Easy, Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Cookies


With Valentine’s Day just two days away, I thought I’d share this simple cutout recipe — a quick and easy way to spread the love. And sticking with the theme of love, why not celebrate my love of sweets? I’ll show you how to make the cookies, the royal icing, and then how to decorate them using food coloring. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the cookies:

1 pound butter (softened)
2 c sugar
2 eggs
vanilla
3 c AP flour
3 c pastry flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

*Can use all AP flour if necessary

For the icing:

4 or 5 c powdered sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp lemon juice
almond extract (optional)
food coloring to decorate

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy — about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Add to wet mixture. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and batter begins to form, pulling away from the side of the bowl.

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DIY Chalkboard Frame

My roommates and I have a problem. We constantly fail to make note of the fact that we’re on our last role of paper towels or that we’ve just used the rest of our dish soap.  Hence, the next time we reach for a paper towel after we’ve spilled an entire glass of wine, we’re S.O.L. So, I decided to make a chalkboard to hang right in the kitchen so we could write down when we’re close to running out of something. Regardless of the fact that our grocery lists and notes to each other get somehow turned into dirty words by any guy that walks in our house, it has so far helped us!

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Here’s how to make one:

Start with a piece of medium density fiberboard. This will be what you paint for your chalkboard. I bought mine from Lowe’s for about $8.  However, I had to cut it with a table saw to make it the size I wanted. Continue reading

Holiday shopping: What to get the guy who has everything

Two weeks left and counting and you still haven’t figured out what to get him. You know, the guy that’s impossible to buy for because he already has everything? The one you grow a temporary hatred for during the gift-giving season? The one you pick a fight with three days before Christmas so you don’t have to buy him a gift because it’s that difficult?

Okay, just kidding on that last one… but you get the point. Guys are hard to shop for to begin with. But what the hell are you supposed to get the guy who has almost everything? Or the guy that’s just plain impossible to shop for?

Most years I get so stressed and pressed for time that I just give up. Nothing says “I love you” quite like an iTunes gift card. Everybody likes music, right?

This year I refuse to give up (mostly because I’ve run out of places at which to buy gift cards). However, I also refuse to spend hours ripping out my hair because I haven’t found the perfect gift for that guy.

Here’s how I plan to keep my hair intact:

Many companies create holiday gift guides that offer suggestions for their most gift-able items. Why not use them to your advantage?

Bonobos, an online men’s apparel brand, has literally mapped out a gift guide to help you pick a gift for the man in your life who has almost everything (it’s like they read my mind).

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Finding strength amid a small-town tragedy

Mass school shootings, bombings in Boston, an economic disaster, and a government shutdown.

You want to talk about bad? It’s bad. And a pessimist would say it’s bad everywhere. But I disagree.

This summer, tragedy struck my small town. A car accident took the lives of three young adults and severely injured two more as they returned home from their volunteer positions as teacher’s aides.

Fewer than 3,000 people call Caledonia-Mumford home. One by one, the people of Cal-Mum fell silent as they heard what happened. People left work. The school cancelled activities. Sidewalks and streets emptied. No one knew how to comprehend what they had just learned.

The next night the church held a vigil for the victims. The townspeople stood shoulder to shoulder on the front lawn. Youth soccer teams came in uniform, straight from their games. The 20-something first responders, close friends of all five, shed tears. Past teachers, principals and coaches were scattered throughout the crowd with their families. The pastor stood on the steps of the church, sharing cheerful memories of Chris and Taylor. They prayed for Emily, Joanne and Michaela, still in critical condition. After learning of Emily’s passing later that week, the same people came together again. Each person held a candle, illuminating the front lawn of the high school. Friends passed a microphone and shared personal stories of Taylor and siblings Chris and Emily.

Though not much could help the families of those who’d passed, people brought dinners to their houses, laid flowers on their porches and made sure their lawns were mowed.

Lawn signs bearing five maroon hearts mute testimony to the loss of the “Cal-Mum 5.”

The phrase spread to surrounding towns. The “Cal-Mum 5” logo replaced profile pictures on social media. Cal-Mum Strong t-shirts replaced shirts and ties. Wristbands with initials of the victims replaced watches.

Second-graders student-taught by Joanne sold lemonade to help pay her hospital bills. They raised $2,700.

Neighboring town Le Roy, held a 5K race, raising more than $16,000 to benefit the victims.  More than 600 runners from both towns participated. The two rivals who, in just a few weeks, would be yelling “destroy Leroy” and “Cal-Mum scum” from across the football field united in their “Cal-Mum Strong” t-shirts. Avon neighbors Cal-Mum as well. Avon’s student council sponsored an event releasing more than 100 paper lanterns into the sky to honor and raise money for the victims. The student body invited Cal-Mum students to their homecoming dance following the event.

Three months have passed, “Cal-Mum Strong” bumper stickers have found a home on nearly every car window.  T-shirts may be stained and over-worn, but they’re now an emblem of the town. The maroon and white lawn signs may be faded, but they’re still standing.

Caledonia-Mumford, a town with no more than a small grocery store and a family-owned pizza shop, embraced its tragedy-struck sons and daughters.  The people of Cal-Mum became a stronger family through disaster. That’s what small towns do–embrace the good.

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Distressing Old Furniture with Paint: DIY Tutorial

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Want to bring color and character to your room? Paint your furniture. It’s easy and it creates a fun, energetic vibe. Especially if you’re constrained to boring white walls because of rental agreements.

My landlord provided me with my dresser, so I didn’t have to search for one. But you can find a functional, used piece of furniture at a garage sale for very cheap. Even if the knobs are missing, you can buy new ones for around 5 dollars.

I finished this dresser in about a day and got all my supplies from my local hardware store.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • Satin Latex Paint (base coat)
  • Satin Latex Paint (brown, white)
  • Wood Finish
  • Painting supplies
  • Screwdriver (to remove hardware)
  • Sander or Sandpaper
  • Furniture to be distressed

Prep
Remove drawers and hardware.

What I learned after: I’d suggest setting up your entire work space before you even start. Lay down your newspaper, open your paint, and have your paint supplies ready.

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Georgetown Style vs. Smalltown Style

Polo shirts, boat shoes and bright colors: all necessities for a typical preppy outfit. Shirts, purses, and even pants are obsolete to a prepster unless embroidered with brand-name logos. A cashmere sweater tied around the shoulders is an extreme, but the distinctive style has certainly had an impact on fashion.

Last weekend I visited Georgetown University, where the style choices of the student body are known to be some of the preppiest in the realm of Ivy League schools, if not the nation.

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Living just blocks from such an upscale shopping district like M Street, how could these Hoyas not be up-do-date on the latest trends? Stores like J. Crew, Fornash, and Kate Spade embody only a portion of the half-mile, cobblestoned street.

But after spending the weekend furtively sneaking peaks at strangers’ outfits as they passed, I found that the overall style of students at Georgetown isn’t as reflective of the preppy stereotype as it’s thought to be.

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Jeans dominated the weekend casual wear, ranging from $40 American Eagle to $250 True Religion. Colorful cardigans and jackets layered a patterned or graphic Forever 21 tee. Walking along the manicured sidewalks, women weren’t sporting oversized designer purses, but North Face book bags instead.  The weekend apparel also strayed from the preppy reputation.  Nice weather allowed for summery dresses and wedges, but not necessarily the latest or most expensive.  Some women stuck with skinny jeans and some kind of sheer blouse. No matter what clothing they chose, their outfit was complete with perfectly matched accessories. Though still very much present, women relinquished designer labels for a more mainstream look.

During the day, the menswear varied from khaki shorts and name-brand polos to Hoya Saxa T-shirts and Sperry’s. At night, a checkered, button-down oxford shirt and a pair of designer jeans was uniform. Either they all have very similar taste, or these men feared originality.

Nonetheless, both men and women at Georgetown always looked put-together and polished. Even students heading to the library donned a presentable look, wearing nothing close to an old hoodie and pajama pants. Even if they lacked individuality, these students made up for it with their immense effort and attention to detail.

DIY Headbands From Old T-Shirts

The 8-foot, metal rod in my closet is literally caving at the center. My overstuffed drawers refuse to fully close. My neatly folded pile of sweaters has transformed into an unorganized heap. And I kind of think my roommate is thinking about holding an intervention…

I’m a class-A hoarder when it comes to clothes.

Thus, my closet cannot hold another hanger. But I promise you that’s not going to stop me from buying more clothes.

So, I need to make some space without parting with my dearly beloved clothes. Here’s my solution: repurpose them.

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What am I supposed to do with that little league softball shirt? Or my (embarrassing) chess club champion shirt? I can’t even bring myself to throw away my favorite yellow shirt with a stain on the neck (because it’s just SO comfortable!).

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