Apple Picking

One of my favorite activities is to pick fruit and store it in some fashion. West Michigan has good soil for growing fruit, so there are plenty of u-pick farms around for me to fulfill this obsession of mine.

I haven’t blogged about every season, but I usually pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and apples. Raspberries made it in this year too, but it was kind of disappointing. I’ll explain later.

It’s fall now though and time for apples! Fall is such a great season. The cool crisp air is invigorating as you pick apples then you have a perfect excuse to warm up with a nice, hot mug of apple cider. If you are having cider, you can’t pass up pumpkin donuts or cider donuts or caramel covered apples or fresh, hot cinnamon rolls (These all were available at the orchard we picked at. I had one of each!).

As I write this, I’m not so sure I like fall so much as I like fall food. There’s food that goes best with each season, and maybe that’s while I like the changing of the seasons…

Summer – fresh fruit, grilled veggies, hamburgers, corn on the cob, lemonade

Fall – pumpkin anything (pie, donuts, pancakes, coffee cake, muffins…), cider, caramel apples, squash

Winter – hearty soups, ham, pecan pie, oranges, clementines, mashed potatoes

Spring – strawberries, first fresh foods on roadside stands

I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about my fall apple picking excursion.

I had to pleasure of getting together with my old college roommates to pick apples and prepare all kinds of apple goodies with them. I just love those girls, and it warms my heart every time we’re together.

The apples that were ripe when we went were Jonagold (my favorite) and Gala. Here are some pictures from the orchard.

The four of us at the apple orchard. Cristy wasn’t able to make it. We missed you Cristy!

The picture is not so great. I should not have picked an old person to take the picture for us!

On the way back to Kim’s house, we stopped at a raspberry farm to pick some raspberries too.

The vines were lovely.

The fruit was lovely.

The only not-lovely part was it took four of us at least 30 minutes to pick this much fruit.

I now understand why raspberries are so expensive in the grocery store.

We let Erin keep all of the raspberries because it wasn’t much to split between four people. I may have picked more if every other one didn’t land in my mouth. Not 100% sure on that one. 🙂

Fun times with my girls. Up next, apple extravaganza!

My Side of the Story – Part 6

Party in the ICU: Sunday, November 15, 2009

The neurosurgeon on call the weekend I was admitted did not specialize in the malformation I had in my brain. So since my vitals were very stable, I was not rushed into surgery as the doctors at the first hospital thought I would be.


The surgeon decided to wait until the following week for the specialist to come in and see me.

Isn’t God amazing?!?

Here I am with as rare brain condition that I have never heard of, and there just happens to be a specialist here in town. There is lots of medical stuff in GR, but this AVM is pretty rare. God is so good!

Everyone and their mother came to see me on Sunday. It was a great party. People would come up to the fourth floor and ask for Emily, and the nurses would just point down the hall to noisy room filled with people! How fun!

Another area where God is amazing: He surrounded me with people who love me and supported me through this crazy, scary time. Our small group, parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters all came to see me that day. I must tell you that I had a smashing time. Crazy, huh? I couldn’t do anything more than sit in bed, but it was so encouraging to see everyone that loved me.

Note: Sometime Saturday or Sunday they let me eat. I don’t remember when, but I do know that I raved over the food!

Monday (I think, not sure when this event occurred) I had an angiogram to assess the extent of the AVM. I was SUPER chatty with the nurses as they prepped me for the procedure. They said I’d be partially awake. Above the operating table was a panel of six monitors and one had a picture of a brain still up on it.

Cool. This is not so bad. I can totally handle watching this. This is going to be sweet!

Then the doctor came in. I was chatting with him too, 90 miles an hour. I told him that I must be nervous because I don’t usually talk this much. Then I asked him if I could talk during the procedure.

“No,” he said.

“Bummer, why not?” I asked.

“Because I will be going through your neck.”

That shut me up good. I don’t remember anything after that.

Oh, wait! I do!

As I was getting ready to leave the operating room, they moved me to the transfer bed. I looked back at the table and longingly said, “Can I have that pillow? It was SOOOO comfortable.”

The nurses laughed.

Why are you laughing? I just had the best sleep of my life on that pillow!

 “Would you like us to sign it too?” they asked.

“Yes!” I said. So they all autographed it and I hugged it to my chest on the way back to the room.

Later, when I was more conscious, I saw that the lovely, soft pillow was really nothing more than a square piece of foam with an indent for the head.

Crazy what the drugs to do you, huh?

Sometime Monday or Tuesday, my neurosurgeon came to see me, ran some tests, and decided that I could go home until after Thanksgiving. The surgery needed to take place for me to lead a normal life, but I was in no imminent danger in the state I was.

There’s only a 6% chance of a second bleed within the next 6 months. Pretty good odds, don’t you think?


Next: My Side of the Story – Part 7

Egg Rolls – Part 2

Continuing on from Egg Rolls – Part 1

Now it is time to chop until your little heart’s content, then chop some more! These next steps could be made much easier by using a food processor or mandolin. We did it old school with a good ole knife and cutting board.

Brown two pounds of hamburger in a skillet on stove.

Drain grease then set aside to cool.

I’m not 100% sure why I have the sweet and sour sauce in this picture. It cooled overnight, so it really didn’t need more cooling. I must have thought it was pretty. 🙂

Chop eight heads of lettuce into matchsticks. You heard me, eight.

Oma prefers to do her prep sitting on the floor, and I prefer to stand. This worked out perfectly space wise in her kitchen. I had the island to myself, and she sat in the dining area off the kitchen.

Make sure to use all of the cabbage. Oma had to cut the outside pieces individually sometimes. Waste not, want not!

Chop bean sprouts into small pieces.

As you chop the sprouts, set them aside in their own bowl/container. They will need to be squeezed later to remove any water they might be holding.

Chop carrots into small pieces. We cheated and started with carrots pre-cut into matchsticks. You could use regular carrots too.

Set chopped carrots aside in a bowl separate from the sprouts.

Chop rice noodles into small pieces.

Oma told me to cut them like this. First horizontally…

The vertically…

I’m pretty use this is just to make sure all the wiggly noodles get chopped. I don’t think this is the authentic Korean way to cut rice noodles.

Chop 2-3 pounds of crab into small pieces.

Dan likes to call this stuff “krab with a k.” It is not truly crab but rather crab flavored Alaskan Sea Bass. Did you know they did stuff like that?? I didn’t.

On to the shrimp!

Chop 3 pounds of shrimp to small pieces. Again, we cheated an bought the pre-cooked, frozen stuff. Just remove the shell (?) and tail and chop away.

I don’t eat seafood very often. Can you tell? I’m sure there’s a technical term for prepping the shrimp, but I have no idea what that is. Can anyone educate me?

The pre-prepped shrimp:

Chopped shrimp:

Chop three large onions.

Oma’s telling me to do something in this picture. Maybe she’s telling me to stop taking pictures. I took a TON during this two day process.

Once cabbage is cut into match sticks, sprinkle with salt then let rest for a while. I honestly didn’t time this step. I didn’t even know it was going on until it was over. I’d say let it rest for a good half hour.

The salt breaks down the cabbage making it more tender, and it also produces a lot of cabbage juice. You want the ingredients as dry as possible before continuing.You will need to squeeze any liquid out of the cabbage, bean sprouts, and shrimp.

Note: Oma said not to squeeze the shrimp if you want more of a shrimp-y flavor. We squeezed the shrimp for this batch, and we couldn’t taste the shrimp at all.

We started trying to squeeze with our hands. This was not super effective.

I pulled out a trick I learned from watching 30 Minutes Meals with Rachel Ray. Put the ingredients into a clean dish towel then twist and squeeze.

This method worked amazingly well. We wrangled Dan into doing the squeezing for us, and Oma couldn’t believe how dry he was able to get the veggies.

Mix all ingredients together and generously sprinkle with black pepper, 2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules, 4 tablespoons minced garlic, and 8 eggs.

Mix well, taste and add salt as needed. The mixture should stick slightly together when squeezed.

Depending on how many people you have helping the following steps might be in a different order.

Once Dan and I were good at rolling the egg rolls, Oma start cooking them on the stove. You may want to wait to heat the oil until you are done rolling unless you have multiple hands to help.

Heat oil in a large skillet. I have no idea how hot. I’d say medium to medium-high.

While that is heating, let’s roll!

Place an egg rolls wrapper in front of you like a diamonds, one of the corners pointed at you. Grab a small handful of “innerds” and squeeze them together as you place them towards the tip of the wrapper closest to you.

Carefully wrap the roll, tucking in the corners as you go. Before you finish the rolls, brush some beaten egg on the corner and finish rolling to seal.

Piece of cake!

I made a video of this process to try to make it more clear, but I can’t figure out how to upload it. I think it’s too big. I’ll work on that.

Time to cook these suckers. If you are eating immediately, deep fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown all over.

If storing them, fry for a few minutes on each side, remove from oil and cool. The put in freezer safe ziplock bag and toss in the freezer. When you are ready to eat the frozen ones there are two ways to prepare them:

  1. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until crispy and brown all over. We line a jelly roll pan with foil as the rolls to leak quite a bit of oil as they bake. No need to let them thaw for this method, just pull them straight out of the freezer and into the oven.
  2. Deep fry until crispy and brown all over. We don’t usually do this method due to the extra oil and mess involved.


If you are curious about the proportions, all the ingredients we used made 168 egg rolls. It’s a process, but so worth it!


Egg Rolls – Part 1

Dan is half Korean, and his lovely momma (oma in Korean) is a fabulous cook. Everything she makes is wonderful, but one of Dan’s favorite dishes is Egg Rolls.

Oma has only made egg rolls for Dan six times in his life. Six. The process is that time consuming.

Dan and I have been asking Oma to teach us how to make egg rolls for some time now. Over Labor Day weekend, she finally agreed.

It was a two day process, a small bit of prep the night before then a long day of chopping, rolling, and frying.

If you feel like tackling a yummy, delicious project, I’d highly recommend this one. I would suggest making a bunch at one time though. You can partially fry them then freeze for quite a long time. After freezing, either fry the remainder of the way or bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.

First things first, buy the ingredients!

You’ll need cabbage, 8 heads:

Bean Sprouts, 2 one pound packages:

Egg Roll wrappers, 8-9 packages, there are 20-22 per package:

The rest of the ingredients I didn’t get a picture of:

  • Carrots, in matchsticks, 2 large packages
  • Onions, 3 large
  • Ground Beef, 2 pounds
  • Crab, or Krab according to Dan, 1-2 pounds
  • Shrimp, 3 pounds
  • Rice Noodles, 1 package
  • Ketchup, 1 large bottle
  • White Vinegar
  • Granulated Sugar

Prep Work

Wash bean sprouts twice, pick all green tops out and any other non-edible things.

Bring water to a boil in a large skillet or saucepan.

Add sprouts to the water. Boil with lid off, move gently around the pan to get all wet and cooked, about 20 minutes. The bean sprouts should be soft and pinched off easily when done.

Wash carrots. We bought pre-cut carrots, but you could start with whole carrots if you wish.

Drain bean sprouts. If sprouts were cooked too long, rinse with cold water immediately.

Bring another pan of water to boil, and cook one package of rice noodles until soft, about 10 minutes. The noodles should pinch off easily when done. Oma’s note: Use more water than shown in picture.

Drain the noodles, and let all ingredients cool overnight in the refrigerator.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 42oz ketchup
  • 10-12oz Vinegar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped

Add all ingredients to a large saucepan.

Cook on med-high heat until almost boiling, turn heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Taste as cooking and adjust ingredients as needed.

Remove from heat. When cool, put in refrigerator in air-tight container.

My Side of the Story – Part 5

I was informed at the first hospital on the lakeshore that I had a rare brain condition called an arteriovenus malformation (AVM).


I had no idea what they were talking about, but I understood that my situation was delicate.

Saturday afternoon (November 14), I was transferred to Spectrum Butterworth via ambulance. I’ve only ridden in an ambulance twice in my life. The first time when I was 13. I don’t really remember much except I was PETRIFIED! The paramedic was putting an IV in my arm, and I hated it. I was so scared. I wanted my mommy.

This ride was very different. It was extremely bumpy. Didn’t they think to put some shocks or struts or whatever makes my car drive nice and smooth in an ambulance? Seriously, injured people are riding in these things, and they are being jarred out of their minds on their trip to the hospital.

Which makes me think of something, at this point in the story I’m officially on bed rest and no diet because I’m heading into brain surgery as soon as we get to Spectrum. The bed rest was because any change in pressure inside my head could start another bleed that might not be able to be controlled. Great. Oh and I can’t blow my nose, cry, or go to the bathroom. Who knows, if they let me go to the bathroom, I might have to push out a BM and my brain would explode. (slight exaggeration) They were so concerned about my internal cranial pressure, but what if a suffered a concussion from the potholes on I-96? No big deal?

Here is where the grace of God comes in. I was not scared. I did not even think to cry. This is very against my nature as I am a worrier and deathly afraid of all things doctor related. I was more than at peace. I was high on life (no paid meds at this time). I was chatting it up with Dan, my friends, the paramedics, anyone I saw. I was not the least bit concerned about what was happening. God definitely gives you the strength you need to get through each circumstance before you.

Now maybe my body was in shock, who knows. I think God was protecting and comforting me.

Our lovely friends followed the ambulance to the hospital and brought our car with them. I was admitted right into the ICU. They had a room ready and waiting for me by the time I got there.


Next: My Side of the Story – Part 6

The staging continues…

I posted several posts on my old blog about moving furniture to stage our house better for showings. I’m still working on staging over here. The house, unfortunately, is still ours, and I’m constantly looking for better ways to show off our house.

I took on a big-ish project a couple weekends ago in preparation of re-listing our house with a new realtor.

Touch up some worn baseboards and window sills.

Easy right?

Well, yes and no. The wood was pretty worn, so not too much sanding was required. That was a relief. The tedious part was doing all of the sills and more than a few feet of base boards. It was a time consuming project.

I’m so glad I did it though. The wood looks completely different!

Before and after pictures were a little hard as I had a hard time telling what window sill was which once I downloaded the pictures from the camera.

Oops. I should have left a defining feature in each picture. Live and learn.

Here is the product I used to seal the wood.

I bought this quart when we first moved into our house three years ago. I was stripping and re-finishing the baseboards in most of the house as the previous owners had slopped paint on all of them.

Ask me how I feel about sloppy painting.

I picked this product because it was (1) clear and (2) finished and sealed in one step. I have no idea if this is the right product to use for this kind of job. My refinished boards look dead on compared to the other ones in the house so I’m happy.

The area around George’s dish was getting pretty sad. All that water splashing around took it’s toll on the wood.



The front window sill had quite a bit of water marks from leaving the windows open during the rain and leaving condensating cups sitting on the sill.


I also re-finished all the window sills upstairs (4 windows). It took some time, but I think it’s totally worth it.

What do you think? Any words to advise me on the correct way to do something of this sort? Did I buy the right finisher at all? 🙂 Probably not. I’m over it!

Picture Collage

I’ve been planning to do a picture collage for a while. I posted some inspiration in this post on my old blog.

It all began when I picked up these seven frames at a church garage sale for $2.75.


What a deal!

I also picked up a large poster frame from Meijer with a black and white print and mat for free!

I had a coupon for $20 off any purchase, and all three items were on clearance for less than $20 total!

First I experimented with the organization of the frames. I set them out on the floor and just moved them around until I found one I liked.

Then I used this technique I found on Young House Love to visualize how the collage would look on the wall.

Now let’s make those frames look good!

I knew I was going to spray paint the frames, but I had a hard time picking the color. I was torn between white and black.

I know, I know, I walk on the wild side.

I ended up picking white because I wanted to fill the frames with black and white pictures. Also I want to paint the walls at some point. The walls are bright and fun right now, but I have visions on light grey to make a peaceful room.

I plan to add pops of color in a lamp, pillow covers, and curtains. Whoa! One step at a time!

I used Valspar spray paint. I lightly sanded all of the frames to make sure the paint would stick. I only had trouble with the large Meijer frame which was not real wood. The paint did not stick too well. I’m still figuring out how to fix it.

In hindsight, I should have primed then painted. It took 3 coats of paint to cover the frames. You can see how well the first coat covered in the photos below.

After two more coats, things were looking muck better…

Time for the big reveal!

Above the couch before:



The picture makes the collage look too small on the wall. While it could be bigger, it doesn’t look too small in person.

Now for some close ups!

Have you done anything crafty lately? Have you finished a project you’ve been working on for months? Do share!

Carrot Cake

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, I made Dan carrot cake (ding, ding, ding…did anyone guess it?) for our anniversary. Now before anyone lambasts me for such a lame gift, let me explain.

1) Dan loves carrot cake. Correction. Dan loves carrot cake. As in, every time we walk into Meijer, Dan drools over the carrot cake at the bakery. The Meijer bakery. Meijer. Bakery. Carrot. Cake.

2) The recipe I used claims to be the Best Carrot Cake of All Time. How can I go wrong?

3) I didn’t know we were going all out for this anniversary. We just had the pig roast, ya know?

Those are good reasons, right?

Moving on.

This is totally the best carrot cake of all time. The recipe was so right. Dan loved it and has sworn off the Meijer bakery carrot cake forever. Mission accomplished.

I’m going to attempt a step-by-step how-to today because I was left confused by some of the instructions. So I thought I’d show what I did. Not saying it was right by any means, but it worked for me!

Original recipe is from Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen site found here.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Unless you have an oven like mine in which case you set it for 365 degrees. It will heat up to 350 perfectly.

Line two round cake pans with wax paper then grease and flour the wax paper.

What? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before, but honestly, I don’t bake too much. I mostly cook.

You will notice in my post yesterday that I did not have two round pans that are the same size. I had a tart pan and a spring-form pan. No worries! Use what you got!

I chose not to line the spring-form pan since I thought I could get the cake layer out easily as the sides come off. Turns out I was right. I had no trouble at all getting it out/off the pan.

As I looked at the tart pan, I saw myself turning my lovely carrot cake layer into crumbs trying to get it out of the pan. So here’s how I lined, greased, and floured the pan.

Grease the sheet

Put a spoonful of flour on the sheet and shake it around.

Next lay over the pan and wait for the cake batter to be ready.

Don’t tell me that you knew exactly what to do when you read the recipe.

Don’t make me feel silly for never having done this before.

However, if I did it wrong, let me know.

Moving on. Grease and flour the spring form pan.

Beat eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Were you paying attention? I mixed up the steps. It wasn’t an accident. I don’t believe in steps that say “sift ingredients together” or “mix dry ingredients then add wet” etc. I skip them all together.

Fold in grated carrot, pineapple, coconut, and pecans. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.

Pouring the batter into the tart pan was tricky as the wax paper wanted to spring up. I just spooned it a little at a time.

After the cakes are baked, spread the buttermilk glaze over the cakes.

Small problem. What does my “buttermilk glaze” look like?

Did you say caramel?

Yep, that’s what I thought too. It tasted great though!

On to the best part of the cake, the cream cheese frosting!

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.

So simple and so yummy!

Now jut frost that cake! Start with the bottom layer. Put a thick layer of frosting on top before adding the top layer. Cover in frosting.

I used 16 oz. of cream cheese, 5 more ounces than the recipe called for, and I still felt like there was not quite enough frosting. It was still delicious though!