18 Months

Well, we’ve reached 18 months! How did we get here!?

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Can we just look at the size of Caleb compared to that bear? Holy cow. So much different than when he was one month old.

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Bears need kisses, too.

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Little man loves reading, coloring, stickers, running around in circles, trying to kiss the dog, and Thomas the Tank Engine. Ohhhh Thomas. So many trains.

Trains on the floor…

Trains on the windowsill…

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Trains in the dishwasher, bathroom drawers, dirty dish pile, under the kitchen table, in between the couch cushions, you name it.

He is kind of obsessed. Thomas is on at 1:30PM on PBS. Cue snack, sippy cup, and puppy.

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He’s kind of a blur.

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That’s why we signed up for open gyms! 45 minutes of running around in a gym full of other toddlers. It’s so great!

He is such a fun little guy. He is sweet, giving everyone kisses when we leave any events, and still loves being sung to sleep. At the same time, he is also still fiercely independent, stubborn (where did he get that from?), and the typical toddler. Meaning that photo shoots facilitate tears.

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And books get shoved in your face, complete with long strands of drool.

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And work can’t be done without interruption. Parents need to taste test lollipops.

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All in all, he is pretty much super awesome and great. And big. Really, really big. 18 months came so quickly!

Julep Monthly Subscription Box Review

True or False: Julep is just another mediocre monthly subscription box.

Let’s read more to find out ;)

I ordered the Boho Glam Monthly Maven Julep box. The first box is free with code “freebox”, and shipping is also free! For three months, this comes out to $14.50/month. Totally manageable.

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As always, these subscription boxes automatically renew, so the key is looking up the cancellation policy before signing up.

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This one is very clear, so we are good to go! I create an event on my calendar with the cancellation information to make sure that I can cancel in time incase I don’t like the box or don’t want to continue the subscription.

From their website: “Each month, you’ll be able to customize your box with over $40 worth of color & beauty from a brand-new collection (or wait for a surprise). Plus, get 20% off and free shipping on julep.com after you join.”

The Boho Glam boxes come with two polish colors, based on your style profile, and one other non-polish product:

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You can also edit your box during a certain window of time (the 20th-24th of the month) before it ships. They send an email notification to let you know it’s editing time. You log on and click “Edit My Box” under My Account.

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So here were my initial selections for my October box. Two polishes and a lip gloss:

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So I just clicked “swap out”, and it gives you a list of items shipping with other October boxes for various style profiles, and you can choose which ones you want! You can also choose add-ons if you want some more goods.

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So, here is my updated box! Perfect!!!

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Let me just say that I really, really, really enjoy this box. The styles are 100% on-point for me, and the products are high quality. I am definitely satisfied and will be continuing my subscription.

Box 1 (August):

Gemma: Super cool, nude color for the end of summer (and basically anytime I need a color detox).

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Harriet: A little more flashy, but still “normal” colored polish. Perfect August color.

Mighty Nail & Cuticle Serum: Okay, seriously… I got this and was a little disappointed at first, with thoughts like “Why the heck would I need this?” and “It’s probably not going to work.” BUT it’s awesome, and my cuticles look great. Which sounds like a really weird thing to say, but seriously, they look healthy and great and I’m totally on my way to becoming a hand model.

Coupon: 50% off next online order.

Box 2 (September):

Look, I took a picture of the contents before I ripped the box apart this time!

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Erin: This polish is different from the first box. It emphasized oxygenating the nails (woohoo), and only took one simple coat to get a dark, lasting color. These colors were from the new Art Walk Collection.

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Mary Lee: Look ma, camouflage with my rocking chair! A burgundy shade perfect for the toes in September. Or for blending in to your rocking chair.

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Plush Pout Lip Crayon (Almond Nude): Oh my gosh! I like something with almond in the title! No, there are not real almonds in this lip crayon, so I am all for it! Luckily, this came right before date night, and the color is perfect. Let me tell ya, I am not really good at figuring out what lip color is right for me, but this one was great. Thanks, Julep people. I am also a fan of the packaging for this lip crayon, and also the texture. Great, great, and great.

Small candies: Super cute and delicious pineapple & coconut candies as a bonus.

Coupon: Free polish with $15+ order.

Box 3: October

Note: This is the box that I customized above.

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Cleopatra: It’s October. I can totally get black nailpolish.

Eliana: I LOVE this unique shade! It’s between blue and turquoise and is perfect for Fall.

Night Shift Sleeping Mask: I haven’t used this yet, but I’m excited! It looks interesting and had me at “reparative moisture mask” and a 4.5-star rating.

Coupon: 30% off coupon that can be used twice!

Little bag of candycorns (that Mike totally broke into before I could take the picture).

You can join here and choose your style profile for a box that fits your needs more if you are not a Boho Glam kinda girl ;) Plus, if you refer friends, there are rewards! Woohoo. (Shameless plug for you to click that link). The codes “FREEFALL” or “FREEBOX” will work to get your first box free! And seriously, I think you’ll be totally happy with the products.

Bake15: Chai-spiced Apple Pie (Pie #2)

October is the time for a visit to the apple orchard.

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In particular, Whittier Fruit Farm. We love it. The apple selection is great, and you can’t really complain about apples at 80 cents per pound.

They also have a “trac-tor”, as Caleb learned to say, to take visitors to the various apple sections. Straight to the Cortlands and Macouns, please.

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Look at how cool that kid is. Way cooler than me in those sunglasses. I’m definitely not getting any waves goodbye during his middle-school phase.

We also went with this sweet couple and their little Sophie.

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And then we picked for awhile and ended up with 23 lbs of apples. That’s like, a lot of apples.

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^ that many apples. With feet in the picture for reference.

We also attempted to take some photos in a wagon, and those just ended up being awkward because it was so windy. Note: always take the cute wagon pictures before apple picking when everyone is 100% happy and smiling.

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Anyway, to the pie.

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I had an apple-tasting helper. “Look, mom, try this!” I know, right, Caleb? Apples are pretty darn good.

A neighbor let me borrow her apple corer & peeler. It worked for smaller apples, but not so much for the huge Cortlands that we got from the orchard.

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But, you can’t really argue with that cool spiral. 99.9% sure I can’t do that by hand. And the remaining 0.1% of me is not going to try.

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For the larger apples, I just peeled and chopped them into large chunks myself, then used the slicer blade for the food processor – and voilá! Super thin apple slices. Why so thin? Well, my mom sent me an article on the science of a good apple pie, and that’s what science says to do! Apparently the apple cider vinegar in the crust is also based on science.

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I like to use a large, plastic bowl with a lid to mix the spices and apples. Put the lid on and shake a bit, and the apples are perfectly and super evenly coated!

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Then, of course, for proper ventilation (as also mentioned in the science of an apple pie article), a dinosaur can be cut in the middle of the pie. Because, why not?

I also read that pretty much any tool can be used to make a cool pattern in the crust, so I tried this heart-shaped wine stopper.

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Foil to protect the crust + an egg white coating = a pie ready for the oven!

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Then you wait a little for it to cool and devour it.

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The pie ratings:

The pie rating scale is a Mike-determined scale from 1 – 10, with a 5 being the “classic, homemade apple pie”, and 10 being the highest rating.

Emily: 6

Mike: 6.5

I still like this crust recipe, although I am not certain that it was the right one for this apple pie. But, I think the amount of spice in the pie was a good, subtle amount to still get the chai flavor, but not be too overwhelming, so that was great!

Chai-spiced Apple Pie

Adapted from thekitchenpaper

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of pie dough from this recipe (save the egg whites!)
  • 5 large Cortland apples (~ 3 cups sliced)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp coriander
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • pinch of black pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375˚F
  • Peel and slice apples in large chunks. Then, put through food processor using the ‘slicing’ blade to slice apples very thin
  • Place sliced apples, sugar, cornstarch, and spices in a large bowl. Put lid on bowl and shake to coat apples with spices evenly
  • Roll out the bottom pie crust and put it in the pan
  • Place apples in the pie pan
  • Roll out the top pie crust and use a cookie cutter to cut a shape out of the middle (I suggest a dino ;) ) – then place the pie crust on top of the pie filling
  • Trim excess crust from the sides and press the top and bottom crusts together
  • Brush the top of the crust with egg white
  • Cover the crust with aluminum foil, place the pie in the oven, and bake for 50 minutes
  • Remove the foil from the crust and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The crust will be golden brown
  • Take the pie out of the oven and let cool for two to three hours. Then, eat up!!

Bake15: Pear Pie with Red Wine and Rosemary (Pie #1)

Pie #1 is baked! I found this Pear Pie with Red Wine and Rosemary on BonAppetit, and chose it because:

(1) The flavor was really interesting

(2) The method of pie-crust-making was very different than my normal (grandma’s) method

(3) I have never made a pie where the sauce is made first, and then tossed with the fruit to create the filling

(4) This pie uses the super-intimidating-to-me lattice structure on top that I have never tried before!

So first… This crust!

“Pulse granulated sugar, salt, and 3 cups flour in a food processor to combine. Add butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.”

I have never made a crust where a food processor was used to blend the dry ingredients with the butter/shortening. But it was awesome! It worked so well. Obviously. Because a food processor is a lot better at blending things by itself than I am with a fork.

Secondly, the egg mixture, which was added after the food processor step, contained apple cider vinegar. Yeah, apple cider vinegar in pie crust.

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It just gets mixed right in there. And apparently it makes the pie crust amazing.

The end result is eventually two disks of dough that need to be refrigerated for at least an hour. Here’s where the filling gets started!

Thanks, CSA, for the huge bunch of pears and for making this pie possible.

After slicing for a million years, the pears can finally be sliced and put aside in a bowl. Then you just have to hope that they are patient enough to wait for everything else to be done.

Because now it’s time to make the sauce. It’s thick. And it smells really good.

While making this sauce with sugar, cornstarch, flour, cinnamon, and wine, one may realize, “Hey – I just opened a bottle of really good wine. I should probably have a glass of that.”

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Which is exactly what I did. So there ya go – wine time. The best part of cooking a pie with wine? You get to drink the wine.

So fast forward 30 minutes to when the sauce is chilled – it gets blended in with the pears to create a kind of odd-looking filling… Probably just because it’s purple.

At this point, your pie dough should have also been chilled for an hour or more. As my lovely mother taught me, you should always roll out your pie dough on wax paper so that you can easily transfer the pie dough to the dish and peel of the wax paper. It’s flawless.

Now everything is finally coming together!! The filling is in, and it is put on a baking sheet for cooking in the oven later. And now is where you might start praying a little prayer that you can make a nice lattice structure on the pie.

Okay, but seriously, making a lattice wasn’t that hard at all. I’m not sure why I thought it was so intimidating! I guess just because it looks pretty fancy.

Then comes the part where the beautiful aromas come out of the oven for an hour and a half and your stomach starts saying, “Hey, I want some pie.”

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Look at that beauty! Okay, so it bubbled through the lattice a little bit, but that’s fine. Whatever. I’m no Bon Appetit baker and photographer; I’m just a girl makin’ some pies.

The worst part about this pie was that we had to wait FOUR HOURS for it to cool until we could eat it. I’m trying really hard to actually follow the instructions, since Mike always yells at me for not doing everything as exactly listed by the recipe. I mean, what’s the fun in that? ;)

The pie review:

Crust: I really liked this crust. It was a totally new way of making pie crust, but I loved the food processor step. The dough was really easy to work with, especially after being chilled for an hour.

Filling: The method of making the sauce and blending with the pears was new to me. But, it worked well to avoid having a runny pie filling. I think that it gave a really great wine flavor to the pie since the wine was boiled and blended with sugar and spices (and everything nice). Have you ever had wine jelly, or any other non-liquid wine products from a winery? The flavor was similar to those items.

Overall: This is a really unique pie, and great for the Fall. I could see this as a perfect Thanksgiving pie with a glass of wine after dinner. The lattice ensures that it’s not too heavy, and you can actually eat a normal-sized piece without feeling like a total glutton.

The pie ratings:

The pie rating scale is a Mike-determined scale from 1 – 10, with a 5 being the “classic, homemade apple pie”, and 10 being the highest rating.

Emily: 7

Mike: 6.5

Not too shabby for pie numero uno!

Bake15: Pies

Alright… I am starting a new project. It’s called Bake15: Pies. Bake15: Pies is a project to ‘master’ piemaking. I have my grandma’s recipe for crust and chart on pie fillings, which have honestly never let me down, but I am ready to branch out and see what other pies are waiting to be made!

Why Bake15? I am baking 15 pies. It seemed like a good number – manageable, but not too few where it’s not really a “challenge”. I plan on reusing the “Bake15″ again in the future when the pies are made and I am ready to move onto something new!

Do I have a timeframe or end date? Kind of. Less than a year, and hopefully by next summer. This is probably a project for when I’m stuck inside during the Rochester winter.

Will I eat all of the pies? No; I don’t want to weigh 400 lbs. I will try all of them, of course, with Mike. Pies are meant for sharing and bringing to dinner parties and spending time with your neighbors.

Now, I just need pie recipes!!! (And maybe people to bake with?) So… if ya got ‘em, send ‘em. Sweet. Tart. Fruit. Savory. Meat. Meringue… Send your favorite or a recipe you’ve been waiting to try. In the meantime, I’ll be rummaging through Pinterest and Foodgawker looking for unique recipes. Just remember: no almonds, and no bananas – I can’t eat either!

Oh, and also, I mayyyy have already made Pie #1. And consumed piece #1 right before writing this post. But details on that will come later. For now, leave your thoughts and your pie recipes in the comments!

Toddler Activity: Coloring Letters to Mail

Some days, I have a lot of work to do. As in, this past week and probably next week as well. While it’s super easy to turn the TV on and plop Caleb on the couch all day (and, okay, it happens probably for an hour or two when I have busier days), I’d prefer if he wasn’t zoning out during his entire wake time! This just means that Caleb needs a few more independent activities to do… And that is totally okay! He’s a pretty independent little guy ;) And kids need some freedom and time to spend by themselves.

Lately, like most kids, he loves coloring. But as a Mom, I can easily get way too many pictures that I wouldn’t be able to display. We do have an art wall for him, but let’s face it – I don’t really want an entire art hallway. Sorry, Caleb.

We’ve found that a great alternative to coloring on a big sheet of paper is to color smaller notecards and send them to friends and family members. That way, you get to share your kiddo’s artwork, and keep the grandparents (etc) happy! ;) Caleb is also happy because he can it by me while I work.

Usually, I let him go to town, then sign and date the cards.

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Voilá! Mini artwork for the fridge, made with love. (Possibly coming to your fridge soon).