Friday, March 25, 2016

The Prodigy's Cousin - Book Review

In The Prodigy's Cousin: The Family Link Between Autism and Extraordinary Talent, psychology professor Joanne Ruthsatz and her reporter daughter Kimberly Stephens explore Ruthsatz's research into a link between children with autism and child prodigies. There appear to be many similarities between the two types of children, but do those similarities have root in genetics?

According to this book, yes they do! But then even more questions arise. Why do some children have the passionate focus of child prodigies but not the social or communication deficits of autists? Why do some child prodigies have autism in their family trees? Why are there differences in IQ test scores among child prodigies (differences in art prodigies and math prodigies, for example)? And perhaps, most interesting, can studying child prodigies further actually help scientists understand why some children have autism and others do not, thereby furthering autism research?

This isn't a book that presents research and declares the research done. Scientists are still studying autism, and it's clear that autism research has come a long way since it was first diagnosed in the 1940s. The same can be said of research into child prodigies. It's clear that more research is needed, and indeed, some of the research in this book is still being done. I'd be interested in finding out what the results of that research is once it is made available.

You don't have to be a parent of a child prodigy or autist to find the research in this book intriguing. If you enjoy learning new things, then you'll enjoy reading about the child prodigies and research findings chronicled in this book.

The Prodigy's Cousin is published by Current and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free advance review copy for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

This is Awkward - Book Review

I think it's safe to say that we've all had awkward moments in our lives. And that's okay. It's part of living! But the kind of awkwardness that author Sammy Rhodes writes about in his book This is Awkward goes deeper than two actresses wearing the same dress at the Oscars. 

The type of awkward moments in this book are actually the moments that bring you shame. The moments that cause you to face your vulnerability, even when you don't want to be vulnerable. The moments no one really talks about because, well, it's just too awkward.

Parenting, divorce, porn addiction (or any addiction), the challenges of marriage, the challenges of making and keeping friends, introversion, weight, living online. And accepting that no matter which awkward moment brings us shame, God loves us just the same.

If you're feeling a little awkward and need some reassurance from someone who has definitely been there, done that, then you might want to pick up Rhodes' book. I think the target audience would be high schoolers through 30-somethings. I can't imagine my mom's Bible study reading this book and understanding most of the references or finding Rhodes' awkward stream-of-consciousness digressions through each chapter charming. (Those parts of the book were not really my favorite either.)

And while I appreciate reading a Christian author who has actually seen the Harry Potter movies and/or read the books instead of condemning them as the work of Satan, if you're going to use so many Harry Potter references, you might want to correctly spell "Gryffindor" (incorrectly spelled on page 112) and "Hufflepuff" (spelled wrong on page 98).

Also, wasn't really sure why Rhodes spent so much time making fun of engineering students in the beginning of the chapter on friendship. I was not an engineering student, but I'm pretty sure that if you're trying to make friends, making fun of how someone looks is not really the way to win people over to your side.

Awkward.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ornament Picture Frame

Here's another fun craft that you can make and give as a Christmas gift or any gift-giving occasion! I found this idea for an Ornament Picture Frame over at The House of Smiths.

I thought I had seen some clear ornament balls at Walmart during the holiday season, and I may have, but when I went to Walmart to shop their Christmas clearance stuff after Christmas, the clear ornament balls were nowhere to be found. So I turned to my trusty new friend Oriental Trading Company and found this set of 12 DIY Large Clear Christmas Ornaments. (Unfortunately, they were out of stock at the time this post was written, but hopefully they'll get more in stock soon!)



From there, I hit up my local Michael's. Because I was going to use a picture from my baby shower, I wanted something pink to put inside the ornament with the picture. Thank goodness I was shopping around the Easter season because I found this really pretty pink garland. Added to that, I found silver and iridescent (almost a light pink-ish) curling ribbon, and then because I liked the idea of displaying the ornament on a candlestick holder, I found small candlestick holders, too.


With all my supplies ready, it was time to put my ornaments together! I liked that the ornaments I had opened into two halves. It made inserting everything super easy.

First, I had to cut my picture to size. In hindsight, I would have printed this picture in wallet-size instead of 4x6 because it was difficult to crop the larger picture. But I managed. I also backed the picture with pink scrapbook paper and used sparkly pink American Crafts Thickers to mark the year the picture was taken.




Then, I cut pieces of the garland and carefully arranged the pieces inside the ornament. It did take me several attempts to get the garland to lay inside the ornament and around the picture the way I wanted.


Once I got everything inside the ornament they way I wanted, I tied the top of the ornament together using my curling ribbon. It's been so long since I curled ribbon! It's so much fun!



And then I just adhered my ornament to the candlestick holder using a glue dot (or two). I thought about doing craft glue, but figured the rounded bottom of the ornament would make it difficult to stick. I also considered using my glue gun, but the glue gun glue never holds permanently for me. It's so frustrating. So a glue dot seemed the easiest and quickest solution. Plus, if the ornament does fall off, just put down another glue dot. You won't be left with glue gun or tacky glue residue on your candlestick holder.



What do you think? This is a craft you can complete while watching your favorite 30-minute Food Network show! And isn't that what we all strive for? To multitask watching Trisha's Southern Kitchen and making a cool craft on a Saturday morning?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Gluten-Free Buttermilk Blueberry Cupcakes



What do you do when you have leftover buttermilk?

If you're me, you end up watching Valerie's Home Cooking on Food Network and remember that you once cut out a recipe from Woman's Day magazine featuring Valerie Bertinelli's recipe for Buttermilk Blueberry Cake.

And then, when you also realize you have blueberries in the freezer, you decide on the spur of the moment to make this recipe.

Of course, if you're me, you have to make it gluten-free. And if you're me, you don't have enough gluten-free all-purpose flour. So you cut the ENTIRE recipe in half and instead of making a cake, you make cupcakes. (Thank God you DO have cupcake liners in the pantry because, if you're me, you hate handwashing cupcake pans.)


So how is my version different from Valerie's, aside from the fact that I turned a cake into 12 cupcakes? Well, you won't need many adaptations to make this gluten-free.

1. The biggie is substituting regular flour with gluten-free all-purpose flour.

2. Instead of lemon zest, I just used bottled lemon juice.

3. I didn't roll my blueberries in extra flour (because I ran out of flour). Despite the blueberries sinking to the bottom of the cupcakes, the cupcakes turned out just fine without doing this step. Still tasted good!



This recipe was super duper easy to make. If you do cut the recipe in half, make sure you cut the cooking time in half, too. The original recipe calls for cooking the whole cake 70 minutes. Obviously, you'll need half that time to cook half of that recipe.



Just look at those plump blueberries inside this cupcake! I know that "cake" is in the name of the recipe, but I feel like because it has blueberries, it's totally a breakfast food.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Scrapbooking in an Apothecary Jar

When I scrapbook, it's mainly on a page that goes in an album. But when I saw this cool idea from Creating Keepsakes, I knew I just had to try it. Have you ever scrapbooked inside an apothecary jar?

So, the first step was to find apothecary jars, and I was not willing to spend tons of money on one of these things. Of course, that's what it seemed like they were going to cost as I was doing my online shopping. But then I came across a set of three glass apothecary jars from Oriental Trading Company. The price was right. It seemed like the jars would be a good size for scrapbooking. And even if I only used one jar, I would still have two more to use for other home decor ideas or give as gifts.



Once you've gotten your apothecary jar (or jars), you'll need a base for your mini scrapbook page. The original post uses buttons, but I didn't have a button stash. So instead, to fit with the theme of the picture I was going to use, I purchased some sand, a wooden lighthouse statue, and some river rocks. The sand and lighthouse came from Michael's and the river rocks came from Christmas Tree Shop.


It took me awhile to figure out the best way to organize everything inside the jar. I had originally wanted to do something with two photos but had to cut it down to just one photo due to the large size of the lighthouse statue. (I had wanted a smaller one but couldn't find it.)


Once I figured it all out, I made a VERY simple, lightweight scrapbook layout. I simply cut my photo down to size, backed it with some kraft cardstock, and added a sticker in the corner. If you're using a larger apothecary jar, which you might want to do, then you'll have more room for a larger scrapbook layout.



This is also a great way to display other memorabilia you might have to go with your scrapbook layout. Maybe you're using a picture from a vacation and want to include some of the ticket stubs or other ephemera you saved during your trip. That would be a great idea!

I didn't have anything like that to go with my picture. But I did write on the lighthouse statue with the name and location of the lighthouse that was in the picture so that I would always remember.



The Creating Keepsakes post also suggests using stabilizers like wire, blocking pins, or clothespins. You might not need these, but if you're unsure, it's probably best to have these on-hand as you're creating so that you don't have to make a quick craft store run when you least expect it. I just adhered one corner of my picture to the lighthouse statue just to make sure that everything stayed intact.

What do you guys think of this new way to scrapbook?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Martha Stewart's Cinnamon Bird Ornaments


For some people, cinnamon ornaments are a tradition. I'd never made them before, and I'm not sure I should have started with a recipe from Martha Stewart. Martha's recipes tend to be pretty difficult, I find. But use this recipe I did to craft some very yummy-smelling ornaments, even if they didn't exactly look as perfect as something Martha herself would make.


The original recipe called for bird cookie cutters or the use of a bird template (printable from Martha's website) and an X-acto knife. I didn't have bird cookie cutters, and I didn't have an X-acto knife, so I just used some holiday-themed cookie cutters that I already owned. I thought the cute mitten cookie cutters would be just perfect, but you could also do snowmen or Christmas trees or whatever you want!

If you don't know, cinnamon ornaments are made by mixing applesauce, LOTS of ground cinnamon, and craft glue. (I really thought that these were going to turn out terrible and that Martha Stewart was making me use up all of my ground cinnamon. That stuff is expensive!)


I mean, I thought it was hard to mix the ingredients together. And then it was hard to really work with the dough. I tried to roll it out as smoothly as I could without breakage, but some of the mittens (as seen above) were a little cracked. And then they baked that way.

Oh well! The fun thing about these is that once they bake and cool, you use glitter to decorate them, so you can cover up any imperfections!


Pretty, right? Just squeeze out craft glue where you want your glitter, and then shake the glitter onto the ornament, shake off any excess (into a small bowl so you can save the glitter and pour it back into the glitter container), and then let dry. Before you bake the ornaments, you poke a hole in the top with a straw so that after baking and cooling and decorating, you can thread a ribbon through the hole for hanging.

If you have the patience to work with the ornament dough, then these would make a super cute Christmas gift or a fun family activity when decorating your tree. The cinnamon scent is supposed to last for a long time, too.

Here's another recipe for making cinnamon ornaments from McCormick. I don't know if this one would be easier. It might be because it doesn't call for craft glue (although, I don't know what that means for the ornaments' storage potential from year-to-year) but you also don't have to look at Martha Stewart's picture-perfect bird ornaments.

What do you guys think? Have you ever made cinnamon ornaments before? What's your go-to recipe for making them? Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Honoring God in Red or Blue - Book Review

A co-worker gave me Dr. Amy E. Black's 2012 book Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason. I took one look at the book and thought, "This is something I'm either going to love or hate."

Good news! I loved it!

This is a very important book for Christians to read, especially during this election season with so many politicians claiming to be Christians. But are they really living out the Christian message?

If you're confused about who to vote for, how you can get involved in politics, and if you should get involved as a Christian, then this book will help you answer those questions and more.

This isn't a book that says one way is the right way. It's a book that says no matter what your political affiliation, no matter what candidate you agree with, no matter what your position is on certain matters, you must, must, MUST be informed and not attack those who believe differently from you. Not all Christians are going to have the same views, but that doesn't mean that there's no room for compromise or intelligent discussion.

I think the most important takeaway from this book for everyone, not just Christians, is to be INFORMED. It doesn't matter if you're voting in a presidential election or a local election. BE INFORMED. Just because something is said in an attack ad doesn't mean it's true. Just because you receive an email from a candidate telling you something, that doesn't mean it's true. Just because the pundits on Fox News say it doesn't mean it's true. (The same can be said for the pundits on MSNBC.) This book provides a variety of different resources that you can check out to check out the claims being made from all of these sources so that you can figure out for yourself what is true, what is an exaggeration, and what is a terrible lie.

There are even discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making this a great book to read with a book club or church group!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Cereal Box Mail Sorters


The last time I made something out of a cereal box, it was a guitar to go with my punk rocker Halloween costume.

This time, I used cereal boxes to make something a little more useful: a mail sorter! I got the idea from this pin on Pinterest.

The original link no longer works, but you don't really need instructions to make this. All you need is some craft glue (I use Aleene's Tacky Glue), scrapbook paper (I used black-and-white patterned paper from Imaginisce because I figured it would be pretty neutral), scissors, cereal boxes, and magnetic clips for the fridge (We already had a ton of those).

If you are a lazy crafter like me, you won't use a ruler or make precise measurements when cutting into your cereal box. But if you like things precise, then a ruler would also be a good tool to have on hand.

I just cut off the top flaps of the cereal box, made a diagonal cut on each side of the box, and then cut across the box from tip of one diagonal to the other. Then, I wrapped only the sides and front of the box in scrapbook paper (cut to size beforehand or trim the excess once adhered) and stuck the paper on using craft glue.



I cut solid green scrapbook paper to give the inside of the cereal box some contrast and glued that in. Then I used coordinating sticker letters to label my mail sorter.

The number of mail sorters you want to make depends on just how organized you want to be. I made three: one for bills, one for papers we want to save, and one for coupons.



What's cool about this is that you don't have to use this only to corral all the craziness that gets stuck to your fridge. You can also use this as a way to organize stuff under your pantry. I've seen images on Pinterest of these cereal box organizers holding rolls of aluminum foil, parchment paper, and plastic wrap and hanging from the back of a cabinet door. You could also change how you cut your cereal box and turn it into a pretty DIY magazine holder. I've also seen people stack and cover the cereal boxes with fabric or paper to create paper shelves. You know, like those plastic black things people use at work?


There are multiple uses you'll get out of this one simple up-cycled craft! How would you use your cereal box organizer?

Friday, March 4, 2016

More Paris Scrapbook Pages

When you're married to someone who is obsessed with Disney, you have to go to Disneyland Paris (formerly Euro Disney) when you're vacationing in Paris. We brought along a disposable camera for this outing because it was supposed to rain all day and we didn't want our good camera getting wet. So the whole camera was basically pictures from Disney.

I knew I just couldn't use ALL of the pictures, so I picked out the ones I liked best and then created this super easy one-page layout.


You know how when you buy a scrapbook paper collection and there is a cover page showing you little squares of what all the papers look like? Well, I decided to use those squares on this layout. I just cut the pictures to size and placed everything on a solid piece of cardstock. Everything on here is from the Basic Grey Mon Ami collection.

And before we hit up Disney, we made a quick stop at the Arc de Triomphe for a photo opp. (Advance apologies for the blurriness of this scrapbook layout.)


I also used the Basic Grey Mon Ami collection this layout, plus a few October Afternoon travel-themed embellishments.

While standing in front of the Arc, I tried to take a "Forget Paris"-style photo with my husband, but it didn't turn out. We were using a disposable camera because of the rain, and I wouldn't recommend trying to do selfies or staged photos with anything other than a digital camera. Oh well!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Glitter Clothespins for Christmas Card Garland



March is the perfect time to start working on Christmas crafts, right? That way you're not trying to make a bunch of crafts at the last minute!

Every Christmas I hang the Christmas cards we receive. In years past, I've hung the cards from a long branch that I found outside in our yard, but I couldn't find a new branch to use this year, so I just strung some red yarn between our stockings. In order to hang the cards, I used clothespins.

Clothespins are a great all-purpose item. I never use them for what they are intended. Instead, I've used them in craft projects, such as this tuna can candle holder, and I've also decorated some of them to make them festive for card-hanging in years past.

I guess I threw out all my old festive clothespins, so when I went to hang our 2015 Christmas cards, I only had 10 clothespins left and they were pretty bland. My goal was to dress them up with glitter, but I just didn't get around to it during the holiday season. So my second goal was to dress them up before Christmas 2016!

It sort of looks like a crime scene below, doesn't it? But I swear to you that is just red glitter. I already had red glitter and silver glitter in my craft stash, along with some Aleene's Tacky Glue. If you want to be professional about this, use a small foam brush to spread the glue onto your clothespins. Or if you want to be like me, wear vinyl gloves over your hands and use a glove-covered finger to spread the glue.

You're basically just spreading the glue, sprinkling on a bunch of glitter (color to be determined by you), shaking off the excess glitter, and letting the clothespins dry. I only did one section of each clothespin at a time to make sure that the glue didn't stick to the scrap paper I had on my work surface and to ensure that as much of the glitter stayed on. So this might take you some time to complete what with all the drying time, but it's a fun way to spend a Friday or Saturday night.

I swear!


Here are all 10 clothespins glittered up and ready for Christmas! I cut a spare piece of cardboard from our recycling bin to attach the clothespins while they get stored in a plastic zip-top bag. I'm hoping this keeps them from banging into each other and shedding glitter while in storage.

I'll probably have to go out and buy more clothespins and do this all over again before December, but at least I've gotten a good start on the project now!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Power of Broke - Book Review

If you're a fan of Daymond John from ABC's Shark Tank and want to learn more about him, don't expect his newest book The Power of Broke to read like a memoir. Instead, this book is more for people who watch Shark Tank and think, "I could pitch my idea on that show!"

In this book, you'll be introduced to successful entrepreneurs from all walks of life. They all work in different industries, but what they have in common is that they reached their success from a place of nothing. They were either money-broke or soul-broke, but it was from that desperation that they created their brands, hustled, and ultimately changed the course of their lives.

They all used the "power of broke" to achieve success.

You don't need hundreds of thousands of dollars to start your business. Sometimes money is helpful but it can also be a hindrance. Instead, you just need passion and drive.

One of the entrepreneurs profiled in this book went on Shark Tank only after his scholarship-finding app had become successful. And he brought it to a successful peak without investors and start-up money. He just had the expertise to create the product and the sincere belief that it was a useful product for consumers.

If you fancy yourself an entrepreneur, this book has lots of good advice to help you achieve your success!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

National Craft Month

Happy National Craft Month! This themed month has given me the incentive I need to make as many crafts as possible in my Get Crafty Pinterest board. So throughout the month of March, I'll be sharing with you my crafting successes (and fails). You can also find more fun craft ideas on my Pinterest board below.

(I will admit, I got started on these crafts at the end of 2015 just so I'd have time to write about them and actually share them with you during the month of March. Also, the baby is due any day, and there will not be ANY time for crafting after that happens.)

Follow Cook Scrap Craft's board Get Crafty on Pinterest.