Sunday, September 29, 2013

Seeing Red - Book Review

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In 1972, Red Porter's father dies, leaving behind Red, Red's younger brother, J, and Red's mother. His father's death means that Red and his family have to pack up and move from Virginia to Ohio to be closer to his mother's family. But moving is the last thing Red wants to do!

Red decides there has to be a way to convince his mother to stay in Stony Gap, Virginia. But as he tries different plans, he ends up uncovering a mysterious family history as well as confronting racism and sexism in his small hometown.

The sign above his father's auto repair shop reads "Porter's: We fix it right", and that's exactly what Red intends to do to honor his father. He's not just trying to fix cars. He's trying to right the wrongs of history. Throughout one summer and fall, 12-year-old Red learns what it means to be a good man and how to accept and embrace change.

It seems that I've read so many YA books written from a female point of view that it's a refreshing change of pace to have a male protagonist. This is a great book for both boys and girls to read and would definitely prompt a lot of discussion in the classroom or for middle school book clubs. (I'm going to make a note to suggest this book for our book club next summer.)

What I also love about this book is that even though author Kathryn Erskine writes about some heavy topics, it's totally age-appropriate for kids 10-14. I also really like that the book does deal with some heavy topics so that today's kids are confronting these issues at the same time as Red Porter and thinking about whether or not these are still issues today. This is definitely a must-read for middle schoolers!

Seeing Red is published by Scholastic and is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy for my honest review.




Saturday, September 28, 2013

Projection - Book Review

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Gretchen is a typical 13-year-old. She's just graduated from 8th grade, she's totally into cute Nick Ford, and she's looking forward to spending summer vacation with her best friend Jessica. But when her mom is murdered, Gretchen discovers that she's anything abut typical. She's actually descended from a line of Ancient Greek women who, as part of the Oculus Society, protect a very special power: projecting souls. Basically, with a "kiss", two women's souls can change places. Gretchen's mom was a prominent member of the Oculus Society, which, to outsiders, was merely a community social club. Both Gretchen and Jessica have their ideas about who committed the murder, and in order to find out more, they decide to switch souls. The only problem is that Ariel Miller, the class outcast, videotapes their "kiss" and posts it to YouTube.

Flash forward two years and Gretchen and Jessica must enlist the help of Ariel in finally discovering who killed Gretchen's mom. Can they trust Ariel? Can Ariel trust them?

What a fun and mysterious book! It's a really intriguing whodunit that leaves the reader wondering who is to be trusted. I love the way that author Risa Green thought out all the aspects of this story.

This book isn't age-graded, but I think that high schoolers (15+) would be better able to follow the storyline. Plus, for much of the book, the characters are juniors in high school, giving kids around that age something to relate to. Parents should know, though, that there is cursing in this book as well as underage drinking.

Projection is published by Soho Teen. It is available to purchase now. I received a free Advance Review Copy for my honest review.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cool Combs - Review

The holiday season is coming up, and that means holiday parties and holiday hair. If you're looking for an easy way to make a fancy updo, then check out Cool Combs. In the middle of a Cool Comb is stretchy, fancy beading in either silver and white or black. On either side of the fancy beading is a comb. These three pieces are all you need to pull your hair half-up or all the way up in multiple ways!

Cool Combs are very easy to use. I watched the below tutorial once and completely understood what I needed to do. I was also really surprised at the many different ways that you can use Cool Combs. Just watch the video to see all the fun things!



I received two Cool Combs for free to review. I wore one of them in my hair all day to do a half-up hairdo, and it worked pretty well. Unfortunately, my hair got messed up in the morning because I fell asleep on the bus and the Cool Comb didn't stay snug in my hair after being hit against the bus seat headrest. So I fixed it when I got to work but did eventually take it out by the afternoon because it just wasn't keeping my hair back tightly enough. I have pretty thick hair, so I thought that the comb part of Cool Combs would be really good. However, the half-up thing just wasn't working out well for me. Then I tried using the Cool Comb to pull my hair back in a bun, and that worked ... for a few minutes. And then it fell out on its own. So my hair is not thick enough when half up and too thick when in a bun. I'm just going to do the ponytail from now on.

I had tried it over the weekend, and it worked really well when I was just sitting around the house watching TV. Maybe I move too much (ha!) at work. I think Cool Combs really depend on your hair type. These really wouldn't work too well in short hair. My hair comes down to my shoulders, and I think that length or longer is really ideal. You've got to have enough hair for the comb part of the Cool Combs to stick.

I would definitely consider wearing Cool Combs to a wedding or to a fancy holiday party if I needed a way to pull my hair back into something kinda fancy. I really want to try the French twist with the Cool Comb, but I can't get my hair wrapped right for the French twist! I need a tool that will do that for me, and then I'll secure it with a Cool Comb.

Cool Combs are available to purchase from CoolCombs.com. If you purchase one, it's $15 and shipping is free.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

All the Truth That's in Me - Book Review

All the Truth That's in Me is a really interesting new YA novel by Julie Berry. The novel takes place in a time period that seems a little like the 1600s and in a village called Roswell Station. The women are called "Goody" before their last name, which reminded me of The Crucible (and how my friends and I used to run away saying, "I saw Goody So-and-So with the devil!!"). But I digress.

The main character is Judith, who has returned after a four-year absence, but there's something different about her. Her tongue has been cut out, leaving her pretty much mute by choice because her speech is garbled and difficult to understand. This also means that Judith is unable to explain her absence and the absence-turned-death of her best friend Lottie.

Because Judith can't speak, the reader is privvy to the goings-on in town through Judith's thoughts. Much of the time, those thoughts are targeted toward Judith's childhood friend and crush, Lucas.

When war breaks out between the villagers of Roswell Station and the people called the "Homelanders" (who I kind of assumed might be Native Americans?), Judith makes a decision that helps her village but also brings dark secrets to the surface. Will Judith remain silent or will she finally find the courage to speak and bring the truth to light?

I really liked the love story between Lucas and Judith. Maybe it was just the time period of the story, but there was nothing improper going on between them like in so many YA novels I've read. The relationship between Lucas and Judith is heart-breaking and sweet, and though it is also chaste, there's a lot of spark.

Overall, though, it did take me awhile to get into the story. There's a lot of flashbacks, and I wasn't always sure when Judith was in a flashback or in the present. But as the story began to unfold, I found that I couldn't put this book down. I had to know what was going to happen!!

This book is recommended for ages 12 and up. There's a little bit of violence and blood but not too much. Still, the book might be more appropriate for kids 14 and up.

All the Truth That's in Me is published by Viking and is available to purchase TODAY. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Are You Ready for Some Football ... Food?

I don't know why I don't use our Crockpot more often on weekends. It would be super convenient to get it all started in the morning, and then go run errands and forget all about it until we're ready to eat. Oh well.

I'm just glad that we do use it at all. Like when I made this Cream Cheese Chicken Chili to celebrate the start of football season.

Well, "celebrate" might not exactly be the right word for it.

I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and it was described as being perfect for football season. Apparently, you can also serve this as a chip dip. I can totally see that!

This was really easy to make gluten-free. It's just chicken, corn, black beans, cream cheese, and some seasoning. I was supposed to use diced tomatoes, but I left those out. I don't like tomato chunks in my chili. OH, and this recipe requires a Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix packet. WHICH IS GLUTEN-FREE!!! It says so right on the package! I was so excited because if I couldn't use that, the whole recipe would have been ruined. So, thank you Hidden Valley Ranch!

You serve this over rice, too. All we had was brown rice, which my husband doesn't usually like, but I think the chili masked the brown rice flavor. He didn't say anything about the taste of the rice! Success!!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Anybody's Daughter - Book Review

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Anybody's Daughter by Pamela Samuels Young is probably every parents' worst nightmare. Thirteen-year-old Brianna meets a boy named Jaden on Facebook and decides to meet up with him in person. She doesn't tell anyone about this plan, partly because her mother is a worrier who doesn't want Brianna on Facebook and partly because Jaden asks Brianna to keep it a secret. Turns out, there is no Jaden, but Brianna finds this out too late and is kidnapped by two men who turn her over to a prostitution ring.

The police don't seem intent on following up on the case, so Brianna's uncle Dre, a reformed drug dealer, takes it upon himself to find Brianna and rescue her. He enlists the help of some buddies and his lawyer girlfriend Angela to uncover just how far this prostitution ring goes. Trust me: you'll never suspect who all is involved.

Angela also plays a different role in the book as a lawyer trying to help former prostitutes testify against their pimps. There's also Loretha, a former prostitute, who escaped her pimp and now runs a home for girls who want to also escape their pimps. The scenes in the courtroom and at Loretha's house are especially heart-breaking, not only because it's hard to believe what these fictional girls went through and the control that their pimps have on them even after they escape, but also because this goes on in real life.

Human trafficking isn't just something that happens in other countries. It happens here in the U.S. Statistics show that the average age an American minor enters the sex trade is 12-14. And this is a big business for the people running the operation.

But it shouldn't be.

I hope that Young's novel makes more people aware of what is going on in their own country, state, city, and neighborhood. And, as the novel's title suggests, it can happen to anybody's daughter. Or son. While this is a really engrossing novel, it should also serve as a catalyst to call people to take action against human trafficking. Young prints a great quote from Albert Einstein in the back of the book:

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - September 23

The last full week in September! Seriously, where is the time going? I'm super excited for fall, though. I've already started breaking out some fall recipes. I just LOVE pumpkin!!!!

But no pumpkin this week:

Sunday: Shepherd's Pie

Monday: pasta & salad

Tuesday: Tuscan Potato Skillet

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: tuna melts

Saturday: pancakes & eggs

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lose It! app

In a past issue of Real Simple, there was an article on dieting versus exercise. Which one is more important? Do you have to do both? According to the article, it depends on what your end goal is. If you want to lose weight, as I do, then it's more important to watch your diet than exercise. And one of the ways the magazine recommended watching your diet is through the free Lose It! app. This app is available for iOS and Android.

I've been using the app for a few weeks, and it's a lot of fun! To get started, you choose a goal. How much do you want to weigh and how long do you want to take to achieve that goal weight? Based on the data you input (including your height, age, and current weight), the app will then tell you how many calories you can eat per day in order to reach your goal.

And then it helps you keep track of how many calories you're consuming, which is where it really gets interesting. The first few days, you're astounded as to how many calories you're actually consuming without knowing it!!

Through the app, you log in what you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacktime/dessert. The app has a whole pre-populated list of foods from name brand companies and restaurants. You can also add in your own foods by hand and their calorie counts per serving. Plus, you can use the scanner option to scan the barcode of the food you're going to eat. I LOVE USING THE SCANNER!

The scanner really comes in handy for making dinner. Many of us don't eat pre-packaged dinners, and many of our recipes don't come with nutritional information. Well, as you're making the meal, scan in all the barcodes of the foods you're using. You'll need to tell the app how much of each you're using in the recipe. You'll also need to tell the app how many servings this recipe makes. When you're all done, the app will have calculated how many calories there are per serving in whatever it is you're making. Pretty cool, huh?

You can also log in any exercise that you've done throughout the day. The app has a built-in list of tons of different exercises, so choose the one you did and then choose for how long you did it. The app will tell you how many calories you burned, and then add those calories back onto your allowed calories for the day. (Sometimes I see all the extra calories I have left and take that to mean that I CAN have that frozen yogurt for dessert. And I do. But not every night.)

And every day or whenever you feel like it, you can input your weight to see how you're coming along.

While the app is free, there are features you can access if you upgrade to a paid premium account. I'm totally fine with my free version. It serves its purpose for me.

One thing I have to say, for me, that Real Simple article was a little off. Without exercising, I found that limiting my caloric intake was not making much difference. I see change on the scale when I combine my revised calorie count with a little bit of movement.

And luckily, I've been getting a lot of movement lately. Did you know that spending a little over three hours painting a room burns 519 calories? Good thing I have TONS more rooms to paint in our house.





Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pro Resumes Made Easy - Book Review

   

There are a lot of people out there who are looking for employment, and it's a tough job market. I'm sure that if you're someone who is looking for a job, you've done internet searches seeking advice on how to make your resume stand out. Andrea Drew's new book, Pro Resumes Made Easy, aims to guide job-seekers through the process of crafting a compelling resume as well as a cover letter, getting an interview, and acing it.

What is always helpful when researching how to write a resume and cover letter is to see samples of good resumes and cover letters. This book includes lots of samples of both. There is also a list of "action words" at the end of the book so that you don't end up overusing the same verb or not using any interesting verbs to describe what you've done in past/current positions.

One of Andrea's tips is to make sure the formatting/alignment of your resume is coherent and that you don't have any typos/grammatical errors. That is so true! However, I feel like Andrea failed to take her own advice when putting this book together. The author is Australian, and so some words were spelled differently, but that's not at all what I'm talking about. First, the book has many typos. Second, I was reading this as an e-book on my Kindle, and the formatting was all off. This was especially annoying when trying to read some of the sample cover letters because parts of the cover letters were obscured! I tried making the font size smaller, but that didn't work. And in some of the resume samples, the alignment of the text was off. And that comes right after Andrea writes that you should watch your alignment!!

I also feel like the advice given in this book is more suited to Australian job seekers rather than American job seekers. In the chapters about how to write your resume, some of Andrea's examples are REALLY LONG. She writes that employers only give about 30 seconds to each of the hundreds of resumes that pass by their desks, so you've got to get to the point and not bore them. But I hardly see how writing several paragraphs about what you did at ONE job is going to help that cause. 

My resume is actually modeled after one that appeared in Oprah. And, honestly, how could ANY advice from Oprah Winfrey be wrong? My resume is actually one and a half pages long. I was always told that ideally, you want a resume that is only one page. But if you have to use a second page, fine. Don't go beyond that. Andrea says that your resume, if you follow her guidelines, will be three to four pages. (However, many of the final samples in the back of the book are only one page and look more like the resumes that I was always taught to write, so...)

That said, the book does have good advice on how to present yourself at an interview and use references. And if you've been unsuccessful in your job search so far, you're probably willing to take any advice to change up the look of your resume and cover letter. If you're not looking for a job right now, it never hurts to keep your resume updated and ready to go.

Pro Resumes Made Easy is published by Amazon Digital Services and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.





Friday, September 20, 2013

Popeye Turkey Burgers

In an attempt to cut back on the red meat we consume, I decided to make burgers for dinner the other night out of ground turkey. Thankfully, the ground turkey was on sale that week at the grocery store, so this meal didn't cost us a whole lot to make.

I used a recipe from our Faster! I'm Starving cookbook to make Popeye Turkey Burgers. Why are they called Popeye Turkey Burgers? Because they have spinach in them!

This is super easy to make, and you can cook your burgers on a gas grill or underneath your stove's broiler, which is what I did. A foil-lined baking pan underneath your broiler rack works wonders for easy clean-up.

Because of copyright, I can't give you the full recipe, but I can give you an abbreviated version of how I made these burgers. You cook a package of frozen spinach, drain the spinach, and let it cool. Then combine the spinach with a pound of ground turkey, crumbled feta, salt, black pepper, and the pinchiest of pinches of cayenne pepper.

Form the meat mixture into patties and cook for about five minutes per side! You're supposed to make four large patties, but I made six smaller patties. I thought going smaller would lessen the cooking time, but I did cook the burgers for another five minutes just to be on the safe side.

I served the burgers on Schar gluten-free buns, and we had Ore-Ida steak fries as a side. Super yummy and super easy! My husband totally loved these burgers!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Martha Stewart Crafts Deluxe Scoring Board with Trimmer

A few weeks ago, I got to attend a Martha Stewart Crafts event where I made the cute Halloween-themed box to the left. SO CUTE!

And how did I make it? Well, I used the new and not-yet-released Martha Stewart Crafts Deluxe Scoring Board with Trimmer! This thing is VERY cool, and here is why:

First, it's a 12x12 scoring board with grooves at every 1/8 inch. So it makes it easy to fold cardstock for creating cards, envelopes, boxes, and other paper crafts. It also includes a scoring stylus for crisp scoring and embossing.

But it also has a built-in paper trimmer with replaceable blade, so you don't need to have two separate devices taking up space. This is an all-in-one tool!

It also comes with step-by-step templates, an envelope guide, and an instruction booklet to help you create more than 40 projects!

It retails for $39.99 and will be available this fall. Just in time for purchasing Christmas gifts for your scrappy friends!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Real Simple Potato, Ham, and Spinach Frittata

I really love breakfast for dinner. Or breakfast for breakfast. Or breakfast for lunch.

And if you've read this blog in the past, you'll know that I love making frittatas.

Here's a recipe that I cut out of Real Simple magazine back in February 2012. It's got everything I love: cheddar cheese, ham, and potatoes. Oh, and eggs and spinach.

And it's SUPER easy to make. In fact, I didn't even make it. My husband did it all by himself!

Okay, I did peel and slice the potatoes in advance. (And if you want your potatoes to not turn grey or brown after you slice them, try this trick.)

What? I peeled AND sliced potatoes? Yep. It was only two potatoes, and we have a giant peeler, so that was really easy to do. And then I sliced them up in our veggie shredder/slicer. That thing is so fun to use.

The only thing I had to do to make this recipe gluten-free was make sure I purchased gluten-free deli ham. Our local grocery store has a proprietary brand of deli meat that is labeled gluten-free. And it contains no MSG! If your local store doesn't have its own brand, try Boar's Head or Thumann's. Also very good and gluten-free, but those brands will be a little pricier. Still, it's worth it.

This serves four. Each person gets two slices. One slice is 250 calories. How do I know this and why do I care? You'll find out in a later post.

The only issue we had with this recipe was the cooking time. It took another 10 minutes for our eggs to fully set. Or at least look set enough that I felt comfortable eating it. I'd rather cook it longer than serve it with runny eggs. This might vary for you depending on your stove.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Forty Years in a Day - Book Review

 

Every family has a history, and in the novel Forty Years in a Day by Mona Rodriguez and Dianne Vigorito, readers are taken through one family's history, spanning two continents from 1900 to the 1930s.

In the beginning of the book, it's 1991, and a woman named Clare takes her father to the newly opened Ellis Island museum. She knows her father and his family immigrated to America from Italy in the early 1900s, and they passed through Ellis Island with millions of others. But Clare doesn't know the circumstances that drove her father's family to come to America, and on that day, her father is willing to tell the whole story.

It's a story filled with drama, romance, betrayal, heartache, lies, sickness, and death. Readers go from Italy to New York City and experience what it was like to be an immigrant in America and how the family coped with the changing cultures and times.

There are a lot of characters in this book. So many, in fact, that there wasn't a lot of time for detail. The book is almost like a series of vignettes. You're transported from scene to scene and are left wanting a little more detail and development. Much of the book is just telling instead of showing.

This might not bother some readers who will like the fast pace of the book. And overall, it's an interesting story of a family history. If you like shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? or are interested in family genealogy, then this book may appeal to you.

Forty Years in a Day is published by Tate Publishing. It is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - September 16

Another week, another meal plan. We already have some items in our freezer, so that makes it easy to figure out what to eat during the week. Tuesday we're eating on our own, and Saturday we are attending an end-of-summer BBQ. I'll share what I'm making for that later!! For now, here's what we're eating for dinner this week:

Sunday: Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

Monday: Perdue Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders and fries

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: Gorton's tilapia, rice, and veggies

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Beef Alfredo Skillet

Saturday: out

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Dinner

I decided to make a real Sunday dinner last week. Inspired by this recipe from Real Simple, we had baked chicken breast, fresh green beans, and cheddar-stuffed potatoes. I really wanted to do turkey, but our grocery store (surprise, surprise) didn't have turkey breast halves. And I certainly wasn't cooking a whole turkey!!

The chicken I sprinkled with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. It had a good flavor. The cheddar-stuffed potatoes I would TOTALLY make again. So yummy.

I also spent Sunday afternoon pre-making our Monday night dinner. I didn't like it, which is why I'm not sharing it here. My husband did, though. He had seconds! Well, you never know until you try it!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Checking In On New Year's "Resolutions"

It's been awhile since I checked in on my New Year's Resolutions/Projects for this year. Let's see how I'm doing:

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

Notes:
Number 2 might not actually happen. I didn't anticipate that all the wallpaper in the scrap room would be removed this year, so that room takes priority in terms of getting painted and fixed up. Sorry in advance to our guests.

I'm working on Number 5, but I have to make a video for it. Also, none of the shows seem to be casting near where we live. But we're going to try anyway.

Number 8 seems daunting, and I kind of forgot that I put it on the list. I still have three more months to find the time to tackle it, though.

If someone can tell me a good place to find WHITE picture frames, please Please PLEASE let me know! Number 10 should have been super easy, but it is not!!!

Number 13 is a bit of a problem because I just looked at the side table the other day, and the top of it is kind of run-down. Any advice for refurnishing this piece of wood furniture? Can I just stain it or do I need to sand it down first? I'm totally clueless, but I don't want to just throw this side table away because other than the look, it's completely functional.

Friday, September 13, 2013

WARP Book 1: The Reluctant Assassin - Book Review

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If you're looking for an action-packed YA novel that combines magic, science, and murder, then look no further than WARP Book 1: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer. This is the start of a new book series by the author of the Artemis Fowl books.

Described by the author himself as Oliver Twist meets The Matrix, WARP introduces readers to a 14-year-old boy named Riley living in London in 1898. He is in the custody of a murderous criminal/former magician named Garrick. When one of their murder-for-hire plots goes awry, Riley finds himself transported from 1898 to present-day London, more specifically locked in a prison cell by a very confused 17-year-old sort-of FBI agent named Chevron Savano. Savano was stationed in London on a mysterious assignment that she's only now beginning to realize involves time travel. Riley and Savano quickly realize that they must stick together, especially when Garrick arrives in present-day London with some interesting new time travel-induced powers that make him even more dangerous than before.

This is a pretty entertaining book. Although, some of the explanations of how the science and magic stuff worked went over my head. I found myself re-reading several passages to make sure I fully understood what was happening.

I haven't read the Artemis Fowl series, but I expect that if you liked those books, you'll enjoy this new world that Eoin Colfer has dreamed up. The book is age-graded for 12 and up, and in terms of language and sex, the book is pretty free of both. (Which is a nice change of pace, considering some of the other YA novels I've read recently.) However, there is a lot of violence, some that parents might consider too graphic for their 12-year-olds. I was thinking more of a 14 and up age grading.

WARP Book 1: The Reluctant Assassin is published by Disney-Hyperion and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blueberry Protein Shake

This is just a quick post to say that I made this YUMMY Blueberry Protein Shake that I found on the website The Undressed Skeleton. I was surprised that I already had most of the ingredients needed: fresh frozen blueberries (from the summer), vanilla whey powder (a sample I got at a health expo), ice, almond milk (my current obsession), and honey. I didn't have almond butter, and it's not something my local grocery store sells, so I just used Natural Jif peanut butter. Mine turned out rather thick, so it was more of a slushie than a smoothie. I also doubled the recipe so that I could have two shakes, one for that night and one for the morning. Seriously, you have to make this. It is sooooo good!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Never Want to Paint Another Bathroom EVER AGAIN

Seriously. Painting a bathroom is TOUGH WORK. I'm glad that it's all over with, but geesh. I painted our dining room/living room, and I worked up a sweat doing that, but the bathroom was a totally different beast.

It's just so small! It was hard to maneuver the ladder, and then the ladder wouldn't fit into our NEW shower stall, and I had to make sure that our NEW shower stall was completely covered so that I didn't accidentally drip paint on it, and then I didn't have a roller or a brush that could fit behind our toilet tank so don't look too closely over there, and I couldn't reach the ceiling in some areas so I couldn't use painter's tape in those areas so don't look too closely at the ceiling.

I mean, I did the best that I could. And I probably inhaled enough paint fumes to guarantee brain damage later on in life. So there's that to look forward to.

Here's what the bathroom looked like before, all set up to paint:


And here's what it looks like now:
                                         
                                           

The color, if you're wondering, is called Grass Cloth. I used Behr Paint & Primer in One for this bathroom. It got really good coverage with a roller but the areas where I had to use a paintbrush (and because they don't make small enough rollers, I had to use a paintbrush in a lot of areas) all needed a second coat.

One good thing that came from this is that halfway through my 3-day painting extravaganza I discovered the two-inch angled brush from Rubbermaid. I purchased it at Target (and then promptly went out and bought two more for painting my scrap room). IT. IS. AMAZING. I could get up super close to the ceiling without actually getting green paint on the ceiling, something that was a problem for me with the angled brush I purchased at Home Depot. I will forever use that brand of angled brush!

The only things left to do in this bathroom are change out the countertops and the toilet. (And maybe when we replace the toilet, I'll be able to quickly paint the area that I couldn't reach...) I'm thinking of switching out the cabinet fixtures to something silver to match. And I need to get another towel bar. Oh, and a matching bathmat. I also need to get something decorative to hang in here. Any suggestions? If you guys see anything online or in a store and you think it would look good in my bathroom, please let me know!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

P.S.-You're Invited - Book Review

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Have you ever seen something that you really liked at a store and thought, "I'd love to have it but it's so expensive. I wish I could make one myself."? Well, why don't you make it?

That's what the website P.S. I Made This is all about. Created by Erica Domesek, it empowers you to create everything from clothing to jewelry to furniture and more! I love following P.S. I Made This on Pinterest because there's a whole board of playlists featuring music to listen to while you create.

But now there's something new coming out TODAY, September 10. If you need some crafty DIY ideas for parties and get-togethers, then check out the new book P.S. - You're Invited. Erica Domesek has come up with more than 40 DIY projects for fashion, home decor, and entertaining. There are about four projects per chapter, and the chapters are all themed. So, if you want to throw a girly cupcake party, check out the projects in the Sew Sweet! chapter. Or if you want to throw an end-of-summer s'mores party (totally up my alley), then check out the chapter S'more Girl Time. 

What I love about this book is not only is it super crafty, but it also has step-by-step instructions with pictures to guide you as you go along. Plus, the back of the book tells you where to purchase all of the supplies. So if, say, you have no idea where to purchase colored nylon rope or copper jewelry wire, have no fear! It's all listed for you in the book!

(But don't worry - the necessary tools aren't completely obscure. A lot of them you might already have at home or can easily purchase at Target, a hardware store, or Amazon.)

I also love the fact that none of these projects require the use of a sewing machine. I don't own a sewing machine and probably never will. But I can handstitch, and that's really all you need to know in order to complete some of these projects. The projects really are that easy! It's definitely inspired me to do a few fun projects using the silver spray paint I bought a few weeks ago. It really can be so versatile, from painting fun patterns on plain vases to creating an antique look on homemade candle holders! And when I have more time, I definitely want to try adding organza and lace trim to T-shirts and tank tops. I've always said I wish I could make my own clothes, and the fashion projects in this book are super easy!

P.S. - You're Invited is available to purchase TODAY. It is published by Atria Books. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - September 9

I'm pretty excited about our food this week. It seems that we're trying something new almost every night! Go us!! So, here it is:

Sunday: Roasted Turkey w/ Cheddar Stuffed Potatoes and Green Beans

Monday: Italian Green Bean Pasta Salad

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Potato, Ham & Spinach Frittata

Thursday: Grilled Cheese

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: Popeye Turkey Burgers

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Twinkie Returns

Here's another fun layout that I recently made. Now that my embellishments are super organized on my homemade Clip It Up, I can actually SEE what I have and USE it!

This layout uses some Studio Calico and K & Company papers as well as various letter stickers, rub-ons, and other embellishments. I even adhered the "I Saved the Twinkie" button that I got on July 15 to this layout.

So, what is this all about? If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, you might have seen these pictures. On July 15, 2013, the Twinkie returned!!! To celebrate, Hostess was giving away T-shirts, pins, and Twinkies in front of Penn Station in New York. I just happened to walk by that morning, and I couldn't pass up a free Twinkie! I've been a Twinkie fan since I was just 1 year old!

Do you guys like Twinkies or are you fans of other Hostess products?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

KABOOM! (4th of July Fireworks)

We had a good 4th of July fireworks show this year. My husband, my parents, and I went to our town's fireworks show on the 3rd. The show was good, but there was one downside. We were sitting well behind the yellow caution tape. But not long into the show, stuff started falling on our heads. Turns out, we weren't far enough away because the debris from the exploded fireworks kept falling on us. It was on our clothes and in our eyes. By the time the show was over with, we needed to be hosed down! We'll have to remember this for next year.

This layout uses some random letter stickers (love the glitter on them), a Scenic Route journaling spot, some cute little sparkly flowers that matched the blue in the patterned paper, and random patterned paper from my stash. This was very easy to put together. I used my Spellbinders Grand Calibur to cut my pictures into circles. So easy!

How did you guys spend the 4th of July? How are you scrapbooking it?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Counting by 7s - Book Review

image credit
I can only say one thing about this book: We HAVE to read it for next summer's middle school book club. Out of all the YA books I've been reading since I started reviewing them on my blog, Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan is just PERFECT. It's really more of what's called a "middle grade" book because it's for ages 10 and up, but the main character is in middle school, and I think that would be perfect for our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Plus, the book is easy to read and un-put-down-able. Seriously. I read this book in one day.

Due to a tragic event that claims the lives of her parents, 12-year-old Willow Chance finds herself thrust together with an unusual mix of characters. There's teenaged Mai (who is a little outspoken) and her older brother Quang-Ha (who is a little quiet), their nail salon-owning mother Patti, a taxi driver named Jairo (who wants to go back to school), and a bumbling school counselor named Dell Duke. This band of misfits forms an unlikely family that helps Willow cope with the loss of her parents but also ends up helping out each and every member of the group in unexpected ways.

This was such a sweet book with a lot of heart that ultimately shows kids that no matter what happens, life goes on. It also shows that it's okay to be who you are. It kind of reminds me of the book we read this year, Out of My Mind. Willow is kind of an outcast due to her intense love of nature and the fact that she's really, really smart. She's not your typical heroine, but to the other characters in the book, she's a daughter, a best friend, a tutor, an inspiration, and a guardian angel.

Counting by 7s is published by Dial Books for Young Readers and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Make Your Own Clip It Up

my homemade "clip it up"
Fellow scrappers, I'm sure you've heard of the Clip It Up, right? It's a scrapbook organization tool that makes it easy to see all your stuff because it's all hanging right there in front of you.

Do I have a Clip It Up? No. Why? Because it's $60.

Now, if you go to the Clip It Up website, they might still be on sale for $32.50. I actually almost bought one at the sale price, but then I saw that shipping was $15, and I thought, "Uh, no thanks."

So the next day, I went online and asked my friend Google about alternatives to the Clip It Up. And I found a BRILLIANT solution in this YouTube video by a user called shells793. This lady used a three-tier rotating shoe rack from Walmart, vertical ID badges, ID clips, and shower curtain hooks to make her own Clip It Up for under $40.

So what do you think I did? I bought all the same supplies to make my own!!!
embellishments in ID badges

The only problem is, the Mainstays three-tier shoe rack is only available in stores. You can't order it online. And it's not available in EVERY Walmart store. The nearest Walmart to me did not carry it, but a different Walmart did and the item was eligible for Walmart's Site to Store program. That means, I ordered it online and then went and picked it up at the Walmart.com Services desk at the Walmart store. It was pretty convenient, even though it took me forever to find the Walmart.com Services desk.

You can get a similar one at Target stores, but it's a little more expensive. The Mainstays shoe rack is about $20, depending on your local Walmart prices.

embellishments hanging by
shower curtain clips
The ID badges and clips can be found in the office supplies section, and well, I'm sure you know where to find shower curtain hooks.

My "clip it up" has all three tiers to it. Shells793 only did two. It depends on how much stuff you have and what you plan on hanging from the tiers. Keep in mind, it can also be easily readjusted. (It was super easy to put together, too!)

What do you guys think of this project? Are you going to make your own or do you have another good organizational idea for your scrap supplies? Share in the comments!






Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Summer of Lunch (in NYC)

In the summer, I have half-day Fridays, which means I get out of work at 1:30. But I don't get to go home right away. Instead, I have to wait around until 3:00 for the next bus home. To kill time, I like to grab lunch and try out new eateries in the city. Last summer, I didn't get to try many lunch places. But this summer, I was ALL OVER IT.

And I made a 2-page scrapbook layout about it using this layout as inspiration. The pictures on this layout were taken via Instagram, and I printed them out in 4x3 size using the Walgreens photo app.

The first place I visited was Toasties. I think they have multiple locations, but I went to the one in Chelsea. I had The Alice sandwich (minus tomatoes) and it was really good! Freshly made, too.

The second place I visited was a coffee and sandwich shop called Birch. I had the classic grilled cheese on sourdough with a chai latte. It was very good, too. Very crowded, though.

Next up was a German restaurant called Landbrot. I was super excited about eating here, but it was really kind of disappointing. I had a cheese pretzel, the Farmer's Brat, and sparkling apple juice. It was all fine. But none of the employees were German, which disappointed me, and the online menu differed a little bit from what was actually offered in the restaurant. Plus, the bread for the bratwurst was practically uneatable; it was so tough. Not a place I would revisit.

The fourth place was Piccolo Cafe. It has pretty much no indoor seating, so I had to get my lunch to go and eat in Port Authority, which wasn't ideal, but it was fine. If it wasn't summer, I would have tried a coffee beverage, but it was hot out, so I went for the prosciutto egg sandwich and an Italian soda. The Italian soda was not the kind of Italian soda I'm used to having. Instead, it was basically just an Italian brand of orange soda in a can. Still tasted good, though.

Roastown Coffee offered something I would definitely get again: a bacon cheddar ranch wrap. OH MAN. They make it fresh there, and then they grilled it, so the cheese inside was all warm and melty. They also threw some chips in my container. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this place. It's a jack of all trades, really. If you want frozen yogurt, salads, sandwiches, wraps, or sushi, this place has it all. Plus, a weird little upstairs seating area/bar. Despite some negative online reviews, I still tried it out, and I'm so glad I did. For $10, I got a really yummy lunch, and that's saying something in New York.

My sixth stop was Dig Inn Seasonal Market. It's definitely a place where you have to know what to do before you get there. I had looked at the online menu and thought I'd get a sandwich, but when I got there, the set-up was not what I expected. Instead, I had to choose a meat item and three sides that were all thrown into one container. I also ordered a peanut butter shake. The food was good but not something that I'd want to eat again. The shake was good, but I think I would have liked it better if it had not been made with bananas. Yuck.

Number 7 on my list was not planned. I had wanted to go to a burger place, but when I got there, I discovered that it was sit-down only AND there was a wait to be seated. No thank you. So I hopped across the street to Baja Fresh. Yes, I know it's a chain and not specific to New York, but I had never eaten there, so I thought I'd give it a try. Plus, it had a lunch deal. I got two pork soft tacos and chips plus a soda for under $10. The music in the restaurant (the Times Square location) was LOUD but the food was good, and I found a place to sit and eat.

For my eighth stop, I hit the food carts on the High Line, one of my favorite places in the city. Actually, probably my only favorite place in the city. There are lots of choices for food on the High Line, so I did my research before I got there. I got an Apple & Ginger soda from Brooklyn Sodaworks and The Mess sandwich from Delaney BBQ. Then I took my food and ate out in the sun in this cool elevated park. In hindsight, I probably should have gone for some gelato to cool me off because it was a hot day, but the BBQ sandwich was a yummy choice!

And last but not least, 9 and 10 go together. I've always wanted to eat at a place called Burgers & Cupcakes. There used to be a location on 23rd street, but it closed before I ever got over there. Then I discovered that there is another location on 9th. Honestly, I expected more from this place. I had a turkey burger to start and then a mint chocolate chip cupcake to finish. This place was sit-down, which I hadn't expected, and the service was so slow! I ordered my burger and cupcake at the same time but only got my burger. Then, after I had eaten my burger, the waitress came back over and asked if I wanted a cupcake. Uh, yes. I already ordered it and you didn't bring it! Then she tried to charge me twice for the cupcake, so I had to get that fixed before paying. AND the cupcake really wasn't that special. I've had MUCH better cupcakes elsewhere. Seems to me if the word "cupcake" is in the name of your restaurant, you should probably know what you're doing when it comes to baking cupcakes.

If you're ever in New York and looking for some good eats, hopefully these mini reviews have been helpful to let you know where to go and where to avoid.




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When You Can't Beat 'Em, Paint 'Em

Okay, do you see this thing on our wall? It's a toilet paper holder. And it's, like, glued to the wall. In fact, part of it goes into the wall. I have never seen a toilet paper holder like this before, but we have three of them in our house. Lucky us.

I wanted to take care of it before I painted the walls of our master bathroom, but I also didn't want to spend too much time trying to remove it and then ending up with a huge hole in the wall or something. So I took some advice from the blog Live Love DIY and bought some spray paint.

In this blog post, Virginia from Live Love DIY spray paints a brassy chandelier. She's apparently also used the spray paint to update her vanity and her kitchen and bathroom faucets. What is this magical spray-on-everything paint? Rust-o-leum Universal in Titanium Silver. It can be used on wood, metal, plastic, and masonry. And it's a paint and primer in one.

It has alright reviews on Amazon. All the negative reviews are about the ease of use. Let me tell you, I had NO trouble using this spray paint. I don't know what all the nay-sayers were talking about. It goes on well, but WHEW those fumes! I had to open all the windows and turn on a fan in the bathroom so that I didn't kill myself. (Apparently, California says that this product [and a bunch of other products, like my spackle] can cause cancer. Why just California? Is that only if I use it in California? I don't understand these warning labels.)

I had a bit more trouble trying to spray paint the toilet paper roll holder because I couldn't come up with an easy way to spray paint it all around and let it dry. I won't even take a picture of the clearly-made-by-a-non-engineer device I crafted up out of a Red SOLO cup and two straws. Pathetic. But I got it painted and the toilet paper will be covering it up anyway, so. Whatever.

Here's a picture of the finished product, minus the toilet paper roll holder, which was still drying.


Pretty, right? All of our fixtures and the trim of the shower door is silver, so I thought this would be perfect. At least until we can figure out how to get rid of it for good.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - September 2

I have been super unmotivated to create our meal plan for this week. Maybe it's because I had so much on my to-do list over the long holiday weekend, so I didn't really have much time to sit and plan food. I'm kind of just going with stuff we already have to save time and money at the grocery store.

Sunday: leftovers

Monday: grilled cheese and fries

Tuesday: eggs and bacon (maybe in a wrap?)

Wednesday:  pasta with chicken sausage

Thursday: on our own

Friday: tilapia, rice, and green beans

Saturday: out and about

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How About a Cuppa?

That's how the Brits say it. Instead of "cup of tea", it's "cuppa". I love it.

And I love tea. If you're ever in Chester, NJ, I'd highly recommend paying a visit to Sally Lunn's Tea Room. The restaurant has a good menu of "regular" food, but you can also get tea sandwiches and scones. OH THE SCONES. WITH CLOTTED CREAM. You have to get one of the scones! Or two or three.

And there is an extensive list of flavored teas. The Very Berry herbal tea is really yummy.

That's where my parents and I ate lunch back in July. When I saw this floral paper in my scrap stash, I knew it needed to be used for something girly, like a visit to a tea room. And then I had a little house journaling sticker, and I thought that would be good for this layout, too.

I got the inspiration for the design from this layout. I made the circles using my Spellbinders Grand Calibur! Some of the circles are just open in the middle, but in some I added patterned paper as a background. Definitely a technique I'd like to use again. I'm just finding so many fun ways to use the Grand Calibur!