Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mini Potted Plants // Baby Shower Favors

In June, the Allan family will be welcoming the first grandbaby to the world and we could not be more excited about it. We threw a baby shower for my sister-in-law the other week and I loved how these favors turned out. 
Here's what you'll need:
  • Terra cotta pots- 79 cents each at AC Moore
  • Mod podge
  • Fabric- I used varying shades of blue
  • Foam brush
  • Potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Cellophane- one big roll or individual baggies

First, cut the fabric to match the pot. Start off with bigger pieces of fabric and then once you've figured it out you can adjust accordingly. My sheets were about 6 inches tall and 9 inches long.
Next you'll want to mod podge the entire pot. It doesn't have to be completely smooth; just move quickly!
Wrap the fabric around the pot. You'll want to start with the top of the pot about an inch down from the top of the fabric. Start on one end and move your hand along the outside of the pot to smooth the fabric. Add more mod podge as needed to stick the fabric to parts of the pot that have already been covered. 

Once you've covered the pot completely, apply a layer of mod podge to the top of the fabric. This will keep it in position and take care of any loose strings. Trim the extra fabric so that you have an inch or two sitting on top. Then cut slits along that fabric.  I spaced mine out so that they were about an inch apart. 
It should look something like this once all the flaps have been cut.
I love that mod podge is so forgiving. Don't worry about using too much because it will all dry clear. Apply a layer, about an inch tall, all along the inside of the top of the pot. One by one, fold the flaps over. And again, apply mod podge over top of the folded flaps. (No, I'm not being paid to sponsor mod podge, but I should be...)
Trim the fabric so that it's really short; mine was a probably a third an inch longer than the pot. Now repeat the flap- cutting! 
Fold the flaps over one by one. You don't want the flaps to cover the hole at the bottom of the pot or else water won't be able to drain. 
It's okay that the fabric doesn't cover all of the pot... that's where the soil comes in!
My mom bought a combination of plant/ flower and herb seeds and I loved the variety. I found it easiest to place the packets in before the soil. Some of the packets were a little large and this allowed me to experiment with folding them before committing and making a mess of the soil. 
Don't you love the pictures on these herb packets?  
And the terra cotta color is gone! You'll want enough soil to get about a half an inch off the top of the pot. 
I would recommend buying a big roll of cellophane and cutting individual pieces to wrap the pots because it's a little cheaper. However, I did this shopping the night before the shower and Target only had these bags. The pots fit perfectly AND it saved a bit of time so I suppose it was worth an extra two dollars!

Wouldn't it have been nice if I'd taken a picture of these favors at the shower on display? We kept in accordance with the children's book theme and displayed them along with "The Tiny Seed" book by Eric Carle and a mini watering can. I guess you'll just have to trust me that it looked cute :)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

How-to: San Francisco in 3 days

We love traveling and seeing family and were so excited to visit San Francisco to do both. My brother Kevin has lived in the area for seven years and was our host. I love having a local on my side, especially when he introduces you to the best breakfast sandwich of your life!

It was a quick trip but we managed to pack everything into three days. We booked a late flight there, a red eye back, took one day off work and were set. In general, February and March are cool and foggy months in San Fran but we lucked out with blue skies and just enough fog to make the water seem mystical. 

The thing I loved most about this trip was the diverse cityscape; beautiful architecture, the ocean, the bay, lush parks and a thriving financial district. Not too shabby, San Fran.

Thanks to the gorgeous weather we spent 80% of the trip outdoors. We walked just about everywhere so this schedule functions as a walking tour with a couple Muni rides here and there. Check it out:

Day 1
  • Breakfast: Devil's Teeth Bakery. We each got a breakfast sandwich and shared a couple of pastries. Sooo delicious. If we'd been there any longer than three days a return trip would have been in order!
  • Ocean Beach. This is just a couple blocks away from the bakery and is a really nice walk. It's definitely not a swimming beach but it's great for people watching (dog watching, too!) and enjoying a cool breeze.
  • Golden Gate Park. Definitely one of my favorite SF sites. We loved seeing Bison Paddock and the Japanese Tea Garden. I could get lost here for a long time!
  • Shops on 9th Avenue. This was a nice add on to our stroll through the park. Check out some of the boutiques and restaurants. 
  • Haight/ Ashbury. The walking continues. Enjoy the old Victorian homes and peek into Amoeba Music. 
  • Dinner: Patxi's. This was my first deep dish pizza, or cheese pie as my brother calls it.  I thought it would be too heavy/ rich to have more than one piece but boy, was I wrong. 

Day 2
  • Breakfast: Uncle Benny's in Sunset. Try the maple bacon donut and a cream cheese avocado bagel. This might go without saying but the freshness of avocados in CA is unmatched. 
  • Golden Gate Bridge. We didn't actually get out and walk across the bridge but were happy to enjoy the view from the bus.
  • Fisherman's Wharf. There's a lot to see here but my favorite was definitely Pier 39 where the sea lions sunbathe. 
  • Lunch: Boudin Bakery. Famous for their sourdough. Try a bread bowl with clam chowder!
  • Ferry to Alcatraz. We spent about 2 hours on the island. There's a great audio tour once you walk to the top. Fascinating information/ stories and an awesome view of the city.  
  • Telegraph Hill. Unofficial walking tour back from Fisherman's Wharf. This neighborhood boasts great access to Coit Tower and views of classic San Francisco streets. We loved seeing Lombard Street winding back and forth from a distance. 
  • Mission District. (We took a taxi from Telegraph). Probably our favorite spot for food.
  • Dinner: La Taquiera (or Taquiera Cancun). We each ordered a carne asada burrito and horchata.  I don't know how they manage to make it taste so good with so few ingredients but they do. 
  • Dessert: Mission Pie. Right across the street. My brother and his wife not only recommended this place but even ordered us a full apple pie as a birthday surprise. We might have eaten the entire thing in two sittings. Oops. 

Day 3
  • Breakfast: Mama's. It's all yummy and quite filling. 
  • AT&T Park. We were there off- season so we just saw the stadium from the outside. Walk along the water for some really nice views.
  • Ferry Building Marketplace. If you're looking for souvenirs this is your place. Lots of local artisans sell their work here. 
  • Lunch: Mijita. Try the chilaquiles or chorizo con juevos. If you've got a sweet tooth finish off with a visit to Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar. 
  • Exploratorium. On the expensive side but a great option for bad weather (unlikely in SF) or science lovers.  
  • Walk along Embarcadero. If it's nice prepare for the bike path, which is an old railroad track, to get busy. It was really crowded but a lot of fun to see so many people out enjoying themselves.
  • Chinatown. Walk through the main street and enjoy your share of fish smells. If you're looking to grab a bite try Yank Sing.  
  • Dinner: Yum Yum Fish. Looks like a hole in the wall but has fresh fish and talented chefs. We went out with a bang and ordered the sushi platter, which more than fed four people. Every piece was delicious.

Isn't my brother handsome?? (Just ignore the fact that my eyes are closed... somehow this was the only picture of us.)

What did I miss? What do you love most about San Francisco??

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Year of Dates (in a box)

Thank you for the overwhelming response to this post! If you're interested in holiday themed dates and activities, check out unromantic date night ideas just in time for Valentine's Day!

My lovely sister and her husband celebrate their one year anniversary this year.  How to celebrate? Well, with a year's worth of date nights, of course. 

The idea here is that everything needed for each date is included in the box. I made a binder (see below) that acted as the guide to the date night box. Each month they will pick one of the dates, read through the directions found in the binder, and open any accessories marked with that number. I wanted the gift to be all-inclusive so I did my best to include everything they could possibly need for that date. And of course I tried to find new and different ideas.

The binder has twelve tabs, one for each month. While I did my best to vary the dates and put them in a logical order they are not sequential. Hence the numbered, rather than monthly, labels. Each tab starts out with a page of directions that describe what they need and will do. Following the directions are checklists, score-cards, etc. You can find all of the documents below.
Date Night rules:
  1. One date per month. No matter what. Even if you’re busy, even if you move. You must do a date each month; no more, no less. 
  2. The date (as in day of the month) on which you plan your date (as in the fun thing where you do something special together) is up to you. Some of these activities are great for a weeknight and others lend themselves to a Saturday morning. You decide!
  3. You must report back. We need a short note via email or phone call with details about what you did and how it went.
  4. Pictures are also required. Ideally you’d take one per date to make a mini series. Anything that allows you to document each of the twelve dates will work.
  5. The dates are not in sequential order. Switch things around if you need.
  6. Only open the boxes, envelopes and other strangely wrapped accessories only when you’re going on that date.  The write- ups provide as much information as you need ahead of time. No peeking!

Here's the assortment of boxes and envelopes. I used a mismatch of tissue paper, ribbons, wrapping paper and butcher paper because it's what I had around the house. Somehow everything fit perfectly into this box we had around the house. I actually like the way it turned out!

All documents are available via Google Drive. If you want to make changes, click "file," "make a copy," and save it into your drive. If you don't have or use Google Drive you can still download the file and edit that way. 

Below are the lists of items I included with each date. I tried to choose accompanying objects that would be light and easy to pack (ie a box of pudding mix). If you have more flexibility in packing and transporting you can make changes accordingly. Just remember to avoid anything that can't last a year in a box :) 
The template and any other documents or lists were printed, hole punched and included in the binder. Other items were wrapped and labeled (see pictures above). 

Month 1: Picnic

Month 2: Game Night

Month 3: Create- A- Date

Month 4: Iron Chef

Month 5: Puzzle Race

Month 6: Ice Cream Creations

Month 7: Breakfast in Bed

Month 8: Mall Scavenger Hunt

Month 9: Fort

Month 10: Library Trip

Month 11: Cosmic Bowling

Month 12: Dinner Out

I had a lot of fun putting this together. I hope you will too!

Credits: Diva Girl Parties for the Mall Rat Scavenger Hunt idea, Komunitni centrum Motylek for the Puzzle Race photo, We Love Being Moms for the Fort photo and GetRealGurls Nutrition for the Mall photo. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Twenty three

...was a big year. A lot happened. 

It all started in March when we flew out to Utah for my sister's wedding. Look at that stunning bride!

In April I moved and we flew to Massachusetts for my cousin's wedding. 

In May we got married!!!!

June I finished my first year of teaching (hallelujah!) and we flew to France just a couple days later.

In July we adopted this adorable thing. We also went to our wonderful friends' wedding (4th wedding in 5 months!)

August we road tripped to NY. We were joined by our puppy and her tiny bladder, which of course made for a nice quick drive :) My sister came out to visit and I got a new job!

In September I started my new job.

In October we started to feel like life might actually slow down a little.

But that was our mistake. Because in November I got hit by an 18 wheeler on the highway (nobody was injured), which of course totaled our car. We bought a new car. I ran my first half marathon. And then my brother and his wife saved the month by announcing their pregnancy!!

December we welcomed a new baby niece to the Ruth family :)

In January one brother got engaged and the other found out that baby is a boy. (All within 20 minutes of each other). Surely that was the exciting note to end on... right?

Wrong! In February I got into yet another car accident. In our new car. On the bright side I got to drive my 6th rental/ loaner car in 3 months. Woo!

24 will bring its own adventures, highlighted by the addition of a sister and nephew. Here's to a year filled with more down time, fewer car accidents and still plenty of excitement!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Homemade Granola Bars

You know how there are some things that you just have to get at Costco? I don’t even have a membership and I still have my list. Craisins, granola bars, coconut oil, nuts, etc. I love granola bars and eat at least one a day in my packed lunch. Well I did until I looked at the ingredients of said granola bar and was shocked at how many I couldn’t pronounce. Never a good sign. Well, as it turns out, making your own granola bars is surprisingly easy. With a little trial and tweaking I ended up with a recipe that I love. 
The thing I love most about this recipe is how flexible it is. Sometimes I have almonds, sometimes I buy cereal we don't like on its own and sometimes I’m out of craisins. And it still works. Especially if you, like me, always keep trail mix- type food around. Use what you have and these will turn out delicious!
 First combine all of your dry ingredients. For this batch I used TJ's cranberry coconut granola as my granola/ oat cereal and it was delicious. Normally we have honey bunches of oats so I'll use that. You can switch out the craisins for any other dried fruit and can substitute any kinds of nuts. I normally go for walnuts, almonds and pecans. Now use your hands to mix it all up.
Over medium high heat melt butter and add brown sugar, honey and maple syrup. As you can tell I'm very precise with my measurements :)  
 Once you see bubbles forming around the edge, turn the heat down and let it cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Thanks to my wonderful friend Preethi who made this vanilla. Check out her blog post here
Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  
Any baking pan or tray will work for shaping and holding the bars. I like to keep my bars a little thicker so rather than finding a pan that fits I just leave some of it empty. This also makes it easier to cut and bag the finished product. 
Use your fingers to press the granola down to whatever thickness you prefer. If you know what's best for you, you'll top these bars with chocolate and nuts so make them a little thinner than you'd expect. Wait a few minutes before moving onto the next step so that the granola has a chance to firm up.
A little bit of chocolate never hurts, right? Especially when it's dark chocolate. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between rounds, until the chocolate is nice and smooth. Then spread evenly over top.
Add whatever toppings you have on hand. I like to do a variety of coconut, nuts and classic chocolate.
 Refrigerate for an hour or so before cutting to allow the chocolate to dry and toppings to set in the chocolate. Cut into desired shape and size. Store in an airtight container. I use sandwich bags, which makes packing lunch nice and easy!

Here's what you need:
  • 1 1/2 c oats
  • 1 c rice cereal
  • 1/2 c granola/oat cereal
  • 1/4 c craisins
  • 1/2- 3/4 c nuts
  • 6 T butter
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 - 3 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips
  • shredded coconut (to top)

  1. Combine oats, cereal, craisins and nuts in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Over medium high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, honey and syrup. Stir until combined. Heat until mixture begins to bubble along the edges. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour granola into a buttered cake pan/tray and use your hands to shape it. Form it into desired height. Let sit for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave (or a double boiler) until smooth. Pour over the granola and spread with a spoon. Then top with shredded coconut or mixed nuts.
  6. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  7. Cut granola bars into desired sizes and store in plastic bags in the fridge. Makes 10-14 bars.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Mabel Pup

Meet Mabel, the cutest of the Babes Ruth. Luke and I adopted her within 12 hours of landing after our honeymoon. She's half husky and we've narrowed the other half down to some combination of eel, shepherd and kitten. Life with a puppy is a little dirtier and hairier but we love it!
A big thank you to Melodie Ann Photography for the amazing pictures (as usual). Check her out here.

DIY save-the-dates

Since we got engaged about a year and a half ago I've wanted to post wedding ideas, teaching inspiration, travel highlights, etc. Clearly I'm just now getting around to it so there will be a little catch up in the meantime. I used blogs constantly while wedding planning so it's about time I (attempt to) give back to the blogging world. Isn't it great to have a free, easy, creative network?! 

It seems appropriate to kick off wedding planning ideas with these simple save-the-dates. This was one of the first projects we did and it was easy and turned out just how we wanted. Read on for details!
As anyone planning a wedding knows, it can get really expensive. We knew we wanted to send out save the dates and that we wanted to keep them cheap and easy. Here's all that we needed to send out approximately 80 save the dates:

-A digital photo. We used one (two, actually) from our engagement shots taken by Ben Powell Photography. This session came free with our wedding photo package. **If you're looking for a photographer in the dc area we highly recommend them. More to come on that later. 

-A really talented friend who likes graphic art. We sent digital photo copies to our who added the text using photoshop. You could also do this yourself on PicMonkey or another photo editing site for free.

-Envelopes. We bought two boxes of 4"x6" envelopes from Staples for $6 each. 
-Fine point markers. We used sharpies that I already had but you could easily buy one or two for a couple dollars at Staples.

-Stamps. The most expensive item on our list. I bought the pretty forever stamps for $36 at the post office.

-Printer paper. We bought this hp photo paper for $12 at Staples (are you noticing a trend here?). It came in 4x6 sheets so we didn't even have to worry about cutting the paper. Easy peasy.

-Address stamp. This took 5 minutes and $20 at Office Depot and it was totally worth it. We used it for save the dates, invitations and even thank you notes. The best part about this stamp is that it comes with ink inside so it stays nice and clean.

We spent Thanksgiving visiting family in upstate New York. It was the perfect holiday for wedding prep; I addressed all the envelopes, Luke stuffed and sealed envelopes and we were set. Did I mention this all happened while we watched football, snacked and prepped Thanksgiving dinner?

Here's the final product... 

We were really happy with how they turned out (thanks, Tom)! In fact we couldn't decide which of these two photos we preferred so we decided to print 40 of each and send out a variety. Why not, right?