Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Years Eve - 2013

It is the last day of 2013 and I am back to the blog!  I had a really nice holiday and I hope that you all did as well!

For this very last day of the year, I'm going to look back and reflect with gratefulness on a few items that just come to mind this morning:

Living a Gluten Free Lifestyle:
For the majority of this year, my family and I have been leading a gluten free lifestyle.  It has broadened my horizon's in the kitchen and I'm no longer afraid to bake bread or try to convert a recipe.  I'm hoping to share more of my GF kitchen success on this blog in 2014.  It does not have to be scary or strange.  Sometimes, I will admit, it is complicated but knowing others to discuss things with helps.  That leads me to two of my new friends that I met in 2014, Anneke and Donia.  We are frequent fliers over at the Gluten Free on a Shoestring blog and realized that we all live really close to each other.  We started conversing via email and share our GF woes and successes in the kitchen.  It has been a god send to be able to bounce things off of other people and get ideas and technique tips that I may never have tried before.  We hope to all meet in January for a weekend of GF fun!

Good Friends & Family:
I'm always so grateful for my wonderful friends (as noted above - 2 new ones this year!!).  I like making new ones and connecting with old ones.  Which reminds me of that old Girl Scout song, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold."  Though we are all so busy, I do try to make connections with my friends as much as I can.  Email, texting, and video chat has made that so much easier.  In fact this year, my sister-in-law and niece joined us for Christmas Eve present opening via face-time.  They could see all of us and we could see them perfectly.  We even had #1 and #2 stand up on either side of the computer screen as my niece was held up for a "cousins" photo.  It was super cute and something we could have never done before without the technology that we have.

I think people take this for granted, I really do.  I often reminisce about the '80's and the primitive electronics and technology we had.  We are so lucky today and I'm so grateful for the laptop, tablet, digital camera, scanner/printer, DVR, cable, the oodles of software on these hardware objects, and so on that I use on a daily basis.  Though sometimes it gets in the way, it really makes my life so much easier.

Thew, #1, & #2
These three people will always be the number one priority in my life and I feel that this year we have grown closer as a family unit.  We have taken many trips together, have family game nights, enjoyed going to the movies, baking cookies, reading exciting adventures, and just hanging out together.   We all truly enjoy each other's company and love each other dearly - I will be eternally grateful for this and their presence in my life forever!

What things from 2013 are at the top of your mind today on this New Year's Eve?  Please leave a comment and let us know!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Holidays!!!

So, I've done it again, I've over planned, over committed, over done it this holiday season.  Due to my completely delusional accurate account of time (yes, there are only 8 days until the big gifting 2 day free for all), I am super behind in all of my life including this blog and some things have got to be crossed off my list so that I can keep my sanity.  For now, one of the crossed off items is the blog - I'm doing this, so I can get my kids gifts wrapped and a few cookies baked, while still working full time and carting everyone around to activities and such this week.

I came to this conclusion after reading a magazine article in Savvy (a MN publication) about where you saw yourself on January 1st.  I thought for a moment and saw myself as a relaxed and happy person.  The next step is to figure out, how do you get there.  Make a list of the items you want to do, determine what has to be done and cross the rest off.  With that, the blog did not make my "MUST DO" list, but don't worry - so many other things did not make the list either. So I'll apologize to everyone that I usually bake homemade gifts for too - but I want a healthier holiday this year.  I'll be back hopefully the week of December 30th, so please stay tuned.   

Be safe and most importantly, make your 'must do' list and visualize yourself in the new year. You will be all that more serene for it. A happy holiday to you and yours!!!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recipe: Iced Peppermint Mocha

Note:  I'm traveling the rest of this week for work, so I'm posting this a day early!! Enjoy!

You already know that I love iced coffee drinks.  They are the bomb!  I also try to stay away from the coffee chains because they can really wreak havoc on my budget.  So instead, I thought why not give these new 'off the shelf' coffee products now popping up all over our grocery stores a chance?  I am in love with mocha's as I just think coffee needs chocolate to taste good - Period. And now that it is the holiday season, I have ditched my pumpkin obsession for all things peppermint!  It is so wonderfully delicious. That's where Starbuck's Via (R) Peppermint Mocha comes into play.

I've actually had a package of this product in my pantry for some time now and I just never really knew what to do with it.  Then it hit me.  I must make my own Iced Peppermint Mocha - but not in the traditional sense. I wanted it icy and delectable.  Viola!  The Iced Peppermint Mocha recipe was created.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Iced Peppermint Mocha
Serves 1

1 packet Starbucks Via (R) Peppermint Mocha
1 C Milk (I used coconut, but virtually any non flavored milk can be used here)
1 packet sweetener (I used a stevia/sugar blend - you can use more or less to taste)
Ice cubes

1. Fill your magic bullet glass, 1/2 way with ice cubes.
2. Pour in one cup of milk.
3. Sprinkle in the packet of Starbucks Via (R) Peppermint mocha and sweetener packet.
4. Completely blend until you hear that there are no ice chunks left.
5. Sip with a straw and enjoy!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Holiday Favorite Things

A lot of the blogs I follow publish a favorite things and most of them even give all of the items in their favorite things away.  Isn't that awesome?  I however am just starting out, so this year it's just a listing of my top items and hopefully in years to come I'll be sending out a care package to one of my readers with all of the items listed!  Below is a picture of each of my favorite items and under that is a brief description of the item and where you can find them.  Cheers and happy holidays to you all!

1. Kiss Me Tonight by Philosophy is by far one of my most favorite things this holiday season. I slather it on right before I go to bed at night and it keeps my lips so nice and soft.  It is a must have for your bed side table.  I purchased this directly from philosophy.com and right now they are offering 30% of your order - I think it's time to stock up!
2. Gluten Free on a Shoestring's Bakes Bread book.  It has revolutionized the dry crumbly gluten free bread making of your past.  Please purchase this book for all of those GF peeps in your life - they will love you for it. I promise!  It's full color and a wonderful read with lots of tips and tricks.  I got mine on Amazon.com but barnesandnoble.com has it too.
3. Hershey's peppermint bark bells are by far my most favorite new holiday candy this year. The bottom of the bell is a scrumptious dark chocolate while the top of the bell is peppermint white chocolate with crunchy and festive non-perils decorating it through out. SO YUMMY!  I've only seen these at Target, which is ok by me because they have a cartwheel coupon deal going on now so you can save 5% off!  I don't know if they are solely there but I can't even find them on Hershey's site, so off to Target you must go (or they are online too)!!!
4. The World's Softest Socks.  That is all there is to be said.  They are divine and keep your tootsies warm in this chilly weather.  They are the cheapest at Costco where you can get a package of 3 pairs for $9.99 - they are a steal and are completely gone as soon as they come in stock, so run there today!
5. Bath & Body Works Limoncello Soap and Lotion is about the most lemony hand soap and lotion you can find out in the market right now.  I'm so glad I wandered in there this past month.  I have found that most of the shops at the mall have the soap but the online store is sold out!  It is the exact opposite for the hand lotion - all of the stores are sold out but it is available online. I stocked up because I never want to be without this - ever!!!  Check 'em out online or in the stores.
6. Origami Owl holiday charms in a classic bling locket.  I recently went to my first Origami Owl party and purchased a locket with some other charms and then I saw the holiday ones - be still my beating heart - they are so cute!!! So I stocked up and got them all!  Find an Origami Owl stylist on their website to help you out.  These are great for holiday gifts.  The best part is that they come in a small chinese take out container and come with a silk fortune cookie holder to keep them in.  Love this!!

Good luck this holiday season, there are only 15 shopping days left - it was a short one this year but hopefully my favorite things have given you some ideas for those still left on your list.

Until next time....

J.K. Sasse

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Giveaways!!!

It's that time of year!!!  Tons of blogs are posting giveaways because they just love us so much.  Here are a few that I've found that I wanted to share with you all today.  Enjoy!!!

Gluten Free on a Shoestring Big Give Away
If you haven't heard, Nicole Hunn has just published another book.  It is the holy grail of all gluten free bread books called Gluten Free On A Shoestring Bakes Bread and it is a must have for your gluten free library.  I have already received my copy and have been pouring over it.  I will warn you that you'll need some specialty ingredients so please check out her post about what to get before the book arrives (I did not and now I'm waiting impatiently for everything to get here) and also her big give away in which she will be rewarding someone with a state of the art kitchen aid mixer and a Brod and Taylor bread proofer.  I have both a kitchen aid mixer and Brod & Taylor proofer. Both are must haves for your gluten free bread baking - not 100% essential, but they will make your life so much easier.  If we pre-order and order an additional 500 from the publish date of the giveaway, one winner will get a personal day of baking with Nicole.  So go and get your bread book today!! 
Give away ends: December 10, 2013.

Our Best Bites: Our Favorite Things Give Away
Sara from Our Best Bites has listed her favorite holiday items for a give away.  I think you still have time as they have not closed the comments nor announced a winner.  The box will contain all of her fav things right now from fuzzy socks to candies and candles.  Check it out!!
Give Away Ends: ANY DAY NOW! so GO!

UPDATE:  New give away posted today for Kate's favorite things.

Skinny Mom's Gift Guide Give Away
Yep - you read that correct there are more than one and you can enter to win on all of them.  To be clear there are 12 in total including the following: a pet prize, technical prize, home prize, food prize, jewelry prize, baby prize, fitness prize, kitchen prize, women's prize, men's prize, beauty prize, and an awesome wellness prize.  You can enter multiple times for each prize by liking the products on Facebook, following on twitter, entering zip codes, answering random questions, or following skinny mom on Pinterest.  It does take some time to get through all of them but won't it be worth it? Each prize pack is just overflowing with goodies!!!
Give Away Ends: December 15, 2015

Daily Bites: Simple & Crisp Give Away
This is give away highlights Simple & Crisp Dried Fruits.  They are really amazing looking so head on over and read the post.  All you have to do is leave a comment with what you like to bring to holiday parties to share along with liking both daily bites and Simple & Crisp on Facebook and leaving comments that you did so. 
Give Away Ends: December 5, 2013 - SO GO!

Now these are just from some of the sites that I follow regularly. I just googled "holiday blog give aways" and tons of things returned. I think I'll spend some time today entering these just for the fun of it!   Good luck to us all!!!

Until next time...
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

I picked up the first two books in the divergent series (3 books in total) last summer, they were Divergent and Insurgent.  This whole dystopian phase is going pretty strong right now and frankly it is right up my alley.  I loved the Hunger Game and Matched Series.  Then there is of course the new show Revolution on NBC. I just can't get enough of this stuff, so it was natural when I saw this on the shelf at Target to throw it into my cart. At last this fall the third and final book of the series Allegiant came out and it was flying off the shelves (of my Target anyway). I finally got my hands on it and was very pleased with the results. 

Before I get into the story too much, I have to comment on the writing style. It is a young adult novel as the first two books in the series are told by the main character, Beatrice, aka "Tris", a young girl embarking on her life after the choosing ceremony in a dystopian society - which in a way is a little bit like the whole "sorting hat" deal from Harry Potter, but who's keeping track?  The third novel in the series is told by two voices, Tris and Tobias, also known as "Four", who is the leading young man in all three books.  This was an interesting way to take the final book of the series and even though I enjoyed the content of this trilogy, I think that Ms. Roth could have done a better job with the writing style in the third book.  Tris and Four are so much a like that at many times, I forgot who was speaking.  There wasn't a different dialect that separated them or even much of a thought process at times.  This made it very difficult to follow and I'm an experienced reader.  I wonder how the younger crowd kept up with it.  In my opinion, to date the best person to write in this fashion is Chris Bohjalian.  I've read a few of his books and this is his favorite method of writing therefore he is spot on.  I can always tell who is narrating in the chapter in his books and without much thought about it.  Frankly that is how books like this are supposed to be written.  Check his out if you enjoyed this method of writing.  With all of this said, I believe these are Ms. Roth's first books to be published as she started the series while still a college student - kudos to her!

As a nod to the overall series, I did enjoy all three books and felt like they all contained content that served the story and plot.  Most importantly, I wanted to read them - all of them through to the end - which is unlike my feelings toward the Hunger Games where I thought the third book was misplaced and very difficult to read.  All three of the Divergent books fit together and the story unfolds in each one with the third one wrapping it all up but not in a weird or out of place fashion.  The flow is great and the character profiles build in each one.  Ms. Roth is not afraid to take risks throughout the books which I also really enjoy. I feel today that too many authors are writing just to please readers and book sales - but for some reason I did not feel like this series did that.  She had a definite outcome for her story and characters and she committed to it.  Her blog actually addresses this as many readers were upset with the ending - I however thought it was spot on.

I hate reviews or Wikipedia that essentially tell you the story or have spoilers in them, so I'll just tell you that the characters are strong, it is a new-ish take on a dystopian novel, and a superb read.  Please take the time to buy or check these books out from the library, you will not be disappointed.

If you are one of those types who would rather see the movie than the book, then you will not be disappointed.  Right now, the Divergent movie is set to release in March 2014.  I am a little bit worried about the actress selection for Tris, however.  Shailene Woodley is best known for her performance on The Secret Life of an American Teenager (ABC Family).  Yes, I watched the show - it was a total teenage train wreck and it was on ABC Family which is a fav network of mine.  Shailene was ok but not worthy of a strong, kick ass leading character in my mind, we'll see how it pans out. Theo James on the other hand looks like he'll make a great Four.  I'm excited to see how it turns out next spring!!!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse