Reviews

Book Review!

Guest author: Ariel Knapp

While Chad and Caitlyn are making their way to Japan (safe travels you two!) I thought it would be a good time for a book review.

IMG_2844The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester
This book took forever for me to get through and I am very glad I’m done. I read The Professor and the Madman by Winchester years ago and enjoyed it. I thought the subject was interesting and well written and that made me want to read other books by Winchester. Unfortunately, the subject matter of The Men Who United the States has never appealed to me so it was difficult to get through. If you like American history and want to read about Lewis and Clark, canal building, transcontinental railroads, and the invention of electricity then I think this would be a good book for you. Otherwise, you might want to skip this one.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Before this book the only Murakami book I read was What I Talk About When I Talk About Running a nonfiction book about his experience with running. I enjoyed that book and when Caitlyn told me she and a friend were reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki… for their book club I though I’d read it too. Murakami goes into great detail about character personality and appearance as well as scene description, which I appreciated because I think it added a lot to the story.

Austenland by Shannon Hale
This book was made into a movie. I watched the movie first because I had no idea it was a book. While the book was a light read and I liked it, I thought the movie captured the comedy of the story a lot better. The book is a bout Jane who is obsessed with Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. She takes a trip to Austenland, a themed destination vacation where people experience Jane Austen’s world complete with period costumes and activities. If you have to make a choice between watching the movie and reading the book, I think this is one of those rare occasions when the movie is better.

Have you read any good books lately? What do you do when you start a book and don’t like it? Do you finish the book anyway or do stop reading and move on to the next book?

Bookspiration

Book Round-up

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp

Caitlyn and I are big readers. Throughout the years we’ve started and stopped book clubs together and with other people (she’s got one with her friend Amanda right now that I might join). We’d read the book and then make something (usually food related) that was connected to the book. It was always a lot of fun. And now, I follow a few bloggers who share the books they’ve been reading on their blogs. I thought that was really cool and wanted to do the same. Here’s a small round-up of what I’ve been reading:

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I really liked this book. Amy’s got a great writing voice and while there wasn’t anything really profound about this book I came away from it wanting her to be my new best friend. She’s not afraid of life and seems to be open to everything, which you get from the title of her book.

Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub
This was an interesting book if for no other reason than to realize how prevalent sugar has become in our diets. Eve has a blog where she chronicled her family’s struggle with a truly sugar free diet that she wrote into this book. I try to limit sugar in my diet most of the time so it was cool to read about the extremes this family went through to avoid sugar.

Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I’m glad I read this book. I didn’t like it but I’m glad I read it. It was easy to read, almost too easy. If you weren’t paying attention you could miss some important passages. With all the things going on in politics about women’s health issues I think it’s a good idea to read this book. I was surprised how relevant I found this book considering it was written 29 years ago.

So, there’s a few books I’ve read lately. I hope you liked this little round-up. Sorry there’s no pictures of the book covers, but I thought of this post after I had returned all the books to the library. I’ll leave you with a picture of the books I’m currently reading/will read.

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What have you been reading lately? Let me know if you like this post and would like to see more in the future.

Projects

Knitting Project: Fair Isle Socks

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp

I’ve been a knitter for over a decade. Over the last few years, I’ve been expanding my skills as a knitter. I went from knitting scarves to knitting sweaters, blankets, baby clothes, etc. One thing I hadn’t tried, though, was fair isle knitting. It seemed too complicated and fussy. But last winter I decided to try my hand at fair isle. I found this sock pattern on Ravelry, which is a great resource for knitters and crocheters. I had knit socks before and thought it would be something familiar to knit while also being a smaller project in case I couldn’t stand knitting fair isle. Here’s what I ended up with:

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There are so many mistakes! One sock is bigger than the other (the consequence of knitting the second sock a year after knitting the first sock), the color of the one contrast yarn doesn’t match from one sock to the other, there are pattern screw ups, and no ankle shaping. But, whatever, this was a practice pattern and I love my too big, mistake-ridden socks.

Are you a knitter? What have you knitted?

Uncategorized

October: National Popcorn Poppin’ Month

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp

Good morning and happy October first! Did you know October was National Popcorn Poppin’ Month? I just found that out earlier this week when I visited this popcorn website. My family and I love popcorn! We usually have it as a snack once or twice a week. And we don’t use microwave popcorn, either. We pop it on the stove top. It’s super easy to do and you don’t have to worry about all the chemicals that get added to the microwave variety. If you’ve never popped popcorn on the stove top before here’s a quick run through of how to do it along with some topping choices that we like at my house.

First, gather the ingredients (such as they are) together:IMG_2813That’s it. All you need is oil and popcorn. Canola oil is a good neutral oil to use plus it’s good at high temperatures. Cover the bottom of a high sided pot with the oil and then pour in the popcorn. IMG_2815You want the popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan but not be overcrowded because then you get kernels that don’t pop. Cover the pot and apply medium high heat like so:IMG_2816At the same time, put a small amount of butter in another pot over low heat so it will melt and you can pour it over your popcorn.IMG_2820Pretty soon, your popcorn kernels will start popping. Turn off the heat when the time between popping sounds is about 3 seconds or so long.

my dog Barley gets very excited when we make popcorn
my dog Barley gets very excited when we make popcorn

IMG_2825This is what happens when you overfill the pot with kernels. But it’s ok because the more popcorn the better if you ask me. When the popcorn has stopped popping, transfer it to a large container and pour the melted butter all over it.IMG_2829

Most of the time, I eat my popcorn without butter but with plenty of salt and pepper. But other times we’ve put parmesan cheese on it, Italian seasoning or even these handy little seasonings.IMG_2823The most important thing when having popcorn? Making sure you have a friend to share it with.IMG_2828If you haven’t tried making popcorn at home before I hope you try it out soon. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with different flavors and toppings!

Friday Five

Friday Five: Apples

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp

I’ve always wanted to go apple picking. I hear about Crane’s in Fennville and I’m filled with envy over all the people who go there to pick apples, eat delicious baked goods, and wash it all down with apple cider. I would make apple picking more of a priority except every year I can get as many apples as I want for free. And they come to me. There is a very wonderful woman who brings big bucketsful of apples to me and my coworkers every year. She picks apples, way more than she can use, and we reap the benefits of her generosity. It’s a pretty sweet deal. But what do you do when you have an almost unlimited supply of apples? Sure, you can make apple pie after apple pie, but what happens when apple pie loses it’s appeal? You scour the web (or just Pinterest) for new apple recipes. So, without further ado, here’s five apple recipes you might want to take a look at if you’re like me and have more apples than you know what to do with.

1. Apple Fritter Bread courtesy of the Peanut Butter Fingers blog
Apple fritters are my favorite donut and yet I’ve never made this bread. I might have to make it a priority this year.

apple fritter loaf

2. Apple Pie Biscuits via Joy the Baker
I made these the other day. I’ll admit, I didn’t roll out the dough enough so the biscuits were pretty doughy. Not really a success, but the filling was amazing! I’m definitely going to try making these again very soon.

apple pie biscuits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls by Sally’s Baking Addiction
I love Sally’s Baking Addiction. Every time I google a recipe Sally’s already made it and then took it to the next level. I made a deal with my boss at the library that I would bring in these cinnamon rolls if he bought Sally’s new cookbook. The cinnamon rolls were a hit and now anyone can come check out the Sally’s Baking Addiction cookbook when they come to the library.

Soft, fluffy cinnamon rolls stuffed with brown sugar & apples, and generously glazed with homemade caramel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Applesauce
Making applesauce from scratch is super easy. All you have to do is chop up apples and throw them in a pan with a little water, white or brown sugar, and some cinnamon, then you cook it down until it’s the consistency you want. Thick, thin, smooth or chunky applesauce, the results are totally up to you and your preferences. And there’s nothing like the smell of homemade applesauce simmering on the stove on a crisp fall day.

5. Apple Chips
Here’s a healthier treat to make with apples. Dried fruit is awesome. It’s such an easy snack that doesn’t have any added sugar so you don’t have to feel bad about eating a lot at one time, which is what I would do/have done.

baked apple chips Baked Apple Chips

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you like to make with apples? Do you have a favorite recipe that you make over and over?

Uncategorized

Wheatland!

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp

A couple of weekends ago Chad, Caitlyn, Justin, our friend LeeAnn and I went to Wheatland Music Festival. I’ve been going to Wheatland almost every year of my life and it is definitely one of my happy places. There’s good music, great food, and fun times with friends. Caitlyn posted about Wheatland last year so you already know about the gloriousness that is blueberry pancake sausage on a stick. Unfortunately, I didn’t take as many pictures as I wanted to. I was having too much fun to remember to bring my camera with me whenever I left the campsite.

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isn’t that a beautiful face Caitlyn is making?
LeeAnn making her fancy sangria
LeeAnn making her fancy sangria
Chad making friendship bracelets at Middle Ground
Chad making friendship bracelets at Middle Ground
Caitlyn made felt purses and henna at Middle Ground as her volunteering
Caitlyn made felt purses and henna at Middle Ground as her volunteering
here's my parents. they've been going to Wheatland for 30 some years.
here’s my parents. they’ve been going to Wheatland for 30 some years.

It’s hard to find the right words to describe the conversations we had (that would not be nearly as funny to anyone who wasn’t there as they were to us) and the irritation you feel upon being woken up for the fourth time in one night because the drum circle is still going strong or a group of 15 people have broken out in song. Despite not sleeping well, we had a fantastic time. It’s always hard to leave at the end of the weekend. You want to stay and continue to have a great time with your friends, camping in the woods, eating awesome food, and listening to really talented musicians.

Friday Five

Friday Five: Blueberries

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp

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I recently went to Reenders Blueberry Farms for some U-pick blueberry fun. I did this for the first time last year, going only once and soon realized that once was not enough. I quickly went through most of the blueberries and then went into panic mode thinking I didn’t have enough left to get me through the year until the next blueberry season. While I was picking blueberries this time I was already planning my next trip to Reenders. I might have a problem. But that’s okay because they’re blueberries and blueberries are good for you with all their antioxidants and what not. So I thought I’d share five recipes using blueberries in case anyone out there finds themselves with 20 pounds of this delicious fruit like me and doesn’t know what to do with them.

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1. Blueberry Lime Jam
Caitlyn and I both made this jam last year. It was really delicious! The lime was an unexpected flavor combination with the blueberry but it worked well. Of course,if you don’t like lime you could always substitute lemon for a just as amazing jam.

2. Blueberry Crumb Cake
Leave it to Martha Stewart and her team to come up with a flavorful cake showcasing blueberries. The buttermilk used in this recipe makes a rich, moist cake. The tip to toss the blueberries in flour before adding them to the batter so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake works great!

3. Dried Blueberries
Spread blueberries on a parchment lined baking sheet and put in the oven at 225 for 3 and a half hours for a home made version of those expensive store bought dried blueberries. You could drizzle honey over the berries before drying to sweeten them if you like. These are great to throw into a trail mix, have with granola, or use in oatmeal.

4. Frozen Blueberries
Frozen berries can be expensive so whenever possible I like to freeze my own. I put a single layer on a rimmed metal baking sheet and put in the freezer for 24 hours. Then I just put them in a freezer bag and I’m able to enjoy blueberries all year. These are good in smoothies as a way to thicken them without having to use ice cubes.

5. Blueberry Syrup
If you ever get tired of using regular syrup, why not make your own fruit syrup?

Do you pick your own blueberries? What are some of your favorite blueberry recipes?

~Ariel