Another edition of Midweek Sparkles coming your way! It was a crazy week at work this week, I think stemming from having Thursday and Friday off. I always feel like vacations from work are kind of a mixed bag – on one hand, I love having time away from work to relax and have fun… but on the other, I always seem to pay for it when I get back with extra work and stress… Oh well, I guess, like most things in life, it’s a tradeoff!
I’m VERY excited for the upcoming holidays – and particularly for decorating for them. I love to put up the Christmas decorations and listen to Christmas music! It’s on my agenda for this weekend (look forward to pictures next week…
In the meantime, some Midweek Sparkles from around the net….
Gilmore Girls e-cards… well you’ll hear more about my mixed feelings on the revival tomorrow but these are cute either way!
I really need to clear off space on my iPhone… maybe these tips will help
As a book lover, I would love all of these gift suggestions (except for maybe the temporary tattoos…)
Type A organizers with an iPhone… (aka people like me…) check this out!
So I’m preparing an entry with my thoughts on the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the LIfe, but honestly, it’s taking me some time to reflect. So in the meantime, I thought I’d share a sweet sparkle-y recipe with you all. We didn’t make one of our historical cakes this week – because of Thanksgiving – but I did make a Thanksgiving dessert… Milk Bar Crack Pie! If you scroll down to the pie section, you’ll see the description: “Toasted oat crust with a gooey butter filling.”
Now, full disclosure, this pie is VERY SWEET. I like sweets and it was almost too sweet for me! Not for the dessert amateur but it is very delicious!
You can find the full recipe here! (Note – the recipe makes two pies – make sure you have a plan for both otherwise your waistline may not thank you! 🙂 )
I’m not sure that the Crack Pie will become a regular in my recipe rotation but it was really fun to make and a (very) sweet treat.
Next week, I’ll return to our journey of baking through American history!
This was our empty Thanksgiving table. A few hours after this photo was taken, we loaded it with delicious food and the chairs were filled with family – but this is the “before.” As I was looking at this photo, I thought of all of the other things that we should bring to a Thanksgiving celebration – this things that we’re thankful for.
So here are just some of the many things that I have to be thankful for this year:
An amazing family (we have two Thanksgiving dinners full of them! and many more around the country), wonderful husband and sweet puppy – people who I love so much and who are the core of everything else
Awesome friends to talk to, laugh with, cry with and lean on
A warm, cozy house that I can fill with friends, family and memories
A job where I can make a difference and that affords me a reliable income so I can pursue interests and passions
Hope for the future – we have so many things we’re looking forward to in the coming days, months and years. I love being able to enjoy every moment but also love looking forward to many more wonderful moments to come.
That just scratches the surface but I wanted to make sure I took some time today – as we fill another table with delicious food and more chairs with amazing family members – to think about what else I was bringing to the table.
Happy Thanksgiving Week! We have a full week of celebrations planned – we had one Thanksgiving dinner this past Sunday with my parents and sister, and today we’re picking up G’s sister and heading down to his parents house for Thanksgiving tomorrow! Then I’m heading back to Iowa to see my grandma and some of my aunts and uncles this weekend (plus watching Gilmore Girls with one of my best friends!). So it’s going to be a big week.
In honor of the holiday, I’ve put together a Thanksgiving themed version of Midweek Sparkles!
I love the holidays, especially in the chilly weather, as an excuse to cuddle up and watch a good move or TV show. Here’s a list of suggestions for those that agree with me!
Thanksgiving makes me think of the winter – and here are some places that I would like to visit in the winter….
So I don’t love how harsh this article is – but I think it is important for any people heading out to eat this Thanksgiving to think about the waitstaff and those people that are working on the holidays!
And, importantly, a Trader Joe’s list for those holiday celebrations!
And that’s it for this week! I hope everyone has safe holiday travels!
For Columbus Day, G and I took the RV on a trip up to Door County, Wisconsin. I had never been there but I think I may have found one of my favorite places! Door County is located on the “thumb” of Wisconsin (as in the state kind of looks like a gloved hand with a thumb…), and is a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan, forming Green Bay. While the area is known for their fall foliage, we were a bit early to see the leaves in all of their glory; however, that didn’t dampen the fun.
– the gateway to the Door County peninsula. I think, if we’d had the opportunity, we probably would have chosen Peninsula State Park, which is a bit further north and closer to the lake, but definitely books up early. Potawatomi State Park was great though, the only downside was that the shower facilities were a bit far from our site.
While we were in Door County, we had the opportunity to do a lot of different activities.
We had two awesome breakfasts – one at Good Eggs , which was a kind of rustic location up a bit farther north on the peninsula. There was an incredibly long line – we tried to avoid by ordering through the app, but our order was misplaced. Despite the wait, the breakfast burritos were fantastic! The next day we had a breakfast at Door County Coffee and Tea – a super cute coffee shop and store that served a full breakfast as well as a selection of coffees, teas and pastries. We opted to just get pastries to go and eat outside on their cute front porch. Delicious!
We also went to the Cana Island Lighthouse which was beautiful! We were hoping that we’d get to walk across the occasionally flooded causeway to access the Island – which we did, but it wasn’t flooded (so our waterproof shoes were unnecessary…). We did walk all the
way up to the top of the lighthouse which offered an incredible view of Lake Michigan! Walking down was a bit on the scary side (for me at least), given the really really steep, spirally staircase (since it was built in 1869). But the view was worth it!
In the interest of burning off some of the aforementioned calories – and seeing some beautiful sights – we also walked part of the Sunset Bike Trail in Peninsula State Park. It was gorgeous! I think though that next time we’d rent bikes so that we could do more of the trail and make it all the way up to the point at the top of the peninsula. (We drove up to the point later but not quite the same thing! 🙂 ).
Overall, we loved Door County! I can’t wait to go back and see more of the sites!
As I mentioned previously, I recently heard about the book American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer from my favorite podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class. The book discusses the history of cake in the United States and also provides recipes for some of the most iconic cakes from different time periods. I loved this book as it really provides historical context in addition to the recipes. I learned all about the flours, sweeteners, leavening agents and ovens used throughout American History, (Let me just say that I’m glad I didn’t live in the time period when they used pearlash as a leavening agent…)
Originally I was going to bake my way through the whole book; however, at one cake per week, that would take me a LONG time… like 3-5 years. So I decided to select a few representative recipes from each of the time periods and my mom is joining me on the baking quest!
First up, is 1650 -1799 – early American history through basically the founding of the United States. This was the time period when baking really began in what is now the United States. According to Byrn, the first cakes baked in America were “sweet, yeasty, breadlike cakes and fruitcakes, British poundcakes, cheesecakes, sponge cakes, and a molasses ginger cake.: The American Gingerbread Cake definitely fits into the last of those categories.
This recipe originated in the first American cookbook written by Amelia Simmons in 1796; however, since those recipes – of which there were seven different versions of gingerbread – won’t really work for modern cooks and tastes. Byrn adapted several of the recipes to create a singular American Gingerbread cake recipe. Gingerbread was often used as stomach settler for sailors and long journeys – while people originally thought that the molasses may have done the stomach-settling, it’s likely that the ginger was more influential!
We felt like since this was one of the iconic first cakes in the United States, this would be a good one to start our baking journey! I won’t include the full recipe here – but I encourage you to check out the book: American Cake by Anne Byrn – and here’s how it turned out…
Overall we really liked this one. You could definitely taste the molasses and the spices… it wasn’t as sweet as our more modern cakes. (Perhaps because there was no frosting…? ) The cake was pretty dense but very moist! I think the American Gingerbread was a successful first cake for our foray into baking through the history of the United States!
All right – time for another dose of Midweek Sparkles! We’re obviously busy preparing for Thanksgiving but it’s also been a busy couple of weeks at work – with several business trips – so it’s really crept up on me. We have one Thanksgiving celebration this weekend, one on Thursday and then the weekend after that I’m heading to watch Gilmore Girls with a friend! (see my obsession…)
But before we head into holiday craziness, here are a few things I’ve been checking out around the internet…
I try to shop organic whenever I can – these rules are pretty helpful!
I’ve been trying to be a more conscious consumer since I think one of the major ways we can influence things – as private citizens – is with how we spend our money. I love this article on how to build an ethical closet on a budget.
It’s fall so that means pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin! I made these muffins recently and LOVED them!
Kinetic sand… not just for kids! (Many can attest that I can play with kinetic sand forever…) And now we can make it!
This video makes my organizer’s heart sing… plus I love scrapbooking and crafts! I wonder if I can convince G to find a place in the house for this…
Also – we’re looking into getting a new bed/mattress – any suggestions on the best foam mattresses out there?
For those who don’t share my obsession, we only have 10 more days to wait until Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premieres on Netflix! As a primer for anyone who doesn’t know – the original Gilmore Girls series aired from 2000 to 2007 and follows the lives of – appropriately – the Gilmore Girls… a mother, daughter and grandmother. Although the first six seasons were brilliant, there was a bit of a drop off (OK, a major dropoff) in the seventh season due to the loss of the show’s original creators. And I think I speak for most Gilmore Girls fans when I tell you that the ending of the series was… awful.
For years, Gilmore Girls fans have been calling for a reunion… a movie… anything really that could fix what the seventh season did! And our wishes were finally answered – Netflix has brought back almost the entire original cast to do a four part follow-up series which will pick up the lives of the Gilmore Girls almost 10 years after the last series ended. I personally CAN NOT wait. And now we only have 10 days!
So to help make it through this home stretch, I’ve put together a list of 10 of my favorite things about Gilmore Girls (in no particular order).
Strong Female Characters: Gilmore Girls is full of strong, intelligent and independent female characters… Not perfect by any means but female characters that make decisions for themselves. Lorelai, Rory, Emily, Paris, Lane… all qualify! Also, on the character front…
Positive, Multi-Dimensional Characters: There are zero main characters – that I can think of at least – that I distinctly dislike or cannot find any redeeming qualities in. Sure, there are characters that I like more than others and I don’t like all of the characters all of the time – but in times of a lot of negativity and hatred, I really appreciate being able to turn on a show and find something likable or sympathetic about pretty much every character in the show. Brightens my day!
Witty, humorous dialogue: This is probably the trademark of Gilmore Girls, fast-paced, keep-up-if-you-can dialogue. While admittedly I miss many of the pop culture references, it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Sookie: I mean to say nothing of Melissa McCarthy’s comedic genius and amazing talent, I can not begin to describe how much I love Sookie. She’s quirky, fun, caring, loving, and the list goes on and on. And on top of all of this – I love how the show treats her character. Her weight – which fluctuates throughout the show – is never brought up as a topic (except when she’s tired of being pregnant and wants the babies to come, but we all know that’s a different kind of weight). I appreciate that we can all love Sooke for who she is – a beautiful, funny and not a size 2 – without the show needing to feel the need to draw attention to it or even comment on it.
The unashamed love of a holiday, any holiday: I love holidays. Any reason to celebrate, bring friends and family together, or really just be in a positive, happy mood is a win for me. And unlike some shows on TV that just have the standard annual holiday episodes, Gilmore Girls fully embraces any reason to celebrate and they bring their own quirky sense of joy to every occasion!
Love of learning:Every time I re-watch Gilmore Girls (and I have done so several times), I find myself yearning for the days of classes, homework and learning. I get inspired to read a new novel or listen to a new podcast.
Stars Hollow: If Stars Hollow really existed, I would love there lickety split! (Although G may not approve… I could probably convince him!) The idyllic landscape and amazing people, the worst crime being a stolen garden gnome, aforementioned holiday celebrations and festivals… what’s not to love?!
Flaws: To follow-up on the whole multi-dimensional character idea – all of the characters have flaws as well, and the show doesn’t shy away from allowing the characters to make mistakes… even big mistakes. From (temporarily) dropping out of school to less-than-ideal romantic trysts, even our favorite characters make mistakes – but that makes them more real.
The Dragofly Inn (and Independence Inn): I know have a secret desire to own and run a country inn. How can you resist the charming interiors, seemingly delicious restaurants and beautiful surroundings!
(Last, but not least!) The Gilmore Girls Fan Sisterhood: Now I really don’t mean to leave out the guys – I know there are male fans out there – but in my personal life, it’s been a sisterhood of Gilmore Girls fans. Many of my best friends as well as my mom and I have bonded over a shared love of Gilmore Girls. In fact, I have a viewing marathon for A Year in the Life planned with one of them! I can’t help but love a show that brings friends and family together!
So that’s it! 10 of my favorite things about Gilmore Girls. Now I just have to make it through the next ten days…!
Those that know me (or have read my blog), know that I LOVE to bake. I’ve been baking since I was little with my mom and have grown up doing it. I’m probably most familiar with cookies and cakes/cupcakes – along with brownies and bars. But one thing that I haven’t had a ton of experience with is pies (and tarts and pastries). Since pies are a wonderful thing – and one of G’s favorite desserts – I thought it would be fun to learn more on how to make them!
The class was wonderful – we learned how to make a basic pie dough (very useful! and easy because G bought me a great food processor this summer!). Then we used the dough to make Banana Cream Pie, Chicken Pot Pie, Mini- Chocolate Pecan Pies and an Apple Ginger Galette.
Overall, the class was great! We learned a lot – everything from making the pie dough to making a cream filling and a roux. We also learned a lot of techniques – like the use of pie stones and how to peel ginger with a spoon. I think I can say that I’m a better pie baker after taking the class!
However, a few things I think that could have been better… we spent a LOT of time on the chicken pot pie and I thought we could have used a bit more time on the other ones. It also would have been nice to be able to spend a bit more time on perfecting the dough. I was able to replicate it at home but I think a little more focus would have been nice.
I would definitely recommend this class and we’re looking forward to taking more classes at The Chopping Block!
After way too long of a hiatus, I’m back! I will confess that starting a new role at our now-combined companies (see previous posts about how my old company was purchased by another company) took a lot more of my time and attention than I anticipated. However, I’ve been itching to get back to writing!
So I’m back! I’ll be playing catch up a bit with some fun things that have happened over the past couple of months, but I actually wanted to start with some things that I’m looking forward to!
First, Gilmore Girls. Enough said. Countdown = 15 days. (Please, please, Amy Sherman Palladino, make up for the awful 7th season…!!)
Second, baking. I love when the weather cools down and I can justify using the oven more! (To come – a recap of a pie and tart baking class that I went to!) Now of course, from a health perspective, this isn’t always a great thing. But since I enjoy the process, I feel like I just need to brainstorm creative ways to get rid of the baked goods – ways that don’t involve me consuming thousands of unnecessary calories! Suggestions appreciated!
On the baking topic, my favorite podcast – Stuff You Missed in History Class – recently did an interview with Anne Byrn on her book American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer. The book discusses the history of cake in the United States and also provides recipes for some of the most iconic cakes. The book just arrived in the mail today and I can’t wait to read it! I’m also planning on baking my way through the book! So stay tuned for recaps on how that goes… I’m anticipating a mixture of hits and misses based on my baking abilities and some slightly odd sounding recipes… Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake???
Next – the holidays! I love the holidays – spending time with friends and family and hosting gatherings! I love hosting… and decorating… and cooking… it’s all great! So we’re entering on my favorite time of the year.
Lots of exciting stuff coming up! Stay tuned for more info!