Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review

OK. So, I have been reading but I haven't done a book review in awhile!

Here goes... I'll start with the good stuff first!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (5 out of 5 stars)

This is a young adult fiction book.  I loved it in the same way that I loved The Hunger Games series.  It did not grab me quite as quickly but I got to the point that I could not put it down.  Amazing!  Fabulous!

From amazon:

If you had the power to kill with your bare hands, what would you do with it?

Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa's Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (4 out of 5 stars)

Great story, but not a happy story.  It was depressing actually... while captivating at the same time.  There were so many messages in the story.  For me, the message that spoke loudest was a message of seeing what happens when we start to treat people like outsiders just because they are a little bit different than us.


Tom Franklin's narrative power and flair for characterization have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, Flannery O'Connor, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.

Now the Edgar Award-winning author returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far—an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they've buried and ignored for decades.

Throwaway by Heather Huffman (4 out of 5 stars) FREE for nook users.

Throwaway is touted as a modern-day version of the hit movie Pretty Woman and it is. 

It was extremely good... especially because it was free... it's just hard for me to give it a great rating right now because I am just coming off of reading Graceling.  It did evoke all of the same feelings as Pretty Woman and makes for a good beach read.


When society deemed Jessie a throwaway, she didn't let it stop her from finding the sunshine in her world...

But that world is threatened when she finds herself undeniably drawn to the mischievous glint in the eyes of a man unlike any she's ever met before.

What starts as a simple crush will lead them both on a journey they could never have anticipated. From a vibrant St. Louis neighborhood known as Cherokee Street to a cave in the Ozark Mountains with a 120-year-old mystery to hide, Jessie fights organized crime, corruption and her own fears to reclaim her life and leave her mark on this world.


In conclusion - if you liked The Hunger Games then you will also like... ahem love... Graceling.  Give it time.  It will not grab you like The Hunger Games did... but it will eventually grab you -- I promise!!
What are you reading?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reading Challenge: Spoiler Point of View

I'm going to be honest here.  I don't like surprises:  good surprises or bad surprises.

If you have a good surprise for me then TELL ME!  Let me get excited too?  The anticipation of a GREAT THING is REALLY FUN!  You are denying me a better experience by keeping something great a secret from me.  I cannot think of any surprise that is best kept as a secret.  It is always better to know ahead of time... and get excited about the upcoming fun!

You should also know that I do not like surprise book endings.  Authors who string you along and feed you bits and crumbs and then slam a surprise ending on me infuriate me!  You wanna know something?  {{you know, since we are being brutally henst here}}  I read the endings to Nancy Drew books before I read the book.  I have been doing this for YEARS!

Alas, there is a new study out that suggests that Spoilers Don’t Ruin A Story, They Make It Even Better
University of California, San Diego psychologists Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt say in a study published in Psychological Science that knowing the ending of a book before starting it may enhance the reading experience.
I think this goes for ALL aspects of story telling.  You know when you are telling someone a story and they are like, "get to the point"?  Well, I {{very recently}} started telling the end of the story first... so that the people I am talking to have a frame of reference as I share my experience. 

For example, let's say that I do something and my boss totally blows up at me about it.

I could either say:

"I did all of these things {{enter long story here}} and then guess what -- my boss blew up at me." 


"My boss blew up at me because I did {{enter long story here}}." 

See the difference?  For me, there is a clear difference.  Long boring story about your day is just a long boring story.  It is gets interesting because your boss blew up at you.  Give me that part in the beginning... mkay?  "What?  Your boss totally blew up at you today?  What could you possibly have done?  This MUST be a good story!"

How does this apply to books?

Well, now when I read a book I go online and google "{{enter book title here}} spoiler" and read the spoiler.  This makes the books so much better!

I just read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.  Yes, I read the spoilers ahead of time. 

Do you think that reading spoilers
enhances or ruins a book/movie?

Here is my challenge for you:  Read the spoilers before you start your next book.  Let me know what you think?

Summer Bucket List

Lulu made a summer bucket list.  We completed many of the things on the list, such as make our own frappucchinos, for example.

By the very last day of summer we had crossed everything off of our list except for "go to Alexandria."  Luckily, the stars were aligned and I woke her up on the very last day of summer and asked, "Hey, do you wanna go to Alexandria today?"  She jumped out of bed and raced to get ready!  She confessed to me later that she assumed we weren't going to get to go at all.

I very much want to be my teens best friend.  It is hard for me to see her laughing and giggling with her friends while I play the role of "homework enforcer."  I know that I am not here to be her friend... but to be her parent. I mean, let's face it, parents can be friends too but it's not the same thing.

However, the day we went to Alexandria was a day that we got to hang out and talk and relax... as friends.  It was chicken soup for this mom's soul to be honest.

She had a blast and she loved strolling down the streets of Alexandria.  Most of all, she loved sitting by this fountain with her Starbucks drink. 

Really -- it was a fabulous day!

We just chilled, and strolled, and talked... and hung out.  Can you see how happy she looks?  I will forever cherish this spontaneous trip with Lulu.  Moments like this cannot be planned.  They just happen!   

It was the perfect ending to an almost perfect summer!

I read that parents cannot create bonding moments with teens.
We can only make ourselves available ALL OF THE TIME
and wait for them to come to you. 
Do you agree?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mr. Fix It

We all know that my Dear Husband and is also known as "helper man."  I love love love that Bro is a helper too.  He calls himself a "helper man" actually.

Our neighbor gave us a hand-me-down pedal tractor for kids.  It didn't work so Bro and Daddy set off to fix it.

I had the best time watching these two guys hard at work.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Play Dough

I'm not one to make cookies. They are way too time consuming in my opinion.

And I certainly do not make cookie cutter cookies.

So, I don't know what possessed me to make some bee, dinosaur, and apple cookies for back-to-school for my kids.  I did.

Bro really got into it.  He begs and begs to make cookies.

Instead of making cookies everyday, I remembered a play dough recipe that I saw online and we made some at home.

It turned out great. 

Since fall is here, I even added cinnamon to bring out the sense of apple pie.  It was such a hit -- it smells so good!

Every time we get out the play dough we have to get out all of the materials to go along with cookies.  Bro always asks for sprinkles and I always say "no" of course. 

Finally, I gave in.  Who cares?  Just let him add sprinkles!

See the large blue water bottle?  It is a "rolling pin," mkay?

Oh-oh.  What's going on here?

Oh - we are eating sprinkles now?  Hmmm... Don't you know that you are supposed to do that when Mommy isn't looking?


What did we do with the play dough now that it has sprinkles in it?  Well, we balled it back up and put it in it's container. I'll let you know how it turns out when we take it out to play with it again.

Gift Idea:  You know, a play dough bin would be a great gift for a kid that is hard to buy for.  I found a play dough bin example here.  What do you think?

What would you do?
Do you let your kids put sprinkles in the play dough or not?

Bargain Bug!

Yay! More thrifty shopping! I have the thrifty shopping bug. I hope you don’t mind.

Keep in mind that when I thrifty shop I only buy things we need and already use.

Today’s find? Rash guard swim shirts from Land’s End. These are the swim shirts that the kids wear over their bathing suits to keep the sun off of their skin. Tip: Buy the shirt a size larger than necessary. Rash guard shirts seem to run small anyway and they are even harder to get on and off when they are both small and wet. Buy a larger size and you won’t be disappointed.

Here is what I ordered. The before and after prices are listed together.

1 rash guard shirt for Bri: $24.50 for $4.99
1 dress for Bri: $34.50 for $9.99
1 rash guard shirt for Bri: $24.50 for $4.99
1 rash guard shirt for Bro: $19.50 for $6.99
1 pants for me: $49.50 for $24.99

Total Price Could Have Been: 152.50 + 13.00 shipping = 165.50

Subtotal was: $51.95 + $13.00 Shipping = $64.95

However, I had a promo code for 25% off and Free shipping.  Thanks Money Saving Mom!

Final Price: $41.27 shipped CHA-CHING!

I found this deal from Money Saving Mom.  You can also follow her on facebook.
What blogs are you following to find deals?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


It's the start of football season.  You know what that means?  We will be eating lots of yummy football food!!!

First stop is wings!

Both Bro and Bri loved the wings!


Okay.  Well, Bri didn't really eat wings.  She slurped the ranch dressing off of a celery stick.

Bro ate the wings.  He loved them.  He says they are "man food."

If you are looking for wings for your family to enjoy.  These honey bbq wings from the Greene Turtle are delicious. 

What is your go-to football food? 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Christmas in September

Maybe I don't handle this task of parenting several kids as well as some others do.  I often feel overwhelmed.  Nonetheless, I feel the need to start my Christmas shopping now so I am not unprepared for the season.  It happens!

My teen has not asked for any gifts yet and she is hardest to buy for.  She says that she is "strategically only putting a few key items" on her list to ensure that she gets exactly what she wants.  Since when does she not get exactly what she wants?  Nonetheless, she informs me that iPad and a new cell phone are on her wish list.  Wow!  I'm not sure that Santa has that kind of a budget.

Nonetheless, my toddler doesn't need anything but clothes.  I'm not sure what she will ask Santa for Christmas since she already has lots of toddler toys at home from her brother.

Bro, my preschooler, has lots of wants and.. ahem... NEEDS.  Plus, he needs Christmas gifts and then has a birthday right after the New Year.  So, this past week I started getting some stuff together for him.

The problem is that I am not one to keep secrets and surprises.

I fear that Christmas might go something like this... this is me talking... "Okay kids... I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that I bought you a boat load of gifts for Christmas.  The bad news is that... we already opened them and played with them... so hope you liked them."

Let's see how I am doing so far.

I preordered The LEGO Ideas book along with a LEGO Star Wars Minifig Catalog - for a 41% savings off of full price.  We opened the LEGO Ideas Book this weekend. We had a great time building with LEGO bricks.  Lulu and Bro are building houses.  Bro asked if I would build him a church, so I am working on it.

I bought Cars Squinkies and Marvel Super Hero Squinkies... of which we played with them... ate with them... and slept with them all weekend long.  They were a HUGE hit.  However, we've lost almost all of them at this point and we saw the family dog eat several.  Normally he does not go near our stuff.  I guess a small squinkie (the size of a grape) is too good to pass up.

I desperately want baby Bri to enjoy reading books.  So far, she still will NOT sit still for even the shortest book... no matter what.  So, I tried this little interactive selection by LeapFrog.  Yes, we read it.  Um... she kinda likes it more than other books.  She just has NO ability to sit still for any length of time.  It's totally frustrating.

Bro wants a pirate ship with "with a plank." I did some research and found two that seem to be great buys.  One is selling for $79.99 on Amazon and I snagged it (new in box) for $9.93 on ebay.  I might have to see if Fairy Grandmother will store it for me until Christmas, lest we play with this before Christmas too.  Argh!

Shopping early means that I have the wiggle room to look for and wait for deals to come along.  Money is not growing on trees at my house and we need to save as much as possible.  Ya know?

I found What's In the Bible Volume 1 on sale for 5 bucks at my local Christian bookstore.  Have we watched it already?  Of course we have.  That's okay.  We can still ask for volumes 2-6 for Christmas.  Right?

In the coming months, you will find that there are lots of religious items on our Christmas lists.  After 13 years of parenting, it has all of the suddenly occurred to me that since my kids are going to public school, I am chief-in-charge of spearheading their religious education.  We have some catching up to do but it is better to be late than never, right?

My hope is that my teen can get up to speed quickly about some basics of the Bible as we start to teach the basics to my preschooler.  That's the immediate plan anyway.  We'll see how it goes.

Oh - so... you want my opinion on What's in the Bible?  hahahahahaha!  Believe the hype!  It was fabulous!  We sat down and watched both parts of volume 1 as a Friday Family Movie Night.  We laughed... we all laughed... it was great.  My son asked to watch it again on Saturday.  My only tip is that it was a tad bit overwhelming to watch both parts in one night.  Next time, we will probably divide it up into two movie nights. Nonetheless, it is a great buy and we are looking forward to getting more episodes.

So... tell me...
do you open Christmas gifts early
or are you totally okay with hiding them 'til the big day?