Free loves.

I've been toying with this Passionfruits thing for awhile. But I'm finally doing it. Why? Because it's July 31st and a new month is starting and I'm on vacation so I have time to set it all up.

Ok so, these ads will be running for a month at a time and they'll be rotating so no one is more important than anyone else.

Alls you have to do is click on the new Sponsor page I made and then click on the little "Buy me!" link. But don't worry, you don't really have to "buy" anything. Use the promo code "Freeloves" and it's freeeeeee.

And then you post my blog button and I post yours and watch the new friends come running over. That's how this works, right?

Ok, swap with me. Annnnnd go!

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Making the most of summer. Again.

I shared this post over on Teatime Thoughts, but in case anyone missed it, I wanted to share it here as well. Because I think it's super helpful. And perhaps it will encourage you to take your Summer Bucket List and make some commitment to really do what's on there.

So here it is: Making the Most of Summer, Using Google Calendars.

Having grown up in New England and now living in Chicago, I always try to make the absolute most out of the short summers I have. When I moved here a few years ago, I was so thrilled to hear about all the outdoor festivals, movie showings and concerts that this city has to offer in the summer.

Each year in May, I make lists of summer-musts. Those wonderful events and experiences that make summer feel like summer. You know: eating outdoors, summer concerts, BBQs, baseball games, going for ice cream, walks along the lake, etc.

Unfortunately, summers in Chicago always pass much quicker than I ever expect. Life gets crazy busy and the next thing I know it's Labor Day and I haven't gotten through even half of the list.

So in hopes of squeezing in more summer, I decided to take our list of Summer-Musts one step further: I turned it into a Google Calendar. It was simple to create and even easier to share with friends! With their help researching and adding a few events, my friends and I quickly had a calendar full of summer-musts to choose from.

To make a Google Calendar, you need a google account. Then simply:
1) Sign into your google account and click on "Calendar" or just click here.
2) Create a new calendar by clicking on the little arrow next to "My Calendars" and then clicking on "Create new calendar".

3) Give your calendar a name.
4) Share the calendar with your friends by adding their e-mail addresses. You can then give them permission to make changes to events, to add events and to share with others under "Permission Settings." Once all your friends are entered, click "Create Calendar" at the top of the screen.
5) Once your calendar is set-up, all you need to do is add events. To do so, simply double click on the date you want to add an event to. Then enter in all the details. I like to provide a website in the description box so that if anyone has questions about the event, they can go to the original source. This cuts down on confusion. When you finish, be sure to hit save!
6) Keep adding events until your calendar is full of all the summer essentials.
7) Admire your calendar and get excited about your summer!!

The best part of this is that all your friends can contribute and as they input events, your calendar will automatically be updated! So as the summer goes on and you hear about more concerts, movies, BBQs and parties, just add them to the calendar to let everyone know. Lots of websites have integrated a one-click "Add to Google Calendar" option, making this even easier. It fills in all the information for you! For Chicagoans, check out Explore Chicago to find events in the city and to easily add them to your calendar.

I hope this helps you get organized, stay connected with friends and make the most out of Summer 2012!

Blog Design: Hamlin House

I wasn't planning on sharing this most recent blog design until next week, seeing as I have already shared a blog design this week. Buuuut I got too excited and just could not wait until next week.

This particular design is quite close to my heart.

My good friend in real life Jen has been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time. She is one of the most creative and artistically talented people I know. I've been encouraging her to do it because I knew blogging would provide her with a much-needed creative outlet. Plus the community is fabulous, am I right?

So one Midweek Mojito night, we got to chatting about potentially starting a blog. A mojito or two later and now she has a blog.

We sat down together this weekend and worked out a color scheme and header and all the little elements. She has a strong sense of style and had a lot to say about the design, which I loved. And since we're friends anyways, she wasn't afraid to tell me when she wasn't 100% excited about something. A couple hours later, we had the framework of a design and I got to work from there.

(You may recognize the photo from this week's guacamole post. Ignore it. It was a filler to show her the design.) 

Ok so not only am I excited to share this design with you all, I am also incredibly thrilled to introduce you all to Jen. She is hilarious. Every time we get together, I always end up thinking I am way funnier than I actually am. This is because her incredible sense of humor begins to rub off on me. But make no mistake, she is the funny one.

But more than being funny, this woman is a genius. If you read nothing else in this post, read this: Jen has started her DIY blog and came up with the brilliant idea of pairing each DIY project with a drink. Genius, I tell you. Pure genius. Because honestly, what blogger does not feel like grabbing a drink mid-DIY project?? I'm fairly certain DIY is synonymous with "drive yourself to drink". 

So please, run over to her blog, subscribe and then sit back and be amazed. Then come out to Chicago and have mojitos in my backyard because clearly that is where all good ideas begin.

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Adrian's Summer Entertaining Series: Guacamole

I'm so glad to have Adrian back here again. This time, he'll be sharing his guacamole recipe. Something about this guacamole. Makes you want to eat an entire bag of tortilla chips. Consider yourself warned.

Hello, I'm back. Like I promised. Or maybe threatened. I'm here to share my "secret" guacamole recipe. It's very simple, but it ends up tasting really good.

Here's what you'll need for the Arvizu Guacamole:
- Three avocados
- One or two tomatoes, depending on how much you like them
- Half an onion
- A half a bunch of fresh cilantro
- Two serrano peppers. Do not use jalapeƱos unless you absolutely cannot find serrano peppers.
- Some salt, again depending on your tastes
- Juice from half a lime

And the steps:
1) Chop the onions, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro.  Cut the peppers in half and, with a small knife, remove the seeds because they are not good for you.
2) Throw all these in a mixer (or in a bowl to use a hand mixer).
3) Slice the avocados in half. Save the pits, you'll need them later.
4) Scoop out the avocado with a spoon on to the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Tip: For easy removal, make small horizontal and vertical slits across the avocado.
5) Squeeze the half a lime on top of everything in the bowl and add a bit of salt.
6) Turn your mixer on low and mix everything together until creamy.
7) Give it a taste and add more salt, if you'd like. Tip: If you're planning to eat this guacamole with chips, don't add too much salt because most chips come with salt. You don't want salty guacamole on a salty chip.

Final Tip: Add the pits to the finished guacamole. This and the lime juice will help the guacamole keep longer.

And there you go, you've got some good guacamole ready to go. I recommend El Milagro tortilla chips. And, of course, don't forget that this guacamole goes great with my Paloma recipe from last week!

So there you have it, friends. Straight from the Mexican chef's mouth. Check back next Wednesday for more Adrian and less me.
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Blog design: Daisy Girl

Happy Monday, all!

I'm so excited for this week to start...and to end. My summer program is ending on Friday and I'll then embark on three weeks of vacation. Most importantly, I'll be staying in Chicago those three weeks, which means spending bunches of time with Adrian in the city.

In the past couple weeks when I haven't been teaching, I've been working on some blog designs. It has been so exciting to see people interested in my designs. I'm currently finishing up two brand new blogs but I'm holding off on sharing those until the authors have posted their first posts. That way you all can jump on over to them and say hi and welcome them to the blogosphere.

So until those blogs start, I wanted to share a design I finished up this past week. Daisy reached out to me and asked to do some updating to her blog. She's been blogging for over a year and wanted something simple and classy. With input from Daisy, I came up with a design that she was excited for.

And I think that's what I love most. Each time I complete the design and send it over to the person, I hold my breath until I get that e-mail that says "Ohmygosh I love it!!!". And then all the hours and hours are worth it.

Be sure to stop by and say hello to Daisy. And be looking for another design I completed for her coming up in the next week or so!
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As previously mentioned, a few weeks ago I went home for vacation. One of the days I was home, my mum, my grandmother and I drove down to Kennebunkport. I hadn't really been down there and figured it'd be nice for us to spend a little time in a new place. We had lunch and then took some pictures. It was lovely!

This is the Bush family summer home. This one and all the other beautiful summer homes made me want one. So then I started scheming how I could get a couple million dollars together in the next couple years. I'm still scheming.

The quality of this picture is less than stellar but I had to include it because I love it. The house. The clouds. The green. Everything.

And because I know a whole bunch of you are puppy people, here's a picture of my mum's puppy, Harriet.

She always looks at me like I've done something wrong.
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Google Calendars and Summertime Fun.

I am so very thrilled to be filling in for Candice as she's on vacation! You can find my post over on her blog Teatime Thoughts. I'm sharing about how to set-up a Google Calendar with friends as a way to coordinate summertime fun a little more easily and to encourage you to take advantage of all the summer events your hometown has to offer! Be sure to check out my post and Candice's blog.

Also, hello to anyone clicking over from Teatime Thoughts! So excited to have you here and to meet you. Leave a comment so I know who you are and I can jump over to your blog and say hi. I'm really quite friendly.

And of course, stop by here tomorrow for the last batch of photos from my trip home to Maine.
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Adrian's Summer Entertaining Series: La Paloma

After Adrian's last post, we received lots of positive feedback. All of your kind words must have given Adrian a serious confidence boost because he is back to post again...and this time with a series! Adrian will be providing you all with some of his favorite summertime recipes as well as a few of his entertaining tips. Later in the series, I'll be sharing some of my favorite, affordable "throw a party in a moment's notice" decorations and place settings. We are super excited about this series and can't wait to share with you!

So let's start this off with an easy summer drink. When Adrian and I have people over, we like to choose one drink to offer. This keep costs down for us because we aren't buying bunches of different bottles of alcohol and our friends love it because it gives them a chance to try new drinks.

Hi everyone! It's me again, Adrian. Today we are going to start sharing the first recipe of our Summer Entertaining Series. We are starting with a real Mexican drink, La Paloma. This drink is popular in the metropolitan area of Mexico (el distrito federal or Mexico City).  Originally, La Paloma was designed for women, but now everyone enjoys it.

To make La Paloma, you will need:
- Tequila
- Squirt (note: The bartender at Highball Lounge who specializes in cocktails told us that he has tried many other brands of grapefruit soda and none of them come close to La Paloma with Squirt. Also. please do not use diet Squirt or your drink will lack flavor.)
- Salt
- Lime
- Ice
(Don't let the Bacardi distract you. You don't need that for La Paloma. It's for mojitos!)

Here is how to make your very own Paloma:
1. Grab a highball glass or tall glass and rub the edge of the glass with a lime. Place some salt on a plate and turn the glass upside down into the salt. The lime keeps the salt on the edge of the glass. In Spanish, we call this "vaso escarchado".

2. Fill glass with ice cubes.

3. Add one shot of tequila. If you'd like it a little stronger, add two shots.

4. Fill the rest of the glass with Squirt.

5. Squeeze a little lime juice into the glass then stir your drink and it's ready to enjoy!

Easy enough, no? This drink is especially popular for parties because it's super easy to make and definitely affordable. It also works great with guacamole (which we'll be providing a recipe for next in this series!).

Check back next Wednesday and for the next few Wednesday for more summertime tips and receipes!
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The little ghost turns 30!

If you haven't yet heard, today is my sister Erin's 30th birthday! 

I believe there exist two types of people: those who get super excited for birthdays and those who don't. I am of the latter. My sister is of the former. Yet another way we are very different.

Erin and I are two years apart. My mom and my aunt are nine years apart. And always, they told us, "One day your sister will be your best friend." And I thought that when you're nine years apart, you probably don't need to share anything like, say, a sled, which makes being best friends a bunch easier.

While my sister and I may still be very different, I'm finding as the years pass that, actually, we are quite alike. Perhaps more alike than we are different. Though outwardly we look like distant cousins at best, it is our mannerisms, our expressions and our ability to pull out the same shirt to wear on the same day that have made me realize how very similar we are.
We were rustic before weddings were.

I have said it before, but I am so glad that my sister started blogging. I will never like to play sports and she most likely will never be into spray painting anything and everything. I will always annoy her and she will always be too grumpy. But I am so thankful to have this in common. It is the necessary excuse for me to call her a billion times a day. (True story: just two days ago, she asked me how many times a day I could really call someone. I am of the "at least ten" school of thought. She is not.) But should I miss a day of calling, I can always read her posts and find out what's going on in her far away world.
Can anyone answer why we were dressed like this in JUNE in 1987??
This past year has been a year for the "We might become good friends" books, even more so than the year our mom dressed us up as creepy clowns. From day one of me blogging, Erin has been my best reader and advertiser, always sharing my posts on facebook or in actual real life conversations. And I am excited to finally be returning the favor. The lovely Alix commented the other day that blogging must run in our blood and I think that's very true. We are a family of story tellers, which translates well to blogging. And I am excited to be hearing my sister's voice and to see the ways our stories may differ, but themes are much the same. In our stories, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. But in the end, we are always looking for the lesson. Searching for how we can do it better next time or for what little wisdom we might carry with us. And I like that about her blogging. That I get to hear bits about her day to day life and about the bigger things, too and about how she views things and what she's learning and how she's growing. Can you tell I'm a fan?

So all of this is to say happy birthday to my sister! I hope this next year continues to be a year of too many phone calls, late cell phone payments (Check's in the mail, I swear...), puppy snuggles, Chicago visits (??), and many, many blog posts!

And for the rest of you all, if you get a chance, please stop by this adorable little ghost's blog and leave her a little birthday love because, being of the "birthdays are a big deal" camp, I know she'll appreciate it.

Update: I organized a secret little blogger birthday party with a few of Erin's favorite bloggers. Be sure to check out their super kind words about Erin and of course leave some love on their wonderfully clever/inspirational/beautiful/witty/entertaining blogs!
Mish Lovin Life
Priceless Adventure
Beat of My Heart
Traffic Jelly
Vicki Christine
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Redesign: Eat. Bake. Sew. Love.

Ever since I redesigned my sister's blog and my own blog, I have received a couple of requests to design some blogs for others. And it has been absolutely wonderful. I am loving creating these designs from scratch. Each blogger has a different aesthetic and feel they are looking to achieve. And each has their own preferences on color. So I have been stretching my creativity in new ways.

Sarah, of Eat. Bake. Sew. Love., left me a comment asking if I'd redesign her blog. I immediately knew exactly what the design would look like. The title just lends itself so easily to a cute, clean design. So I sent Sarah over to Design Seeds to choose some colors to work with and from there, the pieces just seemed to come together.

Sarah had originally been using one of the templates available through Blogger.

And while I am not knocking Blogger templates, it just didn't reflect the loveliness and originality of her blog!

So I am so excited to share with all of you the brand new Eat. Bake. Sew. Love.!

I am in love. From the colors to the little icons to the flags to the lack of clutter. Makes my heart sigh.

Thank you for bearing with me as I admire my own work. A little ridiculous and Emily-centric, I know.  I just didn't know I had all this in me. Go figure.
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Vermont and Clam Shell Jenga.

So I like to keep my vacations on the downlow in the blogosphere should any crazy neighbor be reading my blog and planning their raid of my apartment. But since my sister blogs, word got out. I was indeed on vacation, but now I'm back. So I can officially talk about it.

So let's start this little recap with my trip to Vermont. It's lovely to drive through the mountains of Vermont especially after being in the midwest for so long. I forgot what mountains look like.

My dad drove my sister and me down to Vermont. I sat in the front and proudly performed DJ duties. Somehow my dad's vast musical collection did not include any Journey. I quickly rectified that situation. Also, if you haven't yet seen the video of my dad and me and the reaper on my sister's blog, please do.
Every summer since before I was born, my dad's family has had a family reunion on Lake Champlain in Vermont. Since I live so far away, it's nice to be able to make it to the reunions because I don't get to see that family much otherwise. And this lovely little blog has actually helped me stay connected with many of them because they've subscribed! (Hello Alberghini family readers!!)
Each year, my parents bring along a whole bunch of clams. I actually hate seafood, but word on the street is these clams are amazing. This year, my great aunt played Jenga with the empty clam shells. Everyone doubted her clam pile, but obviously she wasn't messing around. 

I enjoyed our jaunt through Vermont and seeing my family again, having time to catch and meeting new family members (re: babies!). 
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Best summer yet and where to find me.

Hey friends. You can find me filling in for the wonderfully genuine Alix over at Traffic Jelly today. I'm talking a bit more about my decision to make this summer the best summer yet. Plus I'm sharing lots of photos and whatnot. So stop on over there and be sure to read Alix's writings. She is fantastic!
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Color Palette: Love Cupcakes

We were driving around town the other day when we spotted this beyond cute little cupcake trailer. So of course, I made my mum pull over so we could check it out.

The girls in the truck were super friendly and had cute little aprons to match their cute little trailer. I just adored everything about it. And the cupcakes were fantastic so there's that, too.

So should you find yourself in Southern Maine, be sure to check out Love Cupcakes.
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The Repeats: Chantal Chamberland

This summer has been about enjoying my backyard and the long sunshine hours. While I may be eating off incredibly cute Mara Mi paper plates from Target, this song makes me feel a billion times classier. And for those few minutes that this song plays and drowns out the inevitable banda Mexican music from next door, I close my eyes and imagine my other life.

Did you hear the mariachi music come in there at the end? No? Must just be my neighborhood.

A few years ago, I had a *classy* Christmas party, meaning I made my friends dress up. A coworker at the time told me about a friend she had who used to say that if you have to use the word classy, it probably isn't classy.

Awww well. Like I said, you win some, you lose some.

And of course, this song is available on iTunes. Turn it on, grab a glass of wine and feel classy, my friends!
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Redesign and sabotage.

While I was home, my sister and I spent bunches of time discussing blogs. We brainstormed, gossiped and even squeezed in a little photo shoot. I am loving that she has gotten into blogging. We have always had very different personalities and interests so I am excited to finally have found something that we both enjoy. I only wish we lived closer so we could get in more brainstorming and photo sessions!

So since we had a bit of time, we decided to give her blog a little uplift. And I love how it turned out. .

She had put together this design at the beginning but didn't do too much to customize it. While I was home, I picked up this little notebook and that notebook became the inspiration for the new design. The inside liner feature mini multicolor polkadots. Erin told me she liked them so I took the idea and ran.

And this is how it ended up.

We walked around downtown Portland, snapping pictures of her and her puppy Bronx to use in the redesign. Her puppy is incredibly photogenic. He's always smiling.

After I designed hers, I got the itch to design mine. While I don't generally think of myself as a competitive person, I just couldn't stand to have given her a super cute design while mine was mediocre. My mom said I should have just sabotaged hers instead of redesigning mine. Yes, you read that right. My mom suggested I sabotage my sister. Rude, Lyd. Shame on you.

Point being, if you're on a reader, click on over. Because I've redesigned my little space of internet yet again. But I swear, this is the last redesign for awhile. I swear...

So what do you all think? If you would like to see the whole redesign of my sister's blog, check her out at Empirically Erin.
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Happy 4th and freedom.

I've been on vacation a couple weeks now and I'm headed back to Chicago tomorrow. But today is the fourth of July so you know I had to pop in, say hi and share a bit of Maine.

It's awfully hard to be bloggingly disciplined when I'm soaking up as much time as possible with the family, exploring Maine and playing with puppies. So I'll refer you to my previous post on July 4th. I still feel the same way so for some of you that missed it last time around, it's like I just wrote it today. That counts, right? Perfect.

Happy fourth and happy freedom, all you lovelies.
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On Her Shelf: Vicki Christine

Hey all. So back a couple weeks ago, I came up with my current Top 5 books. The list came about from a conversation I had had with the lovely Vicki Christine. So I thought I'd invite her to drop by with her Top 5 books, as well. And of course, if you have not stopped by her blog, you definitely need to. She is fabulously funny and adorably pregnant! Go say hi!

Hello Loves! It’s time for story corner with vickichristine! That’s me, Vicki. I love to read, just like your fave, Emily. I have hoards and hoards of books and they are all organized by color on my bookshelves. I’m a visual gal so finding my books by cover color rather than by alphabet is sorta my bag. Oh hello, I’m weird! Also similar to Em [can I call you Em, Em?], I’ve been an English teacher. I taught second language learner adults and would have continued on to grade school teach status but here in California, where I lay my head, teaching isn’t the most secure of careers so I’ll wait that one out a bit.

So books, this is about books. Emily asked me to list my top 5 faves here and while I am a lover of lists and top 5,10, 20,100 anything!..this was a very difficult task for me. But I’ve done it, by golly, I’ve done it! And so, I hereby give you my top five favorite books! They’re my faves, the utmost of the utmost! The pussy cat’s meow! It does not get better than what you’re about to discover.

{this list created at 11pm on a Monday evening, after a long day of working with a pregnant belly and intense back “sensations”. it is entirely possible that this list will vary from day to day, month to month or year to year.}

Like I said, you can take my recommendations to the bank! Cash it in and smell this cheese.

1. Catcher in the Rye - I have named this book my most favorite since the very first time I read it in middle school. I had never related to a character more than I did to Holden Caulfield. I was 13 and angsty and even now when I read it, I fall right back into that state of mind. It’s so human, it kills me. I’m dead.

2. The Bell Jar - If you like Catcher in the Rye, you’ll like this book. I first read it in college (blasphemy to my tardiness!). I remember thinking immediately that it was the female counterpart to Catcher and was like..psh, what took me so damn long?! It can be depressing though so I’d advise not to read while pregnant. I might have first hand proof of this, just sayin’.

3. East of Eden - Oh how I love Steinbeck and I love this book most of all his efforts. It’s so classic and honest and gorgeous. And even though I’m no bible reader, the Cain and Abel influence makes it so relatable. Family, ah. It’s long but so worth it. Unlike Anna Karenina  - a long book that is not worth it, so says me! But this isn’t the top 5 worst books, so I’ll move on.

4. Gone with the Wind - OK, I know some of you might be rolling your eyes here but ohmyeffinggawd, I love this story. Love. Love. If romance isn’t your thing, it’s totally cool because you can relish in the civil war setting or the Irish O’Hara pride or, or, or - there’s so much happening in this book you’ll get your fill somehow. I dare you to not fall in love with Rhett Butler.
note: you may want to read the late follow-up to this book, Scarlett, just so you can get a happy ending. Also worth it.

5. Pillars of the Earth - This book about Medieval life in England is quite fantastic. Having just finished watching season 2 of Game of Thrones, I’m tempted to go back and read it again. Life is so brutal and unforgiving in this novel but also hopeful and beautiful. Do you like history, architecture, underdogs? Give it a try! I have yet to read the sequel, World Without End, but heard it’s awesome as well. If you know, tell me what you know and I’ll get on that!

So there ya have it!

I hope I’ve offered up some new reads for your bookshelf or your kindle. Thanks for having me, Emily!


Thank you thank you, Vicki, for coming by and sharing with us! And of course, all you other friends, please go check her out. You'll adore her. Promise.
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