Thursday, August 30, 2012

First Vacation Layout!

I got my first vacation layout finished. Well, that's because I created the layout, minus pictures, before we went on vacation. Wasn't that smart? Sometimes, if I find just the right sketch and I have just the right product, creating a layout in advance of getting (or even taking the pictures) just makes things so much easier. Unfortunately, I only have one other pre-made vacation-themed layout and 700 pictures from our vacation! It's going to take me awhile to sort through the pictures and figure out which ones are scrap-worthy, then actually get them all scrapped. Phew. I can do it! Although, I still have pre-vacation pictures to scrap. I am so behind! I should start doing more pre-made layouts, I guess.

This is my husband and me on the Amtrak train! We started in New York and made our first get-off-the-train stop in Chicago for a 6-hour layover. Ah, we were still so optimistic about being on a train.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cruel Harvest - Book Review

There are so many ways Fran Grubb's life could have gone. Abused and mistreated by her father, abandoned by her mother, and denied an education, Grubb could have grown up harboring hate and never breaking free from her father's or anyone else's iron grip. But Grubb learned what real love meant and how to forgive thanks to her faith in God.

Cruel Harvest is the story of Grubb's childhood. She was the fifth of seventh children in a family of migrant workers. Wherever there was cotton or fruit to pick, that's where her family went. Dad, Mom, and all the children (no matter their age and despite the fact that they should have been sent to school) had to work. And then their father spent all the money on alcohol, beat them, and molested Grubb's oldest sister (and eventually Grubb and some of the other children). One of Grubb's brothers was sold to an uncle for $5. Eventually the family began to break apart. The children either ran away or were sent to an orphanage or worse. Grubb was the last one to get away from her father. It's a heartbreaking and sad story that might be difficult for some people to read.

In between stories from Grubb's childhood, Grubb tells us the story of how she found her brothers and sisters again, whom she hadn't seen since they were children, with the help of her husband Wayne.

Grubb doesn't go into detail about what happened to her after she ran away from her father when she was 16. She gives us a glimpse: marriage to someone just like her father, two kids, divorce, alcoholism, God, second marriage. I wish we had learned more about how Grubb was able to get out of her first marriage, how her kids are doing, how she made it as a single mom with little education, and how she eventually came to trust in God. But we don't get any of that, unfortunately. Perhaps Grubb is saving that story for another book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gluten-Free at San Francisco's AT&T Park

I married a major baseball fan and so we go to baseball games on our vacations. And luckily for us, many baseball stadiums now offer gluten-free food. AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, is one such park. They had a great combo deal: gluten-free hot dog, kettle chips, and a soda! The booth also sold gluten-free beer. We found the gluten-free booth as soon as we entered the park, which was great! 

And then, of course, we got to eat and enjoy the view of the bay from our seats!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gluten-Free Chicago - Hannah's Bretzel

I thought I had taken a picture of my delicious Hannah's Bretzel sandwich, but sadly I did not snap a picture before consuming. But you have to know that this place makes GREAT sandwiches. The bread is like a pretzel! And they have gluten-free bread, making this one of Mike's favorite gluten-free eateries in Chicago and probably ever. (Note the sign to the right. It's good of them to alert us to this.)

We ate here twice during our vacation. The first time I had the Organic Turkey and Farmhouse Cheddar sandwich. It was really good!! The second time I had the Italian Parma Ham and Goat Cheese sandwich. They piled that sandwich with so much parma ham! I had to take small bites because the parma ham was very chewy and there was just so much of it. They also put baby arugula and rosemary-infused asparagus on the sandwich. Honestly, I think the asparagus could be taken off just because I wasn't able to taste the goat cheese as well with all that going on. But it was still good, don't get me wrong.

There are two locations in Chicago. One is open on Sunday and one isn't, so keep that in mind if you're in Chicago over the weekend. What else can I say about this place? They also have lots of fun snacks, including some gluten-free stuff, if you want to add that to your sandwich. Each sandwich does come with chips, almonds or soy nuts. Yum yum yum!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gluten-Free Las Vegas - Mac Shack

The delicious concoction you see above is from a lovely restaurant called Mac Shack in Las Vegas. Mac Shack is an all-pasta all the time place. You can get all kinds of delicious pasta dishes, including GLUTEN-FREE pasta! I had regular pasta and chose to go with one of Mac Shack's signature pastas: Asiago Blue Mac. Asiago, blue cheese, and pecorino romano topped with blue cheese crumbles. IT WAS SO GOOD.

My husband ordered gluten-free penne with chicken, broccoli, and alfredo sauce. He really enjoyed it.

If you're ever in Las Vegas and want some delicious gluten-free pasta AND a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Strip, then Mac Shack is the way to go. It's easy to get to from the Strip (where we stayed) once you get through all the Strip traffic, of course. Plus, they had meatless Monday specials as well as kid discounts on Sundays. I wish they would bring a Mac Shack to the East Coast!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gluten-Free Buns at Red Robin!

We made a nice discovery while on vacation. (Yes, I was on vacation, which is why this blog has been silent for awhile.) We ate at a Red Robin restaurant in Seattle fully expecting to have to order a burger minus the bun (the sweet potato fries are gluten-free!), but when we looked at the menu it had a gluten-free bun option listed! You have to pay $1 more for the gluten-free bun, but it's totally worth it. I don't know if all the Red Robins have this, but they should! The gluten-free buns aren't listed on the wheat/gluten allergy menu that you can look up on the Red Robin website, but it was listed right there on the regular menu at the restaurant. My husband was very excited and said the bun was really good. He also discovered that he does in fact LIKE sweet potato fries. So I will be able to serve those more at home. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Scrapbook Kit

I recently made a birthday-themed scrapbook kit to donate to an auction for a friend's non-profit organization. It was a lot of fun to put together, and I almost didn't want to part with it. It's amazing the stuff I have in my stash that I never think to put together until I do something like this. I should go through my stuff and put together "kits" more often!

The picture below is of the letter stickers and other embellishments that I added to the kit. Ribbon, some journaling tags, chipboard frames, and more.

And here is the paper I put in the kit. I chose two solid colors and put in two sheets of each, so two neon yellow and two teal. Then I chose three pieces of patterned paper to go with each of the solid cardstock sheets, so there are six pieces of patterned paper.

And then I added some Making Memories stamps. I actually have a set of my own. This set was given to me by a friend who was clearing out her scrapbook supplies, and because I already own them, I thought I would donate them to the fundraising auction!

This kit has enough supplies to make four complete pages, plus extras/cards with any leftover stuff. I hope a scrapbooker goes home with this and enjoys it!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Red and BROWN

Spice Cake to be exact.

Pardon our mess. I still need to do a cream color on the framework that goes around the red rectangle.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas

I just saw a post in the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness newsletter about gluten-free lunches and a giveaway from Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery. Starting Monday August 6, you can go here to find gluten-free lunch meal plans and download shopping lists as well as enter to win Rudi's gluten-free products and swag. Each week will feature a different meal plan and giveaway, so you've got the whole month of August to participate and enter! This is a great resource if you've got kids who are on gluten-free diets and can't purchase food from the school cafeteria. Hopefully this will help take away the guesswork of coming up with school lunches that are gluten-free and taste good!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Running for My Life - Book Review

If you've been watching TV leading up to the Olympics, then you probably saw a VISA commercial about an Olympic runner named Lopez Lomong. In the commercial, Morgan Freeman narrates a brief synopsis of Lomong's life: kidnapped as a boy in South Sudan to join a militant army, his escape from the army by running, his turn as a runner for the USA in the Beijing Olympics. Lomong's autobiography, Running for My Life, gives much more detail than this 30-second commercial.

Lomong was at church with his parents one Sunday morning when a bunch of men came and took him and other children at the church. The boys were taken away in one direction. Lomong did not know what happened to the girls. He was 6 at the time.

While sequestered in a hut with hundreds of other boys, Lomong watched as the older, stronger boys were chosen for weapons training, while Lomong and the younger boys were left to wait in the hut. Many boys died. But not Lomong.

Then one night, three older boys (whom Lomong calls his angels) take Lomong with them on a risky escape. The four boys don't stop running until they reach Kenyra and are put in a refugee camp. Lomong spends 10 years in the camp until he wins an essay contest that brings him to America where he finds out just how prized his fast running skills are.

As a child in the camp, Lomong watched African-American Michael Johnson win gold in the Olympics, and Lomong made it his goal to go to the Olympics, too. He didn't realize that once he got to America, that dream would become more of a reality.

The story of Lomong's childhood separated from his family is sad, and the story of meeting his new family in Syracuse, New York is heartwarming and at times amusing. (He didn't know how to turn off the light in his bedroom, and so slept with the light on for a few nights, assuming that was how Americans slept.) It's wonderful that upon arriving in America, Lomong instantly had a strong support system from his foster parents. They helped him learn English and pass his high school classes and get into college. Without their relentless encouragement, it's quite possible that Lomong wouldn't be where he is today.

And where he is today is running and running a foundation (4 South Sudan) to bring education, clean water, nutrition, and healthcare to his home in Africa.

Lomong credits everything, ultimately, to God. God had a plan for Lomong, and even though times were hard, Lomong knew to keep trusting in God. Lomong was going to accept whatever God's will was. And even though Lomong didn't medal in Beijing (his success in this year's London Olympics has yet to be seen), he has used his fame to promote his cause and spread the word of God's love.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”