Friday, July 3, 2015

What I’ve Been Reading #84 and June Literary Junkies Link Up

This is another book that must have been on my to-read list for a long time, because I don’t remember how it got there. The Weight Of Blood by Laura McHugh takes place in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri – not all that far from where I live. “The town of Henbane sits deep in the Ozark Mountains. Folks there still whisper about Lucy Dane’s mother, a bewitching stranger who appeared long enough to marry Carl Dane and then vanished when Lucy was just a child. Now on the brink of adulthood, Lucy experiences another loss when her friend Cheri disappears and is then found murdered, her body placed on display for all to see. Lucy’s family has deep roots in the Ozarks, part of a community that is fiercely protective of its own. Yet despite her close ties to the land, and despite her family’s influence, Lucy—darkly beautiful as her mother was—is always thought of by those around her as her mother’s daughter. When Cheri disappears, Lucy is haunted by the two lost girls—the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t save—and sets out with the help of a local boy, Daniel, to uncover the mystery behind Cheri’s death.
What Lucy discovers is a secret that pervades the secluded Missouri hills, and beyond that horrific revelation is a more personal one concerning what happened to her mother more than a decade earlier.” This book was inspired by a true life event. The chapters alternate as told by Lucy and her mother, Lila. Lila’s chapters take place in the past, but many of the characters appear in the past and present, which became confusing at times. However, the past and present mixing is one of the main themes of the story, as it turns out that what happened to Lucy’s mom is very similar to what happened to her friend Cheri. The topic is a difficult one, and I will not give it away, but some of the descriptions were not pleasant to say the least! Even so, I enjoyed this book and recommend it to those who enjoy suspenseful novels!


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Guess what? The Literary Junkies Link Up is back! I have missed this book inspired monthly questionnaire!

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it.

I just started That Night by Chevy Stevens. I will tell you all about it when I review it in a few weeks!

2.  What are your top 3 reads for summer?

I am not sure if this question means my top reads for this current summer, or for summer in general. I figured I’d recommend 3 books set in summer time – A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand, A Month of Summer by Lisa Wingate, and Life’s A Beach by Claire Cook.

3. Do you have a favorite book that you like to re-read?

The Time Traveler’s Wife, A Widow For One Year, and the Harry Potter series.

4. Do you have a favorite reading spot?

In bed.

5. Do you enjoy a sipping on a beverage while you read? If so, tell us your favorite drink pairing!!

No, I’d probably just spill! How about you?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How To Plan The Perfect Family Beach Break

This post was contributed by Sam Jones.

I am the type of mama who loves to travel. I love to travel solo, with my partner and also with my kids. I know that many parents stress about travelling with their little ones - it can be stressful, but I also know that it’s worth it.

At times, I find travelling with kids to be extremely stressful. It's not always easy keeping them entertained while travelling, but by being organized it is doable.

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Credit for image

This summer, my partner and I are considering planning a beach break to Nice with our children. We both love the beach, as do the children, so a beach break is ideal. Yes, we enjoy spending time seeing the sights and exploring new places, but with little ones in tow, a beach break is a better idea.

Choose the right location

The first thing I would say is choose the right location. There are so many beach destinations to choose from, from Nice in France to Costa Brava in Spain, and each one is very different.

Many beach destinations are aimed at families. However, there are some that are aimed at singles or couples, which isn’t what you want for a family break. Once you have found an area that you like the sound of, make sure to do your research about what you can expect from that destination.

A popular beach break area with many families is Nice, the capital of the French Riviera. The area has lots of amenities for people of all ages, including families, and the beaches are all child-friendly.

Get an idea of the activities on offer

While you might be planning on spending every day on the beach, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take part in activities. Many beach locations have lots of activities to choose from, from surfing lessons to horse riding.

Go online and find a list of activities that are available at the beach where you are staying and create a list of things you might like to try. If you or your children want to do any of the activities, it’s best to get them booked in before you arrive.

Pick a family-friendly hotel

If you are planning to spend your time relaxing on the beach, you will need to find some accommodation that is close enough by. Kids and lots of walking don’t tend to mix, so we knew that we needed to pick accommodation in Nice that was fairly close to the beach.

However, what we found was that beachfront hotels and other accommodation tend to get booked up pretty quickly. One of the best ways to find a good hotel that’s suitable is by looking online on sites like Venere.com.

Pack right

I always find that the key to a stress-free family vacation is packing all the right things. I create lists of everything I need to pack beforehand, and then use them to help me prepare and pack everything we will need.

I’ve been caught out before when I’ve forgotten things like after sun and beach shoes and have ended up paying high prices for them. Now, I always make sure that things like sunscreen, after sun, sun hats, beach shoes, and swimwear are at the top of my list.

Planning a family vacation isn’t the easiest of tasks, but once everything is organized, it’s the best feeling. Being able to get away for a week or two as a family is wonderful.

Thanks again to Sam Jones for contributing this post!

Being a Fangirl

A few weeks ago, I went to a free concert starring David Cook, of American Idol fame. He is from Kansas City and was part of a free concert series at a local shopping center. Being at the show reminded me of my fangirl days – I used to be a fangirl, did you know that? I was (and still would be, if they still played together) a huge fan of the band Evan and Jaron. I even got to meet them a few times! So, when I saw the people that paid for a back stage pass to meet David Cook, I was jealous of them because I remember that fun thrill of meeting your favorite celebrity.

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Times are so different now, because my fangirl days were over 10 years ago, and while we had social media, it was limited to the band’s own message board and AOL Instant Messenger.  Now, when I posted on Twitter about the concert, I was added to someone’s list of people who had tweeted about the show, and I was able to follow along. One girl tweeted every song that he played – I used to write down the play list on scrap paper! When I posted a photo on Instagram, I instantly gained new followers (sorry to them, because I only posted the one picture!). Back then, we would have to go home to our dial up internet before we could post anything! I remember I had a roll of film developed and paid to have the photos on a floppy disc too, so I could share them both online and off! Also, these days people can face time their friends from concerts! Some of us had cell phones back then, and someone called me from one of the shows, but I could barely hear the music! See, times have changed!

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I was also jealous of the fans who got to see their favorite celebrity live in concert. These days, I fangirl over Tony Goldwyn, an actor, who I am not able to see performing live, unless he one day does a play! I do know people who were able to meet him by attending a charity event, but loving an actor is different than loving a band!

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Being there was fun, even though I’m not enough of a fan to really feel that thrill! Also, before the concert started, Gabbie got her hair braided!

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fun In Kansas City–Missouri Town 1855

On our fourth day of summer break, we finally got a chance to visit Missouri Town 1855, a place we had been meaning to visit for quite a long time, but never were able to. Unlike the other activities I have told you about recently, this one is not free, but is reasonably priced at $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 5-13. Missouri Town demonstrates what a progressive farming community would have looked like around the year 1855. “Missouri Town 1855 is composed of more than 25 buildings dating from 1820 to 1860. This living history museum uses original structures, furnishings and equipment. Also depicting the 19th Century lifestyles are interpreters in period attire, authentic field and garden crops, and rare livestock breeds.”

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The sheep were wandering around, but we couldn’t get too close to them because they are scared of people!

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We checked out the various buildings and learned what homes would be like at the time.

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Smokehouse.

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Church.

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School.

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After we left Missouri Town, we wanted to visit another place nearby called the Native Hooved Animal Enclosure, where you can apparently feed apples or pears to animals including buffalo, elk, and deer; however, the fence was locked so we could not go out to the overlook of the area. This was the most we were able to see:

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This ends my series on fun locations to visit in Kansas City – I hope it was interesting!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June In Review

Well, it’s been an interesting start to summer here! The first half of the month was chilly and rainy; now it’s hot as can be! We had weeks with the kids at camp and weeks with them home. We have had a lot to celebrate! Here are some of the highlights.

Family Activities:

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  • We celebrated Zachary’s birthday.
  • Gabbie went to Sewing and Art Camps.
  • Zachary went to Cub Scout Camp.
  • We went to Schlitterbahn.
  • Gabbie and Zachary both enjoyed Nature Camp. (Gabbie also took babysitting and Zachary took science!)
  • We celebrated Father’s Day.
  • We saw the movie Inside Out.
  • We took a family trip to Washington D.C.
  • We attended a wedding in NY.

Me:

  • I watched the show Harper’s Island on Netflix and continued watching Gilmore Girls.
  • I wrote about new clothes savings tips.
  • I had a smoothing treatment on my hair – I’m not sure it’s really made a difference though.

And now, some never before shared photos from my phone:

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Playing with Magformers

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My hair after it was straightened. It never looks like this when I do it myself!

Happy July everyone!

Monday, June 29, 2015

June Ipsy Glam Bag

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This month I received my 20th Ipsy Glam Bag. This month’s theme was “Swim Into Beauty.” Here is what I received:

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Dr. Brandt Skincare pores no more vacuum cleaner – $45 for 1 oz, I received .2 oz, a value of $9:
This gentle exfoliating mask helps loosen and extract blackheads without painful extraction tools while absorbing oil and tightening pores.
25% off with code VACUUM25 until 7/31/15.
My thoughts: Lucky for me, I don’t really have blackheads! I did try this but I’m not sure I needed it!

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Pure Brazilian Miracle Leave-In Conditioner – $6:
An ultra-reparative Keratin infused conditioner that re-constructs dry damaged hair by restoring keratin proteins that have been depleted by chronological aging, styling, chemical and environmental damage.
25% off with code IPSY until 7/31/15.
My thoughts: I just had a keratin treatment done and this should be great to keep my hair smooth. I tried it before the treatment and it worked as a detangler as well.

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Absolute Nail Lacquer in Turquoise – $5:
This chip-resistant and high-shine Nail Lacquer is designed to deliver luxuriously rich and vibrant color.
20% off with code IPSY until 7/31/15.
My thoughts: I can’t wait to use this!

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Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Foundation Primer – $36 for 1 oz, I received .25 oz, a value of $9:
Create a perfect canvas for foundation application with this silky, lightweight blend of vitamins A & E, grape seed extract and green tea. Worn alone or under foundation, this best-selling, oil-free primer helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores for flawless skin with a velvety-smooth finish.
My thoughts: I keep forgetting to put this on before my cream foundation, but I did put it on my eyelids and it seemed to work well!

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tre’StiQue Mini Shadow Crayon in Aspen Pine – $32 for 3 mini sticks, I received 1, a value of $10.66:
This amazing 12 hour eye shadow has customizable color that you can build from a subtle wash to intense vibrancy. It’s also super blendable with a crease free, smooth finish.
15% off and free shipping with code IPSYINSIDER15 until 7/31/15.
My thoughts: The cap is so cute! I thought it had arrived open at first, but then realized that the cap is shaped like the crayon inside. I wish I received the gold color, but I like this shadow. It goes on more like a shadow than I expected it to, and then I just blend it in!

Once again, I pay $10 a month for these bags. I love seeing what comes my way each month! The value received this month was $39.66, which is a lower value than I received last month. My favorite item this month is the eye shadow.

If you’d like to sign up to receive your own Glam Bag each month, click here! If you got this month’s bag, what did you think?

Friday, June 26, 2015

What I’ve Been Reading #83

Also on my to be read list was Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum. Told from multiple viewpoints, the author managed to create several unique voices that were all engaging and entertaining to read. “Bellwether Award winner Susan Nussbaum’s powerful novel invites us into the lives of a group of typical teenagers—alienated, funny, yearning for autonomy—except that they live in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. This unfamiliar, isolated landscape is much the same as the world outside: friendships are forged, trust is built, love affairs are kindled, and rules are broken. But those who call it home have little or no control over their fate. Good Kings Bad Kings challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled in a story told with remarkable authenticity and in voices that resound with humor and spirit.” The characters range from a wheelchair using teenage girl whose caregiver passed away, a boy who has a supportive father but still resides in the home and loves one of the other residents who he does not realize has been severely abused, the secretary who was hired because she too is in a wheelchair and who is active in the quest for rights for the disabled, and her boyfriend, who may be the only care staff member who actually cares emotionally about the kids. Having worked in the past with disabled kids, it touched me to read about the lack of care that sometimes occurred, as well as the unfair punishment that some of the kids received. Seeing what happens to these kids as a result of the good care and the bad care that they receive is touching, heartbreaking, and moving. Anyone who works with disabled kids as well as anyone who cares about disadvantaged people should read this book.

Have you read any good backs recently?