Monday, March 20, 2017

Christmas 2016: Elephant Toy

Here's how cheap I am: I don't believe in getting babies/toddlers a lot of gifts, because they (1) already have a lot of stuff and (2) won't remember what you did or didn't give them for Christmas when they were one year old.

However, we still wanted to do something for Josephine, although to be honest, it was more so we could have the enjoyment of watching her open a present. :)

We found a cute Duplo train set on Amazon, and I also sewed this elephant toy for her.

I found the pattern here.

The only thing I would change was the part you leave open for stuffing. The pattern has you leave open the top of the back, but I'm not very good at discreet hand-sewing, so the back of the elephant is all puckered.

But still cute!

Love and Buttons,
Leah Joy

Monday, March 13, 2017

Christmas Ornaments: 2016

So, I'm a little late getting all the Christmas posts up this year, seeing as it's about time to post pictures of tulips, but I still wanted to share a few things from this past December.

Here's our mantel this year, complete with the stockings I made, my tree collection, and a playpen. :)

Caleb's parents have a tradition of giving each child an ornament each year. We've decided to adopt that tradition for our family, too.  For Jo's 2016 ornament, I made this little felt strawberry (actually about the size of my fist, so not that little).

We also had not yet gotten her a 2015 ornament (for her first Christmas), so when we went to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland (in Frankenmuth, MI) this fall, we looked for one. I knew what I wanted it to look like, and none of the traditional 1st Christmas ornaments were really looking right to me. Instead, we picked up this beautiful silver and blue ball ornament, and I added a tag with blue cardstock and a silver Sharpie. :)

I also made an ornament en masse to give away to our friends and family.  This year, I made these little felt cupcakes:

They were very time consuming, considering I made almost 30 of them, but they turned out really adorable!

Love and Cupcakes,
Leah Joy

Monday, March 6, 2017

Herringbone Table Runner

This past November, I got a new sister! My brother got married to a wonderful girl, and I wanted to make them something really beautiful as a wedding gift.

I found the instructions for this herringbone table runner over at Laurel Leigh Studios. I highly recommend the tutorial - it was well-written and very easy to understand.

I almost forgot to take pictures of this finished project. I actually had it all wrapped up (perfectly, I might add) and had to undo my wrapping so I could take pictures for you guys.

This project was intense, to say the least. Because of the herringbone pattern, you have to iron down the seam you just sewed before you can add the next strip. I brought my sewing machine into the living room and had the ironing board set up right next to it. Despite making this in October, I did a lot of sweating! :)

Here's the runner after being quilted, but before being bound.

I added this little tag, too.

The batting in this table runner is insulated batting - although I didn't realize that I needed to also add a layer of cotton batting until after I had quilted 100 rows.  So, it's not quite as functional as I wanted it to be, but it is very pretty!


Since making this, I've learned a really great technique for machine binding (more on that in a future post), and purchased a walking foot, but since I had neither of those in my repertoire then, I'm still pretty pleased with how the corners turned out. The only less-than-pretty bits are on the back, and no one will see them there anyway.

I'm really proud of this project - and yet I also kind of want to redo it now that I have a walking foot! Though the table runner is still a good size, it's several inches smaller than I had intended to make it. Because I just used my regular presser foot to quilt it, the whole thing went a little wonky, and I had to trim down quite a bit from the edges to even it out.

This project is so versatile. First of all, herringbone never really goes out of style, so this is something you can keep around forever. Secondly, you can use any combination of colors to make this suit any decor or season. Thirdly, you could even make it reversible; what if you made two 'tops' in different seasonal color schemes? I'm picturing a red and green pattern for Christmas on one side, and then a red and white pattern on the other side for the rest of the winter.

I also had fun experimenting with making hot pads, although, again, I still didn't realize that insulated batting requires a layer of cotton batting to be truly heat-proof. So this hot pad is adorable and completely useless. (Well, Jo has adopted it as a toy, so there's that at least.) 

It's pretty clear in this one how much I needed a walking foot - as the rows all sway out!

Have you ever made anything with insulated batting?

Love and Rainbows,
Leah Joy

Monday, November 28, 2016

Apple Baking Day

Earlier this fall, my mom and I had an apple baking day.  We picked 3 apple recipes off of Pinterest to test.

First up, Apple Crisp Cookie Cups.  This recipe calls for baking oatmeal cookies in a muffin pan, then filling the cookie cups with a homemade apple pie filling.  They're also drizzled with an apple cider glaze (apple cider + powdered sugar).  While these were really delicious, they were also a lot of work. We decided that if we ever made them again, we'd try to make them as bars in a 9x13 pan.

Next up, we made a Cinnamon Apple Crumb Cake.  This was my family's favorite, although mine and Caleb's least favorite. (Least favorite being a relative term meaning still delicious, but less delicious than the other options.)

Our third recipe ended up being my absolute favorite, and probably the only one I'll make again.  Spiral Apple Bread!  Here's a picture without the glaze:

How pretty is that?  We didn't make the caramel apple glaze, and instead just used more apple cider glaze.  And then we ate some before I got a picture. :)

This bread is perfect - it takes a lot of time, but not too much work.  It's delicious and not too sweet.  The recipe makes two pie plates worth.

Love and Apples,
Leah Joy

P.S. Bonus, here's a picture of some chocolate-raspberry cupcakes I made for a friend's birthday.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's Gilmore girls Day!

Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life is on Netflix today! It's in the form of 4 90-minute episodes. Many people have a binge-watching party planned for today, but I have a different plan.  I have nothing against binge-watching, but since I have been looking forward to this revival for so long, I want to savor the episodes, and give a little time to digest between each one.

Therefore, I am hosting four Gilmore girls themed viewing parties for my mom, my sister, and a few of my friends.   We'll have Gilmore-inspired meals filled with conversation followed by a viewing of each episode.  We're stretching it out over 2 weeks, and I have vowed to not watch each episode until that party, although I might rewatch the previous episodes in between!

In case you're curious, here are the menus I have planned:

Episode 1: Winter
Dinner: Pot roast, mashed potatoes, salad, and rolls (inspired by a dinner from Season 6: Episode 6)
Dessert: Apple tarts (from Season 1: Episode 10)
Beverages: Coffee (always), Hot chocolate (almost always), and candy canes (in case anyone wants to make candy cane coffee - Season 7: Episode 11)

Episode 2: Spring
Dinner: Tacos, tater tots, and salad (tacos and tater tots are both Gilmore girl staples, while salad is more of 'a quaint dish sometimes used to precede large quantities of pizza' - or in this case, tacos.) (Also, I didn't do this on purpose, but in the trailer for the revival, Lorelai wants to make tater tots when they're already having tacos!)
Dessert: Blueberry shortcake (Season 1: Episode 3)
Beverages: Coffee, iced tea, and lemonade

Episode 3: Summer
Dinner: Burgers and fries (Classic Luke's Diner fare) (plus salad, because Luke would insist)
Dessert: Pie and ice cream
Beverages: Coffee, iced tea, and lemonade

Episode 4: Fall
Dinner: Pizza (ours will be homemade), cheesy bread, and salad (Movie night special)
Dessert: Popcorn and dessert sushi (Season 7: Episode 2)
Beverages: Coffee, iced tea, and lemonade

Image result for gilmore girls pizza

I know I'm missing a lot of other classics: Chinese take-out, Pop-Tarts, rocky road cookies, blueberry pancakes, Mallomars, doughnuts, cake, pudding, mac and cheese, Twinkies, hot dogs, deviled eggs, and anything alcoholic.  However, I feel I got the really important ones, and still managed to keep it fairly healthy. (After all, we're not all blessed by the Lorelai Paradox.)

Love and Tacos,
Leah Joy

Monday, November 21, 2016

Why I Garage Sale

I grew up in a hand-me-down-wearing, garage-sailing, thrift-store-shopping family, so it's always a little strange for me to hear people talk about the 'great deal' they found on this outfit - only $80!

Not only does garage sailing save money, but I think it's more fun than shopping for new in store.

Here's what I got recently for $15:

That same amount would buy me 1 onesie* at BabyGAP or about 3 onesies at Target.  Instead, I got 10 onesies, 1 shirt, 12 pairs of pants/shorts, 1 pair of tights, 1 sweaters, 2 sleepers, and 3 dresses.

Shopping at garage sales will take more time, but it's less money, and I can find a better variety of items.  Plus it's fun to do with a friend!

Love and Santa,
Leah Joy

*Did you know that 'onesie' is a brand name? 'Onesie' is to 'bodysuit' as 'Kleenex' is to 'facial tissue'.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Gilmore girls, Feminism, and Pop-Tarts

I'm back with more Gilmore girls talk!  The biggest questions on many fans minds seem to revolve around Lorelai and Rory's romantic relationships and whether or not either of them is pregnant.  For a feminist show, I find this a little demeaning, honestly. Aren't women supposed to be more than boys and babies?  Lorelai has her own business, Sookie is an amazing chef, Emily can throw a mean party, Rory can write an amazing article about anything, Lane is a rockin' drummer, and Paris could be an unstoppable lawyer (judge) or doctor (surgeon). Alexis Bledel, who plays Rory Gilmore said it best, "I think it’s kind of interesting that that’s what people are excited about. There is so much more to her character. It’s great when people focus on her ambition and her accomplishments."

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with boys and babies. Much of my life is my husband and my baby, and I love that! I have no regrets about not being the rock star I dreamed of being in high school and college. But being a wife and a mother is not all I am. I am also a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, an aunt, and a friend. I am a baker, a reader, a crafter, and - occasionally - a blogger.

I get why we focus on romance and pregnancy. TV shows today have to be dramatic and exciting to keep our attention. Since Gilmore girls isn't a crime show or anything, the only other things the general public finds enthralling are big dramatic moments, like hook-ups, break-ups, and people getting knocked up. But honestly, I find just watching the girls do life enthralling. Sure, I want to know if Rory ends up with Jess or Logan or someone else or no one, but I also want to know about her career, her friendships, her achievements, and her aspirations.

One of my favorite things about Gilmore girls is watching the women interact with each other. There aren't a lot of shows or movies that just show women doing life together. Gilmore girls shows friends, mothers, daughters, and granddaughters having real relationships: some great, some unhealthy, some in-between, but all real. I don't want to watch a show with lots of drama, because that's not what my life is like. I enjoy watching something relatable, and that's what Gilmore girls delivers.

And just a reminder to everyone, Lorelai will be pushing 50, so while it is possible she could be pregnant, it is highly unlikely and so can we just stop already?

Also, Gilmore girls posted a picture on their Instagram of a plate of Pop-Tarts with an apple, which has many people freaking out that someone might be pregnant (because Lorelai only craved fruit when she was pregnant), but this is the exact same 'appetizer' Lorelai made for Rory, Paris, Louise, and Madeline in Season 1, so can we just stop already? :)

From Season 1: Episode 13
Love and Apples,
Leah Joy