Apron Full of Giveaways 08.05.14

August 5th, 2014

Retro drink apron via Etsy

Source: Swizzlestix,  $28.00

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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Caprese Pasta Salad

August 4th, 2014

From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.

Caprese Pasta Salad #recipe via MomAdvice.com
Some evening meals require simplicity. They are the evenings when I’ve stood in my kitchen, sans air conditioning, feeling the heat condense on my skin as I look in the cupboards and attempted to choose a heat-less meal twice already that day.

They are evenings when the day has been one obstacle to climb after another. It’s when each child has separately skinned their knee on the driveway in four isolated incidents, each involving band-aids. It’s for days when even the excitement of a long-awaited package arrival ends in disappointment as it is opened to reveal a wrong item and a note indicating an “upgrade.”

This meal isn’t flashy. It’s honest and good. It’s your basic caprese salad, the one with the thick slices of summer tomatoes and too white mozzarella, full leaves of sweet basil, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil and balsamic – a summer essential. It’s that salad with a few extras. Pasta and green onions are invited, and if it’s a meal on its own, add a bit of protein in the way of beans or leftover chicken, shredded and tossed directly into the mix. It’s served in one bowl with one spoon, and it can be eaten on the patio or on a picnic blanket with slices of watermelon and a jug of iced tea. It can be tucked into a thermos and carried along to school or camp or off to the beach.

Caprese Pasta Salad #recipe via MomAdvice.com
In my repertoire of summer meals, I tend to rely on salads more than anything. This year’s has been an ode to simple pasta salads and a leafy salad with a hearty helping of quinoa dumped in for good measure. They’re simple, but they’re pulled together enough to be carried to a neighborhood barbecue or a family gathering where they’ll disappear on the buffet table in short order. You won’t regret doubling the recipe here.

Tomorrow, when you climb out of bed and feel the breeze coming through the open window, the world will feel new. And there will be leftover salad in the refrigerator for lunch.

Caprese Pasta Salad #recipe via MomAdvice.com

Caprese Pasta Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Pasta Salad
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces small pasta (in shape of your choice)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh basil (packed tightly)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh mozzarella pearls
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Add-ins: shredded chicken, chickpeas, white beans, grilled peaches
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the box directions with the kosher salt in the water. Drain, rinse with cold water, place it in a large bowl, and chill.
  2. Make a chiffonade of basil by stacking the basil leaves on top of one another, rolling tightly, and slicing very thin strips.
  3. Once the pasta is chilled, add the grape tomato halves, the mozzarella pearls, green onions, and the basil to the bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, Dijon, and the sea salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat evenly. Stir in any additional add-ins to make this a meal on its own or serve as is.

 

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Sundays With Writers: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

August 3rd, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Do you ever pick up a book completely outside of your normal genre and find yourself completely swept away in a world you never dreamed you would escape to? It happened a couple of times for me with The Hunger Games series and Twilight series, just to name two types of books that I never thought I would love.  Last week if you would have asked me if I would have fallen head over heels in love with a book with a plotline firmly planted in science fiction with a zombie apocalypse theme or even just another dystopian thriller ( a genre I had grown very tired of), I would have probably laughed at you.

No, this is not your typical recommendation on here and that is exactly why I had to feature it today. It is different and it is awesome.

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-2

 

I fell head-over-heels in love for The Girl With All the Gifts. I can tell you now that this will be on my top ten reads of 2014 because I can’t stop thinking about it and have the urge to reread it all over again. It is a true adventure of a read that grabbed me and did not let me go until the final pages.

My husband is not a big reader like me, but when I finished the book and described it to him, he picked it up one evening after my encouragement. I did not see or speak to him for two whole days. He was just as swept away in this book as I was. For this reason, I would definitely recommend this one as a great couple’s book selection and definitely not limited to our female audience.

After I finished it, I emailed Mike Carey (who is using the pen name M.R. Carey for this book) and never in a million years expected a response. You see, Mike is quite a big deal. He is an established British writer of prose fiction and comic books. He has written for both DC and Marvel, including critically acclaimed runs on X-Men and Fantastic Four, Marvel’s flagship superhero titles. His creator-owned books regularly appear in the New York Times graphic fiction bestseller list. He also has several previous novels and one Hollywood movie screenplay to his credit.

And he answered my message and said he would love to share his book with you all.

I have taken my fangirl status to another level entirely after this interview and can’t wait to see this book adapted into a screenplay.

All the descriptions of this book state that Melanie is simply a special girl. You don’t know what makes her special until you dive in and discover the girl and all her gifts.

This book is wildly imaginative, suspenseful, and leaves you wondering who you should be rooting for as the story develops. I really, really loved this book.  Unfortunately, it is just the kind of book that you shouldn’t talk about so that each reader can go on the journey with this child and find out just what makes her so unique. It’s a book that you will want to finish and share with friends. It reads like a movie and is just the type of literary adventure I would recommend if you have been in a reading slump this summer.

Grab your coffee and let’s have a chat with the amazing Mike Carey about his book…

mike-carey

I loved this book so very much and it is unlike anything that I have ever read before or will ever read again. Thank you for such a fantastic escape this summer. I discovered that it was based upon the Edgar-nominated short story, Iphigenia in Aulis that you had written.  Why did you decide to take this short story and expand it into The Girl With All the Gifts?

Thanks!  I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

The story had an unusual genesis – or unusual for me, at least.  I’d been invited to contribute to a themed anthology edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner.  They do these books every year, and the theme is always something deceptively innocent and everyday – home improvements, family holidays or whatever.  This particular year the  theme was schooldays.

And I said I’d do it, but then I had no ideas whatsoever.  Inspiration didn’t strike.

Until about three weeks before the deadline, when suddenly I woke up with this image in my mind of a little zombie girl writing an essay in an abandoned classroom. “What I want to Do When I Grow Up”.  The whole story grew from that – from Melanie, and her situation.  I wrote it in four straight days and sent it in, and Charlaine and Toni said it fitted the bill perfectly.

But I had the sense as soon as I hit SEND that Melanie’s story wasn’t finished yet.  It felt as though the ending, in which she and Sergeant Parks fight back-to-back against an army of Junkers in order to cover the evacuation of the base, wasn’t really earned.  And it felt like there needed to be much more a pay-off for Melanie’s relationship with Miss Justineau (who in the short is called Miss Mailer).

So I pitched it to Orbit as a novel, and they commissioned it – even though that meant amending my contract in some complicated ways.  And at the same time I pitched it as a movie concept to a producer I was already working with.  The two version of the story grew up side by side.

You make a very conscious decision to never use the word, “zombie.” Why did you not want to use this word in your book? Was this meant to lead the reader into their own conclusions when they begin the story?

It’s partly that – although the reveal comes quite early, really.  It’s also a question of trying to make the reader keep an open mind.  I was conscious that zombies for a lot of people are an overworked trope and a fairly limited one.  I was coming at it from what I thought was a new angle, and I hoped that if I held off on the Z word readers would stay with it until they were emotionally invested.

It’s rebounded against me in some ways.  I’ve read a few reviews where the reviewer has said “you know, this is reasonably realistic in some ways, but if you’ve got a zombie apocalypse going on why wouldn’t you just call it one?  That doesn’t ring true at all…”

In one scene, Dr. Caldwell says to Mrs. Justineau, “You should ask yourself why you’re so keen on thinking of me as the enemy…Which weighs the most, Helen? Which will do the most good in the end? Your compassion or my commitment to my work?” Which of these characters do you think was doing the most good? Did you relate to Dr. Caldwell or Mrs. Justineau more when writing this?

Oh, I’m with Helen Justineau all the way!  But I wanted readers to understand where Caldwell was coming from.  Nobody sees themselves as evil.  They explain away the things they do as being forced on them by circumstances, or serving a greater good, or whatever it might be.  Caldwell is trying to save humanity.  She’s also trying to earn a sort of personal immortality through her work, and to prove that she’s better than the scientists who were promoted over her, but she genuinely believes she’s doing good – and that the ends absolutely justify the means.

There’s a beat near the end of the book that really only works if you can empathise with Caldwell at least a tiny bit.  It’s when she and Melanie have their conversation about the infection, and Caldwell realises that if anything of her work is going to survive it will be through her being able to explain it to Melanie now.  The child she was going to sacrifice is the last slender reed she can grab hold of.  If you don’t care about Caldwell at all that’s just ironic.  I wanted it to have a little touch of tragedy to it.

Where are you in development of the screenplay of The Girl With All The Gifts? Do you have anyone in mind for your dream cast?

The screenplay is written and we have a deal in place.  I’ve never been this far along with a film project before – well, once a long time ago when I wrote the screenplay for an animated version of Tristan and Isolde, but I generally avoid talking about that.

This time around it’s been an amazingly rewarding and enjoyable process.  The movie and the novel grew up together and kept swapping DNA.  We went a slightly different way in the movie, especially when it came to point of view.  Where the novel moves between the five main characters and lets us see what’s going on in all of their heads, the movie sticks with Melanie all the way.  And there are no Junkers in the movie.  The base falls to a hungry attack.  But it’s a case of two different paths through the same narrative space.  The ending is absolutely faithful to the book.

I’m going to duck the question about casting if you don’t mind.  That’s where we are at the moment, and I’m crossing every finger and toe I’ve got that we get the Justineau and Caldwell who are currently reading the screenplay.

 The science in this book is quite astounding.  Can I admit that my own brain may have exploded at times from all the scientific detail that you developed in it? Was there a lot of research on your end to develop these portions of the book, particularly developing the plotline with the infection that is based upon the ants?

A fair bit, yes.  In the short story I glibly described the hungry pathogen as a virus, probably with 28 Days Later at the back of my mind.  But when it came to writing the novel I had to put my money where my mouth was and I realised very quickly that a virus wouldn’t do.  They have very simple, linear life cycles.  I wanted something more baroque and multi-staged that would provide a plausible puzzle for Caldwell and would also allow for the events of the climax.

Enter Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.  To be honest, I’d already seen the David Attenborough footage of the zombie ants, so I was rediscovering this weird parasite rather than reading about it for the first time.  But it was obviously perfect for my needs.  And once I’d made the decision that the infectious organism should be a fungus, it just kept on giving.  It made for some visuals that I’d never come across in the post-apocalyptic fiction I’d read and that had the potential to be very powerful.

There were also other things I had to look into, like how you take a brain out of a skull.  That was one of the hardest scenes to write.

Without giving it away, the ending that you create was just perfection. Is this where you always knew Melanie’s journey was heading or did it develop as you developed the story?

I always knew that Melanie was going to face that choice.  She’s Pandora, after all.  She has to find the box and make the decision whether or not to open it. And the box has to be full of monsters and terrible evils, but it also has to contain at least the promise of hope.

But the details were quite vague, and they firmed up as I wrote the story.  I’m not sure that Rosie was in the original pitch.   The feral children were, but they were just a placeholder.  I had no idea how Melanie’s fight with them would play out, beyond the vague feeling that she would have to use the environment in intelligent ways that they didn’t see.

It’s always a mixture of planning and serendipity.  You know where you’re going in the broadest sense.  But you don’t know what you’re going to gather along the way and so the ending, when you get there, is both familiar and surprising.

Did you ever have a teacher like Mrs. Justineau? What teacher inspired you the most in your own career?

This is going to make me blush.  When I was seven years old, my teacher was Miss Bimpson.  I had a huge crush on her.  She was clever and funny, her lessons were great, but she was also most extraordinarily kind.  One day when I was crying my eyes out about something – a totally mundane something that seemed like the end of the world to me – she sat me  on her lap and hugged me until I stopped sobbing.  That’s probably the origin of the scene in which Miss Justineau strokes Melanie’s hair.

But probably the most inspiring teacher I ever met was George Lucy, who taught English at the comprehensive school I attended from age eleven.  George was one of those teachers who thinks the curriculum is something that happens to other people.  Boring people.  He taught whatever he was most passionate about, and I learned from him to interrogate limits and push past them if they’re not real.

He also tutored me for my Oxford entrance exam.  I come from a solid working class background and there were a lot of holes in my academic knowledge.  George lent me books – dozens of them – from his own collection and generally gave me the tools I needed to sit those papers.  He changed my life in a lot of ways.

Since you are also a comic book writer, can you picture this book being developed into a comic book or even a comic book series? Who would be your dream illustrator for this?

I would love to write a Girl With All the Gifts comic book.  The only possible artists for a project like that would be Peter Gross or Mike Perkins.  And Mike has already covered the whole post-apocalyptic genre with his epic version of Stephen King’s The Stand, so he might well say no.

Will there be a sequel for Melanie?

I don’t think so.  There are other stories to be told around her story, and I could imagine going back to tell one of those.  Perhaps a story with an entirely different cast, taking place at the exact same time as GIRL.  Or perhaps a story from a generation later.  But I don’t think Melanie would be the protagonist in either of those.

You reach a point, with most characters, where you feel that their story has been told.  I’d love to revisit the world of Lucifer, but I wouldn’t dream of bringing Lucifer himself back into it.  It’s the same with Melanie.  I’d be wary of weakening her story by adding extra beats to it.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

So many possible answers to that!  You could ask me a couple of dozen times and get a different answer each time.  Today I’m going to say The Shadow Of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe.  It’s the first volume in a tetralogy, so if you read it and liked it you’d have to read the other three.  But they’re so worth it. It’s a story of a far future Earth where the sun is dying.  Humanity has spread to the stars but that was long ago.  Now there are other galactic empires, other non-human civilisations that call the shots.  What’s left of humankind is back on an old, old planet that hasn’t got much time left to it.  But there’s a Messianic religion that preaches that the New Sun, sometimes known as the Conciliator, will be born on Earth as a man and rekindle all our hopes.  Reborn, rather, since he’s been here once before.  And Severian of the Torturers’ Guild believes this to be true since he’s found a holy relic, the Claw of the Conciliator, that heals all wounds.

It’s a very hard book to describe, and there’s no denying that it goes to some very dark places.  But Wolfe’s imagination is vast.  He creates a world and peoples it.  And he has a very serious purpose which takes in faith, physics and the importance of storytelling.

You can connect with Mike Carey on GoodReads and on Facebook!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book!

You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!
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It’s the 3 Little Things: Are You Sure, New Music Tuesday, & An Altered Lifestyle

August 1st, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Today I am in Austin with Savings.com and I wanted to be sure to still get my happy list of three up for you all! There is a lot that is personally making me happy this week.  My husband actually dove into a book and absolutely loved it  (don’t miss this week’s Sundays With Writers for a book unlike anything we have ever read), the temperatures have been cool and ideal for spray painting (which just makes me about the happiest girl in the whole world), and I’ve been enjoying hibernating at home with my family this week.

Oh, and I also did an interview with Mint.com- definitely check that out!

Here are three things that are making me happy this week.

 

New Music Tuesday

New Music Tuesday

There is nothing that makes me happier than good music and Tuesday has become my favorite day of the week thanks to the Spotify New Music Tuesday playlist.  Each Tuesday they have this epic playlist of great music to check out for the week and I listen to it while I work on Tuesdays. I always find a new artist to add to my playlists and I love hearing new releases from old favorites. You don’t need to pay for a membership to access it, but we pay for the membership since I listen all day and in my car to Spotify.

If you are accessing it from Spotify- just click Browse, then Top Lists, then click on New Music Tuesday.

It’s a great mix of mainstream and hipster awesomeness.  This week I am obsessed with this Kanye West cover that was on the New Music Tuesday playlist. It’s a musical narnia, I tell ya!

Seriously, you must check out the selections each Tuesday. There is always something delightful to listen to!

 

Sure Deodorant

Feeling Sure- Raising My Hand High

 

The only deodorant that works and perfect for sensitive skin is this Sure Deodorant. Call it hormones, call it global warming, call it old age…this girl is a sweaty mess. After trying a million different kinds, this is the only thing that works for me.  If global warming has you down, see if this helps. The best part is that it costs a lot less than the expensive brands I have tried and works twice as good.

 

Stitch Fix Alterations

Clothes That Truly Fit

I feel very blessed to have a closet of clothes that I love.   Unfortunately, none of them fit anymore after all my stomach issues the last couple of years.  I don’t want to buy new things, but when I swung by Flourish Boutique last week to pick out a dress for a speaking engagement this week, I found out that you can get your clothes altered right at their store. You can have them pin your items right there and the seamstress will pick them up, alter them, and then drop them to the store for you. It’s like a world of maxi dresses opened up to this five foot woman. The possibilities are endless now.

Since I had a closet full of stuff, I snagged the card for the seamstress at the front desk and  took in a handful of stuff to have her take a peek and see what was worth altering. Her prices were so affordable ($11 to hem jeans with the seam intact- say what?) and she had great ideas so we didn’t have to move zippers and to keep the shape of my items at an affordable price.

This skirt was from my first Stitch Fix box, but I was swimming in it. This is the first thing I had altered and they charged me FORTY DOLLARS at the dry cleaners to do it. I have had a closet of stuff that I was spacing out monthly for alterations so I would have things that fit.   I love this skirt so much that, in the end, it was worth it. This lady I found though will do it for just $5-10 so no more of that expensive alteration business.

I dropped off my winter coat, many dresses that I love that look ridiculous on me, and just about every skirt in my closet to her home.  I look forward to wearing clothing that fits and that looks just like me. I love my things and I don’t want to part with them because of sizing issues. I also am tired of waiting to see where my weight ends up landing once I am fully on the mend. By that time, they will be out of style so… Cease the day.

Seriously, visit Flourish Boutique and ask about their awesome alterations that they offer and get yourself things that you can feel confident in.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Freebie Friday August 1, 2014

August 1st, 2014

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week on MomAdvice I think you’re going to love this refreshing summer salad from our food contributor, Diana. I’m also sharing a gluten-free lemon cake that’s to die for and how I transformed a corner of a room in our home with lots of tips you can use, too. On this week’s edition of  It’s the 3 Little Things I’m sharing what’s making me happy and hope you’ll share yours, too!

Our regular feature,  Amy’s Notebook, is of course filled with lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Health & Beauty

Nivea Lotion Sample
Emergen-C Sample 
Garnier Clean+ Sample

Tums Ultra Chewable Tablets Sample
Suave Professionals Natural Infusions Sample
Hugo Boss Men’s Fragrance Sample
Hugo Boss Women’s Fragrance Sample
Schiff Move Free Ultra Sample

Food & Drink

Truvia Natural Sweetener Sample

Entertainment

Free Natural Beauty Mini Magazine

Pet

Timberwolf Organic Dog Food Sample

This Week’s Freebie Events: August 1 – 7

1st - Barnes & Noble: Enjoy Storytime, Sing-Along, Crafts, and Activities with Olaf, 7 pm.

2nd - Long John Silvers: Free Fish and Fries, 11 am – 3 pm.

2nd - Home Depot: Build a Mini-Crate Pencil Holder, 9 am – 12 pm.

2nd - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Personalized Door Hanger, 11 am – 3 pm.

2nd - Barnes & Noble: Celebrate Marvel Day with activities and giveaways.

2nd & 3rd - National Museums: Free Entrance to Museums for Bank of America Card Holders.

 

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Amy’s Notebook 07.30.14

July 30th, 2014

DIY Lightbulb Terrariums via CladandCloth

Source: Clad and Cloth

 

I don’t think I can kill these diy lightbulb terrariums.

LOVE this family tree wall.

Four things to help you say no with confidence.

I’m wowed by this grill upgrade.

I simply love this dining room makeover.

Quinoa Cakes via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

Baked quinoa falafel is a new recipe I am dying to try.

Can’t wait to try DIY natural disinfectant wipes.

These beautiful quotes with watercolor look inexpensive & easy to create.

24 hours in Paris is on my anniversary trip bucket list.

What I Instagrammed vs. what was really happening, or my entire life is a lie…busted!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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Transforming Corners In Your Home

July 29th, 2014

Transforming Corners In Your Home from MomAdvice.com.

I can’t believe that we have lived in our home 11 years now. What I saw as just our temporary residence until something better came along has now become our forever home as we inch closer and closer towards paying it off.  This is the longest I have lived anywhere and I am so proud of the updates that we have made to our space and creating a place that we can be proud of and share with our family and friends.

Tackling a big renovation on your space can feel daunting and overwhelming. When I look around there is so much that I wish I could do, but just isn’t in our budget. The good news is that small switches in your home can still make improvements to your space that can sit sweetly in your budget and time constraints.

Transforming Corners In Your Home from MomAdvice.com.

Walmart challenged me to refresh a corner in my home using some items from their store and I knew exactly which corner in my home I wanted to tackle. This corner is where I live during the school year. You will find me happily flipping through library books between getting my kids off to school and on their buses or spending my evenings knitting and sipping tea in this chair in the evenings.  The wall has had these three black-and-white pictures of shoes on it for ten years and I find that as I get older and develop my style more, I am drawn to lighter and brighter things in my home, rather than the masculine tones and colors that I was drawn to before.

Transforming Corners In Your Home from MomAdvice.com.

I decided to brighten up the space with a few things we had around our house (rearranging, after all is always the most budget-friendly option), to add a few fresh picks from Walmart that would fit in my budget, and then combine it with our love for great art.  At Walmart, I found two throw pillows for my chair, beautiful picture frames for under $20, a fiery red flower pot, and a small succulent that would require very little watering. I pulled in a light throw I had to bring in the lighter tones and moved a wreath that I had from our kitchen into the spot next to our clock.

Transforming Corners In Your Home from MomAdvice.com.

The entire color scheme hinged around some beautiful prints I found from Janet Hill Studio on Etsy. If you haven’t heard of her, I would just run right over and spend your afternoon coffee with her shop.  We had so much fun picking art for our wall and her pictures were so amazing that it took my husband & I almost three weeks to come to an agreement together on which prints to select. These prints brighten up the space so much more than my black-and-white photos and are a beautiful conversation piece. I love them so much that I have asked my husband if I can have a print for my birthday each year. I want to fill my home with her art, it really makes me that happy.

Transforming Corners In Your Home from MomAdvice.com.

Of course, once you start, it can be difficult to stop.  For me, it is a never ending process of rearranging and adding and taking away items in our home. My view from  the chair was rather uninteresting too so we went ahead and ordered one extra print.
Transforming Corners In Your Home from MomAdvice.com.

Transforming Corners In Your Home from MomAdvice.com.

I now have a pretty view of this beautiful piece titled, “Tallulah Shaw Rehearses Before Her Final Show. 1959.”  With our new front door and the pop of color we embraced while turning our shed into a bonus room, it is a very different hallway view from a few weeks ago.

I hope this inspires you to makeover a corner in your own home.  The beauty for me is that next week this corner could look entirely different because the joy is in the rearranging, the repurposing, and the frugal additions that can make your space so fun!

walmart_mom_disclaimer

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Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

July 29th, 2014

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

For our family, birthdays are all about the cake and my son’s 12th birthday was just the reason to try out a new recipe. After browsing through the cookbooks, which is the birthday child’s honorary ritual and right, he decided to repeat his choice last year with another chocolate snickerdoodle cake. I rounded out our birthday dessert table with a gluten-free lemon chiffon cake so that I could enjoy a slice of cake with the family too. I would say that this cake was just as much of a hit as the the chocolate cake and tempted me everytime I opened the fridge.

“Just one more slice,” it screamed.

I would grab a fork and nip off a bit and eat it while still standing at the fridge.

Don’t judge.

I am not much of a sweets gal, but this cake was so light and lovely that I couldn’t stop eating it.

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake Chiffon cakes are my favorite cakes because they are so light. Much like an angel food cake, they are created with egg whites which really helps with the density of the gluten-free cakes. The cake is so delicate though that I ended up wrapping the cooled cakes in saran wrap and a layer of foil and freezing them overnight so they would not tear or fall apart when I frosted the cake. I highly recommend doing that too.  I still rely upon these two 8″ Wilton pans (affiliate)  (instead of those 9″ pans that produced flat layers for me) and a good spatula (affiliate) for all my cakes. With this cake, in particular, you want to make sure you don’t produce thin cake layers that crumble when pulled from the pan.

Smoothed between the layers is a delicious lemon curd (I used this recipe!) which sounds wildly impressive, but is so easy to make that you will wonder why you never tried making it before. My children fought over who could enjoy the last of the lemon curd that was in the jar.

I broke it up by telling them that since they were going to fight about it, I was going to eat it.

That’s the kind of mom I am, a true problem-solver.

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake

The cake is then frosted with a whipped cream frosting that has the lemon curd whipped through it.

I mean, seriously. It’s as if this cake fulfilled all my food dreams.

12

Happy 12th birthday to my beautiful boy. I think this is the happiest of his birthdays and it was because there was no fuss and no elaborate themes. We had just got back from vacation, I had a millionty projects for work, and our shed was in the process of being finished.  There was no time for an elaborate birthday. It ended up being the best birthday yet.

Just friends, a takeout pizza, and some cake.

Why have I been stressing about this birthday party every year?

The smile says it all- simple is better.

I hope you can give this recipe a try. If you gluten-free cakes aren’t your thing, definitely try this Cream Cheese Pound Cake With Homemade Lemon Curd- it’s a winner too!

Gluten-Free Lemon Chiffon Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A beautiful lemon chiffon cake with lemon curd between the layers topped with a whipped topping laced with more lemon curd. It is the perfect summer dessert!
Ingredients
  • Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pans
  • 2 teaspoons rice flour, for dusting the pans
  • 1 extra large or 2 small lemons
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 package (15 ounces) yellow gluten-free cake mix
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup orange juice (fresh or from a carton)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • For the filling and lemon whipped cream frosting: 1 jar (10 ounces) gluten-free lemon curd (or prepare the homemade version- link above)
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist two 9-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust with the rice flour. Shake out the excess rice flour and set the pans aside.
  2. Zest a lemon and measure out two teaspoons for the cake batter and place it in a large mixing bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds. Measure ¼ cup of lemon juice, pour it into the mixing bowl with the zest, and set the bowl aside.
  3. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in another large mixing bowl and the yolks in the mixing bowl with the lemon zest and juice. Beat the whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Set the beaten egg whites aside.
  4. Place the cake mix, sugar, orange juice, and oil in the bowl with the egg yolks and lemon and beat with an electric mixer and beat until mixed.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until no traces of whites remain and the batter has lightened.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side. Place a large mixing bowl and electric mixer beaters in the refrigerator to chill.
  7. Bake the cake layers until they are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 18-22 minutes. Allow them to cool on a wire rack.
  8. Freeze the layers wrapped in saran wrap & foil overnight to produce a sturdy base for icing.
  9. Meanwhile, make the filling and frosting. Measure ⅔ cup of lemon curd for the filling and set it aside in a small microwave-safe glass bowl. Pour the cream into the chilled mixing bowl. Using the refrigerated mixer beaters, beat the cream with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 minutes. Fold in the confectioners’ sugar and ¼ cup lemon curd. Beat again at low speed until the lemon curd is incorporated, 30 seconds. Refrigerate the frosting until ready to use.
  10. Remove the layers from the freezer. To assemble the cake, place the glass bowl with the lemon curd for the filling into the microwave on high power for 10 seconds to warm it. Transfer one cake layer, right side up, to a serving plate. Spread the top with the warmed lemon curd. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top and side of the cake with the lemon whipped cream frosting. Refrigerate the cake until time to serve.

Adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free (affiliate)

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Apron Full of Giveaways 07.29.14

July 29th, 2014

Owl apron via Etsy

Source: Creative Chics,  $50.00

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad

July 28th, 2014

From our food contributor, Diana Bauman.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Summer is the season of abundant vegetables. My family eats such a wide variety of vegetables in this season that my husband often jokes with me and asks if we’re becoming vegetarian. We are certainly not but I do take full advantage of the abundance of vegetables in this season, both in my garden and at the farmers market, to cook them in many different ways.

Although I love to experiment and develop new recipes using vegetables, an incredibly easy way to incorporate more of these nourishing ingredients grown from the earth is to make salads out of them. So often we think of salads as just greens tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese; however, salads can be made from a variety of vegetables tossed in a simple oil and vinegar vinaigrette – in Spain, this type of salad is called an aliño.

An aliño is just vegetables, cooked or cut up raw, and then tossed in a simple vinaigrette and seasoned with a large granule sea salt. It’s super simple to make and with the addition of fresh grown herbs, the salads become something to swoon over. Let me show you just how simple this beet and strawberry salad is to make:

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 1. Boil the beets, peel, and dice. Toss into a bowl.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 2. Thinly slice some red onions and add to the bowl.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 3. Slice up some perfectly ripened strawberries and add to the bowl.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 4. Add in a bit of herbs of your choice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with a large granule sea salt.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad Step 5. Toss together and serve.

Salads of this nature can be made from any vegetable you may have on hand. Here are a few tips for making sensational summer salads.

  • Red onions generally go really well in most salads. They’re sweeter and compliment vegetables and fruit well.
  • Add in seasonal fruit as it comes into season. It gives salads a touch of sweetness without having to add sugar or honey. I’ve been known to add blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, sliced peaches, and even watermelon to summer salads.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve tossed cauliflower salads, cucumber and tomato salads, beet and watermelon salads, roasted red pepper with red onion salads, etc…
  • Large granule sea salt is for more than flavor. It’s surprising how amazing salads can taste by the simple addition of a large granule sea salt. It gives them texture –  a delightful crunch.
  • Herbs can make a salad. It’s amazing how one salad can taste many different ways by using different herbs. Again, experiment with herbs. Some of my favorites are mint, cilantro, summer savory, marjoram, and lemon balm.

Now the key to a fabulous summer salad is in the vinaigrette. Often times we think we need to concoct a dressing made of 10 different ingredients to enjoy a salad but really it’s much simpler than that. As long as you have the seasons freshest fruit and vegetables all you need is a simple vinaigrette. On hand, I always have balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar. The following is my ratio for a simple vinaigrette.

  • 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbls of vinegar (red wine, balsamic, or apple cider)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp large granule sea salt

That’s it. As soon as you start experimenting making salads with a variety of fruits and vegetables I’m sure you’ll memorize that ratio as I have.

A Sensational Beet and Strawberry Summer Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
 
A simple summer salad made with the seasons finest beets and strawberries dressed in a simple vinaigrette.
Ingredients
  • 3-4 large beets, boiled, peeled, diced, and cooled
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tbls marjoram (or any other variety of fresh herb like mint)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp large granule salt.
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, toss together all of the ingredients.
  2. Chill or serve at room temperature.

Do you enjoy trying new summer salads? Please let us know in the comments below some of your favorite recipes for summer salads.

 

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