tutorial | Prudent Baby tutorial

buy Twigs & Honey | buy Sarah Culleton (via here) | Ruffles and Stuff tutorial

Everyday Chaos tutorial | buy K. Autumn (via here) | Mama Monster tutorial

Salty Pineapple tutorial | Knit Picks tutorial | buy Tago Design


Clickin Moms

If you happen to be a budding photographer, you are going to love one of my new sponsors. More on Clickin Moms coming soon.


Here’s a quick little project I thought you might like to make for mom or grandma on Mother’s Day. It easy, and come on, aren’t the results fab? Put a few scraps of fabric on the table in front of your kids and see what lovely things they come up with.

You’ll need just a few supplies:
-A pair of scissors
-Scrap pieces of felt and patterned fabric
-Pipe cleaners
-A fun array of buttons

We  snipped out a few varying shapes and sizes of fabric. I liked the round felt with the scalloped pattern fabric. Layer them as you like and snip a single slit right in the middle.

With the pipe cleaner, make a loop big enough to fit as a ring in the back, and make a little twist to finish the loop.  Then poke both ends through the slit in the fabric, through the button holes, and give the pipe cleaner one more twist on the top to hold everything in place.

And there you have it. Something fabulous for grandma or mom to wear on her special day.

We also discovered that if you make a slightly bigger version you can make mom’s bike pretty too.

Happy snipping.


Do you have any favorite teacher appreciation gifts you’ve given in the past? Teachers, any favorites you’ve received? Here are a few of my all-time favorites that kids can make for teacher appreciation, many of which can be paired nicely with a gift card for say, a book on tape, a car wash, or bread from a yummy bakery. (Or go in with other class members and give them a night away, which we’re planning to do.)
pictured: handsoap with kids’ art from here, block notepad from HowDoesShe, Pencil Puzzle from MaryJanesGoloshes.

Gifts using pictures of the kids. A few ideas for using photos of the kids themselves, which are an especially great surprise if you can get the class together for a group photo. These photo gifts are helpful for kids too young to write thank you notes to teacher.
1. Thank you portrait. Have the kids spell out “thank you” by laying on the ground and forming the letters with their bodies. Take pictures from overhead.
2. Knee-down portrait. Have the kids line up against a wall and take a photo of the kids from their knees down. Wrap the photo around a can for a pencil holder.
3. Thank you board book or moleskin. On each page put a picture of each child and a reason he or she loves the teacher.
4. Photo beanbags for the classroom.
5. Pencil photo puzzle (found via OnePrettyThing).
6. Photo magazine holders for classroom organization (found via OnePrettyThing).
7. A set of magnets for the classroom.
8. A water bottle.

Gifts using kids’ artwork. And here a few ideas for making gifts from artwork your little one has already created.
9. Handsoap with art inside.
10. Personalized pencil sharpener.
11. Personalized book plates.
12. Stationary for the classroom.
13. A photo desk calendar.

Things kids color directly on
. Self explanatory, right?
14. Rocks and a planter. Have each child paint a small rock. Add these to the top of a plant in a pretty pot for the teacher’s home or classroom.
15. The classroom door. Get students together to decorate the classroom door with loving notes.
16. Cube notepad. Get or make a cube-sized notepad, have the kids color on the sides.
17. Pretty thumb tacks, or try a more rustic set.
18. A good reference book with something pretty stamped on the side.
19. Premium fruit juice with labels drawn by your kids.
20. Cloth Napkins. Use the batik method to decorate a set of cloth napkins. Just drizzle Elmer’s glue over the fabric, let it dry, dye it, and wash it according to the directions on the dye.
21. A notebook with sweet messages hidden throughout.

Things kids can make
22. Handlebar flower.
23. Seed tape.
24. Fabric tissue case (found via OnePrettyThing).
25. Friendly felt-embellished paper clips.
26. Sunprint pencil cup.
27. Pretty pens.
28. Fabric-covered journals (found via OnePrettyThing).
29. Pretty binder clips.
30. Poetry suitcase f
or use in the classroom.
31. Fabric catchall.
32. Corner bookmark.
33. Fabric-covered pots (found via OnePrettyThing).
34. Forced bulbs or an herb garden planted and nurtured by your child.
35. Footwarmer.
36. Lavender drawer sachets.
37. Reusable lunch bag.
38. Yummy bread. If your child has just learned to read, have them use their new skills to read a recipe and make homemade bread.
30. Homemade croutons to go with a salad kit.
40. Homemade pasta cut in fun shapes with a cookie cutter.
41. Chocolate dipped strawberries.
42. Macarons.
43. Waffle mix and real maple syrup with a label drawn by your child.
44. Hot chocolate on a stick (in colder weather).
45. Homemade granola.
46. A caramel-dipped apple.
47. Homemade salsa.
48. Homemade hot sauce.
49. Vanilla sugar.
50. Cookie dough frozen in cookie-sized portions. I like using a bag to pipe out stir and drop cookies.

Comment from a teacher.
I thought this note from Susan, a real teacher weighing in, was helpful: “These are great ideas!  If you include picutures of your kids, make sure the gift is really for the teacher.  I once got Christmas ornaments with student pictures in them.  While I love your kid and happy to spend all day with them, I don’t want to take them home with me.” Thanks, Susan!

Treats in the teacher’s lounge. I love this idea, found here: “Our school provides the best teacher appreciation week. Each day a different grade level is responsible for providing snacks and goodies for the teachers lounge. We always have a ton of food. One year we all received corsages made from one mom! This year we were surprised with 15 minute massages for each teacher. A therapist came in to our building for 2-days and gave each teacher a 15 minute massage. It was wonderful!!!!”

Teacher favorites survey. I also love this idea found here: “My daughter’s PTO has a form that each teacher fills out at the beginning of the year with their “favorites” (favorite color, soda, candy, scent, etc.). They keep all of the teachers forms in a book in the office [or keep them on the school’s website]- that way parents can have easy access and get the teacher something they like or will use.”


Ever since high school, I have always carried a blank notebook with me almost everywhere I go, for recording bits of inspiration as they strike. I also like carrying a black pen and a pencil. And only recently did it occur to me to have a pencil sharpener to carry around too. It’s the simplest but greatest thing. To have a sharpened pencil anytime I need it is such a joy. So we recently started giving pencil sharpeners to other people too (you may have noticed it in this post). We found it to be the perfect teacher gift, and with teacher appreciation day fast approaching (it’s May 4), I thought you might like the how-to.

I simply decided to buy wooden pencil sharpeners and follow the directions for making a scrabble tile pendant. Here’s what you’ll need:
—A wooden pencil sharpener
(I was turned on to KUM pencil sharpeners after reading this hearty endorsement)
—Modge podge
Diamond glaze
(can be hard to find, so shop around in advance, you can also use epoxy resin, which is more permanent and is water resistant, but you won’t want to use it around kids)
—A piece of artwork to add to the pencil sharpener

It’s true, KUM sharpeners are the best.

We’ve used a couple different kinds of artwork to apply to the pencil sharpener. I printed an initial for one, and my son drew a picture for his teacher for another sharpener. I took a photo of it and reduced its size.

I sanded off the paint from the sharpener.

I painted the surface of the sharpener with Modge Podge, then added my artwork and painted again with Modge Podge. I decided to give the sharpener a little extra time to dry.

I flipped over the sharpener and used a craft knife to trim the overhanging edges of the artwork.

Then I added the diamond glaze. This part can be a little tricky. I added a bead of glaze the size of a dime to the center, then tilted the sharpener until the glaze covered most of the surface. I used a straight pin to guide the glaze to the corners of the surface. And finally, I set up the sharpener on a bottle cap so the sharpener was perfectly level as the diamond glaze dried (which takes a few days, so be prepared to wait).

Once the glaze was dry, we had a personalized pencil sharpener ready to go.


I spent yesterday gathering advice for planting my expanded herb garden. I’ve resolved never to have homemade pizza again without fresh basil sprinkled on top! Yesterday I spoke with two amazing women, a friend who runs her own nursery here and my amazing Idaho S-I-L. (The one who taught me to make this salsa.) I thought you might like to hear their thoughts. But first, you have to see what my S-I-L gave me last year:

Seriously the best birthday gift ever. This is an herb garden she started from seeds for me. I almost cried I was so happy. I have managed to keep much of it alive since, so I feel ready to expand. So here, from Laura (my local California girl) and Cherie (my Idaho girl) are a few tips for growing your own herb garden.

1. Do it. It is so much cheaper than fresh herbs from the grocery store, and you will have basil for your pasta and Tai food, mint for your lemon aid, rosemary for your potatoes, thyme for your chicken dinner, and you will generally be a happier and better fed person.
2. Don’t start with cilantro
. It’s trickier than other herbs and may get you frustrated if you’re not a diligent grower and harvester. (UPDATE: though I just got a comment from Sherry who makes it sound easy. Thoughts, anyone?)
3. Pick a sunny spot with good drainage
. Most basic herbs love the sun and don’t want to be too wet. Just a few like partial shade, like cilantro (which we’ve already decided is high maintenance), lemon balm, and mint. If you want to plant in a container, you can plant each herb separately or put them all together in one big bowl. Or plant them in pots according to the recipes you like to use them for, a Tai pot, an Italian pot, a chicken dinner pot. Use a soilless potting mix that will drain well.
4. Speaking of mint, plant it alone
, in its own pot. It will take over all the other herbs and take over your whole yard if you let it.
5. Pick a spot near the kitchen if possible, so you can step right outside and snip off a sprig without having to hike across the yard.
6. You can start from seeds, but start with at least a few from plants for instant gratification. Big woody plants especially are good to just buy as plants (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano). Be sure to water them before you transplant. Grassy herbs grow quickly from seeds (chives, parsley) and my S-I-L recommends starting these and other seedlings right in the pot or the outside spot where they’ll be living permanently, if weather allows.  The grassy herbs especially are delicate and don’t like being transplanted. UPDATE: The most helpful article I found for planting from seeds was this one.
7. Plant some perennials. I’d never realized how many herbs will come back year after year. Try sage, thyme, lemon thyme, chives, oregano, fennel, marjoram and mint. A few of these will get too mature and woody after a couple years. Sage and thyme especially you may want to replant every few years.
8. Try a few annuals.
You have to go with basil for sure. Big-leafed sweet basil or genovese basil are good all-purpose basils. Plant them when it’s hot outside, when you plant your tomatoes. My S-I-L also likes lemon balm and dill.
9. Don’t over water. Water every few days when the top few centimeters of soil is dry. Don’t over fertilize. Once a month should be enough. If the soil is too fertile, the plants will produce too much foliage and won’t have the intense flavor that a good herb should have.
10. Once the plants are taller and established, throw some mulch down over the soil. It will keep weeds from growing and keep the soil moist. Leave a bare spot of soil right around the stem to avoid a slug problem.
11. Harvest often. Harvesting promotes growth. It keeps plants in their growing cycle instead of letting them mature and finish their life. So stop by your garden before dinner each night and snip away. (Never tear.) You can harvest up to a third of the foliage. And if you see a flower, clip or pinch it off. Once an herb flowers it’s trying to finish its life cycle.
12. If you want to try to keep your plants through the winter, you have some options. Rosemary can thrive by a sunny window. You will lose basil, thyme, and sage after a frost, but you can also try variegated basil, which doesn’t flower like other basils so it can be brought in during the winter near a sunny window and last for months.
13. Eat it! In order to use fresh herbs instead of dried, double or triple the amount called for because fresh herbs aren’t’ as concentrated. Try to add them near the end of the recipe. If you harvest herbs and can’t use them right away, chop them up, put them in ice cube trays, cover them with a little boiling water and freeze them to use in soups once the weather turns cold.


I am so excited to introduce you to my friend, Rachelle. I have secretly been wanting to have her here on GiversLog since I began blogging. Because she is good. She is the type that comes up with the perfect thoughtful thing to do for every occasion, and then does it. (And we saw her husband, Tyler, holds his own too.) She also happens to be an amazing photographer. So of course that means the coolest, most meaningful photo gifts for friends and family. I asked if she’d stop by today and share a few gifts she’s given, and lucky for us, she said yes. And so, without further ado, I’ll turn you over to the lovely and talented Rachelle.

I love the beginning of the year.  I always take the time to reflect a little more.  I like the calm that comes after December, and the biggest gift-giving season, Christmas.  I take the time to wonder, were my gifts what I wanted them to be?  Was I as prepared as I wanted?  Did I stay in budget?  Were my gifts meaningful?

A friend recently shared with me a break-down of different types of gifts: a gift of something needed, a gift of something wanted, and a gift to treasure.  This was helpful.  I realized that mostly the kind of gifts I want to give are memorable, meaningful, and gifts to treasure.  I also realize that even more than money, these gifts usually take time!  I have given a few of these gifts in recent years and recognize their value to me and to the receiver.

I love photography and I love combining this with giving.  I have done some of this, but one of my resolutions this year is to better plan for it. I want to better capture the moments with my camera that will help make my gifts meaningful and ones to treasure.  There are dozens of fun gifts you can put together using your photos, and we’ll get to those. But first, let’s start with photo albums…oh what fun! You have so many options when it comes to these.

1. One year I gave my dear friend on her 30th birthday a book of “Thirty reasons why” she was loved.  I had secretly gathered this information and photos for several weeks before hand and the finished project, like all of these type, was a treasured gift.  I loved seeing the sincere qualities her children came up with and the fun things her siblings shared.  I loved being a part of sharing her parents and husband’s love for her, in addition to my own.

2. I also did a photo book for a dear friend who was moving with our favorite memories with their family.  I am not sure who cried more, me putting it together and remembering the special times we had or her receiving it.

3. This last year for Mother’s Day I made my mom a book entitled, “Lessons we learned from our mom”.  Getting input from all four of my younger siblings, I came to better appreciate my mother and all that she had taught us growing up.  I could see ways she had helped to shape influence us all for good.

4. For my twins’ preschool teachers, I interviewed each of the preschool kids and took their photograph.  The book had the child’s photo, what they liked best about preschool and why they love their teacher.  I printed the pages on 5×5 prints and “mod podged” them to a board book.  It was a huge hit!

5. The last one I will share was an idea I had this year for my husband. He is a content man with few wants or needs.  He isn’t high maintenance and coming up with gift ideas is always a challenge.  So last year, 2008 I struggled and in the end wasn’t really thrilled with the gifts I came up with.  They definitely qualified as meeting needs and wants, but I LOVE to give a gift that the receiver will treasure!  In my quest to do better this year I began in January writing down one thing every day that I love or appreciate about him.  This project began by being for him, but as the year progressed it became such a labor of love for me.  It was such a rewarding experience to be “on the look-out” for the greatness EVERY day.

Have you made any albums as gifts? I’d love to hear about it. Plus I have a few photo gifts up my sleeve for tomorrow and am excited to share.


Sometimes I wish I had all day just to share ideas with you. There’s just so much brilliance going around and never enough time to share all I want to. Maybe if I stop folding laundry. Oh wait. I already did that this week.

This is a great idea Rikelle mentioned on the pre-Christmas post about giving a salad kit. Rikelle makes festive-shaped croutons to give friends during the holidays. Don’t you love that idea? I’m finally getting a chance to put this to work, for Valentines.

Alongside my bag of loving croutons will be a bag of candied pecans (just toasted in a hot pan with a spoonful of sugar) and a favorite dressing to make what may be the teacher’s most wholesome valentine this year. Below are Rikelle’s directions for making yummy crunchy croutons.

“I really do love making the croutons. I make them with a mixture of equal parts butter and olive oil, with garlic and parsley to taste. I cut out the shapes and then dip them in the oil mixture and toast them until crisp.”  (NOTE: I toasted mine at 350 for 20 min).

Thanks, Rikelle. The butter and oil combo is delish.

And since we’re on the topic, I have to tell you that my favorite croutons are those made from black bread. And I’m wondering, does anyone have a good recipe for black bread like you find in Germany? I’ve been relying on this bread mix but would really like to find a recipe of my own. I enjoyed Smitten Kitchen’s black bread recipe, but am looking for something firmer and without any rye flavor. I thought it was worth an ask.

If you’re looking for more teacher gift inspiration, I have a couple in previous posts here, or inspiration in my gift guides here.

I hope you’ll visit me at the SEI blog today, where you can meet this guy.

And one last thing. I hope you’ll stop by here and enter my giveaway. Select Registry is offering $100 to use at any of their almost 400 bed and breakfasts. Just stop by this post and
1. Mention an inn you like, or
2. Mention a favorite item from my gift or wrapping guides, or
3. Twitter about it, or
4. Post about it on your blog along with a favorite local shop or restaurant of yours.
Winner chosen on Friday.

Deb picked The Govorner’s House Inn as a B&B that she thought looked dreamy. I’d love to be there for afternoon tea.


Trusty Planners


I love planning. At least as much as I like doing. Am I the only one? No matter what the project, I like to revel in the planning stage. Trips, workouts, grocery lists, renovations. Did I tell you my husband and I planned our kitchen 35 times before we built it?

Also, I love when one of my friends comes up with some big idea. I like to hear all about it. And sometimes, when someone’s taking on a new project or new stage in life, I think the perfect thing to give them is something they can keep by their bed for scribbling down thoughts and strokes of brilliance. Here then, are a few favorite planners and notebooks.

unbound 2010 datebook by purgatory pie press

DIY cereal box notebook tutorial

yearly agenda by Lina Carta

of course, love the pocket notebooks by oh joy

the grid notebook

printable planner, via here

printable, perpetual calendar

your life in chapters (LOVE this)

the Laurel Denies yearly, completely beautiful

one year of white pages, brilliant

baby shower notebook set

Cath Kidson’s dream home planner

free printable meal planner

poster calendar

and one more poster calendar

tiny book

matchbook variety pack

the all-weather journal for the adventurous types

8-days-a-week planner
the smiley journal

lucky notebook


Star Recipes?


this is me gettin’ serious in the kitchen

I’m going to dinner tonight with a couple girlfriends. As Christmas gifts to each other we’re exchanging our families’ best-ever recipes. Isn’t that the best idea? My friend suggested it.

My teacher friend also said she received recipes as a gift this year from a student, a couple of their all time family favorites. I am going to remind you of this next Christmas because I think it is one of the best ideas ever (thanks, Heather!) I can’t think of a better honor to place on the world’s educators than for them to have an ever-growing collection of loved recipes.

Maybe we can all have a gift exchange of our own here. After all, what’s better than a gift exchange among friends? After I compile my recipes today I’ll return to this post and share a couple all-time family favorite recipes as a little gift to you. I’m trying to think of just the right ones to share. And if you’d like to leave a recipe or two that would be great. Let’s say one to three recipes? I happen to know that some of you really know your way around a kitchen. And if you’ve posted the recipe just tell us a little about it and point us to the post on your blog.

I’m off to sort through recipes and mail off a couple last holiday surprises. Be back soon.

UPDATE: I’m back, and I’ve picked out two absolute favorites. If you try them I’d love to hear how they go.

I Miss Zachary’s Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
We used to be a half hour drive from Zackary’s Chicago style pizzaria. When we moved, I had to have back up to sustain me between trips to the bay area. This recipe does Zachary’s justice. If you’ve been to Zachary’s, you know that is quite the compliment.

Yield: 3 10-inch pizzas

2 Tbsp sugar
1 pkg (1Tbsp) yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups flour (all-purpose or bread flour)

Dissolve sugar and yeast in large bowl. Let stand until bubbly (about 5 min.)
Add oil and salt.
Stir in 5 cups flour until just not sticky anymore (I use my KitchenAid).

Knead. (I knead for 15–20 min. in my Kitchen Aid until I get a baker’s window, which is when you can pull the dough thin enough to see light through it without the dough tearing).
Turn into greased bowl and let rise overnight in fridge or 1 hour until doubled.
Make sauce.
Punch down dough and let rest for 10 minutes.

Tomato Sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes and puree
2 tsp minced fresh oregano
2 Tbsp minced fresh basil
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Heat olive oil, sauté garlic.
Add tomatoes and spices.
Simmer 30 min.

2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
2 1/2 cups grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated romano cheese

Spinach Pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped spinach
3/4 cup basil leaves1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated fresh romano cheese

Grind pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in food processor.
Add Spinach and basil, puree until smooth.
Add cheeses.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Putting it all together
Preheat oven to 450.
Prepare three 10-inch pans by spraying them with non-stick cooking oil.
Cut dough into 3 equal parts.
Stretch dough into circles as thin as possible without tearing, using oil to keep it from sticking to yourself and the counter. If you have trouble with this, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into three circle crusts.
Place dough in pans. Let rest for 15-30 minutes.
Bake dough for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven. Layer cheese mix, then pesto, then fill with sauce.
If crust is too brown, cover just the crust with foil, leaving the center uncovered.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Remove from oven and let cool for 3 minutes.
Dig in.

Carne Mechada
Here’s a little something from my Venezuelan heritage. This is amazing stuffed in these (you can get them here if you visit Napa) along with a little creme fraiche.

3 lbs. sirloin or flank steak
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 cloves garlic
3 onions, chopped (one to cook with meat, two to add later with peppers)
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, 12 oz.
1 small can pimientos
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp. thyme
1/2 Tbsp. oregano
1/2 Tbsp. cumin
Olive oil for sauteing

Seal beef in olive oil in the pan.
Add the wine, garlic, half the chopped onion, the bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 3 hours. Check occasionally to make sure some liquid remains, if liquid is almost gone, add more wine or water or beef broth.
Remove from heat, let cool, pull appart with two forks to shred.
Saute the remaining onions and the green peppers in olive oil.
Add the meat and remaining ingredients. Simmer another 30 min. until all the flavors are blended.

Serve over rice and black beans, with fried ripe plantain slices on the side to make the traditional Venzuelan dish known as pabellón criollo.


The Salad Kit


Love the idea of giving a salad kit to a neighbor or hostess, (suggested here via here) using this vinaigrette and these croutons or maybe a bag of walnuts or sundried tomatoes to make a yummy salad. But how to decide on salad servers? That would be the trick.

Seth Andersson,
Jamie Oliver
, or
French Bull

salad servers forks tongs

(pretty salad picture from here found via here)


I love getting the inside scoop from teachers about what their job is really like. Maybe it’s the little girl in me who had that itching curiosity about what it must be like in the teachers’ lounge. Whatever the reason, between my own nosiness in talking to teachers and great posts like this one and this one with real live teachers weighing in, I’ve run across some fun teacher gift ideas. Here are some favorites. If you need a few more stop by my teacher gift guide page.

-handmade gifts for teachers1. I really like the idea of giving this book, and love these beautiful, free printable book plates to add a personal touch.
2. Gift cards. There are some occasions that gift cards were invented for, I believe this is one of them. Nothing too elaborate, just a nice chance to go to dinner or buy a book on tape. Give it in a pretty pocket case, this one will do nicely.
3. Something handmade by your child. This is a must. Even if it’s a note. I completely adore these spirograph pushpins and button pushpins.
4. A gift certificate for calling cards. Because if the school provides any, they are not this pretty.
5. Handmade heated rice bags like these (via One Pretty Thing), which kept coming up in the comments from this post.
6. Classroom supplies (not pictured). I just think about how excited I get about school supplies, and I don’t even have a real-life excuse to use them. Try to hint around and find out what the teacher might really like for the classroom, and consider going in with other parents.


I have so many things I want to share with you but have been a little busy around here between kids getting over colds and about a million other projects.

But I do have a quick gem I’ve been dying to pass on to you. I came across TipNut’s fantastic lists of free apron patterns you can make:
part one, and part two.

I believe there are 106 patterns in all here, folks, from super easy to not so easy. And even some for men. A couple friends of mine have been known to whip up an apron at a moment’s notice when we’ve needed gifts, and I’d say it’s a skill worth nurturing. (Photographed aprons from anthropologie, where I go to apron gaze from time to time.)



There are a few standards I use to judge whether my holidays are a success. One of them is how many evening I have, after the house gets quiet, to sit down and take a few minutes to gaze at the Christmas tree. I’ve found time for this once already so I’m certain these holidays are off to a good start.

Now on to this week’s list for me. (Click here for the full 12-week list). We’re hoping to fit in a trip to the city, I just love the bustle of Union Square in December, and we’re debating how fancy to get with baked gifts this year. Should be a fun week.
-2-week left

-2-week rightI came across this tip wheel on Martha, which you can download here, and thought it was pretty helpful. Though I sadly don’t have a masseuse to tip this year. Maybe next.

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