STRING ART

This little lovely was created for my friend Nicole. Earlier this year Nicole and husband Scott were visiting, and Scott noticed the string art hanging in our office. Not long after their visit we began talking about a commissioned piece for Nicole’s birthday.  I made some preliminary sketches for how I wanted it to look, but first I needed to find a piece of wood so I knew the dimensions of my canvas. I found this piece at our local salvage store. After a little trim, wood glue, and sanding, it was ready. Then I began finalizing my design. I admit I was glad when Scott chose a small word :) Though string art is lot of fun, it is also a lot of work. I remember after doing it before, I didn’t think I would do this kind of project again. But who knows, when I look back at this, it makes me want to do another!

 

*TIPS
When we began our string art for Easter earlier this year, my friend gave me a couple of tips and I’ve added some of my own: First, create a guide for the distance you want between nails. For me, this was a piece of paper with a few drawn dots. You aren’t using this for every nail you pound in, but it is helpful to hold it up to your nails every so often to make sure you are still on target. Secondly, use pointed-nose pliers to hold your nail in place. I used small nails (5/8″ on my first pieces and 3/4″ on this one). You can use different length nails depending on the thickness of your piece of wood, but regardless, they are small. Next, outline the letters first and last. Wrap the string around the letter (or image) before you fill it in. Outlining at the completion of a letter/color will give it a crisp look. As you wrap the nails, you need to put a lot of tension on the string so it doesn’t unravel behind you. You could use a small screw-driver to hold the string down, or I preferred to use both hands and keep a finger on it. You can also play with how you wrap a nail. You may wrap inside or outside depending on the line you wish to achieve. I find this especially helpful on interior or exterior corners. Lastly, SUPER GLUE! Super glue your knots before trimming the string.

If any of you have made string art projects of your own, I would love to see them!

ANNIVERSARY PARTY | PART THREE

(Find your way to part one or two here, if you like)

Dave and Sarah of 1 cup Awesome were in charge of food, and it was an awesome meal. Not sure if you could read the menu from the photo: Mexican chopped salad, quinoa stuff poblano peppers, spice rubbed pork loin with salsa verde, and cinnamon brownie pie for dessert. Wow! Yum! Head on over to their blog for recipes! Since we did a previous tasting, a few of us actually had to eat this meal twice. bummer :)

10 YEAR VOW RENEWAL AND ANNIVERSARY PARTY

I’m really excited to finally share these photos with you. I’ve broken it into four posts, so you’ll have to stop back by to catch them all.

Let me just say that it was a huge honor being asked to handle the decor for the night. Josh married Dave and I just shy of three years ago. From what I hear, Carrie raved about our wedding so much, Josh asked me to decorate her/their special night. I was able to reuse some things from our wedding, but I dreamed this up just for her. Dave spent the evening snapping photos.

 

 

SECRET PARTY

Here are just a few snippets of the preparations for the party I mentioned. I maybe went a little overboard, but it all made for a magical night. We couldn’t have pulled it off without some amazing friends and family: Andrea, Bri, Adam, Todd, Christina, Jay, my parents, and younger brother. Thank you all so much! If I get in to this kind of thing for a living, you may want to change your phone numbers ;-)

I’ll have the good stuff for you soon.

 

EASTER 2012

Better late than never? :) I just wanted to share a few photos of some fun we had this spring planning and creating our church’s Easter service. There are so many components to a special service like this, but I was able to be a part of planning the decor. A few of us made string art featuring “un” words that only begin to describe the awesome Man, Christ Jesus. Originally this started as an idea for the event invitation, but when I saw how cool “unbroken” turned out by my friend Carrie, I had to get in on the fun! By about the third letter on my first piece, I couldn’t believe what I was doing. If I hadn’t committed to doing this, I probably would have stopped right there. I love how they turned out, but it was a lot of work :) (If you are thinking of creating some string art, I’d be happy to share a few pointers I learned a long the way.) We displayed the string art on easels throughout the school where we meet.

Next, our visual arts team came up with this incredible idea for a back drop. We started by ombre dying over 100 yards of fabric. We used the fabric to create a backdrop but we also hung it in the trees outside the school and on a drift wood cross made by another team member. I wish I had pictures of this to share with you. It was truly breathtaking blowing in the morning air.

I could gush about how amazing this service was but it wouldn’t do it justice. You had to have been there :) (You can head here for bits and pieces of the morning. Search for “Easter”)

Well, friends, tomorrow I’ll have an ambient video for you, shot and filmed Dave. Stop back by to check it out!

YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T HAVE

Well, I really shouldn’t have.

I can’t say I’m proud of myself for this one, but I also can’t say I regret it either. When I saw what I had done, and Dave saw what I had done, he told me I couldn’t eat all of it. We both found ourselves starring at a 9 x 13 inch pan full of my favorite candy. Thankfully, we had a couple of opportunities to share the wealth over the weekend. I found this recipe via Pinterest and obviously got busy. If I ever dare to do this again, I may have to experiment with this. I did miss the bite of chocolate on the bottom.  In terms of a quick dessert, this is it. It didn’t require any baking, and they were ready to be tasted by the time we finished another project we really shouldn’t have done.

We attempted to make homemade chalk for our nieces’ birthdays. Knowing full well it would cost more up front than just buying chalk (in the long run, maybe not), we proceeded. It would have been more fun if the chalk actually turned out. There are about eight egg-shaped pieces of chalk that are still not all the way dry on our table, and the rest I finally threw away.

Deodorant you could eat

Though you could eat it, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s kind of salty.

I’ve been making this recipe for a couple of years; it’s so simple. When a friend of mine mentioned to me she was making it, I scoured the internet for advice and a recipe. I couldn’t believe that I already had everything on hand. You may have heard of it before too, but have you tried it? If you feel kind of iffy about deodorants containing aluminum, or if you have struggled with smelly sweatiness, or if you just want to do something good for yourself, keep reading!

I could tell you a lot of icky details about how I have always been prone to sweating easily. Oh, but let’s not! I can’t begin to count all of the different kinds of deodorants I used growing up trying to remedy the problem, and then when those super strong, extra aluminum ones came out that work by clogging your pores the night before, I tried those too. Apart from feeling badly about putting my body through that for so long, and  the possibility of filling my blood stream with aluminum, none of them worked for me.

Now I’ll be honest, it took a couple of weeks when I started using this for my body to “detox”, so to speak, and get used to this. But it has been thanking me ever since. Please note that this is not an antiperspirant. It works by neutralizing the smell of perspiration, and  because the essential oils are antimicrobial, limiting the growth of bacteria that actually causes the smell.

Coconut Oil Deodorant

1/4 cup Arrowroot powder
1/4 cup Baking soda
about 4 Tbs Coconut oil
10 drops of essential oil

Method
Stir together arrowroot powder and baking soda. Using a fork, stir in oils one tablespoon at a time. When you’ve reached a frosting-like consistency, you are done. Transfer it to a clean container with a lid.

To apply, scoop a small amount with your fingertips, hold it against your skin for a couple of seconds, and massage into underarms as it begins to melt with your body temperature.

Coconut oil is very sensitive to temperature so my deodorant changes consistency depending on the season and the temperature in our apartment. If it liquifies, you can place it in the refrigerator for a little bit, and stir it again.

MY WEEKLY OBSESSION: HOMEMADE YOGURT

Oh, yogurt! I hadn’t had yogurt in years, and it definitely wasn’t because I didn’t like it. Last summer after some prayer from friends, I was trying out foods that previously made me sick, and I discovered I could eat yogurt again! We began eating quite a bit of it around here, and I knew there had to be a more affordable way for me to consume the luscious Greek yogurt I loved so much. And there is :)

As promised, here is my method for making (Greek) yogurt. If you make yogurt yourself or decide to give it a try, I would love to hear about your experience.

The basics
Essentially, you need to bring your milk to 185° to kill any bacteria currently lingering in your milk. Then, bring the milk to a temperature no greater than 110° (the yogurt enzymes die at about 118°) so you can add you yogurt starter. Let it incubate for 6-12 hours, and voila! Yogurt!

Tips
I use what I believe is the highest quality milk available to me; I recommend you do the same. Do not use a milk that has been “ultra-pasteurized”. The milk I buy is non-homogenized and vat pasteurized. In terms of pasteurization, this is the least damaging kind. It is heated slower and longer than standard pasteurization. This milk also comes with cream on top which I include when making yogurt. If you don’t have milk that comes with cream, you could add a couple cups of heavy cream you purchase separately if you want it to be nice and thick.

A higher fat milk will produce a thicker and richer yogurt, though you can still make it with skim. I also strain my yogurt so it will be extra thick like Greek yogurt. You can also use raw milk (though, unless you “buy the cow” or already own some, you cannot get it legally in Iowa). If you do, you may find that your yogurt is somewhat runny or may degrade over time. This is because all of the enzymes and nutrients already living in the raw milk want to take over and not leave enough room for your yogurt bacteria to reproduce. Still, if you have access to raw milk, use it! You may need to use fresh starter after so many batches or work out a few kinks along the way. This is a great tutorial on yogurt making using raw milk.

The fresher your yogurt starter, the better. When you make your first batch, you’ll need to buy some starter (or get some from a kind friend). This can be a specific dry yogurt starter or just some yogurt you can buy from the store. Once you are making your own yogurt, just reserve some from your last batch to use in your next.

If you aren’t making yogurt every 7-10 days, you may want to purchase fresh starter.

Method
First, you need to bring your milk to 185°. This will kill any existing bacteria in your milk to leave plenty of room for the yogurt bacteria you’re going to introduce. I do this by slowly heating my milk and cream in a large stock pot on my stove, stirring frequently. Set to high, you could achieve this in about 3 hours in your crock pot as well.

Next, place the stock pot in an ice bath in the sink and continue stirring. This prevents the milk from getting a skin. You want to bring the milk to 110°. This only takes about 10 minutes. If you are using a cast iron stock pot or a dutch oven, you’ll want to pour it into a different pot in the sink. The temperature change will otherwise cause the cast iron to crack.

While the milk is cooling,  turn on your oven light. Alternatively, if your oven can be set at a trusty 110° (without overheating after several hours), you can simply turn it on.

At this point you are ready to add your yogurt starter. The general rule is a couple of tablespoons per quart of milk. Too much starter is actually detrimental to the process since all the bacteria can become too crowded. I use about 1/4 or a 1/3 of a cup for 1 gallon of milk and cream. In a separate bowl, add a couple of ladles of your warmed milk to your starter, and whisk gently to temper. Add it to the rest of your milk. Remember you are working with live organisms! Don’t stir too briskly.

Now, you have a couple of options. I like to use my oven. Adjust oven rack so it is low enough for your stock pot with it’s lid on to fit. If you are working with your oven “on”, make sure it hasn’t gotten too hot. Then place the stock pot in the oven with the light on and allow it to incubate anywhere from 6-12 hours. The longer it incubates the tangier it will be. Less time equals less tangy yogurt. Your choice. I usually start it in the evening and allow it to incubate over night so I don’t have to be bummed about not having a free oven.

Instead of the oven method, you could also put your yogurt mixture in jars, and then place them in a cooler to stay insulated. I have also kept them warm in a water bath on the stove or in a crock pot. Many people have dehydrators they choose to use. Again, your choice. Anything that you can ensure will keep the right temperature will work. I like to use my oven because it is already there taking up space, and with only the light, I don’t have to worry about it getting too hot and killing my yogurt.

After incubation you will have yogurt! If you want regular yogurt, you are done! Put it in storage containers and refrigerate.

Since we like it oh, so thick, I ladle/pour it into a colander lined with a tea towel or sometimes t-shirt material, and allow it to drain over a bowl. (You could also use fine cheesecloth, and I have heard of others who have used coffee filters.) It can drain at room temperature, but I like to put it in the refrigerator. The batch you see drained for 9 hours, but the time is really dependent on how thick you want it. If the yogurt turns out thicker than you like, you can simply stir some of the whey back in.

In terms of yogurt, the whey is waste, but you can use it to soak grains, mixing it into soups, or fermenting kimchi. You can even use it in breads.

Well, that’s it my friends! Let’s fall in love with the process. Be it yogurt making or other homemade goodness, let’s celebrate creating with our hands.

 

WE MADE IT OUT ALIVE

I’m so thankful it doesn’t still look like that in here.

We survived the Bridal Forum! I don’t think I can describe to you just how exhausted we were that evening. We were up late doing a few extra things the night before-of course. Then we were up bright and early and were one of the first vendors to arrive. After a quick and painless set up, we left to grab some much appreciated coffee.  I felt pretty great until about 1:30pm, and then I felt every hour of sleep lacking in my body. By 4:30-5:30pm, I was in my erratically goofy/sleep deprived state. After that, I was just nodding off sitting on the couch trying to get through a movie. By 8:17pm, the Poyzers were in bed.

It was an exhausting week all around, and I am glad it is over. I do feel like the show was a good experience, and here’s hoping we book ourselves full! (And that we have a least one exotic destination wedding so we can have a sweet vacation this summer that is expense-able ;-))

A little about our booth: We had the fantastic idea of screen printing our sign for the show. We knew a big ol’ hunk of walnut would be too heavy, so we opted for this birch ply-wood with ebony veneer. More than once, I heard Dave say that he had gotten in over his head. Of course he was able to pull it off beautifully, but it was (quite) a bit more of a pain than either of us had bargained for. Then we screen printed our logo. Boom! I think it turned out really nice. We pulled our booth together quickly with things we borrowed or had at home. The cost added up quickly for the show so we didn’t really want to sink anymore money into it without knowing if it would payoff. I’m really thankful we were able to set up before anyone else was in the room. I know I would have felt really insecure otherwise. If we do it again, I would like to be a little less kitschy, a little more elaborate, and a little more minimal, if you can imagine :) We actually did hear a lot of positive feedback from brides and other vendors, so I’ll take it! HUGE thanks to our friends Adam and Bri for allowing us to borrow their computer for the day! It was perfect. And a secondary thanks to another friend for allowing us to borrow your easels and to those of you who offered to let us borrow other things from you; you know who you are :) We are so blessed with our community in Des Moines. We love you all.