Thursday, December 5, 2013

Popcorn Jewels Cowl

Wrapped three times.
My blog has been quiet for a while.

Life has been busy: work, Mom's Taxi Service, craft shows, special orders for knit and crochet items, trying to get past level 419 in Candy Crush Saga...

In the midst of all this busy-ness, I finally got around to frogging a scrap yarn afghan on Thanksgiving Day. For those of you not familiar with the slang of yarn crafts, "frogging" means to take a project apart by ripping out the stitches. The "rip it" led to the term "frogging."

So, my frogging doubled the size of my "too small for much of anything" yarn collection. What used to fit in a jumbo-sized Ziploc bag needed a much larger container now. I ended up putting it in a large plastic cover from a catering tray. It conveniently fits under the end table next to my chair, but I realize it looks untidy and can't stay there indefinitely. My goal, once Christmas presents and special orders and craft show items are done, is to get the "small ball stash" back to fitting into the jumbo Ziploc bag.

I have a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head for projects to use up some of the small scraps. A little girl from church has a striped hat done in reverse stockingnet that would be easy to duplicate. I printed out a pattern for a stained glass window scarf, and would like to scale it down for a blanket for an American Girl doll. I would like to make a few doll blankets with Granny Squares or variations on Granny Squares. I'll be making some striped baby stocking caps. The list goes on and on.

After seeing the pattern for the Stained Glass Window Scarf, I got the idea to make a cowl scarf with bobbles of color. I wanted it to work up quickly, so I used a size M hook and two strands of yarn.

The scarf used 5.3 ounces of yarn (according to my kitchen scale). If you don't have a collection of black scrap yarn to use up, you would probably need about 4.5 ounces of black yarn to use up with your colorful scraps.

Wrapped twice
I started my chain with a size N hook, then switched to size M for the pattern stitches, so that the scarf would be a little stretchier with the starting chain. You could also start with a chainless foundation HDC. Here's a Youtube tutorial on how to do that.

The "Pattern" : (Although it's actually more of a general guideline...)
With two strands of black yarn, chain 132. Join, being careful not to twist.
Round 1: Chain 2, hdc in each stitch. Join with slip stitch to chain 2.
Round 2: Chain 2, **hdc in 3 stitches, attach colored yarn and make a Popcorn Stitch in next stitch**. Repeat from ** to ** 3 or 4 times, depending on the length of your scrap yarn, working over the black yarn. Tie off scrap yarn and do 6-12 hdc with black. Then tie on another scrap color and repeat from ** again as needed around the row. You're making bobbles with 3 hdc between the individual bobbles and a longer stretch between the groups of bobbles.

I didn't have a real pattern for my bobbles - I just tied some yarn on when I felt like it, did as many bobbles as I could with that scrap, and went back to black.When I got to the end of the row, I joined with a slip stitch.

I did three rows, then finished off with a round of hdc. The finished scarf is about 68" around, and 3" wide. You could do more rows for a wider scarf.

I'm thinking of other possibilities with this pattern... done with two colors... done with off white with colored bobbles.. the ideas are as endless as my supply of scrap yarn!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review & Giveaway: King's Faith

Fall is in the air. It's a great time of the year to gather around the woodstove with some cider and popcorn and watch a good family movie.

So many of the movies available today aren't very family-friendly. There are a few filmmakers out there who still strive to make movies the whole family can watch. Provident Films falls into that category, so when I was offered the chance to review a new DVD called "King's Faith", I eagerly agreed.

You can watch a trailer of the movie at the King's Faith website or on their Facebook page.

King's Faith is the story of Brendan King, a young man with a troubled past: eighteen foster homes, nine arrests, and a drug bust where he watched a friend die. Then he was given a Bible and his life was transformed. He moves to a new foster home away from the city streets and begins to forge new friendships and a new life.

His old life won't stay buried, though. His old gang comes to visit and they want information that Brendan isn't willing to share, information that his old friends will go to any lengths to retrieve.

My family and I really enjoyed this film. It is rated PG due to some gang-related violence. The violence, such as a beating or a shooting, is not shown in graphic, gory detail, but there are some brief glimpses of the victim afterwards, bleeding and bruised, which may be disturbing to young children.

At one point during the film, I thought to myself, "this kid is too squeaky clean for an ex-gang member." At that point, I had to scold myself for thinking that way. This is the story of a life transformed by God. Humanly speaking, people don't change like that, but with God, all things are possible. Even taking a young man out of a gang and giving him a hunger to live for God and do the right thing.

There are other stories of healing and redemption in the movie too: parents torn by grief, a teenager weighed down by secret guilt. Brendan King works as a catalyst to bring healing to those situations.

I would highly recommend this video to families and church libraries. I'm giving away a copy to a reader of my blog. Just click on the Rafflecopter logo below. You can get an extra entry by liking King's Faith on Facebook.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.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."

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kale Recipe Round-Up

We have a lot of kale in our garden right now. We could eat kale every day and not exhaust the supply. Come to think of it, I think I have been eating kale every day, since it's in so many of our favorite recipes. When I canned spaghetti sauce this summer, I used kale instead of spinach. When I made a big pot of bean & sausage soup (which I've had in my lunch three times this week), I added chopped kale.

I thought I'd share a few of our favorite kale recipes for those who say "I've seen kale in the produce aisle, but I wouldn't know what to do with it!"

Our favorite:
Kale Chips
If you Google "Kale Chips Recipe", you can find thousands of recipes... using various spices and combinations of oil and lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar. I usually mix 2 Tablespoons of oil with a Tablespoon of lemon juice, mix it with a bowlful of kale, spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 minutes (anywhere from 350 to 400 degrees, depending on what's already in the oven).

I remember the first time my daughter Connie tried them. She said "These are delicious. They are so weird... but delicious!"

Sauteed Kale
We love this recipe for Sauteed Kale from Bobby Flay. It calls for sauteing some garlic... I also add some sliced onion when I'm cooking up the garlic. 

Sometimes when we want a little variety, we use this recipe for Sweet and Savory Kale.

Kale Salad
The great thing about this Super Summer Kale Salad is that you can make it up hours before. I tend to decrease the sugar in the recipe, using 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup. You can add or subtract ingredients to suit your taste. I leave out the Edamame, but have added shrimp or diced chicken breast to make it a meal salad.

Kale and Potato Hash
My family likes this side dish, too: Kale and Potato Hash. I tend to cut back a bit on the horseradish, though, using "horseradish sauce" and only about half of what they suggest. I also use a plain onion instead of shallot.

Toss some kale in there... 
If you toss a few kale leaves into the blender and chop them up fine, you can sneak some kale into just about anything...
Spaghetti Sauce
Calzone filling
Chicken Pot Pie
Vegetable Soup

Now I want to make some kale chips with dinner!

Update: Apparently October 2nd is National Kale Day. This recipe showed up on my Facebook page - Tomato-Kale-Basil Quiche. I substituted a teaspoon of dried oregano for the basil, and we all liked it! Definitely going in the "make again" folder!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to do a canner-load of plums in the morning and still be on time for work (my 56-point plan)

Last night, somebody commented to me that I was a master of time management. It sure doesn’t feel that way. Lately, it seems like I’m running in ten directions at once and not getting much accomplished.
My daughter’s alarm goes off at 5:45, so she can have plenty of time to get ready for her 7 AM school bus. I heard her walking around and got up too. It was 5:51 when I walked into the kitchen. I thought that with three hours to work, I should surely be able to get a load of plums in the canner before leaving for work. So… here are the steps I took.
1.       Wipe and label jars of cinnamon pears that I canned Monday.
2.       Take box of cinnamon pears down to basement.
3.       Realize there’s not enough room on shelf 49 for all the cinnamon pears.
4.       Move Apple Butter to shelf 48.
5.       Update inventory spreadsheet on top of chest freezer to show that Apple Butter has been moved.
6.       Look through freezer for an idea of what to make for dinner. No idea.
7.       Refill empty box with wide-mouth canning jars.
8.       Realize that I need the sink cleaned out to wash canning jars.
9.       Empty and refill dishwasher.
10.   Take clean plastic yogurt containers that were in dishwasher out to recycling bins in garage.
11.   Realize I need more counter space to work – take Sorghum Flour from yesterday’s Amazon order to refill empty canister.
12.   Take empty box from Amazon order out to recycling bin in garage.
13.   Wash canning jars.
14.   Realize stomach is growling and wants breakfast. Grab a gluten-free pear muffin and a chai latte.
15.   Putting empty containers from Vanilla Almond Milk and Chai Concentrate tops off garbage can. Empty trash.
16.   Walking through garage to trash can, see that there are a lot of little leaves on the carpet just before coming into the kitchen. Grab the broom and do a quick sweep so all the debris doesn’t get tracked into the house.
17.   Settle into my chair with muffin and chai. 
18.   Grab phone to check e-mail.
19.   Check Facebook.
20.   Respond to message on Facebook.
21.   Clear two levels in Bubble World.
22.   Open blinds and watch for bus.
23.   Call out alert to Bethany when the bus goes down the street across from our house.
24.   Finish up chai and head back to kitchen.
25.   Fill 9 wide-mouth canning jars with plums. Start to cover with syrup and realize I didn’t make enough.
26.   Make more syrup, finishing off bag of sugar.
27.   Wash hands and grab phone to add sugar to shopping list.
28.   Check Facebook notification that popped up on phone. “Like” cute picture a friend posted.
29.   Check pantry for another bag of sugar.
30.   Realize flashlight for checking pantry is in bedroom, since I was reading by flashlight last night.
31.   Retrieve flashlight from bedroom.
32.   Make bed.
33.   Try to finish with the syrup I’ve made. Run out of syrup.
34.   Search cupboard for more sugar. Find enough for 2 more cups of syrup. Wonder what my neighbor Judy would think if I showed up on her doorstep at 7:20 AM asking for a cup of sugar.
35.   Finish up (just barely) with the last two cups of syrup.
36.   Put plums in canner.
37.   Search ten boxes of canning jars in basement, looking for any more wide-mouth pints. (There’s still one more container of plums in the fridge – probably enough for 4 more pints.) Move some jars around to empty out boxes.
38.   Take empty cardboard boxes out to recycling in garage.
39.   Search fridge for items in wide-mouth pints that can be downsized to half-pints. Find one (sweet pepper rings – with one or two sweet pepper rings floating in about ¼ cup of pickle juice).
40.   Add “Make Pickle Dip” to my to-do list to use up the pickle juice.
41.   Hear elementary bus going by… my signal that I need to hit the shower if I want to be on time for work!
42.   Miss a phone call from Bethany asking me to bring a certain shirt to the volleyball game.
43.   Put shirt in car so I don’t forget it.
44.   Take plums out of canner.
45.   Search fridge for something for lunch.
46.   Find another wide-mouth canning jar that I can downsize into a smaller jar.
47.   Rearrange dirty dishes in dishwasher to add those emptied by making my lunch.
48.   Take three cardboard boxes emptied during fridge search out to recycling.
49.   Hurry to answer the phone, thinking Bethany forgot something else… telemarketer.
50.   Get out crockpot to start teriyaki chicken.
51.   Sort yesterday’s mail that was still on the table where I put the crockpot.
52.   Realize I can’t make teriyaki chicken because there’s sugar in the recipe, and there’s no sugar in the house!
53.   Put BBQ chicken in the crockpot (Plan B).
54.   Fix hair, apply make-up.
Current knitting project is another "manly bib" like this one...
55.   Toss together “knitting to go” bag for volleyball game.
But this one has a bow tie instead of a regular tie.
56.   Out the door… on time! (Highly unusual… since, as you can see, I end up going down a lot of “rabbit trails”!)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gluten-Free Applesauce Muffins

My blog has been quiet lately.

Sorry... life has been crazy. In mid-August, we picked pears. Lots of pears. Lots and lots of pears. I think there were 9 baskets.

Pears are a very time-consuming fruit to can, since you have to cut the peel off each one. So, I just finished canning over 50 quarts of pears a few days ago. Now I can breathe again!

Lately, I've been trying to keep my spending on groceries to a minimum. I need to use up what I have in my cupboards and canning shelves (like all those pears). I was trying to figure out what to have for breakfast last week, and felt like baking something gluten-free. After all, my favorite gluten-free cereal (Bakery On Main Extreme Fruit & Nut Granola) is $6 per bag. If I could whip up some muffins with what I had on hand, it would save a lot of money.

I leafed through my collection of gluten-free recipes I've printed from the internet. Nothing sounded good to me. Then I went through the other pile of recipes. I found a recipe for Applesauce Muffins that I printed out in 2008 (before I went gluten-free). I made a few changes, gave it a try, and loved the result. So, I will share it!

Applesauce Muffins
2 cups gluten-free flour**
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 Tbsp apple pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp ground cloves)
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine flour, xanthan gum, sugar, baking soda and spice. Add applesauce, melted butter, egg and vanilla. Mix until well-combined. Fold in walnuts. Spoon into muffin tins (use paper cupcake liners, as these muffins are a bit crumbly). Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

**I used 2/3 cup cornstarch, 2/3 cup sorghum flour, 1/3 cup brown rice flour and 1/3 cup white rice flour

I have also made these by pureeing canned pears and replacing the applesauce with pear puree. They also turned out quite well.

Now... back to canning (still have peaches, plums and rhubarb I want to finish up)... and then to knitting (I have some newly finished items in my Penguin Place Shop.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Love to read? You'll love this program!

Last week, I was introduced to a new program from Tyndale House called "Tyndale Rewards." The Tyndale Rewards program is designed to provide you with opportunities to get books and Bibles for zero dollars. That’s right—F. R. E. E. As a member of the Tyndale Rewards program, you’ll have access to inspiring literature, Bibles, special promotional offers, and much more.

Other member incentives include a free gift on your birthday, along with opportunities to share your personal recommendations and feedback concerning Tyndale products. The more participation you have with the program, the more points you earn—and points translate into free stuff!

The Tyndale Rewards program is a great way to get free books and Bibles that you can keep for yourself or give to friends and family. Your journey to earning free faith-based products starts here. 

You can earn points in a number of ways: taking surveys, reviewing books by Tyndale Publishers, subscribing to email newsletters, referring friends, sharing on Facebook or through a blog.

The points rack up quickly, and soon you can claim a free book. My biggest problem right now is that I have enough points to get a free book, but there are so many to choose from that I want! Do I go for a new fiction book (there are a couple of new legal suspense books by Randy Singer) or non-fiction (I'm leaning towards a book called "Desperate Households" - about seven areas of household life that can get out of control. "Equips the reader to take steps in her own home and personal life that will make a huge difference in her family’s—and her own—quality of life.")  I could save up points for a new Bible, or get a devotional book. There's C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle on audio, or some new romantic fiction. So many choices... Okay, I've convinced myself. I'm going with the "Desperate Households" book! Redeeming my points was easy, and I have my first free book ordered.

I'm looking forward to getting more free books from this program! You can too! Just click through this link and sign up today! I'll get points for referring you! 

Happy reading, friends!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

It's Minion Time!

Despicable Me 2 came out yesterday, and I can't wait to see it. In the meantime, I made up a pattern for my own little Minion, to keep me company at work.
I've had this idea in my head for quite some time... using a blue cap from laundry detergent as a base for a little Minion doll. It took a "Design Wars" challenge from Cre8tion Crochet to get me to finally give it a try.
Isn't he cute? I've found that if I pinch his arms, the yarn will hold that pose for a few seconds. I could probably thread some very fine wire through his arms and make him more pose-able.

I'll share the pattern I used to make him, so if you know how to crochet, you can make your own little minion. I don't know if I'm going to put these in my Etsy Shop since they would cost more to package and ship, but I will definitely have a little Minion army of them at my November craft show! I do have some other Minion items in my shop right now: an adult Minion hat and a couple of baby hats. Local friends... save your detergent caps! If they're blue, I can use them for Minions. If they're other colors, Cathy A. makes a craft for Mom's Morning Out with them.

To make your own Minion, you'll need:
Size F crochet hook
about 1 oz. bright yellow knitting worsted weight yarn
small amounts of black, brown, white and gray knitting worsted weight yarn
blue detergent cap
fiberfill stuffing
glue gun

Start from the top of Mr. Minion's head
With bright yellow yarn, make a "magic ring" (picture tutorial here or YouTube video)
Round 1: Chain 2 and make 8 hdc in the magic ring. Pull tight, tie off and tuck in yarn ends. Mark the beginning of your round
Round 2: 2 hdc in each stitch around (24 stitches)
Round 2: *1 hdc in first stitch, 2 hdc in next stitch* repeat 7 time (32 stitches)
Round 3-5:  1 hdc in each stitch around
Round 6: Change to black yarn - work hdc around. Don't worry if your band of black looks a bit uneven at the joining point- you'll cover it up with the eye later!
Round 7: Change back to yellow yarn - work hdc in back loops
Rounds 8-15: Work even in yellow yarn.

With black yarn, make a magic ring.
Round 1: Chain 1 and make 6 sc in ring. Tighten ring.
Round 2: Change to brown yarn and do 2 sc in each stitch.
Round 3: Change to white yarn and do *1 sc in one stitch, 2 sc in next stitch* around
Round 4: *1 sc in first 2 stitches, sc in next stitch* around
Round 5: Change to gray yarn and work one sc in each stitch. Join with slip stitch to first sc and end,, leaving a long tail to sew on.
Center eye on black band, covering up the spot where you joined rounds. Sew on at the point where the white stitches meet the gray stitches. This way, the last round of gray you made curves up for the rim of the goggles.

Hair: Cut 2-3 lengths of yarn about 3" long. With a crochet hook, pull them through the top center of the Minion's head, making a loop. Pull the yarn through the loop and tighten. Give him a haircut as needed. You might want to make 3 or 4 separate bunches of hair. Minions have some very different hairstyles. It's easier to do the hair early in the project, before the Minion's body gets very long.

Arms: With yellow yarn, draw up a loop at the side of the Minion's body, about 2 rows down from the goggles band. Chain one and tie a knot to secure the yarn. Chain one more. Yarn over and draw up a loop from the same area where you attached the yarn. Draw yarn through (1 'hdc on the fly'). Make 5  more 'hdc on the fly', using the bottom loop of the last hdc to draw your thread through. Change to black yarn. Make 2 'hdc on the fly'. Slip stitch back to where you changed color. Chain 2. Slip stitch back to  where you changed color. End and tie off.  Repeat for other arm. Tuck in ends.

Using black yarn, embroider on a mouth.

Fill Minion and detergent cap with polyfill. Use glue gun to attach Minion to cap.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Review: Nick Vujicic's "Limitless"

 From limbless to limitless – anything is possible with God!

Nick Vujicic knows there is no greater hope than trusting in God’s plan for your life. Born without arms or legs, Nick has experienced both the peak of hope and the depth of despair. But he has overcome his circumstances and physical limitations by clinging to his faith and understanding the limitless love and power God has for every person.

Now he wants you to experience that same reassurance of hope and the power of God, everyday. In these fifty inspirational devotions, Nick shares his most compelling, hard-earned wisdom to help you face obstacles with confidence and courage and point you toward God. Whether you struggle with faith, relationships, career challenges, anger, health concerns, self-esteem, finding balance, or doubt in your dreams, Nick’s biblical encouragement and positive attitude will transform your life and show you that you can be limitless because God is limitless.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
I've been a fan of Nick Vujicic since I saw a YouTube video of him speaking to an auditorium full of teenagers. Here is a guy with no arms or legs, and he deliberately let himself fall down on the stage. He then managed to push himself back up, using his head and shoulders. Then he looked out over the sea of teenage faces and said something like, "I have no arms. I have no legs.  If I fall down, I shouldn't be able to get back up again. But I do. So, what is it you think you can't do?"

Limitless is a collection of 50 brief devotions based on Nick's life experiences. I got the book in the mail for review at a time when I was feeling pretty stressed out. I sat down and read through all 50 of the devotions in one night. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed some more, and I finished the book feeling much less stressed. Nick has a way of helping you to take your eyes off your problem by directing your focus back to God. He does so with a humble spirit and a great sense of humor.

This is the kind of book I'll keep next to my chair and mark up with notes and highlighting. Worried about finances? See page 112 for Nick's thoughts on his business being $50,000 in the red. Need a laugh? Oh, boy, there are loads of pages to refer you to - perhaps his adventure on a baggage carousel on page 47, or maybe his definition of "flip-phone" on page 80? Or his brief impromptu stint as a window mannequin (page 77)?  Afraid that things will never change? Page 56 will be an encouragement. Going through a time of sadness? Leaf over to page 68.

I highly recommend this book. Nick Vujicic may be been born "missing a few bits and pieces" (as his mother often told him), but God is definitely using him to spread a message of hope and encouragement.

The Sequel to "The Shunning" is finally here! And it's a great movie!

Last year, I got to review the movie "The Shunning" (based on the Beverly Lewis trilogy of Amish novels). My whole family enjoyed the movie, so when I was offered the chance to review the second movie, "The Confession," I eagerly agreed. It's produced by Sony Pictures in connection with Affirm Films and Provident Films.

Directed by Michael Landon Jr. (Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning, Love Comes Softly), the inspiring film is a sequel to the Hallmark Channel’s hit movie, Beverly Lewis’ The Shunning, and is based on the second novel of “The Heritage of Lancaster County” trilogy from New York Times best-selling author Beverly Lewis. Katie Lapp (Leclerc), a young Amish woman, goes on a journey in search of her identity -- only to find herself embroiled in a mystery that must be solved before she can be reunited with the “Englisher” mother, who gave her up for adoption 20 years earlier.  The film also stars Bill Oberst Jr. (The Secret Life of Bees), Cameron Deane Stewart (Pitch Perfect, High School Crush) and Julia Whelan (TV’s “Once and Again”).

When I got the DVD, and compared the pictures to those on The Shunning DVD, I saw that the actress playing Katie Lapp had changed. That caused me a moment's hesitation, but once I watched the movie, all those doubts disappeared. Katie Leclerc did an excellent job of portraying Katie Lapp in her struggles to do the right thing.

This is an awesome, family-friendly movie. If you haven't watched "The Shunning" yet, you definitely need to watch that first to get the back story. Katie is on a mission to find her birth mother. She doesn't have much more than a name and general location, and she runs into opposition, including an imposter!

Even though I've read the books that these movies are based on, I found myself caught up in the movie, wondering what would happen next, how obstacles would be overcome, and how conflicts would be resolved. The movie went by very quickly, and left me saying "What? It's over? I have to wait for the final movie now?"

The movie had a little bit of everything - humor, light romance, conflicts, suspense. I appreciate the way the main characters of Katie Lapp and Laura Mayfield-Bennett are such loveable characters, showing grace, kindness, loyalty and forgiveness to others.

There are several scenes in the movie that could lead to good family discussions on how the character's faith was shown through their actions, such as Laura Mayfield-Bennett's dealings with her husband, and how Katie Lapp consistently thinks of how her actions will impact the Amish couple who raised her. 

The DVD for Beverly Lewis' the Confession goes on sale June 11 - and I would definitely recommend that you add this to your video library!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

There's a new store in town... and it's got lots of gluten-free stuff!

A few weeks ago, I got a flyer in the mail about a new store opening in Orchard Park (about 15 miles away from my house). "Orchard Fresh" on North Buffalo Road in Orchard Park. That particular store has changed hands a few times in recent years. I think it's been Bells, Quality, Jubilee, and Latino's in the last twenty years. I'm out in that direction a lot, so I figured I'd eventually get out there. They specifically mentioned gluten-free items in their ad, so I figured it was worth a visit.

I found them on Facebook and got a notice that they were going to have gluten-free test stations this weekend, from noon - 4, so I planned it into my Saturday schedule. I figured I'd stop there, scope things out, and pick up some ingredients to make Reubens for lunch once I got home.

The first thing I noticed was that the parking lot was PACKED! Apparently lots of people wanted to try out some gluten-free samples.

As soon as I walked in, the samples started, with some probiotic coffee. It comes in a little foil stick packet and you add it to a cup of hot water. Not too bad... Not something I would buy on a regular basis, but it was an interesting concept.

As I started to make my way further into the store, I noticed they had a huge selection of dried beans. There were bulk dispensers of dried beans, lentils and rice - quite a nice selection.

Then I found my first gluten-free sample station. Forget about the "saving the best for last" idea. They had gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the (toaster) oven. Just Ask Josh gluten-free baked goods was serving up cookies and brownies, and they were delicious! I walked over to the freezer section to find them and discovered one of the biggest assortments of frozen gluten-free items I've ever seen! Just Ask Josh definitely has a hit with their frozen dough. It was one of the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.

Then I rounded a corner and tried some samples of some gluten-free crackers I'd never tried before. They were really good. I'd never head of the Absolutely Gluten-Free brand before, but I will definitely buy their flatbread crackers again. They had a great taste and texture, especially the roasted onion. I need to make some hummus when I get home, so I can dip the crackers in it!

Vin-Chet Bakery was there with a table of their delicious gluten-free baked goods. Carrot cake, brownies, raspberry coffee cake, cookies. So many delicious samples, and all of those products were available to purchase in the freezer case!

I got to chat for a while with a rep from U-Be-Livin-Smart, a company outside Toronto that specializes in natural, nutrient-dense foods. I sampled some muffins made without flour or sugar. They call them "Karma"ffins. They have lots of fruits and veggies in them, and the Chocolate-Banana muffin was pretty tasty!

I had seen Rudi's Gluten-Free Tortillas in the Orchard Fresh flyer that came in my mail, but couldn't find them in the freezer section, so one of the helpful employees tracked them down for  me. They were actually sold fresh in the bread aisle. When I went over there and looked, I found the biggest selection of ready-to-eat (not frozen) gluten-free bread I've ever seen in one place. Sorry for the poor quality of this picture... I forgot my camera and had to take a picture with my phone.

There were more than a dozen choices of gluten-free breads, plus a few mixes and bread crumbs. Nice. The next time the rest of the family is having Subway, I saw some Schar multi-grain rolls there that would  make a nice little sub... I used my new Rudi's Gluten-Free Tortillas to make myself a Reuben Wrap for lunch, and it was delicious! A bit messy, but soooo good!

The whole gluten-free sampling event was great. I was introduced to a lot of new gluten-free products, and will definitely be heading back to the store again. I just wish the gluten-free items were more consolidated. There are gluten-free items in the bread aisle, the baking aisle, the cookie aisle, the cracker aisle, the freezer case, and some end-caps. It takes a little more searching to find them!

The nicest surprise was when I finished shopping and headed back out to the parking lot. They were giving away hot dogs, too! Gluten-free hot dogs (Boar's Head) on G/F rolls from Three Brothers Bakery. 

The store had a huge selection of specialty items: oils, vinegars, cheeses, mustards. While many of the items were a bit out of the price range I would usually pay, if you're a foodie and looking for a special ingredient, you'll probably find it there.

The store is still pretty new, and they're still learning. The cashier couldn't figure out how to enter a coupon when she couldn't scan it. Once they get little bugs like that out of the system, and I get the hang of where my favorite products are located, I think I'll really enjoy shopping there.

I can think of somebody else who will really enjoy my shopping there... the store is only a few miles from Bethany's school. When I pick her up from basketball practice, I often bring her a snack to help tide her over until dinner. She's particularly fond of muffins. Orchard Fresh had a nice display of freshly-baked muffins (not gluten-free):

Saturday, May 4, 2013

DVD Review/Giveaway: Ring The Bell

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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."

We're always looking for good, family-friendly movies to watch for a Saturday night movie night. Entertaining, yet wholesome movies can be hard to find nowadays. I love it when I'm offered the opportunity to review Christian films like "Ring The Bell." 

Here's a little bit about the movie:

About Ring the Bell:
Ring The Bell shares the story of a slick, big city sports agent Rob Decker who seems to have it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life—and the faith of the people—stand in stark contrast to his own fast-paced, win-at-all-costs mindset. Torn between these two worlds, will Rob have the courage to let faith transform his life? This heartwarming story of redemption is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.
Ring The Bell features a host of well-known Christian music artists, such as Mark Hall along with his band Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Matthew West, all who play a role in this inspirational drama. Several former and current Major League Baseball all-stars are also featured in the film: ESPN analysts John Kruk and Rick Sutcliffe (a former Cy Young Award winner), along with Ben Zobrist.
This family-friendly movie was produced by Mark Miller, Beach Street Records' founder and Casting Crowns’ producer. Miller, who is also the lead singer and founder of country music group Sawyer Brown, co-wrote the script with Thomas Weber and Weber directed the production. 

 I'm not quite sure why this movie got a PG rating for "Mild Thematic Elements". It seemed squeaky clean to me. Perhaps because of some tragedies mentioned (parents dying in a plane crash, boy delivered to a group home because his mother was in a car crash)? Anyways, there was no profanity, no skimpy outfits, no "cover the kids' eyes" scenes. Just a hokey little town with quirky characters and a whole lot of baseball.

Even though we're not baseball fans, we enjoyed this movie. It was a bit predictable... hot-shot, fast-talking sports agent goes to a small town to talk the local baseball sensation into signing up for a major-league team rather than going to college. You just know that instead of charming the small-town boy out of his plans, the small town will charm him into changing... but I don't want to give away too much of the plot!

The movie has a lot of cameos by non-actors. Steven Curtis Chapman plays a pastor. Matthew West plays the part of a manager of a baseball team. Several baseball legends appear in a scene towards the end of the movie (for those who know baseball, it's Rick Sutcliffe, John Kruk, and Ben Zobrist). They did pretty well with acting, being out of their comfort zones. I think it made the movie a bit more fun.

We got some good laughs out of their portrayal of small town life. They sure wrote up some unique characters when they put together this script!

The Christian music group Casting Crowns also appears in the movie, as the characters attend a Casting Crowns concert. Nice touch!

One thing I'm always looking for on DVDs is special features. I love watching the background stories, blooper reels, and other details about the movie itself. This DVD has several special features:

DVD Special Features:

The Heart of "Ring the Bell"
Casting Crowns “The Well” Music Video

On Set with Casting Crowns
Famous Faces

A Very Special Movie

Ringing the Bell

The Artists and Music of "Ring The Bell"
If you want to check it out, stop by the Ring The Bell Website, where you can watch a trailer of the movie, or visit their Facebook page. You can pick the video up for $12.99 on Amazon! Pick it up and have a family movie night at your house, too! 

I'm doing a giveaway - so one lucky family can get their copy of Ring The Bell for free! 

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life

I'll admit...I'm a procrastinator.

 So, when I got the chance to review a book called "One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life," I figured it might help me break some of those bad procrastination habits.

The back cover summed me up pretty well: "Are you suffering from "someday" syndrome--always waiting for someday when your schedule calms down, your finances improve, or your kids grow up so you can begin to live the live you've always dreamed of?"

Well, true to form, it has been a year, and I'm just posting my review now.

Don't blame it on the book. It's an excellent book. It has a lot of good advice. It is well-organized and thorough. takes dedication to work through it.  My procrastination gene overwhelmed the dedication gene, and instead of working through one chapter a day, I would pick the book up once a month or so and read a chapter or two. I didn't do the assignments at the end of each chapter (yet), so I don't think I got the full benefits from this book.

The book is broken down into 30 chapters that address four principles of life change: Living Passionately, Loving Completely, Learning Humbly, and Leaving Boldly. For each chapter, there is a paragraph of questions to make you think about what needs to be changed, more questions to direct you on how to "make it count" and some 'homework' questions to help you "Make it last for life."

This book isn't a magic pill to show you how to get rich, skinny and famous in thirty days. It's an excellent handbook to help you focus on what you need to change in your life -- what should stay and what should go, what's important and what's filler.  It takes commitment to prayerfully and diligently work on it each day, doing the homework and keeping a notebook to keep yourself on track.

There are inspiring stories at the back of the book - people who have taken the 30-day challenge and made a real difference in their lives. I look forward to going through this book again, the right way, and making my own inspirational story.

I received this book from Waterbook-Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Movie Review & Giveaway: "This Is Our Time"

This week I got the chance to review a new family-friendly movie from PureFlix called "This is Our Time (To Seize God's Calling)." It's the story of five young people who graduate from college with high hopes for making a difference in the world for God.

About This Is Our Time
The movie tells the interwoven stories of Luke (T.J. Dalrymple) and Alé (Erin Bethea), who marry right after school and move to India to serve as missionaries for Embrace A Village, a ministry that cares for those afflicted with leprosy and their families; aspiring financier Catherine (Kate Cobb), who joins a prestigious financial institution determined to make an impact on corporate America; Ryder (Matthew Florida), who lands an impressive job in social media and can’t wait to use the powerful medium for a greater good; and Ethan (Shawn-Caulin Young,) seemingly the odd man out, who struggles to find his God-given-purpose and feels sidelined by God.
“What they all come to learn is that it never really was their time,” Arnold said. “It always was, always is, God’s time.”

This movie is so relevant to young people today - as they seek to find where it is they should serve God with their lives, why God allows bad things to happen to those who are serving Him, and what the true meaning of success is. 

I loved the movie and felt that it had valuable messages for people of all ages. I appreciate the way the movie-makers portrayed a tragic accident without any of the blood and gore that are so much a part of movies nowadays. 

I also loved the fact that the movie showcased an actual ministry! In the movie, Luke and Alé go to India to serve at a ministry called "Embrace A Village". Embrace A Village is an actual ministry that exists to transform the lives of leprosy patients and their families. Fifty percent of all proceeds from this movie will go to the "Embrace a Village" ministry. You can read a blog about the making of the movie at the Embrace A Village Website.

I think this movie would be an excellent addition to any family's video library, and I'd say it's a must for church libraries (that's where my copy is going!). I'm having a giveaway - just click on the Rafflecopter logo below, leave a comment, and you're entered! You can enter once a day! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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, April 1, 2013

Setting Goals for this Month

Wow! It's April! Time is flying by.

My New Year's Resolutions fell to the wayside months ago, so with this new month, I am starting anew. This month, I have some very specific goals.

1. To Lose Ten Pounds
2. To Log 50 miles of walking
3. To stick to a budget and keep grocery purchases under $500 this month
4. To use up the yarn in the ottoman
5. To raise $100 for new basketball uniforms through sales from my PenguinPlace shop

Okay, there they are. Now to explain a bit!

The first one is pretty self-explanatory. I've fallen off the diet and exercise bandwagon, and it's time to hop back on. Ten pounds in one month is doable. I just need to get back to eating healthy and exercising.

Hence goal #2. I keep telling myself I don't have time to exercise.
When the day's mail at work contains a stack of envelopes like this, it's easy to say there isn't time. For the sake of my health, however, I need to make time. Half an hour walking, biking on the recumbant bike in the basement, or on the elliptical, 4-5 times a week. I need to cut out some unnecessary stuff and get my workouts in.

Goal #3 - I love to shop. I love matching coupons to sales and getting bargains. That is why my cupboards and freezer are a bit too full right now. I need to plan meals that use up what I have on hand and back off from shopping for a while.

Goal #4 - Okay, here's what the inside of the ottoman looks like:

I would like to use up enough yarn in there that I can put in the ziploc bags of scrap yarn. That way, the scrap yarn would be easy to get at, but hidden from view. It looks rather messy in the basket next to my chair.

All that knitting leads up to Goal #5
My youngest daughter Bethany is getting ready to shoot a foul shot here.

The uniforms my daughter's school basketball team wear really need to be replaced. The numbers are falling off. They're stretched out from years of use. They're older than the girls on the team. The sizes are limited, so some girls who should be wearing a small have to use safety pins to keep their XL shorts from falling off. We're been working to raise money for uniforms through various fundraisers, and now we need $300 more to meet our goal.

For the month of April, all sales of my knit and crochet items from my Facebook or Etsy shop will go towards new uniforms. This will help me keep my inventory from taking over the closet (see below), and help the girls get one step closer to getting new uniforms!

I have a little bit of everything... from Character Cup Cozies ($4)

 To Beautiful Ruffled Scarves ($8 - $10)

Stop on by and look around, and help the Lady Falcon on their way to some jazzy new uniforms! (and ask me how well I'm doing on my other goals! I need to be kept accountable!)

2013/2014 Update:
Here are the girls in their new uniforms.