Sunday, June 30, 2013

Conversations with the Universe - Book Review

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My opinion of this book changed a lot as I read it. At one moment, I liked the book. At other times, I didn't really understand it. And then I'd read another page and I'd like the book again.

The whole premise of Conversations with the Universe by Simran Singh is that the universe is talking to us - everything in the universe: animals, numbers, our houses, our cars. And if we just tune into these messages, we can lead healthier and happier lives.

The book is divided into four parts. And much of part two was a little hard for me to follow. Perhaps I need more of a beginner book on this topic.

But there were parts that I did like, specifically the prompts at the end of each part that challenge you to ask yourself questions and dig deeper into what's going on in your life, your body, and your universe. As the author writes, "Self-inquiry solicits thoughts of change."

This book is basically trying to wake readers up to the messages from the universe that are all around us. It may take you some time to realize that a message is really a message. And I do find it kind of hard to believe that my car troubles actually stem from either a feminine or masculine issue in my life instead of stemming from the fact that my car is 14 years old, and, at that point, things are going to malfunction.

I did like the chapter about messages from our home and what they mean. For instance, a flood or leak means that "abundance is on the way. The space has been cleansed. Transformation is in process." So, I guess good things are in store for us! Either that or yes, transformation is in process. We've just called the contractor to come redo our leaky shower stall.

Conversations with the Universe is published by Select Books. It is available to purchase now. I received an autographed copy of the book at Book Expo America with no obligation to review the book. I just felt like reviewing it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Host a S'mores Party

s'mores pie
I was totally jonesing for some s'mores recently. I actually made a s'mores board on Pinterest. Do you know how many recipes there are that utilize graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows in different ways? TONS. And I want to eat them all.

Traditional s'mores a good, but I live in a place where I can't have an open flame for fear that I might burn down our townhouse and then all the townhouses down our row. Roasting marshmallows over an open fire is verboten. Luckily there are plenty of s'mores alternatives.

If you, like me, are in on the s'mores love this summer, then perhaps you'll want to host a s'mores party. If so, feel free to use my Pinterest board as inspiration, and take a look at a few things that I made right here!

First up, the s'mores pie. This was pretty easy to make, and, although I did not make it gluten-free, it is easy to make it gluten-free. Just purchase gluten-free graham crackers. Everything else in this recipe is a-okay.

I highly recommend following the instructions for broiling the marshmallows. The woman who made this recipe first actually started a fire in her oven! So KEEP AN EYE ON THE MARSHMALLOWS. I closed my oven door and turned on the oven light so I could make sure the marshmallows didn't get too crazy. After about three minutes, the tops started to brown, and I immediately removed them from the oven. If you don't think you'll be able to do this or if this scares you, make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. It's the law to have one in NJ, so I was already prepared. :)

Even after chilling the pie in the fridge for a few hours, the marshmallow topping is still ooey gooey. The chocolate filling (which is made from vanilla, eggs, semi-sweet chocolate chips, heavy cream, and milk) is soooooooo rich. And the graham cracker crust is nice and crisp.

And wouldn't you like to leave your party guests with a parting gift? I found these cute little buckets in the Target $1 section. The white part of each bucket is Dry-Erase, so you can write on it, wipe it off, and write on it again. How cool is that? And they were only $1 a piece!! I purchased some cellophane wrap and filled that with homemade s'mores trail mix. Then tied it all up with a pretty ribbon from my scrap stash. A nice s'mores-filled snack for your guests to enjoy even after the party is over.

What's your favorite way to eat s'mores? Do you like your marshmallows burnt or crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Phoenix - Book Review

It's here! The second installment in the Black City young adult book series. If you want to see what I thought about the first book, check out my review here.
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Phoenix, by Elizabeth Richards, extends the action from the first book.

Our star-crossed lovers, Ash and Natalie, are back and they're engaged. There is hope in the United Sentry States now because everyone is voting to determine whether or not the segregation of the Darklings should stop. But things go wrong when Ash is forced to make a choice with terrible consequences no matter what he chooses. And things go even more wrong after the vote. Ash and Natalie, along with all the rebels, are forced to defend themselves and look for a new way to take down Purian Rose, the leader of the United Sentry States and a cult-like religion. The rebels' plan takes Ash and Natalie, along with the Bastet boy Elijah, all over the land searching for those who know a secret that could help save everyone.

Obviously, this is only the second book in the series, so the ending isn't tied up nicely in a bow. I'm not sure how many more books will be in the series, but I'm guessing the third book will be the last. Can't wait to see how it all ends.

In my previous review of Black City, I mentioned that the story has many similarities to Twilight and The Hunger Games. This book is no different, but I also felt like there were similarities to the Harry Potter series.

The writing style of this second book is pretty fast-paced. I can't say that I liked it as much as the first one, but it was really serving to set up the events in the next book.

Like Black City, Phoenix is for ages 14 and up. There's some sexual stuff and some pretty gruesome scenes. In this book, the characters are 17, so I would recommend it for kids 16 and up who are able to stomach reading about people getting their heads ripped off. Seriously.

Phoenix is published by Putnam, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. It is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel

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Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel is the first book in the Dear Daphne book series. I don't know how many other books are going to be in the series, but I can't wait to read them all!

In this book, we meet 34-year-old Daphne Ballinger. She's been working at The New York Times as a wedding writer for 12 years, and she's been living in the same apartment for that same amount of time. She's also still single. When she moved to New York, she had big hopes and dreams. But 12 years later, things aren't as great as Daphne had hoped. As someone who works in New York, I gotta say, I totally felt for Daphne. It's like author Melody Carlson writes on page 6:

"She remembered when she had been in love with New York. Some called it the Big Apple Honeymoon Phase, but it had lasted several years for her. However, like so many things in her life, it had gotten a little tarnished and dull over the years. And as she emerged from the subway, back into the drizzling rain and noisy traffic, she didn't much like the city."

Sad news from back home whisks Daphne away from New York, and she arrives in small town Appleton. Her Aunt Dee has died, and Daphne soon discovers that her aunt has left everything to Daphne. But there are some conditions that if not met after one year mean that Daphne has to forfeit everything. The conditions may seem crazy, but so are all the secrets that Daphne discovers about her late aunt as well as Daphne's decision to make a go of it in Appleton. At least for a year.

I thought this book was going to take us through that whole year, but (and I love Melody Carlson for this) it doesn't! It only takes us through May to July. So there is still so much more to happen for Daphne, and I'm intrigued to find out what else is in store for her during her year-long stint in Appleton.

This is a sweet, charming, and hopeful story, and I would love it if someone made it into a movie or a Hallmark TV mini-series, at least.

The only thing I take issue with is that I find it hard to believe that a 34-year-old woman who lived in New York for more than a decade NEVER got into social media. Oh really? There were times I felt that Daphne was written a little older than she's supposed to be. Or maybe that's just her personality. She's kind of an old soul. But still. A 30-something without a Facebook page? No.

Also, I thank Carlson for this PSA about New York:

"'What about fun clothes?' Olivia asked. 'Like for nights on the town? I figured New Yorkers usually dressed to the nines, went out clubbing or to shows, basically having all kinds of fun.'

'I think Sarah Jessica Parker helped to create that illusion.'" - page 138


Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel is available to purchase now. It's published by B&H Books. I received a free copy of the book at Book Expo America with no obligation to review the book, but I reviewed it anyway and have given my honest opinion.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Scrapbooking Technique

I read a lot of blog posts from other scrapbookers sharing their scrapping techniques. So I thought it was high time that I shared how I approach scrapbooking. Now, this isn't how it happens ALL the time. Sometimes I make a layout and then save it until I have pictures that work for it. Sometimes I just throw it all together without much thought.

But when I'm really feeling creative and inspired and have lots of time to sit down and scrap, here is how it goes:

1. I like working with sketches. It helps boost my creativity, even if I don't follow the sketch exactly. Here is the sketch I started out with for this layout:

2. Then I go through my supplies and try to put together my own "kit". I look for papers that coordinate as well as embellishments and letter stickers. Right now, I have LOTS of supplies to choose from, so finding stuff that goes well together wasn't very hard. Believe me, it's not always like this! Here are the supplies I chose. (I had stuff leftover to do another layout, too.)

3. Then I get my pictures together. In the case of this layout, I was using three pictures that I took at the St. Louis Public Library back in December.

4. And then I lay out everything WITHOUT USING ADHESIVE. Too many times I adhere stuff to the page, and then I want to remove it and put it somewhere else. This is actually the reason why I use the removable adhesive squares, but not everything can be removed, including ribbon glue tape, glue dots, and some stickers. So to be on the safe side, I just lay stuff down to make sure I like the way it looks.


5. And then I apply the adhesive and stick it all together. And here is the finished layout! Isn't that doily fun?


How do you guys scrapbook? Do you have any tips about approaching your layouts and getting creative? Please share in the comments!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How Instagram Makes Scrapbooking Easier

Well, not scrapbooking itself, but SHARING my scrapbook pages. I used to take pictures of my layouts using my camera, remove my camera's SD card, insert the SD card into my computer, open the file containing those pictures, and then upload the pictures to my computer where I would then have to crop the pictures so that you could only see the layout and not the surrounding areas of my home, and THEN I would upload the cropped pictures to, challenge blogs, or this blog.

But I finally realized, why not just use Instagram to take all my scrapbook pictures?

Instagram takes SQUARE pictures, so I can get right up on my 12 x 12 layout and only take a picture of that 12 x 12 square. Then those pictures are right on my phone, which means I can use the Blogger app to upload them into a new blog post. NO CROPPING REQUIRED. 

Take a look at a few of the latest layouts I've made and photographed with Instagram! (And if you want to follow me on Instagram, my username is 1inthesea.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - June 24

I can't believe it's the last week of June!! Where is the time going? This week I'll be celebrating my half birthday. Halfway to 30 but I already feel like I'm beyond 30. I don't think that's a good thing.

Anyway, here is what we're eating this week:

Sunday: Easy Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken with Parmesan-Roasted Green Beans

Monday: spaghetti with grilled green beans and feta

Tuesday: tuna sandwiches with fries or leftovers (if we have them)

Wednesday: it's my brother-in-law's high school graduation ceremony!

Thursday: on our own

Friday: Mexican Sweet Potato Skins

Saturday: Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Chicken Taco Rice Bowls Three Ways

Here's a fun and easy recipe that can be eaten in three ways. I found the original recipe on Pinterest via Budget Bytes.

First off, you make this in the crockpot. It cooks for eight hours and BOY does it make the house smell yummy. I used a six-quart crockpot, but I think a four-quart would also offer enough room for this, especially if you cut the recipe in half.

Once it's all cooked, you put it over rice (that doesn't cook in the crockpot - make it on the stovetop) and then top it with shredded cheese and cilantro. Yum yum yum.

But if you're left with leftovers, and you will have leftovers, there are other ways to enjoy this meal. For instance, I had it for dinner again during the week and served it with tortilla chips on the side. Without the rice, this would actually make a really good chip dip.

And then, of course, you can get rid of the rice and eat this in a taco! Shredded cheese and cilantro still make a perfect topping for these tacos.

So there you have it! I hope this has inspired you to get creative with your leftovers. What meal do you like to make that also makes good leftovers in a variety of ways?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Intentional Walk - Book Review

Okay, so maybe I'm biased, but I really enjoyed this book. There's nothing like something like this book to reinforce what you already know: that the St. Louis Cardinals are one of the greatest baseball organizations.

Each chapter of Intentional Walk, by Rob Rains, is an interview with a different Cardinal: players (Wainwright, Holliday, Freese, etc.), prospective players, and an equipment manager. And, of course, there is an interview with manager Mike Matheny. These interviews took place over the course of the 2012 season, when the Cardinals were trying to uphold their World Series champion title from 2011. (And we all know what happened, don't we? Sad face.)

Why were the people in this book chosen to be interviewed? Because they are all Christians.

It was refreshing to read about the faith that these guys have. The Cardinals organization is one where you don't have to hide your faith. There are weekly Bible studies, both during spring training and the regular season, and even the guys from the minor leagues, wives, and children are invited to attend. The players hang out when they're not playing baseball. Overall, everybody just seems really nice and really grounded. (And it's not just the Christian people who are nice. I feel like, right now at least, there isn't a Cardinals player that is a real jerk. Generally, all the Cardinals are likeable people.)

But many of these Cardinals didn't always have the strong faith they have today. Many of the guys interviewed in this book struggled with faith and their baseball careers early on in life. But eventually they came to Christ and learned to trust in whatever God's plan was for them.

God doesn't care what team wins or loses. But God does care that you go out there and give it your all both on the field and off the field.

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekend Scraps with Crate Paper

I got super crafty over the weekend, mainly with Crate Paper paper and some other stuff that was in my stash. I was really happy with the way the two layouts and two cards I made turned out. And I was able to use up stuff from my stash! It was a very productive and crafty weekend! 

I really love the above papers from Crate Paper. They are from an older collection, and several years ago when I was subscribing to a scrapbook kit club, I received those papers to work with. I just got them again a few weeks ago in a package of scrappy happy mail, and I was very excited! That fun rainbow page is just so cool!

The pictures in the above layout are of the top of our wedding cake. Did we eat it on our first wedding anniversary like we were supposed to? No. Instead, it sat in my parents' freezer from May 2009 to December 2012. We took it out to take a look at it and see if it might still be edible. But my mom really didn't want us to eat it, so I took a joke picture of me putting a piece in my mouth. Then we threw it all away. Hope that doesn't mean bad things for our marriage!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Crystal Balls - Book Review

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Crystal Balls is called a novel, but at 109 pages, it's really more of a novella. The story follows a variety of characters over the course of just a few days. Four male friends discover that one of them is psychic, a discovery that causes two of the guys to seek spiritual guidance (from two totally different sources), while the third guy, Roger, just wants to use his psychic friend's abilities to win big at the casino. Also part of the story is a 50-something fake psychic named Anya who learns that she really is psychic and can speak to her dead husband, a coffee shop waitress who has a crush on Roger (and he on her), a war veteran who used to work with psychics during Vietnam, a Scottish priest/janitor, and a crazy homeless man who might not be so crazy.  Everybody eventually ends up at a casino, a meeting that changes the thread of life for some.

I liked how the authors made references to things that seemed small, but then those references would pop up  elsewhere in the story under a different circumstance, and you're like, "Ha! There it is again!"

The main author, Bill Rogers, is a journalist, and you can definitely tell. Crystal Balls was very well-written! That's actually the first thing I thought when I started reading the book: "This guy is a good writer!"

The story is humorous and very fast-paced. I finished the book in one day! Apparently, it was originally written as a screenplay 10 years ago, and I can totally see it as a short film as written. It would probably also make a silly comedy movie if the story was fleshed out more.

Crystal Balls is available to purchase now. It is published by iUniverse. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bacon Mushroom Swiss Meatloaf

So I've been going through my Recipes/Food board on Pinterest, and I am determined to start from the bottom of my board and work/eat our way up to the top. We are starting with Bacon Mushroom Swiss Meatloaf.

The only thing I had to do to make this gluten-free was use gluten-free corn flakes. You can't buy (or at least they don't sell them at my grocery store) gluten-free corn flake crumbs, so I just poured the flakes into a plastic Ziploc bag, closed the bag, and crushed them up by hand. I guess I could have also used my mini food processor, but I actually think it's broken. (Hint hint for Christmas/Birthday, anyone. But this time, how about a BIGGER food processor? Oh yeah. Mama needs a REAL kitchen.)

Also, I did not cook my bacon in a skillet. I used the microwave. (Speaking of "real" kitchens...) So I wasn't able to cook the mushrooms and the onion in part of the bacon grease. Instead, I just poured a bit of olive oil in a skillet, and while the bacon cooked in the microwave, I cooked the mushrooms in the olive oil and let it soften up.

I also didn't use an onion. Instead, I just sprinkled some onion powder over the mushrooms and cooked them in that.

ALSO, I don't have a meatloaf pan. So I just lined a baking sheet with foil and placed my loaf of meat on top of that. The fat just drains down the sides and onto the foil, so there's really no draining involved. And it kind of makes clean-up easier.

As you can see, I don't much like hassle. Chopping an onion=hassle. Cooking bacon in a skillet=hassle and time-consuming. Anything I can do, or that you can do, to make cooking easier and take less time just makes LIFE easier.

Oh, and we had fresh corn on the cob as a side. I'm super obsessed with fresh sweet corn this summer. I can't wait to get to the Farmer's Market (or the sketchy roadside stand) and buy it REAL fresh. Yumyumyumyum.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Corruption of Innocence - Book Review

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Imagine being sentenced to death for a crime you didn't even commit. It happens frequently in America. So frequently that there are organizations (such as the Innocence Project) set up to help exonerate those innocent incarcerated individuals. How could these people be wrongly convicted? Doesn't the U.S. justice system work?

Apparently not, and The Corruption of Innocence by Lori St. John is just one story of justice gone wrong.

In 1985, Joe O'Dell was convicted of raping and murdering Helen Schartner. Despite the evidence that proved his innocence (including a corroborated alibi), a lack of good defense lawyers and the misrepresentation of facts by the prosecution worked against Joe. For years, he tried appealing his case, asking for a new trial. And then Lori St. John (then Lori Urs) came into the picture.

Lori, a divorced mother of one living in New Jersey, got involved with a non-profit that worked to help people like Joe. As a volunteer, Lori was the one handling Joe's case, corresponding with him to give him updates and making sure all the paperwork got where it needed to go. But Lori soon became much more than just a volunteer. Working to save Joe became her life's mission, one that would take Lori from New Jersey to Virginia to Italy, meeting all sorts of people (including the Pope!) to help spread the word about Joe's innocence and get the court to agree to DNA testing, which wasn't available back when Joe was convicted. The DNA testing is key because it would definitively prove whether or not Joe is innocent.

Through all this, Lori finalizes her divorce, moves to Cape Cod, attends her daughters sporting events, and decides to go to law school. I liked that Lori threw in bits about her personal life, letting us know that she was committed to helping Joe, but she also knew that she had familial duties as well as personal goals to fulfill.

Sometimes I had trouble telling where we were on the timeline. It's a very fast-paced and urgent writing style, which well mirrors the fast-paced urgency with which Lori and others were trying to help Joe.

I was not familiar with this case. After all, I was just a kid when it was all happening in the '90s. So I didn't know how the story was going to end. If you don't know either, I won't ruin it for you. Just read the book!

The book is all from Lori's perspective and doesn't paint the Commonwealth of Virginia in a good light. I wonder what kind of response Virginia and those involved in prosecuting Joe O'Dell will have once this book comes out.

The Corruption of Innocence is published by Creative Production Service. It will be available to purchase on June 28, 2013. I received a free autographed advance review copy for my honest review.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - June 17

We have another week of busy nights this week, but over the weekend we managed to eat well! Hopefully we have enough leftovers to get us through some of these busy nights. (We also had Bacon Mushroom Swiss Meatloaf on Saturday. I'll share that recipe in an upcoming blog post!)

Sunday: Crockpot Taco Chicken Bowls

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: tacos (My husband says, "Tacos are always the answer.")

Thursday: on our own

Friday: on our own

Saturday: on our own

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Come to My Table

It's been a few weeks since I finished reading the book Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequest, and parts of that book are still lingering with me. Take this passage for instance, which totally sums me up:

One friend promises she'll start having people over when they finally have money to remodel. Another says she'd be too nervous that people wouldn't eat the food she made, so she never makes the invitation. But it isn't about perfection, and it isn't about performance. You'll miss the richest moments in life - the sacred moments when we feel God's grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love - if you're too scared or too ashamed to open the door. - p.109

our broken dining room table set/catch-all space
I can't let not having a squeaky clean house and perfect kitchen prevent me from having people over to eat. I can't let our too-small dining room table with its two broken chairs and two not-broken chairs prevent me from inviting our friends into our space.

You read this blog. You know that I love making food. I love eating food, too.

I also love food words. Puff pastry. Chicken apple sausage. Crusty. Flaky. Sea salt. Caramelized. Mousse. Goat cheese.

And I share some of this with you through pictures and posts on this blog. But I don't share enough of it with any one in person. I don't bring people into my home to cook for them and spend time with them around a table of nourishing food.

Do I wish I had a bigger and not broken dining room set? Heck yeah! (And preferably one that looks something like this.)

Do I wish that we had an L-shaped sofa downstairs in the family room so that more people could sit and hang out around the TV and play games together on the Wii? Of course!

But we have what we have, and it's just gotta be enough for right now.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gluten-Free at Nationals Park

If you ever catch a ball game at Nationals Park and you need gluten-free food, head over to section 136 (it's easiest to enter at the right field gate) and grab yourself some grub! They've got gluten-free beer, hot dogs, and snacks. My husband got the gluten-free Italian sausage. He said it was good, although not as good as the one served at Yankee Stadium. Oh well! We're still glad to have the option to order gluten-free food while enjoying the ball game. (Even if the home team loses in the 11th inning.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Broken - Book Review

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Broken is like a modern-day young adult gothic romance novel. With a hint of the classic Frankenstein story, this book is filled with mystery, romance, and lots of coffee. It's been several months since Emma's boyfriend died, and now a new boy has started attending Emma's high school, Shelley High. Alex is drawn to Emma just as she's drawn to him. Certain things are familiar about him, and soon it all becomes clear why, the knowledge putting Emma and Alex in danger.

It was an interesting story. Even though I could sort of tell where it was going, there were a few twists that I didn't foresee. While Emma is a pretty independent female character, I did wish she would have been the one to take on her bullies instead of letting Alex "save" her time and time again. But that's just my personal preference.

This is book 1 of a new series, and I'm interested to find out how the author is going to expand the story over the course of multiple books. Not sure when book 2 is slated to arrive, but I'll keep you posted.

There's a little bit of cussing, underage drinking, one abbreviated sex scene, and a scene that some might find gross toward the end. I don't have a recommended age range on this book, but I think because the characters are older high school students, those are the kids who should be reading this book, not younger kids.

Broken is published by Strange Chemistry and written by A. E. Rought. The book is available to purchase now. I received a free autographed copy while at Book Expo America with no obligation to review the book. I just decided to review it and give my honest opinion.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Scrapbook Flashback

I thought it was time for another Scrapbook Flashback. This time I picked an album from 2007. This was after I discovered and realized just ALL the things you could do with scrapbooking.

Here's one of my husband and I just a few months after we started dating. Man, we look so young. Pretty sure these papers are K&Company. I bought a paper pack that came with letter stickers and punch-out embellishments. I still love all-inclusive kits to this day.

And here's one of me from a work event. I look so thin in that picture!!! These papers and the letters were from a paper pack from Walmart. (This was WAY before Colorbok formed a partnership with Walmart, so the scrapbooking aisle at Walmart was slim pickings.) The photo frame and the little cut-out Littlest Pet Shop characters were from the event. 

Now it's your turn! Go back to your albums from 2007 (or beyond!) and see how your work has changed over the years. And see how you and your loved ones have changed! Geesh!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It's All About the Two-Pagers

I have been making LOTS of two-page scrapbook layouts recently. And I'm having a good time with it. It seems like I go through stages where all I do are two-page layouts, and then I switch back to single-page layouts. When I first started scrapbooking FOR REAL, I was all over the two-page layout. And then as I kept looking at other scrappers' work, I started only scrapping single-page layouts. But now that I've got so many pictures per event to scrap, I've gotten back into the swing of the two-pager.

Here are some recent ones I made:

Thanks for looking! Link up some of your recent work in the comments!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Sister Gospels - Book Review

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The Sister Gospels follows four sisters over the course of almost one year and the ups and downs they face in life. Through everything, they lean on family and faith.

Newly divorced Naomi is the youngest, and she's moved back to New York to try her hand at acting.

Greta is a high school principal and born-again Christian with a loving husband and son and some exciting news.

Venice is a screenwriter in Chicago who has a crush on a married co-worker.

And Lorraine is a wife and mother of two with a dangerous secret.

This is a story about family helping family and struggling to do the right thing even when the wrong thing is tempting. It's also very heavy on faith, showing the ways the characters do (or don't) turn to God for help.

For the most part, I liked the book, but there were a few passages I didn't like, most of them having to do with the actions of the men in this book. If a man, Christian or not, husband or not, ever told me, "Don't make me pull rank" like Edwin told his wife Greta during a (ridiculous!!!!) fight about their gay doctor, that would be it for me! See ya, mister!

Also, Lorraine's husband Larry is apparently incapable of making dinner and helping out around the house. Learn to operate a stove, Larry. His wife is out volunteering (okay, she really wasn't volunteering but she had volunteered in the past - You'll have to read the book to get it) and all Larry can think about is how dinner isn't ready and waiting for him on the table. How dare his wife have a life outside the home! Please.

These are the things I would love to discuss with a book club. This book definitely lends itself well to book club or Bible study discussion.

The Sister Gospels is available to purchase now. It is published by Vera Jennings. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - June 10

We're coming off of having a weekend away, so I didn't have time to go grocery shopping. This week is all about using up what we have in the pantry. So here goes:

Monday: coconut chicken with salad

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: sloppy joes

Thursday: eggs and waffles

Friday: spaghetti

Saturday: I'll figure Saturday out once I sit down and plan our meal plan for next week. This day will be grocery shopping day. I hope I can keep the grocery bill down to normal, but it always goes higher when we skip a week of shopping.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What Did You Read as a Kid?

I came across a post over at Children's Books Guide listing the 100 Best Children's Chapter Books. It's amazing how many of these books I read as a kid! So, I thought I would wax poetic about some of the books on the list.

Of course, practically all the Harry Potter books are listed. That's a no-brainer! And my husband will be happy to know that several Roald Dahl books also made the list.

Then you have classics such as Charlotte's Web, which I think I read in 6th grade, and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which I didn't read until high school. I still never made it through that whole book series.

The Phantom Tollbooth is in the top 10. A few years ago, my husband and I read that book with our middle school summer book club! We also read The Lightning Thief, which makes the list farther down, and I have to say, I loved that book! The rest of the books were pretty good, with, I think, the exception of the second to last book. Don't even waste your time on the movie, though.

Last year our book club read The Graveyard Book, which I HATED!

I'm glad to see that The Hobbit made the list. Although, I didn't read that book until college.

My mom will be pleased to know that Anne of Green Gables made the cut. We read that whole book series together when I was a kid.

And Hatchet!! Did any one else read that book in elementary school? I don't even remember what grade I read it in, but how could I forget that book cover? The same goes for Island of the Blue Dolphins. No clue when I read that book, but I totally remember reading it.

Number the Stars is also on the list. I really liked that book!

I remember reading The Little House on the Prairie books on my own when I was in third grade. Never got into the TV series, though.

And I was so excited to see that Sideways Stories from Wayside School made the list!! I was beginning to think that I was the only person who knew that book! I actually found it at a garage sale years ago and bought it because I remembered enjoying it so much in elementary school.

I also read Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. Having your period isn't fun. Reading about it is even less so.

And then you've got The Boxcar Children (why did they live in a boxcar??) and one of the Nancy Drew books. I had a few Nancy Drew books. I think my aunt bought some of them for me.

How many of the books on the list do you remember reading as a kid? Is your favorite book on there?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Sketch Lets the Imagination Take Flight

I'm finally getting some more summer 2012 vacation pictures scrapped with the help of sketches to jumpstart the creativity. It's so hard for me to look at 10 4x6 pictures and figure out how to crop them, rearrange them, and make them all look nice on a two-page layout. Working with just one or two pictures per page is so much easier! (Maybe I should keep that in mind the next time I take 50 pictures at one museum, tourist location, etc.)

So I enlisted the help of my good friend Pinterest. I have a whole Scrapbook/Cards board on Pinterest that I like to scroll through from time to time to see if anything I pinned once catches my eye again and can work with the pictures I'm trying to scrap.

So while scrolling, I came across this sketch from When you look at my finished layout below, you'll see that I didn't follow the sketch to a T. I couldn't. I didn't have the exact same size photos as on the sketch. But I did make it work (and I did toss two pictures that I just didn't have room for).

I liked the placement of the photos on the first page, and pretty much followed that as precisely as I could given what I was working with.

For the second page, I decided that I kind of wanted to recreate the first page but in a different order.

And I really wanted to incorporate the visitor's guide we picked up while at the Museum of Flight, so I actually cut out the descriptions of the different areas of the museum that were printed in the guide and put them next to the corresponding pictures on the layout. There wouldn't have been enough room for the guide to be on its own and available for opening up, so I was happy that I at least got parts of it on the layout in some way. It was almost like they made that guide specifically for scrapbookers. Ha!

But seriously, if you are ever in Seattle, definitely visit the Museum of Flight. My husband and I took the city bus to the museum (but you can also drive if you have a car/rental car). We didn't have a lot of time to look through the museum because we had an Amtrak train to catch later that afternoon, but we made the most of the time we had there. The museum is MASSIVE and has lots of interactive features for adults and kids. Seriously. Anytime I can climb into part of the exhibit is a happy time for me.

When we were there, a space shuttle simulator was being set up, so we didn't get to do it. We were a little disappointed, but I guess that just gives us something to go back for, right?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Van's Gluten-Free Frozen Waffles

Van's frozen waffles were on sale the other week at the grocery store, so I decided to pick some up for myself to eat in the morning for breakfast. But as I was looking at the different waffle options, I noticed that Van's has a gluten-free frozen waffle. And I thought, "We should really try that."

So I bought a box of regular waffles for me and a box of gluten-free waffles for my husband.

And that night we had breakfast for dinner! Eggs, bacon, and gluten-free frozen waffles!

You pop them in the toaster just like you would any waffle. Although, in our house, I cooked my husband's waffles in his section of our four-slot toaster and cooked my waffles in my section.

For being gluten-free, they weren't bad. I could definitely tell the difference between these waffles and waffles that contain gluten. The gluten-free ones were a little more chewy. I asked my husband what he thought of them because he's the one that has to eat them, and he said they were good.

I don't know that I would buy these all the time. They are easy to make, which is great for busy weeknights. But if we're going to have breakfast for dinner, I'd almost prefer to take a little more time and make Bob's Red Mill gluten-free pancakes.

Have any of you ever tried Van's gluten-free waffles? What did you think? Know of any other good gluten-free waffle brands?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things I Learned at Book Expo America

1. Helen Fielding is finishing up the third Bridget Jones book, which will be published in October. Also, keep your eyes peeled to the Today show during that month because I was interviewed about the third book while waiting in line to get Helen's autograph!!!

2. Lauren Myracle (author of my most favorite YA novel Shine) knows how to correctly say my name. Can't wait to read the autographed advance copy I received of her newest book.

3. Paula Deen has a new cookbook coming out this fall, and it's filled with 250 of her favorite recipes lightened up. She's lost 40 pounds, y'all, and she looks FAB! I told her so when she autographed a recipe card for me. She then told me I had beautiful eyes. Thanks, Paula!

4. Harlequin, publisher of romance novels, has a non-fiction imprint that publishes everything from self-help novels to cookbooks. This fall, its got two new cookbooks coming out that feature gluten-free recipes! I took home some sample recipes from the cookbooks, so I can't wait to try them out and see the finished cookbooks!

5. Actress Julianne Moore has a new children's book. I missed her autograph session, but I did see her chatting with the folks at Chronicle Books after it was done.

6. The Harry Potter books are getting brand new cover designs!

7. Stephen King has a new book coming out called Doctor Sleep, which I was told was a sequel to The Shining.

7. Next time, I'm bringing a bookbag. I took home three bags of advanced reader copies. I'm excited for all these new books to read, but at the same time, my shoulders are killing me!

8. Overall, my fellow book lovers are a very nice bunch of people.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I'm Keen on Quinoa

This is a no-recipe recipe. I literally saw a picture of this on a friend's Facebook, and made this my own by throwing in completely different stuff based on whatever I had on hand.

The original recipe called for quinoa with cherries, pistachios, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, and white balsamic.

Aside from the goat cheese, which I bought specifically for this, I had none of the other stuff.

So I used a very large handful of dried cranberries, a handful of slivered almonds, two spoonfuls of sweet balsamic, and a few slices of goat cheese.

Oh. Yeah.

I think I would add more almonds next time because I really liked the crunch they gave to this.

This is pretty naturally gluten-free. But like I always say, check the packages of EVERYTHING just to make sure that there isn't any weird ingredient that is not okay or that the product isn't manufactured on the same equipment as wheat. Quinoa is usually gluten-free, but I've read that you can't always assume that it is. You have to read the package.

I made this just for myself, so I can't say if my husband was a fan. I don't think he really likes quinoa, so I doubt I'll try making this for him sometime. I think this is strictly a "Laurie" meal.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's On God's Sin List for Today? - Book Review

The Bible includes lots of stuff that we're supposed to do (animal sacrifices, not braiding our hair) but that we no longer do. So are we sinning if we don't do those things? How do we know what sins, as listed in the Bible, are really still sins in today's world?

That's the question Tom Hobson sets out to answer in this 116-page book. What's On God's Sin List for Today? takes an in-depth look at what Biblical commands we're still supposed to obey. Are tattoos okay? How about wearing mixed fabrics? And, of course, the book tackles harder issues such as drugs and alcohol, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, and abortion. Hobson looks at the Old Testament and the New Testament, the way words have been translated, and historical data about the Biblical time period to form his answers.

I don't normally read Appendices of books, but I would recommend that you read Appendix 2 in this book. Hobson further explores the whole issue of whether or not Jesus said anything about homosexuality. Whether you agree or not with what Hobson says, he has an interesting argument.

In fact, whether or not you agree with this whole book (there were parts that I didn't agree with), it's an interesting read. It's short, too, so it doesn't feel like you're reading a textbook.

What's On God's Sin List for Today? is published by Wipf & Stock. It is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest opinion.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - June 3

Here it is: our meal plan for the week! Luckily, I stocked up on stuff last week, so I really didn't have to purchase too much at the grocery store. These are all meals using food we already have in the fridge/cabinets! I love weeks like this!

Sunday: Hamburger Stroganoff

Monday: Italian Style Chicken Sausage & Pasta

Tuesday: grilled cheese & soup

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Coconut Chicken Salad with Warm Honey Vinaigrette

Friday: spaghetti

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Boston Strong at Copley Square

In the span of two weeks last month, I visited Boston twice. And both times, I visited the Boston Marathon memorial at Copley Square. The first time, I was there in the morning and just took some pictures on my iPhone because I didn't have my camera with me.

The second time, I was there in the evening and brought my Canon camera with me to capture shots from different angles.

If you're going to Boston in the near future, definitely visit the memorial. I'm not sure how long it'll be up. But it's really cool to see all the running shoes that people have left there, all the flowers, and all the "Boston Strong" signs in the memorial and in the windows of the Boylston storefronts.