Friday, January 30, 2015

Gluten-Free Mystic, CT: Somewhere in Time Cafe

My husband and I were recently in Mystic, CT to see a comedy show at Foxwoods Casino. We didn't stay at the casino (although we were told it does have gluten-free food). Instead, we stayed at a lovely little Hilton that was within driving distance of some good restaurants with gluten-free options. Today's post is about our gluten-free breakfast at a local place called Somewhere in Time Cafe.

On the day we went, one of the specials was gluten-free French toast! That's not what my husband ordered, though.

Instead, he had an omelet with a gluten-free English muffin and home fries. He said the gluten-free English muffin was very good, as was the rest of his breakfast.

For those of you not eating gluten-free, I had the City Scramble (scrambled eggs with bacon, cream cheese, and spinach), home fries, and wheat toast. Also very good!

We were so excited to find a place where my husband can breakfast! Usually, when we are on the go and need a good breakfast place, we order off the gluten-free Bob Evans menu, but if there's not a Bob Evans in the area, we are kind of out of luck. So kudos to this little restaurant for delivering a delicious breakfast that my husband could enjoy!

(Note: As with any restaurant that isn't exclusively gluten-free, there is always the chance for cross-contamination in the kitchen. If you don't feel safe eating at a restaurant like this, then by all means don't!)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Valentine's Day Gift Idea - Songs of Love Mix CD

Need a Valentine's Day gift for someone but don't know what to get or don't want to spend a lot of money? One of my favorite gifts are mix CDs. And here I've got a Songs of Love playlist that you can use as inspiration for what songs to put on your mix. These songs are suitable for a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, or even just a friend.

There were a few songs that I couldn't include on this mix because I couldn't find them on Grooveshark, so if you want a few more options:

"All You Need is Love" - The Beatles
"Let Love Rule" - Lenny Kravitz

And to really complete the gift, how about a DIY CD cover? Just cut out stuff from magazines or use papers from your scrapbook stash to make a love-themed collage on a piece of paper that's been cut to fit inside a CD cover. Here's a simple example:

Who do you have to buy gifts for on Valentine's Day? Do you have a favorite Valentine's Day gift? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gluten-Free Recipes in Rachael Ray, Real Simple, and Other Magazines

The key to gluten-free in Everyday with Rachael Ray
Readers of Real Simple, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and even Fitness magazines may have noticed that some of the magazines' recipes are being listed as gluten-free. Each issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray even lists all the recipes at the front of the magazine with a color-coded key so you can easily find fast (30 minutes or less), vegetarian, freezer-friendly, and gluten-free recipes.

However, out of the December 2014 Rachael Ray issue's 59 recipes, only 20 are listed as gluten-free. And in a January 2015 "Easy Dinner" feature in Real Simple, three of the five listed recipes are labeled gluten-free.

As delicious as Steak with Cauliflower Puree and Crispy Quinoa sounds, what if what you really want is the Noodles with Flaked Salmon and Crispy Bok Choy Slaw?

Well, just because a recipe isn't listed as being gluten-free doesn't mean that you can't make it gluten-free!

Gluten-free recipe in Real Simple
Gluten-free eating is not about limiting what you can eat. It's about adapting.

Most of your old favorites can easily be made gluten-free with a few substitutions. You just need to know how to make those substitutions. (It might take you a few tries to find just the right substituted ingredients to get that same flavor you remember.)

For instance, the only reason why Real Simple's Baked Chicken Parmesan is not listed as gluten-free is because one of the ingredients is country bread. But if you use two slices of a gluten-free baguette (Against the Grain makes a nice one), you've instantly transformed this recipe into a gluten-free recipe.

And if you want the Noodles with Flaked Salmon and Crispy Bok Choy Slaw, make sure your teriyaki sauce is gluten-free (like the kind from Kikkoman) and use a thin gluten-free pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine.
Here's what Baked Chicken Parm
looks like gluten-free.

Sometimes changing up a recipe is as easy as using a gluten-free brand of chicken broth or soy sauce instead of the recipe's recommended brand. It's all about reading product labels and gradually becoming familiar with gluten-free brands.

If you've just been diagnosed with Celiac disease, the Celiac Disease Foundation and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness offer great resources, and there is a LARGE community of gluten-free bloggers that is always keeping those with Celiac updated on the latest gluten-free products.

Bottom line: don't cancel your magazine subscriptions because the recipes aren't gluten-free. With just a few substitutions, you can turn your favorite recipes and the ones you see in magazines into gluten-free recipes.

Have you seen any recipes in a magazine or on Pinterest you'd love to make but don't know how to make it gluten-free? Let me know in the comments, and I'll show you how!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DIY Instagram Picture Frame

I normally don't do New Year's Resolutions, but I did make a resolution of sorts for this year: Go through my Pinterest boards and actually DO some of the things I've pinned. At least one new thing a month. So here is this month's Pinterest project: a DIY Instagram Picture Frame

I pinned this one to my Get Crafty Pinterest board, courtesy of the website U-Create Crafts. I thought it looked cute, but I had no idea when I started just how easy it would be and all thanks to Michael's! This is actually a project idea on Michael's website, and not only does it give you the steps to create this easy picture frame, it also lists ALL the supplies you will need and you can get them ALL at Michael's for not that much out-of-pocket cost. This is an easy and inexpensive project!

You can either order the supplies online or do what I did and write down the list of supplies (don't forget paintbrushes!) and then buy them in the store.

Gather your supplies!
This was a super easy project to complete. It did take some time because I let the paint dry in between coats. I gave everything two coats just to make sure I really got the color on there. If you're doing this project with kids, it's pretty easy for them to do themselves, but you'll definitely want to supervise and you may even need to help out with some of the little details (i.e. the camera lens on the front).

The Instagram Picture Frame is listed as a Father's Day gift idea on Michael's website, but because you can write anything you want on the bottom of the frame (#Friends, #vacation, #puppies, #hashtag), this could be a gift for Valentine's Day, a birthday, or for yourself!

The frame comes with a little peg stand so it stands on its own for display, but you can remove the peg stand and hang this on a wall using 3M Strips, which is what I plan on doing.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - January 26

Another week is upon us, and it has come to my attention that we really need easier and faster-to-make meals during the work week. So that's what I'm going for with this week's meal plan:

Sunday: baked chicken parmesan

Monday: noodles with flaked salmon and crispy bok choy slaw

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: pizza

Friday: on our own

Saturday: grilled cheese and fries

What are you eating this week?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Gluten-Free St. Louis - McAlister's Deli & The Blue Owl

Finding gluten-free restaurants when traveling can be difficult. Not every state (or country) has restaurants that cater specifically to gluten-free eaters, and if they do, sometimes those restaurants are not always open when you arrive. Take our experience with a closed-for-vacation gluten-free eatery in Paris and a more recent experience with a gluten-free restaurant in Hannibal, Missouri being closed for good!

When that happens, sometimes you have to go with the second best option. On our last trip to St. Louis, we discovered two regular restaurants with gluten-free menus: McAlister's Deli and The Blue Owl.

Keep in mind, these restaurants are NOT exclusively gluten-free. There may still be the potential for cross-contamination in the shared kitchens, so if you know this isn't safe for you, then don't take the chance to eat at either place. I asked my husband how he felt about eating out at these two places, and he didn't mind because he's never had a problem at restaurants like these.

McAlister's Deli has a pretty good "gluten-sensitive" menu that consists of GIANT baked potatoes with a variety of different toppings, ALL salad dressings, four different soups, nachos, and a few sides. My husband had a salad and baked potato. The verdict? Very good and no evidence of having been glutened.

There are multiple McAlister's locations, which is good for us if we're ever in a bind when it comes to stopping for food in the St. Louis area.

(I do have to point out that the gluten-sensitive menu does say that because of cross-contamination, it's not recommended for people with Celiac disease. It's more for people with minor gluten sensitivities and those who avoid gluten for nutritional reasons. Again, use your own discretion before dining at this restaurant or any restaurant with a shared kitchen.)

The Blue Owl in Kimmswick, Missouri has quite a following, so if you're going with a group of 5 or more, you'll want to make a reservation. It gets crowded there!

The gluten-free menu here is not listed on the restaurant's website. You have to ask for it when you get there. It's not very big, but there was enough to satisfy my husband's appetite. I didn't get a picture of his salad, but I did save the menu, which you can see on the right.

The verdict: my husband enjoyed his Tossed Strawberry Salad and also had no evidence of having been glutened.

All things considered, our gluten-free eating in the St. Louis area was a success. It was nice to find some new places where my husband can eat and break free from our Red Robin-exclusive mode.

Not that there's anything wrong with Red Robin!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Summertime Scrapbook Pages

It's been non-stop scrapping over here! I've got three more pages to share with you today.

"4 the Win":
These are pictures from a 4th of July minor league baseball game we went to last year. The background paper is patterned with soda bottle caps, which I thought was perfect for a summer and baseball layout.

"Iron Pigs":
Here's a two-page layout I made for another minor league baseball game we went to last summer. They had gluten-free food there!!

"Try the Toasted Ravioli":
I wrote about this place on the blog after eating the toasted ravioli there last summer. Not gluten-free (sorry, guys!) but still delicious for those of us who can tolerate gluten. A great St. Louis gem!

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look at what I've been working on!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Expats - Book Review

I read Chris Pavone's second novel before reading his first, but it was actually his first book, The Expats, that had been recommended to me. When I saw the book available to review through the Blogging for Books program, I jumped on the chance to request a review copy.

In the book, Kate and her husband Dexter move to Luxembourg on account of Dexter's job in cyber security for banks. Kate must quite her job as a CIA agent, a little something she's never shared with Dexter in the 10 years they've been together.

Once abroad, the couple meets another American couple named Julia and Bill. But Kate's CIA "Spidey sense" starts tingling. Julia and Bill aren't who they seem. Neither is Dexter. Everyone has secrets.

I did like this book, although it was sometimes hard to keep track of the timeline. Some of the book takes place in the present, some of it takes place in the past, and then from the past there are further flashbacks. Sometimes in the present, you learn information that you haven't yet gotten to in the past. I was really unable to figure out what was going on. There was a lot of "He knew she knew that I knew." Who? What???

And then the big reveal came and it was not at all what I was expecting. I didn't quite buy it, to be honest. It was just weird. And it was all just talked out. I wanted more action! I definitely liked Pavone's second book, The Accident, much better than this one.

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Eat the Damn Red Velvet Cupcake

So, there's this pin on my Scrapbook/Cards Pinterest board that has been getting A LOT of repins lately. And no surprise! It's of a great sketch from Pretty Paper. True Stories. Clicking on the picture of the sketch below will take you to the actual blog post with video tutorial from this simply amazing scrapbook website.

Because so many of you have been repinning this (which I just love and I'm sure Shimelle, the owner of Pretty Paper. True Stories loves too), I thought I should finally break down and make a scrapbook layout using this sketch. 

That's right. I pinned this SO long ago, but I never used it in my scrapbooking.

Until now:

Cook Scrap Craft

This picture was taken last year at a Cake Boss event at the Cake Boss Cafe in NYC. I printed it off of Instagram, not really sure what I was going to do with it in my scrapbooking. But then Real Simple magazine emailed me a quote of the day from actress Emma Stone, and it was just perfect for this picture:

"You're only human. You live once and life is wonderful so eat the damn red velvet cupcake."

My life's motto.

So this layout is going in my (highly neglected) Book of Me. I hope that this layout serves as a reminder to me to not just have a red velvet cupcake if I want a red velvet cupcake from time to time, but also to do things that make me happy and enjoy life.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - January 19

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day everybody! I have the day off of work, and boy am I glad for the four-day work week. Is anybody else using the extra day off to get some craftin', scrappin', and more-involved cookin' done? I sure am!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: eggs, bacon, and blueberry muffins

Monday: Cheesy Taco Bake

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: penne with ricotta cheese and greens

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: hamburger stroganoff

Saturday: out

Friday, January 16, 2015

Why I'm Not Impressed with Jamberry

A few months ago, a friend of mine hosted a Jamberry nail wraps party, and even though I couldn't attend the party, I still ordered a $15 set of nail wraps from my friend online. These nail wraps are supposed to be a more cost-effective way to give yourself a manicure (as opposed to going to an expensive salon) and the manicure is supposed to last longer with no chipping or flaking.

Unfortunately, the two times I tried my nail wraps did not give me a satisfying experience. Here's why.

terrible instructions
If you've never seen someone apply the nail wraps in person, don't try to do it yourself using only the instructions on the package. You HAVE to watch the official how-to video, otherwise, you're not going to know some very important, and possibly helpful, information.

Did you know you're not supposed to touch the nail wraps with your fingers? And that you're supposed to cut the nail wraps in half? And that "filing in a downward motion" probably doesn't mean what you think it does?

Not knowing any of that on my first application attempt made the application process really difficult and frustrating. After getting a nail wrap on only one thumb, it looked so bad that I removed the nail wrap and just painted my nails with polish.

I did decide to give the nail wraps a second try after watching the how-to video. I was more optimistic, but I still ended up removing the wraps after only one day of wear. Here's why:

1. It was more difficult applying the nail wraps with my non-dominant hand than using nail polish. This seems like it should be a two-person job if you're not ambidextrous.

2. I don't think my nails are abnormally sized, but the majority of the nail wraps on the sheet were too big for my nails. That meant they didn't stick right on my nails despite my attempts to smooth them out and get the sides to adhere.

You can see the improper fit of the wraps on my
ring, middle, and pointer fingers.

3. Filing off the excess only makes the tips of the nail wraps look ratty and unkempt. I also had a hard time getting the tips of my nail wraps to stay stuck to the tips of my nails.

improper fit, ugly tips
4. The company says you can use a blow dryer as your heat source, but they really want you to shell out more money for the official Jamberry heater. You can't hold a blow dryer and apply pressure to the wraps with one hand. (Again, two-person job.)

When I was finished, the Jamberry manicure looked okay, but after wearing them all day at work, I realized I had been fooling myself. My nails are on camera quite a bit for work, and while filming, I saw just how sloppy some of the nail wraps looked.

I can't give Jamberry a third try because even though there are nail wraps left on my sheet, none of them are the right size for my nails, and I'd rather not spend another $15 plus shipping for another sheet.
What am I supposed to do with those giant wraps?
For $15, I could buy two colors of nail polish. (I could also get a professional manicure in NYC.) Even though it probably took me half the time to apply the nail wraps as it does to paint my nails, I'd still rather spend my Sunday night sitting in front of my TV with my polishes watching trash TV instead of standing in my bathroom by myself with my blow dryer.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is Vanilla Gluten-Free?

Every time a non-Celiac makes gluten-free cookies for my husband, they always come to me with the same question: "Where do I find gluten-free vanilla?"
Target brand vanilla adds corn syrup - it's still safe!

Most of the gluten-free boxed mixes, such as Betty Crocker, make a point to tell you to use not just vanilla extract but gluten-free vanilla extract. Which leads one to believe that there are vanilla extract brands out there that contain gluten.

I have not found this to be true in my experience. I usually use McCormick and the Target brand of vanilla and neither one has ever listed gluten as an ingredient or potential allergen.

You make pure vanilla extract by macerating and percolating vanilla beans in ethyl alcohol and water, and according to Tricia Thompson, The Gluten-Free Dietitian, there is no reason to avoid vanilla extract if you're eating gluten-free. She writes that the alcohol in all extracts (not just vanilla extract) is distilled and "pure distilled alcohol is gluten free regardless of the starting material."

And Linda Daniels over at Free Range Cookies writes that even if your pure vanilla extract contains other ingredients such as corn syrup, sugar, glycerin, invert sugar, propylene glycol, or glucose, don't worry. These are just added to enhance the flavor. All of those ingredients are permitted in the U.S. by the FDA to be included in "pure" vanilla extract and do not add any hidden gluten.

So basically, any brand you see labeled pure vanilla extract is going to be gluten-free.

Now you know and now you can go out and bake some safe gluten-free cookies for my husband! *wink wink*

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

While We Searched for Birthday Cakes

I've got some more scrapbook pages to share with you! These are from my June 2014 trip home to St. Louis. 

Last year was the city of St. Louis' 250th birthday, and so there were 250 birthday cake statues set up around the city and surrounding areas. My parents were determined to find and photograph all 250, so I went around with them to find some of the cakes. 

While we were at it, we stopped to do some sightseeing at Jefferson Barracks, one of the National Cemetery Administrations' oldest interment sites and a burial place for soldiers from all wars, and the Missouri Civil War Museum.

You can read my TripAdvisor review of the Missouri Civil War Museum here.

And a trip to St. Louis is not complete without a visit to Busch Stadium to see the Cardinals play. It was a pretty great game - THEY WON!!

Before I close out this post, a big shout-out to Krafty Kat who was kind enough to donate some of her unwanted scrapbook stash to my scrapbook stash. I really appreciate it, Kat! I added the Studio Calico stuff you sent me to flesh out my own (very small) Studio Calico stash, and then I used it all to create these layouts!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Fastest December Daily in the West

Here it is, you guys! My December Daily album for 2014. I literally put it together in one evening. In the past, I've spent time prepping the pages beforehand, and then adding in all the pictures I took either as the month of December went along or right after.

Not this year.

This year, I didn't decide until mid-December what I was going to do!

I had a little board book album in my stash, and so instead of going out and buying something fancy, I just decided to use the board book as my DD album.

I took a Christmas-themed paper pad and cut patterned paper to fit each page. Then, I printed all the December pictures I had shared on Instagram through Walgreens and adhered one picture to each page.

On the last page, I created a pocket for holding all the Christmas cards we received this year. Just to make sure the cards didn't fall out and get separated, I punched a hole at the top of each card and strung them together with an extra binder clip.

As you can see, I also wrote on the pictures so I could remember just what the heck they were pictures of.

Literally, you guys, I did this in one night! December Daily albums don't have to be daunting or major ordeals. You don't even have to do a picture a day. I stopped trying to make that happen after my first year of doing December Daily. I focused only on holiday-ish things that I did during the month of December. Keep the holiday season sane, y'all!

And if you haven't used the Walgreens app to print 4x4 pictures of your Instagram snaps, you totally should! It's such a breeze, and then you have Instagram-sized prints of the fun things you share on a daily basis!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - January 12

grilled chicken with cheesy
polenta and collard greens
We're sort of half-and-half-ing the healthy eating this week. There's a nice mix of some new healthy recipes (which I will have to modify) from Fitness magazine with a couple old favorite thrown in. Enjoy reading about what we're going to enjoy eating this week:

Sunday: grilled chicken with cheesy polenta and collard greens

Monday: lasagna

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Popeye Turkeyburgers and fries

Thursday: almond-crusted fish with stir-fried rice

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: eggs, waffles, bacon

Share in the comments what you're eating this week or what you think sounds good from our meal plan!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Starting the Year Off By Scrapbooking

Taking time off over the holidays meant I had plenty of free time to get some much-needed scrapbooking done. Here are just a few pages I completed.

"BEA Year 2" - two-pager:
I kept this one a little simple and used up some scraps from a kit I made. The pages are not identical, but they carry over some of the same elements.

"Wir sind nun Freunde":
This page was also created using pieces from a kit that I made. The title is German for "We are now friends." I had an interesting three months driving what I now affectionately call Lil' Jetta.

"D.C. Waffles":
And this is a page I made about our visit to a gluten-free waffle restaurant in Washington, D.C. last year. You can read my review of the restaurant, Wicked Waffle, here. I got to use up lots of scraps on this layout, which is always a good feeling.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cookie in a Mug

So this is a post I've been meaning to share with you since last year, but I just never had the time in my blog schedule to post it. Finally, you are getting to see it! This is how I made a cookie in a mug.

Because sometimes you just want one cookie!

You might have seen these on Pinterest, which is where I got the recipe for mine. I must admit, I was a little skeptical about making a cookie in a mug in the microwave, but this recipe from My Kitchen Antics worked like a charm for me. (It was also a nice way to use up some baking ingredients.)

All you need is butter, white and brown sugar, flour, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, salt, and an egg yolk. Everything gets mixed together in a mug (you could also use a mini ramekin) and cooked in the mug in the microwave! So easy!

You can pretty much make anything in a mug these days, even gluten-free cookies and cakes! And you can find more dessert recipes (both in and out of a mug) on my Dessert (The Most Important Meal of the Day) Pinterest board.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top 14 Scrapbook Layouts from 2014

You already know how much I love looking back at old scrapbook albums to see how my scrap style has changed and evolved over the years. But what about looking back at layouts that I completed just last year and picking my favorites? Take a not-so-far trip down memory lane with me, won't you? In no particular order, here are my top 14 scrapbook layouts from 2014:

1. Bless Us, Father

2. Gravesites of the Rich & Famous

3. Deep in the Heart

4. Pumpkins & History

5. Hey Batter

6. Time to Eat

7. On the Road Again

8. Uniquely St. Louis

 9. Mike and the Lady

10. Fun & Chocolate

11. Like Wonka

12. The Cutest Kid in the World Turns 1

 13. Goals

 14. Dos & Don'ts at 30