Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More Sports Layouts

I was able to make another one-page layout and a two-page layout using my Cardinals scrapbook paper  and the rest of the Colorbok sports-themed kit! Plus, I still have some leftover embellishments and sticker letters from the kit that I can add to something else. LOVE IT!

The first layout is the two-pager and features pictures of my parents and me at a St. Louis Cardinals play-off game last year. It was soooooooo cold that night AND the team lost, but we had fun.

For the "Home Team" title, I used my Xyron to turn the non-stick letters into sticker letters! That Xyron is so helpful!

And the next layout is the one-pager with pictures of me goofing around at Busch Stadium. There was a mini Gateway Arch and a giant home plate that I pretended to "slide" into. Even though it really looks more like I'm falling on top of it. Oh well!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my scrapbook pages! I have some other stuff that I got at Big Lots for cheap, so I can't wait to start scrapping pages with that new stuff! I need to make a Big Lots trip once a month. I have so much fun there. It's the little things...

Monday, April 29, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - April 29

Sunday: Rotisserie Chicken with mashed potatoes and corn

Monday: Chicken Cordon Blue Panini (from a very old issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray)

Thursday: Chicken & Black Bean Enchilada Casserole (will make ahead of time, divide into 2 pans, and freeze so we can have leftovers!)

Friday: on our own

Saturday: out to eat - we have gift cards and we're celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary a week early!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Always Read Your Food Packaging

Just because it's located in the gluten-free section of your grocery store, just because it SAYS "gluten-free", that doesn't mean that THIS can't happen:

Oh? Gluten-free, you say? Well what about that fine print over on the side? The part that says "May contain traces of GLUTEN".

That kind of thing may be fine for people who are on a gluten-free diet because they mistakenly think it's trendy and a good way to lose weight. (Read up on it, people. It's not "cool" and packaged gluten-free food is usually higher in calories than regular processed food.)

But for people who have Celiac Disease, for people who can't tolerate ANY gluten, this is not good.

This company also produces gluten-free spaghetti, penne, fusilli, and tortiglioni. But is it really gluten-free???

Amy's brand of food also does this. Some of Amy's soups say "gluten-free", but then below that it says "May contain wheat." And it's a shame because Amy's is the only soup brand that I've found that makes a gluten-free vegetable soup. But is it really gluten-free? How are we supposed to know? How can you label something "gluten-free" if it still might contain gluten?

There's a whole thing about how a product labeled gluten-free can still contain a certain amount of gluten. Right now, something can be labeled "gluten-free" if it contains less than 20 gluten parts per million (ppm). It appears that most manufacturers follow this protocol, and some go even lower with 10 or 5 ppm. (Click here to view a table of some companies that manufacture gluten-free products and the ppm in their products. There is also information about whether or not the food is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. Ugo Foods is not on the list. Amy's products are made in a shared facility.)

So when it says "gluten-free" AND "may contain gluten", does that mean it adheres to the 20 ppm rule, but there might be more than 20 ppm?

Since 2006, companies have been required to label the presence of eight major allergens, including wheat, on the product packaging. But there's still more to be done, and the FDA hasn't finalized its gluten-free labeling requirements even though it was supposed to get done last year!

It's all very confusing, and I wish it weren't, especially because Celiac Disease can be serious if a Celiac person doesn't cut out gluten. If you find yourself confused or unsure, then just don't buy that product. It's up to you, the Celiac consumer, to be informed, to research your food, to know how much gluten can make you sick, and determine whether or not you want to take the risk of maybe ingesting gluten.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sports-Themed Scrapbook Pages

As a female scrapbooker, my scrap stash tends to have lots of bright colors and fun patterns, all things that don't necessarily work well for boy- or sports-related scrapbook pages. And that's unfortunate because I always have lots of sports pictures to scrap. I am married to a Yankees fan, after all!

So I was really excited to find a $3 Colorbok page kit at Big Lots the other day that was sports-themed. Added to the St. Louis Cardinals scrap stuff sent to me by my mom and I was able to make LOADS of pages to scrap two different baseball outings.

Let's start at the beginning. This first layout is about the journey my husband and I took to get to Safeco Field in Seattle. We were ALMOST THERE, and then this train came along and just kept moving back and forth, back and forth over the train tracks. Well, of course, in order to get to the baseball stadium, we needed to cross those train tracks and we couldn't until the train got out of our way!! Geesh!

I saw that "seriously?" in another scrapbook pack and saved it for use on this specific layout.

Next up, actually being inside Safeco Field. It's a cool stadium with what looked to be a Dale Chihuly glass baseball bat sculpture hanging from the ceiling when you enter. And there was gluten-free food!

And now onto Busch Stadium, home of the greatest baseball team EVER.

My parents and I went to a playoff game last October. We braved the cold and got our picture taken next to the World Series trophy!! (Too bad the Cards didn't hold onto that one in 2012.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Songs I Would Give to My Child — Part 3

These are the honorable mentions, people. They almost made it onto the two main CDs, but I just didn't have room to include them. Still, I find these songs amazing and will play them for my child whenever possible.

1. Alive - Drain sth (because every child needs to rock out to an all-girl Swedish metal band)

2. Beautiful Thieves - AFI (because I'm so obsessed with this song that I want to sing it on American Idol even though I'm too old to be on that show now)

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3. Cabaret - Cabaret (because why not let a child listen to a song from a Broadway musical about a prostitute, especially one played by Liza Minelli ... LIZA!!!!!!!!!)

4. Cheerleader - Deirdre Flint (because a child needs to learn sarcasm and satire at a young age)

5. The Way It Is - Nicole Atkins (because this woman's voice is AMAZING)

6. What Matters More - Derek Webb (because it's important to me to teach my child to not be a hypocritical Christian)

7. Born This Way - Lady Gaga (because this song ROCKS and how did this not make it onto the original two CDs?)

8. Winds of Change - Fitz & The Tantrums (because I love singing along to this song)

9. Legend of a Cowgirl - Imani Coppola (because this song was my anthem in 7th grade)

10. Kirksville Paradise - TruMen (because my child needs to know about where Mommy went to college)

11. I Dig Rock and Roll Music - Peter, Paul, and Mary (because I like the harmonies in this song and also want to sing it on American Idol - maybe I should just audition for The Voice?)

12. Champagne High - Sister Hazel (because the harmonies in this song are so pretty)

13. Back Here - BBMak (because Mommy rubbed Ste's stomach)

14. (Is This the Way to) Amarillo? - Tony Christie (because this song reminds Mommy of studying abroad)

15. 8x10 - Fefe Dobson (because if Mommy had been slightly crazier as a teenager, this slightly stalkerish song would have fit her to a T)

(Are you guys getting that when I say "Mommy", I mean me?)

16. Helena - My Chemical Romance (because I love the harmonies in this song)

17. The Siren Sings - The Anniversary (because this song is EPIC)

18. Engel - Rammstein (because what better way to teach a child German than through a German metal band?)

19. Private Emotion - Ricky Martin (because I LOVE the harmonies in this song and want to sing this song with Robin Thicke on that reality show Duets - is that show still on?)

20. All These Things That I Have Done - The Killers (because this song is EPIC times 2)

21. Our Song - Taylor Swift (because I wish that there had been a "Taylor Swift" when I was in high school)

22. The Show - Lenka (because the song has a great message about letting things go)

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23. Downtown - Petula Clark (because grandma stole my Petula Clark CD and I wanted to do an internship in New York so bad that I cried when I heard this song after not getting the internship - but I made it to New York anyway ... and now I wish Petula had a song called "Suburbs")

24. Old Enough to Know - Michael W. Smith (because I want to put "Picture Perfect" on here, but I'm afraid that the incredibly late 80s sound to the song will be off-putting to a child of the future, and I like the message behind "Old Enough to Know" - also because when I was in elementary school I had a huge crush on MWS and then I found out he was married and had about 100 children. Ick.)

25. Got the Feelin' - 5ive (because this song prominently features one of Mommy's first boyfriends, J. Brown, and there is counting in the song, which is a great learning tool for little kids! - Also when my I make my child watch my child willingly watches my 5ive VHS tape, at least he/she will know what the heck is going on.)

26. Buddy Holly - Weezer (because there was a summer when this was the only CD I listened to)

27. Just Like Heaven - The Cure (because I liked the song and then I found out what the song was about, and I liked it even more)

28. London - Third Eye Blind (because I just love the song even though I DO want to go to London)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grocery IQ - A Smarter Way to Shop

Last week I wrote about a free app I use to help me grocery shop called ShopWell. That app is great for helping me determine if foods are gluten-free or not. But I also use another free app called Grocery IQ to help me make my grocery list and keep track of how much the shopping trip will cost while also presenting me with coupons!

Grocery IQ was recommended to me in the book The Real Skinny. The app is FREE to download on iOS and Android devices. It is "powered by" Coupons.com, which is why you can also get coupons through the app.

This app helps me create my grocery list for the week. I can either search for the product I want or scan a barcode and add it to my list. (I pretty much only use the search function.) The app organizes the items on my list by grocery aisle, which I love because I can focus on one section of the grocery store at a time when I'm there. The app also lets me input the price of each item so that I know how much I'm going to be spending. (To find the prices ahead of time, I go to my grocery store's website and pretend like I'm placing an online pick-up grocery order. I'm not sure if every grocery store has this feature. I use A&P and the circular prices are the same as online. I also know that Stop 'n Shop allows you to shop online.)

As you're making your list, the app suggests coupons that you can "clip" and either print from your smart device via a wireless printer or have the app email the coupons to you so that you can print from your computer via Coupons.com. Honestly, I don't use a lot of the coupons through the app. Most of the coupons are for items that I don't need or want. I like that the coupons are there, though, so if I see something that I do need a coupon for, I can clip it. But I feel like I find better coupons in the coupon circulars I get every week.

You can also link your grocery store club card to this app, but not all grocery stores can be linked. Mine can't. :( You can also use the app to search for grocery stores in your area. AND you can email your list in case you make the list on your phone but decide to send your husband grocery shopping. Just email it to him and he'll have it!

I have a lot of fun using this app. I used to write my list on paper, but now I'm saving trees and having more productive shopping trips! Do you use this app? What do you use when you grocery shop?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

OCD, The Dude, and Me - Book Review

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This book was described to me as Freaks and Geeks meets Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging. I watched a few episodes of Freaks and Geeks (isn't that all there really is of that show?) and I LOVE the book Angus, Thongs, and Full Fronting Snogging. (Seriously, I'm a grown adult and I own that book.) So I was really excited to receive a review copy of OCD, The Dude, and Me. This is a young adult book geared toward ages 14 and up, published by Dial, an imprint of Penguin.

Author Lauren Roedy Vaughn has created a composite character based on the many students she has taught over her 20 years as an educator. Danielle Levine is a plump girl with frizzy red hair whose adoptive parents are slim and pretty, making Danielle feel inadequate. Add to that the fact that Danielle, who is a senior in high school, isn't the most popular kid at school, though she is in lust with the most popular boy at school. Danielle also has OCD and a traumatic event in her past that she must confront if she wants to move on with her life. Danielle also must learn to lean on family, teachers, therapists, and new friends (both domestic and foreign) to help her get through the hard stuff.

The story is told through essays for Danielle's English class, letters, emails, Danielle's journal entries, and text messages. It's a very unique way to tell a story, and one that I think today's teens will find appealing.

However, I feel like this book might not be appropriate for 14-year-olds. I turned 14 in 8th grade, and I would not recommend this book to an 8th grader. There's a bit of cussing in the book, drug use (which I thought was totally unnecessary, but I suppose realistic?) and references to the movie The Big Lebowski, which I have seen and didn't like as much as the hype told me I would, so I tend to not think that ANYONE young or old should watch it.

I digress.

While I wouldn't recommend the book for my middle school book club, I do think that highschoolers would enjoy this book, especially highschoolers that might be struggling with some of the same issues that the book's main character struggles with.

OCD, The Dude, and Me is published by Dial, an imprint of Penguin. It is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chili Cheese Dog Casserole

Hot dogs? Chili? Melted cheddar?

Yes please.

Making Chili Cheese Dog Casserole is easy and only takes 30 minutes to bake, so it's pretty decent for a weeknight dinner. You can make it from scratch using the recipe linked above. Or you can make my lazy gluten-free version:

8 hot dogs, cut into circles
3 Udi's hamburger buns, torn into pieces (I couldn't find the hot dog buns and figured the hamburger buns would work just as well.)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 15-ounce cans of Hormel chili (These cans say gluten-free on them. Or you can use the ShopWell app to double-check.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a 9x13 pan with gluten-free non-stick cooking spray.

Lay the hot dog bun pieces across the bottom of the pan. Layer the hot dog slices on top, covering the buns.

Pour the chili over the top of the hot dog slices and cover with with shredded cheddar cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes.

Serve with mustard on top.


You can find more delicious recipes that I've made and enjoyed on my new Pinterest board: Recipes I've Made (and that are good!) I had to create this board as a way to organize my pins. Too many pins on my regular Recipes board, so I wanted to separate the stuff I've already made to avoid confusion. I think I spend more time organizing my Pinterest boards than I do my house.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - April 22

Here you go! Let our menu inspire yours! What are you eating this week?

Sunday: Breakfast Casserole

Monday: Pasta Carbonara

Tuesday: Gnocchi (from the May Family Circle)

Wednesday: tuna sandwiches & fries

Thursday: Pam Anderson's Mac and Cheese

Friday: out

Saturday: Mushroom and Zucchini Frittata (from the Faster! I'm Starving! cookbook)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

When God Makes Lemonade - Book Review

Have you heard the expression "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"? That's kind of what this book is about. It's a collection of real-life stories by people who suffered loss, heartache, etc., but made it through the hard times thanks to God. There seems to be a story for every topic, every thing that a person might experience from rape to job loss to miscarriages and deaths in the family. Throughout the book, the editor, Don Jacobsen, offers what are called "lemon drops", extra little tidbits of advice that usually involve a Bible verse to ponder. While not every story in the book was something I could relate to, I did take away some really good advice that I'd like to share with you here:

"I was bitter at this storm, yet you blessed me."

"Death is not the end of life. God is working with a resurrection power, and even after death, even through death, he brings life to others."

"Never settle for what you think you need. Instead, wait for what you really need."

Psalm 56:8 "You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book."

Psalm 126:5 "Those who plant tears will harvest with shouts of joy."

If you're looking for a book that will offer you some hope in your time of crisis, then I'd highly recommend this 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Red Beans and Rice

Red beans and rice. It doesn't sound like much, does it? But it actually makes a pretty decent, fast, and inexpensive meal. Especially because it's more than just red beans and rice. This recipe, from the Faster! I'm Starving! cookbook, includes white rice, prosciutto, olive oil, red beans, can of ready-cut tomatoes, thyme, and parsley. You're also supposed to use an onion and bottled crushed garlic. I just used some onion powder and garlic powder. (The recipe also calls for hot sauce, but I left that out.)

As I'm typing this, I realized that I used more red beans than I needed, but oh well! LOL

It might seem like there are a lot of ingredients, but it doesn't make it expensive. We actually already had the rice, tomatoes, olive oil, thyme, and parsley. All I needed to buy were the red beans (on sale) and prosciutto. The prosciutto was the most expensive thing in this meal!

The way I made this recipe, it's naturally gluten-free. I double-checked the prosciutto to make sure it was safe, and it was. This recipe is from a cookbook, so because of copyright reasons I can't share it with you here, but it's not hard to figure out how to make this on your own. (Or just leave me a comment on this post and I'll share the recipe with you.)

The next time I make this, I think I am going to add some sausage. My husband really felt like it needed something more, and the cookbook recommends adding a cup of cooked chicken, ham, pork or sausage to make the dish more substantial. So sausage it is!

Now, do you think I should do smoked sausage or Italian sausage? I asked my husband for his input and all he said was "sausage!"

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shop Better With ShopWell

I have to tell you about a really cool app called ShopWell that I use when I go to the grocery store. I read about the app in the book The Real Skinny, and decided to give it a try because a) it is a free download in the Apple App Store and b) it helps you find foods that fit within your dietary restrictions. It's perfect for people on special diets, including gluten-free diets.

You set up the app with your personal profile. So if you're looking for foods that contain no gluten, that are low in sugar, that are high in fiber, etc., then you input all of that information and the app remembers it for you. You can then use the app before or while you are shopping. Here's how I use it:

Before I Shop
If I'm making up our grocery list and I want to know the ingredients in a certain product to find out if it's gluten-free or not, then I use ShopWell to search for that product. The app will then give that product a score based on how well it fits my diet criteria. For example, I searched for Hormel Chili with Beans and ShopWell gave it a score of 45. Why? Hormel Chili with Beans is an excellent source of fiber, made with whole grain, is an excellent source of protein, is a good source of iron, is a good source of Vitamin A, BUT it is high in sodium and contains added sugar. Now, I only really care whether or not it's gluten-free, and so far so good.

ShopWell will also tell me the nutrition information and ingredients so I can check it out and see if there is anything questionable in the product. In the case of Hormel Chili with Beans, everything checked out on ShopWell, and when I went to the store to purchase it, I saw that it does say "gluten-free" on the can!

While I Shop
Sometimes I plan on purchasing something that is gluten-free, but my grocery store doesn't carry the brand I need, so I end up having to find a substitute. But how do I know if the substitute is gluten-free, especially if the package doesn't say it? Well, I could do a Google search and read through lots and lots of listings that are generally not helpful, or I could use the ShopWell app.

With this app, you can scan the barcodes, and the app will pull up product information for what you scanned. For example, I wanted to purchase a can of Rienzi Red Kidney Beans, but because they were on sale at A&P, there were no more cans left on the shelf! So, I scanned a can of Bush's Best Low Sodium Dark Kidney Beans. ShopWell gave it a score of 71 based on my dietary needs, and there is no sign of gluten.

Just as a test, I also scanned a can of Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup. ShopWell didn't even give it a score for me. Instead, I saw a red circle with the word "Avoid" next to it. Why? Because it contains soy, gluten, and wheat - all things that I told ShopWell I didn't want.

The more you use the app searching and scanning things, the more "achievements" you unlock and you even earn special coupon rewards! The app will also suggest foods that have a higher compatibility score with your dietary needs, which is pretty cool, although none of the suggestions I got to replace the low-scoring Hormel Chili with Beans was available at my grocery store.

Don't have an iPhone? You can still use ShopWell on the internet at home!

I really like this app and find it very easy to use. It is a SUPER lifesaver for me when I'm making the shopping list and at the grocery store because it helps me figure out what foods are safe for me to bring home. I would highly recommend this app to anyone on any type of diet!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Happy Accident - Book Review

A Happy Accident by Evan Tyler starts off with the death of a little girl's mother. This intrigued me because I wanted to know what happened to the mother. Unfortunately, that part of the story was not told in this book, and I know that A Happy Accident is just the first in a three-part series, so perhaps the second book will explain the first one's prologue?

The story that is told in A Happy Accident is that of Bobby Carter, lead singer for a band called The Dare, who falls in love with a girl named Kindle. (And believe me, reading about a girl named Kindle on my Kindle was surreal.) Bobby and Kindle get married on a whim, although Kindle only does it because she thinks it's all a joke and that Bobby won't actually go through with it. Well, he does and they do and they end up married, living in Kindle's small apartment in Manchester, England. As Bobby and his band try to make it big, we see Bobby and Kindle's relationship grow. They come to accept being a married couple and are really very happy, but The Dare's impending fame and groupies threaten it all.

The book also goes back and forth between present and past in order to give readers a glimpse into Bobby's and Kindle's lives as children, so readers can get a better understanding of why the characters are the way they are today (or in 1980 when the book takes place). Most of these time transitions were smooth, but there were a few times when I wasn't immediately sure what decade I was in.

There are also times in the book when the author gives you a glimpse of the future, which I didn't really like. If this was just a stand-alone book, then fine. But there are supposed to be two more books, and I feel like telling us stuff about the future kind of ruins the surprise. I'm sure there's a lot more to the story than the little glimpses of the future we get in this book, and I have to admit, the future of this story does sound tempting.

And not to be nit picky, but as an editor, I couldn't overlook the typos in this book. I'm a big stickler for that!! But who knows? The author asked me to read and review this book. Maybe she'll ask me to edit the second book before it gets published! I would gladly take the opportunity to have a first read at the second book, A Blind Choice, and help further Bobby and Kindle's story.

I definitely think this book and its author have a lot of potential. I can really see this book working as a movie. In fact, while I was reading this book, I kept picturing Revenge actress Ashley Madewke as Kindle. And I bet the soundtrack would rock!

I think that if you like music and romance, then you'll like A Happy Accident. This self-published book is available to purchase in paperback or as a Kindle Edition e-book from Amazon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Potato Ham Bake

You probably have eaten all your leftover Easter ham by now, and if you haven't, well, I don't think it's any good anymore, so you should probably throw it out. And once you do, then go out and buy some new ham to make this DELICIOUS Potato Ham Bake. It's naturally gluten-free, which I love, and utilizes fresh Yukon Gold Potatoes and asparagus. Add in diced ham, milk, chive & onion cream cheese, a little black pepper, and Parmesan cheese and you've got a yummy main course or side dish. (I made this as a main course.)

I found the recipe on Pinterest and pinned it to my Recipes/Food board. But you can go directly to the original recipe at the Better Homes & Gardens website. This meal serves four and there is even nutrition information on the BH&G website.

I kept to the original recipe, although I left out the tarragon and used grated Parm instead of shredded. Someone on the BH&G website suggested using fresh green beans instead of asparagus, too. Might check that out next time!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - April 15 (TAX DAY!)

Did everyone file their taxes? We did, and we already got our refund! Woo hoo! (Although, NY still has to take some of our money.) To celebrate, we're eating delicious food this week. Here's what's on the menu:

Monday - Chicken Caesar Salad

Tuesday - on our own

Wednesday - Red Beans & Rice (from the Faster! I'm Starving! cookbook)

Thursday - Lemony Fusilli with Chicken and Zucchini

Friday - Chili Cheese Dog Casserole

Saturday - on our own

What are you guys eating this week?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

My husband is 30 today!!!!!

Today is my husband's 30th birthday! 30! I know! And I'm not far behind. So because he turned 30, I decided to treat him like a 3-year-old. And I made this fun Happy Birthday balloon banner that I saw in Real Simple. The Real Simple version used construction paper letters to spell out "Happy Birthday" on the balloons, but I just drew the letters on the balloons with a Sharpie. 

The balloons also have confetti in them! The balloons in Real Simple seemed a bit more see-through, but I couldn't find clear balloons, so I just bought white ones. I think next time I'll put more confetti in each balloon, but I wasn't sure how much was needed. If you got up close to the balloons, you could definitely tell there was confetti in there.

Happy 30th birthday, hubby! I hope you get all your wishes this year! (And enjoyed the flourless chocolate cake I made for you.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Soup's On!

I have my grandmother-in-law to thank for this recipe. She always gives me her old magazines to read, so it was in the October 2011 issue of Woman's Day that I found a recipe for Italian Pasta & Bean Soup.

This was so easy to put together and took less than 30 minutes to make. We served it with some gluten-free bread (and a grilled cheese sandwich for my husband, who does not survive on soup alone).

I made quite a few changes, though. Here is my adapted version that makes 3 servings:

1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. onion powder
salt & pepper
1/4 tbsp. garlic powder
3 cups gluten-free chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked gluten-free pasta (I used penne because we had just the right amount left over from another meal.)
1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed (I like Rienzi because the can says "gluten-free".)
1/2 of a 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes in juice (I don't know if they make 8 ounce cans of this.)
1/4 cup dried chopped parsley
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion powder, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring for just a few seconds. Add the garlic powder, stirring, another few minutes.
2. Add the broth and pasta and bring to a boil. Cook until pasta is tender, 8-10 minutes.
3. Stir in the beans and tomatoes and cook until heated through, about two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Serve with Parmesan on top.

Oh yeah. I only had 2 cups of chicken broth, so I just did 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of water. Still worked okay. So if you find yourself in a pickle like I did, don't worry.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Some Scrappy Stuff & Giveaway Winner!

Before we get started on the scrappy stuff, I wanted to announce the winner of the Waking Up in Heaven book giveaway. Like I always say, you gotta play to win, and the only commenter was Kat! She said her favorite thing about spring is the colors. And for leaving that comment, and being the only one to do so, Kat wins a copy of Waking Up in Heaven! Congrats, Kat! I'll be in touch to get your mailing information so I can get the book sent out to you!

Alright, here we go! I've been making lots of progress lately with getting our summer 2012 vacation pictures scrapped. A few weeks ago, I used up some scraps and did pre-made pages. Then I just added picture in once I got the picture printed. Here is one of those pages with a picture of my husband's gluten-free burger at Red Robin in Seattle. Red Robin is now one of my husband's favorite restaurants because they really are good about the gluten-free situation and they have gluten-free buns!

These next two layouts I made using Dear Lizzy Neapolitan papers. Both of these layouts feature pictures from when we spent a morning in Sacramento, California. It was our last stop on the train trip, and we only had the morning (the VERY early morning), so we got breakfast at the Fox & Goose restaurant and walked around the capitol city for a little bit. It was such a pretty morning. I wish we could have spent more time visiting the capitol building and going into the Leland Stanford house.

And then I had some scraps leftover, so I made a very simple thank you card using a sketch that I pinned in my Scrapbook/Cards Pinterest board. Check it out for some great sketch inspiration!

Well, thanks for looking! I hope you've had time to get scrappy lately!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Secrets Lost - Book Review

Morgan Hill owns a llama farm and bed and breakfast in Washington. But she also owns a secret, one that even she doesn't know she has until she discovers a pair of glasses in her grandmother's old trunk. At the same time, a young author named Yuri enters Morgan's life and helps her along on her journey.

I thought Secrets Lost, Secrets Remembered by Marcia Breece was going to be a family saga story about Irish magic passed down through generations. Instead, it was more about the metaphysical world—spiritual healers, spirit guides, meditation, and the power of the mind. At one point, the characters start talking about their past lives and how they can shape shift. We don't really get to know much about Morgan's family history (despite there being a family tree at the beginning of the book) except for a few stories about her parents and her great-great-great-grandparents.

But the book isn't science fiction. It was almost like it was written as a way to promote everyone getting in touch with their spiritual healer selves. In the acknowledgements, the author says that the book is based on real-life experiences of someone she knows. And even much of the story seems to be based on the author's own life: Marcia Breece, like the character Morgan Hill, left a job in the corporate world to buy a llama farm and start a B&B. Marcia, like Morgan, wrote a memoir called Finding This Place. So I'm wondering if Marcia, like Morgan, also went through a spiritual journey to find her Self.

The book was also rather heavy on dialogue. It was almost like reading a transcript of someone else's therapy session. I wish the story would have taken me along with Morgan as she discovered the power of the glasses and her own inner power instead of listening to her talk about it with Yuri after the fact.

Secrets Lost, Secrets Remembered is published by Book Publishers Network and available now. I received a free copy of this book for my honest review.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Garnier Fructis Hydra Recharge - Review

Well, the last Garnier Fructis BzzCampaign I participated in was kind of a bust. But I still decided to give the next one a try. I got to participate in the Garnier Fructis Hydra Recharge BzzCampaign and received shampoo, conditioner, and hair treatment for free to review!

Here's the deal with Hydra Recharge: these products harness the natural superfruit powers of goji berry, passion fruit, and kiwi to smell yummy and replenish dry hair without weighing it down. The shampoo features thousands of beads that burst on impact for rich, creamy lather and deep hydration. When paired with the conditioner and one-minute hair treatment, you get the full effect of the Hydra Recharge system. (There is also a Moisture Whip Leave-In Conditioner, but I did not receive a sample of that so I can't comment on how well that worked.) This line is supposed to work best on dry to normal hair, and Garnier says it will keep hair weightlessly silky for up to two days.

I really am happier about my hair
than I look in this picture.
I have to say, I loved this stuff from the very beginning. I've been using the Hydra Recharge products since mid-March, and my hair looks great! I use the shampoo and conditioner, except for the two times a week when I use the shampoo and the one-minute hair treatment. The hair treatment you leave in your hair for one minute before rinsing out. So I wash my face and body while I let the hair treatment sink in. Honestly, on days when I use the hair treatment, my hair looks more AMAZING than on days when I just use the shampoo and conditioner. I know it's recommended to use the hair treatment twice a week, but I'm wondering if you could use it more than that. Like maybe every other day. Seriously. My hair is silky smooth and doesn't look dry! That usually never happens after I've fried my hair by highlighting it, blow drying it, and flat ironing it.

These products don't exactly hold up against weather, however. I should have snapped a pic of my hair all crazy the other morning after walking to work but it was so embarrassing. So, if your hair has a personality all its own, the Hydra Recharge products will work but there is a limit. If only I didn't have to leave the house on bad weather days.

All in all, I love the Hydra Recharge line! These products are available in grocery stores, drug stores, and mass retailers, and they retail for $3.99-$6.99.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fussy Cutting and Dear Lizzy

I don't usually do a lot of fussy cutting on my scrapbook layouts. I tend to be a lazy scrapbooker, more concerned with just getting the page done than with spending time cutting out intricate stuff to use on my layout. But for this layout, I used fussy cutting. I liked the black and white patterned paper, but I didn't know what else should go with it. So I found another piece of paper that had this green thing in the middle of it. I thought it would be perfect as a frame for my pictures, but in order to use it, I had to cut it out! I'm so glad I did. I really like the way this page turned out.

This next page uses Dear Lizzy Neapolitan products. I found a Dear Lizzy Neapolitan paper pad at Target of all places, and it was only $14.99 for patterned paper, patterned vellum paper, letter stickers, stickers, and that cool ruffled tissue paper paper. I've been using it for all sorts of layouts! I loved the mason jar for this layout of the Seattle Public Market. 

Thanks for looking! Hopefully I'll have more scrapbook pages and crafts to post for you soon!

Monday, April 8, 2013

An Irish Weekend

I got messy in the kitchen the other night making up a large pot of Irish Cheddar Potato Soup. I found the recipe in the Whole Foods circular and thought it sounded delicious: potatoes, Irish cheddar, asparagus. A great spring soup, especially when it's still chilly outside.

But it was kind of messy, mainly because you have to puree the soup in a blender in small batches, and I think my batches were too big so they kind of almost sort of blew the lid off the blender. Oopsie. 

If you own an immersion blender, which I do not but I really want one, you might be able to blend the soup that way. Because I don't have one (but I really want one) I wasn't able to try it out, but if you make this and use your immersion blender, let me know how it works! And then let me know what brand of immersion blender you use and if you'd recommend it!

Now onto the recipe. I changed it up a bit. First, I left out the leeks. 

Second, I used Yukon potatoes instead of red potatoes. We already had several Yukon potatoes, and I didn't feel like buying more potatoes and letting the Yukon potatoes go to waste. I also didn't peel my potatoes. Who has time for that?

Third, I used dried thyme instead of fresh, but then I read that you're supposed to take out the thyme before the end, so... If you think you are being clever like me and using dried thyme instead of fresh, you aren't.

Fourth, my asparagus was not thinly cut into coins. I was sort of pressed for time. (My husband decided to go to a concert at the last minute.) So I just cut up the whole bunch as small as I could. 

And last but not least, I did not use Kilaree Cheddar because my grocery store didn't carry it. But they did carry Kerrygold Irish Cheddar, which was delicious and grated very easily. I'd never had Irish cheese before, so this was fun.

Oh yeah, and if you're making this gluten-free, don't forget to make sure your chicken broth is gluten-free!

We continued our Irish food weekend last night with Shepherd's Pie. We have LOTS of leftovers for the week!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What's for Dinner?

Easy Crockpot Potato Soup
I thought I would just do a round-up of some of the new meals we've been eating lately. First up, Easy Crock Pot Potato Soup. Was it easy? You betcha! Although, ours turned out more like mashed potatoes than soup. But that's my fault. I couldn't find gluten-free cream of chicken soup, so I made my own from scratch (You can find the recipe here - just use gluten-free chicken broth and gluten-free all-purpose flour or cornstarch to make it gluten-free.) and I don't think I made enough. So that is definitely something to consider for next time. And there will be a next time!

I wish I had taken a "before" picture because seriously, I was getting worried that the frozen hashbrowns you use in this recipe instead of potatoes would not work. But after 5.5 hours of cooking, it was so creamy and thick! Top with shredded cheddar, some bacon bits, and chives and you're good to go!

Cheesy Taco Bake
We also ate a really delicious Cheesy Taco Bake. It was super easy to put together, although I used six-inch corn tortillas instead of eight-inch flour tortillas. I wanted to use the new Udi's gluten-free tortillas, but Whole Foods never has what I want when I want it.

This thing has three layers. Instead of using one eight-inch tortilla as a layer, I used two and a half six-inch corn tortillas as one layer to make sure I was filling up my pie pan. Then you layer the meat and cheese mixture, do another tortilla layer, more cheese/meat, another tortilla layer, and top it off with the rest of the meat/cheese. Bake and enjoy!

Lemony Pasta
And one night when my husband wasn't home, I made for myself Martha Stewart's Lemony Pasta with Goat Cheese and Spinach. The sauce ended up a little thinner than I would have liked, and lots of people on the recipe link commented that the pasta needed something more, like salmon or something. I thought it was pretty good on its own. I was just happy that I found a recipe on MarthaStewart.com that was easy to make!

I think where I really went wrong with this was in halving the recipe. Because I was only making it for myself, I didn't want to have any leftovers. But somewhere in the calculations it just didn't turn out as perfect as I had hoped. Still, it was good, and it was nice to be able to eat regular pasta for a change!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Sitting Room

I have so many things to post these days, I think I'm going to start trying to post every day. In the past, as you've probably noticed, I've been posting every other day. But there's just so much going on that I need to get it all out to you ASAP! So every day posts start NOW.

This is our sitting room or "library". The wood paneled walls came with the house, and I thought they lent the room an air of sophistication. So that's where our books are and that lovely yellow armchair that also came with the house. Recently, I did some rearranging in this room. I also FINALLY made a book wreath for the room. You can see it hanging in this picture.

Cross THAT off of my 2013 to-do list. Woo hoo! I used this tutorial to create my wreath, however, I had to adapt it a little bit because some of my supplies were different. My advice: be super careful when using your hot glue gun with this project. I burned my finger and got a blister. Ouch!

Don't look too close. The book I used was a Harlequin Kiss novel that I got for free at a Girls' Night Out event. I did read the book before I tore it up and made a wreath out of it. Trust me. It deserved to be used in this manner. It's not like I tore up Jane Austen or something.

I also decided to bring my keyboard that was not getting used downstairs into this room upstairs where it is more easily accessible for me to play. Pay no attention to that cardboard box on the side. It's got books in it that are going to Goodwill. 

So yay for crossing off the book wreath from my to-do list and for changing up the space in our sitting room. Now if only I had more time to sit in there and read/play the keyboard.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Real Skinny - Book Review

Alright, ladies. It's April. Did you make a New Year's resolution to lose weight through diet and exercise? Have you also been making excuses to not eat healthy and exercise? No matter what your excuse, Julie Upton and Katherine Brooking have a solution for you. In their book The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health's 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions, which hit shelves yesterday, they go through 101 excuses for why people just can't lose weight. Whether you think healthy food tastes bad, you don't know how to cook, you don't have time to work out, or you think detox diets are the way to go, this book tells you why you're wrong and offers solutions to help you eat right and slim down. The book even includes healthy recipes, a checklist of foods you should always have on hand (and foods you shouldn't bring through the door), and a 14-day meal plan to get you started! It covers how to handle business lunches and dinners, a spouse who never seems to gain any weight, and choices you can make when going out to eat.

I especially liked that the book addressed gluten-free diets. Gluten-free foods can actually be higher in calories than gluten-filled foods, so it's important to always read nutrition labels and, when you can, opt for foods that are naturally gluten-free instead of always relying on processed gluten-free foods.

This book is a practical guide to weight loss with easy solutions for eating right and losing weight. If you're having trouble losing weight, if you're constantly making excuses for why you can't work out or eat right, then check out this book!

The Real Skinny is published by Tarcher/Penguin. It is currently available to purchase. I received a free review copy of this book for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Waking Up in Heaven - Book Review & Giveaway

One day in December 2009, Crystal McVea died. Nine minutes later, she came back to life. And what she experienced during those nine minutes changed her life forever.

You've probably heard many stories about people "dying" and "going to Heaven". Certainly, many other books have been written about it, and countless news stories and television shows have investigated whether or not these people are telling the truth or if the "white light" they see really has to do more with how their brains are coping without oxygen than a visit to heaven.

I don't care if Crystal McVea's story of going to heaven and meeting God is real or a figment of her dying brain's imagination. It's really the story of her life and her faith that intrigues me the most in her memoir Waking Up in Heaven.

The book starts off detailing what happened to Crystal that December day in 2009. But then it takes us back to Crystal's troubled childhood, the many injustices she suffered as a small child, her up-and-down relationship with her mother (and father, and stepfather, and her mother's boyfriends), and her struggle to understand and believe in God.

One passage really stuck out at me in the beginning, so much so that I'm sharing it with you here:

"Only many years later would I realize that - even in the darkest moments of my life, even when my belief in God was at its absolute lowest point - I never stopped speaking to Him. Our conversations may have been filled with nothing but questions and curses and doubts and demands, but they were still conversations...For whatever reason, even when I didn't believe He was listening, I kept the channels open, and I had my talks with God." - 46-47

Does that describe your relationship with God? I know it describes mine. No matter how angry I get with God, I don't totally block Him out. I still talk to Him. I still voice my concerns.

(I'm reading a separate book right now of daily devotionals, and several of the devotionals talk about how it's okay to be honest and upfront with God about how you're feeling. He already knows how you're feeling anyway, so trying to hide it and be all "Whatever your will, God" is disrespectful to God.)

Crystal is very brave to share what she shares in this book, from the terrible things that happened to her when she was growing up to her experience meeting God during her nine minutes in Heaven. Again, I feel like this book isn't so much about Crystal going to Heaven; it's more about how Crystal struggled and struggled with her faith and God never gave up on her.

GIVEAWAY: If you want to read this book for yourself, I have one paperback copy of the book to give away! Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite thing is about spring and you'll be entered to win. You have until April 10 at midnight EST to leave a comment. Then I'll randomly pick one of the comments to win! Good luck!

This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States.

Waking Up in Heaven is published by Howard Books. It is available to purchase now. I received a review copy of the book for my honest review.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - April 1

No, I'm not going to play an April Fool's prank on you and post really weird meals. This is a for-serious meal plan, guys! What are you eating this first week of April?

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Wednesday: Breakfast Ham Cups (A spiral sliced ham was super on sale at the grocery store, so we had a ham dinner Saturday night and are using the leftover ham for more dinners and lunches throughout the week.)

Thursday: sloppy joe's

Friday: grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with soup

Saturday: potato ham bake

Also, what do you guys think of my blog redesign? I really like it, which is why I changed it up!! If you're having trouble navigating, just move your mouse cursor over to the right-hand side of the blog and a navigation bar will appear. There you can find the blog archive, the about me section, and links to my Twitter, Pinterest, GoodReads, and Google + pages. (Yes, I broke down and did Google +. Bear with me. I'm still trying to figure it out.)

You can still find my other pages in the top navigation bar, and there is a new search feature, which is something I've always wanted! So if you're looking for something specific, but don't know where it might be on the blog, just search for it! I tag all of my blog posts with keywords, so hopefully that will make it easy for you to find what you're looking for.

ALSO, if you want to change the look of the blog's layout, you can! Yes YOU! The first option on the top navigation bar says "magazine", but if you click on it, a drop-down menu will appear with other viewing options. So check them all out and then you decide how you want to view my blog. Pretty cool, huh?