Monday, March 2, 2015

How I Made a Wooden Cutting Board

When Nick and I got our first place together my dad made me a beautiful wooden cutting board.  It's something I use often and will always cherish.  It grew in me a love for sturdy wooden cutting boards.  I've been searching for another, larger board, for a while when Nick suggested we make one! This was the perfect solution as it enabled me to make the exact size and shape I wanted.  It also allowed me to test out the wood burning pen Nick had given me a few moths ago.  Double fun!  I thought I'd share my process, in case you'd like to make one too...
The first step is to carefully select your wood type.  I found that the top three recommended woods for food-safe cutting boards are Maple, Walnut, and Cherry as they are hard woods that provide the least porous surface. 
( I didn't have access to any of these three at the time, so I chose a piece of red oak.  Red oak has gotten mixed reviews for cutting board material because it tends to have long open grain.  I felt safe using it since the main purpose of my board will be serving, rather than a lot of food preparation.  I'll use my new board for things like loaves of bread or baked goods.  I, personally, also never allow raw meat to come into contact with my boards, so that lessens my concern over the grain as well.)
I began with a 3/4" thick piece of 8 x 16" wood.  Then I traced a large round cake plate onto the lower half of the wood, the same size that I wanted the cutting board to be.  To make the handle, I traced the shape I wanted onto a piece of paper first to test and then used the paper cut-out as a template to outline the handle on the wood, making sure it was centered at the top of my circle.


Nick was already working on some cabinets outside with the saw so he kindly cut the shape out with a jigsaw for me.  Then he drilled a small hole in the handle.  I sanded the whole thing down, careful to work in the direction of the grain.  I made sanded the edges and handle nice and smooth too.
After working a little pattern onto the edges with my new wood burner (lots of fun, but a little more practice couldn't hurt, as you can see 'wink wink'), I cleaned my board thoroughly and began to apply the fist coat of food-safe mineral oil.  I let that dry for 30 minutes and applied 4 more coats, working it in with the grain (the same direction).
I love my new board, I can just picture a nice, big, crusty, round loaf of fresh bread sitting in its center, can't you?  I know it will just get better looking with age and use too.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

St. Patrick's Day "Lucky" Mug DIY

It's almost March!  St. Patrick's day is around the corner in all its green glory.  Do you know what else is glorious?  I found a gold metallic oil-based Sharpie the other day!!  After the fun I had with the blue paint marker that I used on my hand painted plate , I just had to have the gold, and snagged a "clover" green one too while I was at it.  Like this adorable "Lucky" mug!? It's as easy as it looks to make.  I couldn't pass up the adorable mug and spoon set when I saw it at the craft store either.  The spoon slips right into a little holder on the handle of the mug. Perfect, no? Wanna make a "Lucky" mug too?
You will need:
-Gold metallic Sharpie oil-based paint pen
-Green Sharpie oil-based paint pen
-White ceramic mug and (if desired) small ceramic spoon to match
-Letter Stencils or stickers to trace
I had some stickers laying around and they were the perfect font so I stuck them on the mug and gently traced with a pen marker (not permanent because I'll wipe it off when I'm done painting).  Then I peeled the stickers off, careful not to smear my wet trace lines...

I used the paint pens to fill in my designs and when it was dry (after about a minute) I wiped away my trace line gently with a wet rag.  
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes!


For someone like me, who isn't huge on the color green, this little set is the perfect way to bring out a little holiday flair.  It would make a great gift for any friends or coworkers who are big on St. Paddy's Day too!


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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

3-Step Blueberry Vanilla Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding is my weakness, especially during the winter months when it becomes a hearty and sweet comfort dessert.  Rich and moist in flavor, I prefer it with a fruit that cuts in with a little tartness and tang.  Fresh blueberries are perfect for this. Bread pudding is as simple to make as french toast, except you don't have to watch a pan because you simply pop it in the oven.  It's also an excellent solution for day-old breads and rolls.

Blueberry-Vanilla Bread Pudding

4 Cups bread cut into large cubes (I used up 3 leftover deli rolls)
2 Cups Milk
1/4 Cup Butter
2 Large, or 3 small eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 Cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until butter has melted.

2. While milk and butter heat on stove, in a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt until well blended.  Toss in cubed bread and berries and combine gently.

3. Pour the warm milk and butter into bowl reserving a small amount in the saucepan.  Stir bread mixture to coat and pour into a deep  un-greased pan.  Pour remaining milk/butter mixture over the top and bake for approx. 45 min.  Berries will bubble and a toothpick inserted in center will come out clean when done.

Serve Warm!  (Excellent with a bit of ice cream on top too)

While I usually like a sauce on my bread pudding, I feel none is needed here.  The blueberries cook down and create such a perfect sauce of their own that just a bit of powdered sugar tops things off perfectly.  You may also choose to spoon some of the juices out from the bottom of your baking pan to pour over the servings.  

Hey!  Remember my Easy Hand-Painted Plate ?  Doesn't it make the prettiest charger for this dessert plate?

Enjoy!

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's FREE PRINTABLE


Scrambling for last minute valentines!? I've got you covered! I finally decided to try my hand at a free printable for you guys, and here it is! My Valentine to you. Simply click the link below to download... 




I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's day!

*Printable contains original artwork by Sarah LoCascio and is for personal use only.  Please be respectful.


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Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Make Low, Full Floral Arrangements (For under $15!)

Something like the floral arrangement above would cost around 50 - 75$ from a florist or floral delivery company.  What if we could make this for under $15.00!?  Believe it or not the flowers used in this arrangement came from the supermarket.  I've spoken before about how easy it is to make a swoon-worthy bouquet from simple grocery store flowers.  I also want to share another neat trick with you today, and that is my go-to method for creating low and full vases.  Let's get started!
You Will Need:
-5" round vase
-Small bunch of tea roses
-2 Large blooms
-A mix of medium and small blooms
-Clear Tape (Scotch or packing)
-Scissors
-(A couple of rubber bands)
MAKE A TAPE GRID
This step is what's going to make or break the arrangement.  A little trick I learned while assisting floral stylists on photo sets, the "tape grid"!  This neat little secret enables you to build the arrangement without the risk of certain flowers slipping down in the vases. It's a simple cheap way of creating stability for your flowers.  Much cheaper that floral foam and also perfect for glass vases where you want to steer clear of seeing foam at the bottom.

Cut thin strips of the clear tape and stretch tightly across the top of your vase (tic tac toe style)  You'll probably only need 4 strips of tape like I did.
ADD THE BIGS
Starting with your biggest, fullest stems cut the excess stem off at a sharp angle.  Cutting a clean sharp angle on the bottom of the stems allows the flower to properly draw water, you'll want to do this on all stems. Place the large blossoms into the outer squares that the tape grid created.  We're going to build the rest of the arrangement on top of and around these big beauties.

ADD THE MEDIUMS
Make 3 bunches of the tea roses, gathering them into groups and securing with rubber bands.  (Notice the importance of removing leaves and stranglers from the stems of everything.)  Insert rose-bunches into the center of the tape grid.

ADD THE SMALLS
After you've placed the rest of the medium stems, go around filling any spaces with the rest of your small blooms, like these small white variegated daisies.  I like to insert them in groups of three.
YOU'RE DONE!
You should now have a beautiful full arrangement.  You will have noticed how easy it is to control the positioning of each flower with the tape grid in place and it's completely undetectable once the arrangement is complete.
MAKE IT A GIFT!
If this is a gift, perhaps for a special valentine, it's easy to personalize the arrangement with ribbons and maybe a sweet tag or card
Happy arranging!  I bet you use the tape trick all the time now, I know I do!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Valentine Candy Vials

February, the month for love, is here and it's time to start thinking about what little goodies we'll be handing out to friends and family.  I love to find fun new ways to present candy, the Valentine's Day favorite. Last year I made Valentine's in a Jar, which were pretty darn cute, a hit with all my Valentine recipients.  This year I found these awesome large vials that are perfect for filling with your favorite sweets.  They were about a buck each at the local craft store, and I'm sure they're also available online.  Here's how I customized them for my Valentines!
You Will Need:
-Large corked vials (if you're giving them to kiddos, be sure they're plastic!!)
-One inch wide glitter tape
-Sticker labels
-Ribbon
-Small hard candies or a love note 
-Scissors
Start by adhering lengths of the glitter tape to each vial.  You can do wide stripes, narrow stripes, a combination of wide and narrow etc.  I did a few variations, with wide shown above.

Hand write little sayings or names on your sticker labels and stick to the fronts of the vials. Now you're ready to fill them candy!!
As you fill each vial with candy, tie a piece ribbon in a little bow around the top and you're done! (How cute is that ribbon, right!? Part of a birthday gift from my brother and his lady. I'm completely smitten with it!)

Ready for February 14th!  I can't wait to hear how my Valentines like their sweet candy-filled vials.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Goodbye 20's, Hello Hudson

This past weekend I said "goodbye" to my twenties, and "hello" to 30 (I'm 30!?).  I also had the chance to say hello to the cutest town this side of the Hudson River... Hudson, New York.  Nick gave me the most amazing gift of a weekend away, just the two of us.  I chose Hudson because of all the wonderful things I've been hearing about the area lately.  This historic city, established in 1785 by New England Whalers and once a large bustling port city, has held strong to so much of it's original architecture.  I was amazed to learn that it was once the fourth largest city in New York, and missed being the capital by one vote!
 You can still see the original grandeur in the existing architecture and gorgeous historic homes everywhere you look.  Glimpses of a time long forgotten. While Hudson has had a rough time in past, suffering great decline in the 60's, 70's and 80's , it's started being recognized for it's historic charm and bustling main street, Warren Street. While locals will tell you the city still has it's struggles, you wouldn't know it from the friendly smiles and lovely shops. There are some fabulous restaurants, lots of antique stores and galleries, and some fun trendy little shops popping up in between.  The old-timers are welcoming and kind and are quick to recommend the best spot for a delicious meal or a cup of good coffee.  We couldn't have chosen a sweeter place to celebrate my birthday.
We spent two nights at the fabulous Inn at Hudson , a gorgeous historic building turned Bed and Breakfast by two lovely gentlemen.  We stayed in the "White Room", a expansive guestroom full of gorgeous moldings, a fireplace, and a cozy four-poster bed.  We enjoyed full, cooked to order breakfasts in their beautiful dining room each morning and returned in the evenings, after savory dinners in town, to relax and unwind in the quiet.  It really was a perfect stay. Now we both want a fireplace in our bedroom at home (Right!), what a luxury...
This was one of my favorite trips we've taken together - no schedule, excellent meals, everything within walking distance.  Our favorite restaurant was Helsinki Hudson (I feel the website doesn't quite do it justice).  The food was outstanding, and the atmosphere perfect.  My favorite shop in town was a newbie, Talbott & Arding , a tiny cheese and provisions shop halfway down Warren Street.  I'm a sucker for a tight brand story, and this little shop (only open about two months thus far) was the real deal.  Pretty to look at with tasty offerings to beat.  (Loved their logo so much I came home with their tote bag!)
If you stop in here often to read, you'll know I have a special place in my heart for towns and cities along the Hudson River.  I am thrilled to have added this to my list of favorite spots and we'll be back for sure.  Feeling pretty grateful to Nick for showing me such a great time and for making this the best 30th birthday a girl could ask for.

*opinions, as always, are my own.

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