DIY: Stop Motion Video

When T and I were engaged, we wanted to share the news that we’re getting married in a fun and informal way. This stop-motion video was created a couple years ago for our Save The Dates but the same concept can be used by future brides, mom-to-be’s, party planners for an eco-friendly alternative to party invitations, announcements, Thank You notes, etc.

Visualize your story or message. Once you have an idea of what you’d like to display in your video, you may use Photoshop or simply free-hand the individual cartoon-like sketches. The sketches in our video were created using oil pastel. Select a suitable background for your video, I ended up using one of our spare travertine tiles for it’s smooth surface.

Set up the photoshoot. We situated a tripod above the tile, after tweaking the camera attachment, T was able to configure it to take photos from above.

Snap away. Similar to old cartoons, the video consists of still images strung together to create motion effects. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a smooth transition from one image to the next, the imperfections give it character.

Edit. You can then use Photoshop to edit any of your photos for added effects. The fireflies at the end of our video were simply added in this way. Using a video program found online, the individual images were strung together with our song of choice to create the stop-motion video.

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DIY: Urban Minimalist TV Stand

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When T and I shop for home furniture, I usually point to a rustic minimalist piece and ask, “Can you make this?” His answer is usually, if I had a “__”. The right tools usually get the job done. Lately, we’ve been attempting a few home projects where we start with an idea for something and then rummage around the hardware store for materials that may work. It’s amazing how much you can do with the right tools, a bit of creativity, and a basic knowledge of structural support.

Our TV stand was constructed in half a day in our apartment, no garage needed!

Tools:
jig saw
kreg jig
power drill
1 3/8″ spade bit

Supplies:
4 each 12″ long x 1″ diameter steel pipes
2 each 1″ elbows
2 each 6″ long x 1″ diameter steel pipes
2 each 1″ couplers
4 each 1″ flanges
a couple of thick pieces of wood (we used 1 3/4″ thick cedar boards)
screws

We chose black steel pipes over galvanized steel for its matte finish and decided to go with 1″ ID pipes and fittings for a more robust look, feel free to choose whichever size/style you’re going for.

Cut boards to desired length and width. The first step is determining the length you’d like for the TV stand. For us we have a 46” LCD so we made ours 60” long to provide room on either side for odds and ends. Once you’ve decided on a length, cut your boards to length with the jig saw. Alternatively the hardware store will usually cut them to length if you ask nicely. Using a good straight edge, the jig saw can then be used to “rip” your boards to width. Additionally you’ll need to cut two more pieces of wood. Those two pieces will separate the top and bottom sections of the TV stand and create a space for your cable box and DVD player. We left a slight gap on the sides (towards the back) to allow for ventilation.

Join wood pieces. The secret to the TV stand’s clean look is using a Kreg Jig to drill pocket screws. This allows you to join the wood pieces in a way that no fasteners can be seen. The Kreg Jig positions the drill bit just right so you don’t drill through the top of your workpiece. T used a screw every 12 inches along the length of the wood pieces. After the top and bottom pieces of the TV stand were assembled, he joined the top and bottom together with the additional sections of wood that were cut earlier.

Assemble the stand. At this point you’ll have a wood box with an open front and back. From here you’ll need to drill holes in the top and bottom pieces of wood to allow for the steel pipes to pass through. Perform a dry run to make sure the holes are in the right location. T used a 1 3/8″ spade bit for the holes since we chose 1″ ID pipes. After the holes are drilled, assemble the steel pipes and install it into the wood “box”. One pipe assembly consists of the following (from bottom to top): flange (floor), 12″ pipe, coupler, 6″ pipe, elbow, 12″ pipe, flange (wall).

Install the ledger board. The ledger board is used provide extra support to the TV stand. T used a 1”x4” board for the ledger board. Attach the ledger board to the bottom of the top board of the TV stand. Once attached, position the TV stand where you’d like along a wall and screw the ledger board into the wall.

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Recipes: Orange Meringue Buttercream on Dark Chocolate

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I received The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum as a Christmas gift a few years back. I love how detailed Rose is when it comes to baking. She is very specific with every step and stresses the importance of certain ingredients, she also provides all of her measurements in weights. One of my favorite recipes from her book is the burnt orange silk meringue buttercream. It is a heavenly combination of caramel with orange overtones and is an excellent compliment to a dark chocolate cake!

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This took me hours to prepare in one evening, so I’d recommend splitting up the steps if you can.

Burnt Orange Silk Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible

Ingredients:
Caramel Creme Anglaise
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 cup (8.5 oz) milk
1 large vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 tsp vanilla
Italian Meringue
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp (3.25 oz) sugar
2 tbsp (1 oz) water
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups (16 oz) unsalted butter, softened
Additions
1 tbsp orange concentrate (reduce 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice to 1 tbsp)
1 tbsp orange zest

Directions:
Prepare the caramel creme anglaise. Have ready a sieve suspended over a bowl, near the range. In a small saucepan bring the milk and vanilla to a boil, and keep warm. In a heavy pan combine 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tbsp water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook without stirring until deep amber (360 degrees F). Remove immediately from the heat and slowly pour in the hot milk, reserving the vanilla bean. Return to low heat and cook, stirring, until the caramel is completely dissolved. Place the egg yolks in a medium-size heavy saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of the caramel milk mixture to the yolks, stirring constantly. Gradually add the remaining milk mixture, stirring, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until just below the boiling point. The mixture will start to steam slightly, a thermometer should register 170 degrees F. Strain immediately into the sieve. Allow to cool to room temperature then store in the fridge.

Prepare the Italian Meringue. In a small heavy saucepan combine 1/3 cup sugar and the 2 tbsp of water. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling Stop stirring and reduce the heat to low or remove from heat. In a mixing bowl beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Increase the heat and boil the syrup until a thermometer registers 248 to 250 degrees F. Beat the syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream. Be careful to not allow the syrup to fall on the beaters. Lower speed to medium and continue beating until completely cool (about 2 minutes).

Complete the Buttercream. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds or until creamy. Gradually beat in the creme anglaise until smooth. Add the Italian Meringue and beat until just incorporated. Beat in the orange concentrate and orange zest.

Dark Chocolate Cupcake
Adapted from Ina Garten’s chocolate cupcake

Ingredients:
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tbsp brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder (valrhona)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Recipes: Pumpkin Almond Flaxseed Granola

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Granola as party favors for my sister’s baby shower.

Here is a granola recipe that I make once every two weeks. We go through our morning cereal rather quickly, so instead of buying boxes and boxes of granola every week I decided to make our own. This way I can reduce the amount of sugar usually found in boxed cereal and add additional nutritious ingredients like flaxseed and wheat germ. We like to mix this with the Nature’s Path Heritage Flakes.

Granola with Pumpkin Seeds / Almonds / Flaxseed
Yields roughly 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup safflower oil or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (optional)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Position the oven racks so they are spaced evenly apart (2nd and 4th levels). Mix the oil, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt (if using) together in a large bowl. Add the wheat germ and mix to combine. Add the rolled oats and gently mix till the oats are evenly coated with the mixture. Add the pumpkin seeds, almonds, and flaxseed and very gently mix till everything is evenly dispersed.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the granola in an even layer onto each baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Switch the baking sheets and bake at 280 degrees for an additional 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the granola to continue drying and cooling down for another 15 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely on the baking sheets. The Bormioli Fido 3 Litre Jar is perfect for storing the granola.

Prego Prep: Preconception Checkup

The Mr. and I had our first appointment with an OB earlier last week. We scheduled a preconception checkup to meet a potential Obstetrician and to have some of our questions answered. Seeing as how we are both still young and healthy, the checkup was more of a question and answer ordeal. No blood work was done. No physical examinations besides stepping on the scale and taking my blood pressure. We left with a few items to keep in mind:

  • continue taking prenatal vitamins with sufficient folic acid, over the counter is fine
  • start taking a DHA supplement
  • consume 12oz of fish each week
  • due to my low daily intake of dairy products, I should also take a calcium supplement
  • check our vaccination records
  • eat plenty of dark leafy greens
  • continue with my current exercise regimen (yoga and running)

From there, I now have a couple of things to look into:

  • I have a pretty consistent diet during the week, I’m planning on tracking my food intake to see which prenatal vitamins work best for me
  • I hope to boost my consumption of calcium rich foods to see whether a calcium supplement is necessary
  • Start looking into some scrumptious low mercury fish recipes!
  • We both had chicken pox growing up, therefore no need to get the varicella vaccine.
  • I’ve had a booster MMR and Tetanus shot within the last 5 years. I need to check whether the tetanus shot included the pertussis vaccine.

So that concludes our experience at the OB for a Preconception Checkup! It wasn’t anything new really since I’ve already done a bit of research on things to do before trying to conceive but it was nice to see a doctor in person whom I can ask any outrageous and random questions of my own.

I’ll post a later update to which prenatal vitamins and DHA supplements I decide on.

DIY: Juice Cleanse

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With the Oscars airing tonight, I’m sharing a detox menu plan for those wanting to trim up for a special occasion without spending big bucks on websites like Organic Avenue and Blue Print. If you are planning on doing this cleanse a couple times a year, I recommend investing in a juicer and making the juices yourself. This is a great way to kick-start into a healthier and lighter you.

First, invest in a masticating juicer. T did the research for me and found the Omega 8004 was best rated in our price range, specifically for juicing greens.

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Menu
8am Young Love
10am Coconut Water
12pm Green Apple
2pm Cucumber Juice
4pm Beet Ginger
6pm Cashew Nut Milk

Adjust the times to your schedule. Play around with the ingredients to suit your taste buds and use fresh organic fruits and vegetables when possible.

Young Love

  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 bunch spinach
  • 3 stalks celery

Coconut Water
There are many brands available these days (Vita Coco, Zico), check that it doesn’t contain added sugar and is not from concentrate.

Green Apple

  • 1 green apple
  • 1/2 lemon (zest and pith removed)
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 4 kale leafs
  • 3 stalks celery

Cucumber Juice

  • 2 large cucumbers

Beet Ginger

  • 1 lemon (zest and pith removed)
  • 1/2″ ginger
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 beet with greens
  • 2 celery stalks

Cashew Nut Milk

  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp honey

I followed this meal plan for 5 days with minor adjustments from day to day by substituting different fruits, herbs, and greens. Remember to keep the juices chilled, grab a straw and sip away. Check back for more recipes, happy cleansing!

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DIY: Mini Name Tags

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I created these mini name tags for the little ones at my sister’s reception this past winter. As party favors, she had large caramel apples decorated in fun bright colors and wanted to include a personalized note for each kiddo.

So I got to work. I started by sketching out different designs that doubled as name tags as well as mini envelopes to hold inserts for a personalized hand written note. And to finish it off, care instructions for proper storage of the apples to keep them fresh.

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Supplies: card stock in 2 contrasting colors, envelope liner (I chose one with a nice sheen), scalpel, gluestick, paper cutter, printer, and image software

I added the colored balloons on the inserts and instruction tags for a fun touch. Since this was done last winter, unfortunately, I didn’t document each step during this project. Here was the finished product! (before hole punching the corner)

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Such a fun project! And I loved how my sis wanted to do something so sweet for the kiddos, happy to have been a part of that. The caramel apples themselves were quite scrumptious!

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Finances: Mr. Piggy

Welcome! I’m starting this blog with a very useful piece of advice for all my newlyweds. A good friend shared this interesting tidbit with me a few years ago.

If you are looking at really boosting your savings and have the luxury of a dual income with your significant other, aim to live off one salary and bank the other. Set up a completely separate savings account (an online high yield money market account) with direct deposit of your paychecks and don’t touch it!

It’s also useful seeing how comfortable you are living off one salary, in the case that one of you might stay home or work part time in the future. T and I find it very beneficial and our future Seattle home is closer within reach each month!