Monday, June 23, 2014

Homemade Pesto

If you like pesto and haven't ever tried to make it yourself, it is time. Ever since a coworker gave me this pesto recipe years ago, I have not found a store-bought pesto that I like as well as this. Pesto is a simple and marvelous thing. It makes pasta, vegetables, tomato soup, and yes, even some pizzas, taste even better than before. Best of all, it is inexpensive and really easy to make.

So without further ado, here it is:

Homemade Pesto

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I prefer walnuts)
1 large clove garlic, quartered (if you don't have any fresh garlic on hand, you can sprinkle a dash of garlic
    salt in there instead)
1/4 cup olive oil

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or a blender until it forms a smoothish paste. This is plenty of pesto for about 6 oz of pasta with chopped veggies. How much pesto you put into your pasta, veggies, soup, etc is really up to you and how strong of a pesto flavor you prefer. I would start by putting in a little pesto to whatever you are using it for, stirring everything up, tasting it, and then repeating until you have the flavor the way you like it. 

So I took several pictures of the finished pesto, but I couldn't bring myself to post any of them on the blog. Pesto by itself just looks gross. It is green and pasty. So instead, here are some pictures of the pasta and veggies that I made to go with the pesto.

I chopped up some baby spinach and tomatoes and grated some carrots. (This is also really good with chopped zucchini and yellow squash.)

Then I sauteed the tomatoes a couple of minutes and added the carrots and spinach until the spinach wilted a bit.

Finally, I added a few ounces of pasta and stirred in the pesto until it tasted heavenly.


Monday, June 16, 2014

DIY Photo Canvas Art

I have had a difficult time figuring out how to describe this post. It is sort of a follow-up to Laurel's last post about using mod podge as well as to my last entry about decorating with things that are meaningful to our family.

Several years ago, I saw an idea in a magazine that I loved. A decorator had taken black and white pictures of a family and sent them to a photo lab to be mounted on canvas. She then hung them in a grid on a wall to create an eye-catching focal point in the room. I liked the idea, but when I did a little research, I was shocked at how much it cost to have even one photo put onto canvas let alone a whole wall full. I went to an online photo lab site to check out prices. It advertised canvas prints starting at $39.99.

I knew there had to be a less expensive way. . . . and, yes, there is.

First, I decided how many pictures I wanted in my grid--nine. Then, I chose the pictures I wanted to use--harder than it sounds (too many choices.) I wasn't able to find a lab in town that processes black and white photos, so I used an online photo lab (Walgreens) and ordered nine, 8" x 10" black and white prints. I think they cost about $4.00 a piece without coupons, which are often available. I purchased nine 8" x 8" canvases at JoAnns. (The list price is $5.99, but I bought them when they were 50% off.) These canvases are available in all different shapes and sizes, so you can be more creative in your arrangement than I was if you want to be.

When the photos arrived, I used each individual canvas as a guide and traced around it onto one of the pictures, carefully centering the photo. I then cut the picture to fit. Be sure that you match each photo to a specific canvas because, although they are all supposed to be 8 x 8, they actually vary quite a bit in size. With each picture cut to size, I mod podged the photos onto the canvas using the technique Laurel described so well in her DIY nursery wall letters post.

Hanging them was a bit of a challenge, largely due to the slight variations in size. I actually got a large piece of butcher paper, laid out the grid on the paper using a ruler and a level, traced around each canvas, marked where the nail hole should go, and then taped the butcher paper to the wall. I then tapped each nail in place, took the paper off the wall, and hung the canvases. I did have to do some minor adjusting, but I still think it saved me a lot of time and potential extraneous nail holes.

So, instead of $40.00 a piece (total $360.00), I was able to create a similar look for less than $8.00 a piece (total $72.00).

And here is the finished grouping:

As our family grows and changes, I can either switch out some of the canvases or expand the grid.

Have fun!

Monday, June 9, 2014

DIY Nursery Wall Letters

I think the put-your-baby's-name-on-the-nursery-wall trend is great. After seeing some rather adorable versions mounted on my friends' walls, I made a mental note to do the same when I had a baby of my own.

And now I have one! Now, there are lots of really fancy versions on the internet, some of which I think are very cute for a little girl. Yet for a boy, I prefer something simpler. Luckily, mom was in town the week I attempted this project, so I roped her into helping yet again make SourPatch's room the best looking place in the house.

So without further ado, here is

Laurel's (and Mother's) DIY Wooden Nursery Wall Letters

The Modge Podge, Scrapbook Paper Kind

First, you'll need supplies! We bought simple white letters from Michael's...

...along with an assortment of scrapbook paper. I already had Modge Podge, a spongy brush, scissors, and a craft knife on hand.

Now came the great debate: do we decoupage the paper onto the letters first and then use an Xacto knife to cut the paper to shape? Or do we trace the letters onto the paper, cut them out, and then use the adhesive? We debated back and forth. In the end, we went with the trace-and-cut method and used our craft knife to trim after the fact. This seemed best; though the knife worked well cutting off small sections of paper, using it to cut out the whole letter after it was glued to the wood seemed risky. If you make just one mistake, create one tear or ripple in the paper, it's already stuck to your wall letter. Also, we felt that cutting it out beforehand with scissors seemed the most likely way to get a slick, clean cut.

So, place each wooden letter upside down on the back of a sheet of scrapbook paper and carefully trace with a pencil. Then, carefully cut out each letter. I admit this part is tricky; you want to cut just inside the line you traced so it won't be too big while avoiding cutting it too small. Mom was much better at this than I was; I only managed the "J." Set the paper letter on the front of your wooden one to test for size and trim as necessary. Mom was pretty impressive at cutting the paper just right, but if anything, she erred on the side of slightly too big.

Now, to the Modge Podge! As always, the goal is to avoid bubbles. Apparently, you can spray the paper with an acrylic sealer to avoid these pesky air pockets. I can't tell you if it works. I... did not want to go buy an acrylic sealer. So we went bravely forward without one.

Though mother showed off her amazing tracing talent, this is where I sparkled and shined. Not everyone can decoupage as I can. It's a gift, nay, a calling.

Next, line up the paper letter on the wooden letter and hold it down firmly in place in the middle. Then, lift the bottom of the paper (holding your spot in the middle so it will stay properly lined up) and apply a thin layer of the glue to the wood, smoothing the paper down as you go. Repeat with the top half. I hoped by working middle-to-end I'd avoid the bubbles, and it proved mostly true. Once the paper is glued in place, gently smooth out any small air pockets.

The rest is easy breezy but takes patience. Let the letters sit and dry completely, at least 20 minutes. Then, use that handy craft knife to trim any excess paper hanging over the edge of the letter. Then apply another thin coat on top, pressing down with the sponge to smooth out any new bubbles which surface. Let it completely dry again, and repeat 2 more times. Voila!

So my original intention was to hang them over the crib. However, I decided against it. I thought they might make sparse decor alone on the wall, and I certainly don't want to hang a lot over the crib in case something should fall and hit the baby. In the end, I put this super-cute quilt mama made up by the crib and hung his name over the closet. I myself love the result! Now his nursery really feels complete.