Manda Crafts: Monogrammed Straw Tote

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Last summer when I signed up for my CSA, I was determined to find a cute but functional market tote to carry my vegetable haul in each week. I saw this monogrammed tote on a blog I read and fell in love, but wasn’t into the $160 price tag. I’m not an expert level crafter, but creating my own monogrammed bag was surprisingly simple and cost less than $50. I love the bag so much that I use it for far more than just vegetable hauling; and the project was so quick and straightforward that it’s easy to replicate and makes a great gift. I painted one for my mom for Mother’s Day this year — pictures below, along with links on where to buy supplies!

You’ll need:

A straw market basket – I use this one
Two paint colors – I use these
Letter stencils – I use these
Plus paint tape and two paint brushes – one thick and one thin

Use the paint tape to set up a basic grid for your outer stripes. Because the surface isn’t completely flat, be careful as you paint on the edges so that too much paint doesn’t bleed under the tape. Remove the tape when you’re finished. Use the stencils to paint on the monogram, starting with the middle letter to make sure it’s centered. Fill in the center stripe using your second paint color — I do this free hand and find it pretty easy to stay in the lines. Finally, use your second paint color to add some dimensions to your letters. Let the bag dry completely and then strut all over town with it.

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Manda Cooks: “The Best Baked Spinach” (but actually)

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I never really considered myself a spinach fan… until last week. I often find raw spinach a little too spongy for me and cooked spinach a little too wet and droopy for me. I frequently get pounds of spinach in my CSA (multiple pounds of spinach is A LOT, for those of you who are familiar with weighing your own spinach) and would usually cook it into omelettes (despite the sogginess) or make it into a salad (despite the sponginess).

Last week, however, I decided to face the spongy and the soggy head on and solve the problem…AKA go to Smitten Kitchen’s “spinach” section and let her solve the problem for me. At the bottom of the recipe list was “The Best Baked Spinach” – oh really? Yes, really. This spinach dish blew my mind. It was so good that I made it twice last week, and can’t wait to make it again. I used Trader Joe’s Cheddar/Gruyere blend instead of Swiss and don’t think that extra tablespoon of “indulgent” butter is needed (I didn’t use it the first time, but added it the second time and didn’t find it necessary). Otherwise this recipe is perfect. Bring on the pounds of spinach, CSA!

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