Friday, August 29, 2014

Gluten-Free London

We had a fabulous time in London AND we were able to eat gluten-free, unlike in Paris. Here is a list (with pictures!!) of some of the gluten-free food my husband ate and whether or not we would recommend these places.

1. Wahaca - If you like good Mexican food (yes, Mexican food in England), then you'll like Wahaca. The food was very good, especially the grilled corn with a chili-sugar-mayo spread on it and the chicken taquitos. My husband liked the chicken caesar salad tostadas the best. The service was good, too, with a very friendly and helpful waiter.

2. Pizza Express - We actually ate at Pizza Express twice during our stay in London. Yes, we enjoyed it! I had a chicken caesar salad when we ate there the first time for lunch, but then we both got pizza when we ate there again (at a different location, though) for dinner. It seems like these places are ALL OVER London, so you're sure to run across one while you're out sightseeing. It bills itself as a family friendly restaurant, so it's good for the kiddos.

3. Cotto - While I REALLY enjoyed my regular pasta formaggio, my husband was not wild about the gluten-free pasta offered at Cotto. He said it tasted like the pasta hadn't been cooked long enough. The service was also not very good. It took forever to get the check, and the two hostesses just stood around and chatted with each other. There was another couple sitting next to us who were ordering gluten-free, too, and they seemed like locals, so I guess they like the place.

4. Snog - We are kind of obsessed with fro-yo, and so for lunch one day, we hit up Snog. They have gluten-free cones and brownies! My husband didn't get a cone or brownie, though. He went, as he always does, for the healthy stuff like fruit. I piled my fro-yo with chocolate!

5. Honest Burgers - This was my husband's favorite place we ate in London! We are always down for a good burger, and the fries here were really good! Good service, too!

6. The Truscott Arms - If you're looking for a gluten-free pub experience, you can find it at The Truscott Arms. We went there during lunch, and it was pretty empty, but I bet it gets crowded when the after-work crowd swings in. I had the traditional fish and chips, but my husband got another gluten-free burger!

So as you can see, it's very easy to eat gluten-free while in London. I can add that to my list of MANY reasons why London is one of my all-time favorite international cities. 

Oh, and we also found gluten-free food at Tesco!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Circle of Stones - YA Book Review

image credit
Told by three narrators, each from a different time period, Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher combines myth and history to create a mysterious story.

Sulis lives in present-day Bath, England, and she's hiding from her past and from someone who keeps following her. Zac is an architect's apprentice in the 1700s, helping to build (or destroy?) what his master is trying to complete. And in ancient England, a druid king discovers the healing waters at Bath and sets up a new kingdom.

While it's interesting to see how each story is connected, I was a bit disappointed. I kept waiting for a big reveal, for something truly thrilling, for more of a connection between the three stories, but the book just didn't deliver. It does make me want to visit Bath, England, though, because the history of the place sounds intriguing.

This book is age-graded for 12+, and I'd say that's pretty appropriate. There are no bad words or teen sex or teen drug use, so that's always a positive in a YA novel!

Circle of Stones is published by Dial and is available to purchase today. I received a free review copy for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gluten-Free Paris

When we go on vacation, we always have to research gluten-free restaurants in advance so that we're never caught in a situation of "Well, now, where do we eat?" In 99% of the places we've visited, finding gluten-free restaurants has never been a problem. We've discovered some really cool and really yummy local places. And sometimes we just have to hit up a Red Robin, which is totally cool, too. 

We picnicked near the Eiffel Tower just like real
Parisians, except our picnic lunch was from Subway.
But eating gluten-free in Paris was ... a challenge. To start, there are only about three gluten-free restaurants in the entire city. And only one of those restaurants, Cafe Galette, was in an area where we were sightseeing. We were excited to try out its gluten-free buckwheat crepes. However, when we arrived at the restaurant, it was closed for vacation.

So.... yeah.

I'm not saying that if you have Celiac Disease you should never go to France. But you should just know what you're getting into. (And lack of gluten-free food is not the only thing. Think crowds, the constant smell of urine, pickpockets, and a terrible subway system. Not impressed.)

Jardin du Luxembourg: One of the only places we
enjoyed in Paris. Eat some sorbet while strolling through here.
We had thought about bringing in some of our own food, but we weren't sure what food would be allowed into Paris from out-of-country. (Turns out, we needn't have worried. When traveling to Paris by train, there is no customs when you get there, so I guess they just don't care.)

Thankfully, we weren't in Paris that long. Here are a few things that saved us: 

1. Subway - If you don't mind a bit of cross-contamination, you can always get a salad at Subway. There was a Subway by our hotel, and we finally came across a Subway on the day that Cafe Galette was closed.

2. Amorino - If you don't mind having gelato or sorbet as a meal, then I'd highly recommend Amorino. I had mango sorbet at the New York City location, and the raspberry sorbet in Paris was just as outstanding.

3. Chipotle - Yes, there was even a Chipotle within walking distance of our hotel at the Beaugrenelle Mall. However, it was closed due to an equipment malfunction, so that didn't really help us, but I'm sure it's open now that we're not there.

4. Marks & Spencer - As a last resort because the Chipotle was closed, we walked into the Marks & Spencer (or as the Brits call it "Marks & Sparks") on the same floor of the Beaugrenelle Mall and stumbled upon this sandwich. All the writing was in French, so we didn't understand much of it, but we did understand "sans gluten". WITHOUT GLUTEN!!!! 

It appeared to be some type of vegetarian, gluten-free sandwich. My husband bought it for dinner and actually liked it, so we went back to Marks & Spencer for dinner again the next night. 

When we went to Disneyland Paris, we knew in advance that the allergy-free meal you could order in the park was void of 16 potential allergens and therefore void of taste. This is NOT the experience you get eating gluten-free at Disneyland or Disney World, just so you know. So during our day at the park, my husband ate a salad at Planet Hollywood (bread is not listed as something that comes with the salad but it does, and it's on the same plate as the salad so ASK FOR NO BREAD) and ice cream for dinner.


And that was our gluten-free dining experience (and overall experience) in Paris. The first part of our trip was spent in London, and it could not have been more different! Thank goodness! Stay tuned to the blog for gluten-free London tips!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dad is Fat - Book Review

My husband and I are fans of Jim Gaffigan's stand-up, so I was excited to see that Gaffigan's book Dad is Fat was one of the options through the Blogging for Books program. If you've got kids or if you don't have kids but like to laugh, then you'll like this book. It's jam-packed with Gaffigan's humorous musings on parenthood.

Gaffigan and his wife have five kids, so they have a lot of hilarious material. Some of what's in the book I recognized from his stand-up specials. (Oh, he's talking about home births again?) But that didn't make it any less funny. In fact, I almost LOL'd but I was reading the book on the bus and in Starbucks and didn't want people to think I was weird, so I made them think I was weird by stifling the laughs from coming out my mouth and bull-breathing them out through my nose. (Don't lie. You've nose-laughed, too.)

There are two things I really liked about this book. 1. Pictures! 2. Gaffigan's endorsement of the children's book Go, Dog. Go! It's such a great book, right? A classic from my childhood!

You should definitely follow Gaffigan on Twitter (@JimGaffigan) because I'm sure there is even more funny to be found there. Not to put undue pressure on the guy or anything. I'm actually going to tweet this review at him, and I expect one of two things to happen. 1. He never reads it because he has better things to do with his time, like parent five kids, or 2. He reads this and thinks, "This woman is weird. I bet she goes to Disney without kids."

Yes, Jim Gaffigan. I do.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - August 25

We're finally back into the swing of things after vacation (which I'll be posting more about later this week), so Meal Plan Monday is back! Here's what we're eating:

Sunday: hot dogs, corn, side salad

Monday: chicken, bacon, cheese, and ranch salad

Tuesday: eggs, bacon, gluten-free waffles

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: gluten-free macaroni and cheese with hot dogs

Friday: burgers and fries

Saturday: on our own

What are you guys eating this week? Any plans for the holiday weekend? I'm doing a Color Run and super excited for it! More on that later!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Importance of Scrapbook Preparation

A few weekends ago, I attended a six-hour scrapbook crop through a local MeetUp group. I was a little nervous about going only because I usually have a hard time scrapbooking away from home. What if I need different sticker letters? What if I need an extra embellishment? What if I forget the adhesive? (That has happened to me before.)

So I decided to get my act together well in advance. I grabbed some empty 12 x 12 plastic bags, sorted through my pictures, and put together mini kits with all the stuff I could possibly think I'd need to get my pictures scrapped.

And because I was told that outlet space was limited, I brought one of my scrapbook sketchbooks so that I wouldn't have to rely on wasting the battery on my phone trying to access my Pinterest scrapbook board.

Did it work? Does finishing 10 scrapbook pages in six hours count as "yes"? YES. And here are just a few that I finished while at the crop.

our flat tire on vacation

first page of our visit to the
Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame Museum
at the county fair last year

The crop I went to actually went from 10 a.m. to midnight, but you had the option of only doing 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I think six hours was PLENTY of time for me. Not sure I could keep up the momentum through midnight. Besides, midnight is past my bedtime anyway. 

What about you? Have you ever been to a scrapbook crop? How long can you last?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Button Art

You may have seen this cool button art going around Pinterest. Did you also know it costs more than $100 to buy? Did you know you could easily make it yourself for far cheaper?

That's what I did! I broke out my glue gun, purchased a cheap frame from Walmart, and saved up random buttons that I collected from trade shows, media events, and elsewhere. If you don't have any buttons, you can get started now collecting them, or I'm sure you could find some to buy online. You might even have some saved up somewhere from when you were kids.

I decided to make a cursive "L" for my first and last name. Whichever you'd like. They start with the same letter. I drew the "L" with a pencil and then laid out where I wanted the buttons to go before gluing them down. (Preparation is key!) And then I glued 'em down!

Put it in the frame, hang it up, and let people admire your hand-made work of art. You could do a letter for yourself or for your child - this would be super cute in a little kid's room. Or you could do a fun shape or something more abstract. This is just a basic how-to. It's up to you to get creative!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Painted Horses - Book Review

In the late 1950s, women's only ambition was to become wives and mothers. But archeology student Catherine has other passions, namely ancient relics. She gets bit by the bug one summer in London when she winds up working on a dig at Londinium. From there, she leaves behind her cushy New Jersey home and New York fiance to work alone on a survey of a Montana canyon. If Catherine finds anything worth preserving, it could put a proposed dam project in jeopardy. Catherine thinks she's been hired because of her experience in London, but the reasons for hiring her, a woman, have nothing to do with past experience.

Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks is as much about Catherine as it is about they mysterious John H who lives in the canyon protecting the wild horses. The locals don't know much about him, except that he paints his horses, but he's made less mysterious to the reader through a series of flashbacks that explain how John H came to be in the Montana canyon.

Catherine and John H become very important to each other over the course of Catherine's stay, and they both discover more about the canyon, themselves, and the way the world works than they expected to.

I wasn't always clear on what Catherine was discovering, nor had I ever heard of Basque people before. But I still really enjoyed the story and the author's writing.

Painted Horses is published by Grove Press and is available to purchase now. I picked up a free advance review copy from Book Expo America with no obligation to review it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Discount Ticket to NJ Gluten-free & Allergen-free Expo

For those interested in attending the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Secaucus, NJ, on September 7-8, 2014, you can save 20% on your ticket by clicking on this link and entering the code EXPONJ20 at check-out.

You can find more information on this expo by reading my pre-expo blog post here!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Gluten-Free NJ: Via Roma

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were going to a concert in Atlantic City, NJ, and we needed a gluten-free place to stop for dinner. After some research, we settled on Via Roma in Tom's River, NJ, and boy was that a good decision!

Not only does this place have an extensive gluten-free menu, but it's also completed the Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training (GREAT) from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. So this place has truly taken steps to ensure that the gluten-free food they serve is in fact gluten-free!

My husband ordered the gluten-free chicken parm. He said it was very good. Via Roma also serves a variety of gluten-free desserts, but my husband did not sample any of them.

The Early Bird Dinner Specials at Via Roma are a great deal! You get an entree, bread, a soup or salad, a fountain beverage or coffee, and a dessert for $11.99. I got the (non-gluten-free) baked manicotti with a giant meatball and THE BEST CHOCOLATE CANNOLI EVER.

Via Roma is pretty casual and located in a strip mall with plenty of parking. You don't have to get dressed up to eat the food there, which was perfect for us. I think this will be a place we stop at often whenever we go down the shore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to Pack a Carry-On for Long Trips

I plan on packing all of this:

into this brand new carry-on:


It sounds crazy, I know. Usually, for trips longer than a week, I bring a regular suitcase. And you'd think that for international travel, a regular suitcase would be a no-brainer decision. But, we pack to the beat of our own drum and decided that checking luggage just doesn't work out for us this trip.

So, I'm taking my amazing packing skills and packing 9 days worth of clothing into a carry-on that says it can handle 3 to 5 days. Here are my tips:

Plan Your Outfits
This seems like a no-brainer, right? But I can't emphasize enough how important it is. I start thinking about what I'm wearing on vacation about a week in advance. (My husband makes fun of me for this.) I think about what we're doing on each day of our vacation and what clothing items would be appropriate for those activities. While I'll bring a different shirt for each day, I try to pick shirts that will go with as few pairs of pants or shorts (and shoes!) as possible.

For instance, on this vacation, I'm wearing a pair of bootcut jeans to the airport and packing a pair of skinny jeans, white skinny jeans, and gray shorts. Each bottom will be worn two to three days each on the trip. (The same goes for my bras, ladies.) If you're bringing a pair of pants that can only be worn once on your trip, I'd say rethink that outfit choice. That one pair of pants is going to take up space in your suitcase, and think of how many other things you could pack in its place!

Roll Your Clothes
all clothes rolled on 1 side of my carry-on;
the other side is still free for everything else!

I've been rolling my clothes in suitcases for forever! It really does give you extra space to work with. I don't know if rolling keeps your clothes from wrinkling or makes them wrinkly. I tend to not care too much about wrinkles. But if you do care and your clothes do end up wrinkly, just use the iron and ironing board in your hotel room! Or hang your clothes in the bathroom while you take a nice steamy shower. Problem solved.

Socks in Shoes
This one is so easy! In my case, I'm bringing two pairs of shoes on our trip. I'll be wearing one pair on the plane with the other pair in my carry-on. To save some space, I'm going to put my socks inside my packed pair of shoes. This not only saves space, but also helps keep your shoes from getting flattened in your suitcase. Oldest trick in the book!

Take Advantage of Your "Personal Item"
When traveling, you're allowed a carry-on and one "personal item". (The personal item is supposed to go under your seat, so please don't be THAT GUY who puts his carry-on and personal item in the overhead compartments. You, my friend, are annoying.) While most women probably just bring a purse as their personal item, I always bring a bookbag with my purse inside the bookbag. Why a bookbag? Because it has more room for packing more stuff!

My bookbag is where I pack things to read/do on the plane as well as stuff that I need to keep easy access to: medicine, purse/wallet, camera, quart bag of 3-ounce containers. I also like using my bookbag as the place to pack my toiletries because my toiletries bag is kind of bulky for the carry-on. In some cases, I also use my bookbag as the place for comb and hairbrushes and/or my flat-iron.

Think About What You Really Need
I never pack a hairdryer. Even the travel-sized ones are bulky, and they never work as well as regular hairdryers. So why take up space in my suitcase for something that hotels already provide? Same goes with shampoo and conditioner. I do make an exception for soap. I have sensitive skin and have been instructed by a dermatologist to only use Dove soap, so I always bring my own soap.

But What About Souvenirs?
Think really hard about souvenirs, especially ones you are buying for other people. While you might have room for a few T-shirts or small tchotchkes, let's steer clear of stuffed animals or anything that can't easily be rolled up, stuffed into an extra pocket, or stored in your bookbag. And when in doubt, ask yourself if this is something you'll really wear, use, display, etc. Sometimes pictures and memories are the best souvenirs.


Do you have any packing tips you'd like to share? Post them below in the comments!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

So, I have TONS of books on my to-read list, however, some of them have been on my list for so long, I'm kind of wondering if they are still worth it. In honor of this week's Top Ten Tuesday, here are the top 10 books I'm not sure I still want to read:

1. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green -  I'm STILL on the waiting list for this book at my library. I've heard good things about the book from people, however, I've also heard bad things. While there's no doubt that I will still read this book, I guess I'm just not as excited about it as before.

2. No One Left to Lie to - Christopher Hitchens - The topic of this book sounds interesting. It's got a subtitle of "The Values of the Worst Family" and it's about The Clintons. However, I've tried reading other Christopher Hitchens books, and I couldn't even make it through! Granted, the last one I attempted was a memoir, so maybe Hitchens is only annoying when talking about his annoying self??

3. The Wolf of Wall Street - Jordan Belfort - I put this book on my to-read list back in 2010 before the movie was even made! But after seeing the movie, do I really want to read the book and go through all that again?

4. 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By the Time She's 30 - Pamela Redmond Satran - Welp, I'm already 30 and soon to be 31. I guess I missed the boat on this book.

5. The Real Romney - Michael Kranish and Scott Helman - I added this to my list back when Romney was running for president. I like to read about the presidential contenders, but that presidential election happened awhile ago, and now I just really don't care about Mitt Romney.

6. Wheat Belly - William Davis - I wanted to read this book because my husband is on a gluten-free diet, and I thought, "Oo, here's a book about cutting out wheat and gluten." But I'm not sure the information presented in this book is really that great, which is why the book Gluten Freedom was written.

7. Oil - Jeff Nesbit - Someone recommended this book to me, but I don't really think that person knew my taste in books. I'll probably just remove this from my to-read list.

8. Kokoro - Soseki Natsume - I don't even remember putting this on my to-read list. WHAT IS THIS BOOK????

9. Blade Runner - Oscar Pistorious - Oh man. I've read so much about this guy already since his murder trial. I just don't feel like reading any more.

10. Jennifer's Way - Jennifer Esposito - I had a not-so-great experience trying to buy something at Jennifer Esposito's gluten-free bakery, so reading her book is no longer tops on my list. It will take me some time to get over it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

National S'mores Day!

It's another bonus Sunday blog post, and that's because today is National S'mores Day!

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know how much I love s'mores. Last year I wrote a blog post about throwing a s'mores party, and this year I wanted to add some fun s'mores recipes to that just in case you were considering throwing your own s'mores party.

(Note: These are not gluten-free. You could make them gluten-free if you really wanted to by using gluten-free graham crackers in both recipes and a gluten-free pizza dough for the second recipe.)

First up, I made these fun s'mores pops.

These are SO easy to make and perfect for a s'mores party. You'll need skewers (or fondue sticks, which is what I used), chocolate chips that have been melted in the microwave, crushed graham crackers, and big ole marshmallows. Stick the marshmallows on each skewer, dip them in the melted chocolate, and roll them in the graham crackers. THEN EAT!

Next up is a recipe from Pillsbury. The S'mores Pizza Roll-Up is super easy to make. It called for oats, but I left that out. Because of that, I probably should have made up for it with more crushed graham crackers. My roll-up needed more crunch. So, if you're going to make this, double the amount of melted butter and crushed graham crackers.

The rest of it was really good. Nice and soft with ooey and gooey marshhmallow creme inside and melted chocolate chips. So good!

What is your favorite way to eat s'mores? Do you go the traditional route or do you like to shake things up a bit? Share in the comments! And make sure you're following me on Pinterest to find even more s'mores party recipes.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Gluten-Free at Hersheypark and Dorney Park

gluten-free pizza at Hersheypark
People, even people with Celiac Disease, love going to amusement parks during the summer. But what do you do about food if you have Celiac Disease or a food allergy?

Most parks will stamp your hand for re-entry so that you can leave, go to your car, and picnic in the parking lot. Bringing your own food is always a safe bet.

But what if you just don't want to lose precious ride time walking all the way to your car and back?

For those of you riding roller coasters in Pennsylvania, you're in luck! Both Dorney Park and Hersheypark have gluten-free food!

I wasn't with my husband when he went to Dorney Park, but he said the gluten-free pizza was HUGE and really good. It did take 30 minutes for the pizza to be made, so plan accordingly. You can find the complete list of gluten-free food at this link.

I did go to Hersheypark with my husband, and we ate at one of the Famiglia pizza stands, which serves gluten-free personal-sized cheese pizza. Not as large as the Dorney pizza but still good, and it only took 15 minutes for the pizza to be made.

You can get more than pizza, though. The park map lists all the food stands that serve gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and kosher foods. The free Hersheypark app also lists what locations serve gluten-free food, and if you go to Hersheypark's website, you can look that information up there, too.

Hersheypark map listing dietary restrictions
That is helpful, but we wish that the menus at the food stands listed the gluten-free food information, too. Famiglia didn't list what KIND of gluten-free pizza you could order or that you could order gluten-free pizza at all, which kind of confused us for a second. I had to ask 1. if they did have gluten-free pizza (yes) and 2. what kind of pizza was it - personal (yes), by the slice (no), cheese (yes), pepperoni (no)? I'm not even sure how much it cost because that information wasn't provided either! Luckily, the employees were pretty knowledgeable about the gluten-free offerings, but having a posted g/f menu would have saved us some time.

Still, it's always nice to know that there are gluten-free options at places like this. But if all else fails, your $12 Hersheypark parking ticket is good for same-day parking re-entry, so you could always just drive down the street to Red Robin and have a burger on a gluten-free bun in air-conditioning.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

TBT - Afternoon Tea with Old Ladies

When I studied abroad, I met a girl named Danae, and one weekend we booked a bus tour to Stratford-upon-Avon and The Cotswolds. It was a lovely little trip (with a very tiny hotel room in Birmingham), and on the trip we met two nice old ladies who lived in the town where Danae and I were going to school.

Kay & Margaret were their names. You can see a picture of them in the scrapbook page below. (I was getting artsy with a roll of black-and-white film. FILM. Remember that? Yes, there were days when in order to make a picture black and white, you had to use special FILM.)

We sat with Kay and Margaret at dinner the first night on our trip and listened as they told us stories about Ormskirk, England back in the day. The school we were studying at used to be a teacher's college. (Seriously, the parallels between where I studied abroad and where I went to college in Missouri were uncanny.) During World War II, the American soldiers were "oversexed, over paid, and over here".

Kay had a husband, but Margaret was a widow, and so Danae and I struck up a correspondence with her after that weekend trip. Margaret invited us to her cottage for afternoon tea one day and served us my first and last glass of Sherry. I can't speak for Danae, but that was some nasty stuff! We were too polite to say "no" to an old lady. We would have eaten human brains if Margaret had served them.

afternoon tea with Margaret
We also joined Margaret, Kay, and Kay's husband for a delicious lamb dinner one evening at Margaret's cottage. They were so nice to us, and Danae and I really appreciated the hospitality.

I don't know what happened to the three of them. I had Margaret's address, but I don't think I ever wrote, and I really should have. By now, she's probably dead and her children (if she had any) inherited her cottage and have probably sold it. But one day, Danae and I should go back and see what became of Margaret and her home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

St. Louis and Michigan Scrapbook Pages

I've been scrapbooking a lot lately. A few Saturdays ago, I actually attended an all-day (six-hour) scrapbook crop, and I completed 10 pages, seven cards, and revamped my five-year journal. I was pretty proud of myself. 

Here are just a few pages I've done recently using pictures from my recent trip to St. Louis and our summer vacation last year to Michigan.

"Uniquely St. Louis" features pictures taken at Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis. This place sells hand-blown glass creations from local artisans, and the glass wares are really cool to look at. You can also rent the space for an event, and on the third Friday of each month, there is a big festival that is open to the public with food, music, and glass-blowing opportunities.

The next two pages use those Project Life-esque photo pages. First up, "Merry Christmas Early" is about our trip to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It's the world's largest Christmas store, selling ornaments and decorations. You can also order online.

"Es Ist Gut" is just a collage of other pictures taken around Frankenmuth. I took pictures of some of the signs around town that told about Frankenmuth's history.

Those photo pages make it easy to get some pages done, especially when I have lots of pictures. The bad thing is, you have to think about what pictures you're going to be scrapping AFTER. Will they work on the back of the photo page? Sometimes I just don't think that far ahead. I'm getting better, though.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I'd Give to People Who Have Never Read YA

The YA genre sometimes gets a bad rap. People think less of it because it's geared toward teenagers and therefore must be "less" than literature for adults. Or that it's all like Twilight.

I've been reading YA for quite some time now, and it's a book genre like any genre. Some books are really good and some are bad. If you haven't taken the leap into YA, I've compiled a list of 10 books you should read to get you started. (No Twilight!)

1. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
If you didn't have to go in the YA/juvenile section of the library to find it, you'd never know this was geared toward kids. It reads like a regular novel, and it's also a really great book that everyone should read.

2. The Other Way Around - Sashi Kaufman
This is a nice coming-of-age story perfect for teens and adults.

3. Returning to Shore - Corinne Demas
A YA novel with a female heroine who isn't obsessed with making a guy like her!

4. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
Probably more middle-grade than YA but still a good read. (The rest of the books in this series are not as good, and whatever you do, don't see the movie!)

5. Seeing Red - Kathryn Erskine
Another more middle-grade book but one that is really good with a good message.

6. Shine - Lauren Myracle
I loved this book! It should be required reading for everyone, regardless of age.

7. A Mad, Wicked Folly - Sharon Biggs Waller
Proof that YA novels aren't all set in the present-day. This period novel takes place at the start of women's suffrage.

8. Legend trilogy - Marie Lu
Looking for something to take the place of The Hunger Games in your library? Check out this cool trilogy about a boy and girl who unite to take down the Republic.

9. The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon
This book is epic. If you like books that draw you in for the long haul, then you'll want to check this out. The second book in the series comes out next year. Can't wait!

10. Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer
This is the first book in a four-part series that follows several families as they deal with what happens when the world ends.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Meal Plan Monday Ideas for You

You've been reading my Meal Plan Mondays, but I haven't really SHOWN you what we've been eating. So I'm taking the opportunity to do that right now, and maybe some of these meals will end up on your meal plan this week!

Cheesy Ground Beef Rice Casserole: I like to call this the "kitchen sink" meal. If you have a pretty well stocked pantry and freezer, then you'll be able to make this meal in no time! Rice, ground beef, frozen peas, shredded cheese, sour cream. My husband was TOTALLY into this meal.

Black Bean and Sausage Stew: Stew isn't really a summer meal, but it looked good and we had the ingredients needed to make it. It's sweet Italian sausage and black beans cooked in vegetable broth (make sure it's gluten-free) and seasoned. Top it with sour cream and avocado slices, and you're golden! You can also serve it with crusty gluten-free bread. We toasted up some Canyon Bakehouse bread.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatballs: I don't know if the cheese was supposed to squirt out of the meatballs during the cooking process, but it didn't matter much. These still tasted awesome, and there was still plenty of cheese inside each meatball. These are just a fun take on cheeseburgers. (I didn't add pickle juice, though, as was suggested...)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Book of Revelation - Book Review

The back cover of The Book of Revelation Made Clear by Tim LaHaye and Timothy E. Parker states that this is "a fun and fascinating way to learn about the book of Revelation". I don't know that I had much fun reading this book, but it does offer a basic understanding of just what the heck John is writing about in the last book of the New Testament.

The Book of Revelation Made Clear is divided into 22 chapters, one for each chapter of Revelation. Each chapter breaks down the verses into bite-size chunks and then gives an explanation of what those chunks mean. I found it kind of jarring to be continually interrupted in the middle of scripture and then jump back into it over and over again, especially because some of the scripture I didn't really think needed explaining.

Before each verse passage, there is also a three-question multiple choice quiz to see what you know or don't know about Revelation, and then the answers to those questions are reviewed after the explanation of the verses. The authors say they do this for maximum learning and retention potential. They write that readers may be able to review the quizzes months or years later and still know the answers. I looked at some of the quizzes again a few days after reading them, and I still got some of the answers wrong. But how important is it that I know how John described Jesus' hair? Isn't the more important thing that I understand the basic message of Revelation, that if I don't follow God now, I won't be saved and life is really going to suck on Earth for a long time.

Speaking of time, the authors of The Book of Revelation Made Clear seem very certain about specific time frames, and I wasn't sure where that info was coming from. In Revelation 8:9-11, for instance, John writes that a poison star/plant will fall into the rivers and springs and kill the men who drink the bitter water. Okay. But in the explanation, the authors say that this will happen over a period of three and a half years. Did I miss something? Where did that number come from?

As you can see, The Book of Revelation Made Clear didn't make everything clear to me. I still have questions, and this book was a little too basic for me. I really need, and expected this to be, something more in-depth with a more flowing reading style instead of a bunch of quizzes and jumps. This is more of a textbook or Bible study book than something you can actually sit down and read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Accident - Book Review

Chris Pavone's The Accident is a book about a controversial book that powerful people don't want published. Literary agent Isabel Reed receives a manuscript from an anonymous author that purports to be an unauthorized biography of media mogul Charlie Wolfe. The book exposes some of Wolfe's past misdeeds, including illegal activities with the CIA and murder. If the book gets published, it could ruin Charlie Wolfe's career.

Intrigued, Isabel passes the manuscript to her publishing friend Jeffrey Fielder, and soon copies of the manuscript are circulating throughout the publishing industry. And just as quickly, those people are being taken out by a rogue CIA agent who has just as much to lose by the book's publication as Charlie Wolfe.

There are a lot of characters in this book and a lot of locations. It was sometimes difficult to keep track of who was who and who was where. Because each chapter was character-specific, I wish that each chapter heading had included the character name and location.

Confusion aside, I was glad to be confused about how the story was coming together. I honestly didn't see how some things were connected until I was meant to, and it was nice to have those "Oh!" moments. The ending wasn't totally satisfying for me, but I really can't think of any other way it could have ended.

I received a free review copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions are my own.