Thursday, March 27, 2014

Painted Mugs

If you're a coffee or tea lover like me, you probably also have a favorite mug to drink said coffee or tea out of. My favorite mug is this one because not only is it awesome, I also painted it myself.

A few years ago, I spotted this adorable DIY painted mug on Pinterest and knew I had to try my hand at making myself a set. This is a perfect, inexpensive DIY project because you only need two things: mugs and paint. A bottle of paint is $2-3 and you can find plain mugs at most dollar or thrift stores for $1 or less, so you really can't go wrong here. We used black Americana Gloss Enamels paint and plain white mugs that we picked up at Salvation Army for 99 cents apiece.

Here's what you do!
- Wash and dry your mugs thoroughly before painting.
- Paint your mug in any pattern you want! I applied my paint directly from the bottle, using the fine tip bottle cap. (Note: I've had this bottle of paint for awhile and if I recall correctly, it didn't have a fine tip bottle cap when I purchased it, so I swapped the cap out with a different bottle of paint I had on hand. JSYK.)

- I painted my mugs pretty slowly, taking a lot of breaks to watch Gilmore Girls. I find that between trying to hold the mug still with one hand and squeeze the paint bottle with the other, my hands start to get shaky if I try to paint too much at once. Slow and steady.
- Once your mugs are painted, let them dry for 48 hours.
- Place your dried mugs in a cold oven, then set the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and let the mugs cool inside with the oven door open.
- Once your mugs are completely cooled, you're ready to use 'em!

The directions on the paint bottle say that baking your mugs will make them dishwasher safe, however, that's a risk I'm not personally willing to take. I prefer to hand wash my mugs, just in case.

Anyone else have fun with Gloss Enamels paint before? I love it... I've also used it to decorate votives. The possibilities are endless!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Sarah and I love tacos! For the longest time, we would just buy a taco kit or a seasoning packet any time we wanted to make some. They make the process really quick and easy, but we weren't wild about the amount of processing and preservatives/additives that go into a kit like that. We realized that we literally have everything we need to make our own taco seasoning right here in our kitchen. It saves us money, is SUPER easy, and helps cut down on some processed food we could do without. After seeing on Pinterest that other people could do it, we decided, so can we! And, if you've got a pretty standard spice selection on hand in your home, so can you.

Here's what you need:
- 1 tbsp. Chili Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Onion Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano
- 1/2 tsp. Paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp. Cumin
- 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. Black Pepper

Just mix it all together! You can make the batches larger to keep some saved and ready to go for next time, or just throw all this together each time you taco. The amounts above will serve about 1 pound of ground beef (or any meat/meat substitute of your preference). Add 3/4 cups water to your browned beef, add your spices, and simmer until liquid reduces.

That's it! The flavor of this mix is an excellent match to what we'd expect from a store-bought taco seasoning mix, but it is a little on the spicier side, which is okay with us! If we're not in the mood for spice, we just use a little less chili powder. I also feel much better knowing that I can make this at home and cut out some of the nasty processing I'd get with pre-packaged food.

Hope you can get a chance to try this at home. Be sure to let us know what you think!

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cloth Napkins - 6 Ways

You may remember from previous posts that Nick and I have been trying to stop purchasing single-use items in an effort to save money and be less wasteful. We can go through a LOT of napkins, especially when it's beard-growing (aka messy eating) season for Nick, so we really want to eliminate napkin use and only keep paper towels on hand for cleaning, etc.

We decided to purchase cloth napkins that we can wash and reuse in place of paper napkins. Cloth napkins can be found in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns, but we thought it would be fun to buy plain napkins and decorate them ourselves. We found a pack of 12 sturdy, white cotton napkins from Homegoods for $15.00 (that we got with a gift card!) and we agreed on making 6 different sets.

First we washed and dried all of the napkins before decorating. We used three different mediums for our napkins: fabric paint, Sharpie, and dye.

Fabric Paint

1. We used leftover yellow fabric paint to create kind of an oblong polka dot pattern. I was inspired by the napkins seen here that A Beautiful Mess uses frequently. To make these, all I did was use a paint brush to cover the napkin in dots. So easy!

2. We've had success creating and using our own stamps before, so we decided to try this again and hand stamp our next set. Nick created this donut shape out of foam sheets that we glued together to create our stamp. We brushed the paint onto the stamp and then pressed it firmly on the napkin.

Notes about fabric paint: We let the napkins dry flat for 24 hours. Because the napkins will be washed over and over, we used our iron to heat set the paint to avoid having it come off in the wash. To do this, we used a medium to high heat setting on the iron and moved it across the wrong (unpainted) side of the napkins. You have to move constantly so you don't scorch the fabric. We always wash our napkins in cold water and have not had any paint removal.


3. I thought it would be fun to create a set of napkins that is completely covered in black, cursive handwriting. From a distance you wouldn't really know what these napkins say, but if you examine them closely, you could actually read every word. Because we're big Harry Potter fans, I decided to write the first few pages of the first book on one napkin and the last few pages of the last book on the other. It's a fun and subtle way to pay tribute to something we love in an unexpected place. But let me tell you... writing on napkins is easier said than done. My hands were cramping terribly from pulling the napkin tight enough to write. Ouch.

4. For this set we went with my go-to pattern. We used gold Sharpie, though it looks a little gray instead of gold. I used a ruler to make straight lines down the length of the napkin and then free-handed alternating angled lines in between the straight lines.

Notes about Sharpie: We washed (in cold water) and dried our napkins as usual. Sharpie doesn't really need to be set before washing. They may fade over time, but I have t-shirts that get washed regularly and still have Sharpie writing on them from 1996, so I'm not too concerned.


5. We used leftover purple dye to dye a set of solid napkins. With all of the other patterns we were creating, we thought it would be a good idea to have one solid set. We soaked the napkins in our dye/hot water mix until we were pleased with the color. We wanted these to be super dark so they will better hide hard to remove food stains.

6. For our last set, we used orange dye to create somewhat of an ombre set, where two sides are white and the color gets darker as you move into the middle. To do this, we folded each napkin in half and dipped 2/3 of the folded napkin into the dye. After two minutes, we pulled out 1/3 and left the remaining 1/3 in the dye for about 90 more minutes. (Don't worry, we didn't torture our arms by holding the napkins in the dye, we just clipped them to the sides of our bucket!)

Notes about dye: After dyeing the napkins, we rinsed them thoroughly in cold water. For the orange set, we had to be extra careful when rinsing. We left them folded and rinsed from top to bottom so that the orange dye wouldn't bleed up into the white portion. We let the napkins dry overnight and ran them for 1 cycle in the dryer to help set the dye. Again, we always wash them in cold water and have not experienced any issues.

What do you guys think? Any ideas on how you would decorate your napkins? I think I'd like to make some tea towels next...

Sarah & Nick

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spinach Hummus Melts

WOW. What a weekend we've had. Somehow in one weekend we managed to pour beers at Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest, see The Avett Brothers & Old Crow Medicine Show, party at 90's night at the bar, hitch a ride home in a limo, and today we snuggled up on the couch with coffee and Harry Potter. Pure perfection! (More show photos on my Instagram!)

Our last few posts have been mighty wordy, so today we'll just share a quick and healthy recipe. These spinach hummus melts are super yummy and easy to make.

Here's what you need! (These amounts serve two!)
- 2 English muffins (white or wheat)
- Plain hummus
- 2 cups frozen spinach
- Garlic powder
- Shredded mozzarella cheese

Here's what you do!
- First, thaw your spinach and drain out as much water as you can. You can do this in a number of ways, but we just put 1 cup of spinach at a time into a coffee filter, run hot water over it, and squeeze the water through the coffee filter with our hands. Works like a charm!
- Separate and toast your english muffins to crisp them up a bit. Meanwhile turn on the broiler in your oven.

- Once the muffins are toasted, spread them with hummus (as much or as little as you want!) and top each with 1/4 of your spinach. Sprinkle with some garlic powder and mozzarella cheese and place them on a cookie sheet under your broiler.
- Broil until the cheese is brown and bubbly (only 2-3 minutes). Then eat!

I saw this recipe on Pinterest awhile ago and we almost always have these ingredients on hand, so it's a go-to meal around here! If you prefer to use fresh spinach, you can cook it on the stove in olive oil, but remember that it will cook down a lot so you might need to use a bunch. You could also use garlic hummus in place of plain hummus and garlic powder. There are lots of options with this meal!

Now I think it's time to get settled in for some Oscar's red carpet action. Happy snowy Sunday!

Sarah & Nick