Posts Tagged ‘Reads’

My New Year’s Goal: Get Happy!

Monday, January 4th, 2010


It is rare that I set aside an entire entry to just one book, but today I wanted to share with you a fantastic book that I have been reading that is paving the way to my New Year’s goal this year.

I received an advance copy of Gretchen Rubin’s, “The Happiness Project,” for review and was so anxious to dive into this book after enjoying Gretchen’s blog and newsletter for quite some time. Any book that embarks on a journey to get happier is already a surefire winner in my book.

Gretchen decided for one entire year she would see how she could live a happier life. She spent a great deal of research going into what makes one happy from the great Aristotle to the more current (while still great) Oprah and shares her scientific findings for what makes people really happy. Amidst all of the research, she shares her own journey month-by-month of ways that she chooses to make her life happier and how it benefits herself and her family.

This journey resonated with me. I would consider myself to be a relatively happy person. I was always the girl that people remark, “You always have a smile on your face.” Most people don’t know that it is because I have always thought that smiling exudes a confidence that I didn’t always have and, at times, a bit of insecurity. I want people to like me so if I smile at them… in my opinion, it is harder for them to dislike me. Despite the underlying reasons, I keep a smile on my face and try to be a happy person. I think I am a pretty happy person just by nature. I am always the one in the family who can cheer others up when they are down and rely on my total clown and sarcasm to get through sad situations in life.

That said, I truly want to have an appreciation for the little things in life. I don’t want my life to pass me by with reflection on how great it was, but how I never realized it. I want to be a happy mom. A happy wife. A happy friend. A happy daughter. A happy sister. A place of general happiness on the internet. I want that for myself and I want it for those around me.

Gretchen and her personality seem so much like my own. The good qualities that I like about myself were within Gretchen. She is driven, goal-oriented, and generally happy.

There were also the qualities in there that I don’t necessarily love about myself- the need for others to recognize all of the great stuff I do, the nagging that I can do to others when I want things done, the type-A behaviors that drive other people crazy.

Because Gretchen and her personality throughout this book remind me so much of myself, I want to replicate her happiness project (minus all of that research) and see if there are ways that I can improve my general happiness levels.

She approached the project by creating general personal commandments for herself and then made goals each month with specific things she would like to improve upon.

Because I want to attempt to replicate her happiness project, these were the categories that she had each month. If you had other goals in mind each month, you could create your own set of goals and personal commandments for your own project using her Happiness Toolbox.

January- Boost Energy
February- Remember Love
March- Aim Higher
April- Lighten Up
May- Be Serious About Play
June- Make Time for Friends
July- Buy Some Happiness
August- Contemplate Heaven
September- Pursue a Passion
October- Pay Attention
November- Keep a Contented Heart
December- Boot Camp Perfect

After deciding what I wanted to tackle, I had to create a list of commandments for myself and general guidelines that I wanted to remember when tackling each month. In this list, you can witness both my personal strengths and weaknesses.

me, happy at my husband’s holiday party
Personal Commandments for Amy

Be Amy.

Avoid negative talk, negative people, and my focus on the negative.

Diagnose the problem and find the solution.

Let it go.

Spend wisely.

Try it.

Expect less.

I can only change me.

Say no to the things I really don’t want to do.

Pay it forward.

Celebrate more.

Lighten up.

It can’t always be perfect.

Being someone who has done a few 30 Day Challenges in her life, I felt like this project would be perfect for me. I know that my happiness can truly benefit those around me and I don’t know many people who would knock a girl for trying to add a little more happiness to her life!

This year, I am making my resolution to get happier by taking action and sharing it with you!

If you want to complete a happiness project, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Gretchen’s book, read her blog, and visit her Happiness Toolbox. You can sign up and start your own happiness project today!

I will be reporting back here what unfolds during my happiness journey. My true wish is that it will be a life-changing experience that will benefit those I love most!


What are your New Year’s resolutions this year?

Ten Great Children’s Books to Give This Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

My favorite gift to give and to receive around the holidays are books for my children. I love seeing my sweet kids curled up with a good book and enjoying a quiet moment reading. Thanks to our frequent library trips and making our own reading a priority, I have raised two readers with ferocious appetites for a good book. I am so proud!

This is our list, created with my children, of our favorite books that we have read this year.


1.) Alice the Fairy by David Shannon- My daughter’s favorite book this year has been, “Alice the Fairy.” I had found a paperback edition at my son’s book fair and the pages have already been lovingly worn after being read almost every single day by myself or by her.

Alice considers herself a temporary fairy because she has not gone to fairy school yet to become a permanent fairy. Her super fairy powers include changing her dress colors (by spilling her juice) and making cookies mine (by eating them). Fairies never eat food that has been poisoned by the “wicked duchess” (broccoli served by her mother) and she has yet to learn the one super fairy power that her mother wishes she did…making clothes dance away into the hamper.

This book will make you giggle out loud and has the sense of humor and comedic writing that David Shannon is known for. If you are at the library, just pick up every book by this author and enjoy every single book he has written! (Amazon Price- $11.55)

2.) Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer- Last year one of my last minute holiday purchases for the kids included the book, “Olivia Helps with Christmas.” This immediately became an instant holiday classic in the Clark house and I know that your children will love it just as much as we have. It was the book that we kept out on the coffee table that got lots of giggles from grandparents and children alike.

This book focuses on all of the holiday traditions and planning that the family does to get ready for the holiday festivities. Olivia helps her mother by setting the holiday table (by removing the top of the Christmas tree for a centerpiece), burning the holiday cookies, and overfeeding the baby (until he pukes).

More than that, it perfectly captures the nervous excitement that children go through waiting for a visit from Saint Nick and the disappointment with those boring holiday gifts. I guarantee that this will be a book that you read over and over again- the perfect addition to any holiday book basket! (Amazon Price- $11.10)


3.) Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea- One of my son’s favorite books this year is, “Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime” and I am sure it will get a giggle or two out of you too. This book is ideal for a beginning reader or for a child with a short attention span.

The book is a simple concept, can a dinosaur conquer and win matches against anything from a bowl full of spaghetti to a room full of talking grown-ups? In each round, the dinosaur wins with a giant, “ROAR! ROAR! ROAR!”

He conquers everything there is to conquer, but then has to face his toughest match yet… bedtime! Will he ever win it? As the dinosaur winds down, even he admits that bedtime is just one thing he can’t conquer.

This is a fantastic bedtime story that is nice and short…with a goodnight and sweet dreams finish! (Amazon Price- $10.87)

4) Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems- Our family is in love with Mo Willems! My son loves his easy readers and my daughter adores the Knuffle Bunny series. He is one of those author’s that has a fun book for everyone in your family.

This year our new favorite book was, “Naked Mole Rate Gets Dressed.” If the title doesn’t make you laugh, then this book might not be for you!

Wilbur is a naked mole rat who doesn’t like being…so naked. He loves to wear clothes and adds variety into his wardrobe with everything from his space suit to his tuxedo. He hates feeling naked, but no one in his naked rat community agrees.

The naked mole rats decide to have a town meeting with the most naked mole rat of them all.. Grand-pah. Much to the town’s surprise, Grand-pah arrives in his own seersucker suit to address the issue at hand and the town realizes that sometimes it might be okay to be dressed. (Amazon Price- $11.55)
5) Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann- My daughter’s favorite colors in the world right now are pink and purple. Luckily, there is a book out there for a child that is obsessed with pink, w
ith purple
, and even with gold.

Pinkalicious is a book about a little girl that is obsessed with pink. Everything she uses and eats must be pink which leads to a horrible case of pinkitis, a condition that turns her physically pink. Is too much of pink a bad thing? This cautionary tale shares how even our favorite things in the world are best in moderation.

The book is a delight for the eyes and perfect for the perfectly pink princess in your life (Amazon Price- $10.52)


6.) Ladybug Girl & Bumblebee Boy by David Soman- If you are not acquainted with the original, “Ladybug Girl,” be sure to check out that book, but for a household that has both boys and girls, the new, “Ladybug Girl & Bumblebee Boy” strikes the perfect balance.

Ladybug Girl is an endearing little girl who is all about girl power! She is a positive little girl that can do anything including counting to infinity and jumping over sidewalk cracks. When her mom brings her to the park she is unable to figure out how her and her friend Sam can play together. Noticing his yellow and black striped shirt, they decide that the he can be bumblebee boy and they can save the day together. As other children want to join in, they give them their own character names and Ladybug Girl realizes that they can do so much more good working together as a team rather than separately.

This is a book that not only your girls will love, but your boys can love too! Don’t overlook this book for your family (Amazon Price- $11.55)


7) Scribbles: A Really Giant Drawing & Coloring Book- Want to get your child to read and use their imagination too? The Scribbles drawing book is the perfect book to encourage your child to read and draw together.

Instead of having you simply color, each page tells you something that it would like you to draw. One page will tell him that the alligator is angry and have him fill in his face. Other pictures are exactly alike, but may request colors and patterns to make each of the pictures different. My favorite series is a simple line that is drawn and then it asks you to draw different animals all sitting on the pole. It is truly the best drawing book I have ever come across for allowing children to use their own creativity and imagination to fill in and create pictures.

The book is very durable and it is truly giant. My son still has many more pages to do and with the durability factor, I plan to tuck this away with his age on it as a keepsake of his creative talent at this age. Because the child is doing all of the drawing, you could buy the same book again another year and see what different things they come up with. (Amazon Price- $13.59)


8) Charlie & Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers by Lauren Child- My kids both really love the Charlie & Lola series. This book in particular is a new favorite as it teaches children the importance of recycling and how you can do your part.

Charlie convinces his little sister, Lola, to recycle her old toys instead of throwing them away. When Lola discovers there is a recycling contest at school that can earn the school a free tree, she begins learning and doing her part to do everything she can to recycle.

The book is printed on FSC-approved paper and includes recycling tips as well as a tree poster just like Lola’s, so kids can keep track of their recycling projects and help to save the planet all on their own. (Amazon-$11.55)


9) Finn Throws a Fit by David Elliott- Do you deal with crazy toddler tantrums in your house? We have had all too many in our home with our children, and maybe that is why this book is so laugh-out-loud funny.

Finn loves peaches, but on this particular day, he hates peaches. Finn goes into a tantrum that is unlike any other tantrum you have ever seen. The illustrations of his tantrum will make you and your children laugh from the bottom of your toes. His tears flood the floor so much that his mom has to stand on a table so she doesn’t drown, his tantrum creates real storms and avalanches, and the drawings set the book up perfectly for the perfect tantrum storm that is brewing in Finn’s house.

This is a great book for kids, but a fantastic gift to give to a mom that is dealing with those terrible twos and threes that will shed a little humor onto a stressful parenting situation. (Amazon Price- $11.55)


10) Twimericks by Lou Brooks- This is a book that I actually received as a sample copy to review, but will be a fast favorite in our household. Our son is in first grade and loves telling jokes, tongue twisters, and
riddles. If you have a child like that in your house, then this book is for them!

Twimericks are what happens when tongue twisters crash into limericks. It is an adorable book that will be perfect for a long car trip or read aloud and passed around at your child’s birthday party.

The illustrations are deliciously old-fashioned and funny which make this book already look like an instant classic. Don’t forget to put your name in the cover where it says, This Beak BooLongs To…” Seriously hilarious and highly addictive, this book is perfect for children and adults alike (Amazon Price- $8.95)

What are your kid’s favorite books this year? Please share your favorite picks of the year here!

In the Book Basket: October ’09 Reading

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009


I can’t say that my challenge to eat breakfast each morning has been going very good, but I have definitely made reading time a priority this month. I hope that you also are squeezing in some great time to read especially with the holiday festivities quickly approaching. Your me time is more important than ever!

At the beginning of each month, I will share with you some of the great reads that I have been working on. If you want to add me to your Goodreads friend list, you can find me listed under “momadvice.”

My dear friend and fellow bookworm, Beth, also keeps a great book blog called, “Beth’s Book-Nook Blog,” where she shares some really fantastic reviews and ideas for great reading! Be sure to check her out!

This month I dove into these great reads that I would love to share with you!

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

This is the first novel I have read by Lisa See so I can’t offer any comparison on this versus her other novels. What I can tell you is that this book takes you on a journey that is beautifully told of the time in China and in the US during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai.

Pearl & May are sisters who deal with many of the insecurities and rivalry that most sisters endure. Pearl is studious and responsible while May is beautiful and has the ability to get her way in any type of situation. Both girls are living a life of privilege and are unaware of the poor and less fortunate. The girls enjoy the good life and are able to afford their lifestyle thanks to modeling for advertisements that help afford them what their family needs.

This all takes a turn when they discover that their father is in deep debt. In order to pay off his debts, he arranges for a marriage and marries off the girls to a set of brothers residing in the United States. They are expected to make the journey to the US and fulfill their father’s debts.

Getting to the United States proves to be more challenging than either sister bargained for as the invasion of Shanghai happens at the same time they are to be heading on the boat.

To say that this journey to the United States is epic, would be a small understatement. The girls endure incredible tragedy, untold brutality, and a journey that they never dreamed they would ever endure.

The story, above all else, is about sisters. Sisters that love each other in spite of it all…and sisters that would do anything for one another.

The ending could have been brought together better, but that was the only thing missing for me. I felt as though I had been on the journey with these sisters and the ending left me wondering if a sequel could follow.


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Anyone else a huge fan of The Time Traveler’s Wife? This was one of my favorite books of all time. It was so good, in fact, that my husband found me sobbing in a corner with snot dripping down my face because I was so moved to tears. Perhaps that is why I really, really wanted to love this next book by this author.

This story is about two sets of twins- Elspeth & Edie and Edie’s daughters Julie & Valentina. Elspeth passes away and bequeaths all of her estate and belongings to her nieces, Julie & Valentina. There is only one way to cash in on their inheritance though and it is to live in her old apartment for one year and their family is not allowed to enter.

The girls head to London to live in the flat and find that Elspeth is still residing there…in ghostly form. She is unable to pass into the next life and her soul is trapped in the house.

The girls get to know their neighbors like Robert, who is Elspeth’s former lover, and Martin, a man left by his wife because of his debilitating OCD. The story follows them as the girls explore London and Elspeth’s home.

Valentina begins to want to separate herself from her twin and become an individual while her sister craves the sameness that they have always had. In order to become independent, Valentina makes a decision that leads to consequences the reader will never expect.

While I enjoyed the book, it was nothing like what I had expected. I had a little difficulty following all of the different stories and characters that were woven into this story and I found the ending to have a great twist, but not one I could relate to or as believable as I would hope.

Regardless, it was a great read with a great deal of creativity and the history of London weaved in. This is definitely for someone looking for a dark read with a lot of great historical information about London.

Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon

I devoured this book in one day and could not put it down. I have never read this author before, but if this is any indication of her work, then I am completely hooked.

The book is about a group of four art students who form a group called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Their fearless leader, Suze, encourages them to commit petty crimes and vandalize with their motto being, “To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart.”

The book flash forwards to ten years later and Henry & Tess, two people that were in the group, are now married and have a child together. They have been living with a secret for ten years of a prank that has gone horribly wrong and both seem haunted by the crime. It is pulling them away from their m
arriage and neither can seem to get over what has happened.

Their daughter is anti-social and has created an imaginary friend who is helping her to bring her parents together. She finds an old journal and pictures and sends a postcard to all of the former members of her parent’s group with their motto on it.

The postcard triggers a suicide and a chain of twists and turns that are as horrifying and thrilling as any good horror movie.

The book kept me up at night until the shocking conclusion that will lead you on a crazy roller coaster.

Just as a disclosure, this book had rough language in it!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I can’t say enough about how much of a literary treasure this book is! It is rare that a book sticks with me and that I think about it long after I have put it down, but The Help is one of those books that does just that.

The book tells the story of the post-Civil Rights movement through the eyes of three different women. It is told through the eyes of Aibileen & Minny, two African American maids, and Skeeter, a young white woman.

Aibileen is a gentle soul that is intent on offering the best care that she can give to the white children that she cares for. She feels it is her duty to make them feel as special and loved because she knows many of the mothers do not give their children the love they need. Her tender spirit and soft motherly ways instantly makes you feel like she is an old friend.

Minny is a spunky character who has trouble acting as a maid because she doesn’t really like to be bossed around. She has so much spunk and humor that you can’t wait to see what kind of trouble she will get into and how endearing she truly is as you get acquainted with her own difficult home life.

Skeeter is a young woman who desperately wants to become a writer. She gets the idea to write an anonymous book with anonymous maids who could share their story and struggles as an African American woman acting as a maid and (often) being treated unfairly by their white bosses.

When these three characters come together it is pure magic!

After reading it, there were two things that I couldn’t believe:

1) The author was a white woman. To document the African American struggles of the post- Civil Rights movement was so authentically documented and the voice so “true” that I found it surprising and a tribute to a skilled author to capture that voice. It never felt false and the prose was simply beautiful to read.

2) That this was Kathryn Stockett’s first book. The skill of the writing in three different voices and the way she captured that era was something that you don’t normally see out of a first time novelist.

What can I say about this book? It is one that made me laugh out loud, it made me cry tears for the struggles and unkindness that so many had to endure, and I became so attached to the characters that it will be hard to let them go. I wish that the story would go on and that a sequel could tell what happened to these three women as they began the new adventures that each of these women will go on.

If you read anything this year, let it be this book!

What was in your book basket this past month? Any book recommendations you would like to share?

Me Time: Making Your Reading Time a Priority

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009


I have been really trying to devote more time to reading in the evening instead of watching television. I have the tendency to become a television junkie when the new fall season starts, but this year, I seem more interested in reading. We have a fantastic library system and I am definitely cashing in and spending some time under my favorite cozy quilt to get some reading done.

Setting up a book basket in our front room just for me has been a great way to incorporate reading back into my life. I visit the library for a little me time every other week and stock up on great reads. With borrowing from the library, there is no guilt if I decide that I don’t like a book… I just return it for the next unfortunate soul.

Many times I hear from people that they don’t have time to read. I have found that I can usually carve a little time out for just about anything in my life, but I have to make it a priority in order to make the time for it.

Take advantage of reading windows- Reading for me is carved into that tiny window of time between getting one child off to school and then the other. I find a window when we have time with the television off and the kids are spending their quiet time reading or drawing. Another window is generously given to me by my husband when he completes the kid’s evening routine and I disappear on the couch. These tiny pockets of time are how it works for me now. I look forward to having bigger windows of opportunity in the future, but I crave these little pockets of time for me!

Join or start a book club- My book club has been the biggest motivator to read at least one book each month. Being in a group can challenge you to read books that you would have never read before. I look forward to my book club each month and I love the books that I have totally loved that would have never made my reading list.

Turn the television and computer off- I know it is hard, but if I keep the television and computer off in the evening, I know that I can spend that time reading instead. Find a quiet space in your home that is television and computer free and designate that as your reading spot. Encourage your other family members to do the same!

My scaled down social networking probably has not boosted traffic to the site or made me the social media maven I sometimes wish I could be, but boy, do I feel a sense of satisfaction when I read a book!

Create your own book basket- Who says book baskets are just for kids? Fill a basket up for yourself and make a regularly scheduled date with yourself to visit the library. Put it on the calendar and savor those moments of peace choosing great books to read.

Do it for your kids- When my kids see me digging into my book basket, they want to dig into theirs too. Think of what an incredible example you are when you are showing them how much fun it is to read. It is through your example that they will learn a love of reading!

Read what you want- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

What if you don’t have a great library system? Well, there are some great reading alternatives out there! Here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari- I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Frugal Reader, Paperback Swap, & Bookmooch- Just three of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Bookins- This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple- This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You g
et the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- For those that have moved towards the electronic books, Amazon has books available to download for free through February 28th. Be sure to snag these books and save!

I challenge you to bring reading back into your life- even if it is the teeniest pane of a window and even if the literature is lighthearted and non-award-worthy!

These are a few of the books that I have been working on these last two months…

The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer

I absolutely adored this book. If you are a Sophie Kinsella fan, you will really love this book and the hilarity that ensues.

Kat is an assistant to an interior designer barely making any money at all. She doesn’t seem to notice that she is spending more money than she has until she is faced with the stunned resolution that her marriage is falling apart.

On the advice of her lawyer, Kat is advised to begin saving a minimum of $500 a week to build a nest egg for herself so that she can handle the financial blow of the divorce and beginning to live on her own.

She joins the local Penny Pinchers Club and vows to stop shopping and start saving to reach her financial goals. She learns important lessons in bulk shopping, saving on her electric bill, and how much sweet rewards are savored when only enjoyed occasionally.

The life lessons build up to a great finish where Kat makes a discovery about herself and who she can be through her penny pinching efforts.
The Pretend Wife by Bridget Asher

This was a really great chick lit book about a woman who offers to be a pretend wife to her old college flame. Elliott’s mother is passing away and she is worried that her son will not be taken care of when she dies.

In a drunken pact, Gwen and her husband Peter, decide she can be his pretend wife for one weekend for his mother.

Of course, the old feelings resurface and Gwen has to choose between her predictably normal marriage and falling in love with her whole heart.

There is a great little twist at the end and it is a fast read that I devoured in two days!
The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne

It has been a long time since a book kept me up all night, but I could not put this book down. Just as a warning, the book does have rough language and abuse in it. If you can’t handle that sort of thing, just skip over this one!

“The Last Bridge,” jumps back and forth from the past and the present, sharing the difficult life of the main character Cat. Cat suffers through terrible emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of her father and escapes by sketching a comic book version of herself escaping “The Hand” of abuse.

She begins a relationship with a boy named Addison who loves her unconditionally. Although Addison cannot protect her from the abuse of her father, he makes her feel beautiful and loved. There love is a secret one as her father’s abusive reign will not allow anyone else to love his daughter.

She escapes town, leaving with a huge secret, and returns as a grown women after learning of her mother’s suicide. She is faced with all of the people from her past and her life is falling apart from alcoholism and the year’s of brutal abuse she has endured. She is now faced with discovering a cryptic goodbye note from her mother, the demons of her childhood, and all of the people who could not help her out of that abuse.

I don’t want to give away any of the plot because what makes this book so great is the many twists and turns that I did not expect. If you are a Jodi Picoult fan, I think you will appreciate the unexpected twists and the descriptive use of language that Coyne uses. Her knack for storytelling will immediately suck you in.

I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, but I had to know how it would all turn out. An excellent read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

I have never read a book by Diane Chamberlain, but if this is any indication of her writing style, I am permanently hooked on this author.

This book focuses on a sixteen year old girl who has lost her mother and seems to be very alone in the world. She works as a waitress and waits on the table of a handsome young man who sweeps her off of her feet. Despite their age difference, he seems to be very taken with her and she is head over heels in love with him.

He makes a confession that he is on a mission to release his sister from jail for a wrongfully accused crime. He asks her to partner with him and his brother to free their sister from jail. All she will have to do is to sit with the senator’s wife, whom they plan to kidnap, as bait to get the local senator to agree to release their sister.

The crime goes completely wrong and forever alters the path of CeeCee Wilkes. She is forced to change her identity and lives with a horrible secret of what has happened during that fateful night that she assisted with the kidnapping.

This one had me on the edge of my seat and I could not put it down until I knew what had happened. It is one of the best books that I have read in a long time and I would highly recommend it!

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Two families awaken to find their daughters missing in a small Iowa town. The girls are inseparable best friends, both vanishing into the early morning light without a trace.

The two girls become fast friends as Calli suffers from mutism that is brought on by a traumatic event from her childhood. While Calli is unable to talk she finds her voice at school through her best friend Petra.

When the girls go missing, both family’s lives are intertwined as they search for their daughters and a case of the whodunit leaves you guessing throughout the book.

Do you make time to read? What are some books you have read lately that you could recommend?

Bursting With Excitement for Twilight Fans Everywhere!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I am wrapping up the final book in the Twilight series. I just haven’t wanted it to end, which is why I have been savoring these last few pages. This will be the end of some of my best reading in a long time. If you would have told me that I would be sitting on the edge of my seat reading a young adult vampire novel, I would have laughed at you. I have never been into the vampire books or anything that would resemble this genre before, but I somehow got sucked in. It is a book series that transcends generations and all my mom friends are equally as excited about these books as myself!

And this is why I am bursting with excitement to announce to you today that I am partnering up with Walmart on a very exclusive and exciting project. I am going to be hosting a BlogTalkRadio show with Taylor Lautner, AKA Jacob, on a very special interview while they are on location for the second film (“New Moon“). I will be co-hosting this on the “Stardish Radio” program March 9, 2009 at 9 pm (EST). Speaking from the set of The Twilight Saga’s New Moon, Taylor will take questions from fans “logged in” to BlogTalkRadio with host Jo Ann Kubasek (Stardish Radio) and myself. I will definitely be updating you as details arise about this exclusive interview and I hope you can be a part of this with me!

Walmart has launched a Twilight site for you to get the scoop on the DVD release, e-bites (instead of e-vites) that you can use to host your own movie party at home, and loads of exclusive fan gear at really affordable prices. Walmart plans to give fans thirsting for more Twilight a good reason to be at its 24-hour stores late Friday evening, Mar. 20 as they await the midnight DVD movie release. Among store activities will be ideas and products for fans looking to host their own Twilight viewing party. And, especially for Twilight super fans, Walmart has reserved special exclusive Twilight gifts for those first 50 fans in line to purchase the DVD movie at each 24-hour store.

In addition, customers can visit the Twilight pages on Walmart.com to see new behind-the-scenes movie footage and to download a widget that tests their knowledge daily with Twilight story trivia.

Many of the Eleven Moms will be offering exclusive fan gear gift packs and other great Twilight giveaways. I know we are all equally excited about this fun program and getting to be part of this fun adventure with the movie!

And if you haven’t read the books, perhaps you will now!

Free & Fun Resources for Book Lovers

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

The coffee tray was assembled with all the necessary items for a good cup of coffee.

I gathered a stack of books from my bookshelves that I was not planning to read right now and books that I had read and truly loved.

Our fearless book club leader, Jessica, suggested a book swap for the month. I offered to host our book gathering and couldn’t wait to see what everyone brought. We piled the books on the table, we shared what we thought about our respective stacks, and we sipped some coffee. Everyone left with a bag full of new books and not a dime was spent. It was like going to the library, but no one will fine me if I don’t get it read in three weeks time. As a busy mom, this is exactly the type of book activity that I was game for.

If you don’t have some friends to swap books with, here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari- I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Frugal Reader, Paperback Swap, & Bookmooch- Just three of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Bookins- This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple- This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You get the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- For those that have moved towards the electronic books, Amazon has books available to download for free through February 28th. Be sure to snag these books and save!

Of course, the ultimate in free resources for book lovers is your local library. Be sure to check the Resources page on your library’s website and see what tools you might be overlooking. My library card comes with free passes to local museums, online memberships to many research tools, even iPods and audio book downloads right to my iPod!

Do you use any of these resources for your reading? Feel free to share your own resources that you have discovered that could help your fellow book lover out!

Gorgeously Green: Green Your Personal Care

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

We are ready to tackle the second chapter in the Gorgeously Green book for discussion. In the first chapter, we discussed setting an intention towards doing the right thing and today we will discuss greening our personal care items.

I honestly wish that this was not the second chapter in the book and I hope that I won’t scare anyone off from this discussion. I think it would have been great to work our way up to personal care, but I know that this is an important topic that needs addressing.

Are all of my personal care items green? No. I am very interested in heading more towards this direction though so I want to share with you some of the tips from the book and from other bloggers on how to begin greening your personal care routine.

There are seven deadly sins and seven ingredients that consumers should be on high alert for, according to the Environmental Working Group. Here are the ingredients that you do not want in your personal care products.

1. Coal tar- used in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams
2. Fragrance- This word is used to mask hundreds of ingredients, including phthalates
3. Hydroquinone- Fund in skin lighteners and facial moisturizers
4. Aluminum- Often used in eye shadow as a color additive and used in deodorants
5. Triclosan- Used in antibacterial products including soap, toothpaste, and cosmetics
6. P-Phenylenediamine- Found in hair dye
7. Lead & Mercury- Lead can appear in toothpaste. Mercury is found in a cosmetic perservative called thimerosol.

To check the products that you already have, you can check the Cosmetic Safety Database and perform a search by product, ingredient, or even company.

The author suggests chucking out any products with those seven ingredients listed and just using up the rest of the stuff you have and making wiser choices the next time you buy products. You can download a handy cheat sheet to help you on your next trip to the drugstore. Print this out and keep it in your purse!

What are some alternatives and green choices you can make towards your beauty regime? The author lists some online resources for buying green cosmetics, but I prefer to take a more frugal approach towards this category.

1. DIY Beauty- I love to make my own beauty products because it saves me money and also happens to be more environmentally friendly. I have listed the recipes that I use here and would highly recommend trying some of these. Want to give an environmentally-friendly and fun gift? DIY Beauty can be shared with others too. I am planning to put together some sugar scrubs to give as gifts for birthdays this year.
2. Replace Facial Cleansers With Oil-I have been thinking of replacing my facial cleaners with the oil cleansing method. I have been reading other bloggers who are trying the same thing and it makes sense to me. I have extremely dry skin, fragrances and chemicals easily irritate me, and I would love to take a more natural approach towards caring for my skin.
3. Go Shampoo Free- This is something else I find quite fascinating and have read a lot about. I actually have wavy hair and read “Curly Girl,” (which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone with curly hair) and it had suggested only shampooing once a week. This blog entry will explain how to transition towards going shampoo-free, a very interesting idea indeed! That would certainly help save you some money and I have heard that it really helps with the greasy hair syndrome.
4. Epsom Salts- These are AMAZING and can be found at all of the dollar stores. I use Epsom Salts for everything and I also mix up my bath salts to give as gifts. You can mix these with a few drops of lavender essential oil and it makes the most soothing bath ever. I also use these to soak my feet in. What you might not know about these is that they stimulate serotonin which helps to elevate your moods. and that a soak in these can also lower your blood pressure, alleviate headaches, and flush toxins from your body. All that for a dollar a box- you can’t beat it!
5. Feminine Products- I switched to the Diva Cup (bought new in the box off of eBay) and it is fabulous and has replaced this category altogether. I would highly recommend this product or their Luna Pads to replace your feminine products.
6. Deodorant- I can’t picture getting rid of this. Sorry! The author recommends Dr. Hauschka’s Roll On as a great substitution ($19.95). She mentioned that she had tried the crystal and it did not work for her.
7. Shorter Showers- Well, if you aren’t shampooing your hair or washing your face, you might as well take a shorter shower. Crunchy Domestic Goddess is posing a five minute shower challenge to help conserve water. Check it out!
8. Green Your Baby- Make sure to check this Parent’s Buying Guide for information caring for your little ones and how to chose safe products for them. You can also check out our article on cloth diapering your little one to help green your routine a little more!

Sound Off: What are some green choice you have made towards your personal care items? Any products or recipes you could recommend?

Next Book for Discussion… Gorgeously Green

Friday, May 16th, 2008


There was some interest in exploring another book together and there has also been some interest in discussing more green ideas on the site. I thought I would pair the two and we could work our way through the book, “Gorgeously Green,” by Sophie Uliano.

I received this book from Harper Collins and I really liked the ideas and the message that you could begin starting your green journey with just one simple change. I think many people are scared of the total overhaul process, but we could all make a few simple changes to better our earth for ourselves and for our children.

We can start our discussion next week, but maybe you might like to put a hold on this book at your local library? In the meantime, the author has set up a website and a Gorgeously Green Girls Club that you can join to help teach you simple steps towards an earth-friendly life.

I want this to be a fun and friendly discussion. I know that not everyone is going to be on the same page with a lot of this stuff, but I want this to be a supportive place where you can share freely without judgment! Remember, many of us are still learning and exploring our green sides.

I am looking forward to a great discussion!

Sound Off: What earth-friendly ideas are you really interested in exploring? What changes have you already made in your own life?

Creating Morning Rituals

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Today is going to be our last day in the book, “How Did I Get So Busy.” We have had such a great discussion from this book and I feel like I have made a lot of positive changes by sharing through this format and from encouragement from you. It has definitely been a positive transformation for me and I hope that you have gotten as much from it as I have.

For those of you who are just joining in on the series, we began with a busy bee quiz, questioned our reasons for being busy, had a discussion about technology and how it can intrude into our life, talked about self-care (or lack thereof), discussed our exercise routines (or lack thereof), taming our tech habits, and breaking the procrastination habits. There are many more chapters in the book so I hope that you can check this out from your library or can purchase a copy. I have heard from many of you who have gotten the book so I hope it will continue to benefit you.

Today we are going to discuss our morning routines and rituals. I have read other bloggers who have some really great morning routines, but I will admit that I am not a morning person and carving time for rituals has been something I think about, but don’t do. I will say that I have added some workout time to my mornings, after I drop my son off at preschool, and I have also been doing a morning walk with Emily on warmer days.

These are the suggestions from the author on ways that you can incorporate some rituals into your day:

1. Write a vision of your ideal morning. The author actually says she has a list of seven things that she wants to do every morning. She suggests writing a list down of the things you would like out of your own morning and putting this in a place where you will see it each day- on the fridge door, inside a medicine cabinet, next to your alarm clock. This list will help remind you of what your ideal morning would look like. I have seen moms take this a step further and have an ideal day written up for themselves and their children too.

2. Estimate how much time each morning ritual will take you. With all of our goals, we are encouraged to start small and work our way up. Begin with small things that won’t take a lot of time and build your routine up from there.

3. Identify a simple way to connect with loved ones in the morning. It can be a hug and a kiss for your kids, joining your child for breakfast each day so that you have special time together, or exercising with your spouse. Use this time to connect with the people you love most and see if it starts your days out a little better.

4. Choose things you truly want to do, not what you “should” do. Don’t do things you think you have to do, you need to do things, “that will truly nourish you and help you create the kind of life you believe is possible.”

5. Test your habits- and adjust them. If your routine isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to switch it around. Continually tweak the routine until you have something you are really happy with.

In this chapter, the author focuses on ways to end your day as well. I have found that I am better about how I end my day then how I begin it though so this section really stuck with me.

Sound Off: I am interested to hear if you have a morning ritual that works for you? What are your mornings like? Do you struggle with a morning routine too?

MomAdvice Sound Off: Did you enjoy this book series? Would you like to work through another book together? What topics/books are of interest to you right now?

Taming the Tech Habits

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

I can tell you one of the reasons that I often feel overwhelmed is because of my tech habits. A quick login to my email account can set my day into a tailspin- a review that needs posting, an article that needs writing, a page that needs editing- I have suddenly lost an hour of my day.

Even if you don’t have a website or blog, reading other people’s websites and blogs can take up a great deal of your time. Reading feeds definitely made things a little easier for me, but I made it harder on myself by subscribing to a gazillion feeds since I was saving so much time. See how your tech habits can spiral out of control? I am trying to follow my own commandments for blogging and not allow my blog to rule my life, but it can be hard.

In our book, “How Did I Get So Busy?” by Valorie Burton, she offers some suggestions for taming your tech habits and getting your life back:

1. Make email unobtrusive. This is something that I had to do in my own house. My computer used to ding at me when email had arrived and I would run into the office to check my account right that very minute. I ended up spending a lot of unnecessary time running in there for junk and spam mail which was time that would have served me better by spending it with my family. The author recommends turning the audible features OFF.

2. Open & respond at specific times. Set specific times that you will check email and give yourself a specific period of time in which to respond. Begin by prioritizing the messages by reading the titles and dealing with those emails first.

3. Set “no email” periods. Create periods of time in your day where you make email off limits- after 8 PM, Sunday afternoons, while on vacation, or when you need to focus on a specific project.

4. Have “no technology” periods. Don’t allow technology to intrude in times where it is not welcome. Keep things like cell phones, email, and television out of your life during certain times where you feel it is important for you to be unplugged. I personally loved this idea from Ohmystinkinheck, where Heather suggests making the family members turn in their cell phones and set them to the off.

5. Respond in the moment. Even if you aren’t addressing your messages right away, it is thoughtful to send a message to let the recipient know that you have received the message and a promise that you will get to it when you can.

6. Delete the message once it has been handled. Know how many messages I have in my inbox right now? You are going to gasp, but that is okay because I can’t hear you. 8,000. No typos, there are 8,000 messages in my account. You can see why this would be tough for me! The author suggests keeping your inbox as clutter free as possible to help free your mind from being bombarded by the sheer volume of your old messages. Maybe this is a reason why I feel stressed when I open my inbox?

7. Tame your Blackberry habit. If people know that you will answer their messages immediately, they will begin to expect it and will take advantage of it. You will attract more requests, demands, and messages than ever.

Sound Off: What do you struggle with on this list? Are there are solutions listed here that could help you tame your own tech habits?