Friday, February 28, 2014

Houses, Fireworks, & History



I recently finished several layouts for my summer vacation album. I was able to use up some scraps, and I even scraplifted myself on one!

This first layout is of our visit to the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City, Michigan. Admission was part of our three-park ticket: the lighthouse, Fort Mackinac, and Colonial Michillimackinac. It was a pretty quick tour but very interesting and right next to the water!


This next one is the one I scraplifted myself on. I thought the bright colors of the background paper would be good for pictures of fireworks. Every summer Saturday in St. Ignace, Michigan, the town puts on a fireworks show, and we were lucky enough to be able to watch it from our hotel. The only downside: it gets dark so late up there, so the show didn't start until 10:00 p.m.


And last but not least: a two-pager! These are pictures of different houses we saw on Mackinac Island. Many of them were historic and we got in as part of the admission price of our three-park ticket. Inside some of the houses were people in costume, and they were even making stuff like back in ye olde days.

We also visited a haunted house on the island, which we thought was going to be silly and fun with wax statues like in Madame Tussaud's (only poorly made). But it was actually pretty scary!! I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, especially if you have little kids. My mom and I were kind of freaking out in there. Thank goodness I had my LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader keychain light with me to light our way!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

TBT Thursday - Halloween Layout

I am sharing another old scrapbook layout with you in participation of Throwback Thursday. It's kind of fun to go back through my old scrapbooks and see just how much has changed!

I really like this layout from 2008, I think it was. I was able to get four pictures on the page, plus I used up some ribbon from my stash to create the background.

These are pictures from when I volunteered with a friend at the Central Park Zoo's Boo at the Zoo event. We made headbands with the kids, and for some reason, I was recruited to do face-painting. I recall one child asking me to do Spider-Man on his face, and I was like, "Yeah, I'm working from a pre-set list of things to paint, and I'm not even sure I can paint those, so...."

This is definitely a layout I need to scraplift more often! So easy and simple!

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My 7th Toy Fair


You probably want to know why I was traveling last week for work. I was at Toy Fair! 


I've shared some of these pictures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but if you didn't see them there, now you can see them all here. These are the moments that almost made the achey feet, knees, and hips worth it!


Day 1 started off pretty good. I "met" Emmett from The LEGO Movie at the LEGO booth.


I also grew a mustache. Or is it moustache? How do you spell it?


Then, I found some pretty cool things: an I Heart Crafting button from the Thames & Kosmos booth to advertise its new Geek & Co. crafting line AND cake in a mug that you make in the microwave.




Oh, and did I mention I met internet sensation Grumpy Cat? She slept through the photo shoot. Totally not impressed by Toy Fair, but what else would you expect from Grumpy Cat?

 That was the second day. On the third day, I met Snoopy at the Schleich booth and stood inside a bubble at the Uncle Bubble booth.





 And that evening, because I could barely walk anymore, a co-worker and I went and got pedicures.


 Now THAT'S the way to end Toy Fair!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Roving Party - Book Review

image credit
Maybe it was the fact that I was reading an uncorrected proof, but I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in The Roving Party. Here's what I do know:

1. It takes place in Australia.

2. A group of mainly white guys and at least one black guy are hunting the outback in search of aborigines. Some of the aborigines they take prisoner. Some they kill. I'm not really sure why they killed them because I think they were rounding them up to take them to a governor so they could get a ticket.

3. I have no idea what this ticket thing was all about.

4. One of the character's names is John Batman, and I just couldn't get past the fact that his name was Batman.

5. I am not familiar with Australia's history at all, aside from the part about it being a prisoner colony for England.

Because of all of this, I just didn't like the book. I didn't get it. It didn't grab my attention. It was oftentimes very violent. I don't think I was its target audience.

The Roving Party is published by Soho Press and is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy at Book Expo America last summer with no obligation to review the book.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - February 24

There was no Meal Plan Monday last week because I was traveling for work and wasn't home to eat dinner! But now things are back to normal, complete with 3-hour+ one-way commutes, and we're eating well this week. Here's what's on the menu:

Saturday: BLT Salad

Sunday: Red Beans and Rice

Monday: Tuna Sandwiches and Fries

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: tacos

Thursday: pasta

Friday: Gorton's Tilapia with Rice

Saturday: out

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rocket Summer Subway Art

This art project has been a long time coming! But I finally finished it the other weekend, and while it's not EXACTLY as I had it pictured in my head, I'm still happy with the end result mainly because I made it with my own two hands AND it features lyrics from one of my (new) favorite The Rocket Summer songs, "Circa '46".


I had these two "canvas" boards that I got in an art kit to review for work, and I knew I wanted to do something crafty with them. So I paired them with some acrylic paints that I also got in an separate art kit to review for work and created these two lyric boards. This is what they call "subway art" is it not? I think it is. If it's not, please correct me!!


Once I buy some more 3M strips for picture frames, I will hang these on the wall in my scrap room. A good reminder each time I look at it, don't you think?

If you want to hear the full song, you can watch this entertaining YouTube video that someone made that also includes all the lyrics to the song!



I don't know how this guy (Bryce Avary) does it, but when I listen to the majority of The Rocket Summer songs, I'm like, "Man, this guy totally gets it!! How does he know what I'm thinking?" If you liked this one, I would highly recommend that you check out other Rocket Summer songs.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Murray Hill East Suites Review

The massive snowstorm last week paired with the necessity of me being at work meant that I had to buy a hotel room for two nights so that I could remain in the city and be at work when I was supposed to. (This also accounts for the sporadic blog postings last week.) We found a good deal on Priceline for Murray Hill East Suites, and I was impressed with the hotel and thought I'd review it for you here!

If you're ever in New York and need a place to stay, Murray Hill East Suites is a good option, but there are a few things you need to know first.

1. The rooms are BIG. My room had a small dining table, a sofa, and an armchair in the "living area". I had plenty of space to move around, and I think this would be a great space for families.


You can see in the pictures above and below just how much space there was in this hotel room. The bedroom is around a little corner, and don't forget we haven't even gotten to the bathroom yet!


2. Another great feature, especially if you're staying in the city for an extended period of time or just want to have the option to not eat out for every meal, is the kitchenette! I didn't use it at all, but it was there just in case. The only problem: no fridge!! But there was a stove/oven, dishwasher, and sink. So...

 


3. The bathroom, though not super up-to-date, was very clean. And I always think a clean hotel bathroom is more important than its high-tech features. ALTHOUGH, if you are a lady who wants to blow-dry her hair, you'll need to bring your own travel hairdryer. The one in the bathroom looked like one of the first hairdryers ever invented. It BARELY gave out any hot hair. I would think that Murray Hill East Suites could at least upgrade that part of the bathroom!!


4. I also checked out the fitness center in the hotel's basement. It's only open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. so as not to bother the guests whose rooms are right next to it. I can understand that, but as someone who was going to work in the morning, a 7:30 a.m. start was not early enough for me to utilize the fitness center before work. I had no trouble using the fitness center in the evening, though. As you can see in this picture, NO ONE ELSE WAS THERE.


Aside from the fitness center times, the equipment range was really great. I loved using the weight machine. There were no wipes for wiping down the equipment after you were done using it, which I don't really like, but this isn't the first hotel gym that hasn't provided wipes. So, I'm just going to hope that somebody on the hotel staff is wiping off people's sweat throughout the day.

5. The location of the hotel is also pretty good. It's near Grand Central, Bryant Park, and a really delicious mac and cheese restaurant called S'Mac. Might I recommend the Alpine mac and cheese there?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I'm sharing another scrapbook layout from days of old. This is one that uses one of our engagement photos. I had to do very little on this layout. I saw someone else do something like this, and I just happened to have all the right elements to copy it. I love the large letters and the scalloped bottom. I put no journaling on this one. It's just simple, big, and bold all on its own. Thanks for looking!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sausage Alfredo

I have always been fond of Hillshire Farm Smoked Sausage. Growing up, my family used to make it with cheesy au gratin potatoes, and I remember that when cutting up the sausage, we'd always eat a slice or two.


I still do that when cooking with this sausage. Usually just the end pieces, though. They're not perfect slices! No one wants those in their food!

I can't take any credit for today's recipe. I never would have put smoked sausage and alfredo together.

But it totally works.

I saw this recipe for Sausage Alfredo in a magazine advertisement and knew immediately that I wanted to make it.

 
 
It's so easy to throw together on a weeknight. Gluten-free pasta, smoked sausage, frozen peas, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, a little bit of Cajun seasoning (not too much if you don't want it super spicy - or you could just leave that out). 

My husband went back for seconds. Success!

I couldn't eat seconds, though. This is a very rich and very filling meal! And it looks pretty in the skillet, too.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Real Simple Loaded Baked Potato Soup

We love a good baked potato soup, and I feel like we've been searching for a good recipe so we can enjoy this at home. Well, we finally found THE ONE.

Real Simple Loaded Baked Potato Soup.

It really is so good! It's got bacon, chives, and cheddar cheese on top. I added a dollop of sour cream on ours, too.

We left out the onion and garlic, though. Totally didn't need it.

And to make it gluten-free, just use gluten-free chicken broth. Everything else about this is naturally gluten-free!

I thought about what this might taste like if you took an immersion blender and really blended/mashed up the potatoes in the soup, but after eating it, I don't think that step is necessary. The potatoes are so soft and tender that they kind of mash on their own as you stir all your fixins in your bowl.

You have to make this! It's a great Sunday night dinner!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Simple Scrapbook Layouts

I created some very simple, very quick layouts recently, and I thought I would share them with you. First up, is "Dog Day".
 
This layout uses up some of the random patterned papers in my stash as well as orange Scotch tape. You heard me right! Scotch makes tape called Scotch Expressions, and you can get it in all types of patterns and colors. It's not washi tape because it literally is Scotch tape but in colors, but it makes a really nice accent to scrapbook papers.
 
 
This is a picture of me and The New York Mom at a Puppy Bowl Event at the end of January. We got to meet Mo, the mascot of Mohawk Carpet, which created the "football field" carpet for the puppies to play on.
 
Next up is "Always Up for It". I saw this quote in Oprah magazine and thought it kind of suited me and this picture of me high-fiving a stuffed bear. The quote is: "When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap." - Cynthia Heimel


 
I got to use up some of my scrap stash on this one, too! Go me! I'm saving this layout for my Book of Me. 

And, last but not least, is "Neighborhood Watch". My mom and I saw these two little doggies watching everybody from their porch perch on Mackinac Island, and it was just so cute! Their little heads just kept moving back and forth in unison. I had to take a picture.


 
And did I use up more stuff from my stash? Why, yes I did!
 
Thanks for looking!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Scrapbook Layouts I LOVE


Happy Valentine's Day!

On this day of love, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite scrapbook layouts that I've ever done. Consider it Throwback Thursday but on Friday!


First up, "Camera Shy". These three pictures are attempts at getting a picture of my husband. He HATES having his picture taken. I just like the simplicity of this layout and how I arranged the three pictures going straight down the center. I also miss those Scenic Route papers.



Next up, "People in Costume". This was a great way for me to get multiple pictures on a page. I also like how I used different letters to create the title.

Then we've got "Spring GG 08". Yep, this is a layout from all the way back in 2008. What I love about this layout is not necessarily the paper choice (I'd owned that paper since buying it at Walmart in college, and this was before Walmart got really good about scrapbook stuff) but the layout itself and how I added in the fun Facebook conversation about the pictures. This one brings back good memories. That was also my first trip to Five Guys!



And last but not least, "Good Friends". Again, this layout is super simple, and I just love how easy it was to put together. I used this sketch on a few other layouts, too. I also love the use of space and how you've got a little bit on the top left side of the page and it balances out with stuff on the bottom right.


I'd love to see some of your favorite layouts! Link up in the comments!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Schick Hydro Silk Razor - Review & Giveaway

Ladies, can we just be honest? Shaving our legs and armpits is kind of annoying. It's time-consuming. Good razors can be expensive. But we do it anyway.

A few years ago, I got the chance to review a Venus razor, which I've been using exclusively ever since. I know the cartridge refills are expensive, but I try to wait until Target puts them on sale and/or I have a coupon before buying more.


Because of the expense, I'm always open to other razors that might offer the same benefits as the Venus razor but at a discounted price. So when I received an invite from BzzAgent to review the new Schick Hydro Silk Razor for free, I decided to give this razor a chance and see how it compared to my beloved Venus.

The Schick Hydro Silk Razor is made for sensitive skin. It has hypoallergenic moisturizing serum infused with shea butter, five curve-sensing blades, and skin guards. One razor comes with two blade cartridges, and then you buy more cartridges separately. Sounds good, right?

My first time using the Schick Hydro Silk was not a good experience. I nicked myself SEVERAL times! And that NEVER happens with my Venus razor. Seriously, I haven't nicked myself in YEARS since using the Venus razor.

But I continued to give the Schick Hydro Silk a shot. After dulling the blade a bit by shaving my armpits over the course of a week or two, I went back to shaving my legs with the razor and didn't nick myself at all.

I also used the coupon I received for a free can of Skintimate SkinTherapy shaving gel to see if that would make a difference when used with the Schick Hydro Silk Razor. Full disclosure: I used Skintimate shaving gel a loooooong time ago and had to stop using it because it really irritated my skin. But the stuff I got this time was for sensitive skin, so I had high hopes that it wouldn't leave me with little red bumps all over my legs.

Well, I didn't have red bumps all over my legs. But I did get another nick on my knee. It takes quite a lot of shaving gel to get a good lather going, and for something that is designed for sensitive skin, I wish it didn't contain fragrance as fragrance is something that can bother sensitive skin.

All in all, I'm not completely sold on Schick Hydro Silk Razor. I think I'll stick to my trusty Venus razor, BUT if you want to give this new razor a chance for yourself, I've got coupons to give away! I'll randomly pick two lucky commenters as winners, and you have from now until February 22 to enter by leaving a comment below. *Please make sure to leave me your email address or have a Google+ account so that I can easily contact you if you win. If I have no way of contacting you, you will be disqualified.* Good luck!

This giveaway is only open to residents of the contiguous 48 states - no Hawaii, Alaska, or international entries. Sorry!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fort Mackinac - Historical Adventure on Mackinac Island


One of the things we did on our trip to Mackinac Island was visit Fort Mackinac. This was a pretty cool place and well worth the hike up the incredibly steep hill. (You can also get there by horse-drawn taxi carriage.)
 
Here is one page I scrapbooked about our visit there:
 



The fort was founded during the American Revolution. It was originally Fort Michilimackinac, which I'll post about later, in Mackinaw City, but it was moved (yes, moved!) to Mackinac Island in 1780 because the British thought it was too vulnerable to American attack in its original spot. That didn't stop Americans from taking over in 1796. But then the British took it back in 1812. And then the Americans attempted but failed to take it back in 1814. Still, after the War of 1812, it was given back to the Americans, and it remained an active fort until 1895.

I haven't gotten the rest of the pictures scrapped, but here they are in high-resolution for you. This guy will greet you as you walk up to the main entrance.

 
 
And here is the Avenue of Flags. 

 
 
There are several buildings on the grounds of the fort that you can walk into, explore, and learn about military life back in the day. The stone ramparts, the south sally port, and the Officer's Stone Quarters are part of the original fort from 225 years ago. The other buildings date from the late 1790s to 1885. The buildings have been restored to how they looked during the fort's final year of occupation.
 
Check out The Black Hole. This is where soldiers were sent if they misbehaved. 


Yep. A hole in the ground.

The best part of Fort Mackinac was the demonstration schedule. We got to see how the soldiers would have marched, a mock court martial, dancing and music, and a rifle shooting demonstration. All of the "actors" were very well-spoken, knowledgeable, and seemed really into their jobs. My mom and I actually got to participate in the marching demonstration.

 
 
If you visit Mackinac Island, a visit to Fort Mackinac is definitely worth it. When we went, they had a three-park admission ticket, which got you into Fort Mackinac as well as two other parks of your choice. (We did a lighthouse and Colonial Michilimackinac.) Your admission ticket also gets you into several historical buildings on Mackinac Island for free. More about those later!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Project Life for Non-Project Life Stuff

I have several of these Project Life page protectors in my stash, and my mom gave me a whole bunch more, and I finally said, "I'm going to use these!" I always make an attempt to use these, but then I find some reason not to. I always like the look of the pictures on one side, but then I realize that I've got to use the other side...
 
But this time, I planned it all out.

I really like the look of layers and embellishments, so I tried to create some dimension on this page by using chipboard letters and stacking patterned paper and adding embellishments on top of the photos. (These pictures were taken in Mackinac Island by the "Is It You?" tree, which was in the movie Somewhere in Time.)

 
 
For the back side of this one, I used pictures from our boat tour underneath the Mackinac Bridge. I added fewer embellishments on this one, but I also had more pictures to use.

 
 
 
And then I used another Project Life-style page protector for pictures of my mom and me riding bikes on Mackinac Island. (I think I've already told you about that experience.) I really liked the small rectangles in the middle of this page. And again, I added embellishments on top of the photos.


 
 
 
Do you guys use these types of pages for everyday scrapbooking or for Project Life only? I've never done Project Life, and I probably never will. I can barely keep on top of my regular scrapbooking!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - February 10

Well, we've moved into the second week of February. I'm really hoping we'll start moving into springtime soon. I just can't handle any more snow. (And neither can my dwindling vacation day count.)

Here's what we're eating during this still-cold week:

Sunday: Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Cheddar & Chives*

Monday: Sausage Alfredo*

Tuesday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: Red Beans & Rice

Friday: Valentine's Day take-out dinner

Saturday: on our own

*new recipe

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Ragamuffin Bible - Book Review

I have been wanting to read something by Brennan Manning for a long time, but my library doesn't carry any of his books. So when I saw that his Ragamuffin Bible was available for review through BookSneeze, I jumped at the chance to review a free copy.

This NIV Bible offers a collection of Manning's grace-filled devotions, meditations, and reflections. So not only are you getting the complete Bible, you're also getting 104 devotions, 250 reflections, and 150 quotes, that offer insight into God's kingdom and guide you into a deeper connection with God and His word.

I love Bibles that take you one step further, and I really enjoy reading Manning's extras. Take, for instance, this gem that I came across while reading through Psalms:

"We do not perceive that we betray a basic lack of respect for the humanity of those with whom we deal, and this lack of respect is the essential problem with the use of authority in the church and in the home."

You probably already have a Bible or two on your bookshelf, but if you're constantly looking to further your relationship with God and/or gain new insight as you read/re-read the Bible, I would highly recommend the Ragamuffin Bible.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fiber One Meal Bars - Review + GIVEAWAY

A few years ago, I was told that eating more fiber could help with my hemorrhoids. TMI? Sorry, but it's true. I immediately went out and bought Fiber One cereal, muffins, and snack bars to help me out. I was surprised at how delicious everything tasted!

So when I was invited to join a BzzAgent campaign to receive free samples of Fiber One's new Meal Bars, I didn't hesitate to sign up. I knew these Meal Bars would probably be awesome!



And they were! These are available in three flavors: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Strawberry Greek Yogurt, and Dark Chocolate Almond. I got to taste the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Strawberry Greek Yogurt. Because I'm a big fan of chocolate, obviously the Chocolate Peanut Butter was my favorite. But the Strawberry Greek Yogurt is also very good.

Each bar contains 10 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, and 40-60% less sugar than Special K Meal Bars. You can find these bars in the nutrition or pharmacy aisle near other wellness bars and weight management products. Each box of five bars retails for about $5.49.

I think these bars are great, especially for someone like me who often doesn't have time in the morning for a good breakfast that will keep me full from 5:30 a.m. to noon. One of these meal replacement bars really does the trick. If you're on the go a lot but don't want to rely on fast food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, then Fiber One Meal Bars are a great idea. If you're also concerned with weight management, these bars deliver a mini meal with all the nutrition you need.

Nowhere does it say how often you have to use these as meal replacements. When I did the Special K diet a few years ago, you substituted at least one meal with a meal bar. I guess you could do breakfast and lunch with the meal bars and then eat a regular dinner, but you could also probably just tailor it to whatever works best for you.

If you want to check out Fiber One Meal Bars, I've got some $1 off coupons to give away! Two winners will each receive two coupons. To win, leave me a comment telling me what flavor of Fiber One Meal Bar you want to try. Also include an email address, so I have a way of contacting you! This giveaway ends on February 14, 2014.

*This giveaway is open to residents of the contiguous U.S. only - no Hawaii, Alaska, or international entries.

**If you do not leave me an email or have a Google + account so that I can easily contact you, your comment will not be eligible to win.



Friday, February 7, 2014

Rocky Road Oatmeal

Ever since checking out Rocco DiSpirito's Now Eat This! Diet Cookbook from the library, I have been wanting to make his Rocky Road Oatmeal for breakfast. It combines some of my favorite things: nuts, oatmeal, marshmallows, and chocolate.

Seriously!

And it's somewhat healthy!

Well, Rocco's version probably is, but I had to adapt this recipe to make it faster and suitable for one serving. I don't have time on weekday mornings to wait for water to boil on the stovetop.

So, here's what I do:
1. Using Quaker Oats, I pour 1/2 cup of oats and 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. You can add a pinch of salt if you want. Then, microwave that for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

2. Once it's done in the microwave, add a few large squeezes of honey, a few drops of vanilla extract, and two squares from a 60%-70% bittersweet chocolate bar. Stir.

3. Top with a handful of mini marshmallows and 1/2 a handful of chopped walnuts.

4. ENJOY!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Sound of Letting Go - YA Book Review

image credit
In Stasia Ward Kehoe's The Sound of Letting Go, main character Daisy Meehan loves jazz music and is an excellent trumpet player. But music is more than just something fun to listen to and play. It's also a bit of an escape.

What is Daisy escaping from? Her autistic brother, the growing distance between her parents because of the stress of raising an autistic child, and the pressure Daisy feels to do everything right.

When Daisy's parents tell her that they've decided to place her brother in an institution better equipped to handle his violent outbursts, Daisy feels betrayed. She knows that it's probably safer for her family, but she also doesn't want her family broken apart like this.

So she tries to rebel. She gives up on her music. She seeks solace in the arms of bad-boy Dave. She paints her fingernails a dark color in an attempt to be "goth". But with the help of the people around her, Daisy learns how to embrace change and the non-normalcy of life.

I liked this book. It's not written in a traditional novel format. Instead, it's written as though the author was trying to create a poem with the words, which I guess sort of evokes the poetic jazz music that Daisy listens to and plays in the book. However, I'm not sure that the format of the book will appeal to kids on the younger end of the book's target age range (12 and up). I can see some middle schoolers, especially kids who don't read a lot of books, opening this to the first page and being totally turned off by the way the words are arranged on the page.

That said, kids who read a lot and older kids (15 and up) will be able to look past the non-traditional format and really get into the book. I think it gives a good glimpse into the life of a family with a special needs child, which is something that not every kid might understand. A lot of kids might also relate to Daisy's desire to please her parents and her teachers and the stress that comes from putting that kind of pressure on oneself.

The Sound of Letting Go is published by Viking and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Two for One Weekend Recipes

Get ready! I've got two meals for you to make this weekend. One is a slow cooker meal, and the other is so easy you might be able to make it during the week.

First up, Barbecued Beans and Turkey Joes. This slow cooker recipe (ideal for a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker) is based on the Skinny Ms. recipe for Barbecued Beans and Chicken Joes.

Instead of ground chicken, which my grocery store didn't have, I used ground turkey. You could also use ground beef if you're not concerned about red meat intake. The original recipe also calls for green peppers and onions, but I left those out to keep this a low-spice meal for our acid reflux.


So basically, I made this with ground turkey, ketchup, honey, pinto beans, Great Northern Beans, and a little bit of salt and pepper. I cooked mine on high for about 4.5 hours instead of on low for longer, mainly because I forgot to get this started as soon as I got home from the grocery store. Still turned out great, and it's really good as leftovers. Serve on toasted gluten-free buns with fries and you're golden.

Next up is Chicken Picatta Pasta from A Spicy Perspective, or my version of Chicken Picatta Pasta.
Instead of using fresh chicken, I used Perdue Short Cuts Chicken Breast, which greatly affected how this recipe is made. So basically, while the pasta is cooking, I melted the butter in the skillet and threw in some mushrooms. Mushrooms are not part of the original recipe, but I just thought they would be a great addition.

I didn't use capers, onion, rosemary, garlic, or parsley. But don't worry, this didn't turn out bland at all.

After the mushrooms cooked for a few minutes, I added two tablespoons of gluten-free all-purpose flour, a little bit of lemon juice, and about 1 cup of gluten-free chicken broth. Stir it all together, and the sauce around the mushrooms starts to thicken. When the pasta is done, throw it in the skillet along with the chicken and heat through for a few minutes.

Actually, a little grated parm on top would have been nice, as well. Next time, I'll also make sure that I have some dried parsley just to add a bit more flavor and color.

Whether or not you make one of these or both, use my adaptations or the originals, I hope you enjoy! Happy eating!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

That Part Was True - Book Review

image credit
While I'm still not clear why this book is called That Part Was True, I do know that I liked this book by Deborah McKinlay.

Eve reads a book by author Jackson Cooper and likes it so much that she decides to write to him and tell him so. Jackson writes back, and thus begins a pen pal relationship.

Both characters have a lot going on in their lives. Eve, divorced long ago, lost her unloving mother a year ago, and now her headstrong daughter is getting married, which means Eve's ex-husband is going to come back into her life.

Jackson's second marriage has just ended with the revelation that his wife is actually a lesbian. As he struggles to make sense of this and his past female relationships and the lack of writing he's been doing AND his 50th birthday, he turns to cooking.

Eve and Jackson share recipes with one another and provide a non-judgmental shoulder to lean on through their letters and emails. They even talk of meeting in Paris. But it seems that too many factors, including themselves, will never allow that meeting to happen.

This was a quick read for me and very fast-paced in terms of jumping from scene to scene. I'm not sure I liked that, but I did get used to it. And the ending really did surprise me.

I also liked that the book included recipes mentioned in the story, but I wish there had been more!!

That Part Was True is published by Grand Central Publishing and is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review the book.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - February 3

Did your team win the Superbowl? I didn't really care either way. I only watched because I like to watch the commercials (and make fun of the really bad ones).

So, here's the meal plan for this week:

Sunday: superbowl food at in-laws' house

Monday: chicken cordon blue paninis

Tuesday: grilled turkey club quesadillas

Wednesday: pasta carbonara

Thursday: Popeye Turkey Burgers

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: lemony fusilli with turkey and zucchini

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sun on the Island

I recently made two layouts using the American Crafts Neapolitan collection from a few years ago. The papers in this collection are so pretty, it's a wonder that I still have any left! But luckily I did because they were perfect for these pictures of a bright and sunny afternoon on Mackinac Island.

The first layout, Sunny Day, features pictures of the beach and kites flying high in the air. It was so peaceful along the water there, even with all the other tourists biking and walking by.


 
 
And the second layout, Light, are pictures from the Mackinac Island Grand Hotel garden. After my mom and I had lunch at the hotel, we stepped outside and the previously dreary day had turned warm and sunny! I just loved the little embellishment from this paper collection with the words "The sun stretched out and touched our cheeks" because that's EXACTLY what happened that afternoon.
 

 
 
I also really liked that I was able to use the ruffled crepe paper from the Neapolitan collection. It adds such nice texture to the page.
 
Thanks for looking!