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‘Tis the season for giving thanks.

Obviously, I’m thankful for my amazing family and my dearly beloved friends.

I also give thanks for the main man in my life for he makes every day more fun and he helps to keep me sane. Those are two very important qualities.

Today, however, I would like to focus on some of the less obvious things that I am thankful for.

Like Bacon.

Let’s be honest with one another.

There is no greater food than bacon.

Amen?

Amen.

Bacon satisfies my soul.

And with bacon, you can make things like this.

And this.

And this.

Next, I’m thankful for music.

Note: I’m not thankful for annoying ownership of YouTube videos. I used to be able to post these bad boys and you could just watch them here. Now, you have to click on the link. Sorry!

Try to listen to this song and not tap your foot. Impossible, I tell ya.

This is one of my new favorites. I’m obsessed. So good.

Vampire Weekend=Most Fun to Listen To Band

They motivate me on the treadmill.

And their video has Jake Gyllenhaal, for goodness sake.

Now, I think I have mentioned this before. But it is worth mentioning again. Eminem gives me a little bit of the quiver. And I love his new album. However, if swear words offend you- this album is not for you. I have attached the clean version of an Eminem song.


Finally, I’m thankful for old school jams. The kind that take me back to a very particular place and time.

Nelly. Junior year at OU. The Posey Room in the Chi Omega house.

OK, I think you get it. I’m thankful for music.

And I’m thankful that I am blessed with completely random taste in music.

Next, I would like to give thanks for my two favorite beverages.

Coffee and red wine.

They both make my life.

I’m also thankful for books.

Right now, I’m reading a fun little book called One Day. You should check it out.

I’m grateful for a mom and dad that encouraged reading and the joy of getting lost in a book from a very early age.

And I’m thankful that they read these treasures to me when I was a young girl.

These are the books that helped create my love of literature. If you know a 7-12 year old girl, I would highly recommend these as a Christmas gift.

Or if you have never read them, I recommend them for you as a Christmas gift.

The Little House on the Prairie Series- an absolute must read

Little Women- the story of the March girls is heartwarming and lovely

The Chronicles of Narnia- good for a boy or a girl

The Great Brain books- these were my brother’s books that I borrowed and read. If you have boys, get them these books. They are so fun, exciting, funny, and engaging.

Finally, I’m thankful for you. For stopping by. For taking time to read the nonsense that I throw up here.

Love ya.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!!

Eat lots and love on those that love you.

XO,
Leah


Spending time with old friends, the ones that really know you and where you came from, is like slipping on your most favorite pair of old slippers.

It is comfortable and warm. And it just fits. Really, really fits. And it feels like home.

For the past four years, a group of four of my dearest high school friends and I have slipped away from real life to a weekend of eating, drinking, talking, connecting, and laughing until my sides hurt.

I could easily get sentimental, but I’ll spare you my gushing about how much I appreciate these friendships, and how much I treasure these women.

Rather, I’ll just tell ya a bit about how to have the best girls’ weekend ever.

First, FOOD. Bring a lot, make a lot, eat a lot, then eat some more, then travel to a place that sells good food, buy food, and eat some more.

Please note that ALL of us forgot cameras-oops. All pics are from my iPhone… not great, but not terrible.

I love being around girls who can cook AND eat.

Because they make things like pumpkin cream muffins.

And a giant baked apple pancake.

And the most delicious goat cheese and zucchini frittata.

And loaded brownie cake topped off with whipped marshmallow.

I think I shall no longer have any dessert that isn’t topped off with whipped marshmallow- it would be wrong.

And crab dip.

And bruschetta.

And spinach and artichoke dip.

And buffalo chicken pizza.

And white pizza.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Next, you’ll need an EXCURSION. I use the term excursion loosely because you don’t want to get all crazy with things that make you leave kitchen for hours on end, because that will interrupt the food portion of “how to have a good girls’ weekend”.

Visit the Amish.

They have good prices on toys.

And they are the friendliest of folk.

According to my friend Jenni (the blonde), the Amish make the best cheese.

She was devastated that the deli line was a mile long.

But let me give ya a little tip. Jenni is a liar and a cheater (we’ll get to the cheating later). Last year she bought this “amazing” cheese, and it was vomitous.

Yes, I know.

Vomitous is not a word.

But is the only word that does the cheese it’s due justice.

Want to know what the Amish get right?

Absolutely, positively, hands-down, no-argument-here right?

Baked goods.

Sweet Mary Martha Magdeline St. Paul.

The Amish bakery that we visited makes a make-your-knees weak hot pretzel.

I would give my pinkie toe for one right now.

I would.

Third, ACTIVITIES.

Do something fun.

Make something.

Have a cocktail.

Enlist your friends to peel 5000 apples for a large batch of applesauce and apple butter.

Make them work until they achieve the perfect peel technique.

Impressive, non?

After apples, move on to something different.

Like decoupaging frames.

When I told the main man about our activities, he just shook his head and laughed.

Do men not decoupage on guys’ weekends?

Please look at my mouth.

I CAN. NOT. use scissors with precision without pursing my lips.

I tried.

I just can’t do it.

Is this normal?

Anne is a craft master.

So, is Molly.

She prefers to go by the name “Mo”, so if you see her out and about- make sure to say Hello Mo.

Cute, right?

I’d like to take this time to issue a warning.

During the activities section of your girls’ weekend, you will likely hit a snag.

Not every craft is going to be a hit.

It is just a fact of life.

For us, this year… the illusive Felt Balls were an unclimbable Mt. Everest of crafts.

I would like to state that old Marty Stewart is a liar. Her directions said these felt balls would be “the perfect craft for kids” because it is “so simple”.

That is BS, Marty.

And you know it.

When you look at those bright colored packages of wool, it looks harmless enough.

And look, it is soft and green and lovely.

But in reality, this stuff is dangerous. And difficult.

And it causes you to gray prematurely.

See?

I won’t take you through the whole long and painful and soapy (?!?!?!) process, but believe me… felt balls are no fun.

We finished up our activities with gray wool flower pins.

And these super fun bowls made out of old records.

By the way, Alison brought the felt ball project. We were about to un-invite her to future weekends, but then she totally redeemed (read like Harry from Dumb and Dumber) herself with the record bowls.

She is back to being invited.

Seriously, that was a lot of activity and crafting.

Finally, you need a GAME.

Every group of friends has that one card game or board game that they like to play whenever they are together.

For us, it is Mexican Train Dominoes.

It is fabulous.

…Unless you have a cheater in your midst.

Jenni Teaters.

Teats Cheats.

Fact.

Just look at her wily face.

Did I mention that you must laugh a lot?

Sometimes so much you fear you may not be able to stop.

That is the laughter that I believe adds years to your life.

There ya have it.

My easy four step process to having the perfect weekend getaway.

Happy Monday, my friends.

It is a short week- and that makes this a very, very happy Monday!

XO,

Leah

Oh football season.

How I love thee.

Not because I enjoy watching football.

I don’t really. I mean, I tolerate it. And it is fine, but it isn’t really my thing.

I have never really gotten it. I understand the game, but it is pretty darn boring. Lots of commercials and very little playing. But I also recognize that I am in the minority.

What IS my thing are game day treats.

And Game Day Treats make me love football season.

I have the easiest gamed day treats for you today.

Ever.

First up, stuffed mushrooms.

They require a store bought item that allows you to cheat big time.

Start by preheating your oven to 350.

And grab these ingredients:

Some baby bellas

One package of frozen spinach and artichoke dip

Some bread crumbs

Get out a sheet pan and cover it with tin foil. The tin foil serves no purpose other than making clean up a snap.

And when cooking for a game, who wants to worry about cleaning up a mess? Not this girl, and certainly not this girl’s main man.

Drizzle a little oil.

Take the stems off of your shrooms, and lay them on the pan.

Give them a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Now microwave your dip just to defrost it.

Please ignore the neon color- I was taking these photos at night so the color isn’t exactly right.

Take some of that dip, and fill up your mushrooms.

Give them a sprinkle of breadcrumbs, and pop them in the oven.

One app down, and two more to go.

The other two are as easy as the first.

Isn’t that fantastic?

Next up, Skyline Chili dip.

Do you know Skyline? If you are from Cincinnati or somewhere near here, I’m sure you have had it.

And you either love it or hate it- there is really no in between.

I happen to love it. Traditionally, Skyline Chili is either enjoyed on a small hotdog with cheese, onion, and mustard piled on top OR it is poured on some spaghetti and then topped with cheese.

For the dip, you’ll need a whopping 3 ingredients plus the chips.

Here is what you’ll need:

4 ounces of cream cheese

1 10 1/2 ounce can of Skyline chili (or other canned chili would work)

1/2 cup of shredded cheddar

Slather the cream cheese (if it is softened, it is easier) on the bottom of an oven proof bowl.

Now pour in your chili.

Sprinkle on your cheddar cheese.

Now pop that into you oven to join the mushrooms in the cooking party.

Mushrooms cook for about 20 minutes, and the chili dip for about 15.

Two down!

One more, and this one is my personal favorite, to go.

Here is what you need:

Some mini buns- I found these small pretzel rolls at Kroger, and Holy Moly… they were good

Some cheese- I used a combo of gouda and cheddar

1 green apple

Dijon mustard

Slice the buns in half. On the top half, spread a little butter and give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Then, place your cheddar on the bottom half.

Please note, I’m using foil again for easy peasy clean up!

Add on your gouda.

Oh, sweet Nancy.

Then, either pop it into your oven or into your toaster oven for 5-6 minutes. The goal is ooey-gooey melty cheese.

Pull it out of the oven when it looks like this:

Now, I scooped up that cheese and piled it on the bun.

I didn’t want to waste it!!

Put the slices of apple on the cheese.

And a dab of dijon on the top half of the bun.

Three down!

Now, what to drink… what to drink…

In one of my foodie magazines, I found a dee-lish recipe for a winter sangria.

Here is what you’ll need:

Red or white wine

Ginger Ale

Club Soda

Honey

Green Apple

Orange

Pomegranate seeds

If you are looking for a fun and kid-friendly drink, you can substitute the wine with black cherry juice.

First, put slices of apple and orange in the bottom of your glass.

Add in a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds.

Put in a little ice.

Side story: These mini ice cubes come from trays like my Grandma Clarke had when I was growing up. Every time I pop them into a drink I think of her. She was great, and I miss her.

Now pour in a cup of wine (you can do more or less if you’d like)

Add in a teaspoon of maple syrup, about 1/4 cup of ginger ale, and 1/4 cup of club soda.

Serve it all up together!

Now, that is a game day treat.

Right??

Even if your team disappoints, this food will not.

Happy Hump Day Friends!

XO, Leah

Have you seen this movie?

Wowzer.

We went and watched it over the weekend, and it made me angry and motivated and desperate for change.

Here is the trailer:

Obviously, this is a film with an agenda, and I recognize that it is only showing one group of people’s point of view.

But I HIGHLY recommend that you take the time to go see this movie. I think it will affect the way you think about our current schooling system profoundly.

What the movie does make inarguably clear is that many children in our country are being failed by the current public school system, and that the effect of this failure will change the trajectory of our nation.

There are critics of this movie, of course. I don’t believe that there is a silver bullet out there for education reform- if there was, wouldn’t we have found it? I also don’t believe that charter schools are the answer (as the movie states, only 1 in 5 are intensely successful- many are disastrous, in fact).

What the movie does show, is that there are schools that are knocking education out of the park- and they are doing it with a diverse base of students.

I don’t think that I ask much of you, do I?  But I am  going to ask you to do this one tiny thing for me. Please see this movie.

It will get ya thinkin’.

XO,

Leah

Hope:

noun

• a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen

• a person or thing that may help or save someone

• grounds for believing that something good may happen

“Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” – Jean Kerr

For my dearly beloveds that are struggling with finding their hope…

Have faith.

Be courageous.

And know that this feeling isn’t permanent.

XO,

Leah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I love me a good pickled vegetable.

I love pickles and olives and sauerkraut and hot pepper relish.

And I love me some of my Grandma’s Giardiniera.

Giardiniera is typically used as a condiment on Italian sandwiches. But I prefer to eat it as a side dish.

Or on a sandwich.

Or as a snack.

Or for breakfast.

I just love the flavor of it, and I like the fact that it is an easy way to get a serving of vegetables into my day.

Know what else I love?

That it is stinking easy to make.

And truth be told, because it includes cauliflower… it is kind of stinky too.

Side note: I prefer cauliflower to be pronounced Call-i (short I sound)-flower. Lots o’ people call it Call-ee-flower. What is the deal with that?

If you call it Call-ee-flower, please explain to me why you do this. Thank you.

Anyhow, here are the veggies you will need to make your easy marinated vegetables:

One head of caul-i-flower, 2 carrots, 2-3 stalks of celery, one green bell pepper, 1/2 of an onion, and black and green olives.

Please note that I did not look into the jar of my green olives until I was about to add them to my dish.

That was when I realized they were moldy. How exactly does a pickled vegetable like olives get moldy? I thought pickling preserved these veggies.

So, I did not end up adding the moldy green olives. I suggest you do add green olives.

Unless of course, they don’t do it for ya (in which case, I think you are crazy).

Cut up your celery, and drop it in a Tupperware bowl that has an airtight lid.

Add in your peeled and chopped carrots.

Now, chop up your green pepper and add it in to the party.

Slice up your onion very thinly and add it in.

Please note I didn’t end up using the red onion pictured above.

That ended up being bad too… what the heck? I had just purchased it at the grocery that day. Wasn’t meant to be, I suppose.

Now your olives.

I like mine sliced in half.

You know, because I’m high maintenance like that.

And finally the cauliflower.

There ya have it.

There is only one thing missing.

The dressing, and it too is easy.

Gosh, I love ease!

Take 3/4 c. of oil (veg, canola, or olive would work) and mix it with 1/2 c. of white vinegar. Add in 5 T. of sugar, 1 t. oregeno, and 1 t. of salt.

Whisk it up.

And pour it in the mix.

Now, pop a lid on your container.

Shake it like a polaroid picture.

Put it in your fridge to let it marinate- at least overnight.

This is the kind of dish that gets better and better the longer it sits there.

Here is what the final product looks like.

I know plenty of people that could sit down and eat this entire bowl, myself included.

To be fair and balanced, however, Brad doesn’t groove on the Giardiniera. But he doesn’t really enjoy black olives or cauliflower, so that makes sense.

You can take this up a notch by adding in a hot pepper. That makes it a spicy Giardiniera that is especially delicious on a sandwich.

Or you can sub out some of the vegetables for others that you would enjoy more. I won’t be watching, so do what you like.

Have a good one my friends.

And thanks for stoppin’ by.

XO,

Leah

For the past decade, I have travelled with my hubs to his family Lake House to celebrate Thanksgiving with his immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone’s dogs.

There are obvious things that I look forward to during the Thanksgiving season- seeing family, spending quality time, giving thanks, and eating glorious turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

Duh.

Who doesn’t like that stuff?

However, there is a newer tradition that I’m going to share with you. I encourage you to try it out for yourself. It will elevate your holiday weekend to a new, fantastically fattening and trashy level.

And who doesn’t love fattening and trashy?

We celebrate the Friday after Thanksgiving with Fry-Day.

I believe this started the first year Brad’s uncle fried a turkey. The next day we had this glorious frier just tempting us to try some new delectable treats in it.

And boy, have we.

It all started with the basics.

I do believe this is the beginning of the first year spread.

Pickles and jalepenos on the left, and those are bacon wrapped hot dogs on the right.

This picture was taken before their dip in our beer batter.

I warned you that these are in no way, shape, or form good for you- right?

Year two, we focused on some dessert products.

These are double stuffed Oreos covered with funnel cake batter.

Um, HELLO!!!!!

We send off the battered goodies to be handled by the men.

The Coors Light drinking men.

Manly.

And classy.

This picture indicates that you also must wear some casual wear from your Alma Mater during Fry-Day.

This is not a Fry Day mandatory; however, it is recommended.

This is a spread from one year.

There are fried cheese sticks, fried oysters and shrimp, fried pickles and jalepenos, and some dips to correspond.

Look! There is even fruit on the table. At least we are making an effort to include some element of health.

Here is the shrimp up close.

This is a personal favorite of mine.

If you look closely, you’ll notice a strange looking fried item in the center of the pile.

That would be cousin Ryan’s fried Lunchable hotdog in the mini-bun. Weird. And gross.

Mmmm. Funnel cake with sugar and cinnamon. Heaven.

Let’s see… we’ve also done salami stuffed with cream cheese, buffalo chicken dip frozen into balls then deep fried, and ice cream.

But we are always looking to improve and experiment.

So, if you have anything we must try, please share!!

Don’t worry… Uncle Steve makes us go on extremely long hikes every day of the break. So, we do work off the calories.

Last year after one hike, two of the older dogs were out of commission for a full 24 hours because the old pups pushed it a little too hard mile after mile.

You do get to see sights like this on said hikes.

Pretty.

And here is another practical way to take care of those pesky Thanksgiving Day and Fry-Day calories…

Fire Jumping while holding Maverick, the wonder dog.

Ladies, you can participate too!

There ya have it.

A new tradition for you Thanksgiving weekend.

You are welcome.

Don’t forget… I’m looking for frying suggestions. And we’ll try anything once (case in point- lunchable hotdog).

Happy Hump Day!

XO,
Leah

I love food that is easy.

Just like I like my men.

Ahem.

Is this thing on?

Hello?

I love food that takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, yet is delightfully delicious.

And that is why I love this little granola recipe. The original recipe came from a magazine (Real Simple, I think) a few years ago. I have modified my little recipe card each time I have made this granola, and I now think that it is perfection.

If I do say so myself.

Preheat your oven to 350.

And grab these ingredients:

4 c. Oats (NOT the quick cooking kind)

1 c. Sliced Almonds (or any other nut if you prefer it more)

1/2 c. Unsweetened Coconut (find it in the baking aisle)

1/4 c. sunflower seeds (the original recipe called for pumpkin seeds, which you may just have on hand this time of year)

1/2 c. maple syrup- PLEASE use the REAL and GOOD stuff- no Mrs. Butterworths here, I beg you

2 T. oil

1/2 t. salt

1 c. dried fruit

Now, here comes the very challenging and precise part of this recipe.

Take everything that I mentioned above and dump it into a Tupperware bowl- preferably one that has an air tight lid.

I’ll stop for a moment and state that you can use any dried fruit that you prefer. I have made this with raisins, cranberries, and apples. This time around I used 1/2 cup dried pineapple and 1/2 cup dried cherry flavored cranberries.

That dried fruits section at the grocery store (usually either by the canned fruits or by the salad toppings- think croutons and nuts) has more choices than one would think possible. So, have at it!

Ok, I interrupt your viewing of the granola building once again. I’m stepping on my soap box.

Please, please, please, forever please use REAL maple syrup. Yes, I know it is expensive. But there is a reason for that. Real maple syrup is harvested from a maple tree. Fake syrup is harvested from high fructose corn syrup.

The difference in flavor is overwhelmingly better.

Just ask my daddy-o.

He is a syrup snob.

Once you’ve topped your mix off with the salt and oil (use canola or vegetable), mix it all up and pour it out onto a sheet pan. Pop it into the oven for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, wipe out your Tupperware container. When the granola is finished, this will be your storage container.

After 15 minutes, pull out your granola and toss it up. Make sure you get everything that was on the bottom rotated up to the top.

Then, stick it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

At 10 mintues, start checking on it. You want it to be a golden brown, but not a dark brown!

It should look just about this color when it is ready.

Put your finished and slightly cooled granola into your storage container.

Now, you can eat this a million different ways.

I often will pack a small bag of it to nibble on while I’m at work.

I’ll also toss some on cottage cheese, ice cream or yogurt (as seen below).

Brad will pour some into a bowl, and top it off with milk to eat the granola in place of a bowl of cereal.

You are only limited by your imagination.

That sounds like a line from an after-school special.

Of course, thank you to my loyal Sous Chef. She faithfully caught ever little oat that flew off of my pan and onto the floor while mixing.

Have a happy Tuesday.

It is fall, and it is crisp outside yet sunny. Doesn’t get better than that.

XO,
Leah

The homestead is like the Wild West with these two cowgirls around.

This happens many times a week.

It cracks me up every time that Lola stalks Miss.

I have recipes galore to share in the next couple of days, so come on back now- ya hear?

Happy Monday Peeps!

LW

My friend Erin is a super-star volunteer for a 100% volunteer run organization that rescues sweet puppies and dogs from a variety of situations, and it places them in forever homes.

Erin is the Patron Saint of Puppies. She has one dog of her own, but she constantly has a house full of foster pups awaiting their perfect match.

She always has a million stories from her Ace Ventura house.

Every now and then, she has a story that pulls at my heart strings.

And it makes me want another dog.

But I cannot have another dog.

I would certainly lose my sanity.

So, instead… I’ll pull at your heartstrings.

And I’ll see if you have room in your heart and life for little Mr. Scooter.

Scooter was born a perfect and healthy pup, but he was attacked by two rottweilers and abandoned near an animal hospital. Pet Smart donated all of the funds to cover Scooter’s care, and they purchased him his wheelchair.

Scooter is healed, and ready for adoption. But he will obviously need to find a special home… because he will require extra care.

If you or anyone you know is interested, shoot me an email (leahjoywise@hotmail.com).

Seriously, could he be any cuter? He gets along great with other dogs too!

Tell me you don’t want to take him home.

Counting down to the weekend,

Leah

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