Saturday, November 30, 2013

Believe - Book Review

image credit
In Sarah Aronson's Believe, 16-year-old Janine just wants to live a normal life. The only problem is, she's been part of a not-so-normal experience. 10 years ago Janine was the only survivor of a synagogue bombing in Israel. Both of her parents died, and Janine might have died, too, if a visiting American named Dave Armstrong hadn't pulled her from the rubble. Every day Janine is reminded of the bombing when she looks down at her scarred hands.

Now that the bombing's 10-year anniversary is near, the media and Dave Armstrong are taking more of an interest in Janine than they normally do. Janine can't even leave the house to visit her parents' graves without being harassed by reporters and photographers. Janine doesn't want the fame. Or rather, she would like to be famous but on her own terms. However, her friends think she should use her fame for something good, to make a statement, to maybe help them save an old tree from being torn down and the land being sold.

But Janine really doesn't want to talk to the media about ANYTHING.

Unfortunately, Janine's actions - or lack thereof - cause disappointment and betrayal, and Janine must turn to the people she doesn't want to for guidance. Is she a healer as Dave Armstrong says? Is she a fashion designer like she wants to be? Is she a believer?

I thought this book dealt with the subject of faith and loss in a very real way. While most kids probably have not lived through a bombing, they probably have experienced death and loss and the complications of having friends in high school. Some kids might even be struggling with their faith, asking questions that don't have easy answers.

While I kind of felt like Janine's friends in the book were a little bit on the rude side to her, making her do something that she felt uncomfortable doing and then calling her selfish when she didn't want to do it (even if it was for the good cause of saving a tree), I still enjoyed this book and think that it has a very interesting message. This book is recommended for ages 12-18, and I think the sweet spot would be somewhere in the middle of that age range.

Believe is published by Carolrhoda Lab, a division of Lerner Publishing Group. It is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Friday, November 29, 2013

There Are No McDonald's in Heaven: Waiting on God - Book Review

image credit
There Are No McDonald's in Heaven: Waiting on God is just the book for me. I am not a patient person. I feel like most people today, especially those who are part of my generation, are not patient either. And, as author RL Keller points out, usually has to do with today's technology. We live in a time where it's so easy to get what we want when we want it.

But God doesn't work like that. God is not modern technolo
gy. And this can be frustrating for those of us who are waiting and waiting and waiting for a prayer to be answered, to hear anything from God, for something good to happen in our lives.

In this book, Keller writes about how important it is to have patience with God and the many attributes that we as Christians should have that can help make the waiting more bearable.

Remember, there is a reason that we are waiting. God gives us what we need, not what we want. And God knows when to gives us these things. We may think that we know best, but we really don't. It can be hard to just "let go and let God", but that's exactly what we have to do. And if we have faith in God, then we can be sure he will come through for us. And we should keep our eyes open to how he'll come through for us because it could be different than what we expect.

This is a short book, and could be a quick read. However, this book is probably best taken in chapter chunks. Let it all sink in. Journal about how you're feeling after reading each chapter. Pray. I think this book would be great for discussion in a small group or Bible study. Its message is definitely one that most of us need to hear over and over again.

There Are No McDonald's in Heaven: Waiting on God is published by Westbow Press and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Box-Office Smash - Book Review

image credit
Jason Hart is not the greatest student, and he's seen his fair share of troubles in his life. But he does have a talent for making movies, a talent that has not gone unnoticed by millionaire Harmon Holt. Mr. Holt invites Jason to be part of a summer internship on a movie set in LA. Jason, of course, accepts the internship and is excited to be on a real movie set and meeting one of his favorite horror movie directors.

But once Jason arrives for his first day on the job, he's assigned less-than-interesting jobs. Jason wants to direct, not make coffee, collate scripts, and make sure the food table is stocked. He also wants to spend more time helping the movie's star, Becca, and his new crush, run her lines.

Jason's attitude toward his work has repercussions not just with his bosses, but also with his chances with Becca. Jason soon learns that he has to take any and every job seriously. No matter what he's doing, he's responsible. And it's the little jobs that help make the bigger job possible.

Box-Office Smash by D.M. Paige is the first book in a new series called The Opportunity. All of the books are about kids with big dreams who learn valuable lessons as they take the opportunity of a lifetime. The book is a very quick read, which is perfect for teens who want to progress beyond middle-grade chapter books but who don't want to invest in the time to read a longer YA novel. This book series will also appeal to teens who have an interest in making it in the biz, whether that's movies, music, modeling, sports, or politics.

Box-Office Smash is published by Lerner Publishing Group and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My New Scrap Room!

I know, it's been several months since I finished painting my scrap room, and I haven't shared ANY photos of the finished product. The scrap room isn't completely finished in terms of organizing, but I do have it set up in a way that I like, and the rest is still coming together. Below is my little nook.

I have a dry-erase board on the wall as well as two stick-on chalkboard panels for sketching layouts and making notes. You can see my homemade Clip It Up on my desk. This is probably the best the desk has looked since I got it set up this way. I'm still trying to figure out where to put things, and I really need some desk organization tools, but at least I feel like I can scrap in my scrap room again!

And then THIS is probably my favorite part of my new and improved scrap room.


In our old apartment, we had used this shelving unit (purchased from Bed, Bath & Beyond) for use in our tiny, tiny kitchen. Well, we don't need it in the kitchen anymore, so it was just collecting dust hanging out in its box in the basement. At first, I was thinking of using it to store board games downstairs in our "weird" room, but that required us to renovate the "weird" room, and I just wasn't ready to go there yet.

So I thought, why don't I use it for storing my scrap stuff? And voila! Here it is! I still want to purchase more of those white 12x12 drawers. Just one or two more. I'm using them to store papers from specific companies and papers for specific holidays. If I get one or two more, I'll use those for storing random patterned paper.

And then there's the closet. Still kind of sketchy. What I want is a white bookcase for storing my craft books, scrapbooks, and binders. I also need some sort of filing system for organizing and storing my homemade cards. And yes, there is still wallpaper in the closet. I don't really care. I am SO DONE with wallpaper. I have this vision of hanging peg board in the closet, too, but I'm not sure if that's going to happen.


Then there is the other side of the scrap room. This desk is my husband's, and the plan is to move it downstairs where he can actually use it. And then I'll have that whole side to myself, and I want to make it into my yoga/exercise "studio". But moving his desk downstairs requires us to get rid of TWO other desks that were left downstairs by the previous owners, and I'm not able to have the Habitat for Humanity Restore come pick them up until next year. So.... deep breaths. Patience.


Overall, I am happy with the minty green color of the walls. The carpet really needs to be replaced, and I'd like to add having Empire Today come out and give us an estimate to my 2014 to-do list. This room, like most rooms in the house, does not have overhead lighting, which makes it difficult to scrap and craft at night. My little desk lamp is basically like working by candlelight. So maybe I'll look into the cost of installing lights (preferably in the form of a ceiling fan) in this room for 2014. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Top Beauty & Fashion Gifts

Alright, ladies. Beauty time! While you're looking through this list, you might find yourself wanting a few of these things for yourselves! I know that most of these items are basically just items that I want for myself. So, hint hint to friends and family member. Ha ha!

1. Target
Okay, so Target has an amazing selection of beauty products, including from the brand e.l.f. (eyes lips face). These multi-piece kits are pretty perfect for the makeup lover in your life (or yourself) because they come with so much! There's a variety of colors so that everyday you could have a different look! Just look at that beautiful eye shadow palette (in the middle)! It's almost too pretty to swipe a make-up brush against, right? These items range in price from $10-$20.
And then, if you're buying makeup, you might as well buy some new brushes! I've heard so many good things about Sonia Kashuk's brushes, and these gold and emerald green brush sets are gorgeous to boot! They range in price from $16.99-$29.99. 

2. Michelle Rhodes
I saw these beautiful pieces of jewelry at a holiday fashion event. Michelle Rhodes designs and creates bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. My favorites were the necklaces with message pendants: "You only live once", "If you never try you never know", and "See the good". The jewelry ranges in price from $29 to $200, depending on what piece you want to purchase. You can also contact Michelle about creating a custom piece of jewelry. Maybe there is a specific saying you'd like to have on a pendant. Michelle could make it happen for you.

3. Cool Combs
And don't forget about Cool Combs. I posted about these a few weeks ago. Cool Combs are an easy way to do fun updos with your hair, especially around the holidays when you need holiday party hair. They are available in white, brown, and black. These would make a good stocking stuffer, actually. I do think you have to have just the right kind of hair to make these work. So keep that in mind when you're considering who to buy these for.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - November 25

Happy Thanksgiving early! It's an abbreviated work week, and with the holiday weekend, we really don't have to make too many meals this week. So here's a little bit of what we're eating this week!

Sunday: Cheesy Baked Meatbals

Monday: grilled cheese and soup

Tuesday: spaghetti

Wednesday: sloppy joe's

Thursday: TURKEY DAY!

Friday: eating out

Saturday: leftovers??

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Perdue Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders

We've been eating Perdue Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders for a few weeks now. They are so easy to make and they taste really good, too. You can find them in the freezer section in a bag or in the refrigerated section in a package. (I have no idea why they come in both sections, but sometimes my local grocery store only puts the refrigerated stuff on sale and not the freezer stuff, so I just buy whatever is on sale.)

These chicken tenders are part of Perdue's Simply Smart line and they are certified gluten-free. Perdue makes them with rice flour, corn flour, and rice starch among other gluten-free ingredients. 

What I like about these is that they make an easy weeknight meal. All you have to do is take the chicken fingers out of the bag or package, pop them in the oven, and you're done. Pair them with some carrots or french fries and you've got a super quick meal.

One thing to note, though: spray your baking sheet with cooking spray. I always forget to do this, and the chicken tenders do tend to stick to the pan and then the skin peels off. If I write it here, maybe I'll remember next time.

Have you guys tried Perdue's Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders yet?

There are lots of companies coming out with gluten-free products now. We just picked up a box of Ronzoni gluten-free pasta, and I got a coupon for Barilla's new gluten-free pasta! Of course, you always have to check the labels of these products to make sure that they are indeed gluten-free and not "gluten-free but made in a facility that processes gluten". 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Champion - YA Book Review

image credit
If you haven't read the first two books in the Legend trilogy, I'd highly recommend that you get on it! When I received the third book in the trilogy to review, I immediately went to the library and got the first two books so that I could understand what was happening in the story. I don't know how I haven't heard of this trilogy before, but I guess there are just so many YA trilogies out there right now. If you want to read my reviews of the first two books, Legend and Prodigy, click on the links to be taken to my GoodReads page.

Champion, the third and final book in Marie Lu's trilogy, continues the saga of Day and June and their fight to save their country. This third book starts several months after the second book ended. June has a high-ranking position helping out the Elector Primo, Anden, who still has the hots for June, FYI. And Day is happy to be reunited with his younger brother, vowing to never let anyone or anything separate them again.

But, of course, everyone's happiness is short-lived. When a plague hits the neighboring Colonies, the Colonies threatens war against the Republic unless the Republic can provide a cure for the plague. June and Day are the keys to giving the Republic a fighting chance. June and Anden try to rally support from Antarctica while Day tries to drum up support from the Republic's civilians with the help of the Patriots.

Both June and Day have to be willing to sacrifice in order to save the Republic, but just what do those sacrifices mean?

This was a great ending to the story, and I loved that nothing was tied up in a pretty package at the very end. This whole story was about struggle and love and heartbreak, and I thought the way Marie Lu wrote the ending was just perfect for the story of June and Day. Apparently, CBS Films has acquired film rights to the trilogy, and I'm eager to find out when the movie(s) will come out! I want to see it!!

Champion is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pillsbury Gluten-Free Cookie Dough

A few weeks ago, I found out that my local A&P carried Pillsbury's new line of ready-made refrigerated gluten-free dough. There are three varieties in the line: chocolate chip cookies, pie dough, and pizza dough. My store only carries the chocolate chip cookie dough and the pie dough, but that was good enough for me! I was just happy to see it at all!

The doughs come in plastic tubs and can probably be found in the same area where the other ready-made cookie doughs are located. The gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough was only $4.99, so I picked up a tub.

It's very easy to use. Just spoon out balls of dough onto a cookie sheet and bake. What I like is that you don't have to make the whole tub if you don't want to. Just put the lid back on and save the rest of the dough for later. Although, why make cookies if you're not going to make them all, right?

The cookies didn't really expand as much as regular cookie dough does when baked, so if you make small balls (like I did) the cookies will be small, too. Just something to keep in mind. If you want big cookies, you'll probably end up using all the dough in the tub by default. (One tub is supposed to make 16 cookies.)

I also like that this gluten-free cookie dough tastes really yummy when you eat it straight from the tub. That's not something that can be said from other gluten-free cookie dough mixes. I'm sure the people at Pillsbury don't want me talking about eating the cookie dough before baking it because of the whole raw eggs thing, but I love eating raw cookie dough, and I've never gotten sick from it. So there!

The cookies taste really good, too. I was a little concerned about my first batch because they looked a little brown, but they were very soft! They tasted just like a regular gluten-filled chocolate chip cookie! I was very impressed.

Have you guys tried any of Pillsbury's gluten-free doughs yet? I've found coupons for it on, so check that site before you buy to save some money.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Top Gifts that Give Back

1. Given Goods
some goodies from Given Goods
If you're looking for a unique handmade gift this holiday, then check out Given Goods, an online marketplace of gifts that give back. Every product offered on the site makes a tangible social impact every time it's purchased. When you find a gift you want to purchase, the website will tell you specifically how the purchase price of this item is giving back. For example, purchasing a lovely wine carafe set might provide job and vocational training for underserved members of the Boise, Idaho. Products range from home goods to jewelry, and the impact area ranges from the United States to Africa to South America. It's truly global.

PACT's women's loungewear

I've posted about PACT before on this blog, but I'm going to do it again. This loungewear company just has the cutest and comfiest sweatshop-free clothes for men, women, and babies. Plus, every purchase supports positive global causes. It seems kind of funny to say, but "change starts with your underwear". This fall, PACT and Whole Planet Foundation will raise $50,000 to lend a hand to low-income entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses. Every purchase contributes to a fund that will turn into micro-loans for these people. You get organic socks and underwear, and they get a chance at starting their dream.

3. Frontier Co-Op
This is also a gift that could be for foodies, but because of the company's "give-back" philosophy, I had to add them under this gifting category. Frontier Co-Op builds relationships with farming co-ops around the world through its Well Earth sustainable sourcing program. It donates money in a variety of countries to help local farmers and families in those communities. For example, Frontier donated $20,000 in India to purchase a delivery truck that delivers hot meals daily to 4,500 schoolchildren. The company also donated $49,000 to dig 49 wells in Madagascar, bringing clean water to 25,000 people. The company also sells packaged organic spices and seasonings, herbs, foods, teas, essential oils, and body care products through three different brands.

I was able to try out some of Frontier's All-Natural Smoked Paprika, which has this AMAZINGLY smokey scent, and its Organic Vietnamese Cinnamon, which has such a strong and luscious cinnamon scent and flavor. Under its Simply Organic brand, I was able to try out the Southwest Ranch Greek Yogurt Dip. All you do is add greek yogurt to the powdered mix, stir, and serve with your favorite veggies or chips. It was so good! The Simply Organic brand also offers certified gluten-free food items, including seasoning mixes, dips, sauces!

Claw Money
Screen-Printed Tote Bag
4. Andaz Holiday Bazaar
Andaz Holiday Bazaar is a virtual pop-up shop offering locally inspired unique gifts for the fashionista, beauty maven, foodie, art aficionado, and music lover. This online holiday bazaar is hosted by, with proceeds going to Women for Women International. Andaz, a hotel company, has worked with Women for Women International since 2011, providing women in war-torn countries with economic opportunities to help them reach their full potential and be positive catalysts for change. Andaz works with a community of women in Iraq who create laundry bags placed in all Andaz guestrooms around the world. This pop-up shop is Andaz expanding on its charity work and highlighting the artists it works with on a regular basis.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Leaping at Shadows (The Dario Quincy Academy of Dance #1) - Book Review

image credit
In Leaping at Shadows, the first book in Megan Atwood's The Dario Quincy Academy of Dance series, Madeleine has just started her first year at The Dario Quincy Academy of Dance. She is there on scholarship and really missing being away from her mom and her old friends at her old high school. But as a hardcore dancer, and a good one at that, Madeleine is excited to have the opportunity to study dance at such a prestigious school.

However, on Madeleine's first day, she ends up making an enemy of the school's other "best dancer", Ophelia. Not a good start. But having an enemy isn't as bad as the other things that start to happen at the school: Madeleine's grandmother's necklace goes missing, she hears strange noises in the hallway, and why is her English teacher's nose bleeding? Turns out, there is more to this school than just dance.

This was a fun little mystery that, at only 100 pages, was a very quick read. Because of its short length, the action happens very fast and the characters change very quickly, so for kids who are looking for something a little more in-depth and developed, this may not be the book for them. It's perfect, however, for kids between the ages of 13 and 16 who are looking to progress out of middle-grade books but who don't want to commit to a longer YA novel. Because the subject matter deals with dancing, this book will most likely appeal to girls who also take ballet or who like dance.

Leaping at Shadows is published by Lerner Publishing Group and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Top Holiday Hostess Gifts

The holiday season means parties! And parties mean bringing something for the host/hostess. I've found some super easy and inexpensive hostess gifts that your party hosts are sure to love!

1. Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate
Over the summer, I wrote about Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate and all its many uses aside from drinking hot chocolate. I think this would make a lovely hostess gift. Its brown paper packaging is so charming, not to mention it's really tasty. Instead of serving coffee after the holiday meal, why not serve hot chocolate??

2. Aldi Chocolate and Wine
Who knew you could go to Aldi's and find some really nice, quality food items that would be perfect for holiday hostess gifts? The holiday season is party time, and if you want to bring something nice to your host and hostess, then definitely check out Aldi's. You can purchase Landshut Riesling at just $4.99 per bottle. In fact, most wines at Aldi's are priced at $6.99 or under. The Landshut Riesling, in case you want to know, features a fruity bouquet with flavors of apricot and peach and pairs well with light meals, desserts, or on its own, according to Aldi's.

The Choceur Cocoa Dusted Truffles are my fave! At $2.49 per box, these delicious truffles make a great holiday gift! Just make sure your host or hostess shares these with you!

3. Target
Target has some really beautiful candle holders this holiday season that range in price from $12.99 to $19.99. They have a shiny red finish on the outside and an even shinier gold finish on the inside. You can get votives that spell out words, such as "NOEL", or larger word lanterns with the words "Peace & Joy" on the front. These are a great way to say "Thanks for having me!" and for your host/hostess to add some festive decor to their home this holiday and for future holidays.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Meal Plan Monday & GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

Happy Monday and congrats to the winners of my super secret surprise giveaway! I had one entry on the blog post's comment and two entries via Facebook because Blogger was being silly and not letting the comments post. So, using, the grand prize winner is Lindsey W.!

But because I'm so nice and because this thing was pretty just make-it-up-as-I-go, the other two entrants will also win runners-up prizes! So congratulations is also extended to Angela R. and Teresa C.! I'll contact all of the winners individually so that I can get your prizes sent out to you ASAP.

And onto Monday's regularly scheduled program. Here is what we're eating this week:

Sunday: Gluten-Free Tuna Noodle Bake

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: Perdue Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders & Ore-Ida Sweet Potato Fries

Thursday: Bacon & Egg Cups

Friday: Honey Dijon Chicken & Spinach Wraps*

Saturday: Cheesy Baked Meatballs

*new recipe!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Taco Macaroni & Cheese

I've found another macaroni and cheese recipe to add to our arsenal: Taco Macaroni & Cheese. This recipe comes from the blog Cassie Craves. I'm so glad I found this. It was super easy to make, a great weeknight meal!

To make this gluten-free, I used gluten-free fusili pasta. I left out the chopped onion and just sprinkled a bit of onion powder in there. I didn't use any form of garlic at all. Instead of using a package of store-bought taco seasoning, I used my own recipe and made it from scratch.

I also left out the salsa, but you've gotta have sour cream. Come on.

The finished product was creamy and cheesy with just the right amount of taco flavor. I had some as leftovers with tortilla chips, which was also really good. This one is definitely a keeper!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

July Scrapbook Pages are Done!

I know that it's November. But I FINALLY finished scrapping my pictures from July. I am so behind with my scrapbook, and I know that I need to start thinking about my December Daily album, too! Where has this year gone? We're almost in December! It's almost my 30th birthday!

First up, a layout I made using K&Company papers and tons of scraps. The layout to the left is of our group field trip to a Phillies game on what was probably the HOTTEST day of the year, and our seats were not in the shade. It was pretty bad. Thank goodness for misting tents! The stadium also serves gluten-free food, so that was a plus, too. I based this page on this layout from 17 Turtles.

I turned to Pinterest again for inspiration when making the following two-pager. It's been a long time since I've done a two-pager! To keep myself organized, I made a list of the pictures I wanted to use, their sizes, their orientations, and then I looked for a layout that fit the pictures I had. Luckily, I found this two-pager from Jill Cornell.



These pictures were from a trolley tour we took at the Delaware Water Gap. Probably wouldn't really recommend the tour, but it was a fun way to spend a day outdoors. And I'd never been to the Delaware Water Gap before. Now I can say that I've done it. 

It's a good thing I have so many summery-themed papers and embellishments. Up next, AUGUST VACATION! Will I have all of that scrapped by Christmas? We'll see!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze in Historic Hudson Valley

If you're looking for something really cool to do next fall, then definitely check out The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze in the historic Hudson Valley. Tickets for the event sell out FAST, so to make sure you get tickets, keep an eye on when they go on sale next year (usually around the beginning of September). 

What is The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze? It's 5,000 individually hand-carved pumpkins all out on display in this walk-through experience.

And "experience" is definitely the right word for it. What an experience it was!! As soon as we started walking down the pumpkin-lit path, I turned to my husband and said, "This is really magical!" He, in turn, said, "This is really cool!" So, see? Even your husbands will like it.

Van Cortlandt Manor decorated with pumpkins

The Blaze is located at the Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, NY, which is about 15-20 minutes north of Sleepy Hollow, NY. You can't go inside the manor for this event (admission to the manor is only during the day and by timed tour), but the manor is still decorated on the outside with glowing lights that change color and tons of carved and lit pumpkins along the front porch and staircase.

This year, there were several new features at the Blaze, so if you've been in the past, you can expect to see something new when you go again. The Blaze takes place in October and November. Obviously, the 2014 schedule is not available yet, but you can keep your eye on the Blaze website to find out more information for next year.

Not all of the pumpkins are real pumpkins. Some are craft pumpkins, but all of them have been hand-carved and put together in such a way that they make cool sculptures, like the spider-web you see above.

New this year were the pumpkin jack-in-the-boxes. You'd hear some music play, and then out popped a giant pumpkin head!

This is a self-guided walking tour, and it is outside, so you'll want to dress accordingly. As you walk along the path, you'll hear music playing in each section and some of the pumpkins are even set up to have synchronized lighting.

The Blaze is free for children 3 and under, and it's definitely kid-friendly. There really wasn't anything scary out there. It's not like a haunted house. This is a family friendly event.

Ticket prices this year were $16 for adults and $12 for kids 3-17. The cost rose some if you were attending on a Saturday night.

Also, you can see that my pictures turned out well. BUT, if you are going to take pictures, please turn off your flash. Your pictures WILL NOT look good if your flash is on. And if you turn off your flash, make sure you're taking pictures with a VERY steady hand. Some of my pictures turned out blurry because it was just too hard for me to keep the camera steady. I really don't recommend you do any zooming with the camera, either, because that makes the camera even more shaky.

This was a really cool event! We are so glad that we went, and we can't stress enough how highly we would recommend you attend this event next year. Martha Stewart recommends this event, too, but I think my word here at Cook Scrap Craft carries a little more weight, don't you think? ;)

For more information on this event and other happenings in Westchester County, NY, visit the Westchester County Tourism website.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Top Gifts for Coffee Lovers

We're moving on in the 2013 Holiday Gift Guide! Here are some fun ideas for the coffee lover in your life!

1. Awake Chocolate

Awake Chocolate
If your coffee lover is also a chocolate lover, then he or she will like Awake Chocolate. This chocolate is available in two flavors: caramel and milk chocolate. (Caramel is my favorite!) Each bar of Awake Chocolate contains as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, and now you can a
lso purchase Awake Chocolate in "nosh-able bites" for a quick pick-me-up without having to eat a whole bar. Plus, the packaging with the little owl is so super cute!

alice+olivia tumbler
2. Starbucks
Starbucks always puts out cool holiday items, and this year is no exception. For your fashionista coffee-loving friend, check out the alice + olivia Designer Double Wall Ceramic Tumbler. This black-and-white-striped tumbler features hand-painted metallic accents and a playful tutu! It holds 12 ounces of liquid and retails for $19.95.

Or, you can also get crafty and design your own tumbler with the Stainless Steel Holiday Create-Your-Own Tumbler. This kit includes everything you need to design the perfect present for yourself or a loved one, including a 16-ounce tumbler with a writable stainless steel surface and a gold metallic pen to decorate.

Contigo West Loop
Vacuum Insulated
Stainless Steel Mug

3. Contigo
Whether you liked iced coffee or hot coffee, Contigo has travel mugs and tumblers that make drinking coffee on the go easy and delicious. There's the West Loop Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Mug ($20.99-$24.99) with a patented Autoseal lid that automatically seals between sips to eliminate spills and leaks. It's double-wall insulated to keep beverages hot for four hours or cold for 12 hours.

Contigo also makes really cool water bottles for adults and kids. I'm personally obsessed with my Contigo Kids water bottle because IT DOESN'T SPILL. Plus, it has an ergonomic handle, which makes it easy to carry by hand, and it comes in several pretty colors. Oh, and it's dishwasher-safe!


4. Target
Every holiday season, Target always comes out with yummy seasonal coffee flavors under its Archer Farms food brand. This year, the flavors are Autumn Roast, Hot Buttered Rum, Candy Cane, and Pecan Pie. If you've got a coffee lover who is also an adventurous coffee drinker, then these flavored coffees would be a lot of fun to gift! Each is only $6.99. And maybe your coffee lover will share a cup with you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Visiting Sleepy Hollow, New York

Earlier this month, we took a little day trip to Sleepy Hollow, NY for the annual Jack-o-Lantern Blaze. It is something I have been wanting to do for a few years now, and I finally decided that this year was going to be the year! The Blaze happens in the evening, but there are a few things you can do during the day in Sleepy Hollow. So before we get to the Blaze, I thought I'd share a few pictures from the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Andrew Carnegie's grave

Outside of the cemetery's main office, you can pick up a black-and-white map that lists just a few of the famous people who are buried on the grounds. Then you can either drive around or walk around (we walked) to the various points of interest on your own self-guided tour.

near the Revolutionary War monument

Some of the points of interest in the cemetery include both Revolutionary and Civil War Monuments and the graves and/or mausoleums of Samuel Gompers, Andrew Carnegie, William Rockefeller, Walter Chrysler, Elizabeth Arden, and Harry and Leona Helmsley.

Washington Irving's grave

And, of course, being that it's Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving is buried there! If you don't know, Washington Irving wrote the short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle".

The Old Dutch Church
The cemetery also gives you access to The Old Dutch Church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The church and its five-acre churchyard feature prominently in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow".

The Headless Horseman Bridge site

Just outside of the southern entrance to the cemetery is the sign for The Headless Horseman Bridge. There is no bridge there, but it is believed that a bridge was once there in Washington Irving's time and that the bridge that was there was the one mentioned in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". If you really want to see a bridge, however, there is a Headless Horseman Bridge within the cemetery that goes over the Pocantico River. But it is not the original bridge.

                        The Headless Horseman Bridge (not original)
While you're walking through the cemetery, especially in the fall, expect to see some really beautiful scenery. The cemetery backs up to the Pocantico River, and there are tons of beautiful trees in the area. 

inside cemetery

I would highly recommend that if you visit on a nice day, you should walk around the cemetery instead of drive. (Wear comfy shoes!) The cemetery really isn't that big, and if you walk, then you don't miss out on the pretty scenery. It's sort of like taking a nice stroll through the woods.

Pocantico River

If you have some extra time, you can also visit the Philipsburg Manor. This is located just across the street, pretty much, to the southern entrance of the cemetery. It does cost money (which is why we only took a picture of it from afar) and admission is by timed tour only. So you'll definitely want to look up that information ahead of time. The guided tour takes you through this 300-year-old manor home and gives you an idea of what life was like in the 18th century.

Philipsburg Manor

But for something else that is free, there is always the Headless Horseman Statue! This is located near the Headless Horseman Bridge sign and across the street from the parking lot of the Philipsburg Manor. I don't think a visit to Sleepy Hollow is complete without visiting this fun site!

The Headless Horseman Statue

There are several other historic places that you can visit in the Sleepy Hollow area, including Washington Irving's Sunnyside, the Rockefeller Estate, and the Van Cortlandt Manor (more on that later). Most of them cost money, which is one of the reasons we didn't visit them. We also only spent an afternoon in the area before heading over to the Blaze, and you'd definitely need more time to visit each site. But if you live in the New York tri-state area and want to do a local weekend trip, Sleepy Hollow would be ideal!

Not many choices in the way of gluten-free dining, so if that is a concern for you (as it was for us), just plan ahead. There is also a really AMAZING mall called Palisades Center that has a lot of dining options (Red Robin, Outback) that are gluten-free-friendly. So, if you don't mind paying the tolls to get across the river to the mall, that is always an option.

On Friday I'll post about The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze. You won't want to miss that! It was truly a magical event!

For more information on this site and other sites in Westchester County, NY, visit the Westchester County Tourism website.