Framing A Love Story

It’s raining! No, not outside, but it seems like I’m getting caught up in a lot of showers these days. I’m talking about wedding and baby showers! Don’t even ask how many I’ve been to in the past year—I’ve lost count. And while I know the happy couples and expecting parents may have put a lot of thought into the items on their registries, I sometimes like to go my own way, especially if it’s for a close friend. After all, Aunt Susan can buy you that Le Cruset pot that you just HAVE TO HAVE! Instead, I like to do something I little different.

Framing A Love Story - A wedding shower gift by

Framing A Love Story – A wedding shower gift by

For a recent wedding shower I decided to create something for the happy couple to display in their home. I used cutouts of maps to tell their love story, highlighting important moments in their relationship (where they met and fell in love, where they got engaged and the new city they recently moved to together). The personalization options for a gift like this are endless!

Here’s how it all came together:

Framing A Love Story

1. Gather all of your supplies at a workstation. Take apart your frame and used the spray adhesive to attach decorative paper (I chose linen) directly to the inside of the back piece of the frame (creating a base for you to work on).

2. Use the circle punch to cut meaningful locations out of an atlas. You can also print maps on the computer, but I liked the style of the maps in the atlas a bit better than what I could find online.

3. Use a computer to design any other text that you may want incorporated into your design. Print your designs and text on heavy card stock and cut out with decorative scissors if desired.

4. Lay out your design and use the spray adhesive (a nice thin, even coat is all you need) to attach everything. Put the frame back together and give as a gift or hang on the wall.

SWWU Tip 1: Though it’s a little pricy, the spray adhesive I recommended above is well worth the investment. It allows you to use the thinnest coat of glue possible, which is ideal when working with thin paper. It dries very quickly, so make sure you’re putting pieces exactly where you want them when using it.

SWWU Tip 2: I was able to find an inexpensive 2013 atlas in a used book store for just $3. You can find similar deals at stores near your house or on eBay and Amazon.

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Mixing Up Some Gifts

I’m a big fan of giving food gifts. Who doesn’t love a box of cookies, a bottle of homemade vanilla extract or a plate of boozy blondies? And, as a bonus, I get to enjoy tailoring each gift to each recipient. This past holiday season I decided to change things up a bit, though, and strayed from my typical edible presents. Instead, I decided to give gifts that would last long after the holiday season was over. Behold, my gift of choice: The wooden spoon!

Mixing Up Some Gifts: DIY Wood Burned Spoons by

Mixing Up Some Gifts: DIY Wood Burned Spoons by

While I can’t take credit for the idea (there are similar items all over Pinterest and Etsy), I can say I had a fun time playing with my new wood burning tool as I worked to develop a new crafting skill. I etched a different design into each wooden spoon I had—all 36 of them—mostly so I could try out all of the attachments that came with my burner. I found the activity to be very calming, similar to casually sketching in a notepad. I was able to create a wide variety of styles so I let each recipient choose the spoon that best suited her and her kitchen.

For a first go-around, I’m pretty pleased with the results. I’m hoping to move beyond spoons and engrave cutting boards, frames and more. Stay tuned to see what I do next.
In the meantime, here’s a few tips to make your first experience with a wood burning tool run smoothly:
  • Burning into a flat surface is easiest, beware of curves until you get the hang of working with the tool.
  • Pay attention! The tip of the tool gets extremely hot. This is not a tool that should be used around young kids or pets that might bump into it.
  • Open a window or make sure you’re working in an area that is well ventilated. It smelled like a campfire in my house for a few days after I’d finished my projects. I didn’t mind, but it’s worth noting.
  • Use a piece of scrap wood to do a test run with each tip that comes with the wood burning kit. Once the hot tip touches the wood, it has made its mark and there’s no turning back.
  • It takes the tips a long time to cool down once they’ve been heated. The included instructions recommend you unplug the tool and let it cool completely before swapping in a new tip. To avoid a long wait time I used pliers to loosen and remove the old tip and put the new one on. Be be extra careful not to touch anything with your bare skin.
  • Have fun! There’s no right or wrong way to design something.

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Wine Charms

On a recent trip to Charlotte, NC our hosts, Eric and Mike (the awesome guys behind this project), took us on a wine tasting tour through the Yadkin Valley. Before we left for our adventure, Eric recommended we stop by the supermarket to pick up pretzels to make an edible necklace with. Sort of like a candy necklace, but with a salty snack instead. Sure, the idea sounded a little kookie, but we were up for anything. I have to admit, this clever little project took me by surprise for more than one reason.

Edible Wine Charms by

Edible Wine Charms by

First, designing and creating the necklaces gave everyone (except the driver) something interesting to do in the car on the drive. Second, it allowed us to have our own tasty snack at the ready while we were tasting wine. Third, we didn’t have to munch on stale oyster crackers that every other guest that had visited the winery that day dipped their hands into.

While Brian and Mike were a bit sceptical of their new accessories at first, they quickly saw the benefit of having a snack right their around their neck. And at each stop, more and more strangers seemed to love the idea, commenting on how they wish they had one, too.

To make your own, you just need natural cooking twine, scissors and pretzels (we had a mix of Rold Gold Tiny Twists, Snyder’s Butter Snaps and Pretzel Crisps). Use your imagination to create a design that’s right for you, tie it around your neck and enjoy. Don’t worry what others might think, after all, you’re likely to be a bit tipsy from the wine you’re sampling.

SWWU TIp 1: Stay away from flavored pretzels as they might stain your clothing. Also be careful of salted varieties snagging silk or other delicate fabrics.

SWWU TIp 2: This would be an excellent activity for a group going on a wine tasting tour for a bachelorette party or wedding shower. 

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Flavor Starters

Cilantro-Lime Flavor Starter

Flavor Starter Cube by

What’s for dinner tonight? Or breakfast tomorrow for that matter? I’ve always got an answer in my back pocket when I’ve got a stash of flavor starter cubes in my freezer. My most recent batch came together after I found myself with an abundance of cilantro. Instead of letting it wilt away, I blended the leaves up with some garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil and filled an ice cube tray with the mixture.


Cilantro-Lime Flavor Starter Cubes (

The frozen cubes are a great way to get a quick meal started. Around our house, we use them most often to whip up a delicious batch of scrambled eggs that are anything but ordinary. Simply put the frozen cube in your skillet, heat and let melt. Once it’s melted, swish the herb and olive oil mixture around your pan and add eggs. Cook your eggs as you normally would and you’ll enjoy a refreshing flavor that goes way beyond just seasoning your pan with a bit of butter or oil.


Adding a frozen flavor starter cube to a skillet (

In addition to eggs, you can use flavor starter cubes to season a pan before searing chicken or cooking up some vegetables. I’ve even used one to add a little something extra to a classic grilled cheese.

Cilantro-Lime Flavor Starter Cubes

Makes about 12

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch cilantro (about 3 to 4 cups)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the garlic in a blender or food processor. Pulse until well chopped. Add the cilantro, lime juice and olive oil. Blend until well combined, adding more olive oil if necessary to get a liquid consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Pour herb mixture into an ice cube tray. Freeze then transfer cubes to a zip-top bag for extended storage.

SWWU Tip 1: I don’t always fill the each well of the ice cube tray to the top. Smaller cubes are great when you’re making something for one person. Experiment making your cubes different sizes and see what works well for you.

SWWU Tip 2: Have other herbs on hand? This recipe works equally as well if you substitute parsley, basil or more. The lime juice can be substituted with lemon juice or left out entirely.

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Syrup In A Snap

Brian and I have been stocking on up on all the fresh summer fruits we can get our hands on. As a result, our kitchen counter and fridge have been filled with luscious nectarines, peaches, berries and more for the past few weeks. As you know, we’ve been working our way through a hefty supply of blueberries too. I decided to take what we had left of them and make a quick and easy (and delicious) blueberry compote.

Easy Blueberry Compote by

Easy Blueberry Compote by

Nothing makes a fluffy stack of pancakes or a morning bowl of yogurt with granola feel more special than adding a generous spoonful of blueberry compote. The compote only contains three ingredients (including water) and took less than 15 minutes to make, so there’s no excuse not to have it on hand. Trust me, you’ll be glad you whipped some up.

Easy Blueberry Compote

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen), divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar

1. In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups blueberries, 1/3 cup water and the sugar. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until blueberries begin to burst. Add the remaining blueberries and cook 5 to 7 minutes more or until syrup coats the back of a wooden spoon. Serve warm or at room temperature.

SWWU Tip 1: It’s summer, so our blueberries were super sweet. If yours don’t taste as delicious, you might want to up your sugar to 1/2 cup. Feeling creative? Try making these with vanilla sugar instead.

SWWU Tip 2: Adding a teaspoon of fresh lemon or orange zest is another way to enhance the flavor of this dish. Add it when you mix in the second batch of blueberries.

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