Not In Jersey Not In Jersey

Monday, July 25, 2016

Christmas In July Gift Exchange Reveal #xmasinjulygiftexchange


When I saw the announcement for the Christmas in July Gift Exchange, I wondered if I should sign up since I don’t celebrate Christmas. In the end, I couldn’t resist a good gift swap, and I decided to participate! Of course, I’m glad I made that decision. I sent a gift to Keri and her kids and I hope they loved what I sent! My gift came from my blog friend Emily!

Inside the box were individual packages for me and each of the kids. Also, Emily included a tie dye kit for all of us. I wonder if she remembered that one of the things we want to do this summer is tie dye!

My package included these super cute matching note cards, sticky notes, and pen, plus drink mix to add to my water, and nail polish. I painted my nails with it right away!

The boys opened their packages right away (it was July 11, hence the Slurpee!)

DSC_0829  DSC_0830
Zachary received stickers, a wax sticks set, a colored pencil color by number set, and a book.

Simon received the same things, but his stickers were different and he got paint by number instead of color by number. His book was also meant for his age, while Zachary’s was for older kids!

They both began using their items right away!

DSC_0928  DSC_0929
We brought Gabbie’s package to camp for her to open.

She also got wax sticks, stickers, and a book meant for her age, plus a foil coloring set. She kept the wax sticks and the coloring set with her at camp to use!

Emily – you did a great job choosing gifts for all of us and we really appreciate them! Thank you!

Friday, July 22, 2016

What I’ve Been Reading #131


Since my weekly book posts are probably the least popular of all my posts, I haven’t been posting them weekly anymore! I don’t know if I will continue this format, but this time I am sharing the books I’ve finished over the past few weeks.

When my mom gave me a bunch of books to read, A String Of Beads by Thomas Perry was one of them. I usually enjoy a good mystery, but this one was rather slow and uninteresting to me! I did make my way through it, with some parts being more interesting than others.

“After two decades protecting innocent victims on the run, and a year after getting shot on a job that took a dangerous turn for the worse, Jane McKinnon, née Whitefield, has settled into the quiet life of a suburban housewife in Amherst, New York—or so she thinks. One morning as she comes back from a long run, Jane is met by an unusual sight: all eight clan mothers, the female leaders of the Seneca clans, parked in her driveway in two black cars. A childhood friend of Jane’s from the reservation, Jimmy, is wanted by the police for the murder of a local white man. But instead of turning himself in, he's fled, and no one knows where he is hiding out. At the clan mothers’ request, Jane retraces a walking trip she and Jimmy took together when they were fourteen in hopes that he has gone the same way again. But it soon becomes clear that the police aren’t the only ones after him. As the chase intensifies, the number of people caught up in this twisted plot multiplies, and Jane is the only one who can protect those endangered by it.”

Obviously this book is part of a series and I imagine some of the earlier books about Jane were more interesting. I like the idea of a Native American protagonist, as this is unique and can teach us a lot. If the mystery had been intriguing or had kept my interest better, I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot more.

My book group read this month is The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was fiction or non-fiction, but I quickly discovered that it is in fact historical fiction. The events in the book really happened, but the emotions surrounding the events are fictionalized by the author. I normally don’t appreciate historical fiction, but this book renewed my interest in the genre!

“When Anne Morrow, a shy college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family, she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. In the years that follow, Anne becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States. But despite this and other major achievements, she is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.”

I’d obviously heard of Charles Lindbergh and I remember learning about the kidnapping of his first born, but from reading this book I realized how little I really knew about him, and how I knew almost nothing about his wife. At times, it was hard to determine what was truth and what was imagined. The author obviously favored Anne, and this made me wonder if the truth about Charles was different than what the book portrayed. Of course, she did her research, so maybe in reading Anne’s own writings it was revealed that Anne regretted siding with Charles when he shared his antisemitic views. If not, I’m not sure the author can claim that Anne truly didn’t believe the things she said on Charles’s behalf. Was their marriage truly as troubled as it was shown to be in the book? Very possibly, as it is truth that they went through a horribly traumatic event with the kidnapping, and it is truth that Charles had other wives and children in Europe that Anne didn’t know about. Whether Anne found out about these other families is unknown, though this author believes she did. I am looking forward to discussing this book with my book group next week!

Gabbie read Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco and she suggested that I read it too. It is recommended for grades 4-8, but as I discovered with the last book that Gabbie handed over to me, I am entertained by this type of book too.

“Bee is an orphan who lives with a carnival and sleeps in the back of a truck. Every day she endures taunts for the birthmark on her face, though she prefers to think of it as a precious diamond. Then one day a scruffy dog shows up, as unwanted as she, and Bee realizes she must find a home for them both. She discovers a cozy house with gingerbread trim that reminds her of frosting, where two mysterious women, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter, take her in. Whoever these women are, they matter. They matter to Bee. And they are helping Bee realize that she, too, matters to the world—if only she will let herself be a part of it.”

Although a very different book, there were parts of this that reminded me of Wonder. Bee has a disfiguring birth mark and is very determined to hide it, to the extent that she gives herself headaches by pulling her hair tight across her face. Unlike Auggie in Wonder, Bee doesn’t have a strong family to support her and love her. Instead, she is raised by an older girl who works for the traveling carnival who eventually abandons her. It is at this point that Bee goes off on her own, taking her dog and one of the baby pigs with her. She is cared for by two older women that apparently can only be seen by Bee. This is the one part of the story that bothered me – if these woman were ghosts, they should not have been able to do things for Bee. They should have only been able to teach her to do things for herself, which they did as well. Bee is enrolled in school (like Auggie was) and she has to interact with other children, uncaring teachers, and eventually, those who do care. She makes friends and learns to love herself. And in the end, she is able to not only survive, but also to thrive.

Finally, I recently finished reading Playing With Matches by Suri Rosen. I picked this one out because I’m on a search for books about Jewish teens or tweens that might be good for Gabbie to read. This one is considered young adult, and while totally appropriate, it might be just a little more mature than she is ready for. For me, it was entertaining and a fun read.

“When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt — but Raina feels like she’s persona non grata no matter where she goes. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous “MatchMaven,” Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One. A cross between Jane Austen’s Emma, Dear Abby, and Yenta the matchmaker, Raina’s double life soon has her barely staying awake in class. Can she find the perfect match for her sister and get back on her good side, or will her tanking grades mean a second expulsion?”

A mix of funny mishaps and serious issues make up this book. Raina learns how people can be different than who they seem to be at first, and thus reinvents herself. Though she hasn’t always done the right thing in the past, she discovers that she loves helping people and is thus able to right her past wrongs.

Phew. Well, reviewing 4 books at once didn’t make for a simple Friday post! And now I hope I have what to post about on various upcoming Fridays. Let me know what you think of this format as opposed to reviewing one book a week. Thanks!

What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

South Carolina–Riverbanks Zoo

After we spent a bit of time in Atlanta, Dave was off to his work conference and the kids and I headed to South Carolina. My friend lives about half an hour from Charlotte, NC, but in SC, and I wanted to hit both states to check them off my state visitation list, which is how we chose our destination. We decided to stop on the way at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. The zoo wasn’t huge, but there were a lot of cute animals to see and things to do!


It was Zachary’s birthday, so I said yes to rock climbing,which cost extra. Gabbie also wanted to try it. Simon didn’t, but since it wasn’t crowded, they even offered him a turn! He didn’t take the opportunity, but the other kids (mostly Zachary) did get to try multiple parts of the wall!

DSC_0182  DSC_0183DSC_0184  DSC_0185DSC_0186  DSC_0187DSC_0188  DSC_0189DSC_0190DSC_0191

Simon checked out the nearby playground.


And Zachary may have climbed all day if I let him!


Continuing our visit to see animals – can you spot the koala baby?


Since Simon didn’t do rock climbing, I got him a ticket for this train ride. Again, since no one was really there, the driver let Gabbie and Zachary have a ride too.


Love flamingos!


This poor turtle rolled down a hill and flipped upside down! I hope someone came and rescued him!


There was a small aquarium area.


And they had sea lions too.


Do you like to visit zoos when you are on vacation? We do!