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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Jo's 1st Quiet Book

(Get ready for a post with far more pictures than necessary.)

I'm not sure when I first discovered the idea of quiet books, but I really like them. They are so versatile, and can be made for nearly any learning level; I've seen everything from 'how to lift a flap' to 'learn the animals of South America'.  Most quiet books, however, seem to hover around the basic ideas of colors, numbers, matching, and similar skills - things appropriate for (usually) a 2-5 year old.

I really wanted to make one for Josephine, but she's not yet even 1. We had two weddings within a week, though, and I wanted to have something quiet for her to do during the ceremonies.  After lots of research (of course) and planning, I decided to make a rainbow book.  (Anyone surprised?)  This book isn't necessarily meant to teach her colors, though.  The colors make it fun to look at, but mostly this book is about textures, which is perfect for a not-quite-1-year-old.

To start, here's a quick overview of the pages:

I'll also go over each page in much more detail, but feel free to skip ahead to the pictures of Josephine if you don't want all the details. :)

The cover page isn't necessary, but it's pretty.  I really like how the pink thread looks on the blue hearts, but honestly, I initially only did that because I didn't have blue thread.

All the letters and hearts are hand-stitched on.

The pages are machine stitched together (to hide all the messiness on the back of each page) and then I inserted grommets using my Crop-A-Dile. (Yay $5 Goodwill finds!)  The back of the grommet is pictured below. While it looks a little rough, I don't think Jo could hurt herself on it.

I used binder rings to bind the book. It's tidy and sturdy, but I can change out pages if I ever want to.

My first step in making the letters was to trace them on felt. This wasn't super smart, as I used a blue fine-tip Sharpie, and I couldn't cut close enough to remove all the traces of it.

For the red page, I used three pieces of different red fabrics to make flaps, which I machine-stitched to the felt. Under each flap, I hand-stitched something similar to the pattern on the flap fabric (squares and circles under the geometric patterned fabric, a flower under the rose fabric, and a felt heart under the heart fabric).

The orange page is probably my favorite. I didn't know if it would turn out how I envisioned it, but it did, and I'm very proud of it! Josephine is fascinated by zippers, so I wanted to include one somewhere in the book.  I purchased a short orange zipper and sewed it to some plain orange fabric. I cut it into the largest circle I could make fit on the page, then used a satin stitch on my sewing machine to attach it.  As a last minute detail, I made a leaf out of green fabric to serve as the zipper pull. I think it makes the whole page!

I know she's a little young yet to learn her numbers, but it never hurts to include learning when there's something fun involved, too.

I attached the numbers using extra-strength Heat'n'Bond.

Under each flap, I sewed the corresponding number of buttons.

Aren't they cute?

The green page was inspired by a cute quiet book page idea I saw on Pinterest where the child could decorate a tree in the book.  Josephine is much too young for that, so instead, I just made and decorated a tree for her to look at and touch.

I found the Christmas light garland in the mini Christmas tree section at Hobby Lobby. I attached it using yellow thread and the satin stitch on my machine. Gold thread would have been better, but I didn't have any on hand.

The blue page came directly from an idea I saw on Pinterest. The fish are strung on thin blue cord, so they can move back and forth.

The purple page was the simplest to put together: just a bunch of various purple ribbons. Lots of different textures to feel.

And so pretty! 

Josephine seemed to like it!

Love and (Lots of) Felt,
Leah Joy

Friday, November 11, 2016

18 Questions I Hope Are Answered in the Gilmore girls Revival

Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life is coming to Netflix at the end of the month and I could not be more excited! I never actually watched the show when it originally aired, but after several friends recommended it to me (and once I realized they weren't talking about Golden Girls), I finally watched it. And watched it again. And again. Caleb bought me the box set of DVDs once I started watching the entire series through for the 3rd time, and I've now seen every episode at least 8 times. Is that pathetic or admirable? :)

I thought I'd write a couple of posts with my thoughts on the series and my hopes and questions for the revival.  If you've never seen Gilmore girls, well, I recommend it highly, but you should probably not read these posts, as they will be full of spoilers!

To start with, I thought I'd share some questions I'd love to see answered somehow in the revival. Yes, there are a hundred lists like this already, but I don't think any will be quite like mine:

1. Okay, yes, everyone else is asking this one: WHERE IS MR. KIM?

2. Is Dog Paul Anka still alive and kicking?

3. How many times has Ms. Patty remarried? (Or has she sworn of all loves but 'the business we call show'?)

4. What's the longest Emily Gilmore has ever kept a maid?

5. Did Rory's astronomy building ever get completed?

Image result for rory gilmore astronomy building

6. Is Rory still active in the DAR? (Or at least friends with Tweeny Halpern?)

7. Did Paris ever actually get Puffed?

8. What ever happened with Cat Kirk?

9. Did Kirk ever end up buying the Twickham house after Luke backed out of the deal?

Image result for twickham house gilmore girls

10. And did Kirk and Lulu ever get married?

11. And do they have kids? (And is that mildly terrifying or what?!)

12. Have Zach and Lane had any more kids? What do their children hide under the floorboards?

13. Did Brian ever get together with Kyon?
14. Also, if Kyon was an exchange student, why was she in Stars Hollow for at least 2.5 years? Aren't exchange students usually only in the US for a school year?

15. Is Sookie's third child a girl or a boy? And what did she and Jackson name their child? After all, they used up all their favorite names on Martha Janice Lori Ethan Rupert Glenda Carson Daisy Danny.

16. Probably no one else cares about this, but did Lindsay ever remarry? Or maybe reconcile with Dean? She wasn't perfect, but she also did not deserve to be cheated on.

17. Did April ever successfully grow an avocado tree?

18. And finally: will I understand any of the pop culture references this time? (Probably very few.)

This isn't really a question for the revival, but did anyone else ever notice that Logan is basically an older version of Tristan?  Or that the first time Lorelai meets Lane's future husband, he hits on her? (A little weird, if you ask me!)

What questions do you hope get answered in the revival?

Check back in the next couple of weeks for more Gilmore girls musings!

Love and Pizza,
Leah Joy

(P.S. None of these photos are mine.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mario Wall Stickers

So, I recently shared the felt characters I made for Josephine's room.  We still love them, and have started letting her hold one at diaper changes. She thinks this is fantastic. :)

For my birthday, my big brother gave me some Mario wall stickers, which I used to decorate another area of Jo's room.

Aren't they so cheerful?

We'll hold Josephine up to the wall and let her collect coins, stomp Goombas, and go up/down pipes. She thinks this is hilarious.

I used almost all of the stickers in the set.  There was one more Mario, plus two small hills that looked a little weird with everything else.

Of course, now I feel like I need to do something to this corner of the wall:

Love and Piranha Plants,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Birthday Cake

Apparently, there are some people who think it's weird that I make my own birthday cake. To those people: I like making cake, and I make really good cake, so why is it weird?

Ever since learning to pipe frosting, I like to use my birthday cake as a time to try out a new decorating technique.  This year, I hadn't researched any ideas beforehand, so with my piping bag in hand, I just went for it.

My cakes usually have the 1M roses all over, so I kept them on the top, but just piped straight up with my 1M tip on the sides.

I really like how it turned out. It was super easy, but looked very impressive!

Love and Cake,
Leah Joy