Friday, May 30, 2014

Garden Update - May 30

It's almost June, and our garden is booming!  (Mostly.)

I know, I know, most veggies want full sun, but we have an extremely shady yard (heh), so we have to deal with it.

We've already started harvesting lettuce and spinach!

In this 2nd bed, I planted spinach, which is doing well, and beans, which are just starting to come up.  I also planted a bunch of herbs, but so far they aren't doing much.  I'm letting the weeds grow here, because I'm honestly not sure what these baby herb plants should look like.

We also put in a new garden using this idea from Pinterest:

The part on the far left will be completed another year, but in the longer section I have 6 rhubarb plants (#19 on my 101 Things in 2014 list!).  Hopefully in a couple years we'll have an abundant crop!

For now, we have tiny little baby growth already:

I also started several plants in this seed tray, but so far they haven't done anything, and it's been about 3 weeks:


Thank you for your patience with my slow blogging.  My full-time summer work starts on Monday, so while I have pictures from stuff I've already done that I plan to get on here, that will probably be it until fall (late August).

Love and Rhubarb,
Leah Joy

Monday, May 19, 2014

Garden Update - May 19

Look at my pretty garden!! There are green things growing in it!  And a lot of them aren't weeds!

And out front, I have an army of tulips!

(Sorry about the spot on the lens; it was raining.)

I can't wait to go to the nursery and get some more plants!

Love and Tulips,
Leah Joy

Friday, May 16, 2014

Summer Cooking

As I've mentioned before, we're going to be very busy this summer, even busier than our previous two summers together.

Our first summer was 2012.  We both worked and lived at a summer camp.  While I worked full-time during the week, I didn't have to worry about food, because we just ate in the dining hall with everyone else.

Our second summer was 2013.  We had moved in December/January, so we were no longer living at the camp.  I was still driving up there every day during the summer to work full-time, and while I'm sure I would have been welcome to stay for dinner, I wanted to go home and be with my husband instead.  I got home around 5:30 most nights.  Caleb was working 'part-time' at the church (if you don't get the quotation marks, you've never worked in ministry), so he was able to cook most nights, and I'd also occasionally cook.

This summer, I'll be working the same as last year, but Caleb is working a full-time job in addition to the 'part-time' work at church.  I'd like us to be able to eat real meals at reasonable times, so I'm looking for good slow cooker recipes.  Beyond that, I'm even considering some freezer cooking.  I doubt I'll get to the point of grocery shopping only once a month (we like milk and fresh fruits and veggies too much for that), but it would be nice to do most of the cooking in one big push and then just have to go to the store for milk, eggs, and produce.  We'll see.  :)

The biggest obstacle to this is the fact that I'm a picky eater, so right now, we're testing recipes.  Even if I could find 6-10 freezable recipes that I like, that would be enough variety for us.

Here are the ones we've tried so far:

I tried this with one pound of chicken breasts instead of two, just in case we didn't like it.  Um, this chicken was amazing.  We both wished there had been more for leftovers!

I did not try the cream sauce for this chicken, because I'm not big into sauces.  But it tasted amazing!  Perfectly moist, and it also reheats well in the microwave.

This one isn't done in the slow cooker, but it's actually a fairly quick and easy meal to make.  My mom has an amazing recipe for baked chicken that involves these steps: cut chicken pieces, dip in egg and bread crumbs, pan fry chicken, place chicken in bed of sauce, pour sauce over top, sprinkle with cheese, bake.  It's really not hard, but it does take about 30 minutes of prep time for about 30 minutes of baking.  This baked chicken recipe is just as perfect-tasting, but only has these steps: cut chicken pieces, place in bed of olive oil, pour olive oil on top, mix up spices and spread on top, bake.  It bakes for an hour, and there's so little prep time.  And it tastes amazing.  I wanted to eat all of it in one sitting - and I usually only feel that way about things involving chocolate or pie.

I also tried a slow cooker soup with lentils, but it was rather blah, so I won't be making that again.

Do you have any favorite slow cooker recipes?

Love and Chicken,
Leah Joy

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spring Cleaning Update - May 15

Today's post involves some really gross pictures.  Aren't you excited?!

First of all, I've finished my kitchen (3 days), bathroom (.5 day), guest bedroom/craft room/catch-all room (1.5 days), and master bedroom (1 day).  I also cleaned up in our hallway.  I still have the living room, entryway, breezeway, garage, general outdoor cleaning, and of course, our basement.

Today, my beautiful and wonderful aunt, mom, and sister are coming to help me clean up our basement.  And I owe them forever because our basement is a grime-fest decorated with cobwebs and mouse 'evidence'.  We did not clean it up when we were moving in because we had a limited amount of time and we decided to focus on the areas in which we'd actually be living.  And we have not cleaned it in the last year and a half that we've been living here.  Actually, Caleb swept up the mess once, but didn't throw away the pile of what he swept up, so it's just sitting there.  And I occasionally blow the dust off the top of the washer and dryer.  So yeah, it's pretty bad.

I was recently telling someone about how gross my basement is, and they told me that it wasn't that bad.  That confused me because this person hasn't seen my basement, so how on earth would they know that?  I'm sure they were just trying to be nice, but believe me, my basement is very gross and I am perfectly aware of that.

And here's photographic evidence:

This one is a little blurry, but you can see that there's grime, junk, and crud all over the floor.

This is just a sampling of the many beautiful nasties.

Dust and cobwebs everywhere.

Literally everywhere.

So, I hope you enjoy your Thursday.  I'm sure I will....

Love and Brooms,
Leah Joy

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Monday Rant: Sharing Horror Stories

A few months ago, I had my wisdom teeth removed.  Prior to having the actual surgery, I heard every opinion from "Oh, it's nothing, just a routine thing everyone gets done," to "It is the worst thing you will ever experience in your entire life."  Funnily enough, no one had a sort of middle-of-the-road opinion of the procedure.

My opinion? Well, for the record, I had two wisdom teeth: one partially erupted and one impacted.  I chose local anesthesia only, with no IV sedation (because I'm cheap and have a high pain tolerance).  The partially erupted tooth came out so quickly and easily, I could hardly believe they could be done.  The impacted tooth was more painful because they had to use a drill to break it into multiple pieces.  Did I cry?  Sure I did; it hurt a lot.  But you know what?  I'm pretty sure that when I experience childbirth someday, that will be more painful.  And I've never had a broken bone, but that sounds pretty painful.  So wisdom teeth removal?  Middle of the road.

And you know what else?  Hearing everyone else's horror stories didn't help me.  At all.  Not even yours, Mom.  (Sorry.)

So I would like to question why we do this.  Why do we feel the need to freak everyone out with our stories?  I heard from one person who said she needed 26 shots of local anesthesia in her mouth.  Someone else got infected for a week and was in terrible pain.  I believe that it was horrible for you, but how is sharing that with me going to assist me in my preparation at all?  Every single person is different, so every single experience is going to be different, too.  I may or not get infected; I may or may not need extra anesthesia.  There's no way to know until I'm there.

You know where I experience this idea the most?  Bridal shower and baby showers.  This is actually the main reason I hate these showers so much (with the ridiculous amount of estrogen and perfume in one room being the second reason).

Bridal shower: every married woman feels superior to the bride-to-be because the Mrs. has so much more experience.  The married women at the shower smile patronizingly on the bride-to-be because of her sweet innocent beliefs on marriage.  "Just you wait, honey," they say.  "You'll see..."  "Hah, someday you'll be singing a different song."  And then they exchange knowing glances with each other.  And if any woman who has been married, oh, let's say, only two to three years tries to defend the bride and the general institution of marriage, then that woman is also looked down upon and patronized as a childish newlywed with absolutely no experience whose opinion is entirely invalid.  If these women hate marriage that much, why did they get married in the first place?

Baby shower: every woman with a child feels the need to relate her entire childbirth story to the expectant mother.  The expectant mother, despite being pregnant and having every excuse to be *ahem* 'emotional', is instead expected to sit politely and listen to these horrendous accounts of centimeters and hours in exchange for a gift.  Again, all the mothers exchange knowing glances when the expectant mother says anything about how she plans to raise this child.  "You'll see...." "Hah, someday you'll be singing a different song."  "Just you wait, honey."  And heaven forbid anyone who has never had a child tries to participate in a conversation about child-rearing!  Never mind how many younger siblings this person has or her experience in child-care!  If you have not birthed a child, you have no right to speak on such things!

And guess what?  They're right, in a way.  They do have experience on their side.  But just like every person who has their wisdom teeth out has a different experience, so does every person who is married or expecting a child.  Did you know that only 50% of pregnant women experience morning sickness?  Yet the way people go on at baby showers, you would think you couldn't be pregnant without throwing up at least once a day for 9 months.

All this to say: shut up.  If you legitimately sense a real and/or dangerous lack of judgment, by all means, speak up.  But if you only want to share your horror story to fill up space, just stop.  Think about when you were getting your wisdom teeth out, or engaged to be married, or expecting your first child.  Would the story you are trying to share have blessed you then?  If not, then shut your pie hole.  And eat some pie, because you clearly need some.

This is perhaps a partially unfair rant.  There are plenty of women who attend bridal and baby showers who have positive stories to tell and encouragement to share.  These women are usually the quiet, polite ones.  If you are one of these women, first of all, God bless you - and I'm so glad you came to this shower!  And now, I beg you to share your positive stories and encouragement.  Be assertive and use up that air space that otherwise would be filled with horror stories.

And finally, this is NOT an announcement.

Love and Pie,
Leah Joy

Friday, May 9, 2014

101 Things Update - May 9 (Easter Baking)

So yes, Easter was a long time ago.  At this point, I'm just about caught up with my 101 Things projects.  :)

For Easter dinner, we ate with my parents, my two younger siblings, my grandma, and our frister (friend + sister).  My mom asked me to bring dessert (!!!) so I asked how many desserts I was allowed to bring.  She said, jokingly, that 4-5 ought to suffice.  So I made 4 desserts for Easter for 8 people.  And there weren't many leftovers.

Chloe came over to help me bake.  2 of the 4 desserts we made happened to be on my 101 Things list.  I didn't take very good pictures because it was Easter and I wanted to spend time with my family.

35. Nutella Hazelnut Truffles.  Here's the original:

I have to admit that we left out the hazelnuts (because I'm too cheap for that) and the alcohol (there would be 3 minors at the dinner).  These truffles were amazing!  I knew they would taste good but I was concerned that the Nutella flavor wouldn't show up.  In that case, you might as well just eat the Nutella with a spoon and then eat plain chocolate truffles by themselves.  However, we could definitely taste the Nutella; Caleb and I actually like these better than regular chocolate ganache truffles!

60. Make cinnamon chips again.  Recipe here:

As I've mentioned before, I used honey instead of corn syrup and coconut oil instead of shortening.  They turned out perfectly!  And then I made these:

81. Cinnamon Chip Scones

The Original:


These scones are perfection itself.  They were the perfect texture, flavor, everything.  AND this recipe makes a good amount of them, too!  We made the smaller variety and this was the perfect size.

The last two desserts aren't on my 101 Things in 2014 list, but I thought I'd throw them in here anyway.  I made an apple crisp (no picture) and a strawberry tart.  It's technically a 'rustic' tart, meaning I didn't bake it in a tart pan.  Here's the original:

And here's the one Chloe and I made:

So, not very lovely, but it was very tasty!  :)

Love and Strawberries,
Leah Joy

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Spring Cleaning Update

Sooo... about that Spring Cleaning....  I threw myself into this project with a rather gung-ho attitude at first.  Before that first post, I made a complete list of cleaning that needed to happen.  I made this list by finding all the "Ultimate Spring Cleaning Lists" I have posted on Pinterest and combining them to make an Epic Spring Cleaning List.  I also added other details where necessary in my house.

I had originally split my list into two categories: (1) about 15 things I needed to do in every room (i.e. dust, wipe down walls, wipe down baseboards, etc.) and (2) room-specific things sorted by room.  However, I quickly discovered that I wanted to clean room by room, so I added the 'whole house' items to each room list. That way, I can feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish one room, instead of saying, "Oh, I've done most of the kitchen, but I still have to do these 15 things before I'll be happy with it."

So, as I mentioned in the first Spring Cleaning post, I started with my kitchen.  Above and below are two before pictures.  You probably can't see the grossness in these pictures, but just the messiness.  Well, take my word for it.  There was plenty of grossness everywhere.

3 days.  That's the amount of time it took to clean my kitchen.  The sad part is that they were 3 days over 3 weeks.  See, I'm not going to clean on the weekend, because that's when Caleb is home and we get to spend time together.  And I work 2 days a week, leaving me only 3 days a week for cleaning.  Well, obviously I have to get groceries at some point, which is clearly a whole day job, and I have to have a day for ... I don't even remember now.  Let's just say that after that first cleaning day, I wasn't as excited to jump into another one.  Anyway, I spent 3 Thursdays in a row cleaning my kitchen for 8 hours each day.  

I took some before and after photos of some of the cupboards and drawers, but not a lot of detailed pictures of the actual grime I encountered.  I know that I just redid my cupboards last year, so some of the cupboards I was just cleaning out, but some of them needed reorganizing again.  I took time with each cupboard to evaluate whether or not the current organizing system was working, and if not, what needed to change.

This cupboard is kind of our pantry.  It might not look super organized below, but I definitely was able to get a lot more stuff in there.

I didn't take a before picture of this next cupboard because I didn't think it was that bad, but I ended up completely redoing the top two shelves and I love it!

I even added some labels!

I also took no before pictures of the pots/pans shelving below, but I rearranged it to make everything so much more accessible.

This drawer just got tidied.

I didn't take an after picture of our Whirley Pop, but this is the only picture I got of the grossness factor.  Mmm.

Our dry/canned goods cupboard was a wreck.  Not anymore!

This is probably the most dramatic difference.  Now to see if I can keep it tidy!

I ended up getting rid of a lot of items from this drawer that we never use.  I also relocated some items to make more sense, like our measuring cups/spoons, which are now over by the baking ingredients and stand mixer.

No before pictures of this next drawer, but I was able to get more in here than there was before, and even allocated the grilling tools to the back of this drawer.

3 days of work later, and my kitchen feels so much better.  I still need to do a few things: wash rugs and rinse out air vents (waiting for a sunny day), wash curtains (waiting for a load of laundry), and touch up paint (waiting for a warm day so I can open the windows and not asphyxiate my husband), but I can live with that for a bit.

I also got rid of a whole laundry basket full of kitchen implements.  My sister and her friend are planning a garage sale to raise money for their summer mission trips, which was a nice motivation.  I probably wouldn't have gotten rid of half the stuff I did if I were just donating it all to Salvation Army.

Hopefully the other rooms won't take quite as long as my kitchen, or I really will be Spring Cleaning until 2015.

Love and Sudoku,
Leah Joy

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Monday Rant: Spring Cleaning

This rant is probably not what you think it's going to be.  I actually enjoy Spring Cleaning - well, most of it anyway. I enjoy getting rid of stuff, clearing up space where clutter lived before, and living in the final result.  I'm not a big fan of mopping my floor or vacuuming or dusting, but the rest of it, I don't mind.

No, as usual, this rant is about another person.

I have mentioned to several people that I'm doing some crazy Spring Cleaning this year.  (Update later this week.)  Most of the responses are something like this:

"Wow!  Good for you!" (non-sarcastically)
"Wow - I haven't even thought about starting our Spring Cleaning yet!"
"Want to come over and clean my house?"

None of those bother me at all.  What bothers me was the person who replied in this manner:

"Oh, I don't Spring Clean.  I just keep my house clean all year round."

Okay, who else wants to join me in punching this person?  Or better yet, tramping through their house with muddy boots?

I mean, seriously?  And this was said with as pompous and patronizing an air as you can imagine, like I was some sort of dirty peasant because I couldn't manage to keep my house spotless at every given moment.  They didn't expect me to be able to keep my house clean - of course not me- but still, some people can manage to do so.

Do you know why I Spring Clean?  It's a two-fold thing.  First of all, I Spring Clean for the same reason most people Spring Clean.  Clutter accumulates, dust gets into forgotten corners, and the house just needs an overall refreshing clean.  Why not do so when the weather is bursting with freshness, too?  But second of all, I Spring Clean because this summer I'll be working full-time and my husband will be working over 60 hours a week.  I will have so little time to clean; all I will be able to do is maintain.

Therefore, I Spring Clean so that if my toilet seat only gets wiped down with Clorox wipes for 10 weeks, I can be okay with that.  I Spring Clean so that if someone stops over unexpectedly, I can know that at least the floor was vacuumed within the last month or so.  I Spring Clean so that when I'm in a rush looking for something, I can know right where it is, because I dealt with literally every object in my home earlier in the year.

This summer, I plan to take 15 minutes every morning to clean my house.  This will include washing dishes (which does not take as long as you think it does - seriously, time yourself sometime), maintaining the kitchen, sorting laundry, wiping down the bathroom, opening the curtains, tidying the house, etc.  Of course not all in the same day, but you can get a lot more done in 15 minutes than you might think.

Therefore, I Spring Clean so that these 15 minutes a day will be enough to keep my house in decent shape.

So forgive me for actually having a life, but my husband and I will only get to see each other for a few hours in the evening and on the weekends.  Excuse me if I don't spend them keeping our house perfectly clean.

Love and Fairy Tales,
Leah Joy

P.S. I'll probably also have to Fall Clean to take care of the aftermath.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cupcake Chronicles: Birthday Cupcakes

At this point, it's been almost a month since we made these cupcakes, but I still wanted to share the pictures.  Caleb's birthday was at the beginning of April, and Claire and Chloe came over to help me bake and decorate 2 dozen cupcakes.  We ran out of liners at one point, so if you think some of these liners look like parchment paper circles, you're correct. :)

I finally got to decorate cupcakes with my new big tips and it was so much easier!  I only decorated a few of these cupcakes; I mostly let Chloe and Claire have fun.  We used 3 Wilton tips: 1M, 2D, and 4B.  We had the most trouble with the 4B, but are still optimistic about mastering it in the future. :)

Rose swirl with a #1M tip

Ice cream swirl with a #2D tip

We also tried this hydrangea-flower effect with a #2D tip.  I plan to try it later with purple and blue frosting like in this pin:

Love and Sprinkles,
Leah Joy