Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I was so excited to get a chance to preview the new Jodi Picoult book, LEAVING TIME, that will be hitting store shelves on October 14th! Through a partnership with Walmart Moms, I was given the chance to take a peek and share my honest opinions of this new book with you.

Over the years I have been a huge Picoult fan and I have read almost every book she has written. My love affair with her began with MY SISTER’S KEEPER and I was thrilled when she came to visit our town and our book club got a chance to meet her in person. She was as charming and genuine as I could have hoped so I continued to read her books despite the similar themes with courtroom battles and a surprising twist. Even though I wasn’t as enraptured as I once was, I decided to pick up THE STORYTELLER last year which ended up making my top ten list for one of the best books she has ever written. If I was going to make any recommendation at all, I would pick that one up and devour it immediately. It is, in my opinion, Picoult’s finest work. It is because of this book that I was so excited to see what she would tackle next.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

In LEAVING TIME Picoult embraces a mystery theme that brings an unlikely cast of characters together to piece together the disappearance of Alice Metcalf. Jenna Metcalf’s mother’s death is now a cold case and one that consumes Jenna’s every thought. Alice Metcalf mysteriously disappeared during a tragic accident at the elephant conservatory where she works as a scientist studying the grief among elephants, working alongside her husband. Jenna believes that there is a bigger story to her disappearance and hires Serenity Jones, a disgraced psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, an alcoholic private detective, to help her find out once and for all if Alice is alive or dead. The true question though, is what if Alice has been alive all along and never wanted a relationship with Jenna?

In predictable Picoult fashion, this story alternates between the different characters, and it also weaves in the scientific journals and observations of elephant behavior by Alice. As the story builds, more and more layers are added and we are given a host of possible suspects for Alice’s disappearance. As more of puzzle pieces are added, Jenna begins remembering more and more about what happened when she was a child as it all comes together in a shocking twist that readers will never see coming.

One element I thought worked really well was the storyline of Serenity and her rise and fall in psychic stardom and her struggle with no longer having the gifts she had before. I also loved the private detective and the demons that he was battling since this case was one he never thought he performed well. Most of all, I really appreciated the ending to this one that makes you want to reread the book again to find all of those hidden clues that Picoult placed in there for you that you might not have noticed before.

You can tell that Picoult has thoroughly researched this one, but at points the researched portions dragged on and on for me. Alice’s scientific journals add predictable parallels to her own mothering. At times though, the research was so long that it felt as though you were reading a nonfiction story.  If you are a fan of elephants or the struggles of elephant conservation, you will be swimming in all of the facts and have plenty to read. For me, I felt that this created a bit of lag in my reading and I found myself skimming through those portions to get back to the meat of the story.

Truth be told, the ending is really what makes this Picoult book shine and worthy of a read- I would recommend this book simply for that reason alone! The final forty pages have a way of tying this story together that will have you begging your friends to read it so that you can discuss the plot twist you never saw coming.

Walmart will be offering LEAVING TIME at a deep rollback discount! You can preorder your copy today at the price of, $20.52.

 

What is your favorite Jodi Picoult book? I’d LOVE to hear!

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Back to School Organization Ideas

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Back to School Organization Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

 

*This post is sponsored by the Post-it Brand. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

It is such an honor to be working with the Post-it Brand for the back-to-school season.  I am so thrilled that you loved our DIY Homework Stations we created for our family and today I wanted to continue along that theme and share with you some additional ways that we keep our kids organized for back-to-school.

Since we live in a small home, organization is truly necessary to keep our small spaces functional.  I also am someone who prefers to not have a lot of visual clutter and appreciates smart hidden storage for our homework area rather than bulky caddies that can take up a lot of space since we don’t have a lot of storage space in our home. With that in mind, here are some of our ideas for organizing for back-to-school in a small space.

Back to School Organization Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

Designate a Small Area for Homework Organization- I recently created a bar cart for our shed bonus room and this cart has become the hub of this room for our back-to-school organization this year.  I purchased a chalkboard for tracking our to-do list, a small globe, and then stackable hollowed books for school supplies storage. This little area is efficient and has just what we need to stay organized.

A hub can be created in a corner of your own home, tucked away in a closet, or even just a designated drawer of supplies. The key isn’t how much space you have to organize, but just that the space is functional and that you always have on-hand what your child needs to complete their assignments.

Back to School Organization Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

Put Them in Charge- I can admit that I am a bit of a helicopter mom and it is hard for me to let my kids be in charge of their own tasks. This year I am really going to work on helping them to be more independent and make them be in charge of their own to-do lists and schedules.

Imagine if they went to college and wondered where their mother was to keep them on task.

This could get a little embarrassing.

I purchased this chalkboard and each child can jot down their own to-do list on Post-it Study Super Sticky Notes to attach to the chalkboard to remind themselves of the important tasks they need to accomplish for the week. I am loving the new Post-it Study Collection because it offers a fantastic new line of Notes, Notebook Kits, Flags, Tabs, and Page Markers that stick securely to papers, notebooks, folders, and more, yet remove cleanly. The products all work together to help your family stay organized on-the-go.  In this case with our Study Super Sticky Notes, once the task is accomplished, they can remove it from the board. As new tasks and assignments are added, they can create their own reminder list to attach to the chalkboard.  Each child gets their own color of Post-it Study Super Sticky Notes so that they know exactly whose task is whose, eliminating the need for two boards and creating a visual area for them of necessary items to accomplish.

Back to School Organization Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

Make Those School Supplies Part of Your Décor-  Pinterest has many ideas for creating storage caddies of homework supplies for your children which is great, but we don’t really have somewhere we can store it when those items are not being used. I happened upon these hollowed out books for storage at our craft store and realized that this was the perfect spot for camouflaging our homework helpers and adding visual interest to a room.

Inside the smallest book I stored crayons and glue sticks, the middle storage is for pencils and pens, and the largest book holds our Post-it Study collection homework helpers like Study Super Sticky Notes, Study Grid Notes, and Study Message Flags. This also houses our extra Post-it Super Sticky Notes for our chalkboard to-do list.

Back to School Organization Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

Back to School Organization Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

Cut Down the Distractions- The reason I love our bonus room for our homework area is that this area is screen-free and there is absolutely nothing in this room to distract them. I can be in the room with them to help them work through problems in a distraction-free environment.  The DIY Homework Stations we created for this room help each child to stay in their own zone and keep focused on their own list of tasks. Once everything has been completed, the kids can exit the space and head off to their technology-filled lives.

I really hope you enjoyed this fun series on back-to-school organization that I created with the Post-it Brand. Thanks to this job, I feel more confident than ever that we will have a successful and truly organized school year! To purchase some fun Post-it Brand items of your own, you will find that they are available at office superstores and mass merchandise retailers nationwide!

 

This post is sponsored by the Post-it Brand. I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

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Easy DIY Homework Stations

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

*This post is sponsored by the Post-it Brand. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’m so excited to be working with Post-it Brand for back-to-school and today I want to showcase a fun way to create a DIY Homework Station that is perfect for small spaces utilizing some of my favorite Post-it Products.

Since finishing our shed into a bonus room for the family, this has been a great screen-free place for our kids to hang out. I wanted to create a homework area that would be away from home distractions and help to keep us focused on our work. These DIY Homework Stations remind me of the quiet areas that were set up in our school area for tackling test-taking and reading. Since we only have one table in this room, it is necessary for us to work at the same table, but we needed some type of divider to help keep each child focused in this space.

Post-it Products have been a longtime family favorite for helping to create reminders in agendas, to flag assignments, and for communication back-and-forth to our teachers.  Have you seen the new Post-it Study collection that has hit store shelves? They are offering a new line of Notes, Notebook Kits, Flags, and Tabs that all work together to help you stay organized on-the-go and find the important things you need to remember quickly! I wanted to utilize some of my new Post-it Product discoveries from their Post-it Study collection to help organize a small space work area that would really keep their focus and keep them organized.

On a personal note, the transition from elementary school to middle school was a tough one for all of us. Never before have I needed more organizational helpers then now and I am hoping that if I provide the right tools for my kids from the start that I can help them succeed at being organized this year.

With that in mind, I have created these DIY Homework Stations and wanted to share this project with you to inspire you to create a couple of your own for this coming school year.

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

1- tri-fold foam display board (this will make two homework stations for you)

Razor Blade

General All-Purpose Spray Adhesive

Measuring Tape

Post-it Study Pocket

Post-it Study Super Sticky Notes

Post-it Study Notebook Kit

Post-it Study Message Flags

Post-it Study Notebook Tabs & Arrow Flags

Post-it Study Flags

Post-it Study Grid Notes

Binder Clips

Scrapbook Paper in coordinating colors (8 sheets total per homework station- I chose four of each coordinating paper)

Hot glue & glue gun

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

1. Begin by measuring and marking the halfway point of your tri-fold display board. The display board is 48″ total, so you will want to cut it so that each side is 24″ long.

2. Cut the display board with a razor blade, making sure to cut carefully through all of the layers. If the edge is not clean, we can camouflage it with a fold-over on your scrapbook paper to finish it (demonstrated in a picture below).

3. Select eight sheets of scrapbook paper and set them up for where you would like to display them. Set them aside and, beginning with one side, line the bottom sheets up and, holding them in place with your hands, flip them up to add a little spray adhesive to the underside. Do this all along the bottom of your display board. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to make sure that the paper is not in the fold of the display board so that it can open and shut easily.

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

4.  For the top, I am  folding the edge of the paper over a bit on the top four sheets, making sure the edges are folded roughly the same side.  Now do the same process again on the top and allow the folded edge of the paper to hang over to the other side of the display. Secure the folded edge on the back with a little hot glue and to create a smooth finish on top. If your paper does not have a lip on it like this, don’t worry, you can still fold it over.

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

5. Using your Post-it Study Super Sticky Notes, jot down the days of the week and line them along the top of your homework station. This can be a place where your child can write down their daily reminders and tasks that need to be accomplished each day.

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

I also attached a Post-it Study Pocket and filled it with Post-it Study Flags, Post-it Study Notebook Tabs & Arrow Flags to have on-hand when items need to be noted and flagged in our homework and agendas. These were attached to my older child’s homework station since we have so much to remember. If you have a child in middle school, I know you understand how hard that is!

6. For younger kids, I love the Post-it Study Grid Notes for jotting down notes. The space on these is generous and perfect for younger children who are still working on writing. I also attached the Post-it Study Notebook Kit for jotting down notes and flagging items in work. To anchor it, I folded it away with a binder clip to be opened when she needed an item.

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

Easy DIY Homework Stations from MomAdvice.com

I hope this post inspires you to create a few homework stations of your own. It goes to show that you don’t need a lot of space to create the perfect focused work space! Post-it Products are available at office superstores and mass merchandise retailers nationwide to help you make an organized DIY Homework Station of your own!

This post is sponsored by the Post-it Brand. I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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We Will Never Forget

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

We Will Never Forget 9/11

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Giveaway & Review: ThisLife by Shutterfly

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly, Inc. in partnership with Resourceful Mom Media.

I have been working a long time on my storytelling through photos.  It has been an evolution as I master my camera and work on capturing more authentic moments in our life.  I go through stages where I rely completely on my DSLR and then periods in our life where I want the swiftness of a quicker capture with my photos. I am a fantastic giver of moments on Facebook and Instagram. What I am terrible at though is organizing, sorting, and actually printing our precious moments.

I got the opportunity to test drive an amazing photo service called ThisLife by Shutterfly that I know you all are going to be nuts about it because it helps us be a better family historian gathering all of your life moments, organizing, and sorting them all into one spot. I want to share my experience with you and how I brought our Grand Rapids holiday to life.

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

Our family took an amazing holiday trip this year to Grand Rapids to celebrate Christmas and my daughter’s 8th birthday. These are two special holidays that are a mere five days apart. We ditched the presents to each other (a bold move when you are a kid) and rented a beautiful home in Grand Rapids, Michigan and visited every attraction we could squeeze in together.

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

How to Be a Better Family Historian: Tips For Storing & Organizing Your Family Photos

It was in the midst of an ice storm that we happened to make our trip out there.  It was an ice rink outside as we had to gingerly take a step with our arms linked tightly together, just to try to get down the steps of our lake cottage. My husband had an iron grip on the wheel, color drained from his face,  as we made it out in the treacherous conditions to give our kids the best little holiday ever.

And it was.

You can see & just feel the joy in these moments.

I set my phone aside and really dove in on this trip with my camera. I was so proud of these pictures.

I have all of these beautiful and amazing moments and guess what I did with them?

Nothing.

I am a great storyteller of moments in Facebook, I might be able to grab your eye on Instagram with pictures, but I don’t do anything with these for myself. Instead of sitting on a couch flipping through these moments with my grandkids someday, I will be pulling them over to my computer and trying to search through my folders and feeds to show them what their mom and dad used to look like. It isn’t the picturesque family moment that I want to share with them. That is where ThisLife by Shutterfly comes into play. I am going to show you how this can help you be a better historian no matter what device or sharing platform you use and how I finally took these images off my computer and brought them to life for our family.

ThisLife App Tutorial

As storytellers of our family, we now use multiple platforms to share our stories. These moments can quickly become jumbled or lost and it is difficult to remember where and how we have shared our images. ThisLife is an amazing subscription-based service that can quickly organize and sort your moments by date, making it quick and easy to share your family’s stories. Not only does it gather the images from your computer, but it gathers them from the places you are socially sharing in the same dated format. Do you share on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Shutterfly, or SmugMug? Link your account and it will grab and sort all of your images in one location. Half the battle is in the sorting and, let’s face it, very few moms I know have time to gather and incorporate all their moments on all the places they are sharing socially. This grabs them and sorts them with ease.

ThisLife App Tutorial

Once the images are all sorted, it makes it so much easier to begin sharing your family’s story. You can actually create a Story from the images and then share it with your family and friends through email or by sharing a link to your story like this one I created of our family vacation. This is so great for grandparents or for anyone who doesn’t want to share their images publicly. You simply select the images (that have already been sorted for you) and then click Stories and add a New Story to create a format for sharing groups of moments with your family and friends.

ThisLife App Tutorial

A search under people sorts all of the people in your life alphabetically and tells you how many pictures you have of them. Want to make a photo album for a friend that’s moving away of all your years together? No problem! Want to put together an album of just one child? Easy peasy. Want to see how much better you look as you age and wow yourself? I totally did that.

ThisLife App Tutorial

Do you travel to exotic locations (more exotic than, say, Grand Rapids?)? Do you vacation every summer in Nantucket? I will be a good friend and tell you that you can sort your images by places and make albums of all of these fun things that you are doing that I am not doing.

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ThisLife offers several  different membership plans, with additional options for larger collections.

ThisLife App Tutorial

Of course, the beauty in this for this amazing storyteller who doesn’t share her stories, is that you can print these photos out in a book and actually have something to show your grandkids someday. Select all your images that you want (all perfectly grouped) and then click Create to transfer them over to Shutterfly to make an album. Add captions so you don’t forget the treacherous ice storm you weathered for the perfect family holiday or that root beer tasting that you did with your kids that they couldn’t stop talking about. Get it all in an album and ship it right to your door to remember those moments forever. You can check out the album I made below using their Modern template.

 

Click here to view this photo book larger

Now that I have shown you how wonderful this service is, I am excited to be giving away one (1) standard subscription to ThisLife so you can be the ultimate storyteller of moments in your family. You can enter this giveaway by following the instructions below in the Rafflecopter widget!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Check out some other fun ways you can use ThisLife for your photos from a few of my favorite blogging friends! 

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly, Inc. in partnership with Resourceful Mom Media. I have received compensation for my time and a membership to ThisLife to share my honest thoughts and opinions on their service.

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Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

With the holidays just around the corner, now is a great time to begin preparing your home for guests. Since we live in a smaller home, we have never had the luxury of having a guest room in our house since every inch of our home is just filled with…well, us. Recently though we finished our shed into a bonus room and realized that this is actually the perfect space to share with our guests when they come to visit.  It makes for the perfect guest room because you can come and go as you please with your very own space to escape from our wild and crazy family, since it is separate from our living space.

As part of the BHG Live Better Network, I am partnering with them this month to showcase an idea for welcoming guests in your home that you can create with products from BHG that are available at Walmart.  Since we don’t have a dedicated guest room for just this purpose,  I thought it would be fun to create a guest room welcome basket that you could tuck away in your basement storage or a linen closet to share with your guests when they arrive.  There is no need to make an addition to that house when you have a basket prepared of guest essentials that you can bring out when the unexpected house guest arrives.

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Pictured Above: Better Homes & Gardens 400 Thread Count Egyptian Cotton Sheet Sets ($39.88- $69.88)/Better Homes & Gardens Large Chicken Wire Basket ($12.44)/ Please Do Not Disturb Sign (FREE- see below), Better Homes & Gardens 8×10 Frame ($9.97)/ Febreeze Home Collection Almond Sugar Candle ($11.97)/ Better Homes & Gardens White Bath Towels ($5.88)/ Be Our Guest 8×10 Printable (FREE- see below)

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

One of my favorite things about staying at a hotel is the plush sheets, fresh linens, the do not disturb sign I can hang on my door knob for privacy, and the welcoming touches and amenities that hotels offer. You can create that same experience for your very own guests at home with a few of the thoughtful touches that I have pulled together for our welcome basket.  Fresh white linens, a welcome sign you can display on a nightstand or table, a do not disturb sign for your door, plush white sheets, and a delicious smelling candle complete the touches in this lined chicken wire basket for a guest to enjoy when they come to visit.

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

You can find all of these special touches from the BHG product line at Walmart stores. A simple gathering of these items creates a sweet & thoughtful guest room basket instantly. Other sweet offerings could include chocolates, bedtime teas, a favorite good read or the morning paper, and a note to let them know how excited you are to have them as a guest. Think of all of the things you appreciate when you are a guest somewhere and include them in your basket to let your guests know how much you appreciate them.

Add our, “Be our Guest,” printable to a BHG 8×10 frame (priced at less than $10) and it really adds that special warm welcome that I hope we can achieve when hosting friends and family in our home.

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

To help your guest feel warmly welcomed, my amazing designer & contributor, Sarah Milne with sarah m style, has created these amazing printables that you can print and share in your basket for your guests! Aren’t these BEAUTIFUL and such a sweet touch for a welcome basket for guests?

Grab These FREE Printables For Your Guest Basket

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Download this Printable HERE

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Download this Printable HERE

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Download this Printable HERE

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Download this Printable HERE

Make a Guest Room Welcome Basket (With 5 FREE Printables)

Download this Printable HERE

 

What are some special touches you love to offer you guests? Any tips for families that don’t have a dedicated guest room? Feel free to share your tips below!

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

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This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club & Giveaway (Plus Caramel Apple Sangria Recipe!!)

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY *This post is sponsored by Warner Bros. Pictures

I am so excited that my book club was chosen to participate in a This Is Where I Leave You book club before the film hits the big screen on September 19th.  When I was asked to participate, I had heard of Jonathan Tropper, but had never read one of his books before.  I can honestly say that if you are wanting to add a little sparkle and hilarity to your book club discussion, This Is Where I Leave You is the book for you.

I read this book in a record two days and my husband kept finding me with it in some state of crying-laughing almost every moment I read it.  Although he isn’t much of a reader, I handed it to him and said, “You must read it.”  Each night when I crawl into bed, I hear random laughing and snorting on his side of the bed.  It is that kind of book that you finish and hand off to someone else so you can laugh about it together.

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY

When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.

This-Is-Where-I-Leave-You-Book-Club-Questions-5
In this story, each of the siblings are told that it is their father’s dying wish for them to sit shiva together as a family. The irony is that their father is an atheist who made it known he didn’t believe in religion, but with their mother’s persuasion, she manages to get their family together under one roof for one week. With no escaping each other and a lot of time to reflect on life and the choices they have made, it really makes for some hilarious moments of family dysfunction at its best.  What I loved about this story more than anything is the message that even when they drive us crazy, we will always love our family.

I love it in the way that I loved the movie Bridesmaids- so wrong and so right. Raunchy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and so perfectly pitched. I would highly recommend this one for fans of Arrested Development as it reads just like my favorite episodes of the early seasons of the Bluth family. The crazy family dramas are always my favorites and this family does not disappoint in the craziness department. For better or worse, they are family, with all that history and messiness and love. 

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY
Love stories told from male authors sometimes fall short for me, but that was not the case in this one. Tropper does such a fantastic job of sharing what a failing marriage looks like, what it would feel like to lose the love of your life (interweaving old stories of the couple and new), and how one can find love again. Even in the darkest of moments of this marriage, Tropper finds a way to bring the hilarity into even the depressing situations of losing your life partner.

Since the movie will be hitting the big screen on September 19th, I hosted our book club to read the book and then we plan to make an outing to see the book on the big screen.  Sometimes it is difficult to find a book that we all like, but this one fit the bill perfectly for our group and we used the time to have a delicious brunch together and celebrate the kids heading back-to-school.

After seeing the trailer, I already know that this is going to be one of my favorite movies this year. I have to say that after reading the book, the film could not have been more perfectly cast and I kept seeing these actors in these roles even as I read the book.  Many times the movies just don’t live up to the books, but I can already tell that this one won’t be the case.

This Is Where I Leave You (TIWILY) Book Club Ideas #TIWILYbookclub, #TIWILY

TIWILY Boozy Brunch Ideas

Here are some delicious brunch options for a fun morning with your girlfriends that are some of my favorite when I am entertaining. I am selecting these because they can be made before everyone arrives so that you can really enjoy book club with your friends.  You will also find a fun drink I have created just for your book club that you can sip while chatting about the book.

In the theme of the book and all the food that is brought to the family as they sit shiva, you could also make your friends bring you brunch dishes potluck style in excessive abundance, taking the pressure off of you as the hostess.

Perhaps you could even pass some of these recipes on to them and ask them to make them for you.

It just seems like something awkward that the Foxman family might try in the book.

Blame the theme.

Delicious Brunch Options:

Sausage & Vegetable Frittata

Slow Cooked Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal

Easy Bloody Mary Mix

Baked Blueberry Donuts With a Lemon Glaze

Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

Blueberry Sangria Lemonade

What is a book club without a good discussion? LAME. Here are some of my favorite book club questions that I gathered for our discussion together!

TIWILY Book Club Questions

1. What was your first impression of Judd’s wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd’s perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?

2. Discuss Judd’s mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?

3. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?

4. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?

5. Clearly, Judd is an adult, yet this book can also be seen as a delayed coming-of-age story. What does Judd learn in the end about himself and his role in helping to create the world in which he finds himself?

6. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel’s protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife’s infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?

7. What comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife’s infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?

Be sure to head to the theaters to see This Is Where I Leave You on September 19th!

Want to connect more?

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In honor of the movie, I am hosting a giveaway today for one (1) $50 Visa gift card and a copy of the book so you can enjoy reading the book and then catch the film in theaters September 19th! Please follow instructions in the Rafflecopter below to enter to win by September 12th! One winner will be chosen at random!
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Caramel Apple Sangria

Caramel Apple Sangria
Recipe type: Drinks
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Nothing screams the Fall season like caramel apples. This recipe is just 4 simple ingredients and perfect for your next get together!
Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of Pinot grigio
  • 1 cup caramel flavored vodka
  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 2 medium apples, cored and chopped
Instructions
  1. Stir the wine, vodka, and apple cider together in a large pitcher or serving container.
  2. Add the chopped apples to the pitcher, or to individual glasses.
  3. Serve the sangria over ice.

 

*This post is sponsored by Warner Bros. Pictures.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

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8 DIY Command Center Ideas

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

8 DIY Command Center Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

Back-to-school season means back to the daily grind of controlling paperwork, keeping track of schedules, checking homework, figuring out meals, and corralling the backpack clutter in the home. Thankfully, it is easy to create a DIY Command Center for your family on a budget and even in a small home.  Today I want to showcase eight ideas for command centers that would work in small spaces, or in a larger home, and how you can utilize Goodwill for some of the supplies for your project.

Head on over to the Goodwill Tips blog to get the scoop on these awesome DIY Command Centers to help organize your family!

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DIY Family-Friendly Bar Cart

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

DIY Family-Friendly Bar Cart

I have been so excited to show off this incredibly cute DIY Family-Friendly Bar Cart that I created for Kenmore this month. This DIY bar cart is my new favorite thing in our house and I love that I can wheel it out for all of our entertaining needs.

Have you ever seen the pricing on beverage carts? It is quite astounding! I love to have a cheap chic home, especially when it comes to entertaining needs, and I just can’t picture spending $500 or more on a cart that houses our drinks. I decided to wow my friends with a budget-friendly and family-friendly drink cart that would sit perfectly in my budget. You know what fits right in my budget? A tool cart.

Today we are making over a Sears Hardware Cart into a beautiful bar cart. Say what? I know! This cart retails for a mere $82.87 and has just the type of clean and modern lines I was looking for in a more expensive cart. The best part is that you can personalize it to your own taste and color scheme.

DIY Family-Friendly Bar Cart

bar-cart

Head on over to the Kenmore blog to snag my easy tutorial for making a hardware cart into the perfect beverage cart for your entire family! I hope you love this cart as much as I loved creating it!

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Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

I don’t know if I ever devoted an entire post to grapes in over a decade of running this site, but perhaps this showcases how underappreciated this fruit is.  It is a staple around here as a side to round out our sandwiches, it’s an effortless appetizer paired with wine and cheese, and it spends its freshly rinsed self at the pool with us as a snack that can withstand the heat and temperatures. We are definitely fans of the humble grape and I am sure you are too.

Walmart gives me a produce challenge each month to showcase one of their produce items. If you haven’t followed along on my journey towards appreciating fruits and veggies, I have roasted and churned a Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream,   Baked Strawberry Doughnuts, created a Blueberry Sangria Lemonade, threw on my grill  Grilled Tomato Bread With Prosciutto, churned Fresh Peach Sorbet, slow cooked my Slow Cooker Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal, wowed my family with a 3-ingredient Watermelon Granita,  and my fresh Gluten-Free Orange Chicken is our weeknight staple now. What a journey it has been to appreciate the produce section.

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

Tips for Selecting Great Grapes

Unlike some of the more difficult fruits I have featured, it is quite easy to spot a good batch of grapes.  Did you know premium grape season is actually September and October? It really is the best time to buy a big bag of grapes for your family. It is advised to select grapes based on the color of them. For green grapes, they should have a slightly yellowish, translucent hue rather than a true, opaque green. Red grape varieties should be mostly red and have a rich, crimson tone.

One other way to check for a good grape is to look at the stem of the grapes. A dry and brittle stem indicates that the grapes might not be as fresh and seeing a little peek of green on the stem is a good indicator of a fresh batch. The shape of the grape should not be misshapen or wrinkled, but plump and juicy.  Of course, you can always bring them back to Walmart if they aren’t perfect thanks to their 100% money back guarantee so selecting great grapes is foolproof.

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

I decided to incorporate these grapes into a gluten-free pasta salad to take to a cookout. This salad was hearty and filling for someone who is often unsure if she will be able to eat at social events (ahem). Not only is this just the kind of creamy pasta dish I love, but it incorporates the smoky saltiness of turkey bacon and chopped toasted pecans for a protein punch that really fills you up.  The smokiness is balanced with the sweetness of the grapes making for an interesting flavor combination and perfect for showcasing the beautiful in-season grapes.

Oh, grape, you certainly are a wonderful fruit and I’m sorry we haven’t loved on you more over the years! I promise to do better!

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad

Gluten-Free Broccoli Grape Harvest Salad
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A gluten-free pasta salad laced with pecans, bacon, and sweet grapes.
Ingredients
  • 1 bag of gluten-free pasta (any variety)- 16 ounces
  • 1 lb. fresh broccoli
  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 packets Stevia
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups seedless red grapes
  • 10 cooked turkey bacon slices, crumbled
  • ½ cup pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for about 6 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
  2. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Once done cooking, rinse well before assembling.
  3. Meanwhile, cut broccoli florets from stems and separate into small pieces using a paring knife. In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, yogurt, Stevia, red wine vinegar and salt and toss with broccoli, hot cooked pasta (that has been rinsed) and grapes. Stir to coat.
  4. Cover and chill for up to 3 hours. Stir in bacon and toasted pecans just before serving.
  5. Note- The sauce on this can be doubled if you desire a more creamy pasta.

Slightly Adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

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