For the holidays, we were very lucky to be able to celebrate with our family over the course of several days. First, we had our annual cookie baking day on the 23rd, then on Christmas Eve, we celebrated with G’s family and then on Christmas Day we had a big breakfast with both families before we spent the rest of the day with my family. Over the course of the holidays, we had a lot of reminiscing and laughing, Christmas movies and hot chocolate, games and treats. It was a great year and we’re always thankful to be able to spent time with our loved ones. I wanted to share just a few photos from around our celebrations!
All right – I’m officially back from my holiday hiatus and ready to get back in the swing of things! We had a wonderful holiday weekend celebrating with family! Pictures of the festivities to come tomorrow! And I’m excited to have the week off to get some stuff done around the house, relax a bit and visit with G’s sister and fiance while they’re in town! More info on fun from the break to come. In the meantime, a few Midweek Sparkles from around the internet…
- As our Christmas present to each other (and with some help from a generous gift from G’s parents), G and I bought ourselves a new bed and it was just delivered today! We have a bed hog for a puppy so we upgraded to a king with a needed new mattress. We’re trying out the Leesa. I went through a lot of options for that type of mattress (the Helix, Purple, Casper, etc.), but decided on the Leesa. I like the 100 night guarantee so that we can always go a different route if we don’t like the mattress.
- As I mentioned last week, I just got a new mirrorless camera so and we’ve signed up for a class at Balanced Exposure to better learn how to use it. But in the meantime, I’ve been reading some internet tutorials like this and this. Any other suggestions for good tutorials?
- I’m currently obsessed with the show Outdaughtered on TLC and really enjoyed the video that was posted to the Busby family blog with their Christmas celebration.
- The State of Iowa (where I was born) turned 170 years old today and I like this look back at historic pictures from the state’s capitol building…
That’s all the Midweek Sparkles for this week and I’m looking forward to getting back to regular blog posting. Pictures from the holidays, another cake from history and more coming your way this week!
Ok, I’m late for my Midweek Sparkles date. I’m sorry! Travel for work and preparations for holidays have thrown off my schedule this week. But I am sooo excited for the holidays this weekend! Tomorrow we’re baking cookies, kicking off a full weekend of family holiday celebrating!
In the meantime, here are some interesting things from around the internet!
- I found this map fascinating… especially since the United State stays in the same place!
- I can get behind this kind of coal in my stocking!
- Chrome nails? Some of these variations on the trend are pretty – like the rose gold!
- Inspiration for some of my next craft projects!?
On a side note – I’ve been watching the HGTV holiday themed shows and am really enjoying them. I also want to visit Holly, Michigan and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania now!
That’s it for this week’s (almost) Midweek Sparkles. Stay tuned for pictures from our cookie baking and holiday celebrations!
So admittedly, I’ve gotten a bit carried away in the holiday rush of things and that has not left a lot of time for writing. But I wanted to share a few highlights from this past weekend!
It was VERY cold this weekend in the Chicago area (see Buddy all snuggled up under his blanket!). So that tends to lead to me wanting to hibernate under a blanket with a cup of tea and book or movie. And I did do a fair amount of that. But I also got out to do some fun things and some productive things!
On the productive side, I finished the last of my Christmas shopping, finalized my menu for the holidays (and associated grocery shopping list!) and did some organizing around the house. But for the fun side…
First, G’s sister and her fiance came back to town for the holidays and we were able to spend some quality time with them which was fantastic! We got to have dinner with them on Saturday and brunch with them on Sunday to help research some potential restaurants for their wedding reception next year! Let me tell you, they were both fantastic! One of the highlights – this french toast dish from Fig & Olive. Seriously, I can’t even describe how good it was – and normally I prefer pancakes or waffles over french toast. But it had a fig jam, vanilla whipped cream, fresh fruit and maple syrup. Delicious!
Spending time with them was definitely the highlight of our weekend. In other exciting news though, thanks to an (inadvertently) early holiday gift and (intentionally) early birthday gift from my parents, I ordered a new camera! I’ve always wanted to get into (completely amateur) photography and played around with it a bit in high school, but have never had my own SLR or dSLR. I am super excited to have ordered the Sony Alpha a6000 – it’s a mirrorless digital camera, which is basically a new body-type for cameras that offers the same type of customization for filming as the SLRs but in a MUCH smaller body!
Everyone around me knows that I LOVE pictures – so of course that means I have to have a healthy selection of cameras. We have a GoPro (thanks to G’s sister and fiance from Christmas last year!) that’s awesome for action photography and videos, and two point and shoot cameras (one is waterproof and one is good for low-light/indoor photography). I think this will be a perfect addition for more studio-type pictures, family pictures, etc. I do need to learn how to use it though – so I’ve got some tutorials on the books and a class in January!
I’ll definitely provide a review of the camera after I have it for a while. In the meantime, that’s my weekend recap! I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!
It’s that time of the week again – time for another edition of Midweek Sparkles!
This week has been COLD in the Chicago area and I know we have more cold coming up… not fun! But what is fun is that we’re getting ready for the holidays! Our house is decorated, holiday cards were just sent, presents are purchased… we’re on our way! Now I need to finalize the menus for the actual holidays but we’ve got a good start!
- This looks delicious!! Maybe it will be on our Christmas morning menu…
- I LOVE alfajores (a caramel-like sandwich cookie) and so now this restaurant is on the top of my Chicago-stop list!
- I recently tried this way to reheat pizza, and it is the best!
- Top Books of 2016 – unfortunately I haven’t read any of these… but they’re going on my list!
- I’ve been reading through these blog resources because I’m hoping I can get on a better editorial calendar pattern!
That’s all I’ve got for this week – I hope everyone in the area stays warm! 🙂
I love DIY projects and crafts – I don’t always have a lot of time for them but when I can make time, I really enjoy them! So recently I made some DIY roman shades for our secondary guest room. I say secondary guest room, because our primary guest room is actually in the basement since it has an ensuite bathroom as well. But, at times when we have two guest rooms occupied (I love hosting!), we use our secondary guest room which is upstairs.
While that room is furnished and relatively comfortable – with easy access to the hall bathroom, I hadn’t had a chance to deal with window dressings since we moved into our house a year ago. While I don’t think it looked awful, I know that it created a lack of privacy and could lead to early wake-up calls, especially in the summer! So before we have family staying with us for the holidays, I wanted to make sure that we got that taken care of! The gift of privacy and sleeping in! 🙂
G actually passed this tutorial along to me and I immediately knew I wanted to try it! I will say that I think the results were pretty successful – I made two sets for the two windows and they turned out well. I wish our windows had been a bit deeper (or our blinds not as deep) and I also think that it wasn’t quite as cost effective as I thought it would be. I mean it wasn’t a lot more expensive than purchased roman shades – and I did get to pick my own, very nice fabric – but it wasn’t significantly cheaper either. If you already had the blinds, then it would be a big cost savings.
Definitely watch the video for detailed instructions but here’s the basic run through.
You start off with your supplies: faux wood blinds (like these), fabric, fabric glue, scissors, an iron and a tape measure. Plus a really big work space!
After gathering the supplies you cut the ladder strings (the ones that space out the slats), NOT the main string in the middle.
After removing the ladder strings, you need to break off the extra slats. The video recommends one slat for every seven inches of window height. However, I think I would space them out a bit farther if I did the project again – maybe every 8-9 inches.
Then you space out the slats on the fabric that you’ve cut to be the correct dimensions.
Then you’ll glue the fabric to the blinds on the edges and in the middle – being careful not to glue down the string which will make the blinds go up and down.
All laid out and drying! Note – the video suggests clothespins to hold the fabric down. I forgot to get these but they would have been VERY helpful!
And here they are – all finished!
And both of them in the room!
There it is – DIY roman shades to provide some privacy and sunrise protection for the guest room! This was a fun project – it took me about 2-3 hours to do both sets of blinds. (Not including hanging them up with G did the next day!) Check out the video tutorial if you’re interested in trying it yourself!
Now on to my next project!
We started baking our way through American History with the book American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer by Anne Byrn (you may also know her as the Cake Mix Doctor!). We’re currently in the 1650-1799 time period and our first cake was the American Gingerbread. We really enjoyed the first cake – both the process and the results – and were excited to try our next cake from the time period.
We chose Harriott Horry’s Water Cake for our second cake! Harriott Horry managed a large rice plantation in the south during the Revolutionary War – even entertaining George Washington in her home – and wrote down many of her “receipts” – even before the first American cook book. The water cake is a sponge cake that got it’s name because sugar from the West Indies was often sold to the colonies in large bricks – the cooks would then either need to crumble off sugar or, as with this cake, dissolve it in water first.
This was the first sponge cake that my mom and I had ever made, and I have to be completely honest here – it did not turn out well for us. I have no doubt that the recipe is good and it was human error. See below for the process and where I think we may have gone wrong…
Now, in the interest of full disclosure – while the cake looked pretty good, it did not taste good. It was super chewy…. Sponge cake shouldn’t be chewy.
I have a few guesses as to where we went wrong. First, we dissolved the sugar in the water over low heat. I think I may have overcooked the sugar water and pushed it more towards almost a candy temperature. Also, maybe we over-mixed when adding the flour?
Although it wouldn’t have impacted the taste, we also ran into some problems with the batter leaking out of the springform pan. Overall, this cake proved harder than we anticipated… I mean there are like 6 ingredients, we thought it would be a piece of cake! (Pun intended!) But not so much. Oh well, it was still fun and I still enjoyed learning about the historical baking methods!
I think our next cake is going to be a King Cake from New Orleans! Hopefully that one will turn out better!
I LOVE decorating for the holidays. I think that Christmas holiday decorations are so warm and inviting – from the tree with lights to the garland around the banister and on the mantles…. All of the reds and golds and greens…
I wanted to share some of the photos of our home halls all decked out! This is our second Christmas in this house and I’m still working out exactly how I want to do it – so I’m sure it’ll shift a bit over the years but I think we have a pretty good start.
So that’s a sample of our holiday decorations – we have some garland on the banisters too and G did a great job on the outdoor lights! Follow me on Twitter and I’ll be posting additional photos in the next few days! (We’re supposed to get a big snowstorm which make the lights look even cooler!)
I’m going to keep this Midweek Sparkles edition short and sweet because I’m writing it from a hotel room on a business trip and if I’m doing the math correctly, I’ve been up for almost 20 hours… (I hate those super early flights!)
This past weekend, I was super excited to get out our holiday decorations (pictures to come soon!). I decked the halls and put the ornaments on the tree! So this Midweek Sparkles is centered (kind of loosely) around that theme:
- I love this simple approach to holiday decorating – my house is a bit more traditional and less farmhouse/rustic but it couldn’t be more perfect for this house!
- Another example of holiday decorations that I love! Again, it’s a bit more southern/modern than our house but so beautiful!
- I really wish I had had these slippers while decorating… may have to be a Christmas splurge!
- I may have found some new inspiration for our holiday decorations!
- I want to up my holiday tablescape game next year! Maybe some of these will inspire me…
Ok, I’m now officially going to crash with visions of red table cloths, holiday candles and trees running through my brain.
Ok – so let’s get the first thing out of the way…. the rest of this post will contain SPOILERS… lots and lots of spoilers for the Gilmore Girls revival. If you haven’t watched it yet and don’t want to find out what happens, don’t read any more.
I mean it….Now’s your chance to leave if you don’t want to know…
Now that that’s out of the way – I wanted to share some thoughts on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am a rabid Gilmore Girls fan. I watched it when it was on live TV, watched countless reruns on ABC Family, bought the DVDs and have re-watched it at least four full times between the DVDs and Netflix. Like many other GG fans, I was not thrilled with Season 7 – so I was very excited when the reunion/revival was announced.
I waited and anticipated for months… and then it finally came time to watch it. I put on my requisite GG t-shirt and sat down with one of my best friends – a friend that I watched the series with then it was airing live on TV the first time! And we watched…
And I was disappointed. I know that might not be the popular thing to say – GG fans are supposed to love it no matter what. But I was truly disappointed. I didn’t HATE it (well, I hated parts of it), but I also loved parts of it. Overall though, I was left disappointed. And here’s why….
Inconsistent Characters that Were No Longer Likable
I felt like a lot of the characters in the show significantly changed fundamental parts of their personalities. I understand that this show is 10 years later and that people grow and change – but I felt like some of the characters were, at times, unrecognizable from the previous seasons. For example, Rory – yes in the first season she has an affair with Dean while he’s married… however, it occurs over two days and she ends up feeling truly horrible about it. It causes her strife with her mother and enough guilt that she can’t even wait to see him in person to resolve it. It seems completely out of character for her – having had this experience and being an intelligent woman who has learned from her mistakes throughout the show – to carry on a long term affair with an emotionally unavailable Logan who is engaged to someone else. Not only does it seem out of character, but it also makes me not like her.
I also feel like it’s out of character for Lorelai to have allowed her and Luke to have seemingly remained in a relationship-stasis for the past 10 years. No movement or discussion of marriage. No movement or discussion of kids. This from a woman who has done nothing but drive her life forward… from creating a career, proactively raising a child, pursuing and purchasing her own business… all of these things take initiative and going after what you want. Not ignoring major questions or issues for a decade. Not to mention that she basically goes crazy waiting for the issues with April/the wedding to be resolved.
I could go on here with Emily (I won’t even get into the weird maid/household help situation) and even minor characters life Sophie and some of the townspeople. But to sum it up – at times I felt like I couldn’t connect the characters with their past selves. And as I discussed, having likable characters was one of the my favorite parts about the original Gilmore Girls.
Mish-Mash of Content
For having about 6.5 hours of content… not much story is told. I honestly kind of felt like this was a mish mash of every idea that the Palladinos had for Gilmore Girls just all thrown in because they weren’t sure they’d ever have another chance. I mean seriously they spent WAYY too long on the Stars Hollow Musical, and on the Wild segment, and on the swimming pool situation, and on the weird Steam Punk scenes with the Life and Death Brigade. And – importantly – a lot of these sections didn’t really feel like traditional Gilmore Girls, weren’t that entertaining and didn’t add anything to the plot line. I really wish we had gotten more plot and less of this random extra stuff.
And while I’m on this point – I’m going to add to the chorus of people who don’t like the Paul plotline. I think it served zero purpose and just made Rory and those around her look like cruel people.
Played into Millennial Stereotypes
I feel like this show – particularly how it dealt with Rory – played into every Millennial sterotype out there… not being satisfied with a regular job, trying to “find yourself”, having to move home and live with parents, one night stands/promiscuous behavior, etc. For the record, I am approximately the same age as Rory is supposed to and I’m surrounded by people my age who have good jobs, are married and/or starting families, have purchased a house (and have LONG lived in their own apartments paid for by their own income). I couldn’t relate to how Rory grew up – particularly given the fact that she had every advantage in life. I have to say – and I feel weird saying this about a fictional character but it must be done – I expected better. What happened to the girl who chased down leads and connections. Who was about to board a bus to follow the Obama campaign around the country?
Ok, so I admit, I saw the ending coming as soon as Rory started talking to Christopher in his office. So it wasn’t a surprise (although I’m still trying to figure out if the “yeah” from Lorelai was intended to be one of the four words or if Rory was supposed to say “Mom, I am pregnant”… vs. “Mom, I’m pregnant”…). But honestly, I like this ending even less than I liked the ending to the 7th season. Again – it seems out of character for Rory… in the age of many forms of contraception, an accidental pregnancy doesn’t make sense, especially for her character. And again, I expected better. I think the fact that all signs point to the baby coming out of her (frowned upon) relationship with Logan, makes it even worse. I tried to justify the ending by for the Palladinos by thinking about it as coming full circle… but I don’t think this is one of those instances where coming full circle is a good thing. I think that Lorelai would have wanted Rory to learn from her life – and in fact wanted Rory to climb mountains and find the kind of success that she had to struggle more for. I just didn’t see this ending – and I also think it doesn’t fit with the 10 year gap. Maybe it could have fit into a season 7 or the nonexistent season 8. But just doesn’t work for me here.
But It’s Not All Bad for the Gilmore Girls
Having said all of that – there are moments where you can glimpse the amazingness that is Gilmore Girls. The phone call from Lorelai to Emily while she’s in California, the conversation between Luke and Lorelai when they finally decide to get married, pretty much EVERY scene that Paris is in… the witty dialogue, strong characters and distinct flow of the show do shine through at times. I just wish that it had been the focus rather than brief segments which made the whole thing bearable.
When the seventh season ended, I kept hoping for something like this revival that would “fix” what had happened at the end of the show. Unfortunately now I’m left hoping for another revival that will “fix” this one.
Gilmore Girls, I still love you!!