Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Moana Movie Review

My Disney love is no secret: I adore almost everything they create. I have good reason, as their films are detail-filled complete mini-universes that completely sweep the viewer away. Regardless, I'm totally head over heels in love with Moana. I cried all the tears, y'all. Even when times when it didn't seem appropriate, there I was, blubbering away.

The characters are beautifully developed, with exquisite details and great depth of personality. I felt connected with these characters as if they were dear friends or beloved family members. Oceanic and Polynesian culture is treated with reverence, as the story is set in this very real culture. I loved learning about it- what is treasured, the contrasting pull for family honor and loyalty contrasted with personal desire. Creating a character of the sea itself was both respectful and genius, as our main character wouldn't have been able to even attempt her quest without an ally in the water.

The music- oh my stars, the music. It's gorgeous. I've been saving an iTunes gift card for nearly two years, not wanting to waste it on something I don't truly want because I so rarely spend money on iTunes. Within an hour of leaving the movie theatre, I used those funds to buy the Moana soundtrack. Normally I'd be on a Christmas-music only playlist this time of year, but I can't stop listening to Moana instead. Lin Manuel Miranda collaborated with Disney prior to his Hamilton success, and the music definitely has a Broadway feel as a result. The songs are a bit expositional, yet they're mostly about allowing you to understand the individual character more.

The animation is just gorgeous. I want to live in this movie, it's so amazing. The water, especially, is just magnificently animated. Water is difficult to do, because of the varying properties, yet it's perfect every time. When the sea is behaving as a character, it looks just slightly different than when it's the natural back drop of the film. The blend of CGI and hand drawn animation is done flawlessly. The only hand drawn animation is Maui's tattoos, which are reminiscent of the style of animation utilized in Hercules, but it fits well with the rest of the film.

The storyline is detailed and wondrous. Moana, the daughter of the village chief, is always drawn to the water. Everyone on her island is content to stay there, yet she feels the draw of the horizon. She is kind, fierce, intelligent, and diligent. She's also quite real, in that she has moments of doubt, when she feels like she's on the wrong path. The relationships between characters are exceptionally well done as well. There is conflict, internal and external, as Moana juggles who she wants herself to be with who she feels she must become due to her lineage. She has a wonderful relationship with her grandmother, the self-described village crazy lady, who consistently encourages Moana to be herself, even if that goes against what everyone else wants for her.

The lessons are great as well. It's okay to not know who you are, to journey to find who you want to be. Tragedy doesn't define you. You carry your loved ones with you wherever you go.

As we head into another holiday season with certain family members no longer with us, this film was a well-timed one for me.

I will carry you here in my heart,
You'll remind me,
That come what may,
I know the way.

I highly recommend seeing this movie as soon as possible, as often as possible. I'll probably be pre-ordering it in the next five minutes, and if I can sneak away to watch it again in theaters, I definitely will. 

What did you think of Disney's latest animated wonder?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where You Lead: A Gilmore Girls Addiction

So you may or may not know that 4 new episodes- mini-movies, really- of beloved television hit Gilmore Girls will be gracing our TV screens on November 25.

As a true Gilmore addict- complete with fast talking, pop culture referencing, coffee drinking synchronicity- of course I decided to rewatch the entire series- all 7 seasons- before the new episodes air. After all, I don't want to miss any references to past episodes, minor characters, or really anything at all, because as you can clearly see, I have a problem. I'd say i'm on the road to recovery, but really I'm on my couch hitting 'Play Next Episode' over and over again.

However much I'd love to be a gorgeous genius with an unbeatable metabolism like Rory, I made one fatal flaw with my re-watching plan. I didn't figure how many episodes I'd need to watch per day before the premiere in order to complete my goal. I also didn't take into account the week I spent with my sister or any weekend days when my husband is home and I have to pretend to be human.

So here I am, 9 mere days away from Gilmore glory, and I have 46 episodes left. I've been binge watching like mad. Gilmore Girls is my constant- it's on while I clean, workout, prep food, organize, fold laundry. It's almost as though Stars Hollow is in my house, it's on so much.

I'd write more, but I have to watch 5.1 episodes per day in order to meet my goal, and I'm so close, y'all. So close.

Of course I'll review endlessly when they come out, so stay tuned.

Also, for the record, I'm Team Logan all the way. Of course, I'm currently on season 5, the Logan years, so I may be biased. Also, my coffee intake has greatly increased with my binge schedule. Not that I need it to stay up, it's just the power of suggestion. The Gilmore coffee obsession just makes you want to partake in the magical wonders of coffee.

Also, don't worry. My family is still fed, clothed, and mostly educated and entertained daily despite my Gilmore obsession. My sleep schedule is hurting, but I can sleep after the premiere.

Is anyone else kidnapped by Gilmore Girls binge watching? Are you Team Dean, Jesse, or Logan? (Obviously Rory nor Lorelei need a guy, I just particularly like the banter and love between Luke and Lorelei and Rory and Logan.

Right, my TV is calling and my fictional TV besties are waiting. See you on the other side!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cheesy Jalapeño Cornbread Recipe

You may not think a recipe can have a story, but this one does. It isn't nostalgic or one that's been handed down. Instead, it's a story of overcoming.

I've tried to be a plant-parent a couple of times. More than a couple. An embarrassing amount of plants have died at my incapable hands. This summer, I was determined to plant a vegetable garden. I go the tools. I bought the dirt. I did some research. I set out to buy tomato plants and a strawberry plant, and my husband convinced me to get some jalapeño plants as well. I've honestly always been a bit intimidated by spicy foods, so I was a little nervous.

As it turns out, someone accidentally put a jalapeño plant in the strawberry spot, and my plant-killing eyes didn't think to check the tiny little flag planted in the dirt to make sure it was right. So I ended up with two tomato plants, and 7 jalapeño plants. 

At the end of the summer, all of my jalapeño plants are thriving. One tomato plant didn't make the move from our old house to the new one, rest its fruitless soul, but now the other one is doing great and the branches (can plants have branches?) are heavy with tomatoes and blooms.

So that's how I've found myself, no longer intimidated by jalapeños because I have dozens, integrating them into recipes left and right. Another favorite is omelets: jalapeños and sausage scrambled with eggs and cheese are just mouthwateringly delicious. Also, chicken taquitos that are slow cooked in cream cheese with diced jalapeños mixed in? So. Good. 

A nice summer and fall side dish is cornbread, and since I'm swimming in jalapeños and obsessed with cheese, I thought I'd just combine all these loves into one pan of awesomeness. So I did- and you can too. Here's the recipe. I put mine in a muffin tin for bite-sized deliciousness and so I'd have to dirty one less knife, because sometimes adulting is too much and you need a break from the endless cycle of dishes.

Cheesy Jalapeño Cornbread
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
Healthy dash of salt
1 + 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup Mexican shredded cheese blend
jalapeño, seeded and diced

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease or line 12 muffin cups or your favorite 8x8/9x9 baking dish.
2. In large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, eggs and salt. 
3. Add in flour, cornmeal, and baking powder. Mix well.
4. Stir in milk.
5. Add cheese and jalapeños. Stir well.
6. Pour into preferred dish, filling muffin cups up 3/4 full if that's chosen pan.
7. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

There you have it! Delicious and simple jalapeño cornbread, stuffed full of cheese. Slather it with butter and let the whole thing melt on your tongue.

 This pairs well with mojitos, margaritas, tacos, taquitos, meatloaf, vegetables...pretty much anything. It's quite versatile. I'm most excited to have it with chili once Fall actually arrives in Tennessee, and we're not sweltering in 90 degree heat anymore. (We currently still are. I hope Fall has arrived in your neck of the woods!) 

P.S. When in doubt, add more cheese.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Birthdays in Heaven

Today would've been my dad's 58th birthday, and its his 4th birthday our family is left to celebrate without him.

4 years.

Two grand-babies have been born, without the chance to be bounced on his knee. Another grand-baby on the way, my sweet niece, and she too will not hear his booming laugh or be tickled by his mustache as he deposits kisses on her sweet cheeks.
This is the part of parenting you don't think about when you first get that positive result: when you, the parent, have lost a parent, now your children have lost a grandparent as well.

Although we didn't know we were expecting when my dad passed away, one of my earliest grief-filled thoughts was the knowledge that my children would only ever know him through me. There would be no serious faced with twinkly eyes admonitions, no candy snuck behind my back to them, no dancing while standing on his feet. They won't have a smell to associate with him, while every time I catch a whiff of cough drops and wisps of cigarette smoke mingling, I fight off tears.

And yet. As The Lion King so faithfully taught me all those years ago, he lives in me. My eyes twinkle just the same, and so they will know that look after all. My mom will continue to be the ultimate candy sneaker, and my sister will kiss them until her lips fall off. They will know love, the love we have in our hearts for them. Although it may not always feel like enough, it really is. They are my family, my children's family, and they will know their missing grandpa through them.

We are his legacy. Our children will carry on the legacy as well.

Happy birthday, Dad. We miss you so.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Turn a drab dresser into a fab coffee bar

Since we haven't been busy enough (ha!) with moving and being without a/c and traveling and life, I realized our new kitchen needs more storage and decided to buy a cheap dresser off of CraigsList and turn it into a coffee bar. Here's the step by step in case you're a glutton for punishment like me!

1. Buy a sad looking dresser off of Craigslist (safely! Don't go alone!). Here's my before photo:

There's my little helper! I use a shower curtain as a drop cloth, because they're literally $2. 

2. Clean it. Scrub it down. Remove hardware. I left the hinges and door on, because ain't nobody got time for that. I removed the drawers at this point as well.

3. Tape off 6-8 inches (I used painter's tape and a paper towel, taped again at the bottom of the paper towel) to spray paint the top.

4. Spray paint the top. I used a textured stone spray paint, so it would look more like kitchen counter tops and less like a dresser. Make sure you buy enough! I thought it would take one 12 ounce can,but it took 2 full ones and I touched up with a third.

Once you're certain you don't need do to touch ups, remove the tape and paper towels.

5. While waiting for the top to dry, I worked on the drawers. I decided to cover them with adhesive Con-Tact paper I found at the Dollar Tree. I eyeballed it (mistake 1) and thought I had enough. I was wrong. I spent the next three days driving all over Knoxville, calling and visiting numerous Dollar Tree locations, without luck. Finally I remembered I'd actually used some of it in large sheets as shelf liner, and pulled that up to use on the exterior of the drawers and door. I stapled the edges where it wraps around to reinforce the adhesive and keep it from peeling. I also changed the knobs for a sleeker style.

So, before you go this route, measure and make sure you have plenty before applying it! Had I not found some I'd already used, I would've had to order a case from the Dollar Tree online for $16.

I also covered the door in adhesive shelf liner, but considered painting it cream.

6. Paint the sides and frame of the dresser
 I used cream chalk paint to keep with the style of my kitchen and allow room for error, since my 'helpers' are 1 and 3 and I am frequently pausing while doing these projects.

7. Once it's all dry, reinsert the drawers and set up!
Here's my finished project:

I added a table runner, because I love it but my boys only pull it off of our dining table, and put our coffee maker and espresso machine on top. The first drawer is coffee cups (which we'll eventually hang above the bar) and coffee supplies, the middle drawer is baking supplies, and the bottom drawer is my husband's BBQ tools and rubs. The door hides two shelves filled with small appliances, like the slow cooker, food processor and blender. The coffee bar adds a lot of storage and frees up valuable counter space without adding bulk or interfering with the high traffic paths. We also put a little tray there to catch mail and other detritus my loves would leave on my dining table, which I like to leave cleared.

I love it! What do you think?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Adventures in Babysitting Review

I promise I'll try and keep this as spoiler free as possible!

Disney's 100th Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM), Adventures in Babysitting, premiered this past weekend. I've been enjoying watching the previous 100 DCOMs on the WatchDisney app, reminiscing and remembering when I saw them for the first time. Zeno was more awesome in my memory than it seems now, but Double Teamed was just as inspiring and kind of made me want to play basketball for a day, which is kind of amazing in itself.

I finally got the chance to watch Adventures in Babysitting today and was not disappointed. I wasn't really sure what to expect, because the premise seems pretty predictable. Girls swap phones, girl impersonates frenemy, both girls get into heaps of trouble, hilarity ensues. Having not seen the original, I didn't have a lot of expectations for this remake. I do have high expectations of Sabrina Carpenter, as I adore her on Girl Meets World.

Although the subject matter is a tad far fetched, it wasn't as predictable as I'd feared. Watching as an adult, and a mom, I felt more worry for their clueless parents than I felt excitement for the adventuring kids. The pursuant bad guys made me quite nervous, as I always worry about bad guys and kids. I know; its crazy. The antics they get up to in this DCOM are very reminiscent of Home Alone, from kids tackling criminals to slapstick-style violence where no one actually gets seriously injured.

Both Sofia Carsen and Sabrina Carpenter do a fabulous job, with their characters vastly differing from previous characters they've portrayed. Sabrina excels as the uptight overachiever, while Sofia shines as the artistic goof-off without the foresight to fear consequences. Their interactions have that odd couple hilarity to them, and they do find themselves in some funny situations. From runaway tweens to the big concert in the 'city'-- a location deemed dangerous but is only referred to as 'the city' and has no other name, yet half the cast ends up there- the joyride is a rollercoaster of antics and feats. The importance of money is a real highlight, as well as how manipulation can have its place.

Alright, my spoiler free section ends here. I won't go into specifics below, but be warned: something might get given away!

Each character clearly influences the other, which is really nice to see. People change people, often not intentionally. It was also nice to see that there isn't necessarily a better way to behave based on the outcome. One girl needs to loosen up and one needs to tighten up, and both have to learn that they aren't perfect and there's more than one way to break an egg.

The varying kids' characteristics was wonderful; from the punk to the chef to the athlete, no kid was restricted as to what they liked based on their age or gender. A seven year old pima donna? Sure. A nine year old girl obsessed with roller derby? Why not! An eleven year old boy-chef-prodigy, taking on the culinary world by storm? Yes, please! I love how different each character was, yet their differences weren't the driving force in their character.

Have you seen Disney's latest DCOM? What were your thoughts?

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11 poem

An Ode to Coffee

Oh, dear coffee.
Sweet nectar of life.
The single scent of you
Brings my feet to the ground
Each morning.
Your warm, full aroma wafts
From room to room,
Following me in an invisible stream
As I carry my half full cup throughout
The house.

A single sip can sustain me
Through morning routines 
Another stolen sip
Gives me the strength to change the
Squirmy babe.
While the day wears on
My need for you often grows.
The older I get, 
The more I love you,
The more I need you,
Oh coffee, my coffee.

April 10 poem

The days are long
But the years are short
Let them be little
Enjoy them
It goes by so fast
You're going to miss this.

Strangers share these bits of wisdom
Along crowded sidewalks
And in narrow grocery aisles
I smile and nod
For I know it's true:
They're small for only so long.

So I don't mind much
When little limbs are tangled
In my sheets, 
Pulling covers or kicking knees.
When a boo-boo needs a quick kiss
I'll happily oblige
I never know when they'll no longer
Need so much of me so often.
But I love these snuggles,
Wet kisses and gleeful smiles.

One day far away,
I may see a young mom
With her hands quite full,
With littles running around her.
I may surprise myself,
Smile and say,
The days are long,
But the years are short.

April 9 Poem

Haiku Day

Spring has arrived,
With plenty of sunshine and
Fresh flowers blooming.

Friday, April 8, 2016

National poetry month: The Disney Way

It's easy to be dark,
In a world so often stormy.
It takes courage to see the light,
To sing your way to brightness.
Walt took a leap,
From the silence of black and white 
To the crashing orchestra of color.
It led generations through times of turmoil,
From a fatal apple to a poisoned spindle,
He taught us how to overcome death:
With love, faith, and trust.

From a fiery mermaid to a gentle beast,
The stories they spun taught us well:
Believe in yourself,
Be kind,
Stand up for what is right,
Put no stock in stereotypes,
Age doesn't equal wisdom,
Never give up your voice,
Fight for what you believe in,
Have faith in your dreams,
Be the one to light the way,
And lead others along, the Disney way.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

National poetry month: 6

The Magic of Books

Each story, each book
Is like a dear friend 
With pages upon pages 
Of adventure and discovery 
Of learning and falling a little 
Bit in love
With characters and stories
You'll savor and remember.

Line after line
The images take form
With surprises and mysteries galore.
We watch our new friends
Toil and fall
Powerless to help
But shouting in our heads.

The last page of a
Great book is always
A bit bittersweet 
As goodbyes often here
But you can always return 
To this mystical world
With one little flick
Of a worn cover.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Be the Good

There is so much darkness
In the world today
It almost seems
As though the sun has moved away.

Death and tragedy 
Cruelty and fear
What kind of world
Will my children know?

Kindness and compassion
Love and caring
Watching out for those
Who may need a hand up
These are the lessons we try to teach
To help brighten the world
A little bit at a time.

Improving a day
For even one person
Makes the sun shine brighter
And lessens the load
Be the good
You wish to see
And you'll see more good
Along the way


I wonder who my son will be
While he's lying next to me.
Will he fight for what is right
Using his intellect and his might?

Will he stand up for the timid and shy?
Or watch silently as long as he's passed by?
Raising a small boy
Into a strong man
Is no easy endeavor 
But strive and try
Toil and teach
That's a momma's job
Never ending and often quite hard.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunbeams and dandelions

Sunbeams bounce and dance in the wind
A gail of laughter lilts and descends
Frothy white seeds float in the air
A summer's day spent without a care.
Little feet splish and splash
Light reflects off of windshields with a bright flash
A small smile flits across a young face
As wind caresses their skin during a drive without haste.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Memory Scents

Memory Scents

Cigarette smoke and sweet perfume
A dab of hairspray and a slash of lipstick
Fancy powder and a dash of vanilla
Simple smells alone can be pungent
But together they formed a soft cloud
Clinging to soft sweaters,
Paired with bold jewelry.
From when I was small until
She was no longer as tall,
This combination of scents offered comfort
Whether sniffled in during a hug from a seemingly dangerous fall,
Or just briefly, though lovingly, inhaled
When changing sheets after too short a visit
This wondrous combination can't be replicated,
Only worn by the woman vastly loved
Who responded to Grams.

A sizzle as bacon hits the pan,
The gurgle of coffee finishing it's drip,
A half embrace from the figure at the stovetop.
A hint of cough drop, 
The last remnants clicking against teeth
Worn and stained from a lifetime of delicious meals
Shared with family and friends until one evening becomes the next morning.

A hint of minty lotion
To soothe aching muscles
That telltale cough drop 
And a bit of smoke
Huddled under an awning
With rain on the horizon.

How little time we get
With those we love
But their essence can appear
On a soft summer's breeze
Reminding you so gently
Of the love you've always felt.

Friday, April 1, 2016

National Poetry Month

Since April is National Poetry month, I've decided to post a new original poem here each day.  Feel free to share your own creations in the comments. Happy poetry month!

Today's poem is a tad mushy, as I've suddenly realized how brief childhood is. So excuse my dip into the sappy side of motherhood. I promise there will be a Disney poem this month :)

Moments and Memories

There are days I wish I could film every moment,
Each laugh, spin, pretend, and comment.
But how would I watch all these hours of magic?
Of laughter, and learning, and growing and challenges?
Each day you're a little different,
Bigger and smarter,
A little more you and who you will be,
In the days far ahead when you're no longer beside me.
So often these days,
You're my second shadow,
Always trailing behind,
Or peeking around,
A little mop of hair and bright green eyes,
Always watching, with a secret smile that's never a surprise.

Yet even as you grow closer to walking into your own life,
A little tug,
A request for a hug,
And once again you're a wee babe in my arms,
Not this young man, already full of charms.

I love you more and more each moment, at the end of each night.
The tears and the tantrums, I can't say I'll miss.
But the snuggles, cuddles, and each random kiss,
I'll cherish each one;
For those I'll always miss.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fuller House Pilot Review

I've been anxiously awaiting the release of the new Netflix original series Fuller House since it was initially announced last year. Today is the release, and I excitedly watched the pilot this morning, despite being low on my available internet usage (thank you, Comcast, for being totally evil and imposing data limits in areas where you have a monopoly.) 

The pilot did not disappoint. With nearly all of the original cast making an appearance and several beloved catchphrases returning, the pilot established the new plot nicely without going overboard on the nostalgia.

It's clear the actors were happy to reprise their roles and a few out of character chuckles are visible in the first few moments as the studio audience goes crazy when Danny and Jessie make their first appearances. Aside from a pointed (and admittedly hilarious) look at the camera while explaining Michelle's absence, the fourth wall remains intact and the show proceeds in a more typical format.

I loved Full House as a kid, but found it a little cheesy in re-runs as an adult. I was both excited and had a little trepidation about the reboot. Once I saw the teaser trailers, I was sold and my excitement began mounting. I love that DJ's last name is Fuller, thus the new title. I'm a sucker for puns! 

There is a lot of quick exposition explaining who lives where with whom and why, since it's been so long since the original aired. But it's handled smoothly. The least smoothe explainer is Steve, but that fits a little with his character. 

It's crazy to see how much everyone has changed. The new opening sequence shows the now adult actors as children and teens, and a split screen is used a couple of times during the episode to highlight similarities between then and now.

Any overly exaggerated characteristics have been dulled, as they may have with age in anyone, such as with Kimmy and Steve. They still have their quirks, but they've mellowed with age.

As with any show with the premise of family and friends moving in after a tragedy, there are certain occurrences that would be unlikely in any real life. But because these are beloved characters on a beloved set, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. 

It's been a long time since I've seen a Full House episode, but there wasn't anything I felt I was missing (with the exception of Danny- did he get married in the original series? He has a wife now, but I didn't remember her). Regardless, there's no need to re-watch the original series before watching the new one.

The pilot was enjoyable to watch and I'm looking forward to continuing the Tanner-Fuller-Gibbler storyline and seeing how things change.

Have you watched it yet? What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

There's possibly no food combination I love more than peanut butter and chocolate. It's just so right, you know? So one day I had a hankering for brownies, but felt like they could really use some peanut butter. So I crafted this little recipe! Let me know what you think, if you bake a batch yourself!

Yumm…peanut butter swirl brownies.

Soft, decadent, melt in your mouth deliciousness.

Sweet, crumbly goodness.

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup peanut butter

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Grease an 8x8 baking dish.
3) Microwave chocolate chips and butter on 50% power for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, whisking every 30 seconds, until smooth.
4) Whisk in sugar and brown sugar.
5) Add eggs, mixing well after each addition.
6) Mix the milk, flour and vanilla in until the batter is smooth.
7) Soften peanut butter by microwaving at half power for 30-45 seconds.
8) While peanut butter softens, pour brownie batter into prepared dish.
9) Using a spoon, knife or spatula, swirl the melted peanut butter through the brownie batter.
10) Bake 40-45 minutes in preheated oven or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for as long as you can stand and try not to burn your mouth when you devour them.

Apple Pie Bars

We'd been purchasing a variety of pastries from Costco and Kroger for J to take to work in the mornings, since he doesn't typically have time for breakfast at home (sleep deprivation thanks to two small kiddos is to blame for that!). I realized during one of our weekly treks around the bakery department that I could actually make a lot of what we were buying, and it would be a fun activity that the toddler and I could do each week while his little brother slept. After a variety of muffins began to get a bit boring (for the bakers-- no complaints from the hubby!), I saw a photo on Pinterest that spiked my interest. It was a snicker-doodle apple pie bar that looked delish. But the recipe disappointed me; it was just store bought cookie dough and canned apple pie mix. I decided I'd make something up myself, and here's where we ended up:

View from the top- Apple Pie Bars

Side view- Apple pie bars
The result was yummy, but not so easily cut into bars. It's definitely a fork and plate meal, and not eaten as easily as a muffin on the go. It tasted more like a dessert to me than a breakfast.

Here's the recipe:

Shortbread cookie dough for the base layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour

Apple topping:
3 cups diced apples
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, depending on personal preference
Dash nutmeg
Dash ground cloves

Streusel-like dusting:
2 tablespoons of the shortbread cookie dough from the base
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
Dash nutmeg

1) Grease 8x8 or 9x9 pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Combine all cookie dough ingredients to make the cookie dough, reserving 2 tablespoons for the streusel-like topping. Spread remainder of cookie dough in greased pan, pressing to edges. It should be as level as you can make it with your hands.
3) Combine all apple filling ingredients (I leave my apple peels on the apples to save time while baking with a toddler and increase the healthiness factor). Spread atop cookie dough in the pan.
4) Combine streusel ingredients in small bowl and evenly dust over apple filling. (Or let your toddler help and it'll be totally uneven but he'll have a blast)
5) Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Let cool on cooling rack. Once you won't burn your hand and/or mouth, cut into squares and enjoy.

Disney Romance

Whether you're excited for romantic Valentine's snuggles or just ready for all that heart shaped chocolate to be marked half off, there's a Disney movie for every scenario. Here's your definitive guide to a Disney themed Valentine's Day.

Flying solo:
Love goes much farther than just a significant other. Gather your family and friends together, make some Mikey shaped goodies, and share the love.

Finding Nemo
Father and son, the hilarious Ellen; what's not to love?

Perfect for mothers, daughters, and bear fans of all sizes.

Brother Bear
Another tear jerker!

Disney Short Films collection 
Smaller ones will love the Frozen short, while grownups a can enjoy the older shorts, cry their eyes out at Little Match Girl, and hum along to John Henry.

Lovey dovey love 
If you're curling up with a sweetheart on Sunday, these sweet films are right up your alley.

Lady and the Tramp
Ahh, puppy love.

Rapunzel and Flynn have a fun love story, and great banter.  I always tear up at the family reunion.

Sleeping Beauty
Love and dragons? Count me in!

Heroes and monsters and the undead, oh my!

Beauty and the Beast
Roses, ball rooms and ballads add up to a romantic evening.

Live-Action Favorites 
Maybe your sweetie isn't as keen on Disney animation as, well, me. If real actors have a broader appeal, don't fear! Disney has plenty of live action films to appease you both.

Pirates of the Carribbean trilogy
Plenty of action and a terrific love story between Will and Elizabeth adds up to a winner!

The Proposal
Sandra Bullock, Alaska and Ryan Reynolds? Yes, please!

This live action version of the beloved fairy tale gives us more backstory and a more solid and believable love story as well. 

What are some of your favorite Disney romances? Share them in the comments!

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 in Books

Every year, I keep a list of all of the books I read that year. I started due to an inability to remember the title of a book I read in sixth grade, concerning a girl in a beachside town in the 1940s who has a crush on her neighbor and best friend's soldier brother. (I've searched endlessly with no results, so if you're familiar with it please tell me the title and author!). I've also accidentally checked the same book out from the library twice, not realizing I had already read it. I've put stars (*) next to my favorites, and highly recommend them. Barbara O'Neal is one of my new favorite authors, and I'm now striving to read everything she's written. Keep in mind, I know I'm addicted to reading and I'm okay with that.  
Without further ado, here are the books I read in 2015. I can't wait to see what literary adventures 2016 bring.

Lost Lake, Sarah Addison Allen
Vanity, Vengeance and a Weekend in Vegas, Kyra Davis
*Mambo in Chinatown, Jean Kwok
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, Alan Bradley
The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse, Alan Bradley
Straight Talking, Jane Green
Family Pictures, Jane Green
Waking Kate, Sarah Addison Allen
Shopaholic on Honeymoon, Sophie Kinsella
Family Jewels, Mary Kay Andrews
*The Secret Hum of a Daisy, Tracy Holczer

First Frost, Sarah Addison Allen
*The Job, Steve Osborne (audiobook)
*The Baker's Daughter, Sarah McCoy
Cat and Jemima J, Jane Green
The Hurricane Sisters, Dorothea Benton Frank
Ten Beach Road, Wendy Wax
Beach Town, Mary Kay Andrews
Spinning Forward, Teri DuLong
The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
Ocean Beach, Wendy Wax
Christmas at the Beach, Wendy Wax
The House on Mermaid Point, Wendy Wax
Scents and Sensibility, Spencer Quinn 
*Finding Audrey, Sophie Kinsella

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, Meg Cabot 
*The All You Can Dream Buffet, Barbara O'Neal

Moon Over Edisto, Beth Webb Hart 
Welcome to Last Chance, Cathleen Armstrong 
Labor Day, Joyce Maynard
Food: A Love Story, Jim Gaffigan 
*The Lost Recipe for Happiness, Barbara O'Neal 
*The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

*The Language of Sparrows, Rachel Phifer 
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me,
Mindy Kaling
*Before Ever After, Samantha Sotto 

Royal Wedding , Meg Cabot 
Who Do You Love, Jennifer Weiner
*The Secret of Everything, Barbara O'Neal 
Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling
A Second Bite of the Apple, Dana Bate
*How to Fall in Love, Cecelia Ahern 
See Me, Nicholas Sparks
Vintage, Susan Gloss
Santa 365, Spencer Quinn
Woof, Spencer Quinn 
Shopaholic to the Rescue, Sophie Kinsella

And that's my 2015 in books. I love BookBub, as they email me books on sale. Typically, I check my library first to see if that book is available for checkout. Most books I get from the library, as I'm not a millionaire and can't buy all the books I want (though if I am ever a millionaire, I'm going to have a Beauty and the Beast level epic library and fill it with all my favorite books.

What were some of your favorite books this year? Let me know in the comments!