Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My recent scrapbook deals!

If you weren't at Archiver's this Memorial Day weekend, you missed TONS of great deals. All paper was 50% off, so I picked up some American Crafts paper to go with some AC stickers that are in my stash.




Then all October Afternoon products were 50% off, so I picked up some great travel-themed paper and embellishments. So cute! And a steal!



My mom and I also went to Big Lots where I got three packs of Thickers for $2.99 each and a really cute Colorbok travel pack. I'm SO ready to scrap vacation pictures. Just two more months until vacation!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Thank you Representative Scott Garrett


A few weeks ago, I sent a letter to my local congressperson through the American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) regarding the FDA and its labeling standards for gluten-free food and medicine. (Yes unfortunately, not all medicine is gluten-free.) I was very happy to receive a positive email back from Congressman Scott Garrett on the topic, and I wanted to share it with you:

Thank you for contacting me regarding labeling standards for gluten-free food products.  I welcome the opportunity to respond to you.  

To begin, I appreciate your advocacy on behalf of those with dietary gluten restrictions.  As you know, "gluten" refers to a specific complex protein that is contained in wheat, barley, and rye. As of 2009, 1 in 301 Americans have allergic reactions to gluten which sets off an immune reaction that attacks the intestine and can affect the entire body.  This condition is referred to as celiac disease.  Individuals who are affected by celiac disease have varying reactions to gluten ranging from mild stomach upset to life-threatening nutritional deficiencies.  I understand this condition very well since I currently have a Congressional staffer in my District of Columbia office that has celiac disease.

In 2007, the FDA published a proposed rule (72 Federal Register 2817) on "gluten-free" labeling.  In the rule, FDA proposed that foods labeled "gluten-free" cannot contain any of the grains wheat, rye, barley, or their crossbred hybrids (e.g., triticale), or 20 parts per million or more gluten.  In the proposed rule, FDA committed to conducting a safety assessment on gluten exposure in individuals with celiac disease in order gain more knowledge about how to define the term "gluten-free."  The FDA completed the safety assessment, and will develop the final rule taking into consideration comments received on the proposed rule and the findings of the safety assessment.  

I believe Congress should ensure that the FDA has the proper rules and regulations in place to ensure products containing allergens like gluten are clearly labeled so consumers can be confident in the safety and quality of their food.  We have a responsibility to ensure that consumers have access to appropriate product information, especially when that information can have a direct impact on the health and well being of a consumer.  In addition, we need to provide manufacturers with the maximum amount of gluten that a product may contain, if any, to be specified as gluten-free.  Otherwise, food manufacturers may make up their own guidelines as to what constitutes a gluten-free product, which is the current industry status quo. 

Please know that I will closely monitor the FDA's actions and that I appreciate your views on this issue. Should legislation concerning gluten-free labeling come to the House floor for a vote, I will consider it with your thoughts in mind.

If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance and are looking for a way that you can also take action and contact your local elected officials, head to this part of the ACDA website to see what the latest "action" activities are. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Favorite Mascot

I entered this layout into a PageMaps contest to win a Kindle Fire. My husband just got a regular Kindle for his birthday so that he can read tour books and maps on our cross-country train trip in August. But hey - what am I gonna read?? We'll see if I win. If not, I still had fun making this layout. I used Smooch Spritz for the first time. Awesome! And really easy to use, too. And the subject matter of this layout makes me happy. I'm very fond of the New Jersey Nets mascot. Not Sly. Mini Sly, the smaller fox. He's just so cute! Of course, now that the Nets are headed to Brooklyn, I doubt I'll get to see much of Mini Sly anymore. Oh well!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Walk It Out

It's been SOOOO long since I've done a two-page scrapbook layout. I quickly whipped up this one last weekend using up a bunch of random stuff in my stash. It felt good, especially because it has been awhile since I've scrapped. I ran out of adhesive for awhile there, and you can't scrap without adhesive! So I'm super behind in my scrapping. These pictures are from March. Yikes!




Thanks for looking! How far behind in your scrapping are you? (Or is it just me?) Next up, Easter weekend vacation mini album! Woo!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Muffins

I volunteered to bring some snacks to book club last Saturday. I was just going to make boring old blueberry muffins, but then I saw this recipe in the June issue of Glamour for Blueberry & Cream Cheese Muffins. Here's the link to the recipe along with three other recipes from London food writer Jane Hornby. These are really good! And the cream cheese is a nice treat. And I must say, I bought the blueberries at Target and they were awesome. Super big, too! Delicious! I also bought strawberries and grapes from Target, and both purchases were great, too! Who knew that you can get good produce at Target?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chalkboard Walls

The other night I was reading the cover story about organizing in the June issue of Real Simple. One of the suggestions was that if you have no cabinet space in your kitchen, paint a chalkboard wall, line it with shelves, and write labels on the wall so you know what dishes go where. I couldn't find the exact picture online, but I did find some other great chalkboard kitchen wall images.

from thekitchn

from Murray Mitchell

from The Hyperbalist


I have plenty of cabinet space in my kitchen, so I don't think I'll be painting one wall with chalkboard paint. But what I really want to do is paint one wall of my scrap room with chalkboard paint, and then draw sketches and ideas and other stuff on it. But first I need to remove the wallpaper. I've been removing the wallpaper from one wall in there since September. Yep. Good times.

Anyone else have a chalkboard wall in their house? I prefer the black paint over the traditional schoolroom green. What brand/color of paint did you use and would you recommend it?

Friday, May 18, 2012

PicMonkey

edited in PicMonkey - love the crumpled Polaroid
look and tinting on this one
I decided to try out some of the Picnik alternatives I posted about a few weeks ago. First up, PicMonkey. It was created by former Picnik people, so there are lots of similarities. But also some cool new features, especially the touch-up effects for people in photos, such as shine reduce, highlights, mascara, and spray tan. Pretty cool!

You don't need to register to use PicMonkey. Just upload a photo and get editing. You save the photos right to your own computer.

Some of the features are "Royale", which means you have to have a paid account in order to access them. BUT those features are FREE until further notice. I guess PicMonkey is still sort of in its start-up phase, so not everything is fully together. They are also still working on a collage option.


before PicMonkey

after: I got my neck and chest the perfect shade of Jersey orange,
my forehead is less shiny, I whitened my teeth, AND added blush.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week!

I came across this article on Forbes.com (written by Colette Martin, author of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free) about food allergies in the workplace and how just because someone doesn't go out for after-work drinks on a Friday night (among other examples) doesn't mean they are anti-social. It might mean they are allergic to wheat, which is in beer, or other foods.

Here is an excerpt from the article:
Recent studies show that as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies. Another 2 million suffer from celiac disease, and many more suffer from food intolerances. As food allergies continue to rise, more young adults with food allergies are entering the workforce, and employers should take notice.


Schools have been dealing with food allergies for quite some time, but now there is this new generation of young adults entering the workforce and many of these new employees have food allergies. Whereas in school, the parents were doing the advocating, now it's up to these young adults to advocate for themselves. 


As the article states: 
Food allergy challenges in the workplace aren’t restricted to social events and celebrations. Plane travel, business lunches and dinners with clients, and conferences all require special planning for an employee with food allergies. Even a seemingly simple business-networking event, such as a baseball game where peanuts are thrown around the stadium, can be a challenge for an employee with food allergies.


My husband has attended several work events that involved dinners, and he always has to have a back-up plan for food because gluten-free meals are usually not an option at these events—or he has to wait until he gets home from the dinner event to eat. For him, it's an inconvenience he has grown accustomed to. Thankfully, these events don't happen often. But for other more typical workplaces, I can see where it would become a problem for someone with food allergies. It's not something I ever really thought about until now!


The Forbes article has great suggestions for what employees and employers can do to create an allergy-friendly work environment. And what better time to assess your own workplace than right now during Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 13-19)!







Monday, May 14, 2012

Gluten-Free Pizza at Domino's?

Weeeeeeeeeeeeell, sort of.

Yes, Domino's is offering a gluten-free pizza. HOWEVER, there is a disclaimer. Watch the video below.



So, essentially, it's not really an option for people with full-blown Celiac disease due to possible cross contamination in the pizza chain's kitchens. It's probably okay for people with gluten sensitivities. Some people are up in arms that the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) would even endorse this pizza due to the disclaimer, but honestly, I think the NFCA is more supporting the idea behind offering a gluten-free pizza rather than the pizza itself. And possibly with support from the NFCA, Domino's will be able to upgrade its kitchens so that they can better ensure no cross contamination - such as having a dedicated gluten-free station and workers manning that station, perhaps. I think it's great that Domino's is willing to take this step in offering pizza that everyone can eat, and I also think it's great that they are giving us the disclaimer. Plus, notice that Patrick Doyle keeps saying "gluten sensitivity" instead of "Celiac disease". He's being honest in selling the product and leaving the final purchasing decision to people on gluten-free diets. This pizza is not for everyone, and the company is saying so from the start.

We do our fair share of eating out at restaurants that offer gluten-free menus, and I'm willing to bet that because all of that food is prepared in the same kitchen as the regular menu items, there is still the possibility of cross-contamination. I can't see what the Ruby Tuesday's, Outback Steakhouse, Five Guys, or Chili's workers are doing in the kitchen or where they are preparing the food. The gluten-free menu at Chili's even states: Please be aware that during normal kitchen operations involving shared cooking and preparation areas, including common fryer oil, the possibility exists for food items to come in contact with other food products. Due to these circumstances, we are unable to guarantee that any menu entrĂ©e can be completely free of allergens. (Granted, the NFCA isn't endorsing Chili's, but...) We take our chances and eat there anyway because they are at least making an effort. And my husband hasn't gotten sick from eating at those places, so either the cross-contamination isn't an issue or it's too tiny an amount of gluten that it doesn't affect my husband.

Perhaps we should call our local Domino's and give the pizza a shot, then report back on what we thought (and if sickness ensued).


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine

Shampoo isn't like a prescription medication. It doesn't take several days for you to start seeing results. (At least I don't think it does!) So I was a little disappointed that the Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Shampoo and Conditioner I received for free from BzzAgent didn't give me noticeable results, especially after I had been using it for two weeks.

Now, I have thick hair and it never does what I want it to do. The only time it ever looks sleek and shiny is after I get it done at the salon. I've tried many products that claim to smooth hair and repel humidity, but they only make my hair feel smooth, not look smooth. And they certainly don't protect my hair from humidity!
hair using regular shampoo

I had high hopes for the Sleek & Shine Shampoo and Conditioner. It's designed for dry, frizzy, and unmanageable hair. It's also designed to keep hair looking sleek for three days straight even in 97 percent humidity. After I washed my hair and styled it in my normal way (blow dry, straightener - yes, I still needed to use a straightener), my hair looked slightly better than normal (I guess) and it did FEEL softer. But after waiting for the bus and walking to work in 70-80 percent humidity and rain, by the time I got to work my hair was frizzed and funky.

hair using Sleek & Shine -
looks pretty much the same 
I do like the smell of the shampoo and conditioner. Each is made with Argan oil from Morocco and apricot. Yum! And if you're into eco-friendly products, the Sleek & Shine bottles contain PET and 30-percent recycled plastic. They're also 10-percent lighter, which saves more than 125 tons of plastic annually, according to Garnier.

The price isn't bad either. A 13-ounce bottle is $3.99 and a 25.4-ounce bottle is $6.99. The shampoo and conditioner are sold separately. There are other products in the line, including Intensely Smooth Leave-In Conditioning Cream, an Anti-Frizz serum (which I think I tried several years ago before they redid the formula and it only made my hair oily), and Frizz Defeat Deep Conditioning Treatment. Maybe if I used those in conjunction with the shampoo and conditioner, I would have better results.

Or maybe I just have hair that no product can tame.

Or maybe I just need a professional live-in hairstylist. Seriously, how do they do it?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Post-It Labels

A few weeks ago I received a sample of Post-It Label Pads. They have the stickiness of Post-Its, but it's all over the back of the label and it can also be removed. The labels are designed for use on notebooks, lockers, school supplies, food containers, bins, storage boxes, files, folders, binders, and storage boxes. I decided to try them out on food containers. What I had been doing was writing what was in the container on a piece of regular paper, then taping the piece of paper to the food container. Well, this is what kept happening after several weeks:



It's kind of hard to tell what's in the container if the label keeps peeling off. So I stuck one of the Post-It Labels on the container and here's what happened:


It stayed on ... at least for a few days. I just opened up my pantry looking for the vinegar (using it to hopefully fix a slow-moving bathtub drain) and this label was peeling up!! Is there something wrong in my pantry that is causing sticky things to lose their stick? Anyone else have this problem?

Regardless, these labels are cute. 3M makes the labels in different styles, depending on how you want to use them. Some are more professional-looking so you can use them on file folders or other school/business items. (I have a feeling these would stick better than ones in my pantry.) They also have ones with lines on them so you can write in a straight line, I guess. The ones they sent me are colored and have a pretty background design. 

Have you guys seen these yet in stores? I know they are at Staples. What do you use to label your food containers?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In the Now

I entered this layout into last month's contest at All About Me. The challenge was to scrap something about us RIGHT NOW. I was inspired to scrap one of those internet memes that I see on other people's blogs, the ones that ask you to fill in the blank about what you're doing, reading, wearing, etc. right now. Here is what I came up with:

Right now I'm ... wearing green jeans
creating a home more our style
eating lemony fusilli with chicken and zucchini
watching "Awake"

What about you? What are you doing right now?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Trying to Live Below the Line

It's a little hard for someone like my husband to live on $1.50 of food and drink a day. One loaf of gluten-free bread, which we purchase every week, costs $5. Gluten-free pasta, if you don't get it at Trader Joe's, can cost $3.99 or more a box. His food options are limited, so I'm not going to tell him, "No! No bread/pasta/gluten-free food for you!" I'm afraid that our quest to live like the poorest people is not going to succeed. Thank goodness we are able to afford special food in order to avoid my husband getting sick. (Also, I guess the only place you can buy sausage that fits into a $15 budget is in the UK and Australia. It's expensive at my grocery store, which is why we rarely buy it.)


But if this is something that you guys are planning on doing, here is another recipe for you to try, courtesy of the Live Below the Line website:


Pasta with Shredded Onions, Carrots and Garlic:
1 package of bow-tie pasta
1 tablespoon salt
3 carrots
1 tablespoon pepper
1 onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup canola oil


Directions:
Peel the onion and finely chop. 
Peel the carrots and chop into half-inch long sections. 
Separate half a cup of canola oil and heat over high flame. 
Put onions into the oiled pan. After a minute, add chopped carrots. Let cook in covered pan until carrots are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook pasta until al dente. Once pasta is cooked, add the other half cup of canola oil until pasta is coated. 
Add carrot and onion mix. 
Add garlic powder to taste.


And don't forget, you can still donate to my Live Below the Line campaign pageAll donations benefit The Global Poverty Project. 


And if you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Project, an education and campaigning organization whose mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action against extreme poverty. Live Below the Line is running May 7 - 11 in the U.S., UK, and Australia with more than 20,000 participants. The challenge is all about seeing how 1.4 billion people in this world live every day, and those people have to make their $1.50 cover more than food.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pasta Pronto

mmmm bacon and pasta
Here's an easy recipe for you to add to your weeknight rotation. This is from the October 2011 issue of Woman's Day. It's an easy way to do pasta carbonara. All you need is 12 ounces of linguine, three large egg yolks, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and 7 slices of bacon cut into 1/4-inch pieces.

1. I used gluten-free spaghetti.
2. If you don't know how to get the egg yolks separated from the egg whites, here's the technique I learned.  You crack the egg over a bowl and slide the yolk back and forth between the two egg halves. Eventually the yolk and the whites come apart. Let the white drip down into the bowl. Dump the yolk into another bowl.
3. I think I only used six pieces of bacon, and I didn't cut it into specific sizes. I just crumbled it. I also cooked it in the microwave instead of in a skillet as the recipe called for. I mean, really. Pasta pronto? Let's really "pronto" it and cook the bacon faster!

I like pasta carbonara, and this is a much easier version than the recipe we had. I'll definitely resort to this recipe on another busy weeknight.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Can You Live Below the Line?

It's May and in just a few short days I'm going to be participating in the Live Below the Line challenge. From May 7–11, I'll only be eating $1.50 worth of food per day. (Well, technically since my husband is unknowingly participating, that's $1.50 per person, so we'll have a whopping $3 to spend on food per day.) It sounds hard and I'm sure it will be, but I want to make an attempt. I can't say how long we'll last with one of us on a gluten-free diet, but it's worth a try.

Live Below the Line is an initiative of the Global Poverty Project, an education and campaigning organization whose mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of people taking action against extreme poverty. Live Below the Line is running simultaneously in the U.S., UK, and Australia with more than 20,000 participants. The challenge is all about seeing how 1.4 billion people in this world live every day, and those people have to make their $1.50 cover more than food.

You can participate, too, by signing up to take the challenge on LiveBelowtheLine.com. Once you sign up, you'll find resources to help you meet the challenge, such as a downloadable cookbook. (The only problem with the cookbook is that the recipes are for a UK/Aussie audience, so unless you own a food scale, you'll have to look up how much 80 grams of rice is in U.S. measurements.)

Here is an example of a recipe you might want to try:

Rice, Vegetables, and Sausage
Ingredients

80g of rice
2 mushrooms
2 carrots
1 or 2 sausages
1 cube stock
olive oil

Directions

Boil the rice using half the stock cube. Boil the carrots using a quarter of the remaining stock cube.
Heat oil in a frying pan and cook the sausage until brown, turning frequently (about 25 minutes).
Use the last 4 minutes of the cooking time for the sausage and add the mushrooms and carrots, pan-frying them for about 4 minutes or until everything is cooked.



If you're not physically up to the challenge, you can still contribute by donating to my Live Below the Line campaign at https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/lalalaurie. (I'm on the BzzAgent team, and right now, we are No. 1 in donations received on the community group leaderboard!) Donations will go to my charity of choice The Global Poverty Project.