Wednesday, January 7, 2015

After - Anna Todd

Welcome 2015!

It is officially a new year, which means new opportunities, new hopes, new dreams and new resolutions.  While I don't generally make too many actual resolutions at the start of a new year, I do think about what I would like to achieve or accomplish in the coming year.  

What would you like to achieve this year?

Do you want to learn a new language?  Take a class?  Lose weight?  Travel to a  new or favorite destination?  Write a book?

All of the the goals that I now have, seem like them are becoming a bit more realistic to achieve. There are apps, devices, and sites that allow you to monitor and track your progress toward achieving what you want.  You still have to put in the work, and make yourself accountable, but with all of the new technology, things that once seemed like they could only be a dream can now become a reality. 

Take Anna Todd for example.  In 2013, this 25 year old decided to write a book using the free social reading and writing app, Wattpad.  She wrote much of the book, After, on her mobile phone while waiting for various appointments and running errands.  As she wrote, she would publish new installments of the book every couple of days using Wattpad. By 2014, After had been read over 1 billion times and had more than 6 million comments.   As the popularity of her story grew, it attracted the attention of Simon & Schuster, who decided to publish the print version beginning in October 2014.   If you are interested in reading it, you can get your copies at Barnes & Noble - http://w.tt/wp or for your e-reader http://w.tt/sns2.



Who would have thought that a simple hobby, some free time, and a free app could create such an amazing success story.  It is truly inspiring to think what we each are capable of accomplishing with the right tools and effort.

So, what is Wattpad?  I know that is the question I was asking myself when I heard about this success story!

Wattpad is a new storytelling experience that connects authors and readers in a social way.  More than 40 million people have joined Wattpad, and there are more than 80 million free stories available. Many authors share their work one chapter at a time.  Readers receive notifications when a new installment is available.  They are then able to share plot suggestions with the author via comments and messages.  What a great way to get feedback on a story!  You know what people like as you're writing as opposed to after you've already finished your book.

Do I have any readers that are aspiring authors?  If so, check out Wattpad and see what you think.  I'd love to hear your comments and opinions.

Disclosure:  I participated in the After by Anna Todd blog program as a member of One2One Network. I received compensation but all opinions are my own.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spicing Up Our Dinner - Ranch Buffalo Shredded Chicken Recipe

Pumpkin LOVES spicy foods!  If you give her a choice for dinner, she is likely to pick buffalo wings. While I enjoy wings as much as the next person, I don't love that they are fried, and more skin than actual chicken.  I was searching for an easier and healthier way to serve her wings and I thought that there must be a way to make them in the slow cooker.   That is when I found this recipe on allrecipes.com.

Chicken, wing sauce, butter, and Hidden Valley Ranch - Can it get any easier?

This is now a family favorite in our house!  Everyone loves the combination of buffalo sauce and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.  We've used bottled ranch as well as the seasoning packets, and love the way it turns out every time!








Monday, October 27, 2014

A Wake Up Call

This morning I went in to wake up my sweet Pumpkin so that she could get ready for school.  She was awake, but lying peacefully in her bed.  I sat next to her, rubbed her back, and whispered, "Good morning Sunshine!"

She looked at me, smiled the faintest smile, and said,  "What day is it?"

"Monday October 27, 2014" was my response.

"I wish it wasn't a Monday.  I just want to stay here in bed for a while."

I gave her a kiss on her forehead and said, "Mondays are tough.  What exciting things do you have on your schedule today?"

She talked a bit about which specials she has, an upcoming test, and getting ready for Halloween.  After a few minutes, she was ready to get up and start her day.

Walking from her room into the kitchen to begin breakfast making, lunch packing, etc.  I got a little teary eyed.  I missed a last.  I remember when every morning I would wake to the sound of one of my munchkins chatting happily, crying, or shouting "Mama!"  Each day, I would wish I could sleep just a little bit longer, wanting "to stay here in bed for a while".  Times have changed.  Roles have reversed. While I love and am proud of my girls and how much they've grown, I sometimes wish I could slow them down just a little bit.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear? - Train's Bulletproof Picasso



The weather is changing.  It feels like fall outside.  I've had to trade in my shorts and tank tops for jeans and sweaters.  With the new season comes new activities, new moods, and new experiences.  All of the music that we listened to on the boat or at the beach just doesn't seem appropriate for soccer practice, homework, "fall" cleaning, and running 5Ks.  Rather than listen to "feel good" music, I'm now in the mood for something with a bit more substance. 

Train has brought that substance in the Bulletproof Picasso album that will be released today, September 16, 2014.  Overall, an upbeat album with deeper emotional feeling than some our favorite summer songs, Bulletproof Picasso has songs that I can listen to on repeat.   To get a glimpse of the style and tone of the songs, take a listen to the title track, Bulletproof Picasso:



While I love the song, Bulletproof Picasso, the album is filled with even more songs that I can connect with on some level.   Don't Grow Up So Fast is a beautiful slower song that makes me think of my children and their race to be "older" than they already are.   Wonder What You're Doing For The Rest of Your Life is a very peppy pop-style song.  It is the kind of song I can dance to in my kitchen with the kiddos on dance-party evenings. In fact, I don't know that I could pick a song that I didn't enjoy on this album.

If you have previously enjoyed other songs by Train, like Hey Soul Sister,  Drops of Jupiter, and Drive By, then I am pretty confident that you'll love this new album too.  

If you want to order this album, head over to iTunes or Amazon.  (At the time of this posting it looks like the price is $7.99 at iTunes and $9.99 on Amazon.)

  * iTunes: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicasso
  * Amazon: http://smarturl.it/bulletproofpicassoAM

*Disclosure:  I participated in the Train Bulletproof Picasso album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Little Things



Sometimes it is the littlest things that make me happy.  When I was recently visiting my parents, my mom gave me this box of candy because she saw it and thought of me.  I'd never had it before.  It was good, but what made it even better was knowing that I was on someone's mind for no special reason.

So, if someone is on your mind today, let them know.  You don't have to find a candy that has their name in it.  Just send a text, write a letter, make a phone call, or do something else that you know will make them smile.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to School with Mabel's Labels

Peanut and Pumpkin returned to school last week.  The return of school means the return of after school activities.  From soccer and running club to piano and guitar, we are now on the run!  I don't know about you, but for us, times of transition tend to result in more items lost and forgotten.

What can you do about all of these items that end up misplaced, left behind, or borrowed and accidentally taken home by the wrong person?  We used to just write them off as a loss.  No one knew who the pencil/shoe/lunchbox/sweatshirt belonged to, so people would take it with the best of intentions of finding the rightful owner.  More often than not, it wouldn't happen.  Even when an item ends up in the lost and found at school, it is rare for the owner to return to claim it.  Often, they'll check when they first lose it, and it won't be there yet.  Once it is returned, the child will have forgotten, gotten a replacement, or just got caught up in the craziness of life and neglect to check again.

The best way to make sure you get your items back is to have them clearly labeled with your name. A lost item with an unknown owner will result in minimal effort in creating a happy reunion.  People are just too busy to search long and hard, especially when there isn't really a huge benefit for them. However, if someone knows who something belongs to, the effort required is minimal to return it safely home. We used to just use a Sharpie to label our important items.  Unfortunately, Sharpie wears off.  It does it so subtly that you don't even realize that your label is unreadable until it is too late.  I knew there had to be a better way, but I was too busy to figure out what it was.

Then, several years ago, we discovered Mabel's Labels.  My grandmother was in a nursing home and many of her items seemed to disappear from her room or wouldn't come back from the laundry.  We looked online and found that Mabel's Labels makes Tag Mates labels.  Tag Mates are sticky labels for clothing. No ironing required!  We ordered some and loved them so much that we started to think about using them for school items as well.

Mabel's Labels has labels for just about anything you'd want to keep track of.  You can buy items individually (if you only need shoe labels, for example), or you can buy them in bundles.  Personally, I love the Tween Pack and the Stylish Scholars Combo.  The Stylish Scholars Combo has over 100 labels in various sizes and shapes that are most practical for labeling your every day school items.  The designs are attractive and fun, and would work for any age.  We ordered a Stylish Scholars Combo with our last name so that the girls could share one pack.  There are more than enough labels for them to share, and we still have some for items that need to be labeled throughout the year.  We may even have enough for next year.  The Tween Pack only has 25 labels, but they are so much fun, that they make a great back to school gift for your child that wants to express his/her unique personality with their labels.   We ordered a Tween Pack a couple years ago.  Because these labels are so unique, the girls use them sparingly.   They place these labels on items like a binder that will be used all year, and can be used again in the future.   Items like pencils or pens get a Skinny Mini label from the Stylish Scholars Combo.

Since we've started using Mabel's Labels, I'm buying fewer replacement items for Peanut and Pumpkin. I think they may end up paying for themselves over the course of a school year.  (I know they did last year!) They also definitely decrease our stress over misplaced and stolen items.  We love our Mabel's Labels for keeping track of all our stuff!




















*I was sent a Stylish Scholars Combo in exchange for my honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way.  All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School Blues (and Hopes)

Today is a day I've been both looking forward to and dreading at the same time.  It is the first day of school for Peanut and Pumpkin.

I am sitting here feeling a bit morose, yet hopeful.  I miss my girls - my reading buddies, my house cleaning helpers, my background musicians, my constant sources of surprise and amusement.  I miss our amazing and sometimes profound conversations.  I love our time together where we can create our own schedule, rules, and fun.  I already miss the random hugs throughout the day for no reason at all.  I miss listening to them play together (even when they argue).  I even miss the constant interruptions when I'm trying to get something done.  (I feel like I should probably accomplish more when they are back at school, but somehow, I don't.)

While there is so much that I miss when my girls are at school, I send them because I have hope.  I hope that they will learn more than I would be able to teach them. I hope that they will develop friendships that will help them through the difficult tween/teen years. I hope to expose them to people that are different than they are.  I want my children to be kind, compassionate, and open-minded.  I hope that school provides them with unique perspectives so that they can make well informed decisions about what they think, feel and believe.  I hope that they will find their voices, their passions, their paths in life that will make them the most content.