Friday, January 31, 2014

One Pot Cheesy Chicken Pasta

Okay, so this recipe started from this One Pot Cheesy Smoked Sausage & Pasta Skillet and became my own One Pot Cheesy Chicken Pasta. It's not that I don't like smoked sausage because I DO. But we are trying to eat less red meat, and so I thought why not use chicken instead?

I've gotten really into using Perdue Short Cuts Original Roasted Chicken Breast. It's gluten-free, and the chicken is already cooked, so it's perfect for a weeknight meal when there is not a lot of time to cook chicken. (Plus, I just hate cooking chicken.)

So, if you want to make the original recipe, be my guest. But here's my very adapted version:

1. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to a sauté pan. Add half a package of Perdue Short Cuts Original Roasted Chicken Breast to the pan and cook for about five minutes until the chicken is heated through. (If you want a lot of chicken, you can use the whole package.)

2. Add a 12-ounce box of dry gluten-free pasta (I used rotini), 1 cup of heavy cream, and three cups of gluten-free chicken broth (or enough broth to cover the pasta). Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and lower the heat. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes until the pasta is tender.

3. Turn off the heat. Stir in 1 cup of shredded cheddar-jack cheese. Sprinkle another 1 cup of shredded cheddar-jack cheese on top and allow it to melt. Serve and eat.

If you want to add some chives on top for extra flavor and color, that would be a great idea! I left them off of ours in order to cut down on the spice. In addition to cutting out red meat, we're also trying to cut out on acid reflux triggers.

This makes about four servings, so we had some left over. It was very good the second and third day, or so my husband told me. He was the one who ate it all!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Good Eats

Oo, you're getting a two-in-one blog post today. I've got a food-related scrapbook page to share with you, PLUS I made some gluten-free salmon fish sticks that I want to share.
It really is a "good eats" day.

First up, the scrapbook page. What you see to the right is a page I did of the yummy lunch my mom and I ate at the Grand Hotel's lunch buffet.

We had a three-course meal and everything was SO GOOD. That buffet was stocked. There was so much to choose from, which is why I piled my plates so high. I wanted to try it all! (My pants didn't really want me to do that, but whatever.)

That was a really good lunch, and this scrapbook page was really easy to put together. I tweaked one of my favorite three-picture sketches and broke out a bunch of stuff from my stash.

Okay, and now onto MORE FOOD. One of the other recipes we've made from out Gluten, Wheat & Dairy Free cookbook is salmon fish sticks. Our grocery store had Wild Alaskan Salmon on sale, so I thought that was the perfect opportunity to try and make the fish sticks. This is what I was working with:
What a beast!! The only problem with it was that it wasn't skinless, and I had a REALLY hard time trying to remove the skin. I think next time, I will just go to the fish counter and order something fresh and ask them to remove the skin for me. They'll do that, right?
(I kind of feel sad having to ask that, but in this day and age, who really goes to the meat/seafood counter anymore? Everything just comes in prepackaged portions!)
Anyway, because I had trouble removing the skin (or is it scales?), my fish sticks weren't exactly sticks. But they were still delicious!
The fish is just dipped in a cornmeal and paprika mixture, and then fried up in a large skillet filled with a few tablespoons of oil. For some reason, I felt very southern making these, especially after looking at the picture below. I don't know. It just reminds me of southern cooking.
My husband was a BIT skeptical when I told him we were having salmon fish sticks, but I think I won him over with these. The texture of both the cornmeal crust and the cooked salmon inside was almost like eating chicken fingers, except without the chicken! What a tasty way to get some fish into our diet. And it was gluten-free!
How do you like to eat fish? What's your favorite fish to eat?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Starbucks Cup Round-Up 2013

Alright, kids. It's that time of year. The time of year to look back and realize that a) My name is still difficult for Starbucks baristas to spell and b) I drank way too many espresso beverages in 2013. (Thank goodness for gift cards, though!)

I imported all the cup photos I had taken on my phone to my computer, and then created a photo collage using Google's free Picasa program.
Honestly, 2013 wasn't a super crazy name misspelling year. I got the normal Lori and even a Loury. And then one time (which is one time too many) I got Larry. REALLY? (Hence, the title of this scrapbook page.)
Maybe it's because of my Starbucks rewards gold card or maybe I'm just frequenting the same Starbucks too much and they are getting to know me, but my name was actually spelled correctly quite a few times.
So, kudos, baristas!  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Single-Page Sketch Into Two-Page Layout

Moving right along with scrapbooking my 2013 vacation pictures ...

I made this two-pager using pictures of my mom and I eating lunch at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island. You've probably already seen some of these pictures in my review of the Grand Hotel.

My mom gave me these really pretty floral papers for Christmas, and I thought they would be perfect for a sort-of fancy lunch at a fancy hotel. I had some old Bo Bunny sticker embellishments that I wanted to use up, and they seemed to match the papers pretty well.

But the real reason I am posting these pages is to share with you a little tip. Many of you scrapbookers might already know this, but it's something that I always forget about, especially when it comes to two-page layouts. But this little tip is so easy and can really help you out when scrapbooking.

Do you notice anything similar between the first page above and the second page below?

It may not look it, but they are based on the same sketch!! I love going to my Scrapbook/Cards Pinterest board for inspiration, but most of what I have pinned are one-page sketches or layouts. But if you use that sketch for your first page and then rotate it for your second page, you have two coordinating pages without making them identical.
If you knew this tip, how often do you use it? Any other advice for scrapbooking two-page layouts? Please share in the comments!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - January 27

It's the last week of January! Hoorah! This month is almost over, and then we can start February and start getting the heck out of winter. I like it. I like it a lot.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: Popeye Turkey Burgers

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: Chicken Picatta Pasta

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Loaded Baked Potato Skins

Saturday: Barbecued Beans and Chicken Joes

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Risotto Pie

I'm still finding things to make out of the new cookbook, Gluten, Wheat & Dairy Free, we received for Christmas. This week's latest: Risotto Pie. It's baked arborio rice with spinach, cilantro, egg, gluten-free vegetable broth, and parmesan cheese. You're supposed to add chives, but I left those out. I really liked this as a light dinner meal, but it would also make a great lunch. I had leftovers for lunch, and it was just perfect. Sort of reminds me of quiche, but not really. I can't repost the recipe here, but I did corral some links to similar recipes if you're interested in checking it out.

1. Baked Risotto Pie - This one is from Giada de Laurentiis and includes frozen peas and prosciutto. (I might consider the prosciutto the next time I make this.) This one seems to have a longer cooking time than the one I made, though.

2. Risotto Pie - This one, from The Lovely Pantry, is actually adapted from the recipe in my cookbook. How about that? It adds corn and mushrooms, but everything else seems to be the same. (Instead of coconut milk, I just used almond milk.)

3. Lemon Asparagus Risotto Pie - Someone posted this one, which adds asparagus and celery, on I bet that gives it a nice crunch.

4. Sartu - Risotto Pie - And if you really want to go all fancy, try this recipe from I Want to Cook That. There's beef in there, among other yummy things. I think if I made this version, my husband would like it more.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dos & Don'ts At 30

If you didn't already know, I turned 30 last month. Apparently, this time of life is called the "dirty thirties". I don't really know what that means, but I guess it's a good thing?

Everyone makes such a big deal about turning 30, usually a negative deal. But I didn't want that to be my mindset as I entered this milestone.

I happened to read something in one of the last issues of Glamour magazine I received before letting my subscription run out. (That magazine is NOT targeted to 30-somethings, at least not 30-somethings like me. I LOATHE that "Dear Jake" column.) It was actress Olivia Wilde's Dos and Don'ts of Turning 30.

There were more of them, but some didn't really pertain to me. (Don't get plastic surgery - uh, duh. Don't propose to the first guy you meet - already married!) So I just cut out the six that did speak to me and put them on this scrapbook layout.

I think some of the most important ones, for me, were "Don't feel pressured to pop out kids" and "Don't freak out about all the brilliant people who accomplished more than you by 30".

In regards to the first one, Ms. Olivia Wilde says, "I feel no stress to reproduce simply because of a fear of withering eggs...make sure you're where you want to be in life before picking neighborhoods based on school districts."

And in regards to the second one: "[W]hat you achieve is far less important than what kind of human being you are."

I think both of these things can be comprised in today's Facebook-obsessed world. When you see other people on Facebook having babies and doing all these amazing things (evidenced by Instagram-filtered hipster-ish photos), it's easy to get down on yourself that you aren't popping out babies (if that's what you want) and feeding poor people in impoverished countries.

But not everyone is on the same life path. Not everyone lives under the same circumstances or means. So you just gotta do what you gotta do (and what you wanna do) and embrace your own life instead of someone else's.

As Olivia (who is probably my new favorite actress/person) says: "Relax, be good to your body, and when the time is right, get busy."

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 2014

We are already well into 2014, and so I think it is safe to share this project that I made in the fall of last year. My sister-in-law sent me an email and asked if I would create something for the calendar on her deployed husband's ship. Each month, someone's family member creates a little picture square with pictures and other stuff on it, and that picture gets hung on the main calendar for all to see.
So I took January 2014 and decided to use past family pictures from the holidays: my brother-in-law's birthday, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.

And because it was for the new year, I threw a champagne glass and clock on there as embellishments to represent ringing in 2014. I also managed to get some sparkly flourishes on there, which I thought would be good for a guy because they were blue!
This is a fun idea, even if you're not sending it overseas to a deployed serviceperson. Scrapping calendars makes a nice gift for someone who will enjoy looking at favorite pictures throughout the year.

Have any of you ever made your own calendars before?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Mad, Wicked Folly - Book Review

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Sharon Biggs Waller's A Mad, Wicked Folly is a YA novel, but it doesn't read like one. It's just as easy to include on an adult's fiction shelf as on a teen's shelf. (The book is actually age-graded for 12 and up, and I'd say that seems about right.)

It's also a book that fans of Downton Abbey will find intriguing!

The title of the book is taken from a quote by Queen Victoria calling the women's suffrage movement "a mad, wicked folly". So you can guess what one of the main themes is in this book.

Set in England 1909, the novel follows Victoria Darling, a 17-year-old who loves painting and only wants to attend the Royal College of Art. The trouble is, she's a girl and that's just not what women of her social class do! Victoria's parents refuse to allow their daughter to dream of anything else but marriage and motherhood, and headstrong Victoria doesn't make things especially easy for herself.

After a minor scandal, Victoria finds herself forced into an engagement with Edmund Carrick-Humphrey, who also endured a minor scandal and so, therefore, is unable to hold Victoria's scandal against her. Victoria thinks marrying will free her of her parents' reign and that Edmund will be the kind of husband who will let her attend college.

But she can't seem to shake the feeling she gets when she's around Police Constable Will Fletcher, whom Victoria befriends after they "meet cute" at a woman's suffrage demonstration. Will, a closet writer, believes in Victoria's talent as an artist, but even though Victoria knows Will is who she really loves, she also knows that she can't become an artist on a police constable's salary. And being a woman, she's unable to take a job, so she still needs her father's and her soon-to-be-husband's money.

As Victoria becomes more and more involved (albeit secretly) in the suffragette movement, she must come to terms with what and who she wants, reconciling it with what tradition and society want for her.

A Mad, Wicked Folly is published by Viking Juvenile and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My 7th Toy Year

Alright, you guys. I've been SUPER busy scrapping, and it feels so good! I made this two-pager using a bunch of Sassafras papers and random embellishments from my stash.

These are all pictures of me doing work things this year. I've been at my job for seven years, and this year I've really gotten to do more than just sit at my desk. I've traveled, been on camera, ridden an electronic scooter down the sidewalk, danced with The Wiggles, and worn a tattoo mustache.

So I saved all the pictures of me doing random things at work and printed them out in wallet or Instagram size so that I could make a scrapbook collage.

I don't know what 2014 has in store for me, but hopefully I'll have more fun pictures to put together in a 2014 roundup by the end of the year.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Flying - Butterfly Scrapbook Pages

I haven't been doing much scrapbooking lately. I've really been taking it slow. Do you ever get into a creative slump or just not find enough free time to really sit, create, and enjoy? The only time I really have to scrap is on the weekends, and the past few weekends have just been really busy. There is just way too much to do!!
But I did find time to get pictures from our trip to the Mackinac Island Butterfly House scrapped. I did one one-pager and one two-pager. First up, pictures of my mom's new best friend.

I wanted to use some blues on that page in order to complement the bright blue of the butterfly's wings. It was so pretty! We were so glad that it did land on my mom's shoulder otherwise we might not have been able to see it with its wings open.

Next up, the two-pager. These are just pictures of the other butterflies and the inside of the Butterfly House. You guys have actually seen some of these pictures in my review of the Butterfly House.


I figured the butterfly patterned paper would be a good fit, and then I used my Spellbinders Grand Calibur to cut out butterflies in other patterns. I also used my border punch to make those lovely scallops along the floral paper.

Hopefully I'll have more pages to share with you soon!! Thanks for looking!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - January 20

Here we go. Another week. And it's supposed to be a super cold one. I'll be really glad when this month is finally over. I'm not really feeling 2014 so far.

Anywho, here is what we're eating:

Sunday: chicken alfredo

Monday: salmon fish sticks

Tuesday: grilled swordfish and green beans

Wednesday: gluten-free chicken fingers and fries

Thursday: One Pot Cheesy Grilled Chicken and Pasta

Friday: on our own

Saturday: Shepherd's Pie

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The One Where I Go All Cake Boss

Yes, that's right. I turned 30.

And I can't believe it has taken me almost a month to post pictures about how I made my 30th birthday cake!!

What you see to the left is the finished product. I used some of the Cake Boss tools I received when I attended the flash decorating session with the Cake Boss last month. The cake is actually on a turntable that turns if you want it to while you decorate, but it also locks if you don't want it to turn.

Here's how I did it: two boxes of Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix. I made two circular cakes.

After letting the cakes cool, I took one cake and cut it a little so that both top and bottom were flat. Then I placed it on the turning cake stand and covered the top of it in chocolate frosting (also Betty Crocker and also gluten-free). Then I took the other cake and placed it on top of the second one and covered the entire thing in chocolate frosting.

I then used some Betty Crocker blue icing (came in its own bag) to write on my cake. Then I used a pastry bag and special tip to create little rosettes out of white frosting. The picture to the right shows what the cake looked like when we cut into it. Two layers of yumminess!

The white frosting was whipped, and I don't think it was the best frosting to use to make rosettes. But I didn't know that when I bought the frosting. Next time I'll just buy regular vanilla frosting.

Or I could make my own frosting and icing.

Yeah, right.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Gluten-Free Products

We've recently found some really good gluten-free products made by food manufacturers that normally make gluten-filled food. Take the Rice Thins from Nabisco above. Our in-laws introduced us to these, and they are so good!! You can find them in the regular cracker aisle and in a variety of flavors.

You can imagine our surprise when we saw that Ronzoni is now making gluten-free pasta (see picture above). And it's good!

Barilla also makes gluten-free pasta now. On the side of the box, it clearly states that this pasta was made in a dedicated gluten-free facility, so there is no chance of cross-contamination with Barilla's regular pasta. This pasta is also really good, and I've been finding coupons for it, too!

In other not-so-good gluten-free pasta news, Target has a new brand called Simply Balanced. We tried it out, but it was AWFUL. Do not buy Simply Balanced gluten-free pasta! There are so many other good gluten-free pasta varieties out there. Simply Balanced was just DISGUSTING. (The Simply Balanced brand also has regular pasta, but we did not try that, obviously, and I can't say if the regular pasta is any better.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Flowers in the Attic on Lifetime TOMORROW

I had never read the book Flowers in the Attic. The book was first published before I was born, and then it wasn't until many, many years later that I first heard people talking about it and how weird it was. Needless to say, that didn't really sell me on reading it.

But then I was offered the opportunity to read/review the new mass market paperback version that ties in to the upcoming Lifetime movie based on the book. So I thought, Sure, why not? Let's see what this is all about.

Well, it certainly wasn't as pornographic as I had expected based on what I'd heard other people say about the book.

It is, however, actually kind of sad and crazy. Everything seems to be hunky-dory for Cathy, Chris, Cory, and Carrie until their father dies in a car accident. Hard-pressed for money, their mother decides to move back in with her very rich parents. The only problem is that a) the grandparents wrote their daughter out of their will because of something she did way back when and b) the grandfather doesn't know that his daughter has children.

As told by Cathy, the story details the children's lives spent hiding away in their grandparents' attic so that the grandfather doesn't know they exist. Their mother keeps telling them that she's going to win her father's affection again and inherit his money, and then when he dies (he's very sickly), the children will be released from the attic.

But that's not what happens.

And yes, brother and sister Chris and Cathy have sex once. But it's not romantic or heavily detailed. It basically happens out of frustration at being teenagers cooped up alone in one room for three years and not understanding how to cope with their hormones and not being able to see any other teenager along with being physically and mentally abused by the only adults in their lives.

The whole thing is just crazy! And I liked the book more than I thought I would.

If you want to see the book in action, check out the Flowers in the Attic movie on Lifetime tomorrow, January 18 at 8 p.m. ET. The movie stars Heather Graham as the mother, Ellen Burstyn as the grandmother, and Kiernan Shipka (Sally from Mad Men) as Cathy along with Dylan Bruce, Mason Dye, Chad Willett, Ava Telek, and Maxwell Kovach. You can watch the trailer here:

Flowers in the Attic is published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. It is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Picking a New Simple Skincare Winner!!

Alright, you guys. I had to pick a new winner for the Simple Skincare giveaway because the original winner did not respond to my attempts at contacting her.

So the new lucky winner, courtesy of, is:

I need to control breakouts.


Thanks for entering, Melody! I'll be in touch with you soon, so that I can get your mailing address and get your prize sent off to you ASAP! Please note, that if you do not respond by January 26, I'll have to pick yet another winner. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly

Seriously, you guys. It's a work night. You don't have time to cook something awesome, but you don't want to just eat the same old thing.

What about taking the same old thing and making it something new?

The other night we made Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly. There is no recipe to follow. You make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like normal and then whip out a George Foreman grill or a panini press or even just a skillet and grill the sandwiches like you would with grilled cheese sandwiches.

The jelly and peanut butter get ooey and gooey and warm. It's a much nicer way to have pb&j during the winter because the sandwiches are nice and warm in your hands.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Foreign Gods, Inc. - Book Review

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In Okey Ndibe's Foreign Gods, Inc., Ikechukwu Uzondu ("Ike" for short) is a Nigerian living in America. Ike hatches a plan involving his native village's god of war statue that stands to make him a lot of money. But carrying out his plan proves harder than he initially thought.

The god of war, Ngene, hasn't overseen a war in Ike's village for a long time, but with Ike's return, there seem to be many wars brewing. Wars between Ike's mother and uncle. Between Christians and those who believe in the ancient deities. Between Ike and his mother and sister.

But can Ngene help Ike win any of these battles, including the most important one: trying to succeed in America?

This was a well-written book about one man's struggle to become someone in America. Ike left Nigeria to attend an American college, but his degree doesn't get him any high-paying positions. His accent puts people off. So instead, Ike drives a taxi around New York City and can barely make ends meet. He's under a lot of pressure from his family back in Nigeria, his ex-wife in New York, and bill collectors. Turning to Ngene is Ike's last option.

The book is written in both English and pidgin dialect. The pidgin can be difficult to understand if you're not familiar with it, but I like that the author wrote some of the dialogue in pidgin to give those scenes a more realistic feel.

Foreign Gods, Inc. is published by Soho Press and is available to purchase today. I received a free Advance Review Copy at Book Expo America last year for my honest review.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - January 13

Sunday: Risotto Pie

Monday: Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps

Tuesday: Bacon and Pea Macaroni & Cheese

Wednesday: Parmesan Broiled Tilapia

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: on our own

Saturday: Salmon Fish Sticks

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thank You, Cowboy

You're probably wondering where the heck all the scrappy stuff is, right?

Well, here's a little thank you card I made a few weeks ago. I liked it so much that I took a picture of it before sending it off to my cowboy uncle.

I've had these October Afternoon papers and embellishments in my stash for awhile, and honestly, my uncle is the only person for whom I can use them!! I don't do much horseback-riding or lassoing out here in New Jersey.

Did you make your own thank you cards to send out after the holidays this year? I did. I had a marathon card-making day, but I got them all done.

And then I made extras so that next year I'll be prepared and not rushed to finish a bunch of cards! Good planning!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mushroom Pasta

We received a new gluten-free cookbook for Christmas (Gluten, Wheat, & Dairy Free) and made one of the recipes from it this week. It's a perfect Meatless Monday recipe if you're family participates in that.

Actually, this recipe reminds me of one that we already make a lot, but instead of ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese, this recipe for Mushroom Pasta calls for cream cheese. I added the parmesan cheese on top myself.

Then, of course, there's the mushrooms!

I can't repost the recipe here, but I'll bet you can figure it out. Or just check out the Gluten, Wheat, & Dairy Free cookbook for yourself!

What are some of your favorite Meatless Monday recipes? Please share them in the comments!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Baked Parmesan Fish

I wanted to make fish for dinner one night because cod was on sale, but I honestly was drawing a blank as to how to prepare it. I didn't want to go the traditional lemon and herb route (although that is tasty and easy), so I turned to my good friend Pinterest for help.

And I found this recipe for Baked Parmesan Fish.

It's super easy to put together, and it's easy to make gluten-free. Just use gluten-free all-purpose flour instead of regular flour.

Basically, the fish (you can use cod, tilapia, whatever you want) is coated in an egg and then a flour/parmesan mixture. (The original recipe calls for paprika, but I left that out because we are also trying to cut out spicy things due to our acid reflux. No, we are not THAT old.)

I flipped my fish halfway through the cooking time in an attempt to avoid the bottom flour/parm coating becoming mushy. Some people on the original recipe post recommended baking the fish on a baking rack with a baking dish underneath, which would also be easy to do.

I think next time I will try using a mixture of gluten-free bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese to see if that makes the fish coating a little crunchier when baked. The flour/parm mixture just wasn't exactly what I wanted.

It was still good, though. Yum, fish.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

52 Week Challenge

Have you guys heard about the 52 Week Challenge?

I read about it on Pinterest, and it totally piqued my interest.

Basically, every week you put money in a jar. $1 in week 1. $2 in week 2. $3 in week 3 and so on. By the end of 52 weeks (one year), you'll end up with $1,378!! And just think of all the things you could do with that kind of money. (Including buying a KitchenAid Mixer, which is what I'm saving up for, and I'm already getting close thanks to some birthday money!)

To house all my monies, I decided to revamp an extra mason jar by painting it with chalkboard paint.

Over the summer, I received a sample of Deco Art's Glass Chalkboard Paint, which can be used to paint a chalkboard surface on any glass item. It was pretty easy to use, although, I was surprised that you had to wait four days after painting your last coat and then bake the item in the oven. Baking it makes your item dishwasher-safe, so I guess that's a good step to do if you're planning on washing this. However, the back of the paint bottle says "Not for direct contact with food".

To paint my jar, I used my Spellbinders Grand Calibur to punch out a cool shape, and then I taped that template onto my jar. I used a sponge brush to sponge paint the chalkboard paint onto my jar. I did two coats of paint.

disregard the paintbrush - I used a sponge brush
One thing I would do differently next time is remove my paper template after I'm done painting. Some of the paper stuck to the chalkboard paint, and it was a pain trying to remove the paper scraps before baking the jar. I didn't want to set my oven on fire!

Honestly, I think this would have worked better if my jar had been a completely smooth surface. Maybe I should have picked a smaller shape and placed it closer to the top of the jar where the area is smoother. Oh well.

Are you guys doing the 52 Week Challenge this year? If you haven't started yet, you still can! There's no set start date. Just start whenever you want, and then 52 weeks later, you'll have monies!!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Redbox Instant - Review

For the past month, I was able to try out a free month-long trial of Redbox Instant by Verizon as part of a BzzAgent BzzCampaign. I had fun using Redbox Instant, and I'm going to tell you why.

You may already be familiar with Redbox. You go to a Redbox kiosk, pick a movie to rent for around $1, rent it, watch it, and return it to any Redbox kiosk. Super easy and convenient, right?

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Well, what if you could also access and watch Redbox movies online whenever you wanted? With Redbox Instant by Verizon you can!

An $8-a-month subscription gets you four DVD credits to use at more than 35,000 Redbox kiosks nationwide as well as unlimited online movie streaming. You don't have to be a Verizon customer to use Redbox Instant, but you do need high-speed internet to access the streaming.

And if you use the online streaming, you don't have to watch your movie on a computer. Redbox Instant works with most internet-connected devices, such as Roku, smartphones, tablets, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and select Samsung and LG smart TVs and Blu-Ray players.

I already knew from past experience that renting Redbox movies from the kiosk was easy, and my experience this time using the four DVD credits was no exception. I just logged into my Redbox Instant account online, browsed the kiosk I wanted, reserved the movie, and then picked up the movie. When we were done watching the movie, we just returned the movie to any Redbox kiosk and received a "return receipt" email from Redbox by the time we got home.

The online streaming was a new experience for me, and it was very easy to use, too. I logged into my Redbox Instant account, searched for available movies to stream instantly, picked the movie, and pressed play. I only watched the movies on my computer. My husband had tried to use the online streaming through a different device but couldn't get it to work, for some reason. I had no problems accessing the streaming on my computer.

I was able to watch In Cold Blood (recommend), The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (should really buy that movie), and Pumpkin (Christina Ricci should never be a blonde). While I enjoyed the ease and convenience of having so many movies at my fingertips, the sound quality on these movies playing through my computer was not great. There were no buffering issues, which was nice, but the volume on the movie player was up all the way as was the volume on my computer, and I still had trouble hearing the sound. Not sure if that is an isolated incident or if other people are also having that problem. It obviously didn't make me too excited about wanting to continue using the online streaming, at least through my computer.

I also didn't feel that the subscription plan was that worth it for us. If each Redbox movie is about $1 and we'd pay $8 a month, I'd expect to watch about eight movies a month or more. But we don't really have time to watch eight or more movies a month, so it almost makes more monetary sense for us to rent Redbox movies whenever we have time. That's just something for you guys to consider if you're thinking of subscribing.

If you're interested in trying out Redbox Instant by Verizon, check out The free month-long trial is open to EVERYONE!

Happy movie-watching!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

And the BOOK winner is....

Thanks to all who entered my book giveaway! I used to choose the winner. And the winner is...

I think Gone Girl sounds really good. I have heard great things and read the first chapter now on Amazon and like it already.

Congrats, Lauren! Please email me at fightclubmolly (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address, so I can get the books out to you ASAP. *You have until January 21 to contact me or I will be forced to pick another winner.*

Happy reading!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - January 6

So, we're trying to make a more conscious effort to cut out red meat and focus on chicken and fish. We might even do (gasp) Meatless Mondays! Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: Baked Parmesan Fish and veggies

Monday: Mushroom Pasta

Tuesday: grilled chicken salad with cheddar cheese, bacon, and light dressing on the side

Wednesday: grilled pb&j sandwiches and chips

Thursday: Parmesan ricotta pasta

Friday: light chicken caesar salad kale wraps and carrots

Saturday: out

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The First Project of 2014

Take a good look at this picture. Because soon, it will no longer look like this.

This is a picture of our front entryway. It's got floral wallpaper and those five windows along the door that allow anyone to see inside our house.

I have big plans for this area, including removing the wallpaper, painting, and adding a small side table so we have a place to collect junk mail and keys.

You can't see the ugly light fixture on the ceiling, but it would also be cool to replace that.

Just like last year, I'm not making traditional resolutions. I'm only making a list of DIY projects for the house.

And the entryway is the first project of 2014. Woo!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Christmas Ornament Organization

By this time, your Christmas trees might be down and out on the curb. But if you're still putting away the holiday decorations, this organization tip might come in handy.

I saw it on Pinterest a few months ago courtesy of Moms' Party Cafe and knew immediately that I needed to get on it. It's an easier way to organize your Christmas ornaments instead of letting them rumble around your plastic containers.

Our ornaments used to be in individual boxes and bags and thrown haphazardly inside a large Rubbermaid container. Then it was always a chore to find the right box/bag for the ornament when putting them away. With this system, it doesn't matter if it's in the right box or not. And your ornaments aren't shifting inside the box. Plus, it's super easy to make!

All you need are Red Solo Cups (or the Target brand version, which is what I used), some flat cardboard, and a hot glue gun. For my cardboard, I used some of the large boxes that our Christmas gifts were shipped in this year. I had to fold and cut some of them to size, which would have been easier to do with a box cutter but I don't own a box cutter, so scissors it was. Then, I hot glued the cups to the cardboard. Once dry, I inserted one ornament inside each cup. If an ornament needed tissue paper or bubble wrap around it, I provided that. But no more random-sized boxes or wondering what ornament goes in what unmarked box. Now it doesn't matter!

I filled one large Rubbermaid container with three of these cup holders, and then I put two more inside a smaller Sterilite container. That pretty much covered our good ornaments. I have a whole other container filled with some of our childhood ornaments (think "baby's first Christmas") that we only put on the tree if we have room to fill (and we usually never do). Next year, when we get more ornaments, I'll have to rearrange and use another large Rubbermaid container, but for now, everything is organized and pretty.

It feels so nice.

Friday, January 3, 2014

And the winner is...

Sorry for the delay, guys, but with the holiday break, I just didn't get around to picking a winner for my Simple Skincare giveaway until now. Using, the randomly chosen winner is....

Commenter numero uno: Meredith L.!

I'll be in touch with you soon, Meredith, so I can get your mailing address and send your prize to you! Be on the lookout! If I don't hear back from you by January 15, I'll have to pick another winner.

For another chance to win something, check out my Book Lover's Giveaway, which goes until January 5 at midnight EST.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Buttermilk Blackberry Breakfast Cake

We love eating breakfast for dinner, so the other night, when I had extra eggs and bacon to use up, I decided to make breakfast for dinner. But we can't just have eggs and bacon. If we're going to do breakfast, then we have to do it right! Go big or go home!

I have a great gluten-free blueberry muffin recipe, but I wanted to do something different. In my December Hatchery box, I received a trial size of Meso Nutso's blackberry extract. When I looked online to get recipe ideas for it, one that caught my eye was Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake. Now, obviously, that is for blueberries and blueberry extract, but I just subbed in blackberries and the blackberry extract.

It was also easy to make gluten-free. Just use gluten-free all-purpose flour. My favorite brand is Bob's Red Mill, and it's only $3.99 at my local grocery store.

One other thing I changed about the recipe was the lemon zest. Instead, I just poured a capful of lemon juice into the mix.

Something else you guys could do to change it up is use coarse sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) to top the cake instead of regular sugar. Sugar in the Raw would add a more crystallized look to your finished cake and more of a crunch. I think I'll do that next time.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December Daily 2013

Instead of pictures from our fourth (and last) week of December, here are the last two pages of my finished December Daily album!

This page has pictures from Christmas Eve and Christmas morning!

And the next page is more pictures from Christmas Day, my 30th birthday, and our very crowded and disappointing visit to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

It feels good to have this done but into the Christmas storage bin it goes until next Christmas when I can go through the pages and remember our 2013 Christmas!