Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Divulging Divergent

I chose Divergent by Veronica Roth for the book club in July. 

As a side note - I'm not sure why I'm calling this a book club, because not many people seem interested,  but I think I may just keep trucking along. 

I judge a book by these few simple things:

 1 - How quickly I get sucked in. I don't buy it when people push me to keep reading if I don't get invested immediately. Riding it out and wasting my time in hopes a book may get better is not my idea of a good time. 

2 - How often I read. If I can't put the book down, it's good. If I bring it everywhere I go, it's good. If I would rather read than take a lunch break at work, it's really good. 

3 - How much I think about the book after I finish the book. I think it's normal to think about a book while reading it. The real measure of a book's value is how often I think about what the character said, and what I envision their home to look like, etc. 

Divergent passed my test. I was sucked in by the end of the first chapter. I sat on the couch, while my boyfriend, GB, watched some terrible movie on Netflix, and read and read and read. The day I began reading Divergent, I read the book for six straight hours. I would zoom through my house chores, work, and work outs so I could read again. I knew this book was a hit with me when I began reading at work. I thought I could get away with it by hiding my kindle under a stack of papers, but when I wasn't responding to my co-workers questions - I was caught. Lastly, I am still finding myself thinking about Tris, the main character, all throughout the day. I catch myself thinking of the factions in the book, and where I might belong.

As I told you in the July Book Club post, the book is centered around a dystopian world where society is divided into factions based on a moral code. At 16, each civilian chooses to either stay in their faction or choose another. In most factions, if you choose another you are also choosing the repercussion of being shunned by your family. Tris, makes a shocking decision. Her decision made me question what I would do if in her place. Choosing to follow who you are in your heart or do what your family thinks is right is not an easy decision. The new world that she finds herself in is exhilarating but terrifying. Veronica Roth does an incredible job of describing how Tris thinks and feels, even if it's flawed. I can't tell you much more, without giving too much away. Divergent is the first in a trilogy, and I can't wait to read the next two. Insurgent, the sequel, is on my to-read list. Unfortunately, the third book is not out yet, and won't be out until the fall of 2013. I have a lot of waiting to do. 

The last thing I must discuss is the big elephant in the room. Is Divergent just like The Hunger Games? In my opinion, no. The characters are different, the settings are incomparable, and the plot of Divergent is a far cry from The Hunger Games. I will say however, if you enjoyed The Hunger Games you are sure to enjoy Divergent. 

I really hope you take my advice and read this book. If you do - let me know! I'd love to chat about what you thought! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Shower of Love

Awhile back, I created a lyric-filled canvas for my sister in the Your Song post. I love the technique, but it goes without saying the execution needed work. 

I had the perfect chance to work on that execution recently. One of my Greatest friends, Bee, is getting married! Not only is she just get married, but she's marrying GB's best friend! I was thrilled when she asked me to be a bridesmaid and am so honored to stand alongside them as they exchange vows. 

For Bee's bridal shower, I wanted to make her a gift from my heart. I've seen bridal gifts comparing the bride and groom to other famous couples and I wanted to do just that. 

I found a print of art that I liked and stocked up on stickers and paint. 


Next I cut the stickers out, keeping the back on so I could determine the arrangement. The backing of the stickers was made of clear plastic, which made the arranging much easier than the last time I tried this craft. 



I really struggled with the placement of the stickers due to the difference in length of each name. I measured and made sure the length to the edge of the print was the same on either side of each line. Then I applied each sticker to the print. 



Even though I bought many packs of stickers, I still ran out of 'E' stickers. I craftily used a 'F' and although it's not pictured, I cut a small piece of another letter to create an 'E'. I was proud of that idea, normally I would have given up or bought more stickers. 


The next step was to paint over the entire print. I used the Martha Stewart craft paint for the first time. Typically, I buy cheap paint, but not any more. This paint is awesome!


I covered the entire print, and painted just enough to hide the painting. I did not want it to appear opaque. 




I let the paint dry overnight and began peeling the stickers. I quickly became frustrated when the stickers wouldn't come all the way up. The top portion separated from the bottom portion. GB asked why I was cursing and grunting, I yelled at him, "The stickers won't unstick!"It must have been a funny thing to hear but I was enraged! 


I was picking and peeling so much I damaged my day-old shellac manicure, the manicure that was supposed to be chip free.  


The only stickers that came up easily were the small hearts. 


I finally found a solution. Using a hot iron, I applied as much steam as I could. Then, using a butter knife, I pushed those damn stickers up and off the print. 


I was applying sop much pressure to free those little guys I scraped some paint off here and there.  


After about three hours of sticker peeling, I was free of those little jerks! 


Then I realized I didn't change 3 of the F's to E's! At this point, I buried my head in my hands and cried. I thought I had put all of that energy into this gift for nothing. I was seconds away from driving to Bed, Bath and Beyond when I picked my head up and fixed it. 


Using a little paint, I lightly added the bottom section to the 'F' to make it an 'E'. Perfect. 


I put the print in a simple black frame with a small note on the back to the happy couple. 


I bought this cute silver wrapping paper for the gift. 


As I opened the wrapping paper I was SHOCKED when I realized it wasn't silver but it was clear wrap! I'd also like to point out - I was wrapping this gift an hour before the shower. I completely panicked. I ran out to CVS and wrapped the frame in the first paper I found. Thanks to this snafu, I have no picture of the completed project in the frame. 


As soon as Bee is all settled at home with her gifts, I'll ask her to send me a picture that I can share with you all. 


Overall, I'm really happy with how this project turned out. The print was the perfect choice, the paint did exactly what I had hoped, and above all Brittany really liked it. 

I wish nothing but happiness for you two! Congratulations! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Distracted

You may have noticed I started this week late. I apologize for the lack of post yesterday, but I've been a busy gal. This last weekend GB and I went on a canoe trip with family and friends. We had a blast!

Here in Michigan, if you travel more than an hour north of Detroit you are "up north." We went up north, to a beautiful part of Michigan, and stayed in a wonderful bed and breakfast. If you are ever in Grayling, MI I cannot recommend Borchers Bed and Breakfast enough! The weekend was filled with sunshine and laughter surrounded by wonderful people. What more can I ask for?

As soon as we arrived home, I've spent every available second reading. I could not put my Kindle down. I read in bed until I (literally) fell asleep with my Kindle in hand. I read every spare moment at work, as long as no one was watching. (Although kindle's aren't as romantic as real books, they are much more discreet = reading when I'm supposed to be doing something else and getting away with it.) As soon as I was home from work, I attempted to read while eating dinner, but alas, taco night requires both hands. I even ignored the Real Housewives of NYC on the television to read this book.

What was I reading? Divergent by Veronica Roth. Also known as the book of the Kiss My Smash July Book Club. 

I may not be able to beg and plead effectively enough to actually get my wonderful readers to join in, but I really hope you do. I ignored all of my very important responsibilities to read this book. If that doesn't say something to you, then I won't know what will.

Gratefully, I finished the book this evening so I can get back to my regularly scheduled programming. Coming up on Kiss My Smash in the next few weeks: bridal shower gifts, bachelorette party fun, and a birthday party! After these big events I am going to tackle a long list of crafts!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Baby Dragon

GB and I are lucky enough to be apart of an incredible group of friends, lovingly referred to as Homegrown. As I am relatively new to this family of friends I can't explain the history of how Homegrown came to be perfectly, but what I can say is this: In all honesty, I have never met a group of friends more loyal or devoted to one another. If anyone needed anything at any time there is a big list of people they can call and you can bet every single person would be there in a heartbeat. 

The Homegrown crew recently expanded. A beautiful couple, affectionately termed The Littles, had a beautiful baby girl! She is the first Homegrown baby! 

While this precious girl was growing in Mama Little's belly, the Homegrown clan gave her her first nickname, "Baby Dragon." I wasn't present at the time the name was given, but I can say this is a name that will stick. 

Much of the Homegrown family is living all around the country and when one of the guys came back to Michigan for a weekend, we took that opportunity to ride our motorcycles across the state to meet Dragon. You can see below the boys performing some sort of medical exam to one of the Harley's. 



I was so inspired by the gorgeous DIY element of Dragon's nursery, I had to share this with my lovely Kiss My Smash readers. 

First, the room had wonderful white birch decals along the walls, accented with sweet little birds. I've always wanted to do a room with decals, but have been afraid due to some horror stories. Now I know it can be done and well. 


Another awesome DIY element in the Dragon Lair is the photo display. 


Mama Little used scrapbook paper and Mod Podge to cover a clipboard. Each clipboard has captured a beautiful moment in the Little's lives. 




I love this clipboard idea. It couldn't be easier to change the photos, which is a necessity in a baby's room. 


I love the purple rug. I almost curled up on it and took a nap. 


I could not have chosen a more perfect mobile. 





I don't think there is a more appropriate book for this corner. 


We had a wonderful time meeting Dragon. She is perfect, and I couldn't be happier for the Littles. They are going to be such incredible parents. Dragon is a lucky girl. 


On a side note, seeing GB with a baby makes my heart swoon. 


As life continues to change around us, weddings, babies, new jobs - I've learned that some things can remain a constant - friends. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Iced Coffee

This has been one hot summer. With no signs of a cool down in sight, I have found a great way to stay cool - iced coffee. I love iced coffee even in the dead of winter but it has an even better taste when it's 99° outside. One of the first blogs I fell in love with was The Pioneer Woman. If you haven't browsed her sight - you are missing out! 

The blogger, Ree, has shared what she calls the Perfect Iced Coffee.  Could it really be perfect? I am never afraid of a challenge, so of course I tested her theory. 

Ree uses a steeping method, rather than brewing and cooling. Before I could begin steeping I had to determine what container I would be storing the coffee. I chose this awesome mason jar that I scored in a cute antique shop in North Carolina. 


I filled the jar with water and poured it into a larger container. This isn't the exact container that Ree recommended - but it's all I had. 


Next I poured in the coffee grounds and gave it a stir. 



Next, I let the coffee steep for around 12 hours. 


I forgot to pick up a cheesecloth at the store so using coffee filters, I transferred the steeped coffee to the mason jar. 


I lost a huge amount of coffee as I managed to pour the steeped coffee everywhere but into the mason jar. I popped the mason jar into the fridge to begin the chilling process. 


Even though I made a huge mess in the kitchen I was able to get wonderfully iced coffee the next morning. My favorite coffee combo is a splash of vanilla creamer with about two tablespoons of coconut milk. 


I think Ree was right, this is perfectly iced coffee. It has a better flavor than the brewed than chilled version, and call me crazy, but it feels like it has a higher concentration of caffeine. If you like iced coffee - I would highly recommend this method! 


Don't forget to 'LIKE' the Kiss My Smash Facebook page, follow me on twitter @KissMySmash, and follow me on Instagram @KissMySmash

Monday, July 16, 2012

Crispy Crouton Chicken Parmesan Casserole

If you have not realized yet, I am not a talented cook. When it's my turn to make dinner I search for recipes that are within my reach and won't turn GB's stomach. 

I happened upon a video recipe from Food Wishes for a chicken Parmesan casserole. I was apprehensive, but it was already 6:00pm, GB would be home in 2 hours, and I needed something fast. 

Ingredients:
Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless
Garlic
Olive Oil
Chili Flakes or Crushed Red Pepper
Marinara Sauce
Mozzarella 
Parmesan 
Croutons

The only real preparation was chopping garlic and this was something I knew I could do. I chopped about 3 cloves. 


Next, I coated the bottom of a casserole dish with the garlic, as well as some olive oil and chili flakes. 


I placed the chicken breasts in the casserole dish and covered the chicken completely in the marinara sauce. 



Then I covered the sauce in my favorite food item of all time - cheese. I combined the mozzarella and Parmesan. 


Instead of breading the chicken, the croutons come in as the next layer as a substitution for breading. The blogger explains that the croutons absorbs the chicken juices and marinara to create a really scrumptious crunch. 


You didn't think I was done, did you? There was no way this dish would be done without more cheese. 


I baked the chicken at 350° for around an hour. Truthfully, I forgot about it. When GB walked in the door, I finally remembered I was cooking and raced to the oven. When I took the casserole dish out of that steamy oven, I was a little disappointed when I realized I burnt the dish. It was still edible, but a little too crispy for my liking. 



However, underneath that crunchy crouton layer, was a delicious combination of chicken and sauce. Even though I screwed up, it still turned out alright. We had a great dinner that night! Give this dish a try, and tell me all about it!