Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Book Recommendations

Well, I found some time to read some books that were on my to-read list. These are books that I just picked up from the library. Some of them aren't brand new. I didn't have to write reviews of these books for anyone. These are just books that I've been wanting to read for awhile now, and I finally got around to doing it.

Did I like all of them? Of course not. Would I recommend some of them to you? Probably. But I'll let you read my reviews of these books on GoodReads and decide for yourself whether or not any of these books pique your interest.

1. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (I gave it 2/5 stars)

2. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathon Evison (I gave it 4/5 stars)

3. The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (I gave it 4/5 stars)

4. Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos (I gave it 4/5 stars)

5. Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter

6. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (I gave it 3/5 stars)

7. This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer (I gave it 3/5 stars)

8. Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House by Meghan Daum (I gave it 3/5 stars)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scat - Book Review

image credit
First, biology teacher Mrs. Starch disappears after a mysterious fire during a field trip to Black Vine Swamp. Then, class bully Duane Scrod Jr. does a complete 180 to become a first-class student. Meanwhile, the Red Diamond Energy Corporation is doing something in the swamp that it shouldn't be doing. And it's up to two of Mrs. Starch's students, Nick and Marta, can figure out how everything is connected, so they can find their teacher, clear Duane's name, and save the swamp.

This was the second book we read for our summer middle school book club.(Again, not a book that my husband or I picked.) We asked the kids what they thought of the book and everybody liked it. (Though not as much as they liked the first book we read, Out of My Mind.) Although everybody said that the book was a little disorganized in the beginning (I didn't really notice it that much), and there were tons of characters (which there definitely were).

The book definitely has strong messages of courage, not judging a book by its cover, and saving the environment. This author also wrote the book Hoot, which I've never read, but if you and your kids are fans of Hoot, you'll probably also like Scat. The book is age-graded for 10 and up.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Shade of the Moon - Book Review

image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt Publishing Company
It's been four years since the asteroid hit the moon and two years since Jon Evans, younger brother of Miranda Evans (the heroine of the first and third books in this series), moved to the safe town enclave of Sexton. Using special passes procured by Miranda's now-husband Alex, Jon was able to enter Sexton and live there with his stepmother Lisa and his half-brother Gabe. Meanwhile, the rest of Jon's family lives outside of the safe town in White Birch. Their lives couldn't be more different.

Everybody has food. Everybody has money. Everybody has a place to live. But Jon lives in a beautiful home with servants and gets special privileges because of his status as a "claver". The folks in White Birch struggle to earn money, work mediocre jobs, and are constantly at the mercy of the clavers. Anyone who is not a claver is a "grub". There is also a third class, somewhere in between claver and grub, and that's what Jon is. He's a "slip" because he and his family weren't rich or important enough to receive passes to the enclave on their own. They got passes from someone else and "slipped" into the enclave.

Each of these three classes resents all the others. The grubs are treated as dirty, no-good, slaves who don't deserve to be using the resources that the clavers need. Jon, who has family in both classes, is torn about how to feel. He wants his claver friends to like him because he doesn't want to jeopardize his standing within the enclave, but he also doesn't like that his family members on the outside are suffering.

And then Jon meets Sarah who changes everything for him, challenging him to reject the status quo and fight for love, family, and what is right.

If you haven't read the first three books in this series, I'd highly suggest that you do so before starting this book. It's not necessary, but this fourth book references a lot of things and people that happened previously, and I think it would be helpful to have an understanding of all of that.

Like the other three books, the latest in the series really makes you think. If you were in this situation, how would you react? If you were a claver, living the high life with money and servants and fresh food, would you continue living that life even if it meant treating others like dirt? If you were a grub, would you sacrifice your own life to stand up for equal rights and opportunities for all?

This book is age-graded 12 and up. There were many sexual references, but nothing in great detail. The claver boys in the story are pretty pig-headed and make references to their sexual conquests/rapings of grubber girls. In terms of bad language, I think there were only three or four bad words. Nothing too terrible. There is some violence in the book. People getting shot and pretty detailed descriptions of dead bodies and wounds. Not for the faint of the heart. Some people might ask, "Why is that necessary in a book for kids?" Well, it's necessary because it's true to the story. If something like this book happened in real life, it wouldn't be all peach scents and sunshine. There would be riots and violence and evil people and death. That said, I think the books have progressively gotten a little more detailed with all of that. I don't remember it as much in the first book in the series, and we read that with a middle school book club a few years ago.

The Shade of the Moon will be available to purchase on August 13, 2013. It is published by Harcourt Children's Books. I received a free advance reading copy when I attended Book Expo America.

Friday, July 26, 2013

This is a Man's Birthday Card!

My dad's birthday has come and gone, and he's already received his birthday card. So it is safe for me now to share with you what his card looked like. I didn't send him one of these. He got a different one. I kind of went crazy and made a whole bunch. I just really liked using these rub-on mustaches. (Thanks, Danae!)

I got the inspiration for these cards from this on Pinterest. If you want more card ideas, check out my Scrapbook/Cards Pinterest board.

How do you guys design cards for guys? Do you think it's hard or easy?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Use Paper You Might Not "Adore"

So, I had this one sheet of paper that was sparkly and gold and had the word "Adore" on it. I really liked it but I didn't know how to use it.

I have a problem with papers like this that have pre-printed words and designs on them. Not patterns, mind you. I love patterned paper. But designs.

Where do I put my pictures? What other embellishments can I use that match what's already on the paper? It just stresses me out.

But then I realized that I had some 4x6 photo page protectors from We R Memory Keepers, and I thought, "What if I cut the 'Adore' paper and used it in the photo slots?" So that's what I did.

I made my own journaling spot on the 4x6 sheet in the upper left-hand corner by cutting out one of the shapes on the back of the "Adore" page.

And I know those pictures are not mine. They came with the page protector. But I don't have pictures yet that will go with this paper. Once I do, though, I'm totally ready!!

What do you guys think? How do you use paper that you don't really like or know what to do with?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Changes in Our House

There have been a couple changes in our house, and that means I can cross stuff off of my New Year's Projects list.

First up, something that was not on the list. I FINALLY found a knife holder that didn't come with knives. Why would I want that, you ask? Because we already have the knives, but they didn't come with a holder!!!

So I happened to be at Target the other weekend with $35 in Target gift cards, and I saw this. (See picture at left.) It is a KitchenAid knife holder that has a special place for kitchen scissors and a cool upper portion that can hold any size knife and keep it in place. Really cool. Plus, it was on sale for $26.99. So I scooped it up. Meant to be.

And now for the 2013 to-do list. Here's the whole thing in case you forgot:

1. buy door mat for sliding glass door in the living room
2. paint the guest bedroom and buy a bed and mattress
3. remove another wall and a half of wallpaper in the craft room
4. paint the trim on the wall in the living room/dining room
5. apply to be on an HGTV show
6. fix/redo the master bathroom shower stall
7. buy an electric drill to hang a curtain rod (buy) and curtains (buy)
8. attempt to make my own roman shades for dining room windows
9. buy 3M Command Strips for hanging picture frames in the bedroom
10. buy more white picture frames for the bedroom
11. buy color and black ink for the printer to print out pictures and finish some scrapbook pages
12. spend 15 minutes a day writing my novel
13. move the side table from the basement to the reading room
14. make a book wreath for the reading room

As you can see from the picture below, the curtain rod is up and so are the curtains. I take no credit for any of it. My dad did it all. So that's number 7 done and done.

And then number 3 is done and done AND DONE. The goal was to finish up only a portion of the wallpaper removal, but the whole room is now EMPTY OF WALLPAPER. My mom finished up the last few panels for me, so now I am well ahead of schedule. Just need to get some primer on the wall and then paint and then ... oh man, that room needs help. All in good time.

Also, number 6 is almost done. We've got a contractor coming out in August to remodel the shower stall. Super excited. Well, the bank account is not, but...

And here is a little something else that is not on the list. This is another Target find that was on clearance. I'd been following this three-piece wall decor set for a few weeks, and then finally I saw that the price went down to $7. I just couldn't pass it up. The red on these mirrors is just perfect to add to our red-accented living/dining room. 


I don't have the mirrors on the wall yet. I need to buy more 3M Command Strips for hanging wall decor. And then I think I'm going to move some stuff already on the wall around to make room for the mirrors. 

How are your 2013 to-do lists coming along? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Book Review Career

When my parents came to visit a few weeks ago, they brought up two Rubbermaid containers full of my old stuff. As I was going through everything, I came across my newspaper clippings from when I was a features writer/reporter for my college newspaper.

And here it is, folks. Proof that I've been writing book reviews for far longer than this blog.

FYI, if you can't make out what the book is, it's Thank You For the Music by Jane McCafferty. I gave it four out of five stars.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - July 22

We've got a full week of eating to do! Here's what's on the menu:

Sunday: gluten-free blueberry muffins, eggs, & bacon

Monday: chicken cordon bleu paninis

Tuesday: hamburger stroganoff & veggies

Wednesday: tuna sandwiches, carrots, & fries

Thursday: middle school book club

Friday: out

Saturday: penne with spinach & Parmesan cheese

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Side of Green Beans and Feta, Please

Here's a nice and easy side to make with some fresh green beans this week. It's actually supposed to be made with asparagus, but I had green beans to use up, so I just used those. It still worked out fine!!

I found this recipe on Pinterest. And it's super duper easy. You coat the green beans in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then grill them. I used our George Foreman grill. Once they're grilled, remove them from the grill, cut them up, and toss with lemon juice, crumbled feta cheese, and more olive oil. Add some extra seasoning to taste.

If you want more delicious side dishes to add to your main course, check out my On the Side Pinterest board for ideas!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Applegate Naturals Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets

I apologize. I took this picture and posted it to my Instagram SIX WEEKS AGO. I had every intention of posting about this delicious meal and letting my fellow gluten-free folks know about it, but ... I don't know. It just never happened.

Until now.

So what is the delectableness on my plate? Applegate Naturals Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets. In my fruitless search for a different product at my local A&P, I came across a box of this! It wasn't too terribly expensive, and we love chicken nuggets, so I bought it!

Talk about an easy weeknight meal. Just pop these doobers in the oven (yes, doobers is the technical term for gluten-free chicken nuggets) and you're done!

From what I can remember, the whole box fed just the two of us. So we didn't get any leftovers for a second meal, which is kind of disappointing. There is another g/f chicken nugget brand at my local Shop-Rite that gives you MANY servings of nuggets for comparably the same price. But I really dislike going to Shop-Rite, so...

Looking at this picture reminds me that I need to buy these again. They were really good!

Has anybody else tried these? Know of any other good gluten-free chicken nuggets or frozen foods that are readily available at non-specialty grocery stores? Share in the comments!

Friday, July 19, 2013

More Basic Grey Layouts

I actually did quite a bit of scrapbooking over the weekend. Can't say that I'll be as successful with it this weekend because there's a lot going on this weekend, but... I'm just glad that I'm scrapping RECENT pictures and not stuff from last year still. Here are a few more layouts that I did using Basic Grey papers and stickers (with some stuff from other companies sprinkled into the mix).

"Later That Night" - eating gluten-free burgers at UNO
& seeing a Fall Out Boy concert in Boston
When I first started hardcore scrapping, Basic Grey was like my go-to manufacturer. I loved the BG papers and sticker letters and embellies. I just couldn't get enough.

"Friends" - self-picture taken at Fenway Park; thought the friends sticker
was appropriate b/c to my husband, I'm always his "something"
friend: babies friend, fuzzy friend, etc.
I've since managed to expand and embrace other scrapbook manufacturers. But what about you? Did you go through a phase where you were totally devoted to one manufacturer? (Does anyone else remember Scenic Route? I was totally into them for awhile, too.)


Thursday, July 18, 2013

PACT Organic Clothing for Adults!

Last week I posted about an organic clothing line for babies. If you were intrigued and liked some of the patterns that you saw, well, you can wear it, too! PACT also makes organic clothing for adults.

When I attended the press event for the baby clothes a few months ago, I also received a free pair of leggings and a racerbank tank top from PACT's adult line. As I type this, I am wearing the PACT leggings and tank AND THEY ARE SO COMFY. Most of PACT's adult clothing is more of the loungewear variety. The tank top is super cute, and some of the PACT PR people were wearing them at the press event, but for me, it's more something I would wear to do yoga or sleep in.

This holiday season, PACT is releasing three new men's and women's gift boxes. There will be a redesigned three-pack socks gift box and a new two-pack undies and loungewear gift box. And some of the patterns and colors on the adult clothing mimics the pretty and sophisticated colors and patterns on the baby clothing. (LOVE the girly floral!) The gift sets will be available October 15 and prices range from $24.99 for a three-pack of socks set to $60 for a lounge set.

Every purchase goes back to helping low-income entrepreneurs who want to start their own small businesses.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wings by Elizabeth Richards Cover Reveal

I wasn't able to share this earlier, but I definitely want to get it out there sooner or later, so here it is! The cover to Elizabeth Richards' Wings is here (can't wait to read it) and there is a giveaway involved, so be sure to click on the giveaway link at the bottom of this post!

Today we are super excited to share the cover to WINGS, the third and final book in author's Elizabeth Richard's BLACK CITY series!

Check out this beauty! 

Wings (Black City #3) by Elizabeth Richards

Get the first two books in the series! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Scrapping with Basic Grey

I got some scrapbooking and cardmaking done over the weekend. Here are a few projects I did with some Basic Grey papers and other random embellishments.

I made these "apple" cards using a cool apple-patterned paper.


This layout is of a nest of bird eggs at my parents' house. A bird built the nest in an outdoor wreath on my parents' front door.

And then here's another layout from the Cardinals baseball game I went to in May. This mainly uses the Basic Grey Lime Rickey collection.



Hopefully, you also had a successful crafty weekend. Thanks for looking!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - July 15

Okay, so I know I didn't post a Meal Plan Monday last week. The Fourth of July holiday was a busy week and weekend for us, and we didn't have time to hit the grocery store before the work week started. So we basically ate leftovers and kept things simple, which was great because it meant we didn't have to stand by a hot stove or oven and heat up the already-hot kitchen. (Yes, mom, we turned off the a/c after you guys left.) It also helped that I attended a media event on Wednesday night where I was given free food, and Thursday night was our first middle school book club of the summer and we met at a pizza place.

But now it's onto a new week, and we had plenty of time over the weekend to buy groceries. I tried to keep our grocery bill down this week, so again, we are kind of just focusing on easy weeknight favorites that don't require lots of ingredients or prep/cooking time.

Sunday: eggs, bacon, gluten-free pancakes

Monday: BLT chicken salad

Tuesday: hot dogs and fries

Wednesday: Italian sausage and pasta

Thursday: I really don't know. We'll figure it out.

Friday: eating out

Saturday: eating out

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Out of My Mind - Book Review

The first book we read this year for our summer middle school book club was Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. Neither my husband nor I choose the books for the book club. That job goes to the organizer behind it, so these books are always a surprise to us.
image credit

I had never heard of this book, but after reading it, I want to make sure that other people know about this book. I think it's a book that all kids should read. It's age-graded 10 and up, and I think it's perfect for 5th grade through 8th grade.

The book is told from the point of view of Melody, a girl with cerebral palsy. She can't talk. She can't walk. She can't feed, dress, or bathe herself. And until fifth grade, she was relegated to only attending special-ed classes with teachers who treated all the special-ed kids as if they were stupid.

But Melody has a brain and it's a good one. Melody can understand everything people say to her, but she doesn't have the ability to communicate. She's sort of trapped within her own mind.

When she is in fifth grade, her school decides to allow the special-ed kids to attend some of the "regular" classes with the "regular" students. There are good and bad aspects of this for Melody. She does make a new friend, but she's constantly having to defend herself as best she can and prove that she's just as smart as everybody else. Luckily, this same year, her parents purchase her a special computer (kind of like what Stephen Hawking uses) that allows Melody to choose the words she wants to say and the computer will say them for her. 

There is a particularly heart-wrenching scene toward the end. Everything seems to be going so well for Melody, and then you're reminded just how cruel and thoughtless kids and adults can be. I actually cried during that part, and if you're a mother reading this book, I'm sure you will bawl over the scene for weeks.

I feel about this book the way I felt about Lauren Myracle's Shine. This is a book that every kid should read!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Gluten-Free at Citizens Bank Park

Over the Fourth of July weekend, my husband and I met up with some friends to see a Phillies game. It was unbearably hot, and we only lasted (thanks to misting fans/tents and ice cream) through the seventh inning stretch. But before we were hot and miserable and sweaty and red-faced from the heat, there was this:

That's right. A gluten-free food stand serving gluten-free Philly Cheesesteaks! Pretty cool, huh? My husband was SUPER excited about it because he loves Philly Cheesesteaks.

Verdict about the cheesesteak? Very good!

Verdict about the game? We're only going back to a Phillies game if it's at night. That ballpark has very few seats in the shade.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Scrapping with American Crafts

Get ready for picture overload, friends! I did a ton of scrapping recently with a bunch of American Crafts papers and embellishments. There were several paper collections that I thought just worked so well with some of the pictures I had. I was very excited to finish up the last of my 2012 vacation photos and move onto 2013!!! 

First up, just an easy-peasy layout scrapping some pictures I took on the Amtrak trains we rode last summer. One train we rode had an arcade room! No free games, though, of course.


For this next layout, I thought the nighttime sky paper was perfect for photos of the sleeper car we had for our trip from Sacramento to Chicago.

Next up, pictures from May 2013!! Holy cow - I really am moving on! I loved the buttons and pins for this two-page layout about making my own Fredbird stuffed animal at the Build A Bear Workshop at Busch Stadium. (I had a coupon to do it, people!)



And then here is a layout I did about visiting the Boston Marathon memorial in Copley Square when my husband and I visited Boston at the end of May. I received the two butterflies (along with most of what you see in these layouts) in some happy mail, and the butterflies originally came from The Gilded Bee.

Thanks for looking!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps

It's a well-known fact that we enjoy Mexican food at our house. We can't eat Taco Bell anymore (well, one of us can't) due to food allergies, so it's nice to make similar stuff at home every once in awhile. This recipe for Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps, from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, is one such recipe.

I first found the recipe on Pinterest, and the pictures of the chicken wraps made my mouth water. I'll be honest, my wraps don't look like the ones from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, but they tasted just as great as Mel's did, I'm sure.

I made some changes to this recipe in order to make it gluten-free and suit our tastes. First off, CORN TORTILLAS. Warm them up in the microwave following the package directions so that they are a little easier to work with. Corn tortillas have a tendency to rip apart quite easily, so warm them up a little bit first. Also, don't overfill the tortillas. I always have such a hard time determining just the right amount of filling, and then my tortillas (as you can see in the picture) end up ripping apart when I cook them, even though I warmed them up first. Practice makes perfect, I guess. One day I'll figure it out.

I cooked our wraps on our George Foreman grill. Worked out great! Now that we have a grill with removable and dishwasher-safe grilling plates, using the George Foreman is SO MUCH EASIER.

I also left out the peppers and chiles and most of the crazy spicy things. Basically our filling was rice, shredded Colby Jack cheese, chives, sour cream, black beans, and chicken. (I poached the chicken, btw.) There's also salt, garlic powder, cumin, chili pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes mixed in.

We had tons of filling leftover. I had it the next day for lunch in hard taco shells. So there are several other ways that you can continue eating this meal without having the same exact thing every day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

PACT Organic Baby Clothes

Back in June, I was invited to attend a press preview of a new line of organic baby clothes from a company called PACT. PACT also makes organic basics for men and women: underwear, socks, and loungewear. And now, as of July 1, PACT wearers can deck out their babies in organic clothing, too.

The collection of super soft organic cotton includes reversible beanies, snapster bodysuits, and socks all featuring unique graphics and prints made from water-based dyes and inks. Seriously, the flowery print on the baby at right - SO CUTE. (That print is available in adult clothes, too. I have to have it.)

And parents of baby boys will LOVE the "boy" color schemes that don't involve trucks or ducks. The patterns and colors for boys are sophisticated and hip without being  cutesy-schmootzy. (My mom friend RAVED about the PACT baby boy clothes. For real.)

PACT also has cool wintery unisex beanies, snapster bodysuits, and socks that will be available October 15. I'm loving the Fair Isle pattern at left.

What's also cool about these new baby clothes is that PACT has teamed up with Whole Planet Foundation to kickstart 100 small businesses. So every purchase contributes to a fund that the Whole Planet Foundation will turn into micro-loans for low-income entrepreneurs around the world.

For parents who are looking for baby items that are safe and eco-friendly, the new PACT baby clothing line is a great idea. PACT uses no pesticides, no fertilizers, no bleaches, and no sweatshops. (Even the packaging is eco-friendly.) Just soft, organic cotton that feels good when you wear it and makes you feel good about where it comes from.

These items can be purchased from or at Whole Foods stores and specialty boutiques. The price range for the line is $10 to $34.

When I attended the event, I was given some ladies' loungewear to check out, so I'll review that separately and let you know all the cool stuff that adults can wear from PACT! Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate - Product Review

Hot chocolate in the summertime doesn't really sound like a good idea, does it? But change your way of thinking with Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate!

I attended a holiday press preview event in June, and when I saw a table with hot chocolate samples, of course I stopped by! And at that table I met three really nice ladies and sisters from the Northwest who started making Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate from scratch and giving it out as Christmas gifts. It was such a hit that they decided to sell it! After the press event, they emailed me to see if I'd like them to send me free product samples to review on my blog! YES PLEASE!

(In case you're wondering what the heck "tickettyboo" means, here is its definition: Adjective. Old-fashioned: Going smoothly, doing all right. As it should be; correct; satisfactory.)

There are two flavors of the hot chocolate: original and peppermint. At the press event, I sampled the original flavor, and boy was it good! It has a richness to it that you don't get from processed, boxed hot chocolate mixes.

I received samples of both hot chocolate flavors, but because it's in the middle of summer, I didn't really want to make hot chocolate. And that's the beauty of Tickettyboo! You can use the mix in a variety of ways: Blended with ice, stirred into coffee, mixed into pancake batter, sprinkled on ice cream, used in homemade cake frosting, and as a hot chocolate shake!

I followed the instructions on the Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate website to make the Hot Chocolate Shake in my Magic Bullet Blender. All you need is the mix (I used the original flavor), water, and vanilla ice cream. It was so easy to make and very delicious on a hot summer night! I'm very excited to try the peppermint flavor as a shake and use both flavors in all the other ways listed above. Can you imagine chocolate peppermint pancakes??????

For those with food allergies, you should note that Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate mix contains milk and soy and is processed on equipment that also processes wheat. The nutritional info is on each package, but you can also review it here.

Have I whetted your appetite? You can purchase your own Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate for $7.99 per 20-ounce bag (free shipping if you buy 2 or more!) from the Tickettyboo website. And if you happen to be in or near Enumclaw, WA, you can find Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate at Tracy's Roadside Produce.

While I was not paid to write this post, I did receive two free 20-ounce bags of Tickettyboo Hot Chocolate for my honest review.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Earthbound - Book Review

image credit
Aprilynne Pike's Earthbound is definitely the start of something great. I don't know if it's going to be a series, but the way the book ends things, I really hope that there are more books! (It would also be cool to see this book made into a movie.)

Tavia is the sole survivor of a plane crash that also kills her parents. Sent to live with a stepaunt and stepuncle that she doesn't know very well, Tavia attends physical therapy sessions to mend her broken body and therapy sessions to mend her shaky mental state. Soon, Tavia starts seeing triangles everywhere and a boy named Quinn who looks familiar but is definitely not from the present time. Tavia doesn't know what's going on. Are these things really there or is her brain so damaged that she's just imagining it all? She can't confide in her aunt and uncle, so she tells the one person she can trust, her friend/more than a friend, Benson.

But that brings Benson into the mix as Tavia learns just what her visions mean, and the two of them end up traveling from New Hampshire to Maine in search of answers and Quinn. As they uncover more of the truth, Tavia learns that her visions come with powers and that her powers come with a startling responsibility: save the world.

I really did enjoy this book, even though at times I had a little difficulty following the plot. Sometimes I had to re-read passages just to make sure I understood what was going on. Because there is a lot going on! This book is sort of like a Da Vinci Code meets Tomb Raider with magic thrown in that young history buffs and fans of teen romance novels will enjoy.

The book is recommended for ages 12 and up/grades 7 and up. The main character in the book is 18. I kind of feel that this story might be over the heads of some 12-year-olds. But it seems a pretty good bet that kids 14 and up (so more like grades 8 and up) will be able to follow and really get into the storyline. There is some cussing, heavy petting, and violence.

Earthbound will be available to purchase starting July 30, 2013. It is published by Razorbill, a division of Penguin. I received a free advanced reader's copy for my honest review.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hating Heidi Foster - Book Review

Hating Heidi Foster by Jeffrey Blount is a novella about forgiveness and loss. Fourteen-year-old Mae lost her father and is struggling to cope with the aspects of his death. Her father died saving Mae's best friend, Heidi Foster, from a burning house. Heidi survived and Mae's dad didn't, a fact that causes Mae to resent Heidi. Mae can't help but ask, "Why?" Why did her father risk his life? Why didn't he wait for the firemen to come? Why is everyone consoling Heidi when it was Mae who lost her father?

Her father's death causes Mae to pull away from her friends and afterschool activities as she learns to grieve and come to terms with life without her father. She has the help of her grandparents and her mother as well as a collection of home videos that her father filmed. Watching these helps her remember her father and learn more about the kind of man he was.

The only thing I didn't like so much about this book was Mae's character. It was pretty obvious that this 14-year-old girl was being written by a middle-aged man. Some of the dialogue didn't ring true, and I'm pretty sure that teenagers today have no idea what AOL instant messenger is. That's from back in MY day! So I'm not sure how easy it will be for today's teens to latch onto this character and relate to her from that standpoint, but this is a short book that I think would be great for kids who are going through a similar situation as Mae: losing a loved one. The book demonstrates that everyone needs to grieve in their own way at their own pace. It's also a lesson in forgiveness and accepting the cards life has dealt you.

Hating Heidi Foster is available to purchase now. It is published by Alluvion Press. I received a free review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Beginning to End

(Happy 4th of July, by the way!)

Well, my 2012 vacation album is finally coming to an end. To finish it off, I made two end pages: one to start off the album and one to finish it. The pictures on these pages are of things we saw from the train window. I have so many more of these pictures. It was hard to decide which ones made the album. I'm going to frame the rest.


The background paper is American Crafts, and I also used some American Crafts sticker embellishments. The sticker letters are Basic Grey.


Do you make pages like this for your vacation albums? I don't always do it, but I thought it would be fitting for this particular album with the papers and pictures I had. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Easy Garlic & Brown Sugar Chicken

This recipe is called Easy Garlic Chicken, but really it should be Easy Garlic and Brown Sugar Chicken because it involves both garlic AND brown sugar for a sweet and slightly spicy flavor. I chose to make this meal because fresh green beans were on sale at the grocery store, and I needed a main course that would go well with green beans. We had frozen chicken breasts in the freezer. Chicken and green beans? Right on.

It really didn't take long to make, which was great. And if you read the comments about this recipe at the above link, you might find some other ways to spruce up this recipe a little.

I basically followed the recipe as closely as possible. I don't like to deviate too much my first time out with something new. The extra herbs that I added to the chicken were oregano, basil, and parsley.

But what about the green beans? That was a nice side dish that I had pinned to my On the Side Pinterest board. It's called Parmesan Roasted Green Beans from Budget Savvy Diva. Super easy to make. Super yummy to eat. Aside from the fresh green beans, you probably already have all the ingredients to make this in your pantry/fridge. I know I did, which was one of the reasons I decided to make this!

Make the chicken and green beans together or eat the chicken with your favorite side dish and save the green beans for something else. Speaking of, what is your favorite side dish to have with chicken? Rice? Mashed potatoes? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

SYLO - book review & discussion questions

SYLO is the first book in a new YA series by DJ MacHale and definitely one I'm going to recommend for our middle school summer book club next year. (The books for this year have already been picked.) I really enjoyed SYLO!

Tucker and his best friend Quinn live with their families on Pemberwick Island, an island off the coast of Maine. It seems to be just like any other end of summer until a star high school football player drops dead during a game. That's just the beginning.

Soon Pemberwick Island is being placed under a quarantine by the U.S. government due to a supposed virus outbreak, but Tucker doesn't think the quarantine has anything to do with a virus. Instead, Tucker suspects it all has something to do with a mysterious red crystal that appeared on the island. If you eat the crystal, you gain super human strength. But take too much and it will kill you.

As Tucker and Quinn, along with friends and frenemies Tori, Kent, and Olivia, try to find the truth, they learn that not everyone can be trusted, and the truth is more complicated than it seems.

I was sent some red crystal with my book, and while it didn't give me super human strength, it did taste deliciously like watermelon rock candy. :)

I wrote up some discussion questions in case we use this book for our middle school summer book club next year. And if you continue scrolling down, you'll see that I've shared these questions for you should you decide to use it for your own book club.

SYLO is available to purchase starting TODAY. It is published by Razorbill, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Discussion Questions:
1. What does Tucker do when Feit offers him the ruby? Would you have done the same? Why or why not?

2. Tucker likes living on Pemberwick Island but Quinn doesn't. Would you like living on a small island like Pemberwick? Why or why not?

3. Many times in the book Tucker wonders if his parents are hiding anything from him, but then he thinks that if they needed to tell him anything, they would. Do you think Tucker's parents were right to keep stuff from him? What do you think they could be hiding?

4. If your town was put under quarantine, would you stay indoors or continue living as normal?

5. If the government was giving out orders, would you obey and believe what the government officials were saying?

6. Do you think it was wise of Tucker, Tori, and Quinn to try to leave the island? What would you have done?

7. What is Kent's plan to escape the prison? Would you go along with it? Why or why not?

8. Is Feit a trustworthy person? Why or why not?

9. Is Olivia a trustworthy person? Why or why not?

10. What do Kent, Tucker, Tori, and Olivia find when they get to Portland?

11. What do you think will happen in the next book?

12. The author was inspired to write this book after a trip to Martha's Vineyard. What places have you visited that would make a good setting for this book? Why?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - July 1

Happy July! And happy Canada Day if you're in Canada! We've got a busy busy busy week ahead of us with the 4th of July holiday weekend coming up. So here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday: Mexican Chicken Wraps

Monday: grilled cheese sandwiches and soup

Tuesday: pizza

Wednesday: dinner out

Thursday: 4th of July BBQ @ our house

Friday: chicken BLT salad

Saturday: BBQ leftovers (if there are any!)