Saturday, March 30, 2013

Live Second - Book Review

Live Second is a daily devotional with 365 devotions to help you "live second", i.e. put God first. I got to review a free e-copy of the book thanks to BookSneeze. The devotions are divided into chapters, which are divided into weeks. Obviously, the goal is to progress through the book by reading one devotional a day, but the book tells you not to worry if you miss a day or two or three. Just pick up where you left off.

It is also recommended that you read the book with a group or a friend, that way you have others to talk to about what you're reading and hold you accountable to "live second". But you don't have to be part of a group. If you don't have a group, you can always become part of the Live Second online community through social networks, such as Twitter. At the end of some devotions, there are specific Twitter hashtags to use so you can tweet about what you read and easily find other tweets about the same devotion.

As cool as it is to tweet about the devotions each day (if you follow me on Facebook/Twitter, you've probably seen some of my #IAS tweets), Twitter doesn't lend itself very well to having conversations with others. And when I searched for the specific hashtags, I didn't find a large number of people tweeting about the book. The most tweets for a devotion was 18. I think face-to-face interaction, if you want to discuss the book with someone, is a better way to go.

The devotions start, literally, at the beginning with Genesis. Then they move onto 1 and 2 Samuel, Isaiah, Luke, Matthew, Philippians, Psalms. They just jump all over the Bible, including both Old and New Testament books as they fit with each week's theme.

Also, at the beginning of each week, there is a website link that takes you to a video. Each video features a real person and their real faith stories. I enjoyed watching the videos. It added something extra to just reading a passage from the Bible and thinking about it. This book is definitely geared toward young people, those who utilize social networks, QR codes, and the internet. You don't have to get online or watch the videos if you don't want to. The devotions on their own are really good. But it is kind of fun to watch the video, tweet a thought, or visit IamSecond.com to find more information.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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, March 28, 2013

The Art of Wishing - Book Review

image credit
Things are not going well in Margo's life. She's a super talented singer, but she didn't get the lead in the school musical. Her divorced parents just remarried and are super in love again, but things at home just aren't the same for Margo. And every time Margo tries to write her own songs, they end up sounding stupid.

Then Margo discovers a ring in the girl's bathroom, a ring with a genie named Oliver attached to it. And Oliver is kinda hot!

But suddenly having three wishes doesn't make Margo's life any easier. As she tries to figure out what wishes she wants to make (and come to terms with her feelings for Oliver and his feelings for her), she discovers that another genie is out to kill Oliver! Against Oliver's wishes, Margo tries to figure out a way to save his life. Turns out, the only solution might involve more than three wishes.

The Art of Wishing was a cute book with a familiar supernatural guy/human girl relationship, but it was a relationship that wasn't annoying like the one between a certain sparkly vampire and dum-dum girl. I liked that Margo had a good head on her shoulders, was a good student, had a love of music (even though most kids reading this book have probably never heard of half the bands she talked about), and doesn't need any guy, even a genie, to save her. Tlhe ending kind of surprised me, if only because it wasn't at all what I expected. So good job to author Lindsay Ribar for keeping me on my toes!

The book is age-graded for 12+, but the characters are all in high school. I think that some parts of the story (including a few curse words) would be more appropriate for teenagers in high school than 6th graders.

The Art of Wishing is published by Dial, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. It is currently available to purchase. I received a review copy of the book for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil - Review

I love trying new haircare products, and as a BzzAgent, I get to try all sorts of hair stuff for free! One of the latest Bzz Campaigns I joined was for Garnier Fructis' Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil. This stuff can be used on your hair, body, and face! This all-in-one product is designed to deliver silky, shiny hair AND soft, supple skin. The fine-mist spray delivers nourishment to treat hair, body, and even dry areas on your face with no oily residue.

There are three lightweight oils in this spray: olive, avocado, and shea. The olive oil moisturizes, protects, and replenishes dry hair, improving its strength and elasticity. Your face and body benefit from anti-oxidants that help protect against skin damage.

Avocado oil is loaded with vitamin E, which protects against dryness while locking in color and moisture to keep hair silky soft. The oil's natural hydrating abilities promote soft skin, too.

Shea oil is known for having unique healing properties, rejuvenating damaged hair and leaving it with a healthy shine. It's also a moisturizer that can help improve elasticity in skin.

I had never heard of a multi-use product like this before, so I was excited to give it a try and see if it really could leave behind no residue. I get my hair highlighted every eight weeks, not to mention all the time I spend blow drying and flat ironing my hair, so my hair is probably pretty dry and damaged. Here's a before shot:


The first day I used the spray, the results were really not good. The bottle says to spritz SPARINGLY, which is what I thought I did. But after styling my hair as normal, THIS was the end result:



Disgusting! My hair looked so greasy, like I hadn't even showered that morning. Don't get me wrong, my hair was smooth, but after I took the above picture, I had to douse my hair with baby powder to try and soak up some of the oil.

So then I tried just spritzing a bit of the spray at the ends of my hair, trying to keep it away from my roots. It was just "eh" (see below).



My skin also gets really dry, especially during the cold winter months. So I thought I'd try this out on my skin. I sprayed a bit on my legs just to test it out because I'm never quite sure how my sensitive skin will react to things, especially products, like this one, containing salicylate. Well, some of the spray got on the floor and made the floor all greasy and slick. So gross! As for my legs, well, my daily lotion works just as well and doesn't make my bathroom floor gross OR contain an ingredient that I don't like.

I wasn't super impressed with this product. I think it is probably MUCH better for women with brown or black hair. Dirty blondes, like me, just have it rough because our ends are lighter but our roots are darker, so anything oil-based is just going to make our roots look disgusting. Or is that just my hair? Any blondes out there care to comment?

I actually passed this product onto a work colleague who has black hair so she could try it out and review it on her beauty blog.

If you want to try this out for yourself, the Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil is available at grocery and drug stores as well as mass retailers such as Target and Walmart for a suggested retail price of $5.99. Good luck! I'd love to hear what you think of the product.



Sunday, March 24, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala

I've said it once and I'll say it again: My husband is a good sport. I decided to get a little fancy and make chicken tikka masala, something I haven't had in SO LONG. This is a bit spicy, I'm not going to lie, but I figured spice wasn't really something that bothered my husband. He eats peppers and onions and all that good stuff.

Well, I think it might have been a bit TOO spicy. But I can fix that for next time because I really enjoyed it. We had ours served over rice, but you can also eat it with naan bread (not gluten-free) or as a topping on a baked potato. I know from personal experience that it is DELICIOUS on a baked potato, or jacket potato as the English call it. That would make a great lunch, actually. I'll have to remember that for next time and make sure there are leftovers.

I didn't have to do anything to make this gluten-free. I did, however, leave out the jalapeno. I'm not dealing with that. Imagine how much spicier this would have been had I used the jalapeno!!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Good Morning, Breakfast

20 minutes. That's how long I have to make/eat breakfast on weekday mornings. Between 5:30 a.m. and 5:50 a.m., I allow myself time to eat something before continuing to get ready for my day. It's not a whole lot of time. In the past, I used to pour myself a bowl of cereal and call it a day. But I wanted to find more filling, nutritious breakfast options that I could make in a snap.

First up, whole grain/whole wheat frozen waffles with a syrup made of maple syrup and frozen blueberries and pecans sprinkled on top. I found the recipe on FitnessMag.com. Add a glass of almond milk with it and you're good to go!



I also found a recipe on FitnessMag.com for omeletes with turkey bacon and spinach. I kind of cheated on this one a little. I have a microwavable omelet maker and it is seriously the best invention. 


                                     

But in order to use it, I needed to whisk up three eggs, not one egg and 2 egg whites as the Fitness recipe calls for. WHATEVER. I also didn't buy turkey bacon because we had some real bacon bits in the fridge, so I just used those, tore up some spinach, popped in the microwave, and DONE. It takes about 5 minutes to make an omelet with my microwavable omelet maker. (And that thing is dishwasher-safe, which is AWESOME.) Nothing like making my mornings (and life) easier.

What do you guys eat for breakfast? Need inspiration? I have tons of breakfast recipes on my Good Morning, Breakfast Pinterest board, from quick morning meals to lazy Sunday morning brunch recipes. Check it out and tell me what looks good to you!



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup with
gluten-free bread from Against the Grain
Have you ever had Italian Wedding Soup before? I've had it once several years ago, and it was good! My husband, who is half Italian, had never had it before and was a bit skeptical when I told him that's what we were having for dinner the other night. But, as always, he's a good sport and eats what I put in front of him.

The Italian Wedding Soup recipe I found came from Rocco Dispirito's Now Eat This! Italian cookbook, which means it's low-carb and low-sugar and low-calorie. (You can also find the original recipe on Rocco's Pinterest page.) Or at least it was until I got to it.

There are no meatballs in Rocco's version! You can't have Italian Wedding Soup without meatballs! Otherwise, it's just chicken broth and escarole (which is a type of lettuce that I had never worked with before). So I made my Real Simple Easy Meatballs beforehand and threw them into the soup at the end.  Even then, my husband said it felt like something was missing from the soup.

"Beans!" I said.

"Beans?" he asked.

Yes, beans. I know that when I had Italian Wedding Soup there were white beans in it. But Rocco says that if you want to make it the "Italian Mama" way, NO BEANS. Well, poo to that. I'm adding a can of cannellini beans next time, just for some added texture.

Also, I did not use egg whites in this recipe. Something about the step that said "drop the egg whites into the soup and move around until they get stringy" just didn't sit right with me. I was afraid I'd mess it up and there would be weird egg in our soup. I don't want any kind of egg, weird or not, in my soup.

If you're making this gluten-free, don't forget to check your chicken broth label! And if you're adding homemade meatballs, don't forget to use gluten-free bread crumbs. I pulsed up two end pieces in my little food processor. Worked great!

You can find more low-carb/low-sugar meals, including more from Rocco, on my Low-Carb, Low-Sugar Pinterest board. Enjoy!



Monday, March 18, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - March 18

I have not been doing so hot with our weekly meal planning. Oh, I've been planning meals, but I've also been forgetting that on certain nights one or both of us won't be home for dinner, so instead, I plan a meal for that night and then end up buying more food than necessary at the grocery store. So this week, I vow to do better! I need to remember what's going on in the evenings and only plan meals on the nights we'll be home. It seems so easy, but for some reason, I just haven't gotten the hang of it. I guess all the delicious recipes I have pinned on Pinterest just make me want to make a different meal every night of the week!

So here's what we're doing this week:

Sunday - Martha Stewart's Lemony Pasta with Goat Cheese and Spinach (success! Will post about this later!)

Monday - (on our own)

Tuesday - (on our own)

Wednesday - Italian bean soup

Thursday - gluten-free chicken tenders (found in the frozen food section at ShopRite) & french fries

Friday - Gorton's tilapia with rice

Saturday - (on our own)

I think that finally having an organized recipe binder will also be helpful. I'm in the process of transferring all of my 4x6 recipe cards and every recipe I've torn out of a magazine or photocopied from a cookbook into one binder. I'm also making copies of recipes we like from the various cookbooks we own, and then getting rid of those cookbooks just to have everything be in one place. There are so many recipes that I forget about because I don't open a certain cookbook. But if they are all in one place, I think it'll be easier for me to see what we like (because it wouldn't be in the binder if we didn't like it) and have more variety in our meals.

What's your meal-planning, recipe-organizing strategy?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Progress

We're just two months into 2013, and I thought I better check in to see how I was progressing on my list of things to accomplish this year.

# 4 done!
1. buy doormat for sliding glass door in living room
2. paint guest bedroom & 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

Notes:
#3. I have just over half a wall to go to reach my goal!
#7. I know what drill and drill bits set I need/want. Just need to make the purchase, so I can hang the rod and curtains.
#9. I bought some 3M Command Strips, but I used them to hang a picture in our dining room. They work really well, FYI.
#12. I admit, I don't get 15 minutes of writing done every day. But I hope that once spring/summer arrives, I'll be able to sit outside in a park on my lunch break and write every day during that time.


How are you doing on your goals this year?



Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Songs I Would Give to My Child - Part 2

If you missed Part 1, please to enjoy by clicking here.

And now onto Part 2, or rather, the second CD in this compilation.

1. Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
This song will always hold a special place in my heart. It reminds me of that episode of VH1's "The List" that was hosted by Ashton Kutcher and featured Ike, Taylor, and Zac Hanson and some actress from some TV show. They all had to come up with their top "pop" albums, and then it evolved into a conversation of what "pop" meant. Pop as in bubblegum pop music like Britney Spears? Or pop as in popular music and, therefore, pretty much anything goes? The Counting Crows' August and Everything After was one of the albums that one of the Hanson brothers suggested, prompting the discussion about what is pop. After I saw that episode, I purchased the album through my CD club. Yes, in high school I belonged to one of those clubs where if you purchased a full-price album, you could purchase any number of additional albums for $5 or sometimes $2.99 each! Plus shipping and handling!

At that same time, my friend Teresa cut out a picture of Ashton Kutcher from a magazine and taped it inside my car over the glove compartment box. Underneath the picture she wrote "Mr. Jones". Ah, memories.

2. Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
I really love "Uptown Girl", but there are a slew of Billy Joel songs that could also make the cut. We put "Just the Way You Are" on our wedding mix. "Piano Man" is also a nice classic. And ever since I heard it in my elementary school music class, I've enjoyed "River of Dreams". (I remember being really mad that out of ALL the Billy Joel records my dad owned, he did not own THAT ONE.) "Only the Good Die Young" is good, and I also like "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me". I guess we'll just have to give our child a separate Billy Joel mix.

3. Love Shack - The B-52s
We specially requested this song to play at our wedding. It's just not a party unless this song is played. I think from an early age that is important for our child to know.

4. Tiny Spark - Brendan Benson
I first heard this song when I was working at my college radio station as a DJ. It's such a good song, and I'm glad I put it on the mix for the teen girls, but I feel like I might have to nix it on my child's mix because there are so many other songs out there that are more personal and have more meaning. Like, for instance, Diana Ross's "If We Hold On Together" from The Land Before Time. That was THE movie from my childhood. Who didn't go around looking at leaves and thinking, "TREE STAR!" And who can't recall the awesome Pizza Hut commercial that aired before the movie on the VHS? I used to have a Little Foot stuffed animal and some of the plastic hand puppets that you got when you went to Pizza Hut. Good memories. The movie's theme song is AWESOME, and if I'm ever on American Idol and they do a movie night, THAT is the song I'm singing. Our child will definitely be watching my VHS copy of this movie and our child WILL enjoy it. If our child is anything like its father, dinosaurs will be a BIG thing at our house, so liking The Land Before Time (only the original - not the several sequels) shouldn't be too hard.

5. Take a Chance On Me - ABBA
When I was in middle school, I was pretty obsessed with disco. Just the music, not so much any of the other aspects of disco. I owned all three Pure Disco CDs, and I'm pretty sure there was one ABBA song on each of those CDs. For pretty much all of my childhood, my family owned a working record player, and I used to listen to my moms ABBA CDs and put songs from them on people's mixed tapes. I just couldn't get enough of that crazy Swedish music. I later went and bought ABBA GOLD, which my mother has stolen from me, so good thing I imported the CD onto my computer. There are so many ABBA songs I could give to my child on this mix, but "Take a Chance On Me" with its semi-stalkerish pleading for the guy to just like her already is a classic. I love the a cappella opening, too.

6. Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
Probably if we have a boy, I'll take this song off the list. Guys just don't get this song as well as girls, ya know? But if we have a girl, you can bet that she will be learning how to sing along to this female anthem in the womb.

7. How Soon is Now? - The Smiths
I didn't really get into The Smiths/Morrissey until late high school/early college. But when I wanted to turn on the emo, this is the song I turned up loud. Perhaps our child will need a song like this someday.

8. I Wasn't Prepared - Eisley
As much as I love Eisley and the beautiful notes hit in this song, it's definitely not a song that I think my child HAS to know. I can't believe that I forgot about STYX on these mixes! What was I thinking??? So in place of the Eisley song, I'm going to go with "Renegade" by STYX.

I went to Florida the summer before high school and ate in a Hard Rock Cafe when the song "Babe" started playing. Because I listened exclusively to the soft rock radio station back home, I knew the song but didn't know who sang it. The Hard Rock answered that question for me: STYX.

image credit
Yes, I found this man attractive at
one point. Don't judge me.
Also when I was in high school, I watched an entire STYX concert on PBS. I enjoyed it so much that I even made it through all those "commercial" breaks where the PBS people try to convince me to give them money so that I can continue to enjoy fantastic programming such as televised STYX concerts. I also developed a crush on Tommy Shaw (pictured at right). Instead of giving PBS money, I asked for the STYX Greatest Hits CD for my 16th birthday AND I GOT IT! Because it was my Sweet Sixteen, I was going away on a special birthday trip with some friends, and I remember bringing the STYX CD and trying to make everyone listen to it in the car.

It's impossible for me to see the full STYX lineup because Dennis DeYoung can't tour anymore due to a disorder that causes him to be sensitive to light. Also, none of the other band members like him. But I did see some of STYX in concert a few years ago, and it was amazing. It also reminded me how much I like the song "Lorelei". Not gonna lie. I got super excited when that song started playing.

9. I Want it That Way - Backstreet Boys
If you know me personally, you've probably been wondering where the heck the Backstreet Boys were already! Well, here they are. A mix from me to my child cannot be complete without the Backstreet Boys. I will not hide my crazy boy band love from my child. I think it's important to know the full background of mommy's musical history, especially because I think the "crazy boy band" personality might be genetic. Apparently, my mom was something of a teenybopper, and I know I totally was to a higher degree, so I'm a little concerned about how my child will turn out. As long as my child enjoys the sweet, sweet voices of Brian (swoon), Kevin (swoon), Nick (bleh), AJ (eh), and Howie D. (eh), that is all that matters.

10. Set the Fire to the Third Bar - Snow Patrol
Okay, I REALLY like this song. It's got great harmony, which I'm a sucker for. BUT, I'm feeling like I want to replace it with something else. Perhaps "Transatlanticism" by Death Cab for Cutie? Yes, perhaps.

So, here's the story about that, future baby: I first heard "Transatlanticism" on the TV show Six Feet Under, a show you're not allowed to watch until you're much much much much muchmuchmuchmuch older. When I first moved to New Jersey, my roommate had a DVR and A&E was just starting to replay the entire series of Six Feet Under from the very beginning. (Edited for cable, of course, but whatever.) I had never seen the show, and my roommate told me it was great, so I decided to DVR the episodes and watch. LOVED IT. Probably one of my top 5 or, at least, top 10 TV shows of all time. Now, when this song played on the show, it was in a scene where some of the characters were getting high. But I didn't need drugs to fall in love with the song or find it incredibly mesmerizing. Fast forward to a few months later, and I was on a date with your father. He had made me a "love" mix, and guess what song he put on it? "Transatlanticism". Without me having told him that I liked the song. We had seriously never talked about it. So, I figured, well, I better hang onto this guy!

11. I'll Stand By You - The Pretenders
I first heard this song in one of my high school choir classes and immediately fell in love with it. It took me awhile to find The Pretenders CD on which it came, but I finally found it and purchased it through my CD subscription club. I have no idea what the other songs are on that CD because this was the only one I listened to. Over and over and over and over again. I also chose to put it on our wedding mix.

12. The Way I Am - Ingrid Michaelson
Well, I like this song so much that I put it on our wedding mix, but once again, I'm going to have to delete and replace. How could I have omitted my signature song "Gloria" by Laura Branigan? That is my go-to karaoke song, something that every person needs to have! I just found out that some karaoke places (at least in New York) stay open during the day so that parents can bring their kids on, I guess, play dates for karaoke. Kind of cool, right? I can just picture me and perhaps one or two girls (do boys like karaoke?) playing hooky from school for a mommy-daughter karaoke date. I get to sing lead. The kids do back-up.

And FYI, the karaoke places out here are not bars. They are like Japanese karaoke places where you get your own private room and only sing to the people who are with you.

13. Brave - Nichole Nordeman
This song means a lot to me. I chose it for our wedding CD mix that we handed out as a favor to our guests because it summed up how I felt about my husband. And I want my child to understand that. You don't have to settle for compromise in relationships or just life in general. Find a person or place that lets you be who you are. Be brave!

14. Kentucky Woman - Neil Diamond
If my child doesn't like Neil Diamond, then we're taking he or she back. Enough said.

15. Hunter - Dido
When I first heard Dido's album No Angel, I freakin' fell in love. IT WAS SO GOOD! I listened to that CD ALL THE TIME. (Well, when I wasn't listening to Hanson.) And no, it had nothing to do with the fact that one of Dido's songs was the theme song to the CW (or was it still WB then?) show Roswell, which was superfreakingawesome. Dido has such a cool-sounding voice, and I especially love it on "Hunter", a song about a woman asking her boyfriend/husband/lover to let her go because she wants to live life on her own.

16. Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
For some reason, this has always been my favorite Beatles song. I hope that one day we'll be able to take our child to England and go to Liverpool and sit by the Eleanor Rigby statue. Perhaps we will even take the Magical Mystery Beatles Tour, but hopefully this time the bus won't break down before the tour ends, forcing all of us to take (and pay for) public transportation back to Liverpool city central. Long story.

17. Big Yellow Taxi - Amy Grant
This is the only version of the song that matters. Sorry, Joni Mitchell. No apologies to The Counting Crows, though. I HATE THEIR VERSION. I'm not saying that my family is going to be all hippy, dippy, trippy, organic or whatever. Although, I do envision myself as the kind of mom who makes her own baby food and takes her kid to farmer's markets, which is insane because I hardly have time to make my own food from scratch, and I don't even go to farmer's markets as a childless adult!! But I can dream, right?

18. Don't Wake Me Up - The Hush Sound
Again, another song that I love, but I'm going to have to omit it in favor of a song that I love EVEN MORE: Saves the Day's "At Your Funeral".  I listened to that song non-stop in college. That one and "This Is Not an Exit", mainly because it reminded me of my favorite Bret Easton Ellis novel at the time, Less Than Zero.

19. Just a Girl - No Doubt
Probably a song that I will omit if we have a boy. This is a song about what it's like to be a girl, the good and bad, and I just don't see a boy having the same reaction to it as a girl. Although, it could be a good teachable moment for the boy. Of course, we could always put a different No Doubt song on the mix. "Spiderwebs" is always a good choice. I also like "New", "Bathwater", "Ex-girlfriend" and "Simple Kind of Life" from Return of Saturn. But pretty much nothing after that. Have you listened to No Doubt's latest album, Push and Shove? It's just embarrassing. I can't believe the band is back in the studio working on another album. Please no.

20. Mix Tape - Brand New
I initially put this song on the mix for the teen girls because I was making them a mix and this song is about making a mix. HA. But for my own child, I think I'm going to end CD 2 with "Cruz" by Christina Aguilera. Yes, this song came out during her XXXtina days. I believe it was on the same album as "Beautiful", which is also a good song, but what Diane Warren song isn't? I remember borrowing this CD from my friend Courtney and really thinking, "Well, I should give it a shot, shouldn't I?" And I did. And I listened to every song on the album. And aside from "Beautiful", "Cruz" was the only other song I liked. I love the a cappella beginning. I love the harmonies. I love the "roll down the windows and belt the song even if you don't have Christina's vocal range" nature of the song. And I hope my future child does, too.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Loaded Baked Potato Skins

I love baked potatoes and potato skins. And I gotta say, these Loaded Baked Potato Skins taste restaurant quality. But they are low-carb and low-sugar! I got the recipe from Rocco Dispirito's Now Eat This! cookbook and thankfully, Rocco posted the recipe for this on his Pinterest page. I deviated slightly by using greek yogurt instead of sour cream as a topping. Yum! You can find the recipe here on my Pinterest page along with other low-carb, low-sugar recipes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Songs I Would Give to My Child - Part 1

I know a lot of people who are having babies this year, and a lot of them are writing letters to their babies throughout their pregnancies. I'm not having a baby this year, but I thought that instead of writing a letter to my future offspring, I would just make him or her (preferably a her unless my husband gives the OK to use the ONE boy name we have picked out b/c it's awesome and I could totally be okay with having a son if we get to name him what I want to name him) a mix CD or two!

I actually made two mixes called Mrs. Leahey's Favorite Bands/Songs for two teen girls a couple years back. It's a long story, but they asked me what my favorite songs were and I totally blanked. Then my husband said, "She listens to the Spice Girls", and I just didn't feel that that one statement was an accurate representation of all the music I enjoy listening to. (Don't get me wrong. I DO like the Spice Girls and CAN NOT WAIT for their UK musical Viva Forever to come to America. Please please please please come to America.)

I decided to use those two mixes as the basis for my own child's mixes. I'm sure my husband will come up with completely different songs to put on a mix for our kid, but these are the songs that I think our kid should know. So there!

1. Singing in My Sleep - Semisonic
I love this song. I love this whole album, actually. But this song in particular stands out to me because it's all about making mixes for people, a life skill we will be teaching our child at an early age, and how you can say so much with the songs you choose.

2. Karaoke Superstars - Superchick
I kind of went through an obsessive Superchick phase my senior year of high school. And with good reason. This album ROCKED my world. The song's message is that no matter what is going on in your life, you can always get in the car, drive, and sing at the top of your lungs!

3. Letter Read - Rachael Yamagata
Rachael Yamagata's first album is one of my favorite EVER. I was torn as to which song I should include on this compilation. I loved "Worn Me Down", but "Letter Read" has a great sound, and it might be something my future daughter needs to listen to if ever she finds herself on the other end of unrequited love.

4. Something Beautiful - Robbie Williams
There are many Robbie Williams songs that I love. I mean seriously. LOVE. His entire first album. Most of the second album. The swing album. And even some of his newer stuff. But stuck in the middle of his discography is "Something Beautiful," a song that reminds you that even if you're lonely, even if everyone around you is happy, some day "something beautiful will come your way."

5. Misery Business - Paramore
Speaking of appropriate, my husband vetoed this song on the mixes I made for those teen girls because the song says the word "whore" in it. But that is not a word banned by the FCC. I'm leaving it for my own child. But it has to be the acoustic version because I like that one the best. This song has a good sound, and Hayley Williams has an awesome voice.

6. I Never Really Loved You Anyway - The Corrs
I was going to use the song "Queen of Hollywood," but felt that the song might be a bit too dark: girl makes it big in Hollywood but ends up in abusive relationships and can't tell anyone about it because she's living her "dream". I do love it, though. Instead, I decided to go with one of my other favorite Corrs songs about a girl who is NOT at all upset that her boyfriend is leaving and dating someone else. Move on, mister. I DON'T NEED YOU. You never know. My future daughter might need this song some day.

7. Runaway Run - Hanson
As much as I (eventually came to) love Hanson's Middle of Nowhere, I thought my future child might laugh at me if they heard "MMMBop". So I went with a song from Hanson's second album, the one that had crack in it because that's the only explanation I can come up with for why I listened to that CD every day after school and daydreamed about listening to that album every day at school. I think it's important for my child to know how much of an impact Hanson had on my life. And that if you add the names Zachary and Laurie, you get a perfect compatibility score. Or so says the Unofficial Zac Hanson Biography.

8. Different Drum - Linda Ronstadt
I wanted to use "Long, Long Time", which I love, but I figured I should give my child, especially if that child is a girl, a stronger song. This one says that "yeah, you're a nice guy, but no thanks. I'ma do my own thang."

9. A Lifetime - Better Than Ezra
This is such an epic song. And it's really very hard to pick just one Better Than Ezra song to give to my child. But I figure, this is the kind of song that you can sing out loud in the car with your friends, and I want my child to have that kind of song.

10. Fa Fa - Guster
My friend Teresa and I had tickets to see John Mayer in concert a few weeks before college started. Due to car troubles, we ended up getting to the concert a little late. We parked the car and were walking alone at night up to the Fox Theatre in St. Louis when a man passed us on the sidewalk and said, "Don't be afraid. I don't have a knife." So then we ran to the Fox Theatre. Alone. At night. In St. Louis.

We safely made it to our seats, and THANK GOODNESS because Guster was playing at that very moment. Neither of us knew who Guster was, but we instantly loved them. So much so that I bought a Guster T-shirt from the merch table. And I wore it to college thinking, "I'm so cool in my Guster shirt. I bet no one else knows who Guster is." Everyone knew who Guster was and had the same shirt as me. So...

I chose "Fa Fa" because it has horns in it and you can't go wrong with horns. Although, you can if you don't use the horns live in concert (ahem, Guster, ahem). A good song has three things: piano, harmony, and brass. If my child doesn't like brass, we're taking him or her back.

11. The Con - Tegan & Sara
I discovered Tegan & Sara right before going to college. (I discovered a lot of good music right before college, it seems.) They were performing on some show on Oxygen, and I wrote down their names so that I could look them up and find their music. But then I lost the piece of paper where I had written their names, and all I remembered was that they were Canadian twins. Somehow (probably with the help of Google) I figured out who they were and proceeded to inhale every song they'd ever written and recorded. Some of my favorites: "Monday Monday Monday" and "Living Room". I didn't choose either of those songs because at the time that I burned this CD, I didn't have those songs. Alas, I lost my Tegan & Sara music from college. No clue where it went. BUT, thanks to Rhapsody, we now have those songs again, so I would seriously consider changing "The Con" (even though it is good) to "Monday Monday Monday", even though the songs says "damn" in it. But you know what? This ain't no Kidz Bop. That's not how this mom rolls.

On a side note: This one time, when I was studying abroad in England, I saw a magazine that had Tegan & Sara on the cover, and I totally flipped. No one ever put T&S on the cover in the U.S.!! No one else seemed to know T&S existed in the U.S.! So I bought the magazine, super psyched to read about these really cool sisters. (JANE magazine later did something on them, and I emailed the editors to thank them for it because "it rocked my socks off". The JANE editors responded with "You rock our socks off!" I miss JANE.) The next day, the guy I was dating at the time went into the shop where I purchased the magazine and the guy behind the counter goes, "Did you know your girlfriend purchased a lesbian magazine?" So then the guy I was dating told me about this, and I was like "Uh, I didn't realize it was a lesbian magazine and who really cares? Why is the shop guy getting all up in my magazine biz-nitch?" Side side note: Tegan & Sara are lesbians.

12. Jolene - Dolly Parton
If my future child doesn't like Dolly Parton, we're taking he or she back. That's all I have to say about that.

13. Spice Up Your Life - Spice Girls
Sometimes you just need a song that you can dance to. A song that doesn't require too much thinking. A song that's just plain fun. A song that's all about GIRL POWER. I'm not sure if I would still put this song on a mix for a son, but you know what? He needs to learn about GIRL POWER, too.

14. Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
And here's another band I discovered right before college. I love the crunchy sound of the guitars in this song. It's fun. You can dance to it. I could put it on repeat and never get tired of hearing it. I'm pretty sure I'll blast this through the headphones I put on my belly for the baby to listen to instead of Mozart.

15. Glory of Love - New Found Glory
Don't get wrong. I heart Peter Cetera. But the New Found Glory version of this song? SO GOOD. It sparked in me an interest to turn everything into a punk rock cover song, including Mary Poppins' "Sister Suffragette", which I still hope to do someday. ("Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're raaaaaather stooooopid." GUITARGUITARGUITAR) Maybe I can convince my child(ren) to play guitar and then my punk rock cover band dreams can come true. Like a punk rock Von Trapp family: "You will play punk rock and you will do it while wearing curtains!!"

16. A Song is Not a Business Plan - The Rocket Summer
Actually, this is not the song I want to give my children. It's the song I gave to the teen girls I made this CD for because I didn't want to get all preachy gospel on them. But for my own kids, yeah, bring on the Jesus rock. Pretty much anything off of Do You Feel, my favorite being "So In This Hour", and I could also go with "Roses", "Hills and Valleys", or "Walls" off of Of Men and Angels. But really, it's probably going to be "Light", my all-time favorite The Rocket Summer song (at least until I hear the album that came out last year, which I still don't have. MIKE GET ON THAT!)

17. Get Better - Mates of State
I put this song on the mix that I made for the teen girls because it has an awesome sound. But honestly, I think for my own kid, I've got to go a little deeper. And I was really bummed that I completely forgot to put one specific song on the mix for the teen girls. So this is my chance to remedy that so I don't screw it up for my own kid. That one song would be Janis Ian's "At Seventeen". Okayokayokay I know it's kind of lame. And it was used in the movie Mean Girls as both the name of a character (Janis Ian) and as background music in one scene. But before all of that, I discovered this song in high school, literally when I was 17, thanks to borrowing The Rolling Stones Women in Rock CD collection from the library. The second verse of the song is kind of "eh", but the first verse and the chorus: speak to me, Janis! The song also inspired a fake feature in a fake magazine that I made for my friend Teresa called "At Seventeen: We know what Janis Ian learned at seventeen. What did you learn?" Oh man, and guess what number this song is on the list? 17!!!!!

18. Ladies' Choice - Mandy Moore
I think I like this song so much because it was written by Rachael Yamagata (see above). That lady can write some songs! You're probably thinking, "Mandy Moore? Really?" But her Wild Hope album was REALLY GOOD. I like this song because it's about the end of a relationship and the girl is like, "You know? We're over and let's just move on. Cheers." But I also like "Few Days Down" because it's all about how sometimes you just need a few days to be alone, eat take-out, and cry. I feel like my (surely) emo teen might need to hear that.

19. Sadie Hawkins Dance - Relient K
Speaking of Jesus rock, of course my child will be into Relient K. "Sadie Hawkins Dance" actually has nothing to do with Jesus, but it is a funny song about a guy getting asked to the Sadie Hawkins Dance at school and wearing khaki pants. "There's nothing better/ Baby, do you like my sweater?"

20. The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
Probably the most important song on this mix. I loved this song in high school. I loved it in college. I love it still to this day. And the music video is just so awesome. All the kids are at a party and taking off their clothes. Two other kids show up and start to take off their clothes, and then they realize THIS IS STUPID AND EVERYONE HERE LOOKS DUMB. So they put their clothes back on and leave. Basically, you don't have to do what everyone else says. Who cares if they talk about you? "Just be yourself/ It doesn't matter if it's good enough for someone else" I hope that this song can be as helpful to my future children as it was to me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Top 10 Books of 2012

Happy National Reading Month!! If you don't know by now, I read a lot. I have a long commute, so I get a lot of reading done on the bus (when I'm not sleeping) and I usually try to read during my lunch break. In 2012, I read 76 books. 76!!! And I'm going to share with you my top 10 (in no particular order), complete with links to my reviews of these books on GoodReads. These are the 10 books (and the only books I read in 2012) to which I gave five stars out of five.

1. Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter

2. The Hunger Games #1 by Suzanne Collins

3. The Hunger Games #2 Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

4. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey

6. Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

7. The Submission by Amy Waldman

8. Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden

9. Broken Harbour by Tana French

10. Red Letter Revolution by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo

If you want to see all the books I read last year, including the ones I didn't like so much (I gave two books one star out of five), head on over to this link.

What are you guys reading right now? Are you on GoodReads, too? Let's be GoodReads friends!













Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Different Girl Book Giveaway WINNER

You have to enter to win, folks! And the only person who entered, and who is therefore the winner, was Renee G.! She said she liked reading Black Beauty as a kid.

So congrats, Renee! I hope The Different Girl makes a great start to National Reading Month for you. I'll be emailing you shortly to get your mailing details.

Come back on Friday to see my list of top 10 books that I read last year for more reading and book inspiration!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Three Cheese Pasta Bake

Here's another Pinterest recipe that I found and, of course, changed up to make gluten-free. The original recipe is from Southern Living, so you know it's not going to be super healthy. But there are a few things you can do to change that. First, we used gluten-free pasta because we are a gluten-free family. But if we didn't have to use gluten-free pasta, I definitely would have opted for whole wheat pasta instead of regular white pasta. The whole wheat stuff is easier for your body to digest and won't make your blood sugar levels spike as quickly as the white pasta.

Second, I didn't use jarred alfredo sauce as the recipe called for. I made my own using a recipe from Rocco Dispirito. I didn't double the recipe at all. It was enough to cover the 16 ounces of pasta you make for the Three Cheese Pasta Bake. Just make sure you use gluten-free chicken broth for the alfredo sauce if you're on a gluten-free diet.

Everything else was naturally gluten-free, so there wasn't much else for me to change. And boy was this delicious. It made good leftovers, too.

I've got lots more recipes pinned on Pinterest. If you're looking for low-sugar, low-carb meals, click here. For general recipes, click here. I also have specific boards for lunch food, breakfast, and dessert. So many recipes, so little time to cook them all!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cards from Scraps

Happy March! Here are a few quick cards I created using bits and pieces from leftover supplies. One is a Thank You card (those always come in handy) and the other is a birthday card. Don't be surprised if one of these shows up in your mailbox soon, friends and family! :)