Summer Reading: The Rosie Project

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a book review, but after my recent post on binge-worthy tv shows, I thought books deserved some love too! I’ve always been an avid reader and devour books in a few days, often staying up late or reading during random times just so I can get a few pages in. I think I get that quality from my Grandpa- I always remember him being enraptured in a book and so often he’d be sitting there reading and you’d start talking to him, and he’d almost be surprised because he was so into his novel. As a kid I don’t think I understood it, though as an adult, I definitely do. However, one problem with reading books quickly is that I have the tendency to forget them. I’ll generally remember a few plot points, but sometimes I’ll hear about a book and forget if I read it entirely. In an effort to change my ways, this year I started a journal devoted to books. Now it might sound silly, but after I read a book, I write about it in the journal with a short recap and my thoughts on it. It actually extends my enjoyment of the book and I figured would be fun to look back on how many books I read in 2014.

Since books by the pool is the perfect Summer combination, this will be the first installment of my Summer Reading series! I’ve also decided to write my own description in addition to my review, taken from the pages of my book journal, because anyone can read the Amazon ones!

The Rosie Project

Description: 

The Rosie Project is written from the perspective of Don, a genetics professor in Australia who is brilliant but his social skills are severely lacking. He is very odd, lives by a religious schedule and only has 2 friends. One day he decides that he should have a female partner so he creates “The Wife Project”, which is essentially a survey of some very specific questions. Don believes that in order to be a suitable match for him, a woman must answer all of the questions exactly how he would answer them. And then he meets Rosie, who he disqualifies from the project almost instantly but decides to help her with what they call “The Father Project” and what happens next takes them both by surprise.

Review:

I loved this book because it’s very unusual to read something from an autistic character’s perspective, but that’s what makes it so interesting. It also has an extraordinary realness to it and so many twists and turns. I read that the book started as a screenplay which makes sense because each scene is so vivid and aptly described. This is actually being turned into a movie and I can’t wait to see what happens on-screen as well as read the sequel that comes out in the Fall. It is a fantastic book and one of my favorites that I’ve read this year.

The BEST Paleo Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Let’s face it. Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t like a good chocolate chip cookie? It’s a classic for a reason and the scent alone makes them instantly crave-able. There are a lot of amazing chocolate chip cookies out there, including in the gluten-free world. Unfortunately, a lot of them have sugar and shortening or vegan butter and those are ingredients I’d prefer not to put in my body. Enter- the paleo cookie. I can’t actually take credit for this recipe, as I got it from my amazing sister-in-law Julia, who started making this when she and my brother went paleo. Enter the night before Easter this year, when my brother had a craving for some delicious chocolate chip cookies and he and I whipped these up (ok, so he was mostly my sous chef, but an excellent one). ;) I’ve since made these cookies for various occasions and everyone loves them! I’m talking my Grandma (who’s weary of gluten-free things) as well as friends who had never even heard of paleo. They are a true winner and you’ll feel like one too when you make a batch of these!

Paleo Cookies & Milk GGGF

Paleo Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 C. Almond Meal
  • 1 C. Enjoy Life Mini Chips*
  • 1 C. Chopped Pecans
  • 1/4 t. Salt
  • 1/2 t. Baking Soda
  • 1/3 C. Honey
  • 2 T. Melted Virgin Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 t. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Egg

*Any chocolate chips will work, but I love these dairy-free/soy-free mini chips. Also, although tempting, don’t add the whole bag, as it will become difficult to get them to stick together.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients (almond meal, salt, baking soda) together.

3. Add the chocolate chips and chopped pecans to the dry mixture and stir evenly.

4. In a separate bowl, heat oil and honey together to liquify in microwave for 30 seconds.

5. Whisk the wet ingredients together (honey, oil, vanilla extract and egg).

6. Make a crater in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the whisked wet ingredients.

7. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until thoroughly mixed.

Paleo Cookies Close-up

5 Binge Worthy TV Shows

I consider myself somewheat of a pop culture aficianado, but somehow I missed these 5 great shows in the beginning. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime though, I was able to hop on board and thought I would share some of my favorites. Plus, who doesn’t love watching a full season of a show minus commercials and waiting week-to-week for new episodes? Instead of inserting pictures, I put the first season trailer (some of these are older shows so I promise the trailer doesn’t do them justice) but thought it would give you a better sneak peek into the shows. If you’ve overlooked these shows in the past, plan a little staycation, grab some snacks and get ready for some seriously good tv.

1. Friday Night Lights

I don’t know how, but somehow I completely missed Friday Night Lights when it was on tv (truth? I was probably too busy watching the CW). My brother and his wife were completely into watching it a few years ago, and to be honest, I didn’t understand the draw. I thought it was some football show, and not being much of a sports girl, decided I wasn’t really interested. Well, was I missing out. Friday Night Lights is one of the best tv series out there and I can’t tell you how sad I was when the 5th season was over. It is a show where you really fall in love with the characters and of course idolize the marriage between Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler. It also doesn’t hurt that there are a number of very cute guys on the show! There’s always drama, but what keeps you coming back is the heart, it feels like quality television that I just couldn’t get enough of. No judgment here if your new mantra becomes, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”.

2. Suits

When Friday Night Lights was over, I was on the hunt for a new show. Luckily, my bestie Krae came to the rescue and suggested I watch Suits. I haven’t really watched much on the USA Channel but found that I was missing out on this great legal drama. I have always loved legal dramas and this one is up there with the best. Similar to The Good Wife (another fave if you haven’t seen it), most episodes feature a case of the week, but they are far from boring. They have a unique ability to capture your interest while progressing the characters storyline, not to mention some relationships as well. Come for the legal drama, but stay for the dynamics between Harvey and Mike, they are the dynamic duo that you never want to be broken. Also, the female characters on this show, like Donna, Jessica and Rachel rock and are strong women that you don’t get to see on many shows. An added bonus is that Suits is currently airing Season 4 right now, so once you finish your binge watch, you can continue your obsession in real time.

3. Veronica Mars

I remember catching an episode or two of Veronica Mars years ago, but never really started watching it. Then, when the kickstarter campaign for a movie started and was a smashing success, I thought that maybe I was missing something. This is a show that is really best to watch from Season 1 because you would miss a lot of the character’s arcs without it. Veronica is a high school student (and later college) that happens to be a private eye on the side. I’ll admit that it sounds a little cheesy, but somehow, the show just nails it. Kristen Bell does a phenomenal job and is totally snarky and loveable at the same time. It definitely is a little on the younger side but such a fun show to watch. Plus, it has the added bonus of catching up with Veronica in the movie when she’s 30 which if you’re like me, you’ll start streaming the second after you finish the final episodes of Season 3!

4. Parenthood

Parenthood was another show like Friday Night Lights that I just never found myself getting into for no real reason. When Krae suggested that I get on board (yep, she suggested another of my favorites) I knew I had to start watching because we have such similar tv taste. Parenthood feels like Friday Night Lights in the wholesome sense mixed with Brothers & Sisters in the family sense. It revolves around the Bravermans which includes the grandparents, their four children (including Dax Shepard, Lauren Graham and Erika Christensen) plus their significant others and their children. Needless to say it’s a big group. But the more you watch, the more you fall in love with the Bravermans and they will make you laugh and will make you cry. In fact, Vulture does a great “cry-cap” after each episode rating scenes on how many tears were shed. Season 5 just wrapped and the 6th and final season premiers in the Fall, so be sure to check it out before then!

5. House of Cards

Yes, the Netflix show that everyone talks about really does live up to it’s hype. My brother urged me to start watching this series, so just before the second season was set to drop, I binge watched the first season. And wow, what a season it was! HOC is set in DC and revolves around Frank Underwood, the Democratic Majority Whip Leader who is extremely ambitious and ready to do anything to rise up in the ranks. It stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Penn as the power couple that you do not want to cross. Episodes are shocking and exciting and if you like Scandal this show is for you!

Other shows that would be great to binge watch: The Good Wife, Scandal, Revenge and Pretty Little Liars! (Can you tell I love a good drama?) In the comedy department I only really watch one: The Mindy Project and it’s amazing. So much so, in fact, that I might have to do a full focused post on it soon!

Questions:

-What are your favorite tv shows?

-Any shows that I need to binge watch? I’m always looking for new recommendations!

Drugstore Mascara Showdown

Hi there, after the serious nature of my last post, I wanted to switch it up a bit, so let’s talk beauty! I’ve been a drugstore mascara girl for as long as I can remember. Although I was interested in the high-end ones, none ever compared to my bright orange container of CoverGirl Lash Blast and the cheap price tag didn’t hurt either. But lately I’ve been expanding my beauty horizons and decided to try a bunch of different drugstore mascaras out to see how they compare. The ads for them never help because they are always claiming to the most lengthening, volumizing, you name it and the picture accompanying the ad always features a model sporting fake lashes. So hear’s the real deal from me. I tried to do my make-up the same each day so that you could get a good idea of what they are really like. Also, everyone has their own lash preferences, but I’m after big, voluminous lashes that are not clumpy, so keep that in mind as you read my reviews. (Side note: It’s really hard to try and take selfies of just your eyes but I did my best! Also, sometimes when I smile, I unconsciously raise one eyebrow, so it might look higher than the other!)

Covergirl Bombshell Mascara

CoverGirl Bombshell

The Claim: This brilliant two-step Bombshell Boost System combines extreme volume with an intensifying top coat for big, sexy bombshell lashes. Step one: Apply the extreme volume base coat, Step 2: Finish with intensifying top coat.

Review: This is the mascara that you’ve seen the beautiful Sophia Vergara modeling and who wouldn’t want to look like her? Brush side 1 is very similar (if not identical) to the CoverGirl Lash Blast and side 2 is a more wiry brush. Honestly, I couldn’t tell a difference after applying side 2. I liked the look of the lashes at first, but was disappointed that they didn’t stay that way all day and by the end of the day they weren’t looking so hot and were more on the shorter, clumpy side. However, I was pleased that there wasn’t much fallout or black under my eyes by the end of the day.

Maybelline Volum’ Express Falsies Flared Out Mascara

Flared Lashes

The Claim: Lash glam with a flare, instantly! Patented Spoon Curler Brush fans out lashes from corner-to-corner, while our Pro-Keratin formula instantly builds volume without clumping. Unique flexible wand lifts and separates lashes to provide the look of 300% more visible lashes.

Review: I’m a big fan of the Maybelline Falsies line, so when I saw this special “flared” variety I thought I’d try something new. I do really like this mascara and the way my lashes look- they are long and thick but without being overly clumpy. One thing I’m not a fan of though is that the wand is flexible which actually makes it more difficult to get control over your lashes. If you wear mascara on your bottom lashes like I do, do not use this mascara on them! It causes the side ones to flare up which results in your top and bottom lashes becoming a bit tangled! It happened once and I learned my lesson after that! Also, if you are a fan of a wet mascara formula, this one is not for you as it is definitely dryer and dries out very quickly.

 Maybelline Volum’ Express Falsies Big Eyes

falsies

The Claim: Revolutionary dual-ended mascara for 360 degree All Around Lash Glam. Two brushes specifically designed for top and bottom lashes. Special quick-dry formula holds lashes in place. The Upper brush pushes lashes over the top while the lower micro-brush grabs even tiny bottom lash for a full circle effect.

Review: This mascara was actually the first one I tried and I immediately fell for it. First of all, I love the mini brush designed for the bottom lashes! It makes it so easy to catch every lash but never clumps (an especially big no-no for bottom lashes)! The brush for top lashes is great too, and I love the way it makes my lashes look. This isn’t a formula though that works well for multiple coats so I stick to 2 quick ones!

L’Oreal Voluminous Million Lashes

millions of lashes

The Claim: This mascara has a revolutionary collagen infused formula and Millionizer Brush for amplified volume and definition. The luxurious, buildable, No Clump formula amplifies each lash instantly, glides on smoothly and lasts all day while thickening and separating each lash for a clump-free, smudge-free look.

Review: I had heard good things about this mascara and was looking for a waterproof mascara so I thought I would give it a try. I can say that it has quickly become one of my favorites! Your lashes feel natural (unlike some of the formulas containing fibers that make them feel a little hard) and it is perfect for every day. It’s definitely buildable and I usually do 2-3 coats. The other night I wore this and ended up in the hot tub later in the evening. Imagine my surprise when hours later, my make up and mascara was still holding strong! I thought for sure it would be streaking down my face, so I’ve included a picture so you can see the proof! Also, there isn’t any fallout with this mascara, so you don’t constantly need to check under your eyes for black smudges!

Proof!

Millions of lashes post

L’Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara

Butterfly

 The Claim: Stretch and extend your lashes into wings! The revolutionary Butterfly brush with asymmetrical lash line shape extends and lifts outer corner lashes to give you a winged-out effect, instantly volumizing lashes at the roots and stretching lashes outward. The unique Cocoon Fibers instantly wrap lashes in a delicate veil to create silky, spectacular lashes that flutter.

Review: This brush is amazing! I have never seen one like it and while part of it is curved like a normal mascara brush, part of it almost has a little comb on it. It sounds weird but it is so good. The little comb part makes it so that you can brush them after multiple coats to get rid of any clumps! The one thing I haven’t really noticed is any extra winged out look in my lashes, they seem to go in the same direction as usual. But overall, I’m really impressed with the formula and it’s definitely a new fave!

Question:

-What’s your favorite mascara? Drugstore or High End?

When Jokes Have Consequences

The month of May is Celiac Disease Awareness month and is supposed to be a time of education and support. However, lately I’ve been noticing that comedians have selected a new victim to pick on: people that follow gluten-free diets. One of Jimmy Kimmel’s recent Man on the Street style interviews asked people who followed gluten-free diets what gluten is. A simple enough question in theory and yet almost no one was able to answer it. The fact that these people weren’t able to answer what gluten really is, doesn’t bother me, different people have various reasons for avoiding gluten and some might not have done their research. It was Jimmy’s comments that did, like, “maybe gluten just doesn’t exist” and “some people can’t eat gluten because of medical reasons, which I get- it annoys me- but I get it.”

Look, I get it, Jimmy. A joke is just a joke, right? It’s all in the name of fun. Or is it? My problem isn’t that comedians have chosen to focus on making fun of people on gluten-free diets. I wouldn’t choose it, but I also wouldn’t like them to poke ‘fun’ at any group of people. My issue is with the public perception of it. The more people that see these segments (and Jimmy’s alone has 2.5 million views), the more people start to think that being gluten-free isn’t serious. And for some people, I realize that it’s not. I know it’s “trendy” now and the latest health food fad and that’s ok. But for those of us with Celiac disease, it’s something entirely different.

In the past seven months, I’ve been glutenized twice at restaurants. The first time was at Whole Foods, supposedly the mecca of healthy eating. I purchased a soup that said it was gluten-free, read the ingredients list three times and left the store. I specifically chose the soup because I thought it had the least chance of cross-contamination as they have only one ladle per soup. I ate my soup on the way to a movie and within minutes, was throwing up in the bathroom. Tears were streaming down my face and I was screaming from the excruciating pain. I was on the floor of the lobby of the theater and basically had to be carried out to the car and rushed to the Emergency Room. At the ER, it took doctors three doses of very strong medicines to stop the pain. I was dreadfully sick for about a week and almost missed Christmas. But here’s the part that people don’t realize. It took me months for my body to recover. For people with Celiac disease, gluten doesn’t just cause outward symptoms, it’s actually damaging the villi in the small intestine which allows for absorption in the body. Finally, months later, my body slowly started to recover. Then a little while ago it happened again. I am so careful about what I eat and there are very few restaurants that I trust, but there is one Italian restaurant that has a gluten-free menu that has always been safe for me. I ordered plain grilled chicken and vegetables and explained Celiac disease at length to my waitress and told her how extremely sensitive I am to gluten. She said that she understood and would hate for me to get sick on her watch and said she would tell the kitchen.

20-minutes after I ate, I was screaming and crying in pain again.

Now the common thread in both instances was that the meals I purchased did not have gluten in the ingredients. So both reactions were from cross-contamination. If you are new the world of a Celiac, you might not know, but it only takes 1 crumb to make someone with Celiac horribly sick… one single crumb!

And yet if the cooks in the kitchen had watched Jimmy Kimmel or watched and read other numerous comics and jokes on the topic, they might think that someone is making this illness up. That the person they are serving can’t really be that sensitive and it won’t matter if they use the same work area as where the bread was sitting, or use a spoon that was touching wheat noodles to stir a soup or use the same pans that the pasta was just cooked in. It is all really that easy to cross-contaminate and has dire consequences. Every time someone with Celiac disease eats at a restaurant, they’re putting their lives in the hands of the cook. And it’s really scary. It makes it extremely difficult to enjoy a meal without being nervous, both for myself, and as I recently found out, my family too. Everyone just kind of holds their breath and you hope that they took your order seriously. I understand that some people may wonder why people with Celiac go out to eat at all if it’s such a big risk. It’s just that so much of our culture and getting together is meeting for meals that to eliminate that really bars you off from something you used to enjoy. Plus, as much as I enjoy cooking, it’s also really nice to have someone else prepare a meal too.

I can take a joke, but I draw the line when it could be the very thing that compromises someone’s health. Let’s face it, what people hear infiltrates their thoughts and they might find themselves at a party, contaminating the one gluten-free item or in a kitchen rolling their eyes at the thought of taking special care to make sure a dish doesn’t come into contact with gluten. I think that there are far funnier subjects that we can be discussing, rather than someone’s serious illness. Let’s change the conversation.

*This isn’t to say that all restaurants and bakeries don’t take it seriously and I will being doing spotlight posts on some great establishments that do!

Gluten-Free Chicken Pho

One of the hard things about having celiac is that many restaurants that I used to enjoy are now off-limits. It’s not only that I can no longer eat certain foods, but there is such a high risk of cross-contamination which makes dining out scary sometimes. This means that those really good, hole in the wall-type restaurants are off limits now. One of my favorites were small Vietnamese restaurants to get a steaming hot bowl of pho. After missing that deliciousness for far too long, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own- and it couldn’t have turned out better!

This recipe is so easy and can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. I used some great store-bought products for the base but did add my own twist with a homemade hoison sauce. I’ll admit that this wasn’t the original plan. I tried to get hoison sauce at Sprouts and was surprised to find out that regular hoison sauce contains gluten in the form of soy sauce and fermented wheat protein. Another sneaky gluten source! But I wasn’t going to let that deter my craving for pho, so I created my own and I think it’s just as good!


Gluten-Free Hoison Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 8 T. Gluten-Free Soy Sauce (Coconut Aminos will also work if you can’t tolerate soy)
  • 4 T. Natural, Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 2 T. Honey
  • 4 t. Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Clove Minced Garlic
  • 2  t. Siracha

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a small bowl, whisking to combine.

Chicken Pho-GGGF

Chicken Pho

Ingredients:

*Pacific Foods makes Chicken and Beef Pho bases as well, but I also prefer using Vegetable broths in my soups, even when I add chicken.

**I love these noodles because the ingredient list is so clean- Only rice flour and water!

Directions:

1. Cook 2 chicken breasts by any method you like ahead of time, I used the crock pot and it was so easy! When chicken breasts are hot, use two forks to shred.

2. Bring 4-5 quarts of water to a boil and add noodles, cooking for about 3 minutes at a boil.

3. Drain and rinse noodles and set aside.

4. Pout Pho base in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then add your noodles and chicken, let cook for about 5 minutes until flavors have combined.

5. Ladle into bowls and serve with bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, basil, siracha, lime and hoison sauce!


The Vietnamese restaurants I have visited don’t traditionally chop the herbs and only de-stem them. When adding them to your soup, you can tear pieces or enjoy them whole. The great part of this recipe is that everyone can customize it for their own taste by which ingredients they wish to add. It’s the perfect dish for a fun dinner but has only minimal prep so you can enjoy the evening with your family or guests!