Easy Colorful DIY Framed Art

I’m constantly pinning new ideas for arts and crafts projects on Pinterest – especially ones to decorate my woefully under-decorated apartment. So, when I saw this example, I knew I had to try it.

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Easy Colorful DIY Framed Art

Supplies:

– Acrylic paint, assorted colors
– Paint brush(es)
– Posterboard or cardstock
– Large craft hole punch (at least 1 inch in diameter)
– Glue
– Frame and matte

Instructions:

1. I chose two colors to use, blue and teal. I painted strokes of each color on two different pieces of card stock, purposely attempting to make variations in how the paint looked on the page.

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2. Once the paint dried, I took the large whole punch (the one I have is Martha Stewart brand) and began punching holes and setting the circles aside.

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5. Next, arrange the punched out circles on the poster board. I purchased a large piece of poster board, cut it to fit the frame and then taped the matte to the poster board so that I could accurately place the circles.

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photo8 edit6. After laying out all of the circles in order to get the spacing right, glue each circle into place. And, voila – easy, colorful art!

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Spring 2014 Reading Challenge

Everyone loves a challenge. Because when you meet that challenge, or at least attempt to meet it, you often end up with a feeling of accomplishment. You also almost always end up learning something in the end.

Reading challenges are very popular. Facebook, Buzzfeed, and the internet as a whole are filled with them. Most of them are just lists asking “how many of these 100 or 1000 books have you read?” But, that can get kind of boring. I’ve read a lot of those books — the classics — and I’ve enjoyed some and hated others. Half the time, though, I think some of the fun gets taken out of the challenge because they’re telling you exactly what to read. There isn’t a lot of choice. So, my reading challenge to you incorporates choice.

 

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The 2014 Spring Reading Challenge:

Between now and the first day of Summer (Saturday, June 21) challenge yourself to read at least 8 books. The books don’t have to be read in any particular order. 

1. Re-read a book that you were assigned to read in high school or college and that you thought was boring. If it’s still so boring that you can’t get into it or through it, try another. 

If you read the book on the first attempt: 20 points.

If you quit the first book and successfully read the second: 15 points.

If you attempt both books but finish neither: 10 points.

If you only attempt one book: 5 points.

2. Read one book exclusively on an electronic device or on your computer. (Most local libraries have e-book catalogs, so don’t buy an e-book unnecessarily.)

If you successfully read the entire book on the e-device: 15 points.

3. Read a book that you swore you would never, ever read. 

If you successfully finish the book: 15 points.

If you read part of it and realize there was a reason you swore you’d never read it: 5 points.

4. Re-read one of your favorite books from when you were young. Condition: The book must be more than 100 pages.

If you successfully read the book: 10 points.

5. Read a book, either fiction or non-fiction that is about events or people at least 100 years in the past.

If you read a fictional book: 20 points.

If you read a non-fiction book: 30 points.

6. Read a book that is at least 500 pages in length.

If you successfully read the book: 20 points.

7. Read a book that belongs to a series of at least 3 books. 

If you read the book: 20 points.

If you end up reading all the books in the series in a row: 35 points. Add another 10 points if there’s more than 4 books in the series.

8. Read one book within the same 24 hour period. The book must be at least 200 pages. 

If you read the book: 40 points.

 

Maximum Score: 170.

 

Think you’re up for the challenge?

 

Let me know what you read and how you’re doing! 

 

Feed Your Mind: TED Talks Everyone Should Watch

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my high school friends (including Jeannette!) gather for Friendsgiving, an event that is graciously hosted by our friend Christopher. Every year is different and conversation greatly depends on who you’re sitting next to, what’s going on in everyone’s lives, and how much spiked cider has already been consumed. This year we got philosophical at my end of the table, and we started discussing TED Talks. Our conversation was short-lived, but in it we established that TED Talks were amazing and that everyone needs to watch a sampling of them at one point or another.

If you’re not sure what TED or a TED Talk is, here’s a summary:

TED is a non-profit that is devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” and stands for Technology, Education, and Design. It began in 1984 as a conference on those three topics, but has since grown to two official conferences (The TED Conference and TEDGlobal) that are held annually. There are also countless TEDx conferences held around the world that are independently organized, but adhere to the same general rules and mission.

Speakers at TED events are tasked with “giving the speech of their lives” in 18 minutes or less. While participants are often experts in their respective fields, their talks are generally not boring or academic. Instead, they are often inspirational and offer insight into humanity rather than into their specific expertise.

Visit ted.com for their online video archive and more information.

Ted Talks

TED Talks I Think Everyone Should Watch (In no particular order)

1. Lesley Hazelton: The Doubt Essential to Faith
In her TED talk from June 2013, Lesley Hazelton discusses how in her quest to write a biography of the prophet Muhammad she came to a realization regarding the doubt that is intrinsic in one’s faith. Doubt, fear, and questioning, she explains, is purely human and, consequently, is absolutely essential to one’s faith.

 

2. Cameron Russell: Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model
In her TED talk from 2012, model Cameron Russell discusses the complexities of what it means to be a model in a world where beauty is largely constructed.

 

3. Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music
Benjamin Zander demonstrates to the TED audience that just because you think you don’t like classical music, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to like it — or learn to like anything for that matter. It all has to do with truly listening to what you are hearing.

 

4. John Green: The Paper Town Academy
Author John Green discusses how our perception of the world shapes how we lead our lives and how education and learning often takes place as much out of the classroom as it does inside it. He demonstrates that we all live within learning communities that encourage us to expand the maps of our lives.

 

5. Meg Jay: Why 30 Is Not The New 20
Psychologist Meg Jay discusses her work with 20-somethings and in the process demonstrates that someone’s 20s is not a throw-away decade. Instead it is one of the most import ant decades in human development and should be seized for every opportunity it provides.

 

6. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius
Author Elizabeth Gilbert discusses the phenomenon of genius and asserts that we all have genius, as opposed to a few of us being geniuses.

 

7. Andrew Solomon: Love No Matter What
Andrew Solomon reflects on his interviews with countless parents and discusses how in the end, regardless of differences, it is love that binds.

 

There are hundreds of TED talks, too many to ever watch and certainly too many to pick a definite favorite from. These are only a few of my favorites.

Have you watched any TED Talks? What are your favorites?

DIY Wire Name Jewelry

Can you believe Christmas is exactly 1 month away? I sure can’t…which probably means I should start buying some Christmas presents…(thank god for Amazon.com)

Sometimes I feel like I get into a recipe rut on here, only cooking and providing you with recipes and cooking tutorials. I really love to craft too and with the abundance of ideas that Pinterest provides, there are so many things I want to try. So this past week, I decided I was going to try out making wire name jewelry. It was neither as easy nor as hard as I thought it might be, but I really loved the end product.

Here’s my guide to making Wire Name Jewelry:

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Supplies:

  • Package of jewelry wire (I used 18 gauge in silver for this tutorial)*
  • Wire cutters
  • Small jewelry pliers
  • Chain and clasp to match wire (or alternative)
  • Pen
  • Paper

My Advice Starting Out:

Making wire jewelry takes some practice, but it also takes thought and planning. Some letters, names, and words will be easier than others. Prepare to fail and try again. You will get the hang of it. Just make sure that you buy extra wire so that you can practice.

Instructions:

1. Start with a piece of paper and pen. Think of the word you want to make and write it out in one continuous line, without ever lifting the pen from the paper. Remember, the wire name you will be making has to flow and can’t be joined together. (Unless you plan on soldering the metal together –which is something else entirely.

NOTE: A vital piece of designing your piece of jewelry is to think of how you are eventually going to wear it. How will you hook the chain to the name? Include that in your design. For example, with my necklace, I hooked one end of the chain to the J’s loop and then created an extra loop at the end of the i.

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2. Once you figure out how you want to shape the name/word and you think you know how to shape it, you are ready to really begin. Take your coil of wire and cut a piece with your wire cutters. The length you will need depends on the length of the name/word you are creating. Extra is always good — you’ll just cut it off when you’re done. wire4

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3. Begin shaping your letters. Use both your fingers and the pliers. (The pliers are good to make curves and circles — just wrap the wire around the plier to shape it.

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4. Continue to shape the letters. For some letters, you will have to double the wire up in order to get the look you want.

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5. When you’re done, it’s time to hook the wire name to the chain. I chose to make mine into a necklace. I bought a ready made silver chain with clasp at the craft store and then pried it apart in the middle, reattaching it to the ends of the name. (This can be difficult if the chain links are small, so consider this when you design the piece.wire7

 

6. And you’re done! For my name, I was really surprised how short an amount of time it took me. (It took longer to detach and reattach the chain than it did to actually form my name. But some letters are other words are more difficult. The bottom line is that practice makes perfect. You will also need a lot of patience.

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*Note on Supplies: 

Jewelry wire comes in a variety of sizes and materials. I used simple wire from the cart store in the color silver. You can also buy copper wire (pictured below). Wire is sized by gauge — the smaller the gauge the larger the wire circumference. For name jewelry, you will want a lower gauge (under 20), so that it will hold up. wire5

Jewelry pliers are sold in the craft store, but you may need to buy wire cutters from a hardware store.

You can also make bracelets and rings with the wire. A chain and clasp is also not necessary for all pieces of jewelry — the wire itself can be used for the entire piece. 

An Old Fashioned Favorite: Easy Chicken Paprikash

So, I’ve been a bad blogger. I have good reason though — a new job and a new apartment have kept me pretty busy over the last month and a half.

But, I’m back now and have lots of ideas for blog posts in the near future. For this post, though, I took advantage of what was for Sunday dinner this past weekend: an old fashioned favorite that is no where as complicated to make as you might think!

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Easy Chicken Paprikash

If you have no idea what Chicken Paprikash is, here’s a little history: Chicken Paprikash is a Hungarian dish whose name is derived from the traditional use of Paprika in the recipe. It can be made lots of different ways and is usually paired with noodles, dumplings, mashed potatoes, or rice.

The photo above shows the dish paired with dumplings. I did not include a dumpling recipe in this post, but if you’re interested in making them, dumplings are simply a combination of flour, eggs, and water. Drop bits of the dough in boiling water and cook until they float.

Note: The photos in this post show a double recipe. The actual recipe listed below is for 4 pieces of chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 14oz. can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Corn starch or flour

Tools:

  • Large skillet
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Small whisk
  • Large ladle
  • Fork

Instructions:

1. Chop 1/2 onion into small pieces. Heat olive oil in skillet, add onions and sear for 2-3 minutes.

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2. Add chicken to pan, season with salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp. of the paprika.

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IMG_0101edit3. Brown chicken on both sides, approximately 5 minutes on each side.

IMG_0103edit4. Add chicken broth and water, bring to a simmer.

IMG_0125edit5. After liquid has come to a simmer, use a ladle to remove approximately 1 cup of the liquid from the pan. Place is in the measuring cup. Add half of the sour cream to the liquid in the measuring cup, whisk until mixed. Return the broth/sour cream mixture to the pan.

6. Repeat this step for the other half of the sour cream. (You do this to smoothly incorporate the sour cream. It also keeps the sour cream from curdling in the hot broth).

IMG_0130edit7. Add the remaining paprika and more salt and pepper to the pan. Cook until the liquid begins to thicken.

8. You may need to thicken the liquid with corn starch or flour before serving. (In order to do this, add approximately 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 1/4 cup of cold water. Whisk with fork until smooth. Add this to the pan and stir. Cook for a few additional minutes until sauce thickens).

IMG_0132editVoila! Your Chicken Paprikash is done and ready to serve with your choice of side dish.