Monday, November 30, 2015

Top 10 Chicken Recipes

There's really not much of a meal plan this week. My husband has stuff going on almost every night for work, so we're on our own! That means I'll be making myself Tostitos with nacho cheese dip and other unhealthy appetizer-like things that my husband would make fun of me for eating as a meal, but I don't care! I love nachos and potato skins and mozzarella sticks!

In lieu of the meal plan, here is a list of 10 of our favorite chicken dinners. I know I tried to get this whole top 10 food thing going earlier this year but it sort of fizzled out. So I'm trying to resurrect it now.

mini gluten-free chicken pot pies
If you, like me, grew up with a mom who liked to make all kinds of meals with chicken, then you'll be happy with this pared down list of easy and delicious go-to chicken meals. Stick with these 10. They're all you need!

1. Mini Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pies
The trick to making these (pictured at right) gluten-free: Pillsbury Gluten-Free Pie & Pastry Dough.

2. Praline Chicken
This is such an easy meal to make. It also gives your slow cooker something to do.

3. Lemony Fusilli with Chicken, Zucchini and Pine Nuts
I know this also made our top 10 pasta recipes, but it's just that good!

4. Coconut Chicken Salad with Warm Honey Vinaigrette
This is one that we like, but it doesn't get a lot of play in our kitchen. I think we should remedy that! Note, I like to use chicken tenders instead of chicken breasts. It's easier to get the tenders to cook all the way through.

5. Special K Roasted Corn & Chicken Tostadas
I don't think I've blogged about this one before, but if you're looking for a chicken dish that is sort of healthy and can be made for one person, two people, or more, then look no further. Instead of using cut-up chicken breasts, we just used pre-cooked grilled chicken tenders like these gluten-free ones from Perdue. It makes things so much easier on weeknights.

6. Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini
These paninis are really fun to make on the George Foreman grill if you have one. You also have to like bleu cheese, which I know isn't for everyone, but my husband claims to not like it and he still eats these!

7. Baked Chicken Parmesan
Chicken parm is one of my husband's favorite foods. We don't have it nearly as often as I'm sure he'd like, but we have certainly tried it in numerous ways. This version from Real Simple is easy to put together and make gluten-free.

8. Taco Chicken Bowls
You can make this recipe in the Crockpot, or you can just cook up some of the Perdue Shortcuts and plop that over rice with cheese, cilantro, and whatever other fixings you like.

chicken caesar salad
9. Perdue Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders
These often go on sale at our local ShopRite, and I always make sure to buy a bag and keep it in our freezer for those crazy weeknights when we just don't have time for anything other than chicken tenders and fries.

10. Chicken Caesar Salad
Here's another one that is great for busy weeknights. Again, we've gotten in the habit of picking up a bag of the Perdue Shortcuts pre-cooked grilled chicken, heating up the chicken, and putting it over a bed of lettuce from a Caesar salad kit. If you're gluten-free, don't eat the croutons or the dressing that comes in those Caesar salad kits. You'll need gluten-free croutons and gluten-free Caesar dressing.

Friday, November 27, 2015

12 Days of Christmas with Six Sisters' Stuff - REVIEW

Thanksgiving is over. NOW you can start thinking about Christmas. And what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than with the 12 Days of Christmas with Six Sisters' Stuff cookbook/craft idea book/everything holiday book?

If you're not familiar with the Six Sisters, they are sisters (duh) who blog over at Six Sisters' Stuff. The blog covers everything from food and crafts to fitness, travel, and more. (Sounds like the kind of things I cover. I wonder if they are looking for a seventh sister??)

And 144 ideas for traditions, homemade gifts, recipes, and more are included in the 12 Days of Christmas with Six Sisters' Stuff book. This book is like a one-stop shop for everything Christmas. Need a gift idea? It's in the book. Want an easy family dinner to make in the slow cooker? It's in the book. Looking for fun activities for the kids? It's in the book!!

I love all the cookie recipes, any of which would be great for a cookie exchange or food gift for friends and family. (I also love that there's a recipe for gooey butter cookies! Any self-respecting person from St. Louis knows that gooey butter is where it's at.) I also really like the 12 days of Christmas gift idea to do for a spouse or significant other.

And if this holiday-themed book from the Six Sisters isn't enough, they actually have a new book that came out this fall called Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters' Stuff: 100 Desserts, Gift Ideas, and Traditions for the Whole Family, Each dessert recipe is paired with an easy companion craft or family tradition, and ideas for creating memorable gifts from desserts.

Just a note: while the recipes are not gluten-free, I think most of them could easily be adapted to be gluten-free if you needed them to be. Of course, the gift ideas, activities, and traditions are naturally gluten-free!

12 Days of Christmas with Six Sisters' Stuff is published by Shadow Mountain and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review. 

Sweets & Treats with Six Sisters' Stuff is also published by Shadow Mountain and is on bookstore shelves now. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Baby Scrapbook Pages

Today we are thankful for Babies Junior.

And here are two recent scrapbook pages chronicling our experiences early on in my pregnancy via ultrasound pictures.

Here is the journaling on the above layout, "Baby?": This was our second ultrasound picture and the one that confirmed my due date and proved there was a baby in there! The first ultrasound was done too early (4 weeks) so all we saw was an empty sac. My doctor was concerned because according to the pregnancy calculator, I should have been 8 weeks. Also, my thyroid levels were slightly elevated, so she told me to do another ultrasound in two weeks and call if I started bleeding. Yikes! But I didn't bleed, and two weeks later, there was our little baby inside the sac on the screen!

And the pictures in "Womb with a View" are from our third ultrasound at our 11-13-week nuchal translucency ultrasound. (I stole the title of this layout from my mom.) The journaling for this reads: We went in for our next ultrasound to make sure the baby was growing at a normal pace and to get the results of our Down Syndrome risk assessment. Everything looked good! Low risk of chromosomal abnormalities. And Babies Jr. was SUPER active on the ultrasound screen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Money-Making Mom - Book Review

If you're a mom, whether a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, a single mom, or a mom-to-be, chances are you've thought it would be nice to be bringing in a little extra cash to help support your family. Crystal Paine, founder of the blog Money Saving Mom, wrote her latest book Money Making Mom for just those moms!

This book takes you from start to finish. It helps you uncover what your passions and talents are so you can figure out just what type of business you want to start. Then the book helps you figure out if this will be a full-time job or a side job (with the potential to become a full-time job) and how to go about getting a business started.

There's a lot of research that needs to take place, and the ideas in this book and stories from real women are not "get rich quick" schemes. Whatever business idea you come up with will require time, possibly some start-up money, and patience. You might not make millions, but that's not really what it's about.

As Paine states many times, the goal of making more money shouldn't just be so that you can buy more stuff. You should be driven to succeed in your business because it helps your family for a number of reasons and/or because it allows you to give back to the community.

There are a lot of good resources and ideas in this book. If you're a mom trying to figure out how to bring in more money for your family or transition from your full-time job to a job where you work for yourself and can spend more time with your family, then I think this is definitely a book to pick up and study.

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.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome - Book Review

What is "post-traumatic church syndrome"? Aside from being a humorous title to Reba Riley's faith memoir, it's a term used to describe "a condition of spiritual injury that occurs as a result of religion, faith, and/or the leaving, losing, or breaking thereof."

If you feel like that's you, then you might like Riley's memoir, which chronicles her journey of experiencing 30 different religions before her 30th birthday in an attempt to come to terms with the "breaking" she experienced from the hardcore Christian religion of her family.

Riley really does go through a transformation over the course of this book, both spiritually and physically. In the beginning of the book, I was a little upset that it didn't seem like the author was giving enough of a chance to these religions she was trying. Of course, certain words and activities triggered bad memories for her, but in general, she was going into these churches with pre-conceived notions, and it was kind of getting on my nerves.

But there is a turning point, and Riley is soon really taking her experiment more seriously. (Interest from an NPR producer certainly couldn't have hurt either.) I was also glad she got the help she needed for her mysterious illness, which I totally predicted way earlier in the book. Her experience getting diagnosed (or misdiagnosed for years) is just par for the course for the disease she has. (I bet you can figure out what it is just from being a reader of this blog.)

There's a reading group guide in the back of the book if you choose to read this with a Bible study or book club.

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome is published by Howard Books and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gluten-Free Taco Pie

Well, there's really no meal plan this week because both my husband and I have short work weeks, my husband has work stuff on Monday and Tuesday night, and Thanksgiving is on Thursday. So instead of telling you what we're going to eat this week (I think you know what we're going to eat on Thursday), how about I tell you what we've eaten in the past?

The other night I adapted a recipe from the October 2015 issue of Family Fun magazine for Deep-Dish Taco. I call my gluten-free version Gluten-Free Taco Pie. It's got a gluten-free pie crust (pre-made) and all the fixings of a taco. A new way to eat tacos!

The original recipe is not available online, but someone did take a picture of the magazine page and posted it on Pinterest. You can check it out here.

To make this gluten-free:

1. Use a pre-made, frozen gluten-free pie crust such as the Wholly Wholesome gluten-free pie shell (I got 2 in one package on sale at my local ShopRite)

2. Instead of flour, either use a gluten-free all-purpose flour or use cornstarch (I used cornstarch)

The instructions say to bake this for 40 minutes, but I think you could start with 30 minutes, and then check on it. Our cheese got a little too cooked on top because I did the full 40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and that time was definitely too long. Everybody's ovens are different, though.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dear Mr. You - Book Review

You might know Mary-Louise Parker from her roles in movies such as Fried Green Tomatoes or in TV shows such as The West Wing and Weeds.

But did you also know she writes?

Dear Mr. You is Parker's first book, a compilation of letters she's written to all the men her life. Some of the men are ex-boyfriends, best friends, and family members. Others are men she's never met, such as her grandfather, or men she didn't get to know, such as the cab driver she yelled at one morning when she was pregnant.

Sometimes the tone of the letter is loving, but some of the letters are not so nice. It doesn't matter. Each of these men that Parker writes to has somehow shaped her life in a profound way, and for helping her to become the woman she is today, she is grateful.

Dear Mr. You is published by Scribner and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sky High (Arcelormittel Orbit) Scrapbook Page

Back to scrapbooking today! This layout, "Sky High", features pictures taken from the ground and the sky at the Arcelormittel Orbit. This was another thing we go to do with our London Pass.

What is the Arcelormittel Orbit? Well, I don't know why it has such a weird name, but the structure itself is located in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where the 2012 London Olympics were held. It offers 20-mile views of the Olympic Park and the London skyline. So if it's a nice day (as it was when we were there) and you're looking for a new view of London, definitely take a jaunt over to this interesting structure.

There's also a really nice outdoor mall nearby, and the grounds of the Olympic Park were being turned into green space and other public buildings when we were there, so it's a really nice area to visit.

I used up a bunch of scraps on this layout, so I have no idea who made the stuff I used. But I was very proud that I even raided my ribbon stash for this one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Top 4 Book Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

For the book lovers in your life (or maybe that's you!), I've got some fun books to give and book-related items to give this holiday season.

1. The Great Gatsby East and West Egg Necklace from Out of Print Clothing
This funky take on the traditional friendship necklace is egg-shaped with the word "West" on one half and "East" on the other. Turn over each half to find the names "Daisy" and "Jay". Comes in silver or gold for $30.

2. #Read and Book Nerd T-shirts from Gibb Smith
Let the world know how much you love books with either of these cool T-shirts. Each is $20, and additional styles are also available.

3. Coloring Books for Adults from multiple publishers
The big trend this year: coloring books for adults. I saw a lot of different coloring books at BEA, and now even Crayola is getting in on the trend with coloring books coming out by year's end! These are not little kid coloring books. These have fun designs and patterns to color that help relax and de-stress you.

4. Books!
Here are all the books I gave 5-star ratings to (so far) this year. Any of these books would make a great gift for someone who likes to read.

- A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer (Historical fiction about the creation of penicillin)
- Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt (A car accident changes the lives of the surviving driver, the victim's husband, and the child left behind)
- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (A girl in the foster care system struggles with her past as she tries to move forward with her life)
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Read this book before it becomes a movie!)
- From the Kitchen of Half Truth by Maria Goodin (Imagine the little girl from Miracle on 34th Street growing up without having met Mr. Daly and having the father from Big Fish as a mother.)
- Thrive by Arianna Huffington (Perfect for the busy working woman)
- Fallout by Gwenda Bond (Perfect for teen readers who like superheroes and comic books)
- What to Eat When You're Pregnant by Dr. Nicole M. Avena (Give this to any new moms-to-be)
- We That Are Left by Clare Clark (Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy this family drama)
- Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (A story where the main character discovers who she is and where she comes from through cooking)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

PB & J Pie with Walkers Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie Crust

One of the vendors I visited at the GFAF Expo was Walkers Shortbread. I had heard of this company before, and you may have, too, but did you know that now Walkers makes gluten-free shortbread cookies?

There are three flavors: pure butter shortbread, chocolate chip shortbread, and ginger and lemon shortbread. Like Walkers' original shortbread, the gluten-free shortbread contains the same butter and sugar content, but the wheat flour is replaced with a blend of rice flour, maize flour, and potato starch. This allows the gluten-free shortbread to keep that same great buttery taste as the original but in a way that's safe for those with Celiac or gluten intolerances to enjoy!

The gluten-free shortbread is certified by the UK Coeliac Association and meets the FDA standard for gluten-free, which is to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

Each box of nine cookies retails for $4.99 from the Walkers website, and you can also find it in retailers across the country. (As always, if your favorite store doesn't carry the gluten-free shortbread, ask the store manager to carry it!)

So, because the chocolate chip shortbread was my favorite (it's chocolate - what's not to like??), the kind Walkers Shortbread PR people sent me two free boxes of the chocolate chip shortbread. I could have just eaten the cookies on their own or dipped them in a hot chocolate or tea, but I thought, "Why not do something different?"

It somehow occurred to me that I could crush up the shortbread and use it to make a no-bake gluten-free pie crust! A stick of melted butter mixed with 1/3 cup of sugar and 14 cookies all crumbled up, and I put this in my freezer to firm it up!

Once I had that made, I just needed the perfect filling! What goes well with chocolate chip cookies? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! A classic kid's lunch turned into a pie. I used this PB Berry Pie recipe from Everyday with Rachael Ray as the filling for my pie crust. Again, this all required NO BAKING, so it was super easy.

I might have made the sides of the pie crust a little too thick, which is just something to keep in mind when you're placing the crumb mixture into your pie dish.

As you can see, there are many ways to enjoy Walkers gluten-free shortbread! How would you enjoy yours?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - November 16

This week, it's all about apples.

Apples are this week's power food for the baby. Got a little problem with apples, though. I'm allergic. They've always made my teeth and mouth itch after eating them, and I haven't had a raw apple since 2006 when the inside of my mouth swelled up after eating one. Apple juice is fine. Apple pie is totally fine (thank goodness!) because the apples are cooked. So as long as I cook the apple in something, then I'm fine. Good thing there was a recipe where the apple was cooked in the What to Eat When You're Pregnant cookbook!

And it made its way into this week's meal plan:

Sunday: turkey-apple-cheddar burgers with fries and green beans

Monday: hamburger stroganoff

Tuesday: penne with ricotta cheese and greens

Wednesday: roasted corn and chicken tostadas

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: on our own

Saturday: on our own

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Raging Skillet - Book Review

The memoir The Raging Skillet: The True Life Story of Chef Rossi by Rossi is a truly hilarious and sometimes moving memoir of one woman's rise to catering stardom in New York City.

And it all started because of the microwave.

If you've ever had a mother who couldn't cook. If you've ever felt out of place where you live. If you've ever dreamed big dreams. If you've ever wanted to make your own way and do things your way. This is the book for you.

Plus, there are recipes! Recipes with funny names pertaining to Rossi's life, such as Swordfish Skewers that Vanilla Ice Wouldn't Eat.

From the 1970s to the present day, Chef Rossi chronicles her life growing up as a Jewish kid in New Jersey with a mother who was obsessed with the microwave, running away to New York City, regrouping on Cape Cod, finding her way through the rubble of 9/11, and recovering her catering business after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. This woman has been through a lot, seen a lot, survived, and thrived. Her story is definitely inspiring to all women and aspiring chefs.

The Raging Skillet: The True Life Story of Chef Rossi is published by Feminist Press. It's on bookstore shelves now. I received a free ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Do-Right - Book Review

Lisa Sandlin's novel The Do-Right is as much a detective story as it is a story about redemption and freedom.

When Delpha Wade gets released from prison after serving a 14-year sentence for murdering one of the men who raped her, she needs a job and a place to live. Through the kindness of strangers and her parole officer, she finds a room at the New Rosemont Hotel in exchange for looking after the owner's dying grandmother in the evenings and working during the day as a secretary for a newly minted private investigator.

The P.I., named Tom Phelan, has embarked on this new career after an accident working on an oil rig. He has just as much to prove to his friends and family - many who work in law enforcement - as Delpha has to prove to herself and anybody who might look down on her given her past.

Together, Tom and Delpha take on some cases, but even when the cases are considered closed, their instincts tell them there is more to the story. Just who was the woman claiming to be a cheating husband's wife and what does it have to do with the recent lawsuit between two chemical companies? And what does anyone involved in that have to do with the other rapist whom Delpha didn't kill?

If you like a good noir-ish detective story with lots of plots twists, then you'll like this book. You'll want there to be more cases for these two characters to work on and solve together.

The Do-Right is published by Cinco Puntos Press and is available on bookstore shelves now. I received a free ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Top 4 Food Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

Everybody likes to eat, and not just during the holidays. For all those foodies in your life or anyone who just likes something good to eat or drink, check out these top picks for food gifts.

1. Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson cookbook
For that friend who likes to cook but has a very science-oriented brain, this cookbook is a cool combination of both things. The IBM computer Watson helped to create the recipes in this book using scientific theories to predict what flavors will work best together.

2. Tervis Wine Glasses
You might know Tervis from its tumblers that keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. Well, imagine making your holidays festive with new Tervis Wine Glasses with double-walled insulation to keep your wine at the perfect temperature. In four colors, these glasses are elegant enough to replace your crystal glassware.

3. Star Wars M&M's 
There are lots of ways to personalize M&M's and give them as gifts this holiday season, but one of my favorites was the Star Wars M&M's blends. They come in Light Side (blue, light blue, and white M&M's with Yoda, C3PO, and R2D2 images), Dark Side (red, gray, and black M&M's with Darth Vader and Storm Trooper images), and Star Wars (gold, silver, and white M&M's with "May the Force Be With You", Darth Vader, and Yoda graphics and images). You can buy these M&M's by the bag or purchase glass bowls or character candy dispensers.

4. Teavana Oprah Chai Steep Good Thoughts Set
If you've ever had the Oprah Chai Tea from Starbucks, then you know how delicious it is and how wonderful of a holiday gift it would make. It's all packaged up from Teavana for you in the Oprah Chai Steep Good Thoughts Set. It comes with a ceramic stacking teacup and teapot, the original Teavana Oprah Chai blend, and a caffeine-free Oprah Chai herbal blend. For every gift set purchased, $4 will be donated to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Better Homes & Gardens Copycat Fall Door Decor

Not much crafty has been going on at my house lately. Scrapbooking, yes. I've been trying to use up as many scrapbook supplies as I can so that there is less to move down to the basement when my scrap room makes the big change into a nursery! (We just signed a contract this weekend to replace the carpet in the room. So, SERIOUSLY, no new scrapbook supplies will be making their way into my house. I have to use what I've got!!)

But I happened to be out shopping with a friend the other weekend, and there was a Michael's nearby, so I popped in to pick up a few craft supplies in order to make a festive, fall door hanging like the one I saw in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens.

If you live in a townhome community like we do, then you probably still have a bunch of leaves all over the place because the hired landscapers don't come around to get rid of any of them until after all the leaves have fallen in mid-November. So there were plenty of dried-up leaves for me to choose from to make this project.

You basically cover leaves (I used 10) in craft glue and glitter, and hot glue the leaves to ribbon. Then tie all the ribbon together at the top to create a loop for hanging on your door.

Here's a side-by-side comparison with what this looked like in the magazine and what my DIY version looked like:

Okay, so this isn't #PinterestFail-worthy by any means. It's just that mine looks somewhat less elegant than the one in the magazine. I think this has to do with a few things:

1. I found the perfect ribbon at Michael's, and then they wouldn't sell it to me on the roll. It had to be by the yard, and I had NO idea how much ribbon I was going to need for this project. So I had to go back to the ribbon section where I had to settle for a less desirable wire-rimmed ribbon (because the magazine said it had to be wire-rimmed) that I could purchase on a roll.

2. I thought I was matching the glitter colors pretty well, but my glitter ended up looking bolder and brighter than the glitter in the magazine. Maybe if I had splurged on some Martha Stewart Crafts glitter... I bet Martha makes subdued glitter colors. Doesn't that just seem so Martha?

3. My leaves were not very flat. If you find some leaves that are still kind of damp from a recent rain, I would take those and press them in a book until they dry, and then hopefully they will be flat enough that covering them with craft glue (I used Aleene's Tacky Glue) using a foam brush will be a whole lot easier.

That said, I was just going by the limited directions and supplies given in the magazine. They seemed easy enough. But apparently, I should have watched this video tutorial on the Better Homes & Gardens website. Because APPARENTLY, the supplies you need vary slightly from what the magazine says. Instead of a foam brush, use a paintbrush. Instead of craft glue, specifically use Mod Podge. Oh, and instead of real leaves, use fabric leaves. Also, you'll need five to six yards of ribbon.


Am I keeping this on my front door for the fall season? Of course! I spent a whole Sunday afternoon on this project!

Will I try again next year? Yeah, I think so. Partly because those leaves are not going to last a year in storage and partly because I would like to give it another shot with different glitter and fabric leaves.

But say you went on a family hike and picked up some real leaves to save for crafty activities with the kids. I think your kids would like getting their hands sticky and messy with glue and glitter. (Maybe you take over the hot glue gunning.) And then who cares what the finished project looks like? You and your kids made something fun together that you can do year after year!

What do you guys think? Got any festive fall decor crafts that you plan on making this year?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - November 9

It's football season and we haven't yet made one of our favorite Sunday night football meals yet - Pepper Jack Cheesy Mac. It's so good, and I'm super excited that it's in this week's dinner rotation. Here's the lineup:

Sunday: Pepper Jack Cheesy Mac

Monday: waffle egg sandwiches

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Creamy Mushroom Pasta with Ham Steak (new recipe!)

Thursday: chicken tender salad

Friday: on our own

Saturday: Deep Dish Taco (new recipe!)

These recipes aren't originally gluten-free, but I'm making them GF! If you want to make any of these recipes but need advice on turning them gluten-free, just ask! I'll probably do a follow-up post on the new recipes later.

What are you guys eating this week?

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Gap of Time - Review

When I was at Book Expo America this year, I heard about a new book imprint that featured popular authors rewriting the works of Shakespeare. Very intriguing, right? So, when I saw that the first book, Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time, was available to review from Blogging for Books, I jumped at the chance to review it.

The Gap of Time is a modern-day retelling of A Winter's Tale. If you, like me, had never read A Winter's Tale, there's a brief synopsis of it at the beginning of the book. I thought that was helpful for comparison purposes.

In Winterson's version, a very wealthy man goes crazy with jealousy when he thinks his pregnant wife is actually pregnant with their best friend's baby. After a violent outburst, he plots to get rid of the baby, but through his careless and crazy actions, ends up losing the baby and causing the accidental death of his son. But don't worry. This is one tragedy that has a happy ending.

The only thing I didn't like was the author inserting herself right at the end of the story. Instead of giving us a page break or writing under an "Afterword" heading, the story stops and the author steps in to explain the significance of the story for her among all of Shakespeare's works. I was still "in" the story, and this was an unwelcome distraction.

Also, don't expect this retelling to be any easier to read than Shakespeare. There were parts that I found confusing, mainly when trying to to figure out WHERE everybody was geographically speaking and when reading one character's explanation of his video game.

But other than that, the story itself is very intriguing and obviously transcends time. Shakespeare fans might like to see how Winterson reimagines the story for a modern-day audience.

The Gap of Time is published by Hogarth Shakespeare and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free review copy from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Shakespeare's Globe Theater

Here is an example of making a scrapbook page out of random scraps that you need to do something with and don't want to throw away.

I actually had more pictures from our tour of Shakespeare's Globe (which we got free admission to with our London Pass), but I ran out of Project Life page protectors and didn't have the materials to turn this into a two-pager. Sometimes it feels nice to cut down on the pictures and only pick the best of the best.

I really have no idea what supplies I used for this one. Some of this might be Studio Calico. The globe embellishment is October Afternoon. I got really lucky with the letter stickers, meaning it was very lucky that I found letter stickers in the color I wanted and with all the letters I needed to write out what I wanted the page title to be. Phew. That doesn't always happen when I'm going through my letter stash.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Top 6 Beauty and Fashion Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide

It's that time of year! Time to start thinking of and buying gifts for friends and family. I've seen my fair share of interesting and unique gifts, so if that's what you're in the market for, check out some of my picks. This week we're looking at the top beauty and fashion gifts for both women and men!

Mizzi Cosmetics
The Mizzi Cosmetics line of natural lip balms and lip scrubs will heal chapped lips this winter without any nasties. Created by a mom for her family, a portion of each sale goes to the non-profit organization Little Hearts, Inc.

Blu Salt
Blu Salt's "Peaceful Professional" collection brings unique bag designs that address the needs of today's working and traveling professional. Made from sustainable fabrics, this luxury line of products includes a clutch (shown), a wallet, a laptop sleeve, a weekender bag, a tote bag, a jewelry bag, a lunch bag, and a drawstring bag.

Gentleman's Tonic
Men want to look and smell nice, too. (Well, some of them do.) You don't have to travel to the UK to experience this combination of a traditional barbershop with lifestyle and grooming services. Products you can order include shaving, body care, hair care, skin care, and fragrance for men.

Brosily Bath & Body
Brosily Bath & Body creates all-natural, luxury soaps and body butters. All products are handcrafted in the U.S. using ingredients that are ethically sourced and plant-based. The Lavender Bliss scent is super relaxing.

Susi D. Jewelry
If you're looking for a piece of delicate, meaningful jewelry, check out Susi D. Jewelry. This brand's earrings, necklaces, and bracelets are designed under three themes: Zen-Yoga, Back to Basics, and Wedding Day. My favorite is the Horseshoe Necklace in the Back to Basics collection.

Hope Anchored Designs
The Hope Anchored Designs jewelry collection makes it easy for today's busy women to accessorize, no matter the occasion. This jewelry line, handmade in the U.S., is made to mix and match, and blends stylish, chic, and classic. I love the Petite Gold Nugget Trio Necklace because it's simple, classy, and can really go with anything.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Home is Burning - Review

If you think your life is rough, just be thankful you're not part of Dan Marshall's family.

Home is Burning is Marshall's memoir of the year after his father was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. Might I also mention that this is happening at the same as Marshall's mother's years-long cancer battle? And at the same time as Marshall's younger sister Chelsea is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and in need of special therapy?

What would you do in Marshall's situation? Would you quit your job, say good-bye to your girlfriend, and move back home to take care of your dying parents?

That's exactly what Marshall does. Often told in a crude manner, Marshall writes about how he and his siblings cope with the difficulties of caring for one parent who can't even move on his own and another parent going through so much treatment that half the time she isn't really of sound mind. It's tough to read, especially if you're not a fan of reading curse words every five seconds, but it's definitely honest and gives you a glimpse into everything that families affected by ALS and cancer go through.

And a portion of proceeds from the sale of this book will go toward the ALS Association.

Home is Burning is published by Flatiron Books and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Westminster Abbey and The Beatles

We started day four of our London trip by taking a visit to Westminster Abbey. Because we had a London Pass, we were able to stand in a special line. But it still took us 45 minutes to get inside. And then it was so crowded inside that you could barely move around. Not at all the way I remember Westminster Abbey from the time I was there before.

I didn't make notes on what supplies I used on this layout. I think the letter stickers were from the Target $1 spot. The clock embellishment was just something I had in my stash. And some of the papers might be Studio Calico.

After that we took the Tube to Abbey Road and walked across the street like The Beatles. I had been to Abbey Road before, but we somehow missed the crosswalk, so I was glad that we were able to do it this time.

After that we grabbed lunch at The Truscott Arms. I had fish and chips, and Mike had a gluten-free burger.

Supplies used on this layout include Sassafrass Lass Large Alphas, Sassafrass Lass Amplify Light Bright, Sassafrass Lass Amplify Enhanced, Sassafrass Lass Journal Tags, and Sassafrass Lass Paper Crush Love Notes.