getting ready for baby

Having a baby and overwhelmed by registry checklists and recommended products?  We were.  What do we really need?  And what gets used most?  After grilling friends and family with little ones, here are some of the items we determined were key.

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Car Seat.  This is a must apparently just to get your new baby out of the hospital.  Rumor has it the hospital will hold the kiddo hostage unless you have a car seat installed and ready to go.  We went with the Uppababy Mesa because it easily clicks into the stroller base that we chose.  We originally like the gray (aka “Pascal”), but ultimately chose the black (aka “Jake”) thinking it would stay cleaner looking longer.

Stroller.  So many options in so many price ranges.  Ultimately we chose the Uppababy Vista in part on the recommendation of a friend.  Most important to us though was that the Vista comes with a bassinet in addition to a toddler seat; and the car seat, toddler seat, and bassinet all click on and off the base easily, without need for additional attachments.

Glider.  It sounds like a glider, rocking chair, or some uber comfy seat is a must for all the baby snuggling and feedings that are going to be going on.  The price range for comfy seating is huge.  We opted for the Delta ‘Emma’ Glider in Flax for its reasonable cost, relatively compact size, overall comfiness, and neutral color.

Diaper Genie.  Our polling was split on the necessity of a dedicated diaper pail, but for less than $30 we went ahead and got a diaper genie.  Better safe than smelly.

Crib.  Not an immediate need, but at some point the baby should have a legit bed.  We liked the convertible cribs that transform into toddler beds.  We picked up the Delta ‘Fancy’ Convertible Crib from Buy Buy Baby using one of their promotional 20% off coupons.  Lots of retailers (like Buy Buy Baby and Albee Baby) regularly send out “20% off single item” coupons that are perfect for larger purchases like nursery furniture.  Don’t forget to add a mattress, mattress protector, and sheets!

Dresser with Changing Top.  Multi-tasking furniture is the best.  The changing top is removable, so when no longer needed you still have a nice little dresser.  The Delta ‘Emerson’ Dresser was the right size, reasonably priced, and matched well with the crib we picked.  Don’t forget to add the changing pad and a changing pad cover.  Done.

Blankets.  Multi-purpose blankets for swaddling, receiving, and comforting.  We were told we’d need several of these.

Bassinet Stand/Hamper.  Okay, so this one isn’t a ‘must’ at all, and it is arguably over-priced for what it is… but I wanted it.  Part of the Uppababy line, it is a stand for the bassinet (that is part of the Vista stroller)… but then – when you no longer need a bassinet –  use the hamper insert for laundry!

Plush Toy.  You will need at least a couple of cute and soft stuffed animals because they’re adorable.  There are so many to choose from!  I picked ones that made me smile and were in calming colors.

Happy shopping!

xoxo
-ash

pumpkins pumpkins pumpkins

Like many festive folks, you may have visited a pumpkin patch or two in October.  We did!  And now that Halloween has passed we’re wondering.. what should we do with all those pumpkins?!  Read on for decorating ideas and some recipes!  But first, where’d those pumpkins come from?

Ash’s pumpkin patch visit 

I checked out the Great Peter Pumpkin Patch on one of the rainiest weekends Nor Cal has seen in a while.  And, yes! – that’s the ‘jane trench‘ I’m wearing along with the ‘everyday leggings’ (coming soon!), ‘ruche long sleeve tee‘, and Hunter ‘Tour’ packable rain boots (previously mentioned here).

Aj’s pumpkin patch visit

My visit was more of kid-centered visit. We went to a darling pumpkin patch farm with animals, pumpkins, and a real corn maze – Hall’s Pumpkin Farm & Corn Maze. The littles loved being able to just pick grass and feed the animals – as well as running around like crazy trying to find our way out of the corn maze! Do you see those cute boots I was wearing!? Those are coming to the store SOON!! And that perfect green color tee I’m sporting? Yep, our ‘premium tee- evergreen‘. Kiddo’s outfits are from here and here. The husband’s? Ya, I didn’t think you asked. *eyeroll* he did not dress cute for the occasion.

 

Now, what we’re doing with all those pumpkins…

Decorating ideas

pumpkin-welcome

Pumpkins fit the season through Thanksgiving (at least the ones that weren’t carved up), so let them hang out!  Put them on the front porch, use some in a table centerpiece, paint them white and gold for a more contemporary/modern feel – so many options!  Here is some inspiration that we found –

White pumpkins from Livingly;  gold confetti pumpkins also from Livingly; and a beautiful pumpkin centerpiece from the Stone Gable blog.

Recipes

Nothing says fall like pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING. Here is one of our favorites:

Pumpkin Double Layer Cheesecake Bars

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2-5 tbsp (to taste) white sugar

Filling

  • 4 packages, 8oz each, cream cheese- room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs- room temperature
  • 1 8oz can of canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Homemade whipped cream

  • whipping cream
  • sugar
  • vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a 9×13″ baking pan with parchment paper- leaving a little over hanging on the sides.

In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Mix to combine- Then press the crumb mixture on the bottom of the prepared baking pan. You can use the bottom of a cup to really press down on the crust to make sure it’s pressed firmly together.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar. Beat with a paddle attachment until light, fluffy, and smooth. You don’t want any lumps! This is why it is key for everything to be at room temperature.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time- until blended. Spoon half of this mixture over the crust and spread evenly. To the remaining mixture add the canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Use a wire whisk to stir until smooth. Then, carefully spoon this over the other layer in the pan.

Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 50 minutes. Then- just turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar so that the cheesecake can slowly cool down- about 1 hour, maybe more.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before cutting into bars! A little tip- run your knife under warm water and dry it off between cuts so you get smooth, clean cut bars! Top with homemade whipped cream (or store bought!) and sprinkle on some pumpkin pie spice for a festive touch. Then- try not to eat them all before you share with others. You’ve been warned.

 

xox

Ash & Aj

 

more big things (!!!!)

As previewed in an earlier post, there are big things happening around Juniper Lemons and we wanted to share a little update.  Last weekend we met up for a photoshoot to get product pics for the soon-to-be-open Juniper Lemons boutique!

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It was a full on family affair with with my sister AJ and mom Carol lending their modeling talents, and AJ’s sister-in-law Danielle working her mad camera skillz.  Fueled by Raising Cane’s chicken fingers and fresh squeezed lemonade we powered through the shoot.

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This week we’ll be choosing photos, checking inventory, planning a giveaway, and putting the final touches on the site.  It is all becoming real and we are SUPER EXCITED for the store to go live!

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Stay tuned for the grand opening of the Juniper Lemons online boutique, and be sure to follow @juniperlemons on Instagram for product previews and giveaway details!

We can’t wait to share our finds with you!

xoxo

-ash

 

spooky treats

Those that know me, know I love to throw a party! Especially a halloween one! Today I am going to show you some of my go-to halloween party food items. Easy, fast, and super cute!

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Monster cake, poison apples, mummy jalapeño poppers, ‘witch’s brew’ root beer, sugar cookie candy corns, popcorn hands, magic wands, cheetoh pumpkins and spider web cupcakes- oh my! All of these are so simple and fast to make- which is needed when you are throwing a party.

I typically shy away from your “normal” holiday colors. I’m a sucker for purple, black, and green for halloween.

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For instructions on each of these fun party foods- see below!


Mummy Jalapeno poppers

10 jalapeno peppers- slice in half length wise. {I left the stems on and seeds in for an extra kick!}
8 ounces cream cheese- room temperature
8 ounces jack cheese- shredded
1 scallion- finely chopped
2 t. Lemon Zest
1/2 tsp salt
1 package refrigerated crescent rolls
2 eggs- beaten
1 Package candy eyeballs {I purchased mine at Michaels- you can find them at walmart, amazon, target, etc}

Preheat oven to 400° F. In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, jack cheese, scallion and salt together. Roll out the crescent rolls and separate into 4 rectangles- not the pre-cut triangles- with a perforation in the middle of each. Press your fingers into the perforations to seal them. You don’t want them splitting along the pre-cut areas. Cut each rectangle into 10 long pieces lengthwise.

Fill each jalepeño half with the cheese mixture. Wrap each jalapeño half with the dough, leaving a space for the eyes. On some I used a couple pieces of the crescent strips. Brush with egg mixture and place on baking sheet.

Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes. Once cooked, and slightly golden brown, remove from the oven and press the eyes onto them where you left an opening along the top. Serve while hot!


Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

2 Sticks Butter, softened
1 c. Sugar
1 Egg
2 T. Lemon Juice
2 t. Lemon Zest
1/8 t. Salt
3 c. Flour
1/2 t. Baking Soda
Purple Food coloring
Green Food coloring
Granulated sugar to sprinkle on top

Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Add egg, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Continue beating until well mixed. Add flour and baking soda, beat until well mixed. Divide dough into thirds. Press one-third of the white dough evenly into the bottom of a loaf pan that you have lined with foil, wax, or parchment paper. Place another one-third of the dough into a bowl and add purple food coloring to it. Once it is mixed evenly, press the purple dough evenly over white dough. In another bowl, add the rest of the dough and the green food coloring. Press the green evenly over the purple dough. Cover and refrigerate until firm (2 hours or overnight is best). Once chilled, flip over your loaf pan and unwrap your dough. Flip it back over and get ready to cut! Cut loaf crosswise into 1/4-inch slices using a sharp knife, trimming edges to make even, if necessary. Cut each slice into wedges.

Place 1-inch apart onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Place cookies straight into a bowl with sugar and coat. Place coated cookies on a baking rack to cool.


Monster Cake

1 of your favorite cake box mixes or your favorite homemade batter
Homemade frosting or store bought!
1 package Oreos
1 package Oreos Minis
Regular chocolate chips
1 Box of Junior Mints

Mix, bake, layer, and frost your cake! Any flavor or colors you like! Once assembled- you can make your monster eyes. Separate all your Oreos and place them in pairs. Then, take some leftover frosting and attach the chocolate chips to the mini Oreos, and the junior mints to the regular Oreos. Once finished, use a little frosting on the back of each cookie to attach them sporadically all over the cake! Super simple and sure to be a hit!


Poison Apples

2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups water
1/2 cups light corn syrup
black gel food coloring
6 {or 12 small} green apples. Make sure they are not waxed!

 

Grease a piece of baking paper and place on a tray/baking sheet. Insert a skewer/popsicle stick/etc in all the apples and set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the sugar, water, corn syrup and food colouring and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. It should feel smooth. When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and keep the sides of the pot clean with a pastry brush dipped into clean water to prevent it from crystalizing. Bring the mixture to a boil until a candy thermometer reaches 150°c/310°F, or hard crack stage.

Carefully dip the apples into the hot candy mixture and place on the wax paper to set and cool. Enjoy your poison apples! Not just for a party but, you could tie a ribbon to the stick and hand them out to friends as a fun treat!


Spider Web Cupcakes

1 box of your favorite cake mix
Homemade {or store bought} frosting & food coloring if you are wanting a color
1 Package Chocolate almond bark
Wax paper
Cupcake liners

Mix and bake cake mix according to directions- in regular size cupcake tins with liners. While they are baking, print out you favorite spider web template from here. You can print a few copies, or just slide it around, whichever you prefer. Place it underneath wax paper. Now, melt your chocolate almond bark according the package directions. Once melted, pour it into a plastic baggie and cut off one of the tips of the baggie- very very small cut! You are just wanting to make a tiny hole. Then, carefully trace your template on the wax paper. Repeat. Let them cool to harden.

Once your cupcakes are cooled, frost them and before the frosting hardens up a bit, carefully push one of your spiderwebs into the frosting. Voila!


Witches Brew Root Beer

2 oz bottle of root beer extract
2 cups sugar
1 gallon of water
Dry ice

Fill your container with 1 gallon of warm water- you want it warm because it will help the sugar dissolve. It also makes the dry ice more effective!

Add the root beer extract and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Add the dry ice {do not touch it with your bare hands!} 10-15min prior to serving. You will need to let the dry ice do it’s thing for at least 10 minutes to cool and carbonate the root beer. Drink up!


Popcorn Hands

1 box unwaxed plastic, clear gloves
Homemade or store bought popcorn
1 bag of candy corn
ribbon
**optional: spider rings

Fill each finger of the gloves with a candy corn. Then stuff popcorn into the glove until full. Once full to your liking, tie off with a ribbon! Feel free to add a spider ring to one of the fingers for an extra spooky touch! Great for kid school parties!


Witches Hats

1 Package Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies
1 Package Hershey’s chocolate kisses
Homemade frosting or a tube of store bought in whatever color you prefer!

Lay out the fudge stripe cookies upside down on the counter/platter. Squeeze  small amount of frosting in the center and press on a hershey’s kiss candy {unwrapped}. Let set- and you’re finished! How simple was that!?


Magic Wands

1 Package of pretzel rods
2 Packages of white or chocolate almond bark (depending on if you are going to add food coloring)
Food coloring in the colors of your choosing.

Melt the almond bark according to the package directions- In mine above, I used the chocolate almond bark- pour it in to a tall cup. Next, dip your pretzel rods into the mixture and lay on parchment/wax paper to cool.

Then, melt the white chocolate (to be like the ones above) and separate into two bowls and add the food colorings of your choice. Once mixed, put the chocolates in to two separate plastic baggies. Cut diagonally across one of the bottom corners and drizzle the chocolate over the pretzel rods. Repeat with the other color(s). Let cool to harden!


Orange Pumpkins/Ghostly Bananas

Cutie Oranges
Bananas
Regular and mini chocolate chips
Black Sharpie

Draw a pumpkin face on each cutie orange with the sharpie.

Peel the bananas and cut them in half. Then place mini chocolate chips for the eyes, and a regular size chocolate chip for the mouth. Finished. So simple! Perfect for kid school parties!


 

Happy partying!

 

xox

aj

blue apron, gobble, and hello fresh

Unlike my sister, I do not enjoy cooking.  It’s not the actual cooking part that’s so terrible, but the menu planning, grocery shopping, putting away the groceries,  and prepping the meats and veggies that really take a toll.  By the time I’ve done all that plus the cooking bit, the meal is usually an overhyped disappointment that then has to be cleaned up.  Ugh.

So when I heard about services that deliver recipies and the necessary groceries straight to your door, I started trying them all.  The ones I have used the most (thus far) are Blue Apron, Gobble, and Hello Fresh.

 

Blue Apron

How it works:  Subscribe for either the “for two” plan at $59.99 per week, or the “family” plan at $69.92.  The “for two” plan provides 3 meals per week (6 servings total), and the “family” plan provides either 2 or 4 meals per week (8 servings total).  You can choose the meals you want to receive from the 4-6 meals offered that week.  It is a subscription service, so once you sign up you automatically receive meals each week unless you remember to login and skip a week.  And you can cancel the subscription at any time.  FYI- Even though it’s just me and the hubs, I usually opt for the “family” plan so that there are left overs for another meal or two 😉

How it compares:  In my experience, the Blue Apron meals are the most complex and take the most time to make.  Most of the ingredients arrive un-washed, un-prepped, and thrown together in singe box (other services separate the ingredients by meal).  The instructions are pretty detailed, and there are generally more instructional steps to follow than with other services I’ve tried.  For me, more steps unfortunately means more room for error, and I have not had a 100% success rate with the Blue Apron meals.  That said, many of the meals use interesting ingredients that I would not otherwise have tried to cook with, so that’s fun.  And I don’t think I ever made one that required a microwave(I don’t like microwaves), so kudos on that!

Takeaway:   Good for trying something new, particularly if you like to cook or want to make a date night event of it.  These days I only order Blue Apron as a date night activity or as a fun way to get houseguests involved with making dinner.  The recipes are just too complicated for me to enjoy tackling on my own.  Remember though, cooking really isn’t my thing.

 

Gobble

How it works:  Subscription options are 3 dinners for 2 people (6 meals, or $71.70), or 3 dinners for 4 people (12 meals, or $143.40).  You can login online to remove or change meals for any week and pricing is based on the number of meals ordered:  $11.95 per meal if you order at least 6 meals; $13.95 if you end up only ordering 4 meals.  So for 6 meals it would be $71.70, and for 4 meals it would be $55.80.  As with the other services, you can choose your meals, skip weeks, and cancel at any time.

How it compares:  Sooo easy and quick to get from fridge to hot on the table.  The service boasts “from kit to table in 10 minutes”, which might be possible if you practiced and felt like racing through the process.  I prefer to kick things off by pouring a glass of wine and I clean up as I go so there is minimal to do after I eat.  But even with my slower approach to cooking I manage to get Gobble meals to the table within 20 minutes or so.  And the food is consistently good.  The ingredients arrive separated by meal, and many of the ingredients are already washed and some pre-prepped.  I don’t like that microwaving is regularly listed in the instructional steps, but if you don’t care about racing the food to the table you can simply heat those bits on the stove.

Takeaway:  Super simple, fast, and good.  The weeks that I have Gobble, I feel I eat better and I am happy to “cook”.  If you’re one of those that really enjoys cooking though, this may not be the service for you.  Some meals may feel more like glorified food assembly than an actual culinary activity, but for me that’s just fine.

 

Hello Fresh

How it works:  Subscribe to receive a “classic” box for 2 at $69.00, a “veggie” box for two at $59.99, or a “family” box for 4 at $105.00.  Each box contains 3 meals and the 3 meals are pre-selected for you, but you can swap them by logging into your online account (assuming you remember to do so in time).  And same as the others you can skip a week or cancel at any time.

How it compares:  To me, Hello Fresh is a simpler version of Blue Apron.  The ingredients all arrived separated by meal, but for the most part un-prepped.  Each meal seems to have a relatively small number of ingredients, and the instructional steps were also fewer.  And I am proud to say I have had a 100% success rate with the Hello Fresh meals!  I even kept some of the recipe cards for future use.

Takeaway:  Relatively quick and easy, and consistently good.  More prep required than a Gobble meal, but less complicated than a Blue Apron meal.  This service is good for those who want to make a good, simple dinner from scratch without the hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping.

 

Happy cooking!

xoxo

ash

halloween costume ideas

October will be here before we know it, and that means dress up time!  If you haven’t started costume brainstorming, you need to get going.  Plan early so that you can find and/or order the pieces you need for the perfect look.  Need some ideas?

Random Awesomeness.

Thor.  Yes please.
Lucy.  I always think of the chocolate wrapping episode.  hahaha…
Goonies Sloth.  Such a great movie.  Here are some good Sloth clips.
Pug.  Because pugs are my favorite and this is funny.
Black Widow.  She’s such a bad ass.
Britney Spears.  Britney made a comeback this year, so why not take it waaay back?  Just add a blonde wig and “… Baby One More Time”.
Deadpool.  And for a few more bucks this one comes with muscles.
Pokemon Pikachu.  Pokemon are virtually everywhere these days.
Marilyn Monroe.  A classic.

 

Groups/Couples.

Suicide Squad
Deadshot.  Harley Quinn. Joker. KatanaKiller Croc.  Need help getting to know the characters?  Check out this fun little video

Old School Batman
Do you remember?!  The TV show was so great.  %$#BAM!  POW!@#  Batman and Robin, or  legit Batman and legit Robin.  And of course, Batgirl.

Beauty and the Beast
BelleBeast.

Cinderella
Prince Charming and Cinderella.

Snow White
Snow White. Evil Queen. Prince.

Already have a generic princess costume? (me too!)  Make it a couples costume by adding a  Frog Prince or Knight.

 

Kids.

Batman.  Because he’s totally cool, especially the Christian Bale one. (amiright?!)
Elsa.  Yah, that’s still popular.
Garden Gnome.  Expedia? Maybe an Amelie theme?
Future Golfer.  LOL!
Thing 1 and Thing 2.  Got twins?  This is perfect.
Unicorn.  Because it’s a UNICORN!  Too cute.

Older kids and teens were left off this list because they will undoubtedly have their own ideas.

So who or what will you be this Halloween?!!

Trick or Treat ya’ll!

xoxo

ash

 

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(Halloween 2015)