Friday, August 30, 2013

Brief Book Review: The Outcast

The Outcast: a modern retelling of The Scarlet LetterThe Outcast: a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter by Jolina Petersheim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't read The Scarlet Letter since high school, so I can't say how close this adheres to the original, but transferring the setting from the Puritan community to the Old Order Mennonite community works very well, and the modern twist that leads to the revelation of Rachel's illegitmate son's father ratcheted up the tension. A worthwhile read.

*Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley for review through NetGalley.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: Easy Canvas Prints

When Easy Canvas Prints contacted me to do a review in exchange for a free canvas print, I jumped at the chance.  There are so many canvas companies out there, and they often offer great deals through Groupon, but I've always been a little leery to snap one up, because they're still not cheap.  But with free, I had nothing to lose!

My first choice for the canvas was a beautiful photo of me and a very tiny Ben taken by Joan Elizabeth Photography.  It was indeed easy to upload the photo to the site, choose my options, and check out.  However, apparently the resolution wasn't good enough on the file I had, and Easy Canvas Prints notified me very quickly that they wanted to make sure I was happy with the resolution before they completed my order.  I'm so glad they did, because it would have been quite blurry.  We went back and forth three times trying to get the photo to work, but unfortunately we were unable to.  They were so helpful, but I ended up using a different photo, one of both boys taken by Lois Pierpont for last year's Christmas cards.

My 16x20 canvas was shipped very quickly, packaged securely, and I love it!  I think it looks very professional, with nicely wrapped edges and easy-to-hang hardware.  I hung it above the couch, and now I'm already itching to purchase another one..

If you sign up for Easy Canvas Prints e-mails, you can get lots of great offers that way.

* I was not paid to write this review.  I was given a free product by Easy Canvas Prints in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  If you know me, feel free to stop by my house to check out their work in person. :)

Photo on Canvas Easy Canvas Prints Recommends: Bumper Sticker Maker
Banner Maker custom shirts
Custom T-Shirts

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saving Money: Making Your Own Iced Coffee Concentrate

Starbucks® Caramel Naturally Flavored CoffeeI was first introduced to iced coffee at Starbucks several years ago, when the barista informed me that it would be cheaper to replace my iced mocha with an iced coffee + milk + mocha syrup.  Then iced Via came out, and I officially became an addict.  It started in the summer...and before I knew it, I was drinking iced coffee year-round.  Every morning I would measure out half a pack of caramel iced Via (3 teaspoons), then mix it with half cold water and half chocolate milk (sometimes dairy, sometimes soy, sometimes almond) and a couple of ice cubes.  And even though it was cheaper than making a Starbucks run every day, it was still pretty pricey.  Then I discovered the Pioneer Woman's recipe for making your own iced coffee concentrate.  I wondered if I could use Starbucks' caramel coffee* and replicate the iced caramel Via.  Turns out, I could!  So now, for about $7.50, I can make three weeks' worth of my elixir.  The best ratio I've found is 2 cups of water for each ounce of coffee, so 22 cups for an 11-oz package, and I usually let it steep overnight.  I haven't invested in cheesecloth yet (I just use paper towels over a strainer), and I still buy my chocolate milk to mix with it, but I can now start my mornings off both caffeinated and guilt-free!

*For more info, see  I usually buy mine at Target.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Book Review: The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another impressive fantasy from Stiefvater. Unlike any other fantasy series I've ever read -- firmly set in our own world, but with a sinister undertone of magic. While the first in the series had its main focus on Blue, Ronan is the hero (or antihero) in this one, and now I am anxious to know what becomes of Noah and Adam, who didn't get a lot of "screen time," and also of Blue and short, while the ending was satisfying, it also left me anxious for the third book, since there is so much more to reveal, about the characters and about the magic itself. The plot is way too complicated to summarize, so if you haven't read the first book, which sets up Blue's dilemma and Gansey's quest, head to your local library today! :)   Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review through NetGalley.

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