Thursday, January 31, 2013

Say My Name, Say My Name

It's been awhile since I made a layout for my Book of Me. I had wanted to do them more often, but... So here is my latest layout: a collage of Starbucks cups taken throughout 2012 and the wonderful spellings of my name.

I like to take pictures of the many ways Starbucks spells my name. They did a decent job in 2012, although, even if they spelled it right, they didn't always say it right. And then, of course, there were the times I was "Mauri" (right vowel sounds, wrong starting letter) and "Shrvil." Okay, SHRVIL is not even a name! That was pretty awkward when the girl who made my drink called out that name. I was the only one standing there waiting for a beverage, but SHRVIL is most definitely not even close to my name. So we determined that it was in fact my beverage by the girl telling me what the beverage was. (Pumpkin spice latte, if you must know.)

I don't drink at Starbucks that often - really, only if I have a gift card - but I make sure to take a picture each time. In the past, before iPod Touch and iPhone days, I missed some real doozies: Marti, Laurory. I plan to do a collage-style layout like this every year. Too fun!

For the blue dots on the bottom of the cardstock, I took an empty sticker sheet that had been full of circles, placed it on the cardstock, and rubbed a blue stamp over the circular holes. It was kind of a pain getting the sticker sheet off, but I liked that I was able to use it for something else before throwing it away.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream - Review

before
I don't spend all day outside in the frigid cold, but I do wait for the bus and walk to work in the cold, and my skin is generally susceptible to extreme weather conditions. In the winter, my skin, especially my hands, gets dry, itchy, and cracked. Because my hands spend a lot of time in camera close-ups, this just can't be. So I was hopeful about trying Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream as part of being a BzzAgent.

For 40 years, Neutrogena has helped heal and protect skin with its Norwegian Formula Hand Cream. Its story started off the coast of Norway, where fishermen were suffering the effects of wind, cold, and water. Those fishermen developed a glycerin-rich cream that, when applied to their skin, relieved years' worth of chapping, cracking, and drying. Neutrogena adopted that formula, and in 2012, it earned the Good Housekeeping Seal. The Norwegian Formula line also includes body and foot moisturizers. You can also use the hand cream on your lips.

I received a 2-ounce sample of the hand cream as well as several travel-sized hand creams to share. While Neutrogena touted the cream's ability to protect and heal chapped and cracked skin, apparently this cream is also good for manicures. It's supposed to heal dry cuticles and splitting nails. I wasn't really interested in the nail care benefits. Sure, I do my nails once a week, but what I was more concerned about was the dry, itchy, cracked winter skin on my hands. So, how did the hand cream do on that?

above: Still a bit of redness
below: areas on my fingers that are cracked
It was fine. The packaging says, "Just a dab heals dry skin", but in order for me to really get a good lather all over both of my hands, I needed more than a dab. More like a dime-sized amount. And it did bring much-needed moisture to my hands. But some days I needed to reapply the lotion throughout the day, so I always kept one of the travel sizes at my desk. I don't know if it's the incredibly cold water that comes out of the faucets in my building's bathroom, but there were days when my skin started to feel dry again during the day.

I also did not notice any difference in my cuticles and nails. My nails still split and cracked like they normally do all year long, so I don't think this stuff is made to work on your non-average, weak nails.

I used the hand cream on average twice a day (morning and night) for about 36 days. So that's about 72 uses. I've still got hand cream left in my tube. The 2-ounce product is supposed to be good for 200 uses.

The hand cream is available in original or fragrance-free. My 2-ounce sample was fragrance-free, which I prefer. The travel samples were the original, and the added fragrance wasn't so bad. It wasn't some fake floral scent or anything. It just smelled sort of medicated, but it wasn't strong enough to bother other people around me.

All in all, the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream is a good moisturizer, and I like that its size makes it easy to take with me in my purse, so that I always have it wherever I go. But in terms of healing my skin, I can't give it too high marks. I'd be interested to try the original stuff that those fishermen created. I wonder what happened to the formula between that version and the Neutrogena version.



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gluten-Free Chicky Chicky Parm Parm Casserole

Chicken Parmesan is my husband's favorite meal. He's usually the one who cooks it because I hate cooking with chicken breasts. But then I saw this Chicken Parmesan Casserole recipe that was "slimmed down" to be Weight Watchers appropriate, and I thought, "Hey! Let's try it out!"

Of course, because I had to adapt the recipe to make it gluten-free, I had to change the name of the recipe, too. If you're a fan of Parks and Recreation, then you'll totally get the name Chicky Chicky Parm Parm.

Essentially, this recipe is naturally gluten-free: chicken breasts cut up, pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, basil, red pepper flakes (optional), and minced garlic. It does call for croutons, but I didn't put those in mine because I forgot to pick up gluten-free croutons at Whole Foods and our local grocery store didn't carry gluten-free croutons. I'm not sure what this tastes like with croutons, so I can't comment on that, but we did really enjoy this. And cooking cut up chicken in the oven is so much easier than trying to cook a whole chicken breast!

Also, as you can see from the picture, I added gluten-free fettucini. I'm sure that adds calories and Weight Watcher points, but my husband really wanted this with pasta. I couldn't say no.

The original recipe serves 8, so I cut it in half. I have no idea how to measure grated parmesan cheese in ounces, so I just used enough to cover the top of the casserole. Also, if you don't want to use a whole clove of garlic, just substitute 1/4 tsp of minced garlic. And because I halved this recipe, the size of the baking dish and the cooking time got cut in half.

Did I miss anything else? If you have questions about adapting this recipe to make it gluten-free, just leave me a message in the comments!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Songs and Sketches

If you're looking for a few more scrapbook challenges to participate in before the end of the month, check out these two fun ones. I created one layout for both challenges.

The first challenge was a song challenge. Challenge Me Happy's Challenge #38 is to create a layout based on the song "Somebody That I Used to Know." I thought that because my husband really likes that song I should create a layout that used a picture of him. The title of this layout comes from the last part of the very first line of the song: "when we were together." I changed it to be "we are together" and shortened it to "we're together." The picture is of my (very tan) husband holding up our name place card at a friend's wedding over the summer. If you want to play along, you have until February 1 at midnight New Zealand time. The prize is a prize pack from ZVA Creative.

The second challenge is a sketch challenge at My Scraps & More. There are actually four sketches that you can play with this month, and for each sketch you use, you get an entry to win the January My Scraps & More "You Are My Happy" kit. The sketch I used for the above layout is sketch 11. So there is also sketch 10, 12, and 13 to do, and you have until January 31. Sketch 11 uses hexagon shapes along the bottom of the page. I didn't have a hexagon punch, but I did have a sexagon (6-sided) tracing shape, so I cut out those shapes from the patterned paper and used those along the bottom of my cardstock.

Know of any other fun scrapbook challenges going on this month? Tell me about them in the comments!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gluten-Free Meatballs Stroganoff

I know a recipe is good when my husband goes back for seconds. Meatballs Stroganoff is such a recipe.

Where did I come across such a wonderful new recipe? You guessed it: Pinterest. The original recipe comes from Menu Musings and utilizes frozen meatballs and egg noodles. But because I had to make it gluten-free, I could use neither of those items.

What follows are some tips for making Meatballs Stroganoff gluten-free. The original recipe is sort of ... casual, shall I say. Almost haphazard, but in a good way because it's meant to be an easy weeknight meal and a you-don't-have-to-think-too-hard-about-it meal. So when I was coming up with my gluten-free version, I, too, had to take a "let's just throw it together and see what happens" approach.

Instead of frozen meatballs, I made my own meatballs using the Real Simple Easy Meatballs recipe I posted about awhile ago. (Instead of using two pounds of ground beef, I used about 1 pound and made 12 meatballs for this recipe and another 12 to freeze and use later.) I also used gluten-free fettucini noodles because they are flatter and closer to the shape of an egg noodle than spaghetti.

I also used heavy cream, but I just read in Real Simple that you can substitute non-fat evaporated milk for heavy cream in a recipe to make the recipe healthier. Yeah, well. Healthy? Whatever.

I also added chopped mushrooms because, I mean, you can't have Stroganoff without mushrooms!

Everything else I kept the same.

The end result was really good. I think I could have let the sauce cook a little more because it wasn't as thick as I wanted, but I had already put the noodles in, and I didn't want them to overcook in the sauce. Next time I will keep that in mind before adding the noodles.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Use This Sketch for EVERYTHING

I found a very versatile sketch online the other day, and I posted it to my Scrapbook/Cards Pinterest board. But for some reason, the sketch image is not popping up on my Pinterest board, so here is the link to the image and blog post about how October Afternoon design team member Becky uses it.

The sketch is so clean, simple, and easy to use for just about anything. You could even interpret it for a card!

If you click on the link and see the sketch, you'll see that I didn't follow it to a T. My pictures were a different size, which caused the whole thing to change. But if you look at all the different layouts Becky made with the sketch, you'll see that she doesn't follow it to a T either. Her layouts all look different! 

I decided to create a second layout using the sketch so I could see how having different pictures and different supplies would affect my interpretation of the sketch.


I used vertical pictures on this one. (I find that I don't take very many vertical pictures. I need to remedy that.) It's the same sort of thing as the layout above, and it's still inspired by that one easy sketch!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Need to Be Challenged!

It has been so long since I've participated in any scrapbook challenges! So this month, I decided to get back on the bandwagon. I made two layouts for two challenges and it felt good!

I made this layout for the PageMaps Fancy Pants Love Notes sketch challenge. The contest goes until midnight MST Sunday January 27, if you still want to enter! You can win the Fancy Pants Love Notes collection!



This one I did for the New Beginnings challenge at The Studio Challenges. You have to interpret the term "new beginnings" however you wanted. I chose to do a layout about the projects I want to complete in 2013. You have until January 31 to enter this one. You're playing for scrapping goodies from Swedish company You Do. (The You Do blog is in Swedish, but if your internet browser is Google Chrome, it will ask you if you want the page translated.)




Thursday, January 17, 2013

Healthy Lunch - Tuna Salad



I didn't make any New Year's Resolutions to lose weight this year. Did you? But I have been searching for healthier, delicious, fill-me-up lunch options to bring to work. So I was excited to come across some under 500 calorie brown bag lunch recipes from Family Circle. One that stood out, and that didn't involve a plethora of ingredients that I don't like, was for tuna salad. Probably not the kind of tuna salad you're thinking of. This one involves tuna over a bed of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette. 
But you know me. I just can't make something without changing it up a bit. The original recipe called for dried cherries and sunflower seeds to go on top of the tuna salad. I wasn't about to spend more money on sunflower seeds and I forgot to buy some dried cranberries at the grocery store, so I just looked in my cupboard and threw some sliced almonds on top. Tasted good to me! I'm loving the sweet balsamic that I got, too!
There are two sides that go with this lunch. The first I kept the same as in the original recipe: 2 fiber crackers (such as Wasa) with one wedge of Laughing Cow light cheese spread on them. SO GOOD!
The second side was an apple. I'm kind of allergic to apples, so no. But red grapes were on sale this week, so I picked up a bunch of those and used them as my fruit side.
So if you're looking for a healthy and yummy lunch, you might want to check this out! I'm enjoying it immensely!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Still Reliving the Summer Through Scrapbooking

In July 2012, some friends of ours got married, and while I started scrapping some of the pictures from the wedding, I have just now finished scrapping ALL of them.

I received a cool scrapbook paper pad through work. It's really designed for tweens, but the colors and patterns were so fun that I just knew I would be able to find some use for it! If you want to look for it in stores, it's called My Simple 1-2-3 Scrapbook Girly Girl.

The first layout is a simple one-pager. The large colored shapes were already on the paper, so I just placed photos in the center of each, added a title and a few other embellishments, and I was done!




This one is a two-pager. I loved the black and white patterned paper with the fuchsia paper color. These are just a few pictures from the cocktail hour and reception. It was a really fun reception, and the food was delicious, so of course, I had to add the little menu we received at the table onto the layout. (You can see it on the second page.)




I took a lot of pictures at this wedding reception! I've got some layouts, like one of me and my husband at the wedding, that I could frame and hang on the wall instead of placing in a scrapbook just to conserve some page space in my album.

How often do you guys frame layouts? Sometimes I like to make layouts and frame them as gifts for people. Have you ever done that?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Tour of Greenwich Village

It is January 2013 and I am just now getting around to scrapping pictures from summer 2012. GAH!

But thanks to a cute Echo Park kit I purchased (on sale) at Archiver's last month, I just got FOUR layouts finished! Go me!

Initially, I wanted the Echo Park stuff for my vacation pictures. But the colors and some of the patterns were just so cute and perfect for the little Greenwich Village walk-about I took back in June that I decided to use some of the kit for getting those pictures scrapped.

Here is a two-pager introducing the walk-about and some of the things I saw on the walk. I used several walking tour cards to guide myself through Greenwich Village, and the cards point out
specific points of interest and tell you a little bit about why what you're looking at is interesting. I got the walking cards at a bookstore (Borders, which is no more, sadly), and the publisher makes them for other major cities, if you're interested.





The next layout is super simple to highlight the amazingness that was the pumpkin pecan cheesecake from Magnolia Bakery. I was so surprised when I walked inside the bake shop. Magnolia Bakery is SUPER DUPER popular, so I expected to wait in a really long line. But no! It was probably between 1:30 and 2:00 on a Friday afternoon and I walked in and ordered right away! I guess timing is everything for tourist spots. I cut out the Magnolia Bakery logo from the box that my cheesecake came in and placed it on this layout.




And the last layout is of Washington Square. I decided to take my cheesecake and eat outside among the flowers. There was a local band, Moon Hooch, playing underneath the Washington Square Arch. They were pretty good, and there was a little toddler girl who was totally into the music, so I had to take a picture of her dancing to the band. On my way back to the subway, I passed 29 Washington Square West, which has a plaque on the outside to mark the fact that Eleanor Roosevelt lived there from 1945-1949. THAT was not on my walking cards, so I was really glad I found it.


Friday, January 11, 2013

The Different Girl - Book Review

The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist is sort of a sci-fi mystery. Veronika, Caroline, Isobel, and Eleanor are four identical girls except for the color of their hair. They live on an island with their teachers and caretakers Irene and Robbert. Everything is normal and carefree until a new girl washes ashore after a storm. The new girl is different and sets Irene and Robbert on edge. Veronika (the story's narrator) and the other three girls try to figure out who this new girl is, where she came from, and just what is going on on the island.

The premise sounded interesting, so I was excited to receive a galley copy of the book to review from Dutton Children's Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA). The reason I received a galley copy is because the book doesn't come out until February 21, so the book is still going through final edits. The design, artwork, page length, and format are subject to change.

This is a book that will keep your interest if only because the author doesn't tell you much, so you're constantly flipping the page thinking, "Why did this happen? What is going on?" This book is for ages 12 and up, but I think the story and lack of information might turn off most kids at that age. I can just hear our middle school book club kids now: "This book was weird." Fourteen year olds, on the other hand, may have the patience to get through some of the more frustrating passages, such as when Robbert asks the girls to describe a picture of a parrot in a cage in one word:

"Parrot," said Isobel.
"Cage," said Caroline.
"Feathers," said Eleanor.
"Prison," I said.
"Good. Better. Veronika, if you'd been first, would you have said parrot?"
I nodded.
"Is that the best word? Is it better than 'prison'?"
"It's more of the picture."
"That's not what I asked. Is it better? Which would you say first-not then, but now, now that you know both of them?"
"I would still say 'cage'," said Caroline.
"Good. Why?"
"Because there's a cage."
"No. That's wrong."
"But there is a cage," protested Caroline.
"And that's the wrong reason." (38)

It goes on like that for a whole other page. Robbert was getting impatient with the girls, and I was getting impatient with Robbert. But I made it through to the end of the book thinking that I'd finally understand everything that was going on. Not so much. The ending just left me with even more unanswered questions. I don't want to give anything away, but I am still not entirely sure why Veronika and her identical friends existed. (If you read the book, you'll understand.) I feel like there could be a sequel to this book, but I'm not sure if that is part of the author's plan.

I think if you have engaged and slightly older readers reading this book, you could get a good discussion going. There is going to be a discussion guide available online at penguin.com/teachersandlibrarians. I'm anxious to read the guide for myself.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

December Daily 2012

I am SO excited about my December Daily album for 2012. I think I might like it even better than the one I did last year! I had gotten a mini Christmas album kit awhile ago for free and it had three chipboard "pages" held together by D-rings. So that made it really easy to take apart and add extra pages! And add extras I did! Even though I didn't have pictures for EVERY day of December, I still had quite a bit to fit on those three double-sided chipboard pieces, but luckily I was able to find other ways to add extra pages.



First off, I repeat, I did NOT do pictures for every day of December. I managed to do it last year, but this year, I just felt that I didn't want anything to be forced. I didn't want to be manufacturing memories just so that I could put something in my December Daily. So if something Christmas-y happened on a particular day, I documented it. If nothing happened, then I didn't put anything in the album for those days. NO BIG DEAL.

Second, here's what I mean about adding extra pages. I did a Christmas tree lighting and carol singing event in our community and decided to include the program from the event in my album to accompany the picture that I took. So I just punched holes in the top of the program and slid the D-rings through the holes.



I "adopted" a child through the USPS's Operation Santa program and really wanted to include the letter to Santa that the child wrote. So I punched holes in an envelope, used the envelope as my scrapbook page, and slipped the letter inside the envelope.




I also attended a holiday cookie event and was given a recipe card for the cookies that we baked. Because I was worried about space on the chipboard, I decided to turn the recipe card into a page. I put the picture from the event and journaling on the back side of the recipe card.



And somehow I had gotten some free holiday card samples from VistaPrint (I honestly do not know how or when I got those!) so I decided to punch holes in the top of one and use it as a page in my album. I put pictures and journaling on the back blank side of the card.



Then there were the Christmas cards! Last year I did not put them in my December Daily. In fact, I only kept the ones that included pictures of family and friends and got rid of the rest! Oops! But with this ingenious D-ring album, it was so easy to punch holes in the cards and add them to the album!



I love the thickness and the unevenness of my December Daily album! It's certainly different from any other album that I've made. And I'm glad that I've got the pictures and the cards and ephemera from the holiday season all together in one little album! I will definitely enjoy looking back through this one for many years to come.


Monday, January 7, 2013

One New Year's Project Done!

The first day of the New Year, I went to Target and purchased new color and black ink for our printer so that I could print out wallet-sized pictures to complete some scrapbook layouts that I had started but never finished due to lack of printer ink. But now, they are complete!!! Go me!

Here's one I made using October Afternoon product. These are pictures from Hannah's Bretzel in Chicago. During our summer trip, we got lunch AND dinner at Hannah's Bretzel. Remember a few months ago when I wrote about Hannah's Bretzel and I didn't have a picture of my sandwich? Well, I FOUND my picture. It was on my iPod. So I added that picture to this layout.



And this next layout is made using items from my stash. During the summer, I have half-day Fridays at work, so I use the time between getting out of work and waiting for the 3:00 bus to eat lunch at interesting places around the city. This summer I went to Mexicue, Hill Country Chicken, and Potbelly. There was live music at Potbelly and that was kind of fun!


How are you guys doing on your resolutions/project list for 2013?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Return to Sunday Dinner - Book Review

Return to Sunday Dinner by Russell Cronkhite is a cookbook that makes me wish I had more money to buy groceries and more time to cook. The recipes in it sound delicious, but "30-Minute Meals" this is not. Many of the recipes require kitchen tools that I don't own (although what better excuse to buy them than to cook these meals, right?) and some of the recipes involve ingredients that I am just not a fan of. I think you have to be a bit of an adventurous eater for this cookbook.

I also always assess cookbooks and recipes for how easy it might be to turn the recipes gluten-free. Most of the recipes in this cookbook would be easily convertible, but there are still a lot (mainly the desserts) that I just couldn't figure out conversions for. Do they make gluten-free cake flour? I can't fault the book for this issue because the cookbook, obviously, is not meant to be gluten-free. But since my blog deals with gluten-free food, I just thought I would address this for those readers who are looking for gluten-free stuff.

Now that I've got all of that out of the way, I really did enjoy reading the recipes in this cookbook. And it's more than just a cookbook. The title, for instance, refers to family Sunday dinners that the author and his family, as well as many families all over the world, partake in. Coming from a small family, I was unfamiliar with the Sunday dinner concept. To me, Sunday dinners are just like any other weekly dinner, except I have more time to cook it. I also like using Sunday nights as my prep night for the week - pick out my clothes for Monday, do my nails, chill out and relax during my last few hours before the workweek begins again. But reading this cookbook made me want to host our own Sunday dinners either with family members or with friends. And maybe not every Sunday. Maybe just one Sunday a month. Or every other month. But I would love to host a dinner and bring people into our home and share food with them more often than we do right now.

If you do Sunday dinners or host a lot of dinner parties and are willing to go in-depth with your cooking, then this cookbook is for you. Each "chapter" is themed and offers recipes for side dishes, an entree, and a dessert. For instance, Butter Steamed Broccoli, Sunday's Best Roast Beef w/ Pan Gravy, Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes, Cloverleaf Rolls, Glazed Baby Carrots, and a Chocolate Cake. It's a complete meal in each of the 20+ chapters! You also get a little history about the dishes and food in America at the beginning of each chapter, which I really liked. And some of the chapters include make-ahead tips to make cooking a little bit easier on you.

I read this cookbook on a Kindle, and I don't know if it's just the digital version, but there were some typos and not that many pictures. I like it when my cookbooks have multiple pictures so that I can really see what the dishes are supposed to look like (and make sure that I'm making the food right).



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.”




Thursday, January 3, 2013

No Resolutions, Just Projects for 2013

Instead of making a list of resolutions for 2013, I am making a list of projects that I want to complete in the new year. Here goes:

1. buy door mat for sliding glass door in the living room
2. paint the guest bedroom and buy a bed and mattress
3. remove another wall and a half of wallpaper in the craft room
4. paint the trim on the wall in the living room/dining room
5. apply to be on an HGTV show
6. fix/redo the master bathroom shower stall
7. buy an electric drill to hang a curtain rod (buy) and curtains (buy)
8. attempt to make my own roman shades for dining room windows
9. buy 3M Command Strips for hanging picture frames in the bedroom
10. buy more white picture frames for the bedroom
11. buy color and black ink for the printer to print out pictures and finish some scrapbook pages
12. spend 15 minutes a day writing my novel
13. move the side table from the basement to the reading room
14. make a book wreath for the reading room

If there is time and money:
1. buy a new dining room table set
2. buy a side table, lamp, and armchair for the living room and hang a picture on the wall

Are you making a list of New Year's Resolutions? Or do you, like me, think a list of home projects seems more manageable than, say, not eating chocolate every day?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year - Here's a Coupon Code!

Happy New Year everyone! I'm sure you have TONS of holiday pictures to get scrapped and what better way to get started on all of that than with a coupon code for MarthaStewartCrafts.com?!?

What kind of items can you get from Martha Stewart Crafts? Well, maybe you're in need of some new tools to help make your scrapping easier. Martha Stewart Crafts offers the essential basic tools for everyone from the novice crafter to the master. There are paper trimmers, craft knives, 12x12 cutting mats to protect your work surface, rulers, scissors, tweezers, a bone folder for folding cardstock to make cards, glue sticks, double-sided tissue tape, and glittering glue with brush applicators for applying glitter or tiny beads.

Of course, Martha Stewart has all kinds of other great scrapbook products: punches, paper, stamps, and embellishments. I used some of her embellishments in my wedding scrapbook!

Whatever type of product you're looking for, how would you like to get 40% off?

All you have to do is go to MarthaStewartCrafts.com, find the product you want, and enter the code MSC40BL to get 40% off one single item. This offer expires 1/15/13.

Thanks to The S3 Agency for sharing this wonderful discount with me and allowing me to share it with you! Happy scrapping!