Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things Remembered review

Karla and her sisters Heather and Grace lost their parents at a young age to a car accident. The girls spent most of their childhood, after the accident, living with their maternal grandmother Anna, despite being shuffled around their father's family first. All adults now, they're still not entirely sure where they fit into each other's lives or Anna's. They've all gone their separate ways, until Anna's health begins to deteriorate. 

Karla moves back in with Anna, temporarily, to settle her estate and make sure everything is order before she inevitably passes away. Never believing she and Anna will ever be able to connect again, Karla waltzes in with a fairly large chip on her shoulder that Anna slowly works at knocking away. As the pair share stories and life experiences with each other, each discovers that a lot of the assumptions they had about the other are simply not true and that family really does stand above all else. 

Add in a couple of other sisters, a risky pregnancy, a sweet guy, and lots of secrets and you have one excellent story.

I love Georgia Bockoven's writing and her latest is just as well done as her last couple of books. Her characters come across as authentic and genuine and her plots are realistic enough for readers to believe they have experienced similar situations. I connected with Karla and her fear of her grandmother's intentions and I felt Anna's pain when she learned all of the thoughts her granddaughters had about her over the years. It just felt real. A true sign of a great story!

The cover is lovely and definitely felt reminiscent of fall and renewal. Fall is a renewal for a lot of people, as much as spring is for others and I think the cover artist did a great job at capturing that. Just wanted to add my thoughts in on that! 

Things Remembered
Georgia Bockover
384 pages
Adult Fiction
William Morrow Paperbacks
October 2012
Review copy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creatrilogy and the wonder that is Peter Reynolds

It's no surprise that Peter Reynolds is one of my favorite children's authors/illustrators. I recently raved about his latest book, Sky Color, here on the blog and I've often talked about how I've given young children The Dot for a birthday or holiday gift. I love his books, I love his illustrations, and I was absolutely thrilled when this showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago:

I may have jumped up and down a little. It's the entire box set of Reynolds Creatrilogy series! Included is The Dot, Ish, and Sky Color, each totally inspiring to kids AND adults as they are encouraged to be creative in their art, their thinking, and their every day being. All of the books have such a positive message, but it's exhibited in a super fun way. SUPER FUN. :)

You can buy each of the books separately, but I honestly don't think one book is better than another. I would highly encourage teachers, librarians, and parents to have this set on your's so much fun, beautifully illustrated, and wonderfully inspiring. I would never call myself an artist, but these books make me want to create something. Anything! I can't wait until Elliott is old enough to play around with paint or crayons and get creative. 

Thank you to Candlewick for sending this great box set my way!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week in Review: More illness, kangaroos, and zombies being canceled

Well, the arrival of Hurricane Sandy is upon us. I live in the D.C. Metro area, so we're definitely in the path of this storm and everyone is pretty much freaking out. Schools have been closed for the next two days and it hasn't even started raining yet. Stores have run out of just about everything, the federal government has closed, and everything else is continuing to shut now. It's reminding me of Snowmageddon of a couple of years ago and that was a total train wreck. 

We stocked on essentials, which for us is formula for the kiddo, several pots of boiled water, dog food, and gas for the cars. We rarely lose power -- we're the lucky family with underground electric wires, but we do live in a split-level home, so high rainfall levels always make me nervous. We've never had a problem before, but if we did, it would be my bedroom and living room flooded. Yikes!

Today is the husband's birthday and I'm so bummed for him. He was supposed to participate in the Run for Your Lives 5K outside of Baltimore and it was canceled due to Sandy. It was my birthday present to him (hello, $80 race!), so he not only didn't get a fun race day being chased by zombies, but we hardly had anything for him to open. Thank goodness I picked up a few little things. I know it's not about presents, but still, I felt bad for him. Happy birthday Aaron!

Most important hurricane supplies? Books,  of course! When the child lets me, I'll be reading this tomorrow:

Yesterday, we took Elliott to the Air and Space Museum for their annual Air and Scare program. Huge museum filled with planes and rockets and the shuttle makes for a very cool back drop for all kinds of neat Halloween stuff. He was much too young to really participate in any of the activities, but we wanted to get him out of the house after being sick all week and needed another excuse to show off his adorable kangaroo costume. 

Cutest kangaroo ever. Don't deny it.

Earlier in the week we ended up having to get a chest x-ray for the little guy, which was only slightly traumatizing for his mama who had to hold him down, screaming, on the table. He has had a cough for the past week, that sounds terrrrrrible, but no other symptoms at all. I brought him in, just to make sure there wasn't anything wrong and am glad I did. He had started wheezing and was having trouble breathing while he was playing hard. Just a bad chest cold, but the inhalers we were given have definitely helped. Worth the 4 hours we spent at the doctor. 

On another note, why has no one told me how necessary this purchase is:

I've seen it on a few blogs recently, but had no idea how life changing it would be. Apples, toast, bagels, pretzels, etc. ALL have been forever changed, because of this amazing jar. So. Good. 

On the blog this week:

Diaper Cake Gift Certificate Giveaway (closes tonight at midnight!)

Stay safe and dry if you're in the path of the hurricane. If not, just have a great week!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Picture Book Saturday: Sick baby edition

My poor boy. Elliott has had a cough for a week that just won't go away. It didn't necessarily seem to be getting worse and he didn't have any other symptoms, but it was gross and wet and deep. We finally took him to the doctor yesterday and ended up having to get a chest x-ray. The computer system at the office went down while we were there, so we couldn't even get the results right away (after being there for over 3 hours), so we finally were just sent home with the diagnosis of a bad chest cold, unless we hear something different. We're loaded up with a couple of nebulizers, cozy pj's, and a pile of books that we've been enjoying lately, and settling in for some fun at home. 

A few of our recent favorites:

Cars Galore by Peter Stein and illustrator Bob Staake

The kid LOVES this book. The bright colors and wacky illustrators seem to draw him eye right to the page and he can't seem to turn the pages fast enough. I start out reading slowly, building faster and faster as the book goes on until we're moving through the pages really quickly. He's always giggling by the end and wants it read again. 

The Kirkus blurb on the back says that the rhymes are reminiscent of Seuss and I definitely agree. Super silly, crazy at times, and a whole lot of fun. Definitely going to have to check out Bugs Galore

Baby Be Kind by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
I'm really glad Elliott likes this one, because I definitely do. Each page features rhyming text, encouraging babies to do small acts of kindness. Whether it be sharing cookies, saying thank you for a gift, and saying sorry, each page is simple and easy to understand. The babies in the illustrations are acting out the text, making for a great beginning manners book. 

Elliott likes to point out the little red-haired boy in the book on each page and even looks sad when he's sad. I'll be giving this one at future first birthdays, for sure. Love it!

Mice by Rose Fyleman and illustrator Lois Ehlert

This one is just awesome for kids Elliott's age. One sentence of text and huge, bold collage illustrations. He doesn't necessarily care about the story, but he does love looking at the pictures and Lois Ehlert always delivers on those. 

While learning different vocabulary words and colors, the readers gets to determine whether or not mice are nice. It's a fun concept and the weird mice made out of household "stuff" are quirky and silly. On each page I point out the different words expressed in the text (i.e. tomato, pink ears, long tails, etc.) and hopefully E is starting to catch on as to to what different words mean. 

That's what we've been reading! Do you have any new picture book favorites?

Thank you to Candlewick and Beach Lane for the review copies. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Need a baby shower gift? Giveaway time!

I've had two baby showers in the past 4 years and both were absolutely amazing. The hosts of each went out of their way to make sure I had beautiful decorations, awesome food, and just a great time overall. At each shower, the girls got together and bought a diaper cake -- one of the coolest gifts ever! They were each layered were tons of diapers, bottles, pacifiers, bibs, socks, and other baby goodies that I could use throughout the first year of motherhood, one with a theme (books, of course!) and one with just general baby stuff. They were beautiful gifts, made for fantastic centerpieces on the gift table, and were a great way for several girls to go in on a gift together. 

This past week, Liz, the owner of eDiaperCakes, contacted me, offering a giveaway to one of my readers. I checked out her site and the beautiful cakes she had and knew right away that I wanted to participate! I have a wide base of readers -- from book bloggers to teachers to new moms -- and know that a lot of you attend a lot of baby showers and some of you are even about to attend one being held in your honor. Congratulations if that's you! 

These beautiful diaper cakes come in any theme you could ever imagine, but I have a few favorites:

The World of Eric Carle Caterpillar Rattle Diaper Cake

Goodnight Moon Diaper Cake

Pat the Bunny Diaper Cake

Do you notice a theme?? I love the book-themed cakes!

Liz has been kind enough to offer one of my readers a $25.00 gift certificate towards the cake of your choice. These make such great shower gifts and any new mom would be honored to receive a cake like one of these! 

To enter: Visit and then leave a comment with your favorite cake! If you tweet about the giveaway, you get an extra entry. Just make sure you leave your Twitter handle in an additional comment for your extra entry. 

Contest is open to U.S. residents only and will end on Sunday night. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Looking for a new dystopian?

If you're like me and always anxiously awaiting the next big dystopian novel, I urge you to grab this one to hold you over. After is packed with stories by great contemporary YA authors, all focused on the apocalypse or dystopian societies -- some super creepy, others thought-provoking, and few that were a little on the strange side. 

A few of the authors included in the book are Gregory Maguire, Carrie Ryan, Garth Nix, Beth Revis, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Susan Beth Pfeffer -- some of my favorites! In fact, if you happen to know how much I rave about Carrie Ryan's books and how often I hand sell them at work, it will come as no surprise that her story was my hands-down favorite. Such beautiful writing in the midst of the world ending! 

As with any anthology, there will be some that you'll really love and others you won't quite connect with, but if you're a dystopian addict like me, I would highly recommend adding this to your collection to slowly read while waiting for the next big novel to be publish. 

And if you have any ideas as to what that next big dystopian book is supposed to be be, let me know!

After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
384 pages
Hyperion Books
October 2012
Review copy

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week in Review: I crafted!

Last week, I mentioned wanting to actually craft something for Trish's Pin It and Do It Challenge and I finally did! A few moms from the playgroup I go to invited me to a craft night on Friday and I figured that would be a great day to knock something off my list. I went planning to work on Elliott's birthday banner, but instead made Melted Snowmen! 

(Image from Eyeballs by Day, Crafts by Night)

So easy and they'll be really cute on the tree for Elliott to look at. Some salt, a bit of glitter, a few peppercorns, and an orange paper carrot. Not exactly the most difficult or even visually appealing craft, but it was fun and kids would love it. I also ended up making a wall hanging for fall, with paint and a few cotton swabs:

I'm not counting it for the challenge though...I didn't find it on Pinterest, my host had the idea. It was fun and it turned out very pretty. I'm not a crafty person whatsoever, so this has been fun for me! I don't care if it looks like a 2nd grader made it ;)

On the blog this week:

More fall fun!
Family bedtime reading
I think I'm breaking up with Birchbox...

Around the blogosphere:

Learn how to make an apple orchard playscape with your kids
A totally true rant on the price of diapers
Lava bottles...a really fun DIY for toddlers (and almost toddlers)

Let's round out the week with some photos of my favorite child:

We have family photos scheduled for Tuesday! I can't wait to share them with all of you, though E has ANOTHER cold, so we'll see how he's feeling. Have a great week!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I think I'm breaking up with Birchbox

It's a sad day. Over the summer, I fell in love with Birchbox. Who wouldn't love getting awesome samples in the mail once a month, designed to my specific tastes? The first couple of months were great (posts here and here), but slowly, the samples have become almost expected...and a little boring.  So bummed. 

So, I signed up for Ipsy (formerly MyGlam). I wanted to compare the two companies to see which I liked better and after month #1 of Ipsy, they're the clear winner. To be fair, Birchbox was great the first few times too, so I'm going to wait another month before definitely deciding. 

First the boxes. I apologize for the lack of photos. Aaron keeps promising to build a photo box, but until that happens I don't have great photos unless they're outside. 


Benta Berry G-1 Moisturizing Face Cream
LiQWd SiLK Professional Deep Conditioning Treatment
LiQWd The Perfect Wave
Mox Botanicals Pomegranate & Fig Lip Butter
theBalm cosmetics Mary-Lou Manizer
tili Bags


be a bombshell Eye Liner
Coastal Scents Eye Shadow
mireness Lip Bomb Glossy Lacquer Stain (full size)
the Balm Cosmetics "the body builder" Mascara
Chevron print makeup bag

This is the 3rd month in a row I've received moisturizer from Birchbox. Sure, everyone needs moisturizer and it hasn't been the same brand each time, but when the moisturizer is the main sample, it gets boring and repetitive. And last month, though I didn't take photos of my box, they sent the UGLIEST nail polish. Erica actually goes over exactly how ugly it is, as well as complains about the same issues I have. She had the exact same box I did last month. 

One of my samples this month from Birchbox was a bag. A plastic bag. It's supposed to be a makeup bag (and could very well be used as one), but compared to the adorable chevron print bag Ipsy sent, it just seemed inexpensive and a little boring. 

I'm going to give Birchbox and Ipsy each one more month before deciding. Though I'd love to have two sets of samples coming to me every month, it's not the best way to spend our money, so I'm going to have to choose!

Anyone have experience with either company? Love? Not-so-much love?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Family bedtime reading

Aaron and I read to Elliott every night before bedtime (and lots during the day too, of course). Lately, I've been reading to him in the bathtub, to keep myself entertained while he's splashing around with his toys. We read our first chapter book that way! 

We've moved onto a new book to read together: The Family Bedtime Treasury. Though we're all book lovers in this house (though sometimes Aaron has to be convinced he's a book lover) we have very limited shelf space in each room to hold all the books we love, so fitting 16 awesome bedtime stories into one volume works really well for us. 

Included are some of my all-time favorites: The Napping House, Gideon, and No Sleep for the Sheep, along with several new-to-us stories and poems. The variety is fantastic. It also comes with a cd filled with an hour of classical music. We were able to download it for free, since we don't really have anything to play a cd, which was a really nice option. We've listened to the music during our last feeding of the night and it's very soothing. 

The Family Bedtime Treasury would make a great gift for a birthday or a unique shower gift. I'm always looking for those! It's nice to include other siblings in gifts like those and this has something for everyone. 

The Family Bedtime Treasury: Tales for Sleepy Times and Sweet Dreams
276 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 2012
Review copy

Monday, October 15, 2012

More fall fun

I'm off to a pretty good start on Trish's Pin It and Do It Challenge. So far, I've made 3 out of the 4-7 I signed up to do, though all have been food. Next week I would really like to have a craft project knocked off the list. This week I made Crockpot Applesauce from Mommy Makes it Better

(image from  Mommy Makes it Better.)

I altered the recipe, because I was lacking ingredients, but it still turned out wonderfully. I left out the brown sugar altogether (I didn't see why sweet apples needed more sugar) and I left out the lemon peel. I added extra cinnamon sticks and the result was a deliciously cinnamon-applesauce. Elliott loves it, so I'd say it was a success. And so easy!

I also made Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Black Bean Chili from theKitchn.

(Image from theKitchn)

This was SO good. My one teeny tiny critique is that the beans never truly were soft. I'm not sure if that was my fault or if the recipe left out soaking them as a step, but either way, even after a total of 5 hours cooking, then were still a bit harder than I would have liked. 

It did win me 3rd place in a chili cook-off though, in a place filled with beef lovers, no less!

Before the chili cook-off, the group did a big scavenger hunt with the kids. So much fun! We each took a child (I was happily paired up with a 9-year-old little girl...awesome, since E doesn't quite get the concept of a scavenger hunt yet ;). We had to drive all over town finding certain items on the list and taking photos of them. All Halloween or autumn themed. We came in last, but we certainly had fun!

One of our tasks was to wrap up like a mummy in front of a tombstone. This was one of the other teams and they did a great job!

Overall, it was a really fun weekend. I love all the activities we've managed to participate in, without feeling like we're running around like maniacs. Next weekend, we're having our first set of professional family photos done and I'm SO excited. And slightly nervous. I've never been one to enjoy having my picture taken, but I guess I have to get over that.

On the blog this past week:

A Day at the Pumpkin Patch

Falling Together review

Elliott's First Chapter Book

Fitness Friday

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fitness Friday

It's been quite awhile since I've written up one of these! I don't have a whole lot to report, but wanted to give an update while I had a minute. 

So, I think I've fallen into the rut that so many of us do when we get busy. I have been running around like a mad woman the past couple of months, busy with something almost every single day. I'm still getting workouts in, just not the 5 a week I was doing over the summer. Now, I probably get out about 3 times a week, which, unfortunately, is not enough for my mind OR my body. The weight loss has hit the pause button and I'm finding myself more and more tired. 

I love this season and have been trying to take walks with Elliott as often as I can. He seems to prefer morning walks and that's great, except it's been about 40 degrees outside the past few mornings. Too chilly for my boy. When we do get to go, I make sure to take the jogging stroller and walk/jog for the 45 minutes that we're out and that's awesome. The days that I don't get cardio in, I try to fit in one of the strength workouts I remember from bootcamp or at least drop for a plank or two or some dips while I'm feeding E his dinner. Really trying to fit it in where I can!

I also tried, again to start up Jillian's workout videos and I just can't do it. I don't like exercising in my living room, because I give up too easily and I'm bored. I've tried switching up the levels each day, trying different instructors, etc., but I can't get into it and I'm afraid that winter is going to be really hard on me in terms of workouts. 

Any tips for those of us that don't like workout videos, but still want to be able to move?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Elliott's first chapter book

Let's face it. As parents, there are some tasks that we just don't like to do. For my husband, it's feeding Elliott anything other than his bottle. He'd much rather leave that mess up to me and take on the task that I don't want to do: bath time. The tub is just so contained that I get bored! That whole "must watch the baby every second" thing is sometimes like watching paint dry ;). 

Which is where the reading comes in! I've tried listening to my audiobook while he's playing, but then I end up missing half the words and am forced to re-listen anyways. I started reading Tilly's Moonlight Garden aloud to him for the first half of his bath (while he's content enough to splash and play with toys on his own) about a month ago and we finally finished it up last night. Not the typical choice for a first chapter book, but I really enjoyed reading it!

Tilly is a young girl whose family just moved to an old house. Her mother is ill and spends the days in bed, while Tilly is explores the land surrounding their new house. It's on one of these lonely adventures that Tilly meets Helen, a girl who only seems  to show up when Tilly is in the moonlight garden she discovered late one night.

The pair become close friends very quickly, but Tilly knows there's something odd about Helen. She won't say where she lives or where the rest of her family lives and Tilly isn't sure if Helen is even real or simply existing within Tilly's imagination. When Tilly starts to make other friends, she's no longer sure what their friendship means or where it's going. 

It was a sweet story, probably perfect for a 7-9 year old little girl. It definitely has a bit of a The Secret Garden vibe going on, which I enjoyed and I could see a mom and daughter reading it together. 

I, unfortunately, didn't really care for the few illustrations, but was sent a review copy, so I'm not sure if they made it into the finished copy or not or if they were made to be color. They just seemed dark and smeary (if that's a real word). 

I'm not sure what we'll pick next for our bath time read aloud, but this one was fun!

Tilly's Moonlight Garden
Julia Green
208 pages
July 2012
Review copy

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Falling Together review

"It's been six years since Pen Calloway watched Cat and Will, her best friends from college, walk out of her life. Through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them. When, after years of silence, Cat -- the bewitching, charasmatic center of their group -- urgently requests that the three meet at their college reunion, Pen can't refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will on a journey around the world, with Pen's five-year-old daughter and Cat's hostile husband in tow. And as Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: starting truths about who they were before and who they are now."

Marisa de los Santos is an author whose books I'm always waiting for. Her characters are always so unique and have a depth that leaves me totally satisfied at the end of each of her books and Falling Together was no exception. The plot of this one actually started out pretty slow for me, but after I was able to get into it and made those inevitable connections with her characters, I was totally hooked. 

The relationship between Pen, Will, and Cat was authentically complicated, making it easy to believe in their moments of happiness, as well as those dark moments that split them apart (and kept them apart for so long). From one of the early scenes of the story, when Cat has a seizure in the bathroom with Pen and Will helping her through it in an almost darkly comical manner, I knew I would love their strange triangle. 

I really appreciated the witty dialogue and even though I wasn't a huge fan of Cat's character (which may have been the author's point), I really enjoyed this one. Write faster, Marisa!

If you're a Marisa de los Santos fan like me, you can head over to her Facebook page and stalk watch for info on new books!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A day at the pumpkin patch

As I mentioned on Saturday, we've been having fun participating in all sorts of great seasonal activities with Elliott this year. It's much more fun after having a child and each day we've had free we've planned something to get us outside before the winter cold sets in.

We started out the day with our newest lap book:

Even at his young age, Elliott already has a fondness for Duck & Goose, just like his Mama. Tad Hills has such gorgeous illustrations in all of his books, but these --  with their great autumn colors and bold, yet simplistic design, was awesome for E's age and great for getting us into the seasonal spirit. The text was the perfect length for a busy almost-toddler and the concepts were super easy to understand. Duck and Goose can't find their pumpkin, until their friend Thistle asks them if they've looked in the pumpkin patch. E giggles at the inflection I use in my voice to portray the silliness of Duck and Goose for not thinking of the pumpkin patch. 

We love this series and will definitely be adding more to our collection as time goes on. I know there's a great one for the upcoming Christmas season. Thanks to Random House for the review copy!

Today being a Federal holiday meant that Aaron got to stay home and play with us, so off to the pumpkin patch we went! After reading Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin, it was only appropriate. We have a local "farm" that opens each fall with pumpkins, hayrides, a petting zoo, rides, etc., but the price is absolutely astronomical to get it. I refused to pay $17 EACH for Aaron and I to go into the "farm" (again, using the farm word very loosely), since E is only 10 months old and wouldn't be able to really enjoy anything. Instead, we hung out in the market area with all the pumpkins for choosing, taking lots of pictures. 

Fun day for us!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week in Review

It's been such a fun week around here! We've been getting into the festive Fall spirit and heading out of the house quite a bit for fun activities. And's a 3 day weekend, which means Aaron is able to stay home and play one more day. Off to the pumpkin patch in the morning!

Fun stuff:

-Date night at Seasons 52:

We had our favorite sitter over to "watch" Elliott while we went out to dinner. Since he goes to bed around 6, all she had to do was watch tv. Easiest job in the world.

-A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for Trish's Pinteresting Challenge for October. I've been pinning away for months without much progress on actual work, so this was a great opportunity for my boards to be tackled.

I've committed to doing between 4-7 pins before the 31st and managed to knock out one so far.  I made Ashley's Mini Chocolate Pumpkin Pies:

(Image is Ashley's from (Never) Homemaker)

These little pies were super easy to make, but they had to grow on me in taste. They aren't very sweet, so once I figured that out and enjoyed one with my coffee or a glass of milk, I liked them much more.

Some links from the blog:

A family needs our help, even if we don't know them personally.

I really enjoyed Endangered by Eliot Schrefer. I hadn't heard anything about it before reading, so it was one of my biggest surprises of the year

I talked about how much I love all things Fall and what we're doing as a family to celebrate my favorite season.

And a cool link from a favorite blog:

From Simple Mom: a great quiz to help you choose the right Presidential candidate. I found it really useful!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Celebrating Fall

I wish I could explain how happy it makes me that Autumn is finally here. Growing up, it seemed Fall was the start of everything important -- school, sports,  the holiday season. To a kid, those are the most important things and I definitely loved when September and October finally arrived.

I've carried my love of this season into my adult years, and I relish in everything pumpkin, the smell of the wood stoves burning around the neighbor as I take my nightly runs, the leaves on the ground, hot apple cider, the festivals, the food...I love it all. And now, I'm hoping to pass that love onto Elliott. So far, so good.

We've scheduled all sorts of fun autumn events this October and our Saturdays have been filled up with all the excitement. Or as much excitement as a 10-month-old can handle, I suppose. Last week, we spent the morning hiking at Great Falls National Park, here in Northern Virginia.

On Wednesday we took a walk near home with a friend and her daughter. Lots of puddle jumping was involved!

On Friday, Elliott made his first craft with same friend on Friday, while I was serving at church. I have to admit, I cried a little when I saw it. My little boy's feet are SO big!

Today, we went into Old Town Manassas and enjoyed the Fall Jubilee! Every year growing up, I attended the Fall Festival in my tiny little of Jordan, New York, and since moving away 6 years ago, I've missed everything about it. This Jubilee wasn't quite the same, but definitely filled the void the Fall Festival has left in my Fall-loving heart.

We indulged in corn dogs (Aaron), crab cake sandwiches (that would be me), ice cream and kettle corn for all, and watched while Elliott took in the sights and sounds of a great festival. Next year he'll enjoy jumping in the same bouncy castles and maybe a hayride! There may have even been a bit of moustache wearing.

I would have been even happier had it not been hot outside! Upper 70's was not what I had in mind for a Fall event, but apparently tomorrow I'll get what I've been asking for. High of 55 expected!

On Monday we plan to hit up a pumpkin patch, are planning a day trip to Delaware the following week, and lots of other fun activities to celebrate my favorite season.

How are you celebrating Fall??

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Endangered review

Sophie's parents are divorced and she is spending her summer with her mother who lives in Congo, running a sanctuary for orphaned or injured bonobos. Sophie isn't thrilled with the idea of being in Africa for the entire summer, until she meets Otto, a bonobo being sold by a trafficker on the street. Sophie manages to save Otto and he becomes her constant companion. 

As the summer progresses, Sophie works with Otto, caring for him and teaching him things. When a revolution breaks out in Congo while her mom is away, Sophie knows it's up to her to keep Otto safe until the revolution ends. And when instead of ending, the fighting and bloodshed arrive AT the sanctuary, Sophie knows she has to run. 

I think this read was one of my biggest surprises of the year. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with the plot (or with Otto!), but I absolutely did. The writing is so fast-paced it reads like a thriller and the depth of Sophie's character was excellent. I found myself shedding tears over the astounding courage and determination she had to save this bonobo, while also learning more about the conflict Congo faced and feeling as if I were a witness to some of the utter horror the people of Congo were forced to experience. I don't think any of us know nearly the amount of information we think we do and it's a truly horrific war, yet one that needs awareness throughout the world. I certainly felt ignorant!

The author includes information in the back of the book on different organizations to get involved with or donate to in order to help the endangered bonobos. I highly encourage checking them out if you read and love this book the way I did. It's one of my favorite reads of the year. 

Recommended for older teens. There's quite a bit of extreme violence and emotional destruction throughout the story. 

Eliot Schrefer
272 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic Press
October 2012
Review copy

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When others need help, we should answer that call

I came across a blog post this morning from Simple Mom, about how we should spend $5 on something that matters this week. I read the blog daily, but this subject line definitely caught my attention and when I read the story of this family, recently devastated by the loss of their husband and father, it just broke my heart. Can you imagine being the single parent to five children after losing your spouse to an unexpected illness? This man was hospitalized on September 10 and 8 days later he was gone.

I grew up with a single mom. My father died of a massive heart attack when I was only 9. My mother had to raise my younger brother and I all on her own, from that day on and I know how incredibly difficult it was for her. I can't even fathom having five children to bring up alone. The emotional aspects  are beyond what I can even think of, but the financial? Raising five children is expensive with two parents, let alone being a single mother.

The author of the Simple Mom blog and some other generous published authors are offering their books in an ebook bundle for only $5. All proceeds will go to benefit this family. If you're interested in that, go here and purchase. Or, you can do what I did and just donate to the family. I don't know them, but that doesn't matter. We are meant to help each other in times of struggle and this family is struggling. If you can't help them financially, please pray for them or send out words of encouragement.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Delia's Dull Day and a fun giveaway!

I know I typically stick with posting picture books on my weekly Picture Book Saturday, but I didn't want to wait on this one. It's too cute! Plus, I have a really neat giveaway for you all at the end of the post -- enter until Friday! 

Delia is convinced that nothing ever happens to her. The daily experiences she has are boring, expected, and totally dull. However, if Delia would simply look up and take in the world around her, she would realize that a whole lot is indeed happening, right in front of her face!

Kids will love being in on the joke, as all sorts of silly and outrageous shenanigans go on around Delia, while she's convinced that everything from breakfast to the bus ride from school is incredibly dull! This would be great to start a discussion about appreciating the things that do happen during the day, even when we think everything is completely ordinary. You could also use this to inspire an art project -- have your kids/students draw their own "Delia" type illustration. 

Which leads me to the giveaway! I have up for grabs a signed poster featuring an illustrated page from the book, as well as a copy of Delia's Dull Day for one of you! Author/illustrator Andy Myer has created a really fun illustrations and it would make a great gift for a special reader in your life. Or hang it up in your classroom to inspire!

Just leave a comment on this post by Friday night and I'll pick a winner Saturday. Make sure I have a way to get in touch with you.  U.S. only please. 

Thank you to Sleeping Bear Press for sponsoring this awesome prize!