A Grandma's spin on crafts, games, recipes & lifestyle

Month: February 2023

The Last Flight – A Book Review

*Contains spoilers – Contains Book Club Discussion Questions*

How far would you go to save your own life?  It’s a compelling question that thankfully most of us have not had to think about.  However, the two main characters in this book do!  Both Claire and Eva are plotting ways to save themselves but both for different reasons.  Do they succeed?  Dive into my new post about The Last Flight – A Book Review.

Author, Julie Clark, does a fantastic job hooking you from the very beginning.  We quickly meet both main characters and then are taken back and forth between their lives in an easy flow of Claire’s frightening present day life and Eva’s tragic past life.   We get a small glimpse into their lives colliding early on but don’t fully understand how their “chance” meeting was actually meticulously planned early on.

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Surviving A Dairy Free Life

Two weeks ago I discovered that I am allergic to dairy…and I am ok with it!  You think I’m crazy for thinking that?  I can understand your thoughts, but if you knew my health history through the years you would understand.  I left the doctor’s office in tears…not from knowing I have to change my world a bit but rather from happiness that I FINALLY have some real answers.  Now it is time to learn all about surviving a dairy free life!

I have been put through test after test….after test through the years.  The blanket answer back then was Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Can you say Metamucil?  Please understand that I am not saying Metamucil isn’t a good product, but it only works for specific situations….which just happened to NOT be what I needed.  There was never a full battery of blood tests run on me until 2023!  My loved ones urged me (well pushed is more like it!) to go to a functional medicine doctor and I FINALLY listened.

The Medical Results ~

An extensive blood panel was performed and voila…dairy (and a few other things that I will get into later) is the culprit!  Through teary eyes I looked at the results that the doctor was going over with me and asked her, “Do I dare hope that THIS is truly what is wrong with me?”  Well, it’s only been a few short weeks, but friends I cannot even begin to tell you how much better I am feeling already.

Brad and I headed out to SO MANY health food stores to get our pantry set up with all the new food items I would need to switch to.  *Brag alert….my husband has been truly amazing with all of this…from shopping with me and scouring food labels to trying out new dishes with me (which if you know Brad….well, you just know!)   The items I can eat became a bit more difficult because I am also allergic to coconut, vanilla, oats and garbanzo beans.  These just happen to be many of the items that are substituted in dairy free products…ugh!

So What Now? ~

With all of that being said, I want to explain why I am blogging about it!  You already know that I love to write about food…we will still be bringing you amazing recipes for those without restrictions.  I am just adding an extra tab under Recipes named Dairy Free.  Even if you aren’t dairy free, I promise you, you are going to want to check out some of these recipes because …. well because even Brad likes them!  🤣

I also am going to get very personal with you right now because I think it is important to be transparent.  I have struggled with diarrhea horribly for years.  The word colonoscopy literally just makes me cry. (not kidding!)  It’s a horrible thing to never know when it is going to hit you.  (Speaking of that, did you know that Duluth Trading Co. sells Sh!t Kits?  I kid you not…and they are a very wonderful thing!)  Let me just tell you, that already (several weeks into my new diet) I have gone out to eat several times and have not had to run to the bathroom.  I drink coffee…and nothing!  It’s freaking amazing!

Recipes We Have Tried…and Loved ~

The first recipe that I made was Mediterranean Couscous Salad.  I had cooked with couscous quite a while back and wasn’t a big fan.  This time I bought a different brand, and for us, that made a big difference.  Let me clarify, it wasn’t so much the brand but the size.  I had no idea until now that there are 3 different sizes of couscous.  We like the pearls which are larger (and to me not as mushy).  I’m including a link to the brand we love, but obviously you can get it at most stores.

DISCLOSURE: This site contains product affiliate links for Amazon and other companies. We may receive a commission if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links.  Thank you for supporting my small business!

I actually really love Bob’s Red Mill brand of many products!

Mediterranean Couscous Salad ~

Jessica Gavin from Jessicagavin.com pinned this delicious Mediterranean Couscous Salad which is incredible.  It is so delicious that Brad took some for lunch the next day….and that NEVER happens!  Use the link in green to get her recipe.  I had to change a few things to meet my dietary needs:

  • Garbanzo beans – removed (unfortunately)
  • Feta cheese was a no for me but a yes for Brad so I just kept let him top his salad as he wished
  • Extras of the other veggies were substituted to make up for the loss of garbanzo beans
Salmon and Crushed Cucumber Grain Bowl ~

WOW!  This was so good!  Instead of cooking the salmon on stovetop as they did,  Brad smoked salmon for ours and it was delcious.  I’m also a little funny about seafood leftovers and by smoking the salmon it does last longer in the refrigerator than conventionally cooked salmon.  This allowed for a delicious lunch the next day!  Use this link for the Wild Alaska Salmon and Crushed Cucumber Grain Bowls by Purewow.com here!

Using the fresh herbs is vital to the freshness of this dish.  Farro which is a high protein, high fiber whole grain wheat, helps to give you that “full” feeling that you don’t always get when eating salmon alone.  Also, as stated earlier, I love Bob’s Red Mill products so that is the farro I used!

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread ~

There really weren’t a lot of changes that needed to be made to make yummy banana bread, however, I followed This recipe by Annie from MyLifeAfterDairy.com.  After making this recipe, Brad took his first bite and asked, “Remind me what is different in this recipe from the normal cinnamon swirl banana bread you have always made!”  Then we both decided that we actually like this recipe even more!  Check out the recipe in this link  ➡️➡️ Amazing cinnamon swirl banana bread by Mylifeafterdairy.com.

The couple of changes that I did have to make were:

  • substitute maple syrup for vanilla
  • substitute vegan “butter” for coconut oil

You do not have to make these changes if your are just allergic to dairy.  As stated earlier, I am also allergic to vanilla and coconut.

Adding In The Right Supplements ~

You have to be sure to make up for the nutrients that you will be missing when cutting dairy out of your world.  My practitioner helped me with this.  I am also learning what foods I need to add more of to my diet along with these daily supplements.  A prime example is changing from a breakfast of eggs and toast to eggs with avocado, tomatoes and spinach.  This is even Teddy Ruffsavelt approved ⬇️!

Conclusion ~

As stated earlier, whether you are allergic to dairy or not, these recipes are truly amazing!  Heck, I’ve shared some dairy free recipes with you before I even knew I needed to cut out dairy.  This chicken stir fry recipe for instance is delicious and dairy free…who knew?  Anyhoo, give these a try and let me know your thoughts!  Also, I would love to hear some of your favorite recipes if you are on this dairy-free ride with me.  There are definitely hard days without cheese….but surviving a dairy free life so far has been pretty good!

Happy cooking and happy health to you all~



DIY Valentine Branch Tree

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that I have always loved making DIY home decor for.  It’s fun to make crafts for all holidays, but for some reason it just seems fitting that, for this holiday, most of my home decor should be created from the heart.  Even better is when you can use the “base” of a past project to create a new idea…which is what I have done with the DIY Valentine Branch Tree.

In November, we worked on gratitude and created a fun “Gratitude Branch Tree.”  We painted some branches black and cut out leaves with different kind acts that the grandkids could perform during the month.  In the end, we had a beautiful fall tree.  Well, I just loved the natural look of the branches in the vase so I held on to them (of course I did….I’m a craft object hoarder!)  Below is a picture of the festive DIY tree.

DIY Valentine’s Day Branch Tree ~

The great thing about this Valentine’s home decor craft is that you are using bits of nature along with items you most likely have at home coupled with some ornaments from the Dollar Tree.  I am a part of The Sustainable Craft Challenge hosted by Julie @ Sum of their Stories  where we are challenged to create a sustainable/eco-friendly craft to share.  This is how the DIY Valentine’s Day Branch Tree came to life.

Above are the branches and vase that I had saved….knowing I would find another use for it! 😉 Use this link to see the simple steps of how I painted the branches for the DIY tree ➡️➡️Gratitude DIY Branch Tree Post!  I know you may be looking at this pic and thinking, “Mimi is one crazy woman….that tree is U…G…L…Y!  Give it time my friends…a little imagination goes a long way!

Gathering Items Needed ~

It is so satisfying to go through old items saved that you just KNEW will come to good use later…am I right???  I know I am not the only one that saves small scraps of material and/or paper after cutting from another project!  This fun tree full of different hearts is a project where those scraps will come in handy!

  • Branches (2 – 4 depending on size desired)
  • Vase
  • Vase Fillers (of your choice)
  • Embroidery Floss
  • Embroidery Needle
  • Scissors
  • Pinking Shears
  • Burlap (or material you desire…does not have to be burlap)
  • Hot glue gun & glue
  • Ribbon
  • Heart ornaments (I bought mine at Dollar Tree)
  • Chalk/Chalk pen (if using chalk heart ornaments)

Fabric Ornaments How To ~

I saved burlap material from my daughter’s wedding…how fun that I am now making a craft of love from that material?!?!  I used a heart stencil that I had to cut hearts out of the burlap.  You can draw your own or use any heart cutout you may have laying around to create your heart form.  The beauty of these are that you can make them any size you want.  I chose to keep mine on the smaller side.

Double the material and cut your hearts out using pinking shears.  I wanted the frayed edge to give it more of a rustic look.  Thread your needle with a double strand of emroidery floss.  Tie a knot in the end of your embroidery floss and start by coming up from the bottom.  This secures your knot at the back of the heart where it will not be visible.  Use the simple stitch to come up and down through the holes in the burlap until you have gone completely around the heart.  Tie off again at the back of the heart.

The original idea for these ornaments came from this adorable DIY Heart Pillow pin!  These are made by the Super Z Outlet and are just so easy and cute.  These would be super cute on the DIY Valentine Branch Tree as well.  I chose to change it up a bit and created the burlap hearts instead.  I actually think it would be fun to make both kinds of heart pillows and mix it up!

Message In a Bottle Ornaments ~

I absolutely love these!  When I was strolling the aisles of Dollar Tree, these little gems caught my eye.  An exact idea of what they were going to be used for wasn’t yet formulated in my mind,  but I KNEW something would come to mind!

I told you paper scraps come in handy too!  I cut small rectangular pieces of pink paper and rolled them up as a scroll or letter and stuffed them in the bottle.  Cork it off and voila…you have adorable Valentine message in a bottle ornaments.  To hang them I wrapped a piece of jute string completely around the top of the bottle (just under the cork) and tied a knot and then tied a knot in the very end of the jute to create a loop for hanging.

Other Ornaments for DIY Branch Tree ~

Below is a picture of the items I purchased at Dollar Tree.  All of the items purchased didn’t end up being used (but you KNOW I’m saving those babies for another fun craft so stay tuned!).  I used the lace ribbon to tie through the holes of the small wooden hearts to hang.  A chalk pen was then used to  write candy heart messages on the chalkboard heart ornaments and then hung with jute.

I also had small black ornaments (not shown in picture above) that had been purchased at Halloween and never used….they were great little fillers for my DIY Valentine Branch Tree.  I used the pink ribbon to create a loop on the back of the burlap hearts using hot glue.

Final Touches ~

Use a pretty ribbon of your choice to tie around the top of the vase to add some flair to the vase.  A 2″ wide burlap ribbon was used in this example.  The metal gift tags in the picture above can the be used to add to your bow on the vase.  Using the chalk pen, I wrote Happy Valentines Day and then nestled it in the burlap bow.

I had so much fun creating this little home decor project for Valentine’s Day.  The Sustainable Craft Challenge is so fun because it pushes you to go through pins you have saved and never made and use them to make a new craft come to life.  Be sure to check out the other members of the challenge and see what they have created…their website links are listed below as well as the name of this month’s craft they have made using the theme name of LOVE …

Julie – Sum of Their Stories – Upcycle A Plastic Container With Paint Pens

Vicky – Vicky Myers Creations  – How To Make A Cute Paper Heart Garland

T’onna – Sew Crafty Crochet – Valentine’s Day Gnome Scarf

Gail – Purple Hues and MeWire Hanger Soda Can Heart Wreath

Julie – Treasures Made From YarnHeart Garland

Terri – Our Good LifeWine Cork Phone Holder

Christine – Christine’s CraftsEasy Valentine’s cards using paper scraps.

Niki – Life as a LEO Wife – DIY Place Card Holders With Free Valentine’s Place Cards

Mel – Decor Craft DesignDIY Love Container For Valentine

Jo – A Rose Tinted WorldDIY Heart Garland from Upcycled Cards

Marianne – SongbirdDIY Lace Valentine’s Hearts

Allyson – Southern SunflowersHow to Decorate a Tin Can Planter

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!  I hope your day is filled with love and laughter!

Much Love ~




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