Monday, June 30, 2014

of Framed Chalkboard Signs

I not so recently became engaged (yay!!!!) and as an event planner, I know I need to get as much done as possible as early as possible so that I can enjoy my wedding and not be a stressed out lump rolling down the aisle on our wedding day. My fiance and I already have our venue and date so it's time to get down to business. Ideally, when I plan an event I like to build in about a two month window for any unseen hiccups and general tom foolery that occurs when you need a bunch of people to work together. Since the wedding is not until November, I had plenty of time to plot to my hearts content before anything needed to be finalized. My timeline spreadsheet and budget spreadsheet are already synced and so far the details are falling into place quite beautifully.

I know I will be DIYing a ton of things for my wedding for several reasons: one I know it will keep costs down and I would rather my guests enjoy great food and tons of booze than marvel at insanely priced table numbers and other such things; two because I really enjoy DIYing and its a great way to let go of some of the stress I'll be under; and three because as a graphic designer (don't ask my job is a really strange amalgamation of things) I like having control over the end product and I generally already have the means or vendor connections to bring my vision to life.

To that end, I have a general idea of what I want our wedding to look like and my wonderful fiance Ronnie agrees with the plans and brings some of his own so I know it's time to get going on a few of the DIY projects while the weather is mild. We will be needing some chalkboard signs for our favor table and the tutorial I found ended up being cheaper and much more personalized than anything I found on go to site to find DIY inspiration. Our wedding is going to have kind of like a vintage/rustic mixed with a touch of magic feel to it so I wanted to be sure that the chalkboards matched this feel. After a quick search in the local thrift stores for filigreed frames, I stumbled across a treasure trove of fabulousity at the Michael's frame sale. I will use one of the frames to make a large chalkboard later but I wanted something a little smaller as my test project. To that end, I then picked up a mirror from a thrift store and the project became even easier. And so our journey begins.

Todays Cast of Characters:

One of the best things about this project is how simple it is. A mirror with a cool frame is the star of the show. Some painters tape will become your best friend by preserving the cool frame. You also need some chalkboard paint, I used the spray kind from Rustoleum because its my jam, and some chalk to condition the board once dry. I really liked the antique hodgepodge feel of the frame so I didn't need to spray paint it but if you want all of your chalkboard frames to be uniform feel free to spray them whatever color you desire.

What to Do:

The first step is to condition your frame to whatever you'd like it to be. Again I left the colors alone because the frame was cool but if it wasn't I would have wiped them down with some cleaner to remove dirt and grime. You can even get into the most delicate filigree work by using a Q tip if you really want to go the distance. I did however use a little Windex with vinegar on the mirror in order to remove dirt and smudges before spraying.

Carefully tape around the mirror preserving the frame but not overlapping onto the mirror part. This was a challenge for me due to poor motor skills but with a little ingenuity and a lot of measuring with my eyes I got it to a point where I like it. 

After you've tackled that, its time to chalkboard. Basically chalkboard spray paint  is a chalkboard in a can. It takes about two coats to cover the board completely and the finished product is absolutely gorgeous but tends to take the texture of the base material. Just something to keep in mind.

Let the chalkboard dry completely (about a day) and then its time to season it. I love when DIY and cooking intersect in such unexpected ways. Much like a cast iron skillet, the chalkboard paint needs a protective layer of something to keep it looking great and doing its job. In this case it's chalk and you rub the whole thing down with it and then wipe it off with an eraser. The directions for doing this are on the back of the can. Be sure to remove the tape carefully before doing the seasoning.

Finally! The chalkboard in a frame is now ready for use. I know that Ronnie and I will get some practical use out of this after the wedding for notes and grocery lists and all sorts of house stuff. It's also going to be a wonderful addition to our wedding!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

of the Perfect Tzatziki

As some of you may recall from eons ago, I get cravings for dill somewhat regularly in the summer. I especially like tzatziki with grilled flat bread or on top of lamb burgers but I would probably eat it plain too and have on many an occasion. I love the fresh crisp taste and the way all the elements of the sauce come together to create a beautiful depth of flavor. The interplay of the dill, garlic, and mint provide such a wonderful flavor profile that I really could eat this all year round. It is definitely best when made with fresh herbs so that limits me here in DC sometimes.

My cousins who are part Greek and my aunt make a version that knocks my socks off every time. I am partial to this one however because it matches up with my likes and dislikes to a T. It also doesn't have lemon which I am tragically allergic to. My fiance loves tzatziki (and really anything Mediterranean in flavor) so this is a staple at our house. Be sure to get the good yogurt though; I've found it makes quite a difference in my multiple experiments.

Today's Cast of Characters:

Very Greek today ladies and gents. Greek yogurt is the star of the show today and make sure it is super thick. I use the Fage 2% for most things; I have tried it with the nonfat and it turns out ok but I like it better with the 2%. An English cucumber is kind of an inside tip because it doesn't have the giant seeds the regular cucumbers have. Also nice: its pretty huge so you only need one. Garlic, dill, mint, and salt provide all the flavor you need and it becomes a sauce with red wine vinegar (which if your family has allergies like mine you can sub white wine vinegar) and olive oil. Pretty basic but it creates a wonderfully authentic taste.

What to Do:

The first thing to do is grate your cucumber. This is somewhat labor and space intensive as I grate it into a bowl and then put it in a single layer on spread out paper towels to salt the cucumber evenly. It's important to note that when you salt cucumber you don't have to put a ton on, just enough to draw out some of the water.

After your cucumber has rested for five minutes, fold the paper towel up and squeeze it between your hands over a sink to get out as much water as possible. If you don't get enough water out your tzatziki will never set correctly. You can use a colander if you want to get out more water, just make sure it is lined with paper towels.

Next mash up the garlic with the salt. It's a pretty easy step especially if you have a garlic press. Use a fork and make sure it is well mashed.

Run a knife through your dill and keep going until there is about a table spoon of each minced up. I like my tzatziki to be really flavorful so sometimes I use closer to a tablespoon and a half, it isn't an exact science.

Next add all your ingredients to the bowl with the garlic and salt. Mix it all up until it is thoroughly combined and the oil has emulsified into the yogurt. I use a whisk to really get the mix mixing. Make sure it has emulsified before you call it a day or your tzatziki will separate and that would be sad.

Test for seasoning. Sometimes you will need an extra bit of salt at this point, it all depends on how much you used on the cucumbers in the beginning.

I generally stuff the whole mix back into the Fage pint container at this point and stick it in the fridge for at least two hours. This gives the flavors a chance to mix and mingle and also gives the yogurt a chance to firm up a bit.

After your two hours of gnawing hunger, you are left with a gloriously thick and creamy tzatziki that is absolutely perfect with basically anything. I recommend it with grilled flat bread, pitas, or lamb burgers but feel free to experiment. I also absolutely love this with spanikopita quinoa. Its just the right bit of crisp flavor to get your taste buds to say opa!


1 pint Greek Yogurt (make sure it is super thick)
1 English cucumber, peeled, grated on a box grater, salted lightly, rested for 5 minutes and squeezed between the hands with a paper towel to remove as much water as possible.
3 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint (optional)
salt to taste (usually puts about 1/4 tsp)


1. Grate the cucumber on a box grater, salt it lightly, let it rest for 5 minutes and squeeze between your hands with a paper towel to remove as much water as possible. Note: If I have time, I often lightly salt the grated cucumber and put in a colander to drain, then squeeze out water as per usual. This eliminates even more water.

2. Mash the garlic up into a paste with a fork and possibly into a little bit of salt. You can decide.

3. Put all of your ingredients into a bowl.

4. Mix everything up together until it is all blended and the oil has emulsified into the yogurt.

5. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if you think necessary. Put in a resealable container.

6. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before using to allow the flavors to come out.

7. Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

of Baby Sprinkles and Alphabet Projects (the Wooden &)

Excitingly, my family will be adding another lady to our ranks this July when my sister Jenny is due. In order to prepare for this little fashionista, my sister Mandy and I devised a way to include extended family and friends in adding a little something just for her to their existing nursery. Basically, I found a pin on Pinterest and Mandy sprang into action with the plan. This is typically how our projects work...then it is up to me to do the nitty gritty crafting. My job this time was also to find examples for her to send around with the email and there is no shortage of DIY tutorials floating around to choose from. I found this one and knew that whatever letter I got it would be my inspiration.

While Ronnie and I were out one day specifically to find an & (there is also no shortage of willing volunteers with regard to this project), we stumbled upon a really cool patinaed copper flower and it happened to look great with the & I chose. I also found some really cool pearl beads on eBay and I knew I had just what I needed to add my own stamp to the inspiration piece. Mandy and I conveniently schemed to have all the letters sent to where we had our baby sprinkle. Just close family was invited since its Jenny's second baby girl but I really felt like because the letters were there more people took part in the fun! It was definitely a wonderful way to include everyone in the action.

Today's Cast of Characters:

Totally easy DIY today with all sorts of fun! It was really easy to dredge up what I needed from Michaels and eBay so as long as you have access to those fear not! I got the pearls from eBay and the wooden & and flower from Michaels; I had the spray paint I used lying around from another craft project. I'm not convinced it was necessary but it does add a nice bit of appeal to some of the naked areas. I'd say go for it.

What to Do:

Be proud friends, I remembered process shots during this project. It is really fun to do things like this and actually prove that I did it.

First make sure there is no lingering dust on your letter. You can do this with a wooden, mdf, or even cardboard letter and it will still turn out great. Mandy imposed a size restriction on our letters (no bigger than 4 inches) but & don't come in 4 inch size so I marched to the beat of my own drum a little on this.

Spray your letter until it is evenly coated with your paint. I used two coats on this little baby & and I'm sure it would need at least that if it was larger.

After the paint dries, get to work placing your embellishments. Because I had a specific idea about where I wanted my large flower, I glued that down first. Then I just kind of mish mashed around it with the pearls until they were looking good and the wood was pretty covered.

Once your project is completely dry you can add a hanging mechanism or leave it alone depending on your final plans.

Here is a quick shot of my & among the other spectacular creations made by family and friends. Jenny and her husband Pat are currently deciding on where and how they would like this glorious alphabet displayed!