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?

Friday Five

Friday Five: DIY Flower Crowns

I’ll be real: Allergies/A cold/SOMETHING STUPID have/has been kicking my butt, I slept a lot today, and I love fall but I feel like it’s coming too soon. As I realize all of these things are out of my control, I’ve decided to focus instead on something I want to make: a flower crown! Here are five pretty flower crowns I’d like to use for inspiration:

bts-march_diy_flwr16This festival crown (with a DIY!) from modclothfall floral crown diyThis pretty autumn floral crown (also with a DIY) from Sincerely, Kinseyflower-crown-diy2This spring DIY from Kelli Murray…stylemeprettyLovely inspiration from Style Me Pretty…tiaraAnd this sweet autumn wedding tiara on etsy.

I was hoping to make a flower crown in time for Wheatland (click here for a post from last year), but I didn’t get a chance. Now I’m thinking of excuses to make one and wear it out–any ideas? Have you ever made a floral crown? I would love to hear about it!

Friday Five

Friday Five: Blueberries

Guest Author: Ariel Knapp


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.








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?


Friday Five

Products I’m Loving 💚

For a belated “Friday Five” post, I thought I’d share some products I’ve sort of been obsessing over:

1. Embryolisse

embryolisse_laitcremeconcentre_75ml_900x900I found out about Embryolisse through my monthly Birchbox subscription, and I am so glad! Embryolisse is known as a 24-hour Miracle Cream, and can be used as a primer, moisturizer, and make-up remover. Although it is probably the most expensive “beauty” product I buy, Embryolisse has been totally worth every penny. My skin stays moisturized without feeling oily or like it has heavy lotion on it, and the overall quality of my skin is improving as well. I use it morning and night 🙂

2. Bath & Body Works Amber Blush Body Lotion

Amber BlushI just love the smell of Amber Blush. I tend to moisturize my hands with it, but I always rub a little extra behind my ears and on my wrists, too. Like most Bath & Body Works lotion, Amber Blush tends to keep its subtle scent throughout the day. (I love the Golden Shimmer Body Soufflé and the Sheer Perfume Mist, too!). Bath & Body Works describes the scent of Amber Blush as “a sensual blend of raspberry champagne, gardenia petals and magnolia blossom with a seductive kiss of crystallized amber and creamy vanilla suede.” So pretty!

3. Revlon PhotoReady Concealer

Revlon Photo Ready Concealer

Since moving back to the states, I went through some sad, crazy breakouts for a good few months there. Things are under control now, but unfortunately I have a bit of scarring. So far, Revlon PhotoReady concealer is the absolute best concealer I’ve tried; PhotoReady creates the appearance of an even skin tone, almost completely hides any scarring, and lasts for hours. After trying several other brands, I was so pleased to find that Revlon PhotoReady worked for me.

4. Wet n’ Wild MegaLiner Liquid Eyeliner

Wet n' Wild MegaLiner Liquid Black

Several years ago, I read about Wet n’ Wild’s MegaLiner in a beauty magazine that toted it as an inexpensive liner that many makeup artists use on celebrities. I gave it a try, and have been addicted to it ever since! I love the Black MegaLiner because it lasts all day long, it can be used to create even, clean-looking wing tips, and the brush offers a lot of control.

5. Burt’s Bees Cleansing Towelettes

Burt's Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes

After a long day, sometimes (okay…often) I feel really lazy and don’t feel like washing my face. But that’s where Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes really come in handy. These remove make-up, cleanse and tone, leaving my skin feeling fresh and moist. I love that the ingredients are recognizable for the most part, and that the wipes easily remove even makeup products meant to stay put (like the MegaLiner I just mentioned, for example!).

These five products have become key inclusions in my daily routine, and I’ve loved sharing them with you! Here’s a picture after using all of them (except for the Towelettes, because those come later, obviously 😉 )


What are some products you can’t live without?

Friday Five

Friday Five: Songs I’ve Been Loving

Lately I’ve been listening to some songs over and over and over and…well, you get the idea. Here are 5 I’ve really been loving:

5. Ghosts – The Head and the Heart

4. Exit Music for a Film – Radiohead

3. I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today – Guster

2. Daredevil – Fiona Apple

1. Home – ZZ Ward

What songs have you been enjoying lately?

Friday Five

Friday Five: Fighting Exhaustion & Plans to Relax!

These days I feel like a slug. A sluggish, sluggy slug slug. All of the energy I put into being perky and energetic at work leaves me slapping my face in the car with the windows rolled down and the music blasting to stay awake on my way home.

Other reasons for being exhausted:

1. Not sleeping enough– Working at different times in the morning leads to my waking up from as early as 3:00 am, to as late as 8 am. It’s hard to set a sleeping schedule when I definitely don’t want to plan for the 3 AM wake-ups every day (so that I can stay up past 8pm the night before!). On the bright side, I am very fortunate to be getting am shifts for the most part, so that I can spend the evenings with my awesome husband.

2. Not exercising enough–When I come home and feel like melting into a pass-out puddle, it is hard to get moving. Luckily, Chad encourages me no matter how grumpy I may get. He got me out for a bike ride while he ran last week, and also got me out for a very painful 5K (during the most part of which I complained the entire time) a few days after that. (What an amazing guy he is for putting up with me!) He knows that I feel a hundred percent better after exercising, and he wants me to be healthy. It can be so hard to remember that exercise will ultimately leave you feeling more energetic no matter how tired you are initially. 


We saw pretty cattails when we went out for our bike ride/run last week.

3. Eating too many pastries–Starbucks launched a new line of pastries called La Boulange, and it is our job as partners to sample everything so we can describe it to customers. There are “healthier” options like the spinach croissant (which is fabulous, by the way), but even that one clocks in at over 300 calories. Phew. I have been trying to only try small bites, and give the rest to Chad, but will do better from the next time I work. I know that what I put into my body plays a huge role in my energy levels!

4. Not having a routine–in addition to having different wake-up times every day, it can be exhausting not having a set schedule every week. Chad and I miss some of the routines we had in Japan–both of us with Monday through Friday workweeks, set gym/workout days (Chad with judo, futsal, and Aussie Rules), morning and evening routines (like having breakfast and dinner together, nighttime reading/movie watching with tea, etc.), and weekends bumbling around the city or traveling. I know we’ll establish some sort of routine here, but getting to that point can be awful tiring!

5. Not taking time to relax–I haven’t felt like writing, reading, blogging, creating…anything! I know that not having a creative outlet just leads to further exhaustion.


Boats and lily pads

Luckily, I’ve got the next four days off to rest and relax. Today is Chad’s birthday–we started off with Chipped Beef on Toast for breakfast and will be ending it with going to Wheatland Music Festival for the next few days! Hopefully it will be just what I need, and I’ll be back blogging more often again when we get back. I have other plans to meet a close friend for dinner who I haven’t seen in ages, and to finish off some more of my Summer Fun Bucket List as we head into fall!20130906-091132.jpg

What do you do to relieve exhaustion? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?




Friday Five · Seen

Friday Five: On The Wolverine

(Mini spoiler alert! Though if you haven’t seen the film, most of the things I’m going to mention are pretty obvious/predictable right from the start.)

2013 Movie Preview: The Wolverine

(Is anyone else kind of freaked about by his crazy muscles? Picture source)

Last weekend, Chad and I went with my brother, sister-in-law, and friend to see the new Wolverine movie. My brother was telling me that Hugh Jackman said in an interview that The Wolverine was supposed to give fans the Wolverine they deserved, and one of my coworkers told me the film was mostly set in Japan, so I was excited to see it. Here are 5 things I noticed throughout the film:

1. I was really excited to understand all of the Japanese without subtitles! When the subtitles came on I needed them a few times because they were talking so fast and angry-like, but for the most part I could understand a lot, which made me happy. At the same time, it made me miss Japan tremendously (like I didn’t already, haha).

2. While understanding the Japanese made me happy, I’d have to say a good 30% of the un-subtitled Japanese was just the word gaijin, or foreigner, being thrown around as angry Japanese mafia chased and confronted Wolverine.

3. And speaking of gaijin, Japan is notorious for Japanese women falling for even the nerdiest, jerkiest, weirdest foreign guys, while foreign women tend to loom in the background, feeling like ogres. So it came as no surprise when Mariko slept with Wolverine. Gaijin  guy strikes again!

4. And while we’re talking about Mariko, I was surprised no one sat down with the non-Japanese actors to talk about how to pronounce her name. I heard everything from Marko to Mary-ko.

5. Lastly, the bullet train scene was pretty fun, though hardly feasible. I mean, maybe somehow Wolverine’s extra strength and mutant awesomeness allowed him to get by, but how about the mafia guy? Unless he had some super physics-defying powers hidden in his tattoos. Which would be an pretty cool revelation to everyone who knows anything about yakuza.

Two more final notes: 1) What was the point of Viper shedding off her skin only to basically lose her hair? She looked way cooler with reptilian skin, in my opinion. And 2)The after-credits scene starts off really cool with Wolverine and Magneto, but when Xavier comes rolling through like he’s on a game show my brother and sister-in-law just about lost it. We all decided that was probably the best moment in the movie.

Did you see the movie? If so, what did you think?

Friday Five

Five Things I’m Looking Forward to in March

Happy March! I am so excited for the upcoming break, although I’ll be sad to let go of my students. The last day of the term will be tough, but luckily I have I lot to look forward to!


1. Trip to Tokyo– the last time we went to Tokyo, we couldn’t go to the Studio Ghibli museum because tickets were sold out, and we didn’t get a chance to go to the famous Tsukiji Fish market because we were with a close friend who has a serious aversion to fish. Ever since I read this post from, I’ve really wanted to visit the Ghibli museum (and then there’s also my love of the sweet film Totoro). Hopefully both plans work out this time around!

2. Trip to Mie– I always love meeting up with our friends from the area we used to live in Japan, and to top it off, there are some amazing ramen shops out that way.

3. Trip to Pocky Factory in Hyogo– Pocky is involved. Need I say more?

4. Cherry Blossom Viewing– Absolutely one of my favorite parts of Japanese culture. Picnics, day or night, under the blossoms with friends…it doesn’t get much better than that!

5. Coursera Classes, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Fitness, RELAXING– I am so excited to be taking some really interesting-looking courses for free via Coursera, including a philosophy class called Know Thyself, and an Intro to Art class that is hands-on. The art class doesn’t start in March, so I’m going to try and get an extra fix by finally trying to do the entire Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.


Of course in between all of my studies I’ll need to get up and get some exercise, and without the stress of work and quite as many to-do’s, hopefully I’ll have more energy to do so! Ultimately all of the things on my list will lead to a very relaxing, fruitful month.

What kind of fun are you planning this month?

*Note: Once again, I worked late and couldn’t actually post this on a Friday! We went out for Chinese, and then pretty much drank tea and went to bed. The end is in sight, the end is in sight!

Friday Five · Seen/Heard/Tried

Ten New Foods I Tried this Year

We were fortunate enough to travel a lot within the last year: We went to France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Michigan, the Philippines, and Thailand. Whew! I know we will probably never be able to travel like that again, and I am so thankful we had that opportunity. Lately I’ve been dreaming about going back to Europe especially. I was making spaghetti the other day and dreaming about our picnic in Villa Borghese, Italy, and remembering going to the same amazing restaurant 3 nights in a row to try different pastas and pizzas… And this morning I was enchanted with this blog post showing a gorgeous apartment in France. I immediately wanted to return to Paris and enjoy croissants, crêpes and macaroons–and of course the amazing architecture and museums and history! (And can I please have that exact style in a house in Michigan!?) We learned so much through our travels, and tried many new things.

As you may have guessed, one of my favorite things about traveling is trying the food (I think I mentioned that before). Don’t get me wrong, the history and architecture are huge for me too, but food is so revealing of a culture. Here are ten (out of many more!) new foods I tried this year:

1. Pistachio Gelato (Rome)


2. Savory Empanadas (Barcelona)


3. Tortellini Stir Fry (Amsterdam)


This was an amazing Italian-Asian fusion, and I have yet to find a recipe like it. Please let me know if you have one!!

4. Dutch Apple Pie


Of course I had tried apple pie before, but not this apple pie. It was recommended to me by a Holland native, who just so happens to have a recipe on her lovely blog. The crust brings back a feeling of Windmill cookies from Michigan, paired with a thick apple-raisin filling. So. Good.

5. Halohalo (pronounced with a soft “a” sound, Manila)


Can you see the sweet red beans and the sweet potato ice cream?

6. Crickets (Koh Samui, Thailand)


Chad was more adventurous than me, and tried one of every kind of insect available.

7. Marshmellow “Tacos” with coconut shavings (Koh Samui)


We had the pleasure of trying many kinds of amazing street food in Thailand, and this was one of them!

8. Durian, the King of Fruit (Bangkok)


We didn’t have a chance to try Durian our first time in Thailand, so we had to try it the last time we went! The smell is so strong, and the texture feels like biting into the skin of an orange, but with the taste of old pineapple with a cheesy texture. It’s kind of hard to explain, but what I can say is I’m not missing it!

9. Fugu, or Blowfish (Ise, Japan)


We tried many different styles and were pleased to survive each bite! I thought it was pretty good, but Chad said it was his new favorite fish!

10. Blueberry Daifuku (Kobe, Japan)


I love the traditional ichigo daifuku, so I was excited to try this blueberry version. It is sweet blueberry-flavored mochi, or rice cake, with sweet bean paste flavored with blueberry and a strawberry in the middle. The juicy strawberry provides a bright contrast from the thicker mochi.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for my taste buds next! The biggest challenge will be recreating some of the foods I loved. Here is a recipe for some other street food we tried in Thailand called Pakora:

Crispy Vegetable Pakora

And here’s another recipe we tried and liked for Falafels (reminding us of Amsterdam):

Spicy Falafels

Also, here’s a link to a really interesting podcast episode of “The Splendid Table” in which British gastronaut Stephen Gates is interviewed about trying insects in Cambodia and Thailand, and about letting go of food preconceptions/the notion of disgust.

Will eating bugs solve the world’s food problems?

What have you tried recently, or what would you like to try?

This post was supposed to be a bonus edition of Friday Five, but I am posting it today because we went out for amazing ramen and then watched Elementary last night. These things happen.

Friday Five

Five things that help me have a better day, every day

Sometimes, especially in the winter or when I’m sick (check, check), it’s easy to feel pretty grouchy. These are some things I’ve incorporated into my daily routine that have really changed my general mood most days, including winter sick days:


Each night…
1. Tell myself to have sweet dreams and that the next day will be a good day.

2. Tidy up for 10-15 minutes before bed. It feels much better to wake up to dishes done, the table cleared, and lunches packed. It also feels good to go to bed knowing these things have been done.

3. Keep a gratitude journal. In January, Chad gave me a really nice diary with a block of space for each day. I split each page in two: on one side I write down my To Do’s (breaking a giant list into everyday, doable tasks has also been a huge stress-reliever that’s made me more productive), and on the other side I write down at least three things I am grateful for or that made me happy that day. Sometimes it’s even just that I got to wear some cute earrings because it was the weekend (I can’t wear them at work), or that the weather was nice that day. At first I felt like I was really reaching to get three things on my list each day, but once I got myself into the habit, it became hard to stop at three most days! Now, throughout the entire day I find myself seeking out things that make me feel good that I can write down later, instead of focusing on the negative things that happen. And, after nearly two months of keeping it faithfully, I had this extremely joyful moment flipping through the journal and thinking, “Wow, I am so lucky I have so much to be thankful for!” I was actually overwhelmed by the abundance of thankful, happy things that had happened each day.

Every morning…
4. When I wake up, I never leave the room without kissing my husband if I’m up first. The same goes before bed–he always gets a goodnight kiss. I think even the littlest moments count, and I feel so loved and loving because of things like that. I don’t even remember when we started giving good morning/night kisses (maybe we always have?), but now I can’t imagine not doing it!

5. Take time for breakfast, coffee and a shower, even on weekdays. You might say, “Well, of course!” to all of that–especially the shower!–but I mean that I try my best to ensure I have a proper amount of time in the morning to have a shower, and then coffee and breakfast with Chad, talking with him and occasionally listening to the news, before racing out the door to see how much I can get done for the day. Believe me, it’s not always easy. I hate the mornings, but that slow, easy-going wake-up time with my husband makes a huge impact on the rest of my day.

I’m still not feeling better today, but I can say that the 5 things listed above helped my day nevertheless.

Here are some things I’m grateful for today:

  • I could watch girly movies to distract myself from being sick (Blue Valentine and Pitch Perfect).


Ryan didn’t play the nicest character in Blue Valentine, but somehow I got over it.

  • I made cornbread successfully for the first time! And it looked like the result was smiling at me.



  • It’s the weekend! And I get to spend (most of) it with my best friend.


Here he is in Thailand, being all cool and handsome, as usual.

So, what kind of things do you do to improve your mood each day?