February Favs (and 1 Dishonorable Mention)

Everyday Adventures, Tuesday Revews-Day

Absolutely none of the products in this post were provided in exchange for a review.

While it’s true that I’m on a spending ban for the foreseeable future (because, let’s face it, I have more than enough in terms of both stuff and bills), it’s possible to have favorites that are not necessarily spending-related. I thought I’d share mine because I like reading/watching favorites round-ups on blogs and YouTube, and sharing mine seems like a good idea.

Tech & Tools

Meet Betty Spaghetti, my very red 2-in-1 from Dell. I actually got her in January (what spending ban?!) but it was only partially a splurge. It’s try that I have a rather nice laptop (17″, widescreen, lots of power and storage), it spends 99% of its life hooked up to a secondary monitor, keyboard, mouse, 2 external hard drives, a graphics tablet, and two printers. Making it mobile is a chore, it doesn’t fit standard laptop bags, and the reason it’s lasted 4 years or so, already, is because I don’t move it all that much. Ergo, it’s not exactly portable.


Still, I probably wouldn’t have ordered a new laptop had it not been for a YouTube video I saw where the YouTuber (BumbleBailey) was travelling but still able to edit videos and do other big computer things via remote login and her tablet.

Mind. Blown.

You mean I can sit in the living room with one screen and work on my laptop in the next room? Or, better yet, I could edit videos and use my design programs from an under-powered machine (no need for 64 bit system, massive memory, or non-integrated graphics card with this arrangement) from the back porch at work on my lunch break?! Madness! But also true. Once I realized what was possible, I had very few arguments left against purchasing a $300 laptop/tablet. And it’s served me quite well for the last month and a bit, so I’m feeling next to no buyer’s remorse.

And did I mention it’s red?

I bought a little wireless mouse to use with it and had a spare MicroSD card to expand the on-board memory. The only thing I really need, now, is a bluetooth stylus that will work with it so I can use the touchscreen as a drawing tablet and I’ll be set.


I still have quite the band-crush on Walk Off the Earth; if I had a bucket list, seeing them live in concert would be on it (they’ll be at Busch Gardens at the beginning of April but I don’t see that as feasible right now). You may know them from their 5 Peeps, 1 Guitar cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know (though I think I saw Little Boxes, first, thanks to a Facebook post from a high school friend), but they’re original music is definitely worth listening to.

Many of their songs are on YouTube in one form or another, and their newest album Sing It All Away can be found on Amazon, iTunes, and pretty much everywhere else. I haven’t looked at that app in a while, but they’re probably on Spotify, too. Some of my favorites are Hold On, I’ll Be Waiting, and Sing It All Away (though even picking 3 favorites feels incredibly unfair to the rest of the album) and from their earlier album (REVO) I adore Red Hands. In fact, to see just how awesome this band is, not just at making music, but at making videos, check out the behind the scenes shoot of Red Hands to see how they relearned their own song in a completely disjointed (and backwards, in one place) way to be cut from a single shot into a cohesive video.


The KAL afghan is coming along and the weekly art journal process is flagging (but still happening–I need to catch up on 2 pages and 4 videos; February is always awful for progress), my favorite project was probably the one that went up on Imagine’s site last week: my upcycled tea advent to puppet theater set (The Play’s the Thing).


I think this project took 6 or 7 hours, all told, but I think it’s so adorable and a great use for a box that I just couldn’t get rid of. In fact, I think it’s just the right size for my (very neglected) Dals to play with. For them it’s next to life-size, lol.



Hands-down our favorite to-do this month was our picnic and open-air movie night (that I mentioned in the last menu post). It was just good, simple fun and hard to beat. You know we’re not exactly 100% kid friendly, but the kids running around and playing during the movie didn’t bother us. If anything, it was part of the charm (though I almost did have to ask a dad to sit down or walk away as he was standing smack dab in front of me as the movie started, but he was just dropping some things off, so all was well).

Food & Bev

Most days I drink (deaf) coffee or tea in the morning and switch to water in the afternoon and evenings. Sometimes, though, I want something fizzy and flavored and there aren’t a lot of options that aren’t loaded with high fructose corn syrup and/or caffeine, so finding a middle ground isn’t always easy (and don’t get me started on the drink mixes with the artificial sweeteners in them, blech!).

La Croix sparkling waters have a bit of a cult following so I gave them a try, starting with Lemon and had an absolutely wretched experience with them. Did not want. But a coworker offered me an Orange a few months later and that one was better, so I decided to give the brand another try and branched out among the flavor options (Coconut is pretty cool, by the way). But this fav isn’t for La Croix, it’s for their competitor in the fizzy water aisle: Aquafina.


The grocery store was a little light on La Croix options one week, so I figured I’d give the other guys a chance. I’m not usually a fan of Pepsi products as I find them too sweet, on average, but when it comes to the flavored sparkling water, that appears to work in their favor. I’m working my way through packs of the Orange-Grapefruit as well as the Black Cherry-Dragonfruit and I’m going to go ahead and call myself a convert.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to a balance between the two components of flavor: taste and smell. La Croix smells right, but fall flat on the tongue whereas Aquafina has the follow-through. For what it’s worth, I’ve had the same issues with Daisani and Pellegrino flavored mineral waters, too, so I’m even more impressed with Aquafina.

Though, I will say, beware if you do what I do which is rinse out your travel mug from the morning’s coffee and fill it with the chilled fizzy water of choice. Should you, say, take the lid off to get the last sip at the bottom of the cup you might find a bit of trapped CO2 going up your nose if you don’t let it float away, first. I can’t imagine too much of that would be a stellar improvement on cognitive function…

Dishonorable Mention

I don’t usually feel the need to warn people against a product, but at the last possible moment (on the drive home from work on the 28th) I opened my first S’mores Soft-Baked Bar from Enjoy Life and, well, it wasn’t good.


I usually enjoy (sorry!) this brand’s products, which is why I picked up a likely sounding package of bars for afternoon snacks. In a perfect world I’d set aside time each weekend to make and bake for my snacks throughout the week but seriously? Life is far from perfect at the moment so store-bought it is! I was disappointed not only with the flavor (rather bland) but also with the texture. Gluten-free baked goods often have texture issues, it’s a product of their make-up and I grant a certain leeway to every new thing I try. But this was unfortunately mealy and gritty. It was also a bit on the bland side–I mean, something that’s supposed to be graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate I expect to be very sweet. Not so much in this version.

I did try another the following day, just in case it was a poor first impression, but it was just as unpleasant. The upside is that there are only 5 bars and they work in a pinch if my blood sugar is dropping and I need something to bump me back up, but yeah, I won’t be buying these again or trying their other flavors. Live and learn!

5 Favorite Projects for Gauche Alchemy

In The Studio

I’ve been part of the Gauche Alchemy team for a little over two years, now, and I’ve loved every minute working with these ladies. The store is now on hiatus for now but I get to share one more project on the blog.



With change on the horizon, I thought it would be nice to take a stroll down memory lane and pull out my 5 favorite Gauche Alchemy projects, in no particular order…


The first project I actually started for Gauche Alchemy but it took a year before I actually got it finished and ready for posting. It highlights the awesome color kits that Gauche Alchemy is famous for (at least in my eyes) and I still get a kick looking at them.


I think this is actually the first project of mine that ever showed up on the blog, a challenge I posed to my fellow Alchemists that we all had a blast with. My little Polly Flanders doll never had it so good!


I was so jazzed to be the Alchemist who got to play with the Dia de Los Muertos kit first, and this rosary with paper and clay beads and the skeleton cameo still holds a place of honor in my craft vault. Seriously, I love the way this turned out and, looking at the picture again, might do another on a different theme. Paper beads are kind of addicting.


Of course when a steampunk-themed kit came out I was all over it, and my Steampunk Chef’s Hat gets a lot of compliments when I wear it (paired with my Steampunk Chef’s Coat, of course) to conventions.


Finally, my recent Curiosity Cabinet was another project that I had in mind for several months before making the time to put it together. I love the way it turned out (a common refrain, I know, but it’s true regardless of the repetition) and it’s another project I want to revisit and make another in a different theme. Someday. First I have to get through the other ideas in my head.

Have you made anything awesome lately?

Putting a Big Pink Bow on 2013

Site News

Why pink? Why not!


A highlights post seems to be just the right way to wrap-up the year, so let’s take it month by month, shall we?

January was quiet on all fronts as I took a hiatus to plot out the rest of the year. I did some spiffing up of individual sites and spent a lot of time plugging content into my Editorial Calendar.

The tan is for published posts.

I used a Google Drive template to build my calendar.

While it’s tempting to take a similar month this year to plot and plan, having just taken most of November off for the wedding and honeymoon I wouldn’t want to leave another big gap so soon.

February was a record month for the blogs, a total of 29 posts among all my different sites! Picking a favorite is tough, but we did refinish the antique school desk (or at least start it). It was the first fix-it project that Todd and I truly worked on together, side-by-side, and it was so pleasant I wanted to do more projects like that. We make a good team.

Antique Wooden School Desk Stained but not Varnished

Before the varnish went on, but it was still looking pretty spiffy!

We finished it just in time to use it to hold our programs at the wedding.

In March it was one of my cocktails that took center-stage. I’m certainly not alone in my love of the Samoa Girl Scout Cookie, nor am I the first to create a cocktail in it’s honor. I’m entirely biased, of course, but I love my Coconut Dream cocktail, created in honor of Girl Scout Cookie Week.


At the beginning of April I was accepted as a blogger for WeddingBee.com and was just over the moon over that. I’d pretty much wanted to blog for that site as soon as Todd and I decided to get married (I’d first found WeddingBee.com when searching for outdoor lighting options a year before). Of course, the day after I chose our Road Trip moniker I got my first speeding ticket in years. The Universe has a funny way of balancing the ups and downs, doesn’t it?



We introduced ourselves to the hive with a song parody. (No worries, I didn’t actually sing!)

As part of the Jewelry and metal arts, May saw me complete a project I’ve had on the to-do list for quite some time.



I get more compliments when I wear this ring out than any of my other jewelry (well, except for maybe my engagement ring). Now just to make time to make more from my collection of beach glass.

In June I finally finished all the “research” that went into reviewing Meals in a Jar. Still one of the more fascinating books I’ve had the pleasure to review, it also got me to try pressure cooking and canning for the first time, as well as thinking much more about putting up food stores in case of emergencies.



July was another stellar month for reviews. In fact, it’s probably my most-commented-on review of all time, not just last year. You see, when I agree to post about a book–or any other product, for that matter–I insist on expressing my honest opinion. Since I’m a human being with lots of opinions (which I try to make sure are well-founded, as much as I can at any rate), there’s no way I’m going to like everything. One particular author was not at all happy with my opinion of her book. It made for an interesting evening reading comments, if nothing else!



By August things were really heating up on the wedding front. Since finding out a Low-FODMAP diet makes for a much happier tummy, we were particularly keen to make sure our brunch menu for the reception could be accomplished in a way that would be safe for me to enjoy while still satisfying our guests and not making too much extra work for the kitchen staff at Honey Lake Plantation.


Writing about our menu tasting was almost as fun as actually being there!

While I’d love to say September blogging revolved around things other than the wedding or food, it just wouldn’t be true! But an opportunity came knocking, that month, and I answered the door with gusto! My small fete for National Guacamole Day was a hit not only with the guests but also with the judge and out of the 10 or so bloggers invited to participate in the Dip & Sip Challenge, my Guajito recipe was declared the winner!



With the ups come those downs, though, and October felled me with an early cold and a case of pneumonia to boot! Having just enough energy to make it from the bed to the couch a month before the wedding didn’t make for scintillating blog content, nor did it make for much getting done. Thankfully I had a few small projects I could finish up while being otherwise still and quiet.



And I got better just in time to finish up the last of the pre-wedding must-dos and get married in November! Todd and I then spent a fun and fabulous week at Disney World for our honeymoon. Blog content might have been scarce, but we made up for it in pretty massive honeymoon posts upon our return.

Our totally staged "getaway" | Photo by Pink Shutterbug Photography

Our totally staged “getaway” | Photo by Pink Shutterbug Photography

That was also the month that I pulled all the content from my food, cocktail, and wedding blogs and combined them over here with the craft and creativity posts. Now that nearly everything (there’s still the site for my cookbook, What to Feed Your Raiding Party, that stands alone) is on one site in December, I’m looking forward to getting back into a regular posting schedule for 2014, catching up on the backlog of reviews, and creating more fun projects to share.

My mini-tree is the most decorated part of our home, so far.

In addition to the reviews, recipes, foodie observations, and wrapping up our first pass through the 64 Arts, I’m also looking forward to incorporating some creative business posts and, if things go well/work out in our favor, perhaps some old-house renovation as well!

2013 was a pretty good year, all things considered, and I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to what 2014 has up its sleeves!

Random Appetites: Fail-Safe Foods


This week’s strips got me thinking about that moment we all have: someone’s coming for supper and we don’t have much time to prepare. What to make?

I think everyone should have at least 1 fail-safe meal they can whip out at a moment’s notice when the need arises. Mine happens to be a heavenly rosemary rissotto that I usually pair with chicken breasts. Simple and virtually fool-proof. Granted, rissotto isn’t exactly quick–taking 30 minutes on average–and needs constant stirring but the end product is a nice, rich comfort food that is sure to please most guests.

Another common fail-safe dish is (or, at least, was) linguine with clam sauce. A little more daring, true, because not everyone eats seafood (and some may be allergic!) and there’s a real danger with over-cooking clams, but the requirements for a good clam sauce can be kept on hand for any emergency.

What’s your fail-safe food?