Friday, April 24, 2015

Gluten-Free in New Hampshire's White Mountains

This is the last post from our gluten-free adventures in New Hampshire at the beginning of the month. One of the coolest things we did was drive through the White Mountains! Not only was the scenery really great, but the food was great, too.

Unfortunately, we were there during the off-season, so we couldn't go exploring through the mountains and do all the outdoorsy things one could do if the weather had been nice and the ground hadn't been snow-covered. Of course, we could have gone skiing, and we even saw the ski slopes populated with people that weekend, but we both agreed that we have NO interest in ever going skiing.

I'm more of a hot cocoa in the ski lodge than doing anything physical on a mountain kind of person.

So, back to what's really important about this post: the food!

First up, we had lunch at Rafferty's. This restaurant is just a simple pub and grill, but it also has one of the largest gluten-free restaurants in New England! And all of the staff have been trained for gluten awareness. When we were there, a little girl came in with her family and ordered the gluten-free mac and cheese!

Speaking of mac and cheese, I had the regular lobster mac and cheese, which was pretty good, although I was expected the lobster meat to be cut up and really mixed in with the pasta. Instead, it was in huge chunks! My husband had a gluten-free Philly Cheesesteak burger. (He loves cheesesteaks.)

Word of caution: COME HUNGRY! The portions were large, and we were both still pretty full from breakfast, so we couldn't even finish everything on our plates!

But that didn't stop us from checking out the White Mountain Cupcakery just around the corner from Rafferty's. This place won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network!

I got a cupcake with raspberry filling and coconut on top of vanilla frosting. (Can't remember what it was called right now...) It was very good, and I even waited a few hours until dinnertime to eat it and it still tasted fresh!

Unfortunately, we were there on a Friday, and they only make gluten-free cupcakes on a Saturday. You can also special order them, but I doubt we could have special ordered one cupcake for my husband. So just keep the timing in mind if you're going to visit them for a gluten-free cupcake.

That was our adventure in New Hampshire! Know of any other good gluten-free places we should check out? I'm sure we'll be back there at some point!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Top 10 Book Club Books

I've been part of a book club for a few years now, and I've read some books with this group that I would definitely recommend to other book clubs, but I've also read a lot of books on my own that I would recommend. But everybody's book club is different. Some people are all about the book, and if you don't read the whole book before the meeting, then you might as well not show up. Others, like mine, spend a few minutes talking about the book, but if you didn't read it or didn't finish, no worries!

So to please both types of book clubs, I've picked a few different types of books that I think would work.

If your book clubs likes to actually discuss the books for the full meeting (or you want to pretend like you will discuss the book), then you need some books that will yield a good discussion! How about these five:

1. The Submission by Amy Waldman (my rating: 5 stars) - In this book, set two years after 9/11, a jury selects an anonymous submission for a 9/11 memorial. The only problem? The winner is an American Muslim. The story is told through the eyes of six people who each had a different experience on 9/11 that colors how they react to the memorial.

2. Shine by Lauren Myracle (my rating: 5 stars) - This is a young adult novel, but it's one that everyone should read. It has a wonderful message that will have readers thinking about how they treat others and what it means to do what's right.

3. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (my rating: 4 stars) - My book club read this and had a really good discussion about the ending and all the logistics of the story. This one, about a woman who keeps reliving her life, will definitely get you thinking, whether or not you like the ending.

4. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (my rating: 5 stars) - Imagine if your book club had to meet in secret. That's what happens in this book, a true story about a female teacher and several female students meeting in secret to read and discuss life in Iran.

5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (my rating: 4 stars) - This book is a long one but well worth the investment. And my book club had a really interesting discussion about it! The novel is about a minister who moves his family to the Congo to convert the natives to Christianity.

And if your book club just likes to read good books that will entertain everyone through good stories, then try these next five picks:

6. Bossypants by Tina Fey (my rating: 5 stars) - This book made me laugh out loud. If you've got an all-female book club, definitely read this one. You get to read about Tina Fey and other things that all women go through. I need to add this one to my home library.

7. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (my rating: 5 stars) - I adored this book! I read it before my book club picked it, and I wasn't able to attend the meeting where my book club discussed it, but I think they all liked it. There are so many surprises in this well-written book and parts of it made me cry!

8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (my rating: 5 stars) - This one might seem like an obvious choice, but if you haven't read it yet, you really should. And then your book club can have a movie night and watch the movie version!

9. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (my rating: 4 stars) - This book is historical fiction about a trip to New York City that soon-to-be-famous film star Louise Brooks takes with her chaperone, a mother and wife with her own secret aspirations for being in New York.

10. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (my rating: 5 stars) - This cute, funny, and heartwarming story needs to be made into a movie. CeeCee has to spend the summer in Georgia with her aunt Tootie, and through some very colorful neighbors, CeeCee learns to move past tragedy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Small Town

Here is the second two-pager I made using pictures from our day trip to Hannibal, Missouri last December. I liked the weathered look of the background paper and the wood-printed paper together. The other patterned paper was just something in my stash that matched the colors.

If you've never been to Hannibal, it's worth a day trip, especially if you can find a GroupOn or LivingSocial deal (like we did) for admission to the Mark Twain house and museum. We were there during the off-season it seemed, so a lot of the shops were closed because of the holidays. I can imagine that this would be a quaint little town to do some shopping in when you're done checking out the museum.

And if you can walk up 244 steps, you'll get to the top of a hill where the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse stands. (You can also drive up there, but we didn't know that at the time.) You'll see the stairs leading up to it right near the Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer statue. The lighthouse overlooks the Mississippi River and gives a panoramic view of Hannibal.

There was a gluten-free restaurant in town, but unfortunately it closed. So, eat at your own risk or bring your own food.

I kept things pretty simple on this layout. I managed to find a few embellishments in the right color scheme, like those blue brads from American Crafts, and just sprinkled a few throughout the layout. It literally took me about five minutes to lay this out in my mind, and then I just filled in where I could with whatever embellishments I could find.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Matheny Manifesto - Book Review

Based on a letter he wrote to the parents of a youth baseball league he coached, The Matheny Manifesto by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and author Jerry B. Jenkins is part memoir and part treatise on how to fix what is wrong with youth sports, namely taking the focus off the fun aspect and the kids themselves and making it all about the parents, the coaches, and winning at all costs.

For Matheny, coaching kids and the big leaguers is all about playing the game of baseball the right way and with class. He tries to instill not just technical baseball skills but also life skills that his players can take off the field and use in their everyday lives: leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character, toughness, and humility.

If you're a coach or a parent of a kid who plays youth sports, this book is for you. You don't even have to coach baseball or have a kid who plays baseball. This philosophy could extend into any sport. You might not agree with everything at first, but there's no denying the positive impact Matheny's approach has had on all players and staff he's worked with.

And I'm not just saying that because I'm from St. Louis, and the Cardinals are my favorite team, and Matheny frequently mentions his baseball buddy and my childhood crush John Mabry.

No, really, my enjoyment of this book has nothing to do with any of that!! It really is a unique and commendable approach to sports that any sports fan, player, coach, umpire, parent, and grandparent can appreciate.

I received a free review copy of this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - April 20

Who else on the East Coast is enjoying the warmer weather we've been having? It finally feels like spring! I even went out and speed-walked a half marathon yesterday!

I crossed the finish line at 3:30:37, but my actual time (as scanned by my B-tag at the start and finish lines) was 3:23:10. I wasn't first, but I wasn't last, and I made it through before the four-hour time limit was up! And I got a medal!

But now I'm hungry, so here is what we're eating this week:

Sunday: chicken strips and fries

Monday: ham and potatoes

Tuesday: tomato soup and grilled cheese

Wednesday: breakfast ham hash

Thursday: pasta and salad

Friday: out

Saturday: on our own

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gluten-Free New Hampshire: Purple Finch Cafe

During the course of us driving all over New Hampshire (well, almost all over New Hampshire) the other weekend, we stopped at a breakfast place in Bedford, New Hampshire called Purple Finch Cafe.

If you like breakfast food, then you'll really like the extensive breakfast menu at this place! Plus, there are gluten-free options!

And not only do they have gluten-free menu options, but they took our gluten-free food request super seriously! When my husband asked for his breakfast gluten-free, the waitress asked him if it was a dietary choice or an allergy. When he told her it was because of an allergy, she said she'd let the kitchen know. "We'll take good care of you!" she said. (Wish I could remember her name.)

This was my, "Oh, we're already at the car and I forgot to take a picture of this place" photo.
I also wish I would have remembered to take a picture of my husband's gluten-free breakfast. Alas, I only took a picture of my gluten-filled breakfast. But if you think this looks delicious, it was, and there is plenty more on the menu where that came from!

The Finch-wich (bagel breakfast sandwich) with sweet potato dots and maple syrup
Editor's Note: When eating out at a restaurant that is not 100% gluten-free, there is always the possibility of cross-contamination in the shared kitchen. My husband didn't have any reaction after eating at this restaurant. But if you don't feel safe eating at a restaurant like this, then by all means don't!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

They Serve Bagels in Heaven - Review

Full disclosure: you really have to read this book with an open mind. If you don't believe in mediums, psychics, or reincarnation, and you know that nothing is going to change your opinion, then Irene Weinberg's book They Serve Bagels in Heaven is not going to be the book for you.

Yes, this true story is a love story about Irene and her husband Saul. The love of her life. Her soulmate. But Saul died in 1997, and so this book is based on conversations Irene had with Saul from the afterlife.

Through Irene's interactions with different mediums, she was able to communicate with Saul (kind of like in the movie Ghost) and Saul relayed to Irene that their two souls had actually been together in multiple lifetimes and would be together again when the time was right. (There is even a glimpse into their souls' future.) Writing this book was, for Irene, part of the soul purpose that Irene and Saul's souls were meant to carry out together.

There is a good message of loving others, including your spouse, while you have the chance here on Earth. And there are resources in the back of the book if you want to explore your own soul plan and soul purpose.  

Personally, I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I wish I had read it with someone else so that we could discuss it because there is a lot to discuss. But honestly, I feel like the title of this book gives the reader the wrong impression of what they're going to be reading. It's not exactly light and fluffy and comic, unless you think that reading about a past life being raped and bludgeoned to death or a past life as a victim of the Holocaust is light, fluffy, and comic. This book is not something that is easily accessible to everyone.

They Serve Bagels in Heaven is published by Irene Weinberg and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy through the Intro NYC Blogger Network for my honest review.