2013 - The Surznick Common Room

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Hi everyone! Can you believe Christmas is this week?! We had a totally crazy month getting ready for the holidays. Preparing to host Christmas at our apartment this year has been a lot of work, but we're so excited to have family here with us in Pittsburgh. We're a little bummed that we haven't been able to devote as much time to the Surznick Common Room as we would like to, so we can't wait until things settle down a little bit. Once 2014 is here we can get back to sharing lots of projects and recipes with you guys!

So we're just here today to check in and say that we hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and fun holiday! Nick and I spent all morning baking tons of cookies with my mom and now we're anxiously awaiting the arrival of his parents. We had such a blast decorating this year and getting everything holiday-ready. Here are some pictures of Surznick Christmas 2013 so far!


 Have a great week!

Sarah & Nick

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Make your own personal Guess Who? game

Do you guys remember the game Guess Who? It's that game where each opponent selects a card with a picture of a person on it and you have to ask yes or no questions to determine which person your opponent has selected. It was so much fun to play growing up, but I probably hadn't thought about it in 15 years until I saw this pin where they replaced the stock images with pictures of people they know. How perfect is this idea?!

Nick and I decided that we wanted to make our own version of Guess Who? to play with the family over Thanksgiving, so we started searching high and low at every Goodwill in the Pittsburgh area (and a few others), but we couldn't find this game ANYWHERE! (I actually couldn't believe how impossible it was to find Guess Who? I mean, really?) But finally after weekends of arduous searching, we went to a thrift store that Nick passes to and from work and they had TWO Guess Who?'s! I was so excited, I snatched one up immediately and it was only $1.00!

Just a note, we did search online for Guess Who? but it appears that they don't make the 24-photo version anymore. If you look for it on Amazon, the current version only uses 15 photos and has a different format. The 24-photo versions are on eBay but are more expensive than the new ones! So we decided that thrifting was going to be our best bet.

Once we got home with our purchase, the first thing we had to do was determine who was going to be included in our list of 24 people. After we got our roster ready to go, we went through family wedding photos and of course, Facebook, to get the perfect picture for each person. We tried to find pictures that would offer a lot of variety when asking questions, like some with glasses, hats, beards, etc.

By the way, no one except for Nick and I knows that we did this, so shout out to our family, we hope you guys like this surprise!

Next I measured the little cardboard photo inserts and the deck of cards to determine the correct size and I cropped each photo accordingly. You'll need two copies of each of the inserts (one for the red board and one for the blue), but you'll only need one copy of the card photos (unless you're like me and you want to put everyone's faces on the front of the box also).

We cut everything out and then glued the photos directly on to the existing cardboard inserts and deck of cards. The only thing left to do is put your photo inserts back into the game boards and you're ready to play!

If you saw our last post, we mentioned that we're having the family to our apartment for Christmas this year. Since we didn't get this ready in time for Thanksgiving, we can't wait to play Surznick Family Guess Who? with everyone here over Christmas!

We hope that you enjoy the rest of your weekend! I think it's just about time for us to test out this creation...

Sarah & Nick

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

DIY Merry & Bright Marquee

Nick and I are SO excited about Christmas this year. This is our sixth Christmas together, but I think it will only be the third time we're actually spending Christmas day together. We decided that this year instead of picking and choosing between who to see on Christmas day (since our families live 3.5 hours apart), we would have the family here!

Knowing that we're hosting Christmas has really gotten us into the holiday spirit, so we've been trying to come up with creative ways to decorate the apartment. That's when I saw this homemade Merry & Bright marquee on A Beautiful Mess, made by Laura of ABM and The Band Wife Blog. It is freakin' gorgeous and I wanted it to be mine so badly, but I had a couple hesitations about making it. First, they made theirs out of a wood board that they had to drill holes through. We don't have a drill. Even if we did, we don't have a great place to drill things inside our apartment and it's 27 degrees outside. Second, the cost. Their list of supplies probably would have been more than we want to spend on a seasonal decoration.

I kind of put the idea out of my head, but then on Saturday morning Nick and I were wandering around JoAnn Fabric when I decided to show him the picture of the marquee. He thought it was awesome too, so we walked around the store to see if they had anything we could use to make one without using wood.

Here's what we came up with! We bought a thick foam poster board to use in place of the wood board and gold, glittery foam sheets to cut letters out of. Total cost was about $5.50! We already had a string of white lights, so that didn't cost us anything.

When we got home we printed out giant letters and cut them out to use as our templates. Then we mapped out where the lights were going to go on each letter. I'm super glad we did because I initially marked out 109 lights when our string only had 100, so we had to make some cutbacks.

Saving the environment by printing one R!
Next we traced the letters on to the backs of the foam sheets, making sure that each letter was face down so that the front of each letter would be gold. Once all of the letters were cut out, we glued them onto the poster board with some Elmer's glue and let them dry overnight.

The next day we trimmed down the poster board and marked where we wanted the holes with a little Sharpie dot. Nick drilled the holes using this handy dandy tool that we don't know the name for (someone help us out here?) He then made the holes a little bigger with a screwdriver.

The last step was putting in the lights! We didn't need to use tape to fasten our lights, as they fit snug into the holes.

The only thing left was to plug it in, and TA DA! It was perfect!

What do you guys think of our final product? I think it's so unique and adds the perfect amount of holiday cheer to our decor (I also can't believe that we actually MADE it!) I'm so thrilled that it turned out well, even though we improvised on ABM's directions.

Happy decorating this holiday season! Be sure to share your fun decoration ideas with us!

Sarah & Nick

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pumpkin Fluff Dip

If you recall reading our post about Pumpkin Roll Cupcakes, then you'll remember that we love pumpkin. Last year we decided to try a new pumpkin dessert that is so quick, so easy, and SO delicious that it has become a fall staple around here. Today we present you with Pumpkin Fluff Dip!

Here's what you need!
- 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
- 8 oz. container of whipped topping
- 4.8 oz. vanilla pudding mix
- Nutmeg and cinnamon to taste (or pumpkin pie spice!)

Literally all you do is mix the above ingredients together and you have pumpkin fluff dip. That's it! Store it in the fridge and serve it with ginger snaps, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, or anything else that sounds tasty. Like I said, easy right?!

Our favorite for dipping!
But we'll do you guys one better... here's the Surznick secret about pumpkin fluff dip: Like a fine wine, it gets better with age. I know that seems strange, but we firmly believe that the pumpkin flavor gets stronger and this tastes even more delicious if you make it a day or two prior to eating it.

We took pumpkin fluff dip to Friendsgiving last weekend and we're taking more to Nick's parents house tomorrow for Thanksgiving. It's a great dish to take to a party because it requires practically no effort and it's always a crowd pleaser. You really can't go wrong here.

Are you making anything delicious for Thanksgiving? Be sure to let us know because we're always looking for awesome recipe ideas!

Safe travels and have a great holiday!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, November 22, 2013

Feeling Fall-ish

The weather last weekend was completely perfect. It was pure fall. Nick and I were out and about running errands, donating some things to the thrift store, and picking up some goodies for ourselves (House of Leaves for $4! YES!). It was so nice to be outside while the weather was warm-ish and no winter coats were required.

Plaid Shirt\Old Navy (exact old, similar),  Cardigan\H&M (similar),  Jeans\American Eagle (exact old, similar),  Moccasins\Minnetonka (exact),  Watch\Urban Outfitters (exact)

It's supposed to snow here tomorrow, but I'm going to keep wearing my moccasins until my toes are ice cubes. 

We hope you all have fun weekend plans! Check back Sunday for a yummy breakfast recipe that is perfect for Thanksgiving morning!

xo, Sarah

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Caramel Beershake

What's better than ice cream? Beer. What's better than beer? Ice cream. (Sarah has informed me that this doesn't make sense, but I don't care). What's better than that? Beer and ice cream! Sarah and I are always looking for new and interesting beer varieties to pick up and try, but once our budget started tightening up, we decided to skip on buying more beer and started looking for creative ways to mix up what we already had. One day, we stumbled upon someone online making a Samuel Adams OctoberFest Milkshake, and we decided to try it! Let me tell you: pure. deliciousness. For this recipe, all we did was sub out the OctoberFest, and used what we had on hand: Sierra Nevada Tumbler (a fantastic autumn brown ale)!

Here's what you need to make it:

- Caramel syrup
- Vanilla extract
- Vanilla ice cream
- A bottle of beer

Luckily for us, we have one of these handy-dandy-single-serving-magic-bullet-type blenders that is perfect for smoothies, milkshakes, etc.

This is where the recipe goes pretty much full improvisation. I like to fill up my blending cup to the top with ice cream, and fill it in with as much beer that I can fit in the cup. I then put in about 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract, and "some" caramel syrup (it's all up to you). After I blend it the first time and the ingredients reduce in the glass, I repeat: more ice cream, more beer, more syrup, skip the vanilla extract (a little goes a long way).

That's it! Depending on whether you want more of your beer flavor to come through, or if you want it sweeter will depend on how you mix up this recipe.

This super delicious treat is also super customizable. What kind of beer do you think would be good in a milkshake? Share your thoughts with us!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Skull Bookends

Nick and I love books. We both read a lot, but we don't like borrowing books from other people or the library, nor do we have a Kindle/Nook/etc. We both really enjoy holding a book in our hands and putting it on our bookshelves once we're finished reading it.

This year especially, our book collection has grown a lot (hello, cheap Goodwill books!) and we're starting to run out of room on our shelves. We have two fireplaces in our apartment, so we have a lot of mantle space that is perfect for displaying books. Like I mentioned in our Skull String Art post, we have a bit of a thing for skulls right now, so when I saw DIY skull bookends on The Band Wife blog, I thought, "I MUST HAVE THESE NOW." I was super pumped to make these awesome bookends and clear up some space on our bookshelves. Definitely a win-win.

Luckily for us, Halloween decorations were still in full swing when we decided to work on this project, so finding the skull was easy peasy. The Band Wife has a great tutorial here, but this is how we made ours! (Also, I apologize for the lack of photos. We made these in our pre-blogging days!)

You need:
- A skull
- A thin piece of wood (Our is about 1/8" thick)
- Wood glue
- White spray paint

Here's what you do!

1) Cut your skull in half down the middle. We suggest marking the middle of the skull with a pencil before you start cutting. Nick cut our skull with a jab saw, but he recommends using a hack saw or something with finer teeth. Also, this process makes a lot of dust so you should probably do it outside.

2) Cut your piece of wood to the size you choose. We cut two 4"x6" pieces. 3) Spray paint your wood and your skull. It may be easier to glue your skull pieces to the boards first, but I sprayed ours separately. Both the boards and the skull required a few coats of paint to cover completely. Make sure you get into all of the nooks and crannies of the skull for even paint coverage. 4) After your paint is completely dry, use wood glue to glue the skull halves to your wood bases. Use heavy objects to hold the skulls in place until they dry.

Once your glue is completely dry and your skull halves are secure, you're ready to display them! We used ours to display the Harry Potter series on our living room mantle. I think they look pretty great. Even though skulls can convey a Halloween theme, our bookends definitely will be on our mantle year-round.

This project has really inspired us to think of other creative bookends we can make. What would you use for your bookends? Share with us in the comments!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pumpkin Roll Cupcakes

It pretty much goes without saying, but one of the best things about fall is PUMPKIN EVERYTHING.

Growing up, I looked forward to fall for so many reasons and my aunt's pumpkin roll is definitely on that list. A few years ago, I decided I would attempt to make my own pumpkin roll. I'd say it turned out pretty good for a first attempt. It definitely tasted great, but it wasn't exactly pretty or easy to do.

Pumpkin roll making is definitely an art.

After my less-than-spectacular pumpkin roll experience, I decided that since I'm much more of a cupcake kinda gal anyway, I would have the best of both worlds and make pumpkin roll cupcakes!

Yep, these are delish. Here's what you need!

For the cupcakes:
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. baking
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 3 eggs

For the frosting:
- 8 oz. softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup confectioners sugar

Here's what you do!
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and fill a muffin tin with cupcake liners
- Stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg
- Mix in pumpkin puree and eggs
- Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake 15-20 minutes. Insert a toothpick into one of the cupcakes to ensure they are fully baked

- Mix together softened cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar, and vanilla to make frosting (Helpful Tip! Take your cream cheese and butter out of the fridge several hours before baking so they have plenty of time to soften)
- Once cupcakes have cooled about 20 minutes, frost them any which way you choose! (We went with the amateur Ziploc bag style)
- Store cupcakes in the fridge or freezer

If you're feeling ambitious and think you'd like to tackle the pumpkin roll, do it! I didn't make any changes to this recipe other than putting it in a muffin tin. If you want to make a pumpkin roll, use a 9x13" greased cookie sheet instead. When the cake is done baking, you roll it up into a towel and let it cool for 20 minutes. Then you unroll it, frost it, and roll it up again. Wrap it in plastic wrap immediately and store it in the fridge or freezer.

IMPORTANT: These are definitely beard approved.


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sarah & Nick