Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Little Artist

A Scattered Life: Book Review

One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon alone is curled up somewhere quiet with a good book. Since this doesn't happen often, I'm very picky about the books I choose.

I recently received a copy of A Scattered Life by Karen McQuestion. Originally, the book was self-published on Kindle using Amazon's Digital Text Platform. The book was a hit, becoming a bestseller (along with McQuestion's other writings), and it has been optioned for film. In August, AmazonEncore published a paperback version of A Scattered Life (retail, $14.95).
I started reading, not knowing much about the book at all, and was instantly drawn to the characters. McQuestion's writing style allows readers to see every detail of the story, and the characters are developed so well. Throughout the book, I found myself learning more and more about them, their thoughts, their actions, their flaws. Once I started, I didn't want to put the book down, and I found myself smiling (and crying) along with the characters.

Set in rural Wisconsin, A Scattered Life follows the lives of three women, all in various stages of life, motherhood, and marriage. During only one year, they learn more about family, life, and love than they ever expected.

I found myself relating so easily to each of the main characters. Skyla Plinka is a young stay at home mom. While she loves her family and life, she has a sense of restlessness, a need to do something different. She finds a sense of belonging working at a bookstore and a friendship in her new neighbor, Roxanne.

Roxanne is one of those moms that we all know. From the outside, her life looks like pure chaos, but looking closely, you realize that she puts her family above all else. And honestly, what matters more, loving on your kids or cleaning the kitchen?

Finally, there's Audrey, Skyla's intrusive and controlling mother-in-law. Again, Audrey is the mother-in-law (monster-in-law) we've all seen, needing to have an opinion on every little thing, and at times, making life much more difficult than it needs to be.

These three ladies face so many obstacles throughout the book. Often times, I found myself wishing everything would just get better for them all. The book made me think about how short life is and how we often take things for granted.

A Scattered Life
is about friendship, it's about family, it's about belonging and loss. At every turn, it was a wonderful read, and I would highly recommend it.

A copy of the book was provided for review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Big Hit Avocado Blog Tour

I didn't grow up eating avocados. To be honest, I don't think I even tried one until just last year. After hearing so much about the benefits of adding them to your diet, I had finally decided to pick one up at the grocery store.

We've been using them in our house ever since.

Recently, my diet has changed and I've had to rethink and relearn a few things in the kitchen. Being gluten-free means no breads, no rolls, no flour tortillas. But it also means feeling better than I have in years and having so much more energy.

There are several things I miss eating, but I've found ways to alter my favorite foods so that I can still enjoy them alongside my family.

Gluten-Free Philadelphia-Inspired Cheese Steak Taquitos with Avocado Cream

8 Corn tortillas
1 lb thin cut steak slices (or Steak-ums)
1/2 cup thin sliced peppers (we use red, green, and yellow)
1/2 cup thin sliced onion
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (substitute your favorite)
2 cups oil for frying
1 medium avocado
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbs fresh lime juice

1. Mix mashed avocado, sour cream, and lime juice in blender until creamy and well mixed. Put in fridge to chill.

2. Heat olive oil over medium heat, then add peppers and onions and cook until soft.

3. Add steak to pan and cook thoroughly.

4. Warm tortillas in microwave for 30 seconds or until pliable.

5. Add small portion of steak, peppers, and onions to warm tortilla and roll up. Secure with a toothpick.

6. Picked up rolled tortillas and drop carefully into hot oil with tongs. Cook until crispy.

7. Top with cheddar cheese and serve with avocado cream. And enjoy!

Did you know?
Avocados are only 50 calories per ounce (around three slices) and are sodium and cholesterol free. Also they contain nearly 20 different types of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in a one ounce serving.
The "Big Hit" Contest and Avocado League
Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association (MHAIA) is launching the Big Hit contest exclusively for those participating in this blog tour:
The Avocado League is featuring hometown recipes in Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C. MHAIA will choose 8 bloggers, one from each featured hometown, with the best recipe from the blog tour as members of the Avocado League, with public voting of their dishes to take place in late September. Avocado League participants and their dish will be professionally photographed and have their own personal profile on the Big Hit microsite.

The Avocado League recipe with the most votes during the Big Hit contest will win the title of Avocado League MVP and the grand slam prize ­ a $5,000 grocery gift card! Second and third place winners will receive a $2,500 and $1,500 grocery gift card, respectively. Each of the top three winners will also receive a year's supply of avocados! The five Avocado League runner-ups will each receive $100 grocery gift cards.

Any consumer can submit their avocado recipe and may be featured as an "all-star" recipe. All voting and recipe posting will take place at the Big Hit site.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association. Mom Central also sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 1st Day

My baby had his first day of the first grade yesterday.

We woke bright and early. A little too early, after a jittery, too excited to sleep through the night night. As we were brushing teeth, Little Man looked at me and asked "So you're sure I can't have just one more day of summer?"

After assuring him, that we could not have just one more day, even though we both were wishing for it (secretly in my case), we got on with our day.

The uneasiness of a new school, a new teacher, and the first day followed us out to the bus stop. I tried to joke around with him, I tried to get him to crack a smile.
It didn't work.
Finally, he got annoyed with me and faked a half smile. Better than nothing, I guess.

After school, I greeted him at the bus stop and asked what his favorite part of the day was. He responded with "nothing." I was terrified that his fears had come true, getting lost in the halls or not having anyone to play with at recess, or worse yet, a mean teacher.

So I asked, "You didn't like anything?" my voice full of worry.

The child looked at me like I had gone crazy. After a full second or two, he says, "No, momma, it was all my favorite," with a tone that made me feel dumber than dirt for assuming otherwise.

Yay for the love of first grade! Let's just hope it stays this way!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman: Review

In reach our reading goals this summer, we have found ourselves reaching for an array of books. We've read just about every kids book we could get our hands on, both from our personal library and from the public library.

We recently received a copy of Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross. While there are several books starring Horrid Henry and his problems with Perfect Peter and Moody Margaret this is the first we've read.
Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman features 4 short "laugh-out-loud stories" and was named Children's Book of the Year in 2008 at the Galaxy British Book Awards. The four stories included in the book are Horrid Henry and the Abominable Snowman, Horrid Henry's Rainy Day, Moody Margaret's Makeover, and Horrid Henry's Author Visit.

While written for kids 7-12, my just-turned six year old enjoyed the misadventures of Henry. It seems that things never work out quite as Henry planned, and it gave my son and I a chance to talk about obstacles and how to approach things differently as we read.

Even though Horrid Henry is a mean, short-tempered kid, we couldn't help but like him and feel sorry when things go horribly for him.

Reading the stories together allowed us to open up communication about how we treat other people and how things don't always go as planned. The books are very well written and through the descriptions it was easy for my son to imagine each story in his head.

We'll definitely be picking up some of the other Horrid Henry books to read together.

Buy It
You can find Horrid Henry books at Amazon (Most can be found for $4.99)

A copy of the book was provided for review. All opinions are our own.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Could also be titled: Butterflies Gone Wild.Someone said these two were a little too twitter-pated to notice me taking their photo.
Twitter-pated has now became the word of the day. {And every time it's said, somebody giggles.}
Twitter-pated, twitter-pated, twitter-pated
That's the kind of day we're having.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WordWorld & Dive Olly Dive! Review

A few weeks ago our DVD player decided to die. {gasp} This caused a little someone to be rather upset. He loves watching a short DVD in the afternoon while I get a little work done around the house. Plus with 90+ degree days lately, a movie afternoon usually sounds so relaxing (and cool.)

WordWorld: Pirate Sheep
We love the skills WordWorld teaches, from social skills, like making friends and fixing mistakes to literary skills, such as sounding words out and rhyming.
Pirate Sheep, is a 60 minute DVD featuring 4 episodes from the WordWorld friends. Pirate Ship, Superhero Sheep, Mail Mix Up, and Wee Little Whale all offer the same positive messages and educational value we've loved on past WordWorld DVDs.

Dive Olly Dive! Under Pressure
We had never watched Dive Olly Dive! before viewing the Under Pressure DVD. Following the adventures of two submarines in training, the episodes teach kids about overcoming obstacles and working through setbacks with teamwork.Under Pressure has a run time of 60 minutes and includes 5 episodes: Sub Magnet, Pressure's On, Grandpa Claude, Doug's Apprentices, and A Jelly Old Time. Little Man thought the DVD was fun and enjoyed seeing what Olly and his friend, Beth, would get into next.

Both DVDs are available at Toys R Us, Amazon, or NCircle Entertainment

Products were provided for our review. All opinions are our own.

Back to School Time with Smead

I can't believe that summer is quickly coming to an end. Two weeks from today, my little one will officially be a first grader.

After experiencing our first year in school, I learned quite a few things. The first is that even kindergartners bring home a ridiculous amount of papers. And the second is that this momma really needs to work at being organized, or I will again be realizing we've "misplaced" permission slips or homework five minutes before we need to be at school. (Thank goodness we live 30 seconds from the school.)

Fortunately for me, Smead has a variety of products designed to help me get organized. Smead has been helping homes and offices get organized for over 100 years. They offer a huge variety of office supplies, some of which can be found at Office Depot, Staples, or Franklin Covey.

We recently received the new Stadium File and SuperTab Folders from Smead. The Stadium File has 12 tiered pockets, which allow easy access to files. The reinforced side gussets are heavy duty, so I can easily see the Stadium File lasting quite awhile on my desk. Plus, because it can hold 900+ sheets of paper, I can safely assume that it will help me keep our little one organized throughout the entire first grade.The SuperTab folders, which fit in any standard file drawer (or in the Stadium File), have tabs that are 90% larger than standard folders. This means that our labels (such as "return to school" or "work to save") can easily be read. No squinting and no scribbling in the world's smallest writing.Maybe with the new tools from Smead and our own homework station our back to school experience won't be quite so hectic this year. A momma can hope right?!

Products were provided for review, as well as a gift card to thank me for my time. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nature Made SAM-e Giveaway

***Giveaway Closed: Congrats to Catharine!***

I've heard so many good things about Nature Made vitamins over the years, but have never tried them before. To be honest, I'm not always great at remembering to take any kind of pill daily.

However, when I heard about Nature Made SAM-e Complete, I knew I wanted to give it a try. SAM-e is designed to help you maintain a balanced mood by replenishing your body's levels of SAM-e (which stands for s-adenosylmethionine, which is formed from the essential amino acid methionine and adenosine triphosphate.)
How does SAM-e work?

According to the SAM-e Complete site, in a nutshell SAM-e helps other molecules in the brain do their jobs making you feel like your normal self. When SAM-e levels run low, those other molecules can’t do their jobs as effectively, and you can feel out of sorts from a mood standpoint.

I've had the chance to try SAM-e for the last few weeks, and have noticed an improvement in my mood. But I also changed my diet drastically recently, so I can't specifically attribute the mood change to one or the other.

Nature Made SAM-e Complete recently launched a campaign called Give a Smile. They are working with Dream Factory, the second largest children’s wish-granting organization in the US, to grant the wishes of three children suffering from a critical or chronic illness. SAM-e will donate to a child’s wish for every social action you complete (like uploading an image to their mosaic).

Win It: One lucky reader will win 3 months worth of SAM-e complete, a Nature Made aluminum water bottle and mood journal.

To enter: Tell me why you'd like to try SAM-e.

Want extra entries? (Leave separate comments for each)
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Giveaway ends 8/14 at 11:59 pm EST. Winner will be notified via email. Open to US only.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Nature Made and received products necessary to facilitate my candid review.

Happy Birthday, Little One!

After going to bed at 2 am, being woken 3 times, by someone who was "just to excited to sleep," and getting up at 6:45, I was exhausted this morning.

I slapped a smile on my face and tried to make the best of it. But it wasn't until after breakfast when I heard a gasp and, "Is this all really just for me?" that I really got it. Once a year, it doesn't matter if I get next to no sleep, or that I was so busy the last two days that I've forgotten to eat a real meal. The look on his face this morning, when I told him, "it's all for you," was more than worth it.

I can't believe my baby is 6 today. Six! I told him he looked so grown up. To which he responded that, he's "been grown up since Kindergarten."

I love this kid. Almost more than my heart can hold.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Taste Buds

The other day, this little one announced, "girls are stronger than boys," in that 6 going on 16 voice I hear often.

This one stopped and thought for a second. I braced myself for his response, so confident another fight was brewing. Then he says, "I'm just as strong as a girl. But girls do have more taste buds."
At least I can say he shares my love of random, useless facts.