Texas-Style Queso Blanco

qeuso-edited-6As most of you know, the Super Bowl is coming up. And we’re going to be completely honest here… football is not our thing. In fact, we had to google who is playing this Sunday (sorry, Dad). But there’s one thing that brings us to the TV room every Super Bowl Sunday, and that’s the food. We can get down with some buffalo chicken wings and jalapeño poppers.

One of our favorite snacks of all time is queso (otherwise known as liquid gold). In fact, one of the first things we bonded over our freshman year of college was our love for cheese, and look how strong that bond proved to be. If you haven’t had queso, here’s your opportunity to change that. We wish we could have our first bite of queso all over again. It’s not easy to find here in L.A. though. Our Mexican food is amazing, but very different from Tex-Mex. Liquid cheese doesn’t necessarily fit the California health mold. Can you imagine… “May I have some queso with my quinoa and kale?” So we’ve been making our own, and my god is it good.

The best thing about this recipe is the use of fresh ingredients. We won’t deny how tasty Velveeta queso is, but this recipe allows us to enjoy it with a little less guilt.


Ingredients 

  • 8 oz white American cheese (get a good quality kind, preferably at the deli counter), cubed or shredded
  • 4 oz monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced
  • 1 cup half & half or cream
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilis
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 lime
  • Salt & pepper
  • Cumin (optional)
  • Chili powder (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Chips

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Pour a tablespoon of oil into a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic, onions, fresh tomatoes and jalapeños. Sauté for a few minutes, just before the onions begin to look translucent.

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Pour in the cream and the can of Rotel tomatoes. Stir well and bring to a simmer.

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Then add the cheese a little bit at a time, continuously stirring. You don’t want the cheese to burn the bottom of the pan but you want it hot enough to melt evenly and smoothly.

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Once all of the cheese is melted, add the lime, cilantro, salt and pepper. At this point you can play with the seasoning and add based on your preferences. We like a little cumin, chili powder and red pepper flakes.

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Pour into a bowl and serve immediately with chips! You can also microwave it later if it cools too much.

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Good luck not eating the whole thing by yourself!

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Go Patriots and Falcons! May whoever wins be rewarded with liquid gold.

-Kirby and Michelle

Sharpie Ring Dishes

edited-5As of Christmas, I am a newfound ring owner. My mom gave me a beautiful set of three delicate rings from Armenta that I absolutely love, and weeks later I still look down at my sparkly finger wondering why I never wore rings before. Well the truth is, I lose every piece of jewelry I own, so I avoid wasting money on jewelry. As much as I wish I never had to take my rings off, I have to when I’m painting in my studio, doing dishes, or washing my face. Every time I take them off, I wish I had a secure place to put them, dreading that I will lose yet another special piece of jewelry. I began looking for ring dishes online when I decided I should make my own!

I found this set of 13 appetizer plates and decided it was a perfect opportunity to make gifts for my friends and my mom, as well as myself. While making them, I also thought of my friends Rob and Vicky who recently got engaged while visiting here in L.A., and realized that these also make perfect engagement gifts. They are incredibly affordable, yet practical and thoughtful.

Sharpie art is a Pinterest craze I’ve always been eager to try and this was the prime opportunity to do so. Once you bake your sharpie art, it won’t rub off of the ceramic plate when washed. I used metallic oil-based sharpies (the water-based ones won’t work) and decided to use sticker letters to monogram each dish, but the best part about this craft is that you can design your dishes however you’d like with whatever colors you’d like. Here’s hoping I still have my rings by next Christmas!


Materials

  • Plain small plates or dishes
  • Oil-based sharpies, or sharpie paints
  • Sticker letters
  • An oven and baking sheet

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Place your sticker or stickers onto the plate. Firmly press on them so that the sharpie ink won’t seep underneath.

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Draw your design around the letter. I chose to draw a thick stripe of tiny dots that disperse as they move away from the letters.

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Carefully peel away the sticker. If ink managed to creep beneath the sticker, use a needle or toothpick to scrape it off, or wipe it away with a bit of rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab.

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Finish all of your plates before you bake them. I kept my design uniform, but customized the letters and switched from gold, to silver, to copper.

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For Vicky’s engagement gift, I wrote the first letter of her and her finance’s names (R & V) and hand-wrote their upcoming wedding date beneath it.

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Once you have finished your sharpie decorations, allow them to dry for at least 72 hours. Then place them on a baking sheet in a cold oven. Heat the oven to 425º F and bake them for 1 hour. Once you turn the oven off, leave the plates inside and let them cool with the oven. The reason for this process is to avoid cracking caused by sudden temperature change.

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When they are completely cool, take them out and they are ready to be used or gifted! I would avoid putting them in the dishwasher just in case, but the ink should be very permanent now. Hopefully my friends will use theirs as much as I will use mine! These also make great dishes to put your keys or change on, so you don’t have to be a ring person to make one.

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Happy decorating!

-Kirby

Wooden UCLA Sign

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This is a really exciting time of year to be a UCLA Bruin with the Men’s Basketball team ranked *3rd* in the NCAA. Woohoo!!! Although, to be honest, is there ever a time we’re not trying to show off our Bruin pride? No. As we’re both graduating early and in our final quarter of school (aaah!!!), we’re trying to make the most of our time here – taking advantage of our Den passes to watch the Men’s Basketball team dominate in Pauley Pavilion, enjoying the 70˚F “winters” on campus by Janss Steps, and spending every night with friends who will soon be going their separate ways.

We decided to step up our school spirit a bit with these wooden, distressed UCLA signs. It’s a perfect way to decorate a college apartment and sturdy enough to last forever once you become an alumni. While we’re obviously partial to UCLA, this craft can be tweaked to represent any school/team you desire…even that school across town. 😉


Materials:

  • One 4 x 2 (we used Pine wood)
  • Sand paper
  • Wood stain and rag
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Acrylic paint: white, blue, and gold (yellow)
  • Water
  • UCLA cutout
  • Pencil
  • Paintbrushes
  • Sawtooth picture hangers or command strips to hang

Locate a piece of wood that allows you enough space to decorate to your liking. We opted to cut a 4×2 into four equal-length pieces which we glued together because it adds a little extra texture and character to the final product. Sand down so that the edges are smooth before staining.

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Once you’re happy with the surfaces of the wood, wipe it down with a wet rag to remove leftover wood shavings. Now you are ready to stain it! To get the color the correct richness, it usually takes three layers. Rub it on the wood with a rag and let it dry for 15 minutes. Then, rub off the excess stain with a damp rag and let the leftover stain dry for three hours. Repeat three times for best results.

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After the wood has been stained and dried, sand down the pieces. This wears down the wood and stain a little bit to create a more distressed, vintage look.

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Next, mix the white acrylic paint with water. Our mixture was one-part water, one-part paint – feel free to play around with your own mixture depending on how distressed you want your final product to be (the larger the ratio of water to paint, the more diluted the mixture will be). Once the mixture is to your liking, rub onto the wood with a rag. Let dry.

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With wood glue, glue each of the pieces together on the long end. Hold pieces together with a clamp while drying so that they are secured and will not come apart with time.

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Once all the wood pieces are secured to each other, carefully trace your UCLA cutout onto the wood with a pencil. We taped the cutout to the wood in some places to make the tracing process easier.

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Paint inside the lines of your UCLA tracing with yellow paint. For better results, we painted three layers of yellow onto the wood. The more opaque the yellow paint is, 1) the better it looks against the wood and 2) the fewer number of layers you will need of blue paint on top! Let dry.

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Next, trace the inner part of the UCLA logo on the wood. You can print a shrunken-version of the original cutout to trace or estimate depending on what you are most comfortable with. Paint within these new lines with blue paint. We painted three layers to really ensure there were no spots of yellow shining through.

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From here, you have a few options to hang the sign on the wall. You can install sawtooth picture hangers (like these here) onto the board and secure on the wall with nails. This is the sturdiest option. Because of our college living arrangements we were unable to nail into the walls. Instead, we used command strips.

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Now you’re ready to hang your work and show off your school spirit!

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We chose to hang ours above another craft that showcases some of our favorite UCLA memories. It’s a simple craft that involves many of the same steps as the UCLA sign. Once the wood pieces are secured with wood glue, attach wire to it with small screw eye bolts (like these). Then, hang pictures from the wire with small clothespins.

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Go Bruins!

– Kirby and Michelle

Doorknob Necklace Hanger

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Whether you’re moving out of the dorms or out of your parents’ homes, we’re sure everyone remembers that incredible feeling of independence living in an apartment for the first time. No matter how dingy and cramped it feels, having a place to call your own makes it almost okay. Since moving to the apartments, we’ve constantly been looking for ways to make the most of our limited space. Even more, we wanted to find a way to make the white walls and dull carpets feel less like a college apartment and more like a home.

We love the vintage/thrifty look that you can find at stores like Anthropologie, but our college budget unfortunately doesn’t always sustain these decorative tastes. After coming across these cute doorknobs, we fell in love and knew we had to find a way to incorporate them into the apartment.

This Anthropologie-inspired necklace hanger is the perfect addition to any room because it showcases your jewelry on the wall in a way that is elegant and decorative rather than merely shoving it away in a box. Even more, it is super affordable!


Materials

  • Plank of wood
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood stain and rag
  • Wood protectant (we used fast-drying Polyurethane)
  • Power drill
  • Hack saw
  • Decorative doorknobs (we bought ours here)

First, sand your plank of wood down to make sure all the edges are smooth and even. Splinters are no fun for anyone!

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Once you’re happy with the surfaces of the wood, wipe it down with a wet rag to remove leftover wood shavings. Now you are ready to stain it! To get the color the correct richness, it usually takes three layers. Rub it on the wood with a rag and let it dry for 15 minutes. Then, rub off the excess stain with a damp rag and let the leftover stain dry for 3 hours. Repeat 3 times for best results.

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Next, spray the wood with fast-drying Polyurethane to add a protective seal.

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After the wood has been stained and dried, drill 4 holes equal distance from each other into the wood. On the back side, drill a slightly larger hole (only part-way) into the wood to countersink the washers and nuts. This is really important so that once it is time to hang the necklace hanger, it will be flush against the wall.

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Finally, you’re ready to pull out the knobs. Use a hacksaw, first, to saw the knob screws down to the right length for the wood plank. Then, screw in the washers and nuts tightly to secure the knobs.

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From here, you have a few options to hang the necklace hanger on the wall. You can install sawtooth picture hangers (like these here) onto the board and secure on the wall with nails. This is the sturdiest option. Because of our college living arrangements we were unable to nail into the walls. Instead, we used command strips to secure the necklace hanger.

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Now add your jewelry for the final touch!

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Happy Decorating!

– Kirby and Michelle

 

 

 

Lavender Print Thank-You Cards

_mg_7168I hope everyone had an incredible New Years Eve! I’ve been visiting my boyfriend in London for the holidays and we took the weekend to drive down to Brighton, one of my favorite beach towns. It has narrow, cobblestone shops like Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and a cool old pier with carnival games and an arcade (I’m weirdly obsessed with arcades). We rented an Airbnb with ten other friends and spent the day eating, playing games and indulging in lots of champagne. Heading back to school next week will be a very sad reality.

As I head into the new year, my first project is always to write my thank you cards from Christmas. It’s so important to show appreciation for the kindness others have shown, and acknowledging all of the love and support around me helps me enter the new year with a positive attitude. I have a lot of thank-yous this year, and I decided to make my own cards with these simple yet elegant lavender prints. Flower prints are so easy to do and so pretty. You can make them with pretty much any flowers, but I used the leftover lavender from my trip to Ojai this past summer (see my lavender sachets here).

If I could make a thank you card for every one of you that reads this blog, I would. I am so appreciative of the support from all over the world.


Materials

  • Blank cards (I used white and olive green)
  • Acrylic paint (I used purple, dark green, and lavender)
  • A gold leaf pen (I love this one here)
  • Lavender (or whatever flowers you have in the house)
  • Small Paintbrush

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Mix your paints on a thick piece of paper or a palette until you have the colors you would like to use. I chose deep purple for the green cards and dark green for the white cards.

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Using a brush, carefully dab the paint onto  the lavender until it is fully coated on one side.

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Gently press the paint-coated side of the lavender onto the front of the card. Then repeat the process until you’ve filled the card to your liking. Be sure to choose multiple stalks of lavender so that there is some variation in size and shape.

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Allow the cards to dry before you add the additional color details. I chose lavender for  the green cards and a gold for the white cards. Using a thin paintbrush, add small dots of lavender paint to the dark purple prints, and add gold details to the green prints using the gold leaf pen.

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Once they have fully dried, you can begin writing your cards!

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Happy New Year!

-Kirby