Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meijer Gardens: Some Close Ups

I've been having fun with macro photography lately.  It's neat to find an interesting texture and then zoom in so I can't tell what it originally was.  Here are some from the Gardens.

The bark of a tree.

Palm leaf.

Bark of a giant palm tree.

A leaf.

My favorite leaf!

Love and Potatoes,
Leah Joy

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Meijer Gardens: The Tropical Conservatory

Chloe and I recently sat in the Tropical Conservatory (the big glass room) for over an hour, talking and smelling and taking pictures.  There were more orchids in this room, along with, of course, the hundreds of tropical plants.

It almost had us convinced it was summer, until we looked out the glass and saw this:

And now our local schools are on their 3rd snow day in a row! 

Love and Bananas,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Meijer Gardens: The Orchid Show

Number 67 on my 101 Things in 2014 list was to go to the Meijer Gardens orchid show with my sister.  It took place this past weekend, and here are some shots I got of the winners:

Sorry they're not all fabulous pictures; my camera had low batteries.

Love and Orchids,
Leah Joy

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Monday Rant: Grammar and Spelling

Hi, welcome to the Internet, where apparently it's okay to forget everything you ever learned in school and spell words however you feel is right (you dirty hippie).  Don't bother proofreading or double-checking your spelling; people can figure it out and they can just deal.

Why do we settle for stupidity?  Nothing drives me more insane than seeing people who know how to spell and use the English language misuse the English language.  Okay, actually there are three things that drive me equally insane.  They are as follows:

1. Someone I know received a good education misusing the English language. 
2. People who were homeschooled misusing the English language.  You should know better and represent your sub-culture better! (And also, I would hope that homeschooling is a better-than-good education, but sadly, I know a few families who have extremely low standards.)
3. People who are English majors misusing the English language.  Gah!

Yep, okay, that's my rant.  I have to stop now because otherwise it will get personal and really ugly.

Oh no, I can't stop!  

What you may not understand, dear reader, is that it is actually physically painful to read your bad spelling and grammar.  If I know the person does not know better (foreign exchange student, someone just learning the language, cousin from the boonies, etc.), it hurts, but not as much.  However, when someone clearly knows the rules and breaks them purposely to annoy the 'Grammar Nazis' (Heil Syntax!), I promise you that brain cells die.  No, they don't just die; they are killed in a mass brain-cell genocide.  That's right, you, the anti-grammar-Nazi, have caused genocide.  How do you feel now?

I'm not talking about MLA or APA perfect grammar and syntax.  Everyone has their own personal opinion of how many commas one should utilize.  I am asking for basic spelling (really, you have spell check and therefore no excuses), grammar (I know you know better), and punctuation (periods really help finish a sentence off in style).

Now I have to proofread this post five times so I don't get nailed on my own rant.

Love and Parenthetical Remarks,
Leah Joy

P.S. Any comments consisting of purposeful poor grammar will be deleted in order to help stop the brain-cell genocide.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

101 Things in 2014: The First Update

Welcome to the very first 101 Things in 2014 update.  I've actually done a lot so far, or at least it feels that way to me.  Check it out:

7. Organize our closet.  No pictures of this, but believe me, it's a million times better than it was.  

My tradition as a kid/teen was to clean my closet every January 1st (I know, I lead an exciting life), so this year, I asked Caleb if he'd be willing to do that with me.  He agreed, and I'm very glad, especially because when we moved in a year ago, a giant pile of stuff got put on his side of the closet and never got put where it should really go.  So, the closet still isn't perfect, but it's never going to be.  Mostly, I just wanted the extra computer monitor, canisters of meal-replacement shake powder, and camping lantern (etc.) somewhere that made more sense.

On my side, I got rid of two boxes worth of clothes and shoes.  It felt really good!

11. Two quart-sized baskets for perpetual calendars.  See the original idea here:

I want to use these for our kids someday.  I already had the cards made up, but I needed someplace to store them.  Over the course of a year or so, I found these two baskets at Salvation Army:

Honestly, I think the berry baskets are cuter, but I haven't found them anywhere in the quart size.  For now, these baskets will do a better job than rubber bands. 

29. Curtains for entryway doors.  

We have two doors in our house with half-windows.  I've been trying to get window treatments on every window in our house, and these are no exception. 

For these, I picked a lemon yellow fabric with just a hint of a crackle pattern.

This room is getting painted a soft gray this year!

I found this fabric at Jo-Ann's during their Saturday after Thanksgiving sale.  The sale was $2 off the yard price, and I needed 2 yards.  They were 2 inches short of 2 yards on this piece, so they gave me the special price for an end piece, which means I got almost two yards for just over the price of one.  I think I paid about $4 for all of the fabric!  

The most expensive part was the magnetic curtain rods!  They're priced around $12-$15 a piece almost everywhere - and I needed 4!  I ended up getting them at Walmart (even though I hate that store - it's so depressing!) for $7.88 a piece, which saved me about $20 compared to other places.

I haven't decided on ties yet, so for now, I used a piece of yellow yarn.

42. Ear-Warmer Headband.

I love my hand-knit winter hats, but they never cover my ears because my hair is too poofy.  And the ones with ear flaps are no good for me, either, because I wouldn't leave them on inside and they make a mess of my hair.  So I sewed this ear-band.

I used some fleece I had leftover from a pillow I made for my 10th grade Interior Design class.  (I had to fill an empty block, okay?! It was Interior Design or Weight Lifting!)

(If you were wondering, that's snow. Not dandruff.)

90. Berry-Lemon scones.

The original:


So mine don't look nearly as appetizing.  They are blue, for heaven's sake.  But they were SO delicious.  The egg white and sugar on the top made the crust really crispy, which was so good!  And inside, they're moist - and so delicious and lemony!  I made 16, and they were gone in 3 days.  And Caleb only ate 3 of them. :)  I will definitely be making these again.  And again.  And then a few more times.  And again.

Love and Polka Dots,
Leah Joy

P.S. I will be back on Monday with more posts, but I'm taking tomorrow off.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Many Times Can I Post about Insomnia?

Friends, I have been trying to get to the point where I have posts written a week in advance so that if I get sick or something, I won't have to worry about what I'm going to post.  This blog will still be filled with a daily post about something wonderful and crafty (or edible).  Or whatever.

I'm not there yet.

I do have one more post planned for this week, but I need a few pictures yet, and I just haven't taken them, and I haven't slept more than 3-4 hours a night since Friday night, and I'm exhausted.  And really cranky.  (Good for writing Monday Rants, though.)

So I'm afraid this is all you get today because I have to go to work, so there won't even be a late post or anything today.

I'm making this recipe for dinner, though, and it's really good.  I highly recommend it.  :)

Love and Whining,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The View from my Front Door

A few weeks ago, we had really icy weather around here.  It made for a few beautiful mornings, though.  Check out the view from my front door!

Love and Snow Shovels,
Leah Joy

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Monday Rant: More Pointless, Pathetic Puns

I probably shouldn't be writing a blog post today. I didn't sleep at all Saturday night, and I got about 1 hour last night.  Huzzah for insomnia!  So, ranting might get ugly.  Mwahahahaha.

In 2012, I wrote about people using stupid "puns" to make their gifts *ahem* "better".  Please go read that post again first, because I did a really great job with it, and then I won't have to be so mean today.  In case you missed the first two links, click HERE.

Okay, now that you remember how hilarious and witty I can be, let's get down to today's post.

Over Christmas, I was able to mostly ignore the 'punny' pins.  There just weren't that many of them.  But now, 'tis the season to drive me insane again.  It's hardly safe for me to go on Pinterest these days.  Why?  Because it's time to get ready for Valentine's Day.  I'm going to show you some of the worst puns I've seen.  And there are a lot of them.

So, wait, kids actually like these loom bracelets?  Okay, but again, one must spell words incorrectly, use them incorrectly ('Exudes' would have been a better word choice here.  You're basically saying that this person lights up the sweetness in others.  Not a bad quality, really, but not what I think the Valentine is trying to say.), and then capitalize one's own fatuity.

What does that even mean??

What happened to the good old days where a jar of cookie mix (without a homemade vinyl label!) was considered top of the line for a teacher gift?

While I appreciate the relative simplicity of this one (a bag of popcorn + ribbon + tag = no extreme sports required), why is "POPPIN'" in bigger letters than "Happy Valentine's Day"?  Isn't "Happy Valentine's Day" the whole point of a Valentine's Day card?

What happened to the good old days when kids made their own Valentine's Day cards?  You know, cut out 28 red hearts and wrote Happy Valentine's Day on them and taped a sucker to it?  (Or just bought the box of Beauty and the Beast Valentine's and signed their names....)  Why is it Mom's job to print, cut, and tape labels?

Squeezable applesauce??? Really? Also, if every child in your child's class is your child's main squeeze, you have other problems.

I 'dew' hate this pun.  Also, why are you giving people Mountain Dew?

Okay, I appreciate the attempt to get away from candy (because boxed cereal is sooo much healthier), and cereal is delicious, but "cerealsly"?  It's painful to read, type, or even think that non-word. (But at least the "cereal" part is underlined for the people who wouldn't have gotten it - you know, all those kids who can't read.)

I'm sorry, that is just way too much work for two Hershey's kisses that will be torn apart and devoured immediately.

Finally, I want to show you one cute one, because I can.

While I still don't appreciate that the parent is probably doing most of the work here, I do appreciate that there is no pun-underlining.  This is a direct quote from the movie, and there are Hershey's Hugs in the bag.  People are not actually that stupid.  Still a lot of work for Olaf - eyes, nose, and buttons have 3-D elements to be glued on - not to mention the printing, folding, bagging, stapling process, but at least there are no horrible puns.

(But I still say a red construction paper heart with a sucker taped to it is the best Valentine.) :)

Love and a Dictionary,
Leah Joy

Friday, January 17, 2014

Meijer Gardens: Christmas Trees

If you've ever lived in West Michigan, you've probably at least heard of the Frederik Meijer Gardens.  They have beautiful gardens, art exhibits, and a sculpture park.  I went a lot as a kid with my grandparents and my parents (I even got engaged there!), and this year for Christmas, my sister got a membership for the next year with an add-a-guest pass on it.  She got it on December 30 when she went with our mom, and the very next day, she took me there, too. 

At that point, they still had the whole place decorated for Christmas.  In their giant greenhouse, they had beautiful lights strung on all the trees:

There are always gorgeous flowers, too.

Their most popular Christmas tradition, though, is their Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibit.  They have trees (or the equivalent) decorated in the style of 41 different cultures, and it is always beautiful.  

I loved the rainbow ball garland on this tree.  I think it was from Peru.

But, of course our favorite tree was from the Netherlands.  We took a lot of pictures of the ornaments on this tree.

Chloe has already gotten the dollar value out of the membership, and she's not even one month in yet.  I'm sure we'll be going a lot more this year!

Love and Lights,
Leah Joy

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Steering Wheel Cover

Have you noticed that more of my projects lately have involved sewing?  I'm super excited to be getting more into this relatively uncharted territory.  Here's my history with sewing on a sewing machine:

Age 9 - sewed a dress for a doll. Despite only having like 4 seams, I managed to break a sewing machine needle.
Age 21 - sewed scarves from t-shirts for friends and relatives. I made like 30 of them - all straight lines and very simple stuff.  However, I used a super super super old sewing machine with so many problems and the thread snapped approximately every 6 inches. And I broke about 3 sewing machine needles. Starting to think I am cursed.

Aaand, until I made curtains for my kitchen (on my mom's nice new sewing machine!), that was it.

But now, I'm starting to attempt more interesting things.  Like corn bags.  And lined curtains.  And this steering wheel cover:

My sister and I went to the Saturday after Thanksgiving sales and I found this adorable pink fabric for super cheap:

(Pay no attention to the relatively dumpy state of my car.)

I already had a fairly nice steering wheel cover, but it was starting to look a little dirty, so I just put this one right over it.  It doesn't insulate a lot, but I didn't really need it to, so that's fine.  But I'm planning on making a nice padded one for Caleb, since he has no steering wheel cover at all.  

Love and PINK,
Leah Joy

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Star Trek Apron

Welcome to my newest feature, One-Picture Wednesday!  Just kidding, that's not really going to be a thing, but I only got one good picture of this project.  My inspiration for this project came here:

But if you know anything about me, you know that there is no way I'm spending $57 on something I could make myself.

My big brother is a definite Trekkie, and don't worry, I made sure that he would actually use an apron before I dove into this project.  (He said he doesn't usually use one, but wishes he had one for grilling or pan-frying.)  

I picked up the apron at GFS for $10.  They were the only place I was able to find a reasonably-priced apron that wouldn't look ridiculously small on a man.  This apron also has the nice adjustable neck strap and some pockets.

Then, I dove headfirst into this project, running on only my knowledge of fabric paint and a picture from Google Images.  I used to be really into freezer-paper stencils (or at least wanted to be), so I still had a full rainbow of partially-used fabric paints and a roll of freezer paper.  I ironed on the freezer paper and then used a sponge brush to apply red paint to the apron, hoping I'd end up with a maroon.  I used every single drop of paint left in the bottle and actually ended up with a very nice shade!  (I had to use my flash in the picture, so it's not actually as bright as it appears to be.)  After letting that dry, I hand-painted in the symbol in yellow and then let everything dry for a couple of days.  

Then came the really scary part: washing it!  I was terrified that the paint wouldn't stick (I forgot to pre-wash the apron) or that it'd smear - but it came out great!  

And my brother liked it - so all is well!

Live Long and Prosper,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Cookie List 2013

If you're still not familiar with my Cookie List, check out these posts

This year, instead of purchasing gift bags, I made these containers that I saw on Pinterest:

So, I promise it's not all about money, but these are SO much cheaper than gift bags.  (Even when one purchases gift bags 2/$1 at Dollar Tree.)  I also got so many compliments on the boxes, even though I felt like it was the simplest thing ever.  So there's that.

For goodies, I made:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles:

Dark Chocolate Truffles:

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread:

Cinnamon Bread:

Everyone got some truffles, and then either a loaf or mini muffins of the breads.  I started out making the banana bread because I had bananas, but the plain cinnamon bread recipe stretched farther per batch, and I ran out of bananas. :)

(By the way, this was my first time making the non-banana cinnamon bread, and I give the recipe 2 thumbs up!  It was easy and delicious!)

I also included a homemade ornament and some self-promotion:

The only problem that I had with these baskets is that it was hard to stack them up in the laundry basket (to cart them around) without squishing stuff.  But they're so cute!  (And cheap - did I mention they're incredibly inexpensive to make?)  ;)

Love and Chocolate,
Leah Joy

Monday, January 13, 2014

Corn Bags

So, who's ready to get back to a normal posting schedule?  I know I am!  But first, I have a week of catch-up posts - end of 2013, Christmas stuff, that sort of thing.  Of course I have plans to switch up the daily blog pattern for the rest of the year, but that's still being fleshed out.  So today, I'm going to give more details about one of the last 101 Things in 2013 projects that I finished last year.  

I shared this picture a few weeks ago:

My sister and I went in together on this project to make 14 of these big bags for our mom, aunts, friends, and ourselves.  We had a few pins that we used for reference:

We loved the idea of having a removable, washable cover.  I received a corn bag as a gift once a few years ago, and while it's very nice, the only thing I didn't like was that I couldn't wash it.

So here is a list of supplies we gathered, and how much it set us back:
- 50 lb. bag of feed corn (I got this for $8 + tax at our local Mill & Supply store - 50 lbs made 14 large bags and over a dozen pairs of hand-warmers)
- muslin or an old bed sheet for the inside bag (we scoured remnant bins, freecycle, and our friends' scrap bins for the fabric and probably spent a maximum of $5 on all the fabric for this project, including the cute fabric)
- cute fabric for your cover 
- sewing machine - highly recommended!
- iron

This won't be a full tutorial with pictures, because I'm still terrible at remembering to take those pictures, but here's how we did it.

NOTE ON FEED CORN: We had to sort the corn (least favorite job ever).  There were a few black kernels, and a few bugs that we didn't want to include.  We also microwaved each finished bag 3 times before we gave them away to kill anything that may have still been in there.

Cut two 12" x 12" squares of your plain fabric and place together (if you have wrong sides, they should be on the inside).  Sew a straight stitch 1/4" from the edge on 3 sides.  Iron over twice (another 1/4" for each fold) on the two parallel sides and sew those sides down. Press over twice (1/4" each fold) on the third sewn side and sew this side, too.  You'll have lost a total of 3/4" on each of the three sides for your seams.

Pour 6 cups of corn into the bag.  Hold the bag upright so all the corn settles at the bottom and put a few pins near the top of the corn to keep it in the bottom of the bag.  Sew a straight stitch 1/4" from the edge on the open side. As with the other three sides, press over twice (1/4" each fold) and then sew this seam.  Remove the pins and trim the thread ends, and you should have something like this:

Why, yes, that is an old pink bed sheet.  We used white muslin for most of the inner bags, but ran out for the last couple.  The corners look something like this:

For the removable cover, cut 3 pieces of fabric: one piece should be 12" by 10", and then two pieces 12" by 7".  Line them up (right sides together) so that everything fits in the 12" by 10" piece.  (See the original posts for a better description of this process.)  Sew all the way around with a straight stitch (we did about 1/2" seam allowance), and then again with a zig-zag stitch to keep edges from unraveling. Trim away excess fabric and threads, turn inside out, and place inner bag inside.

Here's what the flap looks like:

Then we made a lot of hand warmers.  We cut two 4" by 5" pieces for each hand warmer, placed them right-sides-together, sewed a straight stitch on 3 sides, and then reinforced that with a zig-zag stitch.  We then turned them right-side-out, and pressed the edges of the 4th side in (so no raw edges would show), and filled with 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of corn (we found that fuller was better for these). Then we stitched the 4th side shut. These do not have removable covers.

And that's not even half of the hand-warmers we made, but by the time I got a picture, they were already given away.

When we gave these to friends, we included instructions on the proper care and usage.

For the big bags, it was basically:
1. Cover is removable and washable, but do not wash inner corn bag.
2. Heat up in microwave for 3 minutes - do not overheat or corn may scorch.
3. If corn bag has not fully cooled, do not use full 3 minutes to reheat.
4. There will be a corn smell and slight dampness for the first several times, but this will fade with use.
5. You can also place in the freezer for a cold pack.

And the hand warmers get heated up for 30-40 seconds.

Caleb and I each have one of the big bags for our personal use.  He's been taking his in the car to keep warm on the way to work - and heating it up at work sometimes, too.  I'll sometimes heat mine up before bed - it's often still warm when I wake up around 2:00 in the morning!  

This is a pretty simple project that even a novice sewer (like yours truly) can handle.  

Oh, and I only bent one sewing machine needle in this process - and that was before I figured out the right way to fold the inner bag.  Huzzah!  Perhaps my sewing-machine-needle-destruction days are behind me!

Love and Warmth.
Leah Joy