Monday, May 29, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - May 29

Happy Memorial Day to all my U.S. readers! The weather this weekend has been hit or miss, but we did manage to enjoy some outdoor time a little bit during the long weekend. And, of course, I had time to make up a meal plan for the week.

The Month of Mama challenge is basically over, but we're going to do the challenge's Chicken Salad recipe again because it was a huge hit the first time around. And we're also trying a Jessica Seinfeld recipe that was in the May 2017 issue of Redbook. It's salmon, so it's healthy, and it's gluten-free (as long as you use gluten-free ingredients). There's supposed to be a cucumber salad to go with it, but I hate cucumbers, so we're going to change it up a little bit and, I guess, make it not so healthy anymore. Oh well.

Sunday: hot dogs and fries

Monday: chicken roaster breast with au gratin potatoes and side salad

Tuesday: Ricotta Breakfast Pizza

Wednesday: Fit4Mom Chicken Salad sandwiches and potato chips

Thursday: turkey burgers, fries, and applesauce

Friday: Ginger Salmon with brown rice and Roasted Smashed Potatoes

Saturday: on our own

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cornbread Chicken Pot Pie

As Chris Rock once said, "Cornbread. Ain't nothin' wrong with that."

I had a box of gluten-free cornbread mix in my pantry, and I really wanted to use it for something more than just a side. So I decided to make it a topping for chicken pot pie.

Now, of course, I made this MANY weeks ago by this point, so I don't even remember where I found the recipe on which I based this. But I mean, you could sort of just follow any recipe that calls for a boxed cornbread mix. I'm pretty sure the filling for this was just chicken, a bunch of frozen veggies, and a roux of gluten-free all-purpose flour and butter.

The boxed mix I used was from Glutino. I usually use Bob's Red Mill gluten-free cornbread mix, but I do like the Glutino because it's much sweeter than Bob's. I might have to make the switch the next time I make my gluten-free stuffing for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I Heart Baking Scrapbook Page

Last year we started a new tradition with friends: a cookie-decorating party! Most of the kids were not old enough to participate so us adults had to get our hands dirty decorating cookies with cookie cutters, icing, and M&Ms. (You can read tips for throwing your own cookie-decorating party here.)

My mom had given me a cute baking-themed scrapbook kit, and I just knew that I would use it to scrapbook the pictures I took from the party.

Aren't the embellishments cute? The kit came with a picture guide to show you how to place everything on a two-page layout, but I had to rearrange a few things based on the sizes of the pictures I had. It wasn't really that hard. Every picture that I wanted to use fit on this two-pager.

This kit came from a scrapbook store near St. Louis, but I can't remember the name. Ask me later and maybe I'll have it figured out.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - May 22

Were you wondering where the meal plan was last week? Sorry! Life got in the way.

But things are back to normal here, so I've got a nice mix of recipes from our favorites and from the Fit4Mom #monthofmama meal plan.

Sunday: pea pesto pasta and side salad

Monday: slow cooker taco salad

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: broccoli cheese-stuffed spaghetti squash

Thursday: penne with ricotta cheese and greens

Friday: veggie quesadillas

Saturday: rotisserie chicken, baked potatoes, and side salad

Friday, May 19, 2017

First Costume Scrapbook Page

And here is the baby's first Halloween costume. Yep, she was a panda! I scraplifted this layout, which is something that I'm really trying to do more of in an effort to make the scrapbooking process go a little faster. I spend a lot of time rearranging pictures and embellishments to create a look that I like, but I have so many page pinned on Pinterest. I really need to use those more!

I got to use some cool Heidi Swapp chipboard words that were on sale at Michael's the other month!

The patterned papers are Crate Paper. I've had the same paper pad that I got at T.J. Maxx for a LONG time. This layout also uses American Craft Thickers and a cool chalkboard journaling tag that was in my stash.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Before I started on the Month of Mama fitness challenge, I made some really delicious (and healthy!) gluten-free banana bread for breakfast. I had some bananas to use up, and what better way to do that than with banana bread?

I found a recipe from Cookie and Kate for a Healthy Banana Bread recipe. The original instructions didn't call for gluten-free flour, but there are a bunch of suggested adaptations, including to make it gluten-free with Bob's Red Mill's gluten-free flour. And luckily, that's what I had in my pantry!

I also had all of the other ingredients in my pantry, too: coconut oil, honey, chocolate chips, etc. Yes, chocolate chips. You can't have banana bread without chocolate chips!

I really enjoyed this banana bread. The gluten-free flour worked just fine! I think my husband did, too. The baby refused to eat it. *sigh*

Friday, May 12, 2017

Pizza Crackers

The other week I just didn't want a sandwich for lunch. So I combed through the pantry to see what we had that I could turn into lunch. And that's when I saw that we had the ingredients to make a very quick and easy lunch that my old college roommate taught me.

Technically, you're supposed to use Italian-style Wheat Thins. Not sure if they even make those anymore. But what I did was take regular Town House crackers and sprinkle Italian seasoning on them. (You could use plain gluten-free crackers, too.)

Combine the crackers with shredded mozzarella cheese and sliced pepperoni in a microwave-safe dish or plate. You basically just put the crackers down first and top with the cheese and pepperoni.

Then, put this into the microwave and microwave for a few seconds at a time until the cheese is fully melted on top of the crackers.

To eat, you just pull out the crackers and eat. It's really great as a party appetizer or something as long as you don't mind everybody's hands reaching into the same thing. But I enjoyed it as a lunch because it was fast, it was delicious, and it used up stuff that I had at home.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite things to eat from college?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Adorable Scrapbook Page

Yep, my kid is pretty adorable. This is a picture from last Halloween, which was her first Halloween. We set her up on her Adirondack chair next to our pumpkins and trick-or-treat stuff.

I used some Me & My Big Ideas flower stickers on this one. And all of the patterned papers are from a paper pad that my mother-in-law gave me ages ago. It is a 6x6 paper pad, so I always struggle with how to use it. But I think I managed pretty well on this one.

I'm also glad I got to use that spiderweb chalkboard journaling spot! That has been in my stash for forever!

I actually based this whole layout off of one that I saw on Pinterest. If I felt like taking the time to find it and link it here, then I would. But I don't. LOL Sorry guys. I'm making this post on a day when I was home by myself with the baby, so I'm pretty tired and just trying to get some blog posts done.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - May 8

So this month I'm participating in the Fit4Mom Month of Mama, a free fitness and health challenge with different fitness prompts each day and a healthy eating meal plan. It was supposed to start last week, but I didn't open the email with all the recipes until after I had gone grocery shopping for the week. So I decided to just start a week behind schedule and who really cares?

The meal plan offers recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. I'm not sure who these Fit4Mom people think they are talking to because when you're a part-time working mom who has to pay for daycare, you can't afford to buy all the ingredients needed for all of these healthy meals.

I decided to just do the breakfasts and dinners. Turkey sandwiches for lunch are alright by me, and I don't eat dessert on a regular basis anyway, so just because I'm being given license to eat it now doesn't mean I'm going to.

And even with the dinners, I had to rearrange things so that stuff that takes a long time to cook can be done on days when I don't work. And I, of course, had to accommodate for special occasions, like our anniversary and the baby's baptism this weekend where we will be eating pizza for lunch and not "Farmer's Market Lunch". (Are you kidding me with that? Have you BEEN to my local farmer's market? It's a joke.)

Anyway, here is our customized healthy eating meal plan sort of for the week:

Sunday: Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken w/ Baked Sweet Potato (regular baked potato for my husband)

Monday: anniversary dinner

Tuesday: Chicken Salad

Wednesday: Slow Cooker No Tortilla Soup

Thursday: pizza on homemade gluten-free pizza dough (was supposed to be Easy Pita Pizza, but pita isn't gluten-free)

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: out

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rise Scrapbook Page

Last year we did the Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns in New Jersey as a fun and festive family fall activity. (Did you like the alliteration there?) I took a lot of pictures because, well, there were a lot of pumpkins! So I figured this was the perfect opportunity to use my Lea France stencil.

I finally got to use the chalkboard pumpkin sticker that was in my stash! And those rock 'n' roll-themed American Crafts Thickers letters for the title!

Pretty cool, huh? Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Angels' Share - Book Review

In making whiskey, the whiskey that evaporates during the aging process is called "The Angels' Share". Giving some to the angels is supposed to protect the distillery.

That's how James Markert's book The Angels' Share got its name. It's a book about whiskey, about family, about Prohibition and the Great Depression, and about miracles.

Prohibition has ended but William McFee's father has yet to revive the family whiskey business and the morale of the town. While his father is busy burying his pain in drink, his mother is flirting with another man, and his brother is getting into trouble with the law. Everyone in the family is mourning the death of the youngest sibling, Henry.

However, when a stranger is buried in the cemetery next to the distillery, it attracts quite a crowd. Not just 12 "apostles" who claim that the buried man is Jesus Christ but a flock of others who seek to pray at the grave in hopes of experiencing a miracle.

And miracles do happen. Ones that William and his family can't explain. But is the deceased drifter really Jesus?

I really liked the historical aspect of the book. The author has a history degree and definitely put his knowledge of the time period to use. The story itself was pretty good, too, and not anything like what I expected. I wouldn't really classify it as a Christian novel. Rather, it's historical fiction with elements of Christianity in it. It's an interesting look at what would happen if Jesus was reborn into the 20th century and begs readers to ask themselves what they would do.

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.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - May 1

So there were no posts last week. Sorry about that. We took a weekend trip to Vermont, and I just didn't have time to get anything posted once we got back. So now here we are. In May! And I'm trying to make a conscious effort to have us eating more healthy dinners. So, here is what's on the menu for this week:

Sunday: on our own

Monday: rice with veggies and lemon chicken (no pasta)

Tuesday: hot dogs, corn, and baked beans (a bit of an indulgence)

Wednesday: Southwest Bean and Corn Soup (a Skinny Girl recipe!)

Thursday: leftover soup

Friday: tacos (Hey, it's Cinco de Mayo! And we're using ground turkey instead of ground beef.)

Saturday: leftovers

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dark Matter - April Book Club

I got one of my book choices picked for April book club. I read about Dark Matter by Blake Crouch in a magazine shortly after the book came out last year and immediately put it on my to-read list. It sounded interesting, and I think they are making it into a movie.

It's a science-fiction novel about a man named Jason who lives in Chicago with his wife and son. But one night, he's abducted and injected with something. He loses consciousness and when he wakes up, he's in a laboratory surrounded by people he doesn't know. Not only that, but he's in a world where his wife is not his wife and his son has never been born.

What did I think? This book definitely kept me guessing. It's kind of hard to talk about it without giving too much away, so I'll try not to give as many spoilers as I can.

When Jason woke up in this new world, I immediately thought of a TV show from several years ago where a guy goes to sleep in one world and wakes up in another. He lives out his day in the new world, and then goes to sleep and wakes up again in the first world. Part of me wondered if that was what was going on here, but then I kept reading.

What's actually happening is very science-y, and I did feel like some of the explanation went over my head. But I managed to understand the gist of what was happening. It really is kind of mind-blowing.

There is a bit of violence in the book, so if that sort of thing bothers you, I don't think you should read this book.

What did my book club think? All of us enjoyed the book and our discussion often went so far beyond what our minds could comprehend that we had to take a step back and shake our heads. The other three book club members said that this was a book that was outside their wheelhouse, but they were all glad that they read it. They liked that it wasn't too difficult to follow, despite their being some scientific explanations in the middle of it, and that it was a quick read.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

You Make My Heart Sing Scrapbook Page

This was a really fast layout to put together. I used up some old American Crafts papers, some Me & My Big Ideas flower stickers that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, and some old washi tape. The title card came from an American Crafts paper pack.

Ooo, and you can see that raided my ribbon stash for this layout, too. How do you guys adhere your ribbon? I run it through my Xyron sticker maker to get adhesive on the back of it. Sometimes I use staples, but only if I feel like the staples could be a good addition to the feel of the layout.

Anyway, I was really glad with the way the layout turned out. It's always nice when things just come together and you end up not having to spend a lot of time agonizing over how to arrange all the elements on the page.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - April 17

Sorry for the lack of Meal Plan Monday last week. I wasn't feeling very inspired in my cooking and so by the time I got a meal plan made, it was too late to post.

Not much inspiration this week either, mainly because we have so much in the way of Easter leftovers, so there really isn't much that we need to plan. But I'll post the menu anyway.

Sunday: Easter dinner

Monday: Coconut Chicken Salad with Warm Honey Vinaigrette

Tuesday: Easter leftovers

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: Easter leftovers

Friday: turkey burgers and fries

Saturday: out

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cooksimple Chipotle Sorghum Pilaf Side Dish to Main Dish

At the NJ GFAF Expo last year, I received a sample of Cooksimple's Chipotle Sorghum Pilaf. It sat in my pantry for months before I finally decided to do something with it.

I turned it from a side dish into a main dish!

If you happened to see my Instagram Story about it several weeks ago, then you'll know what I did. Basically, I cooked up the pilaf according to the package directions. (The front of the box said it took five minutes, but the back of the box said it took 45 minutes! It was more like 40.)

Then, I sauted up some pre-cooked, sliced chorizo in a skillet. Once that was done, I added the chorizo to the pilaf. And that was it!

The spiciness of the chorizo was a nice combination with the pilaf's apples and sweet potatoes. I really like the blend of hot and sweet. But if chorizo is too spicy for you, I think you could easily use smoked sausage as a substitute. That would be really good!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Our Adventures Scrapbook Page

Last summer/fall, I had a whole list of things that the baby and I were going to do together on days when I was home with her. Instead, I feel like we spent a lot of time at the doctor's office due to a never-ending cold and cough. Or the weather was bad so we couldn't go outside and do what I wanted.

Still, we managed to have some good times, and I tried to take pictures of as many of them as I could.

This cute two-pager was given to me by my mom. I had to put everything together, but she got it as part of a kit and gave it to me. The kit's instructions wanted me to use wire and stitch the buttons, and I just didn't have time for that. So I just used Zots to adhere the buttons and the white twine.

I dashed and dotted the yellow cardstock to make it look like the dashed and dotted edges of the stroller pieces.

For the title, I used American Crafts Thickers and October Afternoon mini stickers.

Thanks for looking!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Love Books Scrapbook Page

My little book lover! She may just grow up to be a librarian some day. If she would ever stop removing the books off the shelf and not putting them back!

For this layout, I used my stencil! I kept it simple, though, because I did have a lot of pictures to fit. Basic squares seemed the easiest way to do it. I really like how it turned out!

And then I just added some old American Crafts embellishments, and my on-sale American Crafts Thickers.

All of the papers on this one came from the "kit" I made myself out of the sale papers at Michael's. The background is actually made up of a pink cardstock with a vellum overlay. The overlay has the gold lettering all over it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sucktown, Alaska - Book Review

In Craig Dirkes' debut novel Sucktown, Alaska, the author uses personal experience to craft a fictional YA story about Eddie, an 18-year-old college flunk-out who moves to a small town in Alaska to gain experience that will prove he is serious about being a student. He gets a job writing for the local newspaper. He makes a new friend. He develops a crush on a girl. He starts selling weed.

Wait, what?

Yup. Selling weed is a huge part of this story and, eventually, it is supposed to serve as Eddie's wake-up call and point of redemption, but for me it didn't really work.

Part of that is because I didn't find Eddie to be a likable guy. He's pretty full of himself, as I suppose most 18-year-olds are, and the way he talks is rather coarse. When he meets Taylor, the girl he has a crush on, he's taken by her boobs. And then we continue to hear him mention her boobs and her butt and all of that throughout the rest of the book. I get it. She's hot. (Except she has a wonky eye or something. I wasn't really sure what was supposed to be wrong with her eye. I kept thinking that it would be addressed at some point, but it never was.)

But aside from being hot, Taylor is also her high school class' valedictorian. So she's also pretty smart, something that I'm not sure Eddie fully appreciates, and if she's so smart, then why is she falling for Eddie? I guess this place is so tiny that the girls are hard-up for guys.

Aside from finding each other physically attractive, I wasn't picking up on any real chemistry between these characters. And that was also another thing that didn't work for me. Many of the B characters were drawn thin. I wished there had been a little more development.

Eddie does change toward the end, but by the time he reaches that point, I was already done with him and I didn't really care that he was finally trying to make things right.

This book is age-rated 14+, and I find it really hard to think that a 14-year-old might be reading this book. There was a lot of specific marijuana lingo happening in the book, and I didn't understand any of it, so I really hope that 14-year-olds don't understand it either.

I almost think that if the story had gone darker and deeper, it could have been an interesting general fiction book for adults.

I think if anyone is going to read this book, it should be kids who are at least 18. It could make a nice high school graduation present and serve as a cautionary tale to those kids to not drink their way through their first semesters of college or sell weed because bad things will happen.

Sucktown, Alaska is published by Switch Press and will be on bookstore shelves on May 1, 2017. I received a free ARC for my honest review.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - April 3

Happy April! Did anybody get pranked on April 1?

Here's what we're eating this week. Don't freak out if you see "waffles and eggs" and "tuna sandwiches and fries" on here yet again. Both were on last week's menu, but we didn't have them. We ended up with so many leftovers that we didn't need to use those dinners. So because they are easy and fast, we're going to try and have them this week. We'll see! But that's the beauty of the meal plan. You plan it out, and then you can rearrange as things come up, and if you do rearrange, then you have stuff ready to go for the following week. (*denotes new recipe)

Sunday: turkey burgers, roasted smashed potatoes, and corn

Monday: one-pot cheesy risotto with chicken sausage*

Tuesday: waffles and eggs

Wednesday: pepper jack cheesy mac

Thursday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Friday: leftovers

Saturday: on our own

Friday, March 31, 2017

What's New from FoodSaver

Last week I was invited to attend a media event in New York City for the FoodSaver brand. If you don't know, FoodSaver is the number one vacuum-sealing system designed to keep your food fresher longer, saving you money! On average, you can save up to $2700 per year, compared to ordinary food storage methods.

The event was exciting for two reasons. First, I got to see what was new from FoodSaver and how easy the new machines were to use! Second, I got to meet Food Network star Damaris Phillips! She gave us a cooking demo and should us how she uses the FoodSaver products!

But let's get to the real star of the event: the new FoodSaver Fresh Appliance. This thing is pretty cool because it will vacuum seal FoodSaver bags AND new FoodSaver Fresh Containers. You can use this system for anything you want to keep fresh in your fridge and pantry, and it will keep the food fresh up to two times longer than traditional storage containers.

This thing is so easy to use! If you watched my Instagram story from that day, then you'll have seen me use it! The Fresh Appliance adjusts up and down so that it fits over whatever size Fresh Container you're using (they come in three sizes) or bag. Then, you just press a button and it sucks out the air, leaving you free to do other things in the meantime. And it works quickly, stopping automatically when it's done.

This is something that is small enough to keep out on your countertop so that you can easily access it and use it whenever you need it. And I really think you'll be using it every day! It's just so easy! And when you've seen avocado slices kept fresh and not brown inside one of the vacuum-sealed bags, you will understand what a lifesaver this is! It might be an investment at about $99.99 (that includes the Fresh Appliance, Fresh Containers, and Zipper Bags), but you'll end up saving money in all that food that you're not wasting.

Another new product is an updated version of the original FoodSaver system: the FoodSaver FM5000, which is better suited for freezer storage. This retails for about $199.99, and it has a lot of new features that make it easier to use. It's got a vacuum view window so you can see where and how far to insert the end of the bag to make a seal. And you'll spend half as much time making bags thanks to the Express Bag Maker that pre-seals your next bag before you even need it! What you're seeing in this picture is a cool marinade feature that lets you marinade meat in minutes instead of hours!

Plus, there is open roll storage to help you know when you're running low on bags, and a lower roll position so you can use your counter as your work space.

I've never used a system like FoodSaver before, and I always thought, "Why do I need something like that?" But you know, after seeing it in action, I definitely understand why people use them. To know that my food is being kept fresh because air is being removed from the storage container or storage bag is just amazing! I don't have to worry about stuff going bad before I'm able to use it! I could prep foods on Sunday and have them just as fresh when we make and eat them later in the week! What a novel idea!

And like I said before, these items may seem expensive. $199 is NOT in our budget right now. But if you look at it as an investment that is actually going to save you money in the long run, then I think you could justify the expense. (Or if you are getting married soon and looking for things to add to the registry, might I suggest adding these? Then you can make someone else buy them for you!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What a Doll Scrapbook Page

Last month, Michael's had a huge sale on Valentine's Day-themed paper. So, of course, when I was in the store shopping for something else, I just HAD to take advantage of the cheap paper prices. I put together a nice little "kit" for myself, and this is one of the pages that I made with it.

Yes, even that textured wood-like paper was on sale! The tag with the heart came from a piece of patterned paper. Even the American Crafts Thickers were on sale! (I love when that happens!) The only thing not purchased from Michael's during this trip was the ribbon. I've had that in my stash for awhile and I finally got to use it up on this layout. I just love the brown and pink together, don't you?

These pictures were taken when we got the baby dressed up to go to a baby shower last year. She's got a floral headband on, but that only lasted long enough for these pictures.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - March 27

It's hard to believe that this is the last week of March. This year is already flying by!

Here's what we're eating this week. (* denotes new recipe)

Sunday: macaroni and cheese with ground beef and green beans

Monday: Cornbread Pot Pie*

Tuesday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Wednesday: Tex Mex Beef and Rice Skillet*

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: on our own

Saturday: eggs and waffles

Friday, March 24, 2017

ClariSpray Nasal Allergy Spray Review + GIVEAWAY

I have allergies. I'm allergic to mold, dust, pollen, trees, grass, dogs and cats (pet dander), etc. Right now, Allegra is my go-to over-the-counter allergy medicine, supplemented with Opcan-A eye drops when I start to experience itchy "allergy" eyes.

But when I was invited to try ClariSpray for free through BzzAgent, I jumped at the chance because I know that eventually Allegra is not going to work for me anymore (in the same way that Zyrtec and Claritin before it stopped working after I took them for a certain time period).

ClariSpray is a nasal allergy spray from the makers of Claritin (Bayer), and it contains Fluticasone Propionate, which, according to Bayer, is the number one prescribed ingredient for nasal allergy relief. That's actually an ingredient that is different from what is found in Claritin.

So what does that mean? Well, ClariSpray is designed to relieve nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy, runny nose due to allergies. And it provides 24-hour non-drowsy relief from those allergy symptoms.

You can purchase it in a 60-spray or 120-spray bottle without a prescription at grocery, drug, and mass retailers.

While I'm sure the product works for some people, it didn't really work that well for me. I used the product as directed for about a week and a half: two sprays in each nostril for one week and then one spray in each nostril for week two through six months. The instructions say that most people start experiencing relief after the first day, but I still suffered from some allergy problems. Mainly, "allergy" eyes. I didn't have any sniffly or runny nose while using the ClariSpray, but right before I started using it, my eyes were giving me problems. I had really hoped that the ClariSpray would help out with the itchy eyes, but it didn't. And I was a little unclear about whether or not I could use my allergy eye drops while also taking ClariSpray. The instructions say not to take steroid eye drops for allergies while taking ClariSpray.

Before starting ClariSpray, I also had been suffering from what allergy sufferers can only understand: an itchy feeling in the back of my throat. That DID go away after starting ClariSpray, but toward the end of my test drive with the nasal spray, I had a few sneezes. And ClariSpray did nothing to prevent me from having an allergic reaction to dust while vacuuming my house, even though ClariSpray is supposed to work on nasal allergy symptoms caused by exposure to dust and dust mites, among other allergens.

I think the main thing with me is that I need to be under the care of an allergist. (Ever since moving to New Jersey, my allergies have just been crazy.) So a product like ClariSpray just isn't going to cut it.

But if you are simply looking for relief from nasal allergy symptoms during allergy season, then ClariSpray might be a good option for you.

And if you'd like to try it out for yourself, I have THREE $3 coupons to give away! Just enter using the Rafflecopter below. Three winners will randomly be picked, and then I'll mail out the coupons to those winners. For full giveaway rules, please read the Rafflecopter details below. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Kitchen House - March Book Club

The March book club pick was The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I had never heard of the book before, but after I told people that I was reading it, I heard a lot of, "I read that book!"

A few years ago, the book had been placed on my book club's to-read list, so when trying to figure out what book to read for March, I made up a list of three books for people to vote on, and The Kitchen House was one of them.

It got the most votes!

The story is told from two perspectives. There's Lavinia, a white girl from Ireland who becomes an indentured servant to a white family in Virgnia, and Belle, a black slave working in the white family's kitchen house. Even though they are both in service to the family, because of the difference in their skin colors, you can imagine that they have very different experiences in dealing with the white family.

What did I think? This sort of felt like a Jane Austen novel set in the south and with less humor. The farther you get into the story, the more misunderstandings, miscommunications, and poor timings there are. You just know that somehow things are going to work out in the end, but you have no idea how a happy ending is ever going to happen. Still, you just keep reading to find out what will happen next.

While I liked the book and that the story was told through the eyes of two characters, there were A LOT of characters to keep track of. At times, I guess I thought the action of the story was a little fast and because there were so many characters a part of the action, I had trouble following what was happening.

What did my book club think? Well, all three of them liked it! We had a really good discussion and didn't even need to rely on the reading guide questions in the back of the book to get us going. (But there are reading guide questions if you need them.)

I also followed the author's recipe for molasses cake, something that the characters ate in the book, and brought some molasses cake to book club, and that was good, too!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - March 20

We're in March, but I think someone forgot to tell the weather that. Hopefully we don't get any more snow this week. We got enough last week out here in the Northeast!

But snow or no snow, we're still going to eat well this week. Here's what's on the menu (* denotes new recipe):

Sunday: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, corn

Monday: One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta *

Tuesday: waffles and scrambled eggs

Wednesday: Praline Chicken

Thursday: chicken tenders and fries

Friday: chicken fettuccine alfredo

Saturday: macaroni and cheese with ground beef, green beans

Friday, March 17, 2017

Scallop Pasta

If you've been following me on Instagram (and you really should!), then you'll know that I experimented cooking scallops last week. I posted a teaser picture of the recipe I was using, and then I even did an Insta Story about cooking the scallops.

So, how did it go?

Well, the original recipe from Parents magazine called for a pound of fresh sea scallops. (I would share the link with you but it no longer works!) I had to use bay scallops instead of sea scallops because they were cheaper. They were also frozen, not fresh. I'm not even sure if the seafood department at my grocery store carries fresh scallops.

So yeah, the scallops were not what I expected. They were very small, but I figured that would just make it easier to eat them. No cutting involved!

I didn't make this gluten-free because there was no way my husband was going to eat scallops. (I made this on a night when he wasn't going to be home for dinner, and the first thing we said when he walked in the house was, "Did you cook fish?") So that meant that I got to use REAL angel hair pasta.

I also didn't make my own pesto as the original recipe states. I just bought Barilla pre-made pesto because I didn't have time to make my own. (And don't tell me that making pesto is so easy. I'm sure it is if you don't have a 1-year-old crawling behind you who doesn't like the sound of the food processor.)

The above picture kind of looks like a bird's nest, doesn't it?

So, if you've been following along, you basically cook one pound of scallops seasoned with salt and pepper, cook eight ounces of angel hair pasta, and then combine scallops, pasta, and 1/4 cup of pesto (or more if you want more). It was a quick weeknight meal to make.

I really liked the pesto with the angel hair pasta. But with the scallops? Not so much. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as I had expected.

But I'm glad I tried it!

What do you think? Got any other scallop recipes that might change my mind about scallops?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Kids' Birthday: Panda Party

So we're (I am) kind of obsessed with pandas. Pandas are the baby's nursery theme, and so I figured we might as well extend it as the theme for her first birthday. (Yes, it has already been a year!)

I decided to make a panda cake that I had seen in Family Fun magazine. It's basically two eight-inch cakes stacked on top of each other, and then two six-inch cakes stacked on top of each other, and then the six-inch cake stack gets stacked on top of the eight-inch cake stack. And everything is frosted!

You use chocolate sprinkles to cover the top of the eight-inch cake stack, and the ears, eyes, and nose of the panda's head are chocolate wafer cookies. Surprisingly easy to find but a little hard to cut into the right shapes. I did the best I could. Both eyes also have a brown M&M adhered with icing, and the panda's mouth is a red gumdrop.

I gave the "head" of the cake to the baby for the smash cake, and that didn't go over so well, so I was glad that I didn't make the cake gluten-free because that would have been kind of a waste of expensive ingredients.

So for my husband, I followed (as best I could) a Bakerella recipe for panda cupcakes and made them gluten-free. The original recipe had mini cupcakes, but I didn't have a mini cupcake tin, so I just used my regular cupcake tins.

The only thing hard about these was finding white sugar sprinkles. Thank goodness that Target had them and I bought the last bottle!

Everything else is just the gluten-free cake mix, vanilla frosting, chocolate chips, and chocolate sprinkles.

I managed to find black-and-white party hats at Party City (although, the baby didn't really want to wear hers), and I ordered a black tablecloth, black balloons, white balloons, pink balloons, and black curling ribbon from Oriental Trading.

And I made a large number one using posterboard and all of the baby's monthly pictures, which were taken next to a giant stuffed panda bear that sits in her room.

I was pleased with how the cake and cupcakes turned out, especially for it being my first time making them. And the baby didn't care if there were imperfections. (She didn't care about the cake at all...) Not everything looks Pinterest perfect!

If you need more kids' birthday party ideas, check out my Kids' Parties board on Pinterest! There are a lot of ideas for party favors, food, and themes. My favorite is the LEGO theme. I'm hoping that the baby will let me do a LEGO party for her when she's older!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Meal Plan Monday - March 13

We had a big birthday celebration over the weekend! The baby turned one! I can't believe it's been a whole year already. I'll have more on that on the blog this week, but for now, here is what we are eating:

Sunday: leftover Slow Cooker Crack Chicken with baked potato and salad

Monday: lasagna, bread, salad

Tuesday: Three Cheese Italian Style Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rigatoni

Wednesday: leftover lasagna, bread, salad

Thursday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Friday: waffles and eggs

Saturday: grilled cheese and soup

Friday, March 10, 2017

Daphne at Daycare Scrapbook Page

The baby goes to daycare part-time, and one of the things I like about her daycare is that they take pictures of the kids and send the pictures to you during the day! You then have the ability to download the pictures, and of course, I downloaded them and printed them to scrapbook!

For this layout, I used the stencil that my mom got me. I really like how the stencils allow you to get so many pictures on one page!

I saw this circle sticker in my stash and liked how the colors on the sticker fit with the colors of the papers. It's not a specific baby girl sticker, but it just worked.

I've been going crazy using these pink American Crafts Thickers! I've almost used up the whole sheet! (That was a great sale find at Michael's.) I also used some October Afternoon mini letters, which I've had in my stash for a long time. I'm also done with that sticker sheet, too!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learn 2 Sippy Scrapbook Page

Here's a layout about the sippy cup! At 6 months, we got the go-ahead to introduce the sippy cup. At first, I tried putting formula in it, but the baby was NOT having it. So I switched to water and she seemed to like that much better. You should see her today! She loves drinking her water!

I got to use up some fun embellishments from my stash on this layout. The journaling spot was in a plastic bag of random journaling spots, and those stars were stuck to it. I thought they fit in well, so I didn't worry about them ruining a perfectly good journaling spot. (I feel like good journaling spots are so few and far between in my stash, so I've got to make them work when I find them!)

You can also see that I broke out the ribbon on this one! And the flower sticker was from a sticker sheet that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas.

Thanks for looking!