Friday, November 28, 2014

Hit - Book Review

Mr. Haddings is a 21-year-old student teacher at Sarah's school, and 18-year-old Sarah has a major crush on him. She thinks Mr. Haddings likes her, too, and so she writes him a poem to express her feelings. But on the way to school that rainy morning, Sarah is hit by a car. Haddings' car with Haddings behind the wheel.

The rest of the story follows the next three days of recovery for Sarah and restitution for Haddings. How does one come to terms with what happened and find the good in the bad and the ability to forgive?

This was a pretty fast read told both from Sarah's and Haddings' points of view. At times, I didn't feel that some of the dialogue was very natural. It felt kind of stilted, like a bad play.

But the gist of the story is a good one with slight Christian undertones. Nothing overpowering, just reinforcing the importance of grace and not holding onto negativity. This is a YA novel, which I didn't know going in, and I think it has more of an appeal to middle and high schoolers, although the message is appropriate for everyone.

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.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Change How You Look at Being Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving! For today's blog post, I was hoping to share with you a bunch of responses from my Facebook friends on what they are thankful for this year. Instead, I only got two responses to my Facebook post:

"Thankful for the health of my family and a fun work environment!"

"My family. Don't know where I'd be without them!"

(Great responses, by the way!!)

At first I thought, "Well, maybe people aren't thankful for anything this year!!" Then I thought, "Well, maybe people are having a hard time feeling thankful due to certain circumstances in their lives." We all go through hard times. Some of those hard times are longer than others, and it can be difficult to find the good.

But I recently read something online that made me change the way I look at being thankful. No matter what is happening in our lives, we can always be thankful that God is near. This post from Relevant magazine is all about about redefining gratitude and it totally spoke to me:
Most of us have been there. Sometimes, when I was down about things, someone would say, “Be thankful. There are so many people who are worse off.” I know it was well intended, but it made me feel guilty and ashamed, so I hid those parts of me that suffered. 
That doesn’t sit right with me anymore. In my journey to heal, I’m experiencing a new freedom and intimacy with God that comes from confiding in my wounds and fears. 
I don’t think God wants to guilt us into feeling better about our struggles because others are suffering more. 
Jesus didn’t say to the blind man, “Be thankful you can walk.” Jesus had compassion for each person’s plight and condition, never comparing.
If you're feeling sad or scared about something, but you don't feel like anyone around you understands, you can be thankful that Jesus lets you feel those emotions. You can be thankful that Jesus loves every part of you, even those parts that are sad and broken. You can be thankful that you can always turn to Jesus to carry you through the hard times, no matter how long it takes you to get through them.

Hopefully reading that article will change the way you think about "thankfulness" and realize that you do have some things to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Use Laser Cut Scrapbook Overlays

I don't usually use what I think are called laser cut scrapbook overlays, but my mom gave me one a few months ago for scrapbooking the pictures I took at last year's Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze. It looked like there was space for two pictures, but I had lots more pictures to showcase, so I wanted to share with you how I turned one laser cut scrapbook overlay into a two-page layout.


I just traced the overlay onto another piece of scrapbook paper, and then ever so carefully cut it out. This is definitely something that is easier to do if you have small scissors!

Here's the first original page:


And then here is page two, the page that I traced:


I actually wanted it to be the mirror image of the first page, but I realized I didn't trace it the right way, and then I was just too lazy to go back and do it again.

I added some Martha Stewart Halloween stickers as embellishments. Kind of fitting seeing as how Martha Stewart endorses the Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze!

Have you guys used scrapbook overlays like this before? How did you use them?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Power of God's Names - Review

God has many names. Did you know that? Reading the Bible in English, you don't really get a sense of the variety of descriptive words used by the original authors. But Tony Evans' book The Power of God's Names introduces you to 14 of these names and what they mean for taking your relationship with God further.

Understanding who God is - creator, provider, healer, master - helps us trust in God no matter what our situation. God is multi-faceted. There's a lot we don't know about Him. But there's a lot we do know based on the words the writers of the Bible used to describe Him.

But it's more than just recognizing these aspects of God. It's about embracing them and using them to draw closer to God and accepting His help.

To paraphrase Jay-Z, you've got 99 problems, and there's a God name for each one.

The Power of God's Names is published by Harvest House Publishers and is on bookstore shelves now. I picked up a free review copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - November 24

Time to eat! Thanksgiving (or Turkey Day, as some like to call it) is in just a few days! I'm prepared (and hoping) for more leftover stuffing so we can make more stuffing fritatta! I'll definitely be sharing that recipe with you later!

Sunday: tacos

Monday: grilled cheese and soup

Tuesday: pancakes and eggs

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Friday: pasta

Saturday: out

Friday, November 21, 2014

Euphoria - Book Review

In the 1930s, three anthropologists, Nell, Fen, and Bankson, are exploring the indigenous tribes of the Territory of New Guinea in Lily King's novel Euphoria. Nell and Fen (an American and an Australian) are married and trying to have a baby in the midst of living in the jungles and studying and befriending the native peoples. Bankson (a Brit) is exploring and studying on his own, which makes him want to kill himself, but meeting up with Nell and Fen revives him. He is eager to have their company, Nell's in particular.

Unfortunately, tensions among the three of them begin to arise. Fen resents the success of Nell's books and how easy she and Bankson seem to get along and think alike. He has his own idea of how to achieve published success, but he doesn't take into account what it might cost him.

This is a really beautifully written story about love and passion (passion for people and for knowledge) in a remote and sometimes unknown setting. The story is told through the eyes of Bankson and through Nell's diary entries, which is a really nice juxtaposition.

While a work of fiction, the story is inspired by the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead and her few months together with Reo Fortune and Gregory Bateson in 1933 on the Sepik River of what was then called the Territory of New Guinea. Definitely makes me want to read more about these real people.

Euphoria is published by Atlantic Monthly Press and is on bookshelves now. I picked up a free review copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Top 10 Gifts for Book Lovers - Holiday Gift Guide

How could I, a book reviewer, NOT include books in my holiday gift guide? So far this year, I've read 67 books. (Not my best year, actually.) I decided to pick my top 10 books for book lovers out of all the books I've read in 2014. Hopefully, my list contains something for every type of reader. Check it out and see for yourself!

(Links take you to my reviews of the books on GoodReads. If we're not GoodReads friends already, let's be friends!)

1. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Perfect for: people who have the patience to get through 550 pages, people who saw the movie, all people

2. Before I Go to Sleep - S.J. Watson
Perfect for: people who plan on seeing the movie (Nicole Kidman! Colin Firth!), people who like thrillers

3. Bringing Up Bebe - Pamela Druckerman
Perfect for: new parents - moms especially

4. Returning to Shore - Corinne Demas
Perfect for: teen girls who aren't into all that mushy romance nonsense, real girls

5. The Final Silence - Stuart Neville
Perfect for: people who like thrillers, people who like detective novels

6. Soldier of Change - Stephen Snyder-Hill
Perfect for: activists, gay rights supporters, people on the fence about supporting gay rights (if you're feeling bold in your gift-giving)

7. Falling from Horses - Molly Glass
Perfect for: people who appreciate great literature, a grandparent who might remember the 1930s

8. How Star Wars Conquered the Universe - Chris Taylor
Perfect for: Star Wars fans, of course, and anyone who enjoys reading about how movies get made

9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking - Susan Cain
Perfect for: introverts, people who need to understand how introverts can contribute even though introverts might not be talking

10. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
Perfect for: people looking for a good book club discussion

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2-Page Layouts & Kit Copying

I decided to try my hand at copying another scrapbook kit. This time I went for another Scrapbook & Cards Today kit. Here is the fall 2014 kit:


And here is my kit: 


This time, I didn't look through my stash. I actually went to my local Michael's because at one time, that particular store had an amazing selection of scrapbook paper. But I found putting this kit together very difficult because the selection just wasn't there. I did find some good stuff, though, and for about $12 cheaper than ordering the actual kit. (Next time I might attempt using Scrapbook.com. I'm all for experimentation.)

Here are the 2-page layouts I made using this kit. "Gravesites of the Rich & Famous" is a bunch of pictures from the self-guided tour my husband and I took of the Sleepy Hollow cemetery last year. We saw Washington Irving's grave! (It's picture No. 2.)


And "Headless" has the map of the cemetery on it along with some of the Headless Horsemen stuff in the cemetery and in the area:


I still got to use up pieces in my stash, including some excess embellishments, which is always nice. Are there any kit clubs you like to copy? Any kit in particular that you want to see how to copy? Let me know, and I'll do a blog post about it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top 4 Tech Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

Technology makes our lives easier, and it also makes a great Christmas gift! But just what do you get for the technophile on your list this year?

Whether you need accessories or an actual device, I've gotten the chance to test out some pretty cool items that fit into both categories.

1. The Nest Earbud Case - Digital Innovations
I use The Nest all the time! If you or someone you know is tired of having twisted earbud cords all the time, then you have to check out this awesome product. It fully protects your earbuds, releases the earbuds easily and tangle-free, and fits easily in a pocket or purse. Plus, it's under $10!



2. Scratch Wireless
If you've got a teenager who wants his or her own phone, but you don't want to pay lots of money on a phone AND an expensive data plan, then check out Scratch Wireless. You buy the Android phone and ... THAT'S IT! Connect to a wireless network (either at home or on-the-go) for texting, surfing the web, and making phone calls. But even if you're not near wi-fi, you can still text for free! You can also purchase voice and data passes so your teen can make a phone call even when not near wi-fi.



3. Fire HD 6 and 7 - Amazon
Amazon has two new tablets out right now: the Fire HD 6 and the Fire HD 7 (pictured). The difference betwen the two? Screen size. One is six inches and the other is seven inches. (I bet you can figure out which is which.) You get wi-fi, front- and rear-facing cameras, a Gorilla Glass display, cool colors, 8 or 16 GB, and all starting at $99!


4. The Original Pocket Port - SCS Direct
If your phone is always losing battery power while you're on the go, then you might want to invest in SCS Direct's line of Pocket Ports, portable chargers for phones, tablets, and MP3 players. There are four sizes to choose from depending on how many devices you need to charge, but they all fit in a pocket, backpack, or purse. They work with your existing chargers and remain fully charged for months when not in use.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - November 17

Thanksgiving is next week! Are you guys all prepared with what you have to make for the big feast? If you need some ideas that are gluten-free, don't forget to check out my gluten-free Thanksgiving tips.

So here is what we're eating in the week leading up to Thanksgiving:

Sunday: fettucine alfredo

Monday: tilapia with corn, mashed potatoes, and sage buttermilk biscuits

Tuesday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Wednesday: leftover stuffing frittata

Thursday: tacos

Friday: on our own

Saturday: out

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jex Malone - YA Book Review

image credit
If you enjoy reading Nancy Drew and watch episodes of Murder, She Wrote, then you might be eligible for induction into the Drew-Ids, the fictional all-girl detective agency in the new YA novel Jex Malone by C.L. Gaber and V.C. Stanley. This book is basically a tribute to all the great fictional female detectives, from literature to TV.

Jessica "Jex" Malone has to spend the summer in Nevada with her estranged father, and she's not happy about it. But she quickly makes some friends and they just as quickly decide to spend their summer not being bored and instead investigating a cold case that Jex's detective father was never able to solve - the same case that caused Jex's mom and dad to divorce in the first place.

I have to say, there should be a disclaimer on this book for teens: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. For instance, Jex and her friends break into someone's house. Jex and her friends run off to California in search of clues. I don't remember Nancy Drew ever breaking laws or trafficking minors across state lines. Maybe Jessica Fletcher did, but she was old and didn't have anxious parents to answer to.

So kids, read the book, enjoy the fiction, but do not ever break into someone's home even if you think they killed someone 13 years ago. ESPECIALLY if you think they killed someone 13 years ago. It's just not going to end up well for you in the real world.

Oh, there's also a little bit of "bad boy" romance, but it doesn't dominate the story, so that's good. Jex and her friends are pretty capable of taking care of themselves without boys. (Or rather, maybe Deva's parents' AmEx card is taking care of them. Read the book. You'll understand.)

The characters in this book are all in high school, so I think the book would appeal most and be most appropriate to kids ages 14 and up.

Jex Malone is published by Merit Press and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Top 4 Gifts that Give Back - Holiday Gift Guide

If you're looking to be more charitable with your gifts this holiday season, there are several companies who make it easy for you to give back.

Of course, you can always donate money in someone's name, but if you think they'd rather receive something tangible in their gift box than a piece of paper, you can purchase something for them that is cool but that also supports a cause.

Check out these awesome gifts that your gift recipients are sure to enjoy. You'll feel good about making the purchase and your gift recipient will feel good about wearing/using it!


1. Hickory Farms
Hickory Farms sausage is one of my favorite things to eat, and the company always has great gift baskets for the holiday season. The company is also introducing new cheese flavors, including my favorite Apple Smoked Cheddar with Paprika. Hickory Farms also has a "give back" program. For every Party Planner Gift Box sold this year, Hickory Farms will donate $5 to Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign, which provides funding for summer meal programs, emergency food assistance, nutrition education, and long-term solutions for families in need.


2. Banded 2gether
These colorful and fashion-forward elastic headbands not only look great on your head (especially for my favorite tuck-and-roll hairstyle), but they are also a "give back" purchase. Partnered with Amazima Ministries, Banded headbands are making a difference for children in Uganda. Each headband purchased helps Banded support Amazima's feeding programs. One headband equals three meals.


3. World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with communities, families, and children worldwide to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of injustice and poverty. There are several handcrafted gifts to choose from this holiday season, and each one benefits a different community and cause. For instance, the deliciously fragrant Prosperity Cinnamon (Vietnam's renewable resource collected from the Cassia tree) is sold to benefit generations of hardworking families.
4. SoapBox
Not only is SoapBox a gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan-certified soap company (which you can read more about in my full review here), but the company also works to save and improve lives around the world and in the U.S. Whether you purchase the all-natural bar soap, liquid hand soap, or body wash, for each purchase, SoapBox will donate either a bar of soap, a month's supply of clean water, or a year's supply of vitamins.




Wednesday, November 12, 2014

10 Tips for a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

It's almost Thanksgiving, which means time to sit down at the dinner table with family and friends and EAT. LOTS. OF. FOOD.

But if you need it to be, is all the food on your table gluten-free? Do you have people with Celiac coming to your table but have no clue how to prepare food for them?

Here are some of my favorite tips and recipes that you can use even if you're not making a gluten-free Thanksgiving!

1. YumSugar's Thanksgiving Planner
If your house is the host house for Thanksgiving, then don't do anything until you take a look at this planner. I've used this multiple times for when we hosted "friendsgiving", and it was so helpful at keeping me on schedule and organized.

2. Butterball Help Website
Even if you don't buy a Butterball turkey (hey, the one we got said "gluten-free" on it!), you can still use the Butterball help website to figure out how much turkey you'll need, how long you'll need to thaw it, and how long you'll need to cook it. Super helpful information!

3. Gluten-Free Turkeys
And speaking of gluten-free turkeys, always make sure to check your turkey's package to make sure it is gluten-free. Don't forget to check the gravy packet, too, because even if the turkey is gluten-free, the gravy might not be. You can purchase gluten-free gravy mixes separately, if needed. I've seen them at my local Walmart.

4. Butterball Gluten-Free Recipes
The Butterball website also has information on its gluten-free turkeys and other gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes, so check it out!

5. Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
This is the gluten-free stuffing recipe I make EVERY YEAR. It is so good! Technically, it's a dressing because I don't stuff the turkey with it, but I guess you could use it that way! I use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free cornbread mix, Jimmy Dean pork sausage, and Pacific brand chicken broth to make this.

6. The Savvy Celiac's Tips for a Gluten-Free Thanksgiving
This blog post from The Savvy Celiac is a great resource, especially for non-Celiacs who are hosting Thanksgiving (or any dinner party) and have Celiac guests attending.

7. Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole
If you just can't have Thanksgiving without this staple, then check out this recipe for making it gluten-free. I haven't made this recipe myself, but it sure does look good in the pictures!

8. Katie Lee's Sage Buttermilk Biscuits
Okay, people. I am kind of obsessed with these biscuits and plan on making them this year. It's super easy to make these gluten-free, too. Just sub in gluten-free all-purpose flour!

9. Pillsbury Gluten-Free Pie Dough
If you need a gluten-free pie crust for dessert but don't want to spend time making it from scratch, this gluten-free pie dough from Pillsbury is a good alternative! It can be a little difficult to work with, so just follow the instructions and take your time. You're going to be filling the pie crust anyway, so really, no one will know what it looks like underneath!

10. Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Filling
Why not mix your brands and use the Pillsbury Gluten-Free Pie Dough, then fill it with Betty Crocker's recipe for gluten-free pumpkin pie filling? I haven't made this one because my husband doesn't like pumpkin stuff, but I'm sure it's tasty. Has Betty Crocker ever steered you wrong?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top 5 Food Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

Every holiday season I like to make a food item to gift to family and friends. You can see all my homemade food gift ideas on my The Gift of Food Pinterest board. (There are even food gift recipes for the animals in your life!)

But if you don't have time or baking prowess to make a homemade food gift, consider these tasty pre-made/pre-packaged treats. Please note, only some of these are gluten-free.

1. The Cookware Company
The Cookware Company, makers of the Green Pan, adds two new bakeware collections to its "I Heart" line. Now you can "I Heart" cake and cookies and pizza and pie with non-stick pizza pans, tart pans, round pie pans, cookie sheets, muffin pans, cake pans, and more. All products are heat-resistant up to 850 degrees and contain no perfluorooctanoic acid, silicone polyester coating, lead, and cadmium.



Last year I put together cookie mixes in mason jars, but I wish I would have known about Aladdin mason jars. These aren't made from glass! They are actually made from Eastman Tritan plastic, so they are a little easier to ship, and they come in different sizes and can be tinted blue.




3. See's Candies
If you're looking for a nice holiday party hostess gift, See's Candies will do the trick. There are lots of delicious confections to choose from, including the Sweet Tidings Gift Pack (pictured), White Mint Truffles, the Winter Splendor Gift Box, and the Mini Season's Greetings box. And what's even better is that all See's products are gluten-free!


4. Send Me Gluten Free
Send Me Gluten Free is a monthly subscription service that delivers a box of full- and sample-size gluten-free products direct to your doorstep. A gift subscription to this service would make a nice gift for the gluten-free person on your gift list.




5. Macaron Baking Kit
I have no idea if macarons are still trendy. I didn't get into them until this year, and when I saw the Macaron Baking Kit at a Target holiday event, I knew I had to include it in this round-up. Who wouldn't want to make macarons at home? Target also has a lot of other great food gift items, including hot cocoa, marshmallows for hot cocoa, and a skillet cookie baking kit.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - November 10

Not much to say about this week. It's almost Thanksgiving!! Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: pancakes & eggs

Monday: sloppy joes & fries

Tuesday: pasta

Wednesday: chicken caesar salad

Thursday: Mrs. Leeper's soup and grilled cheese

Friday: tuna sandwiches and chips

What are you eating this week?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Last October Scrapbook Pages

Not gonna lie, I am still behind on my scrapbooking. While we are now out of October 2014, I am still scrapping pictures from October 2013.

Yes. I know.

Here is a one-pager using photo booth pictures taken at a trade show I attended last October.



Not sure if you can see the title due to the light on this page, but I titled this "Deep in the Heart" because the trade show was in Dallas, Texas. This was perfect for random cowboy-esque October Afternoon papers and embellishments that had been in my stash.

And then I also did a two-pager, and I really like this one because I used a different technique than I normally do for two-pagers. Usually, both pages will have the same background paper. But I saw something on Pinterest where the background pages were both different, but the paper from the second page extended onto the first page, so there was still some cohesion. See what I mean below:


The orange from the second page is also on the first page. And I also had a little journaling tag that matched the paper on the first page, so I put that on the second page. Here are some close-ups of "Pumpkins & History":


You can't tell because of the lighting, but that white and orange thing in the bottom left-hand corner of the first page is a textured board embellishment with a pumpkin on it. I stamped the orange over the textured pumpkin. It looks better in person, I swear.


These are pictures from last's year Pumpkin Fling. I also took a little bus tour to a historical site in the area, which was really nice! Unfortunately, the Pumpkin Fling changed locations this year and was held on a racetrack instead of in the middle of the beautiful fall foliage, so I didn't go this year. My little form of protest.

I was able to use up some of my stash on this two-pager, too. In fact, everything on this layout came from the scrapbook kit I put together not too long ago. Love it!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Top 5 Fashion/Beauty Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

I'm excited to write that this year's list of top fashion and beauty gifts isn't just for the ladies. I was actually able to find something for men, too! Or at least men who appreciate good clothes.

From jewelry and sweaters to makeup and makeup tools, I've seen and tried out a lot of really cool and well-designed items. So take a peek and see if there's something listed that might strike the fancy of any fashionistas in your life.

1. Brooklyn Designs
This independent jewelry company has some amazing pieces, and I was lucky enough to get a sample item at a summer media event. You might have even seen some of designer Brooke Mosher's pieces on popular TV shows, such as Scandal, The Vampire Diaries, The Biggest Loser, and more, AND you can buy those same pieces, which is pretty cool.

me wearing the Emma necklace
2. Ace Rivington
Ace Rivington is a new fashion brand for men that started with the Ace Rivington Homespun French Terry Sweatshirt. The fabric on this has such a great feel. It will be really comfy for your man to wear during winter.
image credit: Ace Rivington

3. Bashful Owl
This is another great indie jewelry company with unique and beautiful pieces to suit any jewelry lover. A lot of the jewelry is made from raw crystal stones, and if you used to collect rocks as a kid (like me), you'll get really excited to see some of the rocks you collected, such as pyrite, being turned into jewelry.
me wearing the Reversible Crushed Crystal Necklace 
4. EcoTools
I wrote about some EcoTools products in my summer travel guide, and the company is making yet another list appearance with its beautiful and giftable Fresh & Flawless brush set. This five-piece set comes with a flat concealer brush, a buffing concealer brush, a precision foundation brush, a complexion blending brush, and a full powder brush. These brushes have colorful wraps at the top of the bamboo handles and chocolate two-tone bristles.


5. Red Apple Lipstick
Not just lipstick but also balms, eyeshadows, mascaras, and more, Red Apple Lipstick makes makeup minus toxic ingredients and allergens. That means the products are safe for people with sensitive skin, food allergies, and Celiac disease.

me sampling some Red Apple Lipstick lipstick at GFAF Expo


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

SoapBox - Review

When you have Celiac disease or food allergies, you're probably concerned more with what you put into your mouth than anything else, right? But what about other products you use every day, including ones you might use on your face and hands and then unknowingly pass to your mouth, like lotion?

And if you don't need to worry about refraining from eating certain foods, have you ever wondered what's really in your hair and beauty products?

Enter SoapBox!

This company makes products that are ethical, environmentally friendly, and natural. That's right! All SoapBox soaps are cruelty-free and vegan-certified, gluten-free, made in America, packaged in 100-percent recycled packaging, palm oil-free, paraben-free, petrochemical-free, phthalate-free, and sulfate-free.

What they DO contain is shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and sea salt.

And while these products are good for your skin, they are also good for your soul, too. That's because with every SoapBox purchase, the company donates a product to a person in need. For instance:
1 bar of soap = bar of soap
1 liquid hand soap = a month's supply of clean water through partner RainCatcher
1 body wash =  a year's supply of vitamins through partner VitaminAngels

If you're into natural products that are good for your skin AND giving back to those in need, SoapBox is the ideal company for you.

I got a chance to try out the Pomegranate body wash and the Tea & Ginger liquid hand soap for free in exchange for this review. Both items have great scents but they are free from artificial fragrance and colorants, which my sensitive skin really appreciates.

I'm not really much of a body wash person, which is why I think my favorite of the two is the Tea & Ginger liquid hand soap. (It comes in other fragrances, too! So does the body wash and soap!) Every time I wash my hands in the bathroom, I get so happy smelling this lovely hand soap!

This was definitely a good find at the NJ Gluten & Allergen Free Expo. I can't believe it took me so long to share it with you!

Check out the SoapBox website and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more information.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Top 4 Personalized Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

If you're anything like me, you're starting to think about holiday shopping. And if you're anything like my husband, you're already done with your shopping. But for those of you still in the "compiling ideas" stage, my holiday gift guides are back this year to give you some great gift options for everyone on your list.

Today's gift guide is personalized gifts. Everyone loves something that was created just for them, and the gifts on this list offer unique items.

1. PaperFinch Design
PaperFinch Design offers decorative personalized prints, home decor artwork, and stationery. What I love about this Etsy shop is the wide variety of designs and color options, the look of the designs, and the exceptional customer service. The cute state-themed prints are the perfect way for someone to show off their pride in where they live or come from.



2. My Custom Yoga Mat
Give yoga enthusiasts the gift of having their very own yoga mat with their name on it! You can also do a monogram, initial, or inspirational word. This also makes a fun bridal party gift.


3. Personal Creations
Personal Creations has LOTS of personalized products to choose from, including glass birthstone ornaments that can be personalized with a name, up to eight characters. These are really pretty and would be an especially beautiful gift for a new baby.



4. SnapBox
For me, there is no better gift than the gift of pictures, and SnapBox offers several affordable and nicely designed photo gift options, from framed photos and canvas prints to pillows.

image credit: SnapBoxPrints.com

Monday, November 3, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - November 3

Didn't have much grocery shopping time this weekend, so I tried to plan dinners that would be easy to make and used up ingredients we already had. Here's what I came up with:

Sunday: praline chicken

Monday: beef stroganoff

Tuesday: veggie lasagna

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: turkey burgers and fries

Friday: on our own


What are you guys eating this week? Share in the comments!