Friday, November 30, 2012

A Real Fall Meal

We don't do a lot of shopping at Whole Foods, but sometimes I will stop in during my lunch break (where I might catch a celebrity such as actress Rhea Pearlman shopping for meat) and pick up Udi's gluten-free bread or gluten-free pasta for my husband. Whenever I'm there, I always pick up the Whole Foods coupon booklet. It usually has coupons for gluten-free products as well as a variety of recipes to try, some of which are gluten-free or can be made gluten-free.

Like this yummy Sausage and Quinoa One-Pot Supper. Quinoa is a gluten-free, but I did do some reading on it before purchasing, and, like all products, make sure the box of quinoa says "gluten-free" on it. Apparently, some manufacturers process and package their quinoa in the same facility or on the same equipment as wheat products, which raises the risk of cross-contamination. If the box says "gluten-free", then you should be fine. I purchased Ancient Harvest brand.

I did not purchase any Whole Foods products, like the recipe called for. Instead, I did all my shopping for this recipe at A&P, so you don't have to go to a specialty store to buy the ingredients. This is easy to make gluten-free and it's easy to shop for at your local grocery store.

My husband said there was too much quinoa, so next time I will try 1/2 cup instead of 1 cup. If you're not sure if you like quinoa or not, I'd recommend starting with 1/2 cup, too. Do you guys like quinoa?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pepper Jack Cheesy Mac

Around my house, we love our mac and cheese. Usually we make it really simple by using Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese from the box.

Sometimes, we take our time and make a more hands-on version.

We're always open to new ways of making one of our favorite meals, so when I saw a recipe for Pepper Jack Cheesy Mac in our local community newspaper, I just had to put it in my "recipes to make" folder. There is no attribution with this recipe in the newspaper, but I did find the exact recipe at

To make this gluten-free, all I had to do was use gluten-free elbow macaroni. I'm a big fan of the brand Hodgson Mill. Hodgson Mill's gluten-free pasta is very good and usually inexpensive. Also, make sure your tortilla chips are gluten-free. Most of them are. We used Tostitos.

I also didn't use pepper jack cheese. I couldn't find shredded pepper jack, nor could I find a block of pepper jack to shred myself. So I picked up a bag of shredded Mexican blend cheese.

This was soooo cheesy. I loved it! It was a tad spicy thanks to the red pepper flakes and black pepper. I think next time I will cut down on the black pepper. A little of that goes a long way. I would also use red or blue tortilla chips just to give this a little more color.

Technically, this was published as a superbowl/football party recipe, but we didn't make it for that. It's perfectly good for non-sports nights, too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Homemade Makeup Brush Container

the mess before
I've decided that I'm going to complete one new craft project from Pinterest every weekend. I already shared with you my Christmas Lantern, and I've got another project that I completed the other weekend. This is a makeup brush container for holding, well, makeup brushes.

Prior to this, my makeup brushes were kept in a plastic container in a drawer. They were always falling out of the container and getting all messed up in the drawer, so I wanted to find a better way of storing them. And, of course, Pinterest came to my rescue.

the painted can
This was a very easy craft to make. I deviated a little bit from the original post. The original instructions were to use Mod Podge to cover the inside and outside of a can with scrapbook paper. Well, I didn't really think that was necessary, so I just painted the outside of my can. (It once held diced tomatoes or something, but I cleaned it out prior to use.) I had some sample sizes of Behr paint from when we my parents painted our bedroom. I just used one of those colors (which I will hopefully use on the bathroom walls some day) on the can. Then I used a hot glue gun to glue little marbles/stones (that I already owned) all around the can. And that was it.

I've seen lots of other makeup brush and makeup container storage ideas on Pinterest, including magnetic makeup boards made out of a baking sheet and, you guessed it, magnets. I like that idea, but I'm not sure how I would incorporate it into my bathroom. It's a little hard to figure out especially considering our master bathroom is in desperate need of a makeover. So perhaps once we figure out how/when we'll be fixing up the master bathroom, the magnetic makeup board will make sense.

Until then, I like my cute little makeup brush container. It fits perfectly on my counter and looks nice enough to stay on display. Plus, it was super easy to put together, and those are my kind of crafts!

Although, now that my brushes are on display, I think it's probably time I purchased new makeup brushes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Recovering from Turkey Overload

early Thanksgiving
Hey all! For my U.S. readers, I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving! I got to celebrate Turkey Day twice! We get together every year with friends of ours for an early Thanksgiving and then we spend Thanksgiving Day with my husband's family.

We didn't host early Thanksgiving this year, so I didn't have to worry about making a turkey, but I did make my favorite gluten-free cornbread stuffing.

I also volunteered to make a pumpkin pie. But when I was going through my "recipes to try" folder, I found a recipe for Swirled Pumpkin & Chocolate Cheesecake that I had torn from Woman's Day magazine last year, and I just knew that I needed to make THAT instead.

This recipe combines three of my favorite things: pumpkin, cheesecake, and chocolate. How can you go wrong?

Well, perhaps I was using the wrong type of pie pan (What the heck is a spring-form pan and why don't I own one?) but I had A LOT of batter and it didn't all fit in the pie pan. I baked this with a baking sheet underneath to catch any spillage.

And I swear to you my melted chocolate looked like melted chocolate until I melted it. But then I had to add it to part of the batter and it no longer looked as pretty. I did my best to swirl it into the other batter, but I might have messed it up. I'm not sure what happened to cause those cracks in the top. I had never made a cheesecake before this, so I guess I was just unprepared for what it would be like.

Anyway, despite the look, it actually tasted fine. Everyone said they liked it! If you like cheesecake and you like pumpkin, then you should definitely make this. Just don't be alarmed if it looks weird.

I was unable to make the cheesecake gluten-free for only one reason: my Celiac husband doesn't eat pumpkin, so it seemed silly to make something he won't eat anyway gluten-free. I'm sure it would be easy to make this gluten-free. You'd just need to find some gluten-free chocolate wafers, which I'm sure exist somewhere, to make the crust. And then everything else is pretty much naturally gluten-free.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Barefoot Contessa's Green Salad Vinaigrette

A few months ago, I found some recipes from Barefoot Contessa's Ina Garten in the September issue of Oprah. (Can I make a confession? When I first started watching Barefoot Contessa, I thought the subtitle of the show was "In a Garten". It took me awhile to realize that it was actually the woman's name: Ina Garten. Der.)

The Green Salad Vinaigrette recipe is super easy and you might already have all the ingredients on hand. It would make a great dressing for your Thanksgiving Day side salad, if you're going to serve one. And the recipe also gives a little tip that I never knew: When you're serving a salad for a dinner party, put the vinaigrette in the bottom of a serving bowl and place the greens on top. This can sit for an hour or two. When you're ready to serve, toss the greens and serve immediately. I like that tip!

The other recipe that I liked from this magazine feature was Barefoot Contessa's Carrot Cake with Ginger Mascarpone Frosting. Doesn't that sound delicious? Now I just need a reason to bake it.

What's your favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe or show episode?

Happy Thanksgiving, by the way!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Lantern

Okay, so I saw THIS on Pinterest:

And I knew I had to make it for two reasons. 1. I already own a lantern like in the picture. 2. I already have leftover red and silver Christmas ornaments from a craft project I did a few years ago. Okay, and 3. This is just too cute!

So while watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I quickly whipped up my own version of this festive craft.

I started with the above picture: an empty lantern and two half-full boxes of cheap Walmart ornaments. Then I opened the lantern and randomly placed the ornaments inside.

I didn't have a glittery snowflake like in the original picture, so instead I added a red bow to the front of the lantern. (I package-taped it to the front. I'm sure that'll hold it.) So easy!

I can't wait to add this to my holiday decor! I'm thinking this would make a nice table centerpiece, but I also like it for a mantel. Have you guys made or purchased anything recently to add to your Christmas/holiday decorations?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Burt's Bees Intense Hydration Review

Do you have REALLY dry skin during the winter? Do you feel like you've tried tons of products but nothing has worked? Well, Burt's Bees has a new line of Intense Hydration facial products to relieve the dry skin on your face. As a BzzAgent, I got to try out these products for free, and I was so excited because I've been looking for a new skincare regimen.

This was my winter skincare regimen: washing my face with Dove soap morning and night, then in the morning using Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15. At night, I would put Vaseline on my face. That's right. Vaseline.


If you don't know, Vaseline is petroleum jelly (aka petrolatum), which is a byproduct of petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource. That kind of bothers me, but I hadn't found anything WITHOUT petrolatum that worked. The Burt's Bees Intense Hydration line does NOT include petrolatum. It is made from natural ingredients (99 percent natural), including a plant called Clary Sage. Clary Sage is grown in the windswept hills of the Mediterranean. In spite of its harsh surroundings, the plant is able to adapt and retain moisture. I think it's because of the Clary Sage that the products in this line have natural fragrance, not any added/artificial fragrance.

The Intense Hydration line is dermatologist-tested and noncomedogenic. Burt's Bees also says that the line helps reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

My Burt's Bees Bzzkit contained the Intense Hydration Cream Cleanser, Treatment Mask, and Night Cream. I also had smaller sample sizes of the night cream and day cream. But I decided that I would save those small samples to give away. So I kept my regular morning moisturizer and added the Burt's Bees stuff to my nighttime routine. (In the morning, I still washed my face with Dove soap.)

It's really hard to get close-up pictures of my skin, but I tried. Here is what my skin looked like after waiting outside for the bus and then walking outside to my office in the morning. 

Still a little flaky. So I decided to break open the samples of the day cream (No sample giveaways of that for you anymore! Sorry!) and replace that with the Aveeno.

And I have to say, the flakes were gone!

So here is my take on the individual products.

Intense Hydration Cream Cleanser: very creamy and thick. Gets a nice lather. Has a scent that reminds me of carrots. ($9.99)

Intense Hydration Treatment Mask: This is supposed to be used twice a week. It's MUCH different than other facial masks I've tried. It's very creamy. You put it on your face, wait 10 minutes, then use a soft tissue to wipe off any excess. ($17.99)

Intense Hydration Night Cream: A little of this goes a long way. It doesn't make my skin feel tight like other moisturizers I've used. And it also smells a little like carrots. ($17.99)

Intense Hydration Day Cream: This is really misleading. It's very thick, and I thought it would be too thick to work underneath my liquid foundation. But it isn't! I always put my moisturizer on after showering, and then probably 20 minutes later I do my makeup. I had no trouble putting on my foundation with the Day Cream underneath. ($17.99)

There is also an Intense Hydration Eye Cream ($17.99), but I did not receive a sample of that to try.

The Burt's Bees Intense Hydration line is available in mass retailers (Target, Walmart), drug stores, grocery stores, and natural health food stores nationwide.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Re-String It

A few weeks ago, I attended a holiday press preview and received a pretty nifty item. It's called Re-String It, and you use it to re-string drawstrings in hoodies, shorts, sweatpants, scrubs, aprons, duffle bags, and more.

Now, at first, I almost gave this away because I thought, "I don't have anything that needs to be re-strung." But instead of giving it away or, gasp, throwing it away, I left my Re-String it in my scrap room. And then I did laundry. I washed a new hoodie and noticed before putting it in the washing machine that the drawstring was about to come out. I fixed it and washed the hoodie, and wouldn't you know it? That stupid drawstring came out!!

But then I said, "Wait a minute! I have the Re-String It!" So I took my hoodie, drawstring, and Re-String It and sat down on the couch to put the drawstring back in the hoodie's hood. It was very easy to set up the Re-String It. Once I figured out that the drawstring goes around the top of the hood and not around the back, it was very easy to push the Re-String It through one side of the hood and out the other side. And voila! My hoodie was re-strung!

If you have lots of hoodies or have kids who wear things with drawstrings, then you might want to consider picking up one of these. Re-String It is available for $14.99 at I'm definitely going to be keeping mine around!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Two-Pager!

Man, it's been SO LONG since I've done a two-page layout. This one I whipped up quickly using a "party" kit that I made for myself using stuff in my stash. I love those boy and girl chipboard bathroom symbols. I added the blue and pink cardstock behind the chipboard. The Battle of the Sexes stickers were provided by House Party. These pictures were from a Battle of the Sexes party we hosted a few weeks ago through House Party. Surprise, surprise - the girls WON!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Black City - Book Review

I received another new young adult novel from Putnam Juvenile, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. This one is for a slightly older audience (14 and up) than the last YA book I read, so it's not really appropriate for our middle school book club. But Black City by Elizabeth Richards was still a pretty entertaining read, and, according to the book's press release, Screen Gems preemptively optioned the book for film. I can definitely see Black City as a movie.

Black City, which hits bookstore shelves tomorrow, November 13, is the first book in a new series. It is equal parts Twilight and The Hunger Games with just enough differences to make it stand apart from either series. The book is set in a place called the United Sentry States, specifically a city called Black City that is part of the megastate Black River. There are nine megastates total with some being very rich, some being very poor, and one being a place where people go to die. The United Sentry States is ruled by a man named Purian Rose.

It's not just humans who live in the United Sentry States. There are also Darklings, vampire-like people who need blood to survive and who have claws. There is also a dangerous virus infecting and killing Darklings. The Darklings and humans are separated by a wall in Black City, but some Darklings are allowed to live and attend school on the human side because they are twin-bloods: half human and half Darkling.

Sixteen-year-old Ash Fisher is a twin-blood who only wants to keep out of everyone's way. He hates the way humans treat him, but he's not interested in fighting for the Darkling cause. So he bitterly does nothing.

But then Ash meets Natalie Buchanan, the daughter of Black City's Emissary (like a mayor or governor). Human Natalie and twin-blood Ash strike up a forbidden romance and fight against the government, even though they could be executed for it.

At first, I wasn't really digging this book because I HATE Twilight and I felt like the whole overbearing government thing ala The Hunger Games wasn't that original. Just another case of an author and publishing house trying to capitalize on trends. But once I got into Black City, I did start to like it more. Sure, the vampire-like Darklings have "sparkly" eyes (what is it with vampires and sparkle?), and the whole forbidden romance thing has been done numerous times before. But you can't fault a novel that's all about getting people to see past differences and live in harmony. The book has good action, slimy bad guys, and lots of interesting twists. I'm honestly looking forward to the next installment in the series, Phoenix.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

From Amusement Parks to Parties

On our summer vacation, we went to Knott's Berry Farm and I found this great amusement park/Snoopy-themed scrapbook kit in the gift shop. It became my souvenir from the vacation. The kit was a great deal - patterned paper, solid paper, large word titles, glue stick, 3D embellishment stickers, regular stickers, and journaling spots. 

While a lot of it was Snoopy- and Peanuts-related (Knott's Berry Farm uses the Peanuts characters as mascots), much of it could be used for scrapbooking other things. Such as scrapping pictures of the other amusement park we visited, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

And I still had enough left over to scrap a non-amusement park layout. Here is one of some friends at a recent party we hosted.

Don't you just love getting the most out of scrapbook kits??!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Scrapping in Other Rooms

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time scrapbooking outside of my scrap room. The day Hurricane Sandy struck, we were glued to the TV watching hurricane coverage. I didn't want to be in my scrap room scrapping, so I brought my tool caddy and some supplies and pictures out to the living room. I completed a lot of layouts there, but I have a hard time doing it when I'm not in my scrap room. All of my supplies are in my scrap room, and I'm always forgetting something and having to get up and go search for it during commercial breaks, and it just takes forever. Does anyone have a system that works for when you want to bring your scrapbook stuff into another room? Or how about when going to a crop or someone else's house to scrap? I've tried compiling little kits to bring with me so that I know what I want ahead of time and make sure to bring it with me. I suppose I could just do that when scrapping in a different room, but the problem is, I never have little kits pre-made when I want to scrap in front of the TV. Seems like a silly problem to have, but I'm always looking for ways to streamline the scrapbooking process.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Scrapping Before the Hurricane

We spent the Sunday before Hurricane Sandy preparing for the hurricane. For me, that meant scrapbooking! Hey, there was nothing else to do. We didn't want to go out and waste gas in the car! Luckily, the pictures I ordered from Shutterfly (with a 100 free prints coupon) came before the storm hit, so I had plenty of pictures to keep me busy. Here are just two layouts that I completed prior to Sandy. I still had light to work on completing these.

Both layouts are fairly simple and were made using up scraps! I love using up scraps!

(Sorry the pictures aren't cropped. My computer has been fussy lately, so I just uploaded these directly from my camera's memory card.)


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Red Letter Revolution - Book Review

Red Letter Revolution takes a closer look at the words Jesus says in the Bible and challenges Christians to take those words seriously. In some Bibles, the words of Jesus are written in red ink. I've never seen a Bible like that, so I was unfamiliar with the "red letter" concept before reading this book. But that's where the book's title and the name of those who adhere to the Bible's red letters, Red Letter Christians, comes from.

The book is set up in dialogue format between its two authors, Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo. Having read one of Claiborne's other books, Jesus for President, I knew to expect a non-traditional format. The dialogue actually comes from recorded conversations between the authors that were later transcribed to form the first stages of the book. When I found out that, it made me happy. I would have been disappointed if the "dialogue" had just been the two men writing separately and then merging their writings. I was glad that the dialogue did have an organic beginning.

The authors discuss a variety of topics that are divided into three sections: Red Letter Theology, Red Letter Living, and Red Letter World. The first section deals with the history of the church and what Jesus has to say about liturgy, saints, hell, Islam, and economics. There are so many great parts in this section, but I'll only share one with you. This comes from the chapter about Islam: "As Christians, we should be the best collaborators in the world. We should be quick to find unlikely allies and subversive friends, like Jesus did." (58)

The second section deals with topics such as family, being pro-life, environmentalism, women, racism, homosexuality, immigration, civil disobedience, and giving. I really liked this section, even though I didn't agree with everything that was written. But even on those issues I disagreed with, the arguments made were rational, and I understood the authors' points. My favorite passage from this section comes from the chapter on homosexuality: "[N]one of the red letters have anything to say about [homosexuality]. Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, and it was not that he didn't know about it... Homosexuals were not on his big-ten hit list of people to condemn. Number one on his list were religious leaders who made it a policy, according to Matthew 23:4, 'to lay heavy burdens on people and do nothing to lift those burdens.'" (131-32)

There were some topics in this section that I felt were too short. I really wanted the dialogues to continue because I felt that there was still more to talk about, or at least I had questions that needed answering.

The last section, Red Letter World, deals with how Red Letter Christians can help those in need around the world. Topics include empire, politics, war and violence, national debts, the Middle East, global church, reconciliation, missions, and resurrection.

This is really a fantastic book that everyone should read. It's great for Christians who feel like they don't fit in with the stereotypical, negative Christian image. It's an eye-opener for Christians who do embody the stereotypical, negative image. And non-Christians would especially benefit from reading this book and knowing that not all Christians are "anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-environmentalist, pro-war, pro-capital punishment, and conservative Republican." (XI) Some of us are Red Letter Christians.

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.”

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Here is what Hurricane Sandy looked like where I live.

The wind bent our little hook thingy:

This blew off our roof:

It's supposed to be on top of this pipe thing coming out of our roof:

Our no-electricity dinner - chips, canned pears, tuna sandwich, and Powerade:

Lots of downed trees and branches, but thankfully, none of them hit anyone's house: