Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pasta with Sausage and Mozzarella

So, it's been awhile since we ate anything NEW. But that all changed this week with this recipe for Pasta with Sausage and Mozzarella. Of course, I had to change things up a bit to make it gluten-free and to work with the ingredients we had on hand.

1. I used Premio chicken sausage and cooked it in a pot according to the cooking instructions on the package. Then I cut the sausage into slices when it finished cooking.

2. Gluten-free fettuccine isn't always the easiest to find, so I just used gluten-free spaghetti.

3. I couldn't find broccolini at my local grocery store, so instead I used broccoli rabe, which isn't the same thing EXACTLY but I figured it was close enough. (I also did not need to use a FULL bunch of it. I used probably 1/3.)

4. I left out the fresh rosemary leaves. It seemed silly to buy rosemary and only use a little portion of it. The rest would just have gone to waste.

5. And instead of using fresh mozzarella balls, I just bought a chunk of fresh mozzarella and cut it into slices. SO GOOD.

We ended up with leftovers, but I haven't eaten them yet, so I can't say if it's good the next day or not. I'm sure it is! Melty mozzarella! You can't go wrong!





Friday, August 30, 2013

Dynamic Shift - Book Review

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Are you looking for a change in your life? Are you trying to figure out who you are and what your purpose is in life? Have you thought about searching for those answers in the Bible?

In Dynamic Shift, author Judd Nelson uses scripture to help you reach your full potential in the following life areas: Foundation, Family, Health, and Finances. At the end of each chapter, Nelson provides questions to help you go further and think about where you are currently in a particular life area. Questions include "How has your past shaped your views on family?" and "What does being healthy mean to you?"

This is a fairly short book that could be read in one day. Some people might prefer to barrel through this, while others might want to take their time with each chapter. There is no set way to read this book. It's really up to you. You could also choose to read this book on your own, with a spouse, or as part of a small group.

It's a very interesting book with good points to make, and the questions definitely make you think. Aside from a few typos, the book is well-written and includes real-world examples from the author's life that show how the author and his family were able to bring about change in their lives. It's very admirable.

Dynamic Shift is published by CrossBooks and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gluten-Free at Progressive Field in Cleveland

For those of you who need to eat gluten-free at a Cleveland Indians game, you are in luck. Not only can you get gluten-free hot dogs on gluten-free buns, but you can also get gluten-free french fries! My husband was ecstatic about this.

He wasn't so ecstatic about finding the gluten-free food stands, though. Contrary to what the Cleveland Indians program states, you CANNOT get the gluten-free french fries at the stand in the 500s. If you want the hot dog and fries, you MUST go to the Spuds 'n' Suds stand in the 100s.

But once you find it and make your purchase, you're in for a treat. My husband said the fries and hot dog were really good!

And the ballpark also had good deals for those of us not on a gluten-free diet. Just so you know, however, if you get the hot dog and popcorn combo, the popcorn is a GIANT bag. You might want to share it with someone.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our New Master Bath Shower

Before:




During:



After:



The bathroom walls still need to be painted as does the trim, the ceiling, and the closet door. But I'm planning a big fat painting weekend over Labor Day weekend. Things are coming together, folks! Slowly but surely.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Bone Season - Book Review

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There have been a lot of pretty epic book series in the past. Dune. The Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. And I'm pleased to announce that a new one has just started.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is a pretty impressive first book in a seven-book series. Actually, it's a pretty impressive first book period. A little part of me is jealous that Samantha Shannon, who is younger than me, has made her literary debut with this novel. Also, she got to work with Andy Serkis (aka Gollum) because his film company optioned the film rights for this book series. (I wonder if she made him say, "My precious!" in her presence. I know I would have.)

So, let's get to the book, shall we?

In the year 2059, the city of London is kept safe by a security system called Scion. This system weeds out ordinary humans from humans with the ability to interact with spirits. Technically, being a clairvoyant is illegal, but that doesn't stop Paige Mahoney from using her clairvoyant power of dreamwalking to work for the criminal underground. When Paige's luck runs out and she is arrested because of her power, she finds herself not in a Scion prison, but in an area called Sheol I where Oxford, England used to be. In Sheol, her powers are accepted and the ones called Rephs will train her to use her power. But only because they want to use her and other clairvoyants as weapons to ultimately take control of the human world. Paige has to quickly discover who she can and cannot trust in Sheol if she means to save not only herself but the rest of the clairvoyants.

Wow. Just wow.

I love the world that Samantha Shannon has created. It's rich in characters, history, romance, and action. Plus, it's got an independent female lead who doesn't need a dude to save her, though she isn't going to pass up the opportunity to kiss him if it arises.

Can't wait for all the other books in the series. Can't wait to see this on the big screen.

The Bone Season is available to purchase now. It is published by Bloomsbury USA. I received a free Advance Review Copy when I attended Book Expo America in May.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - August 26

It's hard to believe summer is almost over. Half-day summer Fridays are officially over for me at work, and this weekend I'm looking forward to four days off to relax. Oh, and paint two rooms in our house. So, anyway. Here is what we're eating this week:

Sunday: chicken fettuccine alfredo (using Rocco DiSpirito's low-carb sauce recipe)

Monday: grilled cheese and gluten-free chicken noodle soup

Tuesday: beef quesadillas

Wednesday: Italian pasta and bean soup

Thursday:  pasta with chicken sausage and mozzarella (adapted from this recipe)

Friday: loaded baked potato skins

Saturday: It's a long weekend. We'll wing it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Don't Worry

I've had some trying moments over the past two weeks, and I really felt the need to sit down and scrap something to make me feel better.

Every morning I get a daily devotional emailed to me, and I always star the ones that I like or would like to turn into a scrapbook layout. I went back through them to find a good one and came across one for Philippians 4:6:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

I am a perpetual worrier. I worry about EVERYTHING. I just can't stop. But I know that worrying about stuff doesn't do anybody any good. Maybe someday, after telling myself this over and over again, I'll be able to control my worry wart syndrome.

As you can see on this layout, I used the embossed flower cardstock that I made using the Spellbinder Grand Calibur. Doesn't it pop? There was also a little embossed banner at the bottom, so that's where I put the title of the layout.

What do you guys do during anxiety-inducing times? Do you scrapbook for calm? Do you pray?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Speak of the Devil - Book Review

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Anna Curtis is a young prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who has just gotten engaged to her boyfriend Jack. But as that happy moment is happening, a gang known as MS-13 has committed a terrible crime, and it's up to Anna to bring the gang members responsible to justice. But as Anna continues to investigate the crime, she comes upon some roadblocks: witnesses not willing to testify against the gang, witnesses going missing, and the gang putting a hit out on Anna. Not to mention that Anna uncovers some bewildering information involving the gang and her fiance's deceased wife, Nina.

I really enjoyed this book! Definitely a 4 out of 5 stars. The author uses her personal experience as a federal sex-crimes prosecutor to bring the story to life and help readers not only understand the story but also understand how the whole legal process works. There's some legal jargon in the book, but it's explained in a way that laypeople can understand.

The book also kept me guessing. I didn't see the big twist coming at all. In fact, I thought something else was going to happen, so I was even more surprised when it didn't!

I feel like there is more I want to say about this book, but I can't because I don't want to give away too much of the plot!

It was a great mystery, although a bit on the graphic side. If you don't like reading about murders and rapes in detail, then you won't want to read this book. But for everyone else who enjoys thrilling detective-type stories, Speak of the Devil by Allison Leotta is just the ticket.

Speak of the Devil is published by Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster. It is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy at Book Expo America.




Friday, August 23, 2013

Spellbinders Grand Calibur Review

A few months ago I met the nice people at Spellbinders, a company that makes embossing and die-cutting tools for scrapbookers and paper crafters. When Spellbinders asked me if I'd like to receive free product to review, I said yes!

While I was familiar with Spellbinders, I had never used any of the company's products. Usually if I use die-cuts on a scrapbook layout, I buy them already cut. And I've never really experimented with embossing paper. So I was eager to give the Spellbinders Grand Calibur a try and see what it could do.

Along with the Grand Calibur, I also received several die-cuts and an embossing folder. What's cool about the die-cuts is that they are three-in-one. You can use them to cut cardstock into a specific shape, emboss detail into the die-cut shape, or stencil through the die template. The die-cuts come in all different shapes from scalloped circles to butterflies to borders. And they are really easy to use with the Grand Calibur. Just follow the directions to layer all the appropriate items (called "sandwiching"), depending on whether or not you are just cutting, or cutting and embossing, or just embossing. What's also cool is that the die-cuts work with other Spellbinders machines as well as those from other companies.

Below you can see the results of my die-cut circle (with a bit of a textured edge) and my scallop circle embossed cardstock.

                                          

The embossing folder Spellbinders sent me was called Delightful Daisies, but they come in other themes. These folders are great if you're making a card and want the card to have a textured look. Or maybe you just want a smaller piece of cardstock embossed to add detail to a scrapbook layout. (I say smaller because the embossing folder is only 7.5 inches by just over 5 inches.) Again, it's pretty easy to use the embossing folders in the Grand Calibur as long as you follow the layering instructions: embossing plate, folder with cardstock inside, and the adapter plate. (The adapter plate you'll have to purchase separately. It doesn't come with the embossing folders.) You can see what I did below.

                                                

I did have a bit of trouble getting my embossing "sandwich" to move through the Grand Calibur. But I didn't really have to force it, just help it out a little to get it started. The embossing folders can also be used with other Spellbinders machines and machines from other companies.

What I liked about the Grand Calibur was that it was easy to set up and it requires no batteries or electricity. You just turn the hand crank to move your "sandwiches" through the machine. And then when the "sandwiches" come out on the other side, you've got textured cardstock and/or cut-out shapes.

Plus, there's a nice carry handle on top, so that you can easily tote this to a crop or from room to room if, like me, you like to scrap in front of the TV. (Although, it is a bit heavy.)

The Grand Calibur itself costs $140. The die-cuts range in price from $24.99-$39.99. And the embossing folders range in price from $7.99-$17.99.

Any scrappers out there use Spellbinders products? What do you guys think? This can definitely add a TON of great accent and detail to scrapbook pages and cards. DEFINITELY cards. I don't know why I didn't try this sooner!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Printing Instagram Photos at Walgreens


It's been awhile since I posted any scrapbook layouts, so because I'm sure you're all clamoring to see what I've been up to, here it is.

Sad to say that since I returned from holiday (Sorry - I've been watching a lot of Season 3 of Downton Abbey), I haven't had much time to get scrappy. I did manage to get some pictures at Walgreens, and then I finished two layouts, but I didn't get pictures taken of them.

So here is a layout that I made before going on vacation. These are pictures from when I did yoga in Times Square back in June. I posted these pictures to Instagram, and then I was able to print them directly from Instagram in 4x4 size through the Walgreens photo app. Quite snazzy!

I would definitely recommend the Walgreens photo app to anyone who takes lots of pictures on their phones and/or uses Instagram. The app allows you to print photos directly from your photo stream, and the resolution comes out really well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Residue Years - Book Review

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Champ is THIS CLOSE to graduating from college. He's trying to make a better life for himself and his two younger brothers. Their mother is a recovering crack cocaine addict, so Champ has seen what that life is like. Which is why he's dead set on helping out his brothers and buying a nice house for the family.

But for all of that, he's also THIS CLOSE to losing it all. He's cheating on his girlfriend, he gets his girlfriend pregnant, and he's a crack cocaine dealer. The family had it good once, but it can't seem to break free from its dependency on drugs, whether using or using the money Champ makes off of selling it.

Every chapter alternates between Champ's point of view and the point of view of his mother, Grace, as she enters the world again after drug rehab. The book is a little hard to get through not so much because the actions of the characters are sometimes hard to read about, but because the book is written in the characters' dialect. There are a lot of drug slang words, too. If you're not familiar with the dialect and drug lingo, it might take you awhile to figure out what's going on. I eventually got used to the dialect, but a lot of the drug stuff was over my head.

The blurb on the book's back cover says that this is an autobiographical novel. I'm not sure what parts were personally experienced by the author and what parts are fictionalized for dramatic effect, but kudos to the author for writing about what it was like growing up in Portland in the '90s and showing readers that some people can make it out of the cycle.

The Residue Years is published by Bloomsbury USA and is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy at Book Expo America in May.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - Book Review

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What if you had the power to make people do and see things? Would you use that power for good or evil?

Those are the questions you'll ask yourself while reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke.

One summer day, a boy named River West comes to town and rents the guesthouse behind Violet White's parents' house. Violet finds River intriguing and mysterious. But when strange things begin to happen upon River's arrival, and as Violet uncovers more about who River is, she wonders if River is good or evil.

There is also a separate thread about Violet's deceased grandmother and some letters that she hid throughout Violet's house. At the same time that Violet is trying to figure out who River is, she's also trying to uncover her grandmother's secrets.

I didn't like this book as much as I had hoped. I'm all for mysteries and supernatural thrillers with a hint of the gothic, and that's what this book is, but it didn't totally come together for me. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and they just keep coming!! Also, at times I thought Violet was just plain dumb. However, I think she finally gets it together at the end.

This book is age-graded for 12 and up, but I think that if they made the book into a movie, it would be PG-13. There is violence (including a suicide and several murders/attempted murders) and lots of blood. It's not super gory, but some kids (and adults) might not have the stomach for it.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is published by Dial and is available for purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - August 19

I have had a request from my husband that he wants to start eating healthier. So, I quickly had to reformulate the meal plan I was making in my head and come up with stuff that wasn't so heavy. I think my husband will be pleased when he sees that we aren't eating so much red meat this week.

Sunday: cheesy sausage and potatoes (We didn't make it on Friday, so we moved it to Sunday.)

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: pancakes and eggs

Wednesday: chicken caesar salad

Thursday: grilled turkey quesadillas

Friday: penne with ricotta cheese and greens

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Broken Circle - Book Review

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The Broken Circle, by Cheryl Potter, is only the beginning, and what an intriguing beginning it is. Potter has crafted a magical world and a colorful (sometimes literally) cast of characters for Book 1 of The Potluck Yarn Trilogy.

Some time ago, there were 12 witches who used crystals and hand-knit creations to wield magical powers. But then, one witch betrayed the circle and stole a crystal, causing the circle to break and the witches to scatter.

Twenty years later, the Northlands and Southlands are in a bitter war, caused by the witch traitor, and it is time for the remaining knitting witches, as they are called, to reconvene. The only problem is that magic has been outlawed since the war started, a crystal is missing, and there are no longer 12 witches. Not to mention that the witches who do remain must travel from all over to meet again, hoping that they don't get caught and jailed for being one of the 12.

This book gives the background information about the witches and tells how they all, with a few newcomers, make their way back to the Potluck to try and save the world. The rest of the story is left to books two and three. (According to the author's website, as of March 2013, the second book was being written.)

Because this book is about knitting, there are website links to knitting patterns at the end of each book. Readers will be able to knit some of the "magical" items the characters wear in the book. Obviously, this makes the book ideal for knitters, but you don't have to know how to knit (I don't) in order to enjoy the story.

The Broken Circle is published by Potter Press and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Back to School Idea for Kids with Food Allergies

Hard to believe that summer is almost over with. That means kids are going back to school, and if you have a child with Celiac Disease (or other food allergies), then I'm sure you're pretty concerned about your child accidentally getting "gluten'd".

I don't have a child yet, but because my husband has Celiac Disease, my future child has a 50% chance of having Celiac. That means I have a 50% chance of becoming a crazy, overprotective, go-everywhere, don't-feed-my-child-anything-without-asking-me-first, did-I-mention-crazy mother.

But that's where AllerMates comes in. A few months ago, I was sent a press release about AllerMates products and asked if I would like to receive free samples for review. Eager to find out more and see the products in person, I said, "Yes! Sign me up!"

AllerMates was created by a mom, Iris Shamus, whose son had developed allergies to nuts, fish, eggs, and sesame products. Iris had been able to protect her son from allergen exposures when he was a toddler, but what was she to do once her son went off to school? She also wanted to keep thing light and positive for her son instead of creating products that singled him out and made him feel different from the other kids. So Iris created funny little characters with names such as P. Nutty, Nutso, Pint, and Eggie and wrote fun poems and stories about these characters. She turned those characters into allergy awareness dog tags and latex-free wristbands for her son to wear when he was out and about. Her young son loved the characters, and wearing the dog tags and wristbands reminded others of his allergies.

AllerMates products have expanded from dog tags and wristbands. Now the company makes stickers and labels, charms and charm bracelets, medicine cases and bags, lunch and snack bags, and more. And you can purchase these products for a variety of health concerns, including asthma, bee sting, cat allergy, Celiac, dairy allergy, dairy free, diabetes, dog allergy, egg allergy, fish allergy, food dye allergy, insect bite allergy, latex allergy, nut allergy, peanut allergy, penicillin allergy, pollen allergy, sesame allergy, shellfish allergy, soy allergy, tree nut allergy, vegan, and wheat/gluten-free.

I was sent a few of the wristbands, a dog tag, and a wheat/gluten-free snack bag. The wristbands and the dog tags are great for younger kids to wear because they easily serve as a reminder to teachers, daycare workers, camp counselors, and other parents that your child has this allergy. There are even wristbands that let you write your child's name, his or her health concern, and an emergency contact number in case something happens.

The snack bag is cute, too, and is reusable. However, you can only wipe it with a damp cloth. It is not machine-washable. But it still makes a great addition to your child's lunchbox (especially an AllerMates lunchbox) or as a way for your child to bring an allergy-free snack/dessert when going to a
birthday party or sleepover.

The AllerMates website also has a "kids" section with kid-friendly information on the health concerns, online puzzles and activities, games, and more. Parents can print out information booklets and school/camp forms and signs to let teachers/counselors know what to do in case of an emergency and designate certain tables or areas allergy-free.

Obviously, AllerMates is geared toward daycare-, preschool-, and elementary school-aged children. Those will be the kids who find these characters cute. Middle schoolers and certainly high schoolers will not want to go around wearing a dog tag with a picture of Professor Wheatley (the wheat/gluten-free character) on it. But hopefully, through wearing these wristbands and using these products as young kids, it will help these children not feel weird about their allergy, come to accept their allergy as part of who they are, and, most importantly, speak up for themselves. Kids (and adults) with allergies and other health concerns should never feel ashamed to be their own advocate.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Paper Pumpkin by Stampin' Up Review & Giveaway

Some of you scrappers out there might be familiar with the company Stampin' Up. Stampin' Up makes stamps, stamp pads, and other great crafty products that you can only purchase through Stampin' Up home parties or through independent sales consultants called Stampin' Up demonstrators.

Or you can purchase Stampin' Up's newest product called Paper Pumpkin. Paper Pumpkin is a monthly subscription service that each month delivers (right to your doorstep) a box filled with stamps, ink, paper, and accessories all cut, measured, and ready to create a sweet project! Each project takes 30 minutes to complete and provides instructions to help you along the way.

And as a House Party member, I was given the chance to try out one of the Paper Pumpkin boxes for free by hosting a Paper Pumpkin party. My guests and I each received our own Paper Pumpkin box with stamps, an ink pad, stickers, twine, buttons, cardstock, and envelopes so that we could make four cards. Following the instructions was pretty easy to do, and everybody's cards turned out well.

I think this is a great service for crafty people who may not have time to go out and purchase all these products individually or throw/attend a Stampin' Up party. (You don't need to be a Stampin' Up demonstrator or go through a demonstrator to subscribe.) It's also great for beginner crafters who may not know where to start on their crafting journey and just need a jumpstart every month.

To subscribe, just go to mypaperpumpkin.com. It's $19.95 per month, but if you use the promo code I was given, you'll get your first two months for only $10. Just use the code Houseparty and make sure you subscribe before August 31, 2013. (That's when the code expires.)

Or you can continue reading this post to find out how you can win a Paper Pumpkin kit!

But first, what does one serve at a Paper Pumpkin party? Why, pumpkin-flavored goodies, of course! Sure we had the normal scrap party snacks (M&M's, Chex Mix), but I also made some special pumpkin goodies: pumpkin milkshakes and pumpkin fudge. The fudge I placed inside cellophane, tied it up with a ribbon, and put that into really cute pink and orange buckets from the $1 spot at Target. It made the perfect party favor, especially when I added the Paper Pumpkin logo as a tag.

Okay, so onto the GIVEAWAY. I ended up with extra Paper Pumpkin kits from House Party, and I'd like to give them away to some of my fellow crafty people. All you have to do is leave a comment on THIS POST by midnight EST on August 23, 2013 telling me what kind of craft projects you like to do, and I'll randomly pick three lucky winners to receive a Paper Pumpkin kit. Good luck!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gluten-Free is a Treatment NOT a Trend

I've been reading a lot online about people or TV shows making fun of people with Celiac Disease or other food allergies. Some people are even going so far online as to write that they want to open up a gluten-free or peanut-free restaurant and then serve gluten-filled and peanut-filled foods to the customers.

Oh really?

Recently, I was eating at a restaurant that had a gluten-free personal pan pizza on its menu. But there was an asterisk next to those words, so my eyes moved down to the bottom of the menu to find out what the asterisk was all about. Turns out, the gluten-free pizza is not recommended for people with a gluten allergy. (Probably due to the fact that the restaurant cooks the pizza in the same oven and using the same kitchen utensils as gluten-filled pizzas leading to cross-contamination, which then renders the gluten-free pizza unsafe for those whose bodies go into attack mode if gluten gets through.)

It's clear to me that this restaurant, like many others, is simply offering gluten-free foods not so that gluten-free people would still be able to eat out but because to these restaurants, a gluten-free diet is a fad diet, and they're just trying to capitalize on it.

(There's a great post about this on Jezebel.com, pleading with people who can eat gluten to JUST EAT IT ALREADY because they're ruining it for people with Celiac Disease and gluten allergies.)

Eating gluten-free is not a fad diet. It is not a weight-loss alternative. You can still gain weight on a gluten-free diet because so much of the gluten-free food that is available is still packaged and processed (think cookies and cake mixes), just like regular packaged and processed food.

Eating gluten-free is a treatment for an incurable autoimmune disease. A REAL DISEASE. It is the only way a person with Celiac Disease can wake up every morning without feeling like they just got run over by a bus.

It really upsets me when people don't take it seriously, assuming that people on a gluten-free diet are just being picky and difficult and making it all up. My husband was sick and in constant pain for six months (including on our honeymoon) before getting his diagnosis. But once he started eating gluten-free, he felt 100 times better.

Sure, it might be funny to poke fun at how disgusting gluten-free food tastes. But that's another falsehood. I've eaten gluten-free food. There are plenty of gluten-free food brands that make some AMAZING food. You can find some of our favorite gluten-free products here.

If you're a restaurant and want to offer gluten-free food, take it seriously or don't do it all. If you're a food manufacturer and want to offer gluten-free food, take it seriously and pay attention to the FDA's new gluten-free guidelines for labeling something "gluten-free".

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Download 'Chronicle' and enter the Relic Revealed Sweepstakes from Soho Teen

CHRONICLE: Before the Books of Eva tells the story of Madeline, the very first female to participate in the Testing for New North, after the Healing drowned the world.
Each year, the finest Gallants in New North embark on the Testing, a harrowing rite of passage through the frozen wastelands to recover Relics, artifacts from the evil time before the Healing. About these Relics the Testors construct their Chronicles, illustrating mankind’s depravity, his Vanity, his love of Tech, his sins too numerous to count. All true Chronicles are collected and made part of the Lex’s Holy Truths, year by year.

The Chronicle.  Nothing is more vital to the resolve of the inhabitants of the New North, the last inhabitants of an Earth flooded by the Healing. But not all Chronicles are deemed True. And not all Testors are Gallants. One year there was a Maiden, Madeline, the first but not the last. Braving the perils of the Testing, she discovered a Relic that, if Chronicled, would be the New North’s downfall.

Relic will be published October 29th. Soho Teen says it is for fans of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games. Sounds good to me! Hopefully you'll be hearing more about this new book series right here on my blog!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Infinite Moment of Us - Book Review

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I really liked Lauren Myracle's novel Shine because it had a great message of tolerance and anti-bullying. So I was excited to read her latest YA novel, The Infinite Moment of Us. I received a free autographed advanced review copy of the book at Book Expo America in May. I wasn't required to review the book, but I felt like doing so anyway. Mainly because my feelings for this book don't even come close to my feelings for Shine. I guess I find it hard to justify letting a 14-year-old (the minimum age recommendation for the book) read what is essentially soft core pornography. (The back cover of the book calls it "deeply sexy and achingly romantic".) A middle school summer book club pick this is not.

The characters in this book have just graduated from high school, and they really make me scared to have a child of my own. I know from personal experience that not all real-life teenagers engage in the activities of underage drinking, partying, sexting, and sex, but some do, and the fictional characters in this book certainly do. (Oh, and they also curse a lot.)

I'm torn over this because I'm a big proponent of keeping things realistic in books, but at the same time it makes me sad that teenagers are engaging in these behaviors. And based on what happens in this book, it's clear that these are activities to which these 18-year-olds are not really ready for. There is a scene in the book where the characters have a "fancy" dinner party, and you can sense that with this party, and the other things the characters do throughout the course of the story, they are play-acting. Playing out what they think are the roles of dinner party hosts and guests. Playing out what they think are the roles of husband and wife. Playing out what they think are the roles of men and women, not boys and girls.

By now, you're probably wondering what the heck this book is about. Well, here it is: For 18 years, Wren has been the perfect daughter. Her overbearing parents are so excited that she is going to college to become a doctor, but that's not actually what Wren wants to do. And so she decides not to go to college and do volunteer work in Guatemala for a year. Her parents are upset, but that's not the only thing Wren decides to do for herself. She also decides to start dating. One boy in particular: Charlie Parker.

Charlie is a foster kid who can't seem to realize that he is deserving of his kind foster parents' love, or anyone's love for that matter, including Wren's. But over the course of one summer, Wren and Charlie become inseparable and help one another learn more about themselves and what home and family mean.

If you're a parent reading this review, I'd suggest reading the book yourself before getting it for your child. And keep in mind that because the characters are 18, this book is probably better suited to 17- or 18-year-old readers. Maybe you can talk to your kids about the stuff that is happening in the book and be more supportive and involved parents than Wren's fictional parents in the book.

If you're a teen reading this review and still want to read this book, you won't get asked to show ID for it at the bookstore or library. But understand that just because the characters in this book are doing things (things that people you may know are doing), it doesn't mean you have to do them either. Sometimes doing those things makes you look stupid and feel stupid in the aftermath.

The Infinite Moment of Us is published by Amulet Books and will be available to purchase on August 27, 2013.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - August 12

It's been way too long since I've done a Meal Plan Monday. The past few Mondays have been preparing for vacation and then being on vacation. But now we are back in the swing of things! So here goes!

Sunday: Italian Sausage & Potato Roast

Monday: Smoked Sausage & Rice

Tuesday: Grilled Cheese

Wednesday: Hamburgers & Fries

Thursday: Spaghetti & Meatballs

Friday: Cheesy Sausage & Potatoes

Saturday: out

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gluten-Free at PNC Park - Pittsburgh

Our first summer vacation stop was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a Pirates baseball game. (They were playing the Cardinals, and the Cardinals lost.) But PNC Park did have a gluten-free food stand.

As you can see from the menu to the left, you could get a gluten-free hot dog, gluten-free nachos, a gluten-free grilled veggie toaster, or a gluten-free caprese toaster. (You could also get three different salads, but who goes to a baseball game and gets salads when you can get traditional ballpark food made gluten-free?)

Mike tried the gluten-free hot dog, which did take awhile to make because they were out! Unfortunately, the hot dog was not the best Mike has had when compared with gluten-free hot dogs (or Italian sausages) at other ballparks. It's all in the bread.

But at least they tried, right?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Organic God - Book Review

I have been wanting to read The Organic God for YEARS. But the two library systems I've been part of over the past five years have not carried this book AT ALL. In the meantime, I've read other books by Margaret Feinberg, but this one has definitely stayed in the back of my mind and on my to-read list.

So imagine how excited I was to see that The Organic God was available for free to review through the BookSneeze review program! I immediately signed up to review this book next.

This is a fairly short book, but it definitely packs a powerful punch. For Christians, it challenges what we think we know about Jesus, God, and acting like a Christian. It calls us to step back and take stock of our current relationship with God, and then strive to make that relationship better. Feinberg shares a lot of personal anecdotes (many of them humorous) and backs up what she's saying with quotes from scripture. She also provides discussion questions for the reader to go through with a group, such as a Bible study, or on his/her own. And the music lover in me certainly appreciated Feinberg's The Organic God playlist: two songs for each chapter from popular Christian music and popular music in general. (Lots of U2.)

If you find yourself in a spiritual rut and are looking for a way to get back to the root of Christianity and really get back to knowing God, then this is a great book for you. I'm so glad this book has been reprinted!

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.”

Friday, August 9, 2013

Vacation 2013

There haven't been any posts lately because for the past week I was ...

rooting for baseball teams


roasting marshmallows



taking pictures of butterflies

eating too much dessert


driving over the Mackinac Bridge multiple times

riding bikes

watching free fireworks


climbing 171 steps

eating delicious Clyde's Drive-In burgers


rocking out at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Museum


and driving over a semi-truck's stray drive shaft on the highway at 10 p.m.


Hopefully I'll resume regular postings soon. :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

National Girlfriends Day

blogger lunch in St. Louis
Today is National Girlfriends Day! Ladies, are you doing anything to celebrate?

If you said no, you might want to rethink that answer.

I read in the January 2013 issue of Good Housekeeping that no matter what other stuff you've got going on in your life, you should never cut time with your pals. The more you hang out with friends, the easier it is to cope with stress. It's all well and good to chat online and connect via social network, but face time matters most.

And that was repeated in the August 2013 issue of Real Simple, under the heading "Don't Miss Book Club". According to the magazine, "a groundbreaking 1964 study conducted by physician Stewart W
olf found that close-knit Italian community living in Roseto, Pa., had low mortality rates despite the fact that the locals smoked, suffered from obesity, and worked long hours equal to those of people in other neighborhoods. The reason? 'Being among friends is relaxing, which lowers blood pressure and promotes healing,' says Christine Carter, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center."

But you don't have to be around your friends and family all day every day. Even just putting down regular standing dates for book club, movie nights, and weekend getaways can help add quality years onto your life. The magazine quotes a 2010 study that says that "the influence of insufficient social relationships on the risk of death is comparable with well-established risk factors, such as smoking and obesity."

Eek! So get on out there ladies and celebrate National Girlfriends Day with your friends!