As a writer and painter, there’s nothing more inspirational than watching a great idea come to life. My mom came to me in late 2011 with a concept for a children’s fantasy book, and in just a little over a year, wrote and published her very own novel, Jack and the Red Shoes. I had the privilege of working with her to edit the manuscript, and I’m so proud of how it turned out.

I’d like to give you all a chance to win a copy of Jack and the Red Shoes. All you have to do is “Like” this page on Facebook! I’ll be selecting two winners Friday, June 28. 

To learn more about the plot of the book and where to purchase it, visit: jackandtheredshoes.com

Thanks for entering! This contest is now closed. The winners are Renee Grandinetti, and Sierra Tatum!

natalie schwab

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Homemade Blueberry Pie

November 22, 2012 · 2 comments

in Recipes

Happy Holidays to all! I apologize for having been absent the past few months. I am juggling many things at the moment. I’m sure you are all ready for a good Thanksgiving feast tomorrow! I thought I’d share this easy blueberry pie recipe as a last minute dessert option. My favorite pie growing up was always pumpkin…but I’ve grown fond of a good fruit pie with a buttery crust.

Blueberry pie

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
6-7 tablespoons water
2 pints fresh blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 large egg
2 teaspoons milk or cream

Step 1: In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Step 2: Slice the butter into pieces and work it into the mix with your fingers until it starts to form pea-sized lumps.

I know my pictures of butter serve no educational purpose, but I love butter…

Step 3: Add the cold water, 1 tbsp. at a time, and stir with a fork after each tablespoon.

Step 4: Flour your hands and pat the dough into two smooth discs. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Step 5: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Step 6: Mix together the blueberries, 3/4 cup of sugar and cornstarch. Stir until well combined.

Step 7: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out one disc on a floured piece of parchment paper. Carefully pick up the dough and fit it into your 9-inch pie pan.

Step 8: Fill the pie shell with the blueberry mixture, as seen below.

crust for blueberry pie

Step 9: Roll out the second disc of dough and lay it on top of the pie. Trim the edges and make a few cuts in the center of the pie.

Step 10: Mix together the egg and cream and brush it evenly over the pie.

Step 11: Bake the pie for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

homemade blueberry pie

Serve with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt!

simple blueberry pie

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, fun and, of course, food.

natalie schwab

 

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Easy Pumpkin Bread

August 29, 2012 · 1 comment

in Recipes

I know I’m probably jumping the gun on this one, because it’s still August and 110 degrees outside, but I don’t want to wait for fall any longer. The leaves don’t change color here and that always depresses me because my best memories are of colorful pumpkin patches in Virgina and hurling myself onto piles of carefully raked leaves (Dad never minded). Fall just isn’t the same here, but little things like pumpkin bread make the season feel a little more authentic.

Here’s a great recipe I tried yesterday. It’s perfectly moist and has just the right amount of spice.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2-2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3-1/3 unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Step 1: Lightly grease two bread pans and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2: In a medium-size bowl beat together the pumpkin, oil, eggs, sugar and water.

Step 3: Carefully add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon.

Step 4: Mix the batter well. You can use your beaters if you want.

Step 6: Tell your boyfriend/roommates/friends to be patient.

Step 5: Divide the batter into your greased bread pans.

Step 6: Bake the bread for 60 minutes and then stick a toothpick in the middle. If it comes back wet, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Step 7: Allow the bread to cool on a rack and then run a knife around the edges to loosen it. Carefully flip it over onto your hand and then onto a serving plate or plastic wrap.

I hope you enjoy this!

natalie schwab

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I think the only kind of shrimp I dislike is cold shrimp. Shrimp cocktails, Ceviche—not really my thing. But dress shrimp up any other way, and I’m all over it. Beer battered, grilled, tossed in a taco, sauteed in Italian seasoning. Whatever, I’ll eat it. So naturally, I saw this recipe on Simply Recipes and ran to the store to buy the ingredients. I’ve made a few slight changes to the recipe and it’s one of my new favorite dishes.

Lemon Cream Pasta with Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 pound pasta (I prefer rigatoni)
  • 1 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Lemon zest

Step 1: Heat the chicken stock, cream and lemon juice over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Pasta with lemon cream sauce

Step 2: Bring a large pot of water to a boil for your pasta noodles while the cream sauce is simmering. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions. Drain and set aside when finished. You can add a little olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking.

Step 3: Add the raw shrimp to the lemon cream sauce. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and stir well. Cook the shrimp for 4 minutes, or until fully cooked. Don’t overcook!

Creamy shrimp pastaThey will turn pink as they cook.

Lemon Cream Pasta Sauce with ShrimpStep 4: Add the parsley and chives to the to the cream sauce and let them cook for about 1 minute. Then, pour the shrimp and lemon sauce in with the pasta.

Lemon Cream Pasta with Shrimp

Step 5: Mix the pasta and then add the Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. Mix again and serve!

Shrimp pasta with lemon cream sauce

I like a lot of sauce on my pasta, so I make an extra pot to pour over when it’s finished. Totally up to you and how you like it. Enjoy!

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Do you ever wear false eyelashes, outside of Halloween? I love long, full lashes as much as the next girl, but I can’t get over the creepy feeling of false lashes. That’s why I was super excited to try this new product from Too Faced. It’s a 3-step mascara called Better than False Lashes, and it gives you lashes that are “dramatically longer by 42% and have an incredible 98% more volume!”

Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Mascara

The package contains one tube of Activating Mascara Base and Top Coat Flexistretch and one tube of Nylon Fibers. Here’s how you use it!

Step 1: Apply 1-2 coats of the Activating Mascara Base to your top lashes.

Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Tutorial

Step 2: Brush on 1-2 coats of the Nylon Fibers, focusing on the areas where you want extra length and volume. This stuff is so cool! The tiny fibers will stick to the base coat to extend your natural lashes.

Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Tutorial

Step 3: Finally, seal the Nylon Fibers by applying 1-2 coats of the Activating Mascara. This last coat will melt into the fiber-coated lashes to give you dramatic results. Seriously, it’s awesome.

Too Faced Better Than False Lashes Tutorial

Now this obviously takes longer to apply than regular mascara, but if you want longer lashes it’s worth it. My lashes are so long they almost touch my eyebrows! Buy it online at ULTA Beauty for $35.

PS- Too Faced is giving away 50 Better Than False Lashes Sets! All you have to do to enter is submit a review of a Too Faced product you’ve tried. Enter here.

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Have you ever had a shirt that you just wanted to live in? I remember junior year of college I bought this t-shirt from Urban Outfitters that was so soft I never wanted to take it off (don’t worry, I did). Sadly this favorite shirt of mine, like most Urban Outfitters shirts, did not last. The material got so thin that it was eventually completely see-through

There’s a point to this story. I finally found a shirt that tops that BDG tee. Enza Costa has perfected everyday basics—tees and tanks. The clothing is handmade in Los Angeles with featherweight blends of sumptuous supima cotton, cashmere and silk. It “accentuates the silhouette with cool formalism and casual expression.”

Enza Costa striped tankNow, I wouldn’t tell you all of this and not give you a chance to win one of these amazing pieces. Enza Costa is going to give away one Stripe Tank (Retail $92)!

To enter, like Enza Costa on Facebook and then send them a Facebook message with your size, address and a quick paragraph detailing what summer fun/adventure you plan to wear the tank to. I wore mine on our trip to San Diego. Perfect for the beach!

This contest has ended. Congrats to the winner, Jessica Dunda!

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I hope you all had a great 4th of July! I’ve been so busy with a new job that I haven’t had a second to sit down in front of my computer. It feels good to be back.

Mitch and I watched a harrowing documentary last week that made me feel so fortunate to be an American citizen—But it’s a bittersweet feeling.

The Devil Came on Horseback is a 2007 documentary that exposes the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle entered the country to monitor a ceasefire, and photographed horrifying events in parts of the country that no journalists have ever penetrated. He returned to the U.S. to share his photos and stories of the abhorrent deaths he witnessed.

The Devil Came on Horseback

The most difficult part for me to watch was toward the end of the film, when Steidle returned to Africa with his sister and visited refugees who’d fled Sudan to neighboring country Chad. One refugee, who spoke English very well, was so grateful for the basic necessities that Americans had provided his family. Food, medicine, clean water. I couldn’t help but cry, and think that we could do so much more. They think of us as their saviors, and we think of them rarely.

It’s been five years since Brian Steidle revealed his gruesome pictures to the world, and yet Darfuris continue to suffer. According to UN estimates, 2.7 million Darfuris are still living in internally displaced persons camps, and more than 4.7 million rely on humanitarian aid.

I went into college thinking I’d be a business major, but my freshman year I was required to spend the semester studying, in detail, a conflict of my choice. I chose to study blood diamonds and their effect on the people of Sierra Leone. I left business for journalism soon after, and I still hope I can someday be a voice for those who cannot be heard.

If you haven’t seen The Devil Came on Horseback, I highly recommend you watch it. If you have a favorite documentary, please share in the comments below. I’d love to see them.

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I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks today, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich, and I came across this awesome recipe that’s perfect for the 4th of July! If you’re already grillin’ up hot dogs and hamburgers, why not throw a few chocolate sandwiches on for dessert?

Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches

Ingredients:

1 loaf of regular or sourdough French bread

1 bag of semi or bittersweet chocolate chips

Coarse sea salt

1 tbsp. sugar mixed with 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

Step 1: Cut your loaf of French bread into thin slices. Don’t worry if they fall apart a little— the chocolate will hold the sandwich together. You can also buy bread that is already sliced.

Grilled Chocolate SandwichesStep 2: Butter one side of each bread slice and place the slices butter side down onto a large skillet. Cook on medium heat until the bread is slightly golden.

Grilled Chocolate SandwichesStep 3: Cover half of the bread slices with chocolate chips and then flip a naked slice on top of each, butter side up.

Grilled Chocolate French Bread SandwichesStep 4: Flip they sandwiches until the chocolate has melted and they are golden brown on both sides.

Step 5: Sprinkle the sandwiches with the cinnamon sugar and finish with a dash of sea salt. Enjoy!

Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches

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Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there, and to mine, who watches me through heaven’s clouds today and everyday.

Me, Sarah, Jessica and Dad

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Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s already June. This year has gone by so fast! Father’s Day is next weekend, so I’ve partnered with one of my favorite websites to bring you a fun Father’s Day giveaway.

If you’ve never visited UncommonGoods, prepare to spend hours browsing their amazing selection of unique gifts. You can find everything from cool umbrellas (like these), to beer making kits and other great gifts for him. Check out all the gifts for men here.

Here are my three picks for Father’s Day. Enter to win below!

1) Man Candles- Retail Value: $14

I heard of Man Candles on an episode of “Shark Tank” and was so intrigued!  Hart Main, the inventor, made a keen observation that candles are mainly marketed to women. He took scents that appeal to men, and the Man Candle was born. His lineup includes scents like fresh cut grass, pizza, coffee, campfire and more. Each candle is made of 100% renewable resources and is individually packed in a gift box.

Man Candles

2) Golfer’s BBQ Set- Retail Value: $25

Two things men love: golfing and grilling. This is the perfect combo of the two! This three-piece stainless steel BBQ set includes tongs, a spatula and a fork…detailed with insulated handles that look like golf grips!

Golfer's BBQ Set Uncommon Goods

3) Bike Chain Luggage Tag- Retail Value: $9

This luggage tag is perfect for a dad who loves biking. The tag is handmade from recycled bike parts, by Graham Bergh and his team of gifted artisans in Mosier, Oregon. The team collects 3,000 pounds of used parts each month to create these great bike chain luggage tags, and other cool things, like this bike chain bottle opener.

Father's Day Gift Bundle

Enter to win one Man Candle, the Golfer’s BBQ Set and the Bike Chain Luggage Tag by answering this question in a comment below: Which Man Candle would your dad or husband like best?

Earn extra entries by doing the following:

1. “Like” UncommonGoods on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uncommongoods

2. Tweet a link to a family page (ie. those gifts for mom, gifts for men, and other links on the left side of their home page)

3. Follow UncommonGoods on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/uncommongoods/

Contest closes Wednesday, June 13 at midnight.

This contest has ended. Congrats to our winner Katy A. and Happy Father’s Day!

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