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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Better Than Boxed: Homemade Onion Dip

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is enjoying some ridged potato chips with a creamy onion dip. This doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that my preferred dip is one that you make by mixing sour cream with a packet of dried onion soup by Lipton. It’s a classic taste that still makes me just as happy as it did when I was a little kid enjoying some at a party, though it’s not something I’ll make a regular part of my diet anytime soon. The reason: That tiny packet hanging out in the back of my pantry has 14 different ingredients in it. No thanks! I set out to try to replicate the flavor and ended up with a slightly more sophisticated twist that I now like even more than the original.

Better Than Boxed: Homemade Caramelized Onion Dip by

Better Than Boxed: Homemade Caramelized Onion Dip by

Replacing the sour cream with tangy crème fraîche definitely elevated this dip from something I would serve to friends watching a football game, to something I’d put out at an afternoon garden party (though it would be a welcome addition to both). This weekend we enjoyed the dip with crispy zucchini cakes (stay tuned for that recipe soon) as well as a few potato chips. Let’s just say, we don’t have too much left…

Homemade Caramelized Onion Dip

Makes about 1 cup

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin strips 
  • 1 8-ounce container crème fraîche
  • kosher salt

1. Heat a large pan over medium-low. Add the butter and let melt. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until caramelized. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. Transfer crème fraîche to a small bowl. Roughly chop onions and add to bowl. Mix until well combined and add salt to taste. Let sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

SWWU Tip 1: Want an even more sophisticated flavor? Used caramelized shallots instead. 

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Butter Me Up

Homemade butter is one of those special indulgences that I rarely make. It’s always creamier and richer than store-bought butter and makes anything you put it on—from a piece of crusty bread to a stack of pancakes—taste so much more decadent. This past weekend I wanted a special topping for some sweet summer corn, but we were at the farm house and I didn’t quite have the time or patience to make a batch of homemade butter. I was however able to grab some fresh cilantro from the garden and combine it with a few other ingredients we had on hand to jazz up some plain, store-bought butter.

Cilantro-Lime Butter by

Cilantro-Lime Butter by

It took hardly any effort and the result was beyond delicious. It’s really quite amazing how so few ingredients can really transform a dish so much. We used the butter to top some grilled corn, but I also think it would be a great way to grease a pan before making eggs, to coat the outside of a grilled-cheese sandwich or to prepare fish with.

Cilantro-Lime Butter

Makes about 4 tablespoons

  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1. In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, cilantro, both salts and lime juice. Mix until well combined, taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

2. To form into butter rounds: Lay out a small piece of plastic wrap on a work surface. Place the butter mixture in the middle and fold the edges of the plastic wrap over each other to form a cylinder. Gently roll the butter back and forth, like you would a rolling pin, to smooth and lengthen the log of butter. Once your butter has reached the desired size and is uniform in thickness, twist the ends of the plastic wrap closed. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until firm.

3. Once firm, remove butter from the plastic wrap and slice into thin rounds.

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