Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Ever since my bridal shower I’ve been on a major bundt cake kick. Bundts are pretty, quick, and require no frosting after they come out of the oven. A step to cake making that I find cumbersome and most times annoying, although delicious.

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I found this recipe from Lick the Bowl for a Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake. My husband has a mild obsession with snickerdoodle cookies so I figured I would try my hand at a cake version of the treat.

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This cake is AMAZING. Hands down scrumptious. The best part is the caramelized cinnamon sugar crust around the entire exterior of the cake. The only part of the recipe I’ve altered is adding a bit more cinnamon (3tsp rather than 2tsp).

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If you love cake, and love snickerdoodles run don’t walk to your kitchen and bake this little number up.

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A Hand Made Valentine

There’s a tradition in my house. Every Valentine’s Day, since the first year I was born I believe, my mother has made my father a home-made Valentine. Always out of construction paper, sometimes with paper doilies, almost always featuring a picture (or 12) from the last year, and progressively more witty/corny as the years pass. We’re talking almost 30 years of hand made cards.

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Valentine Circa 1989 (I’m the shorty on the right)

It’s one tradition my sisters and I always look forward to. Usually pictures of “all of Daddy’s girls” make it into the card. The crowning jewel in the collection is the year we moved into the new house, Mom worked the lyrics of our family theme-song “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads into the card:

“and you may find yourself in a beautiful house”

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“with a beautiful wife”

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“and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”

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Ever since my hubs (what?!? Still so weird to say) and I moved into our apartment I’ve carried on the tradition of making hand-made Valentines. I always look forward to breaking out the construction paper, glitter, scissors, and glue and rifling through the last year of pictures for a theme/idea. Lets just say this year’s is going to be epic (and easily 100 pages long). I can’t post this years just yet (need to keep it a surprise for my Valentine).

One of my favorites from years passed is our 5th Valentine together.

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They aren’t super fancy and polished, but they don’t need to be. Getting down and dirty with old craft skills and slapping something together is sometimes the best way to express your love. It’s also something to cherish forever. These Valentine’s are also great for a last minute “oh no I forgot to get a present!”

What’s Your Numbah, Sugah?

03.01.05 the date that I like to think changed my life forever. It was that date 8 years ago that I met my soul mate and never looked back. We still to this day wish each other “happy anniversary” the first of every month. It has turned into more of a game so many months later who can wish it first and on what media device. (I usually win on all accounts)

03.01.05 are our numbers. Period. Even when we (finally) get married I’m sure we’ll still do something special on the first of March. These numbers were my semi inspiration for a project I’d been dying to do. As seen in a previous post I recovered my blue college apartment pillows to match our red cabinet. Love them. The fabric however was rather summery and just doesn’t work year round.

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Graphic and typography items are popping up everywhere; numbers, letters, quotes. I decided to take our most treasured numbers and create graphic pillows for the living room. The process was easy. Find a font you love, I used the font “Elephant” (should be standard on most PC’s) I really liked the vintage feel of this font; the serifs, the almost hand typed feel if you could call it that.

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Once a font is selected increase the font size, a lot. I think my letters were done at a 60 or 70 point. Print them out, tape or rubber cement the print down to a thicker piece of paper, and cut them out to form a stencil. If you have a steady enough hand I recommend tracing the number/letters with pencil and painting within the pencil lines. You could also use the stencil as a true stencil but I found the paint tends to sneak underneath creating less than graphic crisp lines.

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I used cheap yet thick and sturdy fabric from Ikea, $3.99 for half a yard and typical craft paint $2 in a charcoal gray. You could use a fabric medium if you chose to but I found the paint spread and held just fine, even after washing. I used a graphic red striped fabric (also Ikea) for the reverse side to play with the red accents throughout the room and the vintage graphic feel of the pillow. I used the same pocket hemmed technique illustrated in the previous pillow post, an easy way to create removable pillow covers.

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I really love how they came out and adore that they reflect something so meaningful to us in such a subtle, stylish way.

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PS Happy Anniversary Babe! 8 years (AAAHHHHH!!) Time really flies when you’re having the time of your life. Looking forward to many more adventures together. Love you!

The Mitten Tree

While trying to fill some space on my autumn gallery wall(I promise I will post how to hang a gallery wall super super super soon) I happened upon this print on Etsy by O’Reilly Ink. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the piece but wasn’t crazy about the colors. Plus I didn’t feel passionately about any of the tree species featured.

I decided to create a knock off print based on the design concept but featuring colors and subjects I was more into.

I selected the Sassafras tree as my study subject. If you are not aware of the amazingness of this tree it’s also lovingly called the Mitten Tree. Scientifically it’s the only deciduous tree that produces 3 different shaped leaves (at least the only one in the North East/North America).

There is also a fairy tale version “How the Sassafras Tree (or Mitten Tree) Got its Leaves” (as best remembered by yours truly)

Once upon a time there was a little old lady who had a cabin in the woods. Winter was coming so she decided to make some mittens. She finished her first mitten and realized she forgot the thumbs.

So she threw that pair out her window. The following day she tried again to make a pair of mittens this time she knitted too many thumb holes so out the window that pair went.

Finally the following day she knitted the perfect pair of mittens. Thumb holes in the right places, plenty of room for fingers.

She went to bed that night proud of her work. She woke up the next morning to find a mouse scurrying out of the cabin with her perfect mittens. Luckily she remembered how to make the proper pair and didn’t think much of the mouse, hoping the mittens would keep him warm. Winter came and went and the little old lady had warm hands all winter long. Then it was time for Spring which brought on the usual chirping birds, blooming flowers, and a remarkable new tree outside of the old lady’s cabin. A tree which was growing right outside the window she threw all her failed mittens out of. Now, what made this tree remarkable was it’s leaves reflected all the mittens she made over the last winter.

And that my friends is the story of the Mitten Tree.

So, anyway, this is a story I grew up with and a tree I always look for when out and about. This tree I decided shall be my muse. Creating the artwork is pretty easy, anyone with mild artistic talent and computer skills should be able to pull it off.

First dust off your pencils and sketch the leaf (leaves) of your choice. You could probably trace the leaf if that makes you more comfortable. Once you’re happy with your sketch grab a thin tipped Sharpie or other black inked pen. Outline the leaves and add a few veins for good measure.

Once the sketching is done and outlining is complete scan it into your computer. I used Photoshop however even Paint would do the trick. Open the scan up and use the paint bucket tool to fill in the fields with whatever color you desire. Finally find a fun free hand font and add the genus, species, and common name to the graphic. Print that sucker up slap it in a frame and admire your amazing artistic skills.

Yay cheap and easy diy artwork!

Just like Two Kids in Love

Time for a little lovey dovey super simple date night idea. Since The Fiance and myself are basically on opposite schedules most days we cherish a night together, especially one that receives the coveted title of “Date Night”.

There’s no reason Date Night needs to mean little black dress fancy restaurant and dropping easily $100 for one romantic evening together. Sometimes you want to behave like two little school kids, complete with mac and cheese and blanket forts.

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That’s right it was a pj totin’, “Goonies” watchin’, blanket fort buildin’ kind of date. (Really is there any better movie to watch in a blanket fort than “The Goonies”?) Building balnket forts as adults is basically a million billion times cooler than 6 year old blanket fort building mainly because couches can be turned on end and moved around for optimal fort awesomeness. We also incorporated Christmas lights for a more romantic ambiance.

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The Mac and Cheese was probably the best home made style I’ve ever had. Recipe was thanks to Pottery Barn. I highly recommend you all to give it a whirl. The cheeses I used included Parmigiano Reggiano, Gouda, Montery Jack, and White Cheddar. I also used French’s Dijion Mustard with Chardonnay Wine, I secretly think that mustard choice added the amazing flavor.

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It was probably one of the best dates the two of us ever had. No cares, no worries, just an excellent youthful movie and a kid favorite all grown up dinner. Did I mention dessert was brownie sundaes with rainbow sprinkles?

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Yeah that’s right. We don’t mess around in this house. I highly recommend a regress-ful date night (or afternoon). Acting like a kid is some of the most fun an adult can ever have. And best part of blanket forts in your own grown up apartment? No “Dad” shows up at 5 from work saying “alright, looks like you had fun today now take it down.” That sucker was up for easily a week of enjoyment.

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This Post is Brought to You by the Letter “F”

Bored one afternoon, and tired of the “will you change your last name” debate I decided to embrace my potential future name and make a family monogram for our still in process gallery wall. Especially since a “F” has no curves it was surprisingly easy and took roughly an hour (minus glue dry time).

I started with 2 pieces of cardboard. Sketched out an “F” on both pieces and cut with a straight edge and an exact-o knife.

Once I had 2 identical pieces, I cut the “spacer” pieces to give the letter some girth and “3-D” qualities. The spacers are simply strips of cardboard roughly 3/4″ thick cut to the length of each line of the letter.

Then all I  did was glue each spacer piece to the bottom or back “F” piece. I used wood glue because it was handy and gets tackier quicker.

Once all the spacers are glued (and dry-ish) run a bead of glue around the top of the now outlined letter and attach the top face of the monogram. I used rubber bands to hold the entire letter together until it was fully dried.

I let the monogram dry over night and then removed the rubber bands and hung that glorious future initial on our wall. I’m thinking after looking at it for another 2 years I may actually be excited to be EAF.

Privacy, Please!

We like to think we live in the “faux country”. “Faux” because we’re really just in the suburbs 20 miles from Manhattan and not country at all. “Country” because even though we’re in the “burbs” we’re on an acre of property, have families of deer sleeping in our front yard and located across the street from a park complete with walking paths and ponds for fishing. So privacy really isn’t an issue, yet an issue at the same time. Especially when our green property hits winter and our leafy shroud disappears. Most rooms don’t make a difference privacy wise. Some, like the bathroom, makes a big difference. Not to mention we have a MASSIVE window in our bathroom. I love the natural light it brings in but hate that the window ends around mid thigh. Sorry but I don’t need to be that showy with the neighbors. Plus I love peaking out that window. The solution? A cafe curtain. Straight modern and starts at collarbone level. Everyone wins. Minus the peeping tom’s of course.

I had my personal seamstress (aka Mom) help with the sewing, however this style curtain is a beyond easy sew. First measure the window. If you want it to hang straight (like the one shown) and not bunched the actual size of the window is all you need. Add an extra about an inch on all sides for the hem and an extra 2 or 3 inches for the curtain rod “sleeve”. Sew a hem on all sides, then fold the top down to create the “sleeve” for the curtain rod and sew. That’s it! That’s all you have to do. Presto! instant privacy.

I found the fabric at Ikea for around $7 a yard. I believe I only needed around 1/2 a yard. So for roughly $3.50 plus the cost of curtain rod I had fabulous and simple privacy.  The plain white linen was just that, plain. I wanted to add a ribbon stripe around the curtain for a little more detail. Problem was a slippery silk ribbon was going to be a rather annoying pinning/sewing job. Solution? My always trusty go to material… Paint! 1 tube of navy acrylic craft paint from your local craft store (less than $3) and some masking tape made for a quick and easy custom detail.

Simple, cheap, and functional. Can’t beat that. Total project cost? under $10 when including the tension rod. Fabulous.

Floating Along

We spend a lot of time in our dining room. Probably has something to do with our kitchen being far too small to function. Most baking prep is done there, in addition to eating every meal (minus the times we want to be anti social and sit in front of the TV). Because of this the dining room is one of the furthest along design wise.

It was the first room that I had a clear direction on what I wanted to do. So far we’ve painted it from “old lady peach” (not to be confused with “Aunt Annie Key West Peach”) to “super trendy gray” (Benny Moore “Absolute White” I think). We scored a beautiful antique buffet from Craig’s List. Art wise we bought some prints off Etsy, mixed in with some of my own, threw a little Jersey pride in as well. Part of the color selections in the Kitchen/Dining room was fueled by my man. He has a borderline unhealthy obsession with Coca Cola. The obsession has acquired quite a few vintage and foreign green glass bottles. I really think they are quite sexy and has helped to fuel the glass green, robin’s egg blue, yellow color scheme in the 2 rooms.

Now for a place to put all these damn things. Not to mention we had 2 very blank walls that I had overlooked in my initial design layout in the brain. I’ve been drooling over the simple and elegant floating shelf concept. However being the cheapies that we are (and the custom design I had in mind) we decided to build them ourselves. To figure out the exact design we ordered some pizza, then went to town with the box. That’s right. To visualize how much space they were going to take up I hung used pizza box shelf models on my wall. Frankly I think it was an awesome idea. I could walk in and out of the room and see exactly how these shelves would feel in the space. (Drilling holes and hating it is frankly a pain in the ass)

Pizza box floating shelves models.

Following plans from Ana White (this girl is AMAZING) we built wrap around floating shelves to hold the Coke bottle collection…well part of it at least, and some other chotchkies. Other than some communication mishaps between the future hubs and myself the shelves were easy to build. If we had the proper power tools and workshop area they would have gone MUCH faster.

None the less, they are done, super sexy and make me SO happy every time I look at them. The actual layout of stuff will definitely be changing /evolving as time goes on, the seasons change, etc. However my favorite things currently on the shelves? The metal modern “B” and “E” (Brendan and Elizabeth) acquired from Brendan’s old Fire House. Now to locate an “&”.

A Place for Hanging

Moving into a place in September has it’s perks. No need to worry about where to hang your coats. Once late October hits however, a place to hang coats that isn’t a distant closet or draped over a knee wall is crucial. Rather than running out to a local store to buy a $30 piece of wood with hooks we decided to build our own. Building a coat rack was cheap, easy, and allowed us to customize the length and color to match an awesome mirror we found to hang above. (Unfortunately the mirror was purchased before realizing our landlord left a massive mirror opposite our rack, but still built custom for our future house.)

All you need is a 1″ x 4″ piece of wood, hooks, stain/paint, and mounting brackets. Have your home improvement store cut down the wood to your desired length, hit it with a coat or 2 of stain/paint space your hooks as you would like them. Pre-drill some holes, screw in hooks, and mount. THAT easy. Not to mention now you have something to brag about building yourself that you will be guaranteed to see every day from October to May.

Ahh. Organization. Can’t tell you how many times I walked by this when it was first hung and went “just lovely.”