Sunday, December 30, 2012

Layout First, Then Photos

Usually, I wait to see what pictures I have before I start scrapping. But in some rare cases, like when I just want to use up some stuff and move it out of my stash, that I design a layout without having any pictures for it. That's what happened with the following layouts. Some of the papers come from the same collection, and I just wanted to use them up so that the paper pad didn't take up space in my paper drawer. So I went through my sketch sketchbook and just started putting paper and embellishments down. A few months later, I had a bunch of pictures printed, and to make it easy to get them scrapped, I whipped out my pre-made layouts to see if any of the pictures would fit. And they did! 

Such an easy way to get multiple layouts finished. And during those times when you don't have any pictures to scrap but want to get crafty with your stash, just make some pre-made layouts! Then you're ready to go for whatever and whenever! 

Do any of you scrap like this? What are your feelings? Layout before pictures or always pictures first?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Free Digital Scrapbook Kit Download

This month, Pink Paislee has a FREE scrapbook digital kit to download. Just click on the link and scroll to the end of the blog post to download. You only have until the end of December to take advantage of this free download..

I don't normally use digital kits. I like being able to physically use my hands and touch paper, scissors, etc. I like seeing real layers and dimension on my pages. And I feel like if I'm going to spend money on something, I want to hold it in my hands. I also don't want to be spending too much more time than I already am in front of my (very slow and poopy) computer.

But I know a lot of people do digital scrapbooking. What about you? What do you do with the digital pages when you're done? I put all my scrapbook layouts in a physical scrapbook. So, do you print out the digital pages and put them in a book or do you just have an online scrapbook? I'm very clueless when it comes to digital scrapbooking, so any advice, tips, whatever would be greatly appreciated! Enlighten me!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mini Meatloaves and Maple Green Beans

Hope you all had a great Christmas! Today is my birthday and we're making my traditional birthday meal: meatballs and rice.

But I wanted to share with you a recipe that I made a few weeks ago. It's from the Whole Foods coupon booklet, but of course, I changed it up and didn't use any Whole Foods products.

The meatloaf looked really dark, but tasted great!
The original recipe for Mini Turkey Meatloaf and Maple Green Beans called for ground turkey. Well, ground turkey can be expensive, and we already had ground beef in the freezer. So I just used ground beef. Also, how the heck do you grate a sweet potato??? I used a peeler to shave it and then cut up the shavings as small as I could. It worked.

This was the first time that I'd worked with fresh green beans instead of canned green beans. It was easy and the maple syrup on them tasted delicious. Of course, make sure to rinse them off before you cook them.

This was really good. My husband went back for seconds! Success!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes

Okay, so first I saw this:

Peanut Butter Cup Banana Pancakes sound amazing, right?

Well, we didn't have any mini peanut butter cups, but we did have peanut butter and a banana. So I improvised, which I would have had to do anyway because I needed to make these gluten-free. Here is my recipe for gluten-free peanut butter banana pancakes:

1 banana
1/4 cup peanut butter
Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix
1 egg
1 tbsp. oil
3/4 cup milk

1. Mix the banana and peanut butter in bowl using hand mixer.
2. Mix in 1 and 1/2 cups of the dry pancake mix.
3. Add the egg, oil, and milk and mix.
4. Let that sit, and heat some oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
5. Place about 1/4 cup of batter onto skillet and MAKE PANCAKES!
6. Pour syrup on top (optional).

The batter is a bit thicker than normal. Once you flip the pancake the first time, you'll have to push down on the cooked side with your spatula to flatten it out and make sure that the inside cooks. Also, make sure to turn down the heat after the first 2-3 pancakes. Some of mine got a little burned because the skillet was too hot. But I fixed it, and the rest of the pancakes looked alright.

My husband really enjoyed these pancakes. They were very good and a nice little change from regular pancakes. I don't even like bananas, though I do enjoy banana flavor in baked goods, and I enjoyed these, too. The recipe made about eight regular-sized pancakes, so we each had four. Because these are so thick, four was a bit much for me. So that might be something to keep in mind when you make these. Maybe you could wake up to these Christmas morning???

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Christmas Treat of 2012 is...

Marbled Walnut Fudge!

Every year I make Christmas/holiday treats as gifts for some people. In the past, I've made cupcakes and cookies, but this year I decided to do fudge! The recipe comes from Family Circle magazine, and the above link also has nine other holiday recipes that you can make.

Here is how I packaged my fudge:

I placed each individual piece of fudge in mini cupcake/candy wrappers (purchased at Walmart) and then put those into the holiday bags (also purchased at Walmart). Then I tied them up with yarn and attached a Christmas ornament/tag. 

I did sample some of the fudge and it was YUM-O. White chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and chopped walnuts. Be aware, though, that if you are making these gluten-free, check the packaging for the nuts. They might be processed on equipment that also processes wheat. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cover Girl blastflipstick Review

I love the smell of lipstick. I usually don't wear it. I'm more a lip gloss or lip balm girl. But when I was invited to participate in the Cover Girl blastflipstick Bzz Campaign, I couldn't turn it down. It just sounded so cool, and here's why!

It's two lipsticks in one! Each blastflipstick boasts dual ends, with a creamy, bold color on one side and a shimmery shade on the other. You can wear the two colors individually or layer them for a one of a kind look, even trying the trendy "ombre" look on your lips. There are 13 colorful, complementary and expertly matched shade duos to choose from. And each one has a moisturizing formula that mixes perfectly without feeling heavy or dry.

Blastflipstick was created by expert make-up artist and Cover Girl Global Creative Design Director Pat McGrath. McGrath says, "Lip color blending is key backstage [at fashion shows] because it gives me the power to design unique, high-fashion looks to complement any style. I love that Cover Girl blastflipstick empowers everyone to create their own signature look every day."

wearing the shimmery pink of Vixen
So how did I fare playing make-up artist with the blastflipstick?

I received three samples to try out. The first I tried was called Stunner. One side is a bold pinkish color, while the other side is a shimmery peach. Now, I wasn't really sure what to do with it at first because the lipstick itself doesn't come with instructions. But I did have a Bzz Campaign booklet that told me to put on the creamy color first, then layer on the shimmery color. So that's what I did: creamy pink color and then the shimmery peach. But you couldn't really tell that I was wearing two colors unless you got up SUPER close to my lips. It certainly looked nothing like the way Sofia Vergara's looked in the advertisement picture above.

I do like both of Stunner's colors on their own. The pink is a little bright, perhaps too bright for my skin tone, but if I keep the rest of my makeup fairly neutral, I think I could pull it off.

Then I tried Vixen. One side is a light and shimmery pink, and the other side is sort of a dark and shimmery fuchsia. Now, if I had gone by the directions to put on the creamy bold color and add the shimmery color, I would have ended up with the same situation as before. So instead I put on the light color and added a few dabs of the fuchsia, using the picture on my coupon as inspiration. It did give my lips some depth and drama, but after only a few hours, it faded away. My lips still had color, but it just looked like I was wearing a single color. I actually think that the dual effects look better on people with fuller lips. My lips are so thin that you couldn't really see the effect that well.
the shimmery pink layered with the fuchsia

I do like both colors of the Vixen blastflipstick and would definitely wear them individually.

The third one was called Minx and it has a shimmery gold color on one end and a dark chocolatey color on the other. First I tried them individually. The gold color doesn't really work on me. I did like the chocolate color - very dramatic, though probably best suited for evening.

What I liked about all the colors is that they weren't heavy. Usually I reapply lip balm throughout the day to keep my lips moist, but there was enough moisture in the blastflipsticks that I just reapplied with them.

The Cover Girl blastflipstick is available in most groceries, drug stores, and major retailers. The suggested retail price is $8.49. If you want to try out blastflipstick for yourself and at a discount, I've got a limited number of $2 off coupons. Let me know if you'd like some! First come, first served!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Contessa World Cuisine - Review

A few weeks ago, a PR agency contacted me and asked if I'd like to try some very quick and gluten-free frozen skillet meals. I'm always looking for faster ways to do dinner during the week, so I accepted the offer. The agency sent me some coupons so that I could try out the products, and I headed to Walmart (the only grocery that carried these products near me) to check it out.

I had never heard of this brand before, so, if you're a newbie to this brand like me, here is some background. The Contessa World Cuisine meals have no MSG, no trans-fats, no artificial colors or flavors, and no preservatives. They are also minimally processed. There are 18 different varieties of Contessa World Cuisine frozen skillet meals, and some of them are gluten-free. The ones that are gluten-free are:

Chicken Fried Rice
Shrimp Fried Rice

My Walmart didn't carry the Paella (which was a shame because I really wanted to try that one) so I went with the Chicken Fried Rice and Jambalaya. Now, the Chicken Fried Rice said "gluten-free" right on the front of the package. The Jambalaya did not. I was told by the PR folks that the Jambalaya was gluten-free, and there didn't seem to be anything terrible in the ingredients list, but if you're going to label some of your gluten-free products as "gluten-free", then why not just label all of the gluten-free products? It makes things so much easier for shoppers!

As for taste, the Chicken Fried Rice was very good. The Jambalaya was good but a bit spicy. But that's the Cajun way, right?

As for cooking, it was really easy. But I do have a bit of advice: choose a LARGE skillet or just use a saucepot. I kept spilling the contents over the sides of my skillet and making a mess. These meals are for two people, but boy, they sure do pack a lot of food in those bags! It took me about 10 minutes to cook the Chicken Fried Rice and about 15 minutes to do the Jambalaya because I had to thaw the sauce packet in warm water first.

Not bad for a weeknight meal! Usually our weeknight meals take about 30 minutes to prep and cook, so being able to come home and whip up a meal in less than 15 minutes without really having to do ANY work is so nice!

These are available in the frozen food section of Walmart, Meijer, Publix, Food Lion, Giant Eagle, Schnuck's, Hannaford Bros., and others. Each Contessa World Cuisine frozen skillet meal retails between $7.99 and $8.99 depending on the retailer. (I actually think it was about $6 at my Walmart.)

Has reading this whetted your appetite? Want to try some of the Contessa World Cuisine frozen skillet meals for yourself? I've got a limited number of coupons to give away, so if you're interested, let me know! First come, first served!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Fun at Target - Part 3

me & Sabrina Soto
I attended a Target Holiday Cookie Event in New York recently and, yes, I got to meet HGTV host Sabrina Soto. (I'm supposed to tell you that if you live within 50 miles of NYC, you should apply to be on her show!

Okay, so that was very exciting, but the whole point of the event was to make holiday cookies using ingredients that you can purchase at Target. I missed out on the first cookies (in the shapes of mittens!), but I did make it there for Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints. SO GOOD!

Start up your ovens! This will be a great recipe for holiday parties, cookie exchanges, or enjoying in front of the Christmas tree with a hot mug of cider, cocoa, or whatever on Christmas Eve.

Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints
(makes 3 dozen cookies)

Ingredients for cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, very soft
1/3 cup Archer Farms Orange Blossom Honey (available at Target)
3/4 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 cup Archer Farms French Vanilla Almond Crunch Granola Cereal (available at Target), crushed
1/4 cup raspberry preserves

This is what the cookies look like before you bake them.
I was too busy eating mine after to take pictures.
Ingredients for glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 to 4 tsp. water
1 tsp. almond extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, honey, and extract in large bowl until smooth. Beat in flour and cardamom on low.
2. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in cereal to partially coat. Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Make indentation in center of each using thumb. Fill each with 1/4 tsp. preserves.
3. Bake 14-16 minutes until light brown. Let cool slightly, then remove to a wire rack. Cool completely.
4. Stir the glaze ingredients in medium bowl. Drizzle on the cookies. Allow to set.

The cookies were only part of the event. There were also two tables set up to show how you can decorate for the holidays using stuff at Target. The first table was for a more elegant, sit-down set-up.

And the second table was for doing a buffet-style meal.

Very cool, right? The smaller glasses in the above picture don't actually come with those colored lines on them. The colors are electrical tape! Just remove the tape before you wash the glasses.

If you want to read more about Sabrina's holiday entertaining tips, get another holiday cookie recipe, and find out more about this awesome event, head over to A Bullseye View, Target's online magazine!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Tags/Ornaments

I was inspired by this post at Counterfeit Kit Challenge to get crafty with some extra star-shaped cookie cutters that I had in my scrap closet. A few years ago, I had purchased the cookie cutters and attempted to make a star cookie cutter wreath. Well, the wreath lasted all of 10 seconds before falling apart, so I scrapped that idea. But I didn't scrap the cookie cutters. And since they had hot glue gun residue on them, I didn't want to actually use them to make cookies. So I finally decided that I needed to do something with them and get them out of my house! I wiped off the hot glue gun residue and traced the cookie cutter outline onto patterned Christmas scrapbook paper. I tied either white or red yarn to the top to make a loop for hanging on a package or Christmas tree. Then, using regular Elmer's glue, I glued the patterned paper onto the cookie cutter and added word stickers and other embellishments. Basically, I used the same technique that went into making my photo cookie cutter ornaments. These are a cute way to jazz up your Christmas presents this year! And they can be reused next holiday season by your gift recipients either as a gift tag or ornament. Or you can ask for them back and reuse them yourself. Ha!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Fun at Target - Part 2

Last month, I attended a Target Holiday Toy event in New York. For attending, I received a $25 Target gift card. But it wasn't just any gift card. It was a gift card and toy in one!


The gift card is on the back of a map that the little Target dog will drive on. There is a black line on the map, and the dog follows the line. Then you can turn over the map to draw your own line with the included black marker. Four button cell batteries are included. Here's some video of how it works (and how cute it is!). This would be a great gift for a kid - gift card and fun toy in one! (Hopefully the videos work!)

Note: I was not paid or required to do a review of the gift card. I was given the gift card for attending the event and decided to do a review of it on my own. This review is my honest opinion.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Burning Blue - Book Review

I'm really starting to look forward to mailtime at work because Penguin keeps sending me some of its latest Young Adult fiction releases, and I just love reading and reviewing them! Burning Blue by Paul Griffin came out in October from Dial, an imprint of Penguin. It's sort of like a detective novel for teens.

Nicole Castro is gorgeous, smart, rich, and nice. But all of those qualities don't guarantee that everyone likes her. In fact, someone wants to destroy her and succeeds at doing so by throwing acid on Nicole's face in the school hallway, ruining the left side of her face. No one knows who did it, and the list of potential suspects is not short.

Jay Nazarro is a loner and brilliant (secret) computer hacker who suffers from epilepsy. When he meets Nicole while both of them are waiting for a therapy session with the school counselor, they become friends. As her friend, Jay wants to help find out who hurt Nicole. He doesn't believe the police are doing everything they can, so Jay becomes an amateur detective, using his hacking skills to uncover information, even if it means he puts himself, and everyone he loves, at risk.

This plot definitely had me fooled! I could NOT figure out "whodunnit" right up to the end. Just when you think they've nabbed the suspect, there's more to the story. There are so many suspects - teachers, friends, boyfriends, even Nicole herself - that I just stopped trying to figure it out and waited for the story to unfold. The ending was a definite shocker!

Burning Blue is for ages 14 and up, but the characters are juniors in high school, and there are some references to underage drinking, hand jobs, blow jobs, boning, and the like. Not that you want your high schooler participating in those activities, but ... it doesn't seem all that appropriate for a 14-year-old 8th grader. I would definitely recommend this book for kids who are the same age as the main characters.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Fun at Target - Part 1

Over the summer I attended a Target grocery event, and some of Target's holiday items were on display. When the lovely PR people asked if I wanted samples of anything, I took full advantage! I love hot chocolate and have always wanted to do a hot chocolate party, and I thought these Hot Chocolate Stirrers would be awesome! They come in a variety of flavors: cafe mocha, orange chocolate, chocolate peppermint, raspberry chocolate, chocolate marshmallow, chocolate peanut butter, cookies & cream, and hazelnut chocolate. They are only $1 each! And they are easy to use - just warm up about 1 cup of milk and stir the Hot Chocolate Stirrer into the milk to melt the chocolate. You can warm up your milk on the stovetop (just don't let the milk boil) or you can also just pour a cup of milk into a mug and microwave it using your microwave's beverage button. Both methods work just fine. These are so cute and I love the different flavors. The chocolate peanut butter was really yummy! Great for a party or just for yourself!

The only bad thing is that these are not gluten-free. The cookies & cream flavor definitely contains wheat, while the labels for the other flavors say "May contain wheat." Kind of a bummer, but at least they are labeled.


Note: I was not paid or required to do a review of the Hot Chocolate Stirrers. I requested the samples and decided to do a review on my own. This review is my honest opinion.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December Daily Album 2011

Yes, I am going to do a December Daily album again for this year.

Yes, I did JUST finish my December Daily album from last year.

And because it is finished, I thought I would share some pages from it.

I used the really cool Fancy Pants Brag Book. It came with photo pages and pocket pages, but I didn't use most of them, so I just tore them out where they weren't needed. I saved them to use for something else later.

I also didn't use all the pages in my book, so I tore out the extras and might use them in this year's December Daily album just as soon as I get a new album.

I used the Echo Park Holly Jolly Christmas collection, which was out in 2011, but I don't think it's available anymore. However, Echo Park has other cute Christmas/holiday collections for this year.

I still haven't decided what papers and stuff I'm going to use for my 2012 December Daily album. I'm waiting to see what I get for Christmas, and as always, waiting for it all to go on sale!!! How are you guys preparing for your December Daily albums?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Meatball Recipe and Ways to Eat Them

The last time I made meatballs, they SUCKED! I don't know what happened. It was a recipe from Ragu that I'd made before, but the meatballs just didn't turn out well at all.

But leave it to Real Simple to offer me a new meatball recipe AND several ways to eat the meatballs aside from traditional spaghetti and meatballs.

pasta with meatballs and spinach
Here is the link to the original recipe for Easy Meatballs. I, of course, had to make them gluten-free by using leftover gluten-free bread slices. I actually made the meatballs on a Sunday, then froze them in two batches for reheating and eating during the week. The Easy Meatballs recipe makes 40 meatballs, and the following two meals each require 20 of those meatballs.

First up: Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach
This was really good (my husband went back for seconds) and easy to make! If you've already made the meatballs and frozen them, all you have to do at dinnertime is cook the pasta, pop the meatballs under the broiler for 20 minutes, and cook the mushrooms and thyme in about 2 tbsp. of butter. (The recipe isn't clear on how much butter to use, so I started with 1 tbsp. but it didn't look like enough so I added the second.) When the meatballs and pasta are ready, stir them in with the mushrooms and thyme, and add the spinach and grated pecorino cheese. YUM.

cheesy baked meatballs
These meatballs reminded me more of meatloaf than Italian meatballs. Probably the Worcestershire sauce.

Next: Cheesy Baked Meatballs
I liked this, but I think we needed to bake it a few minutes longer. The sauce wasn't as hot as I hoped. I used fontinella cheese instead of fontina because I couldn't find any fontina cheese that was pre-sliced or sold as a block. I think it still worked fine. It melted okay, but I think if I had left this in the oven just a few minutes longer it would have melted up more. It tasted good on top of the meatballs, though!