Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Food Whore

Oh lambs, how many of you thought I'd be writing something about myself with that title? You'd think that but alas, it's a book review!

Food Whore - Jessica Tom
Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit
Food whore (n.) A person who will do anything for food.

Fresh out of college, Tia Monroe has every intention of taking the New York City restaurant scene by storm. But after a coveted internship goes up in smoke, Tia’s suddenly just another food lover in the big city.

Yet everything changes when Michael Saltz, a legendary New York Times restaurant critic, lets Tia in on a career-ending secret: he’s lost his sense of taste. Now he wants Tia to serve as his palate, ghostwriting his reviews. In return he promises her lavish meals, a boundless cache of designer clothing, and the opportunity of a lifetime. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Tia agrees.

Within weeks, Tia’s world transforms into one of glamour and luxury: four-star dinners, sexy celebrity chefs, and an unlimited expense account at Bergdorf Goodman. Tia loves every minute of it…until she sees her words in print and Michael Saltz taking all the credit. As the veneer of extravagance wears thin and her secret identity begins to crumble, Tia is faced with what it means to truly succeed. In a city where “making it” is the ultimate goal, Tia will have to decide: how far is she willing to go for the life she craves?

Honestly, this book should have been called "Foodie". I consider myself a food whore, but I certianly wouldn't eat at swanky restaurants mentioned in the book because I'm far too picky to even try. I would likely get thrown out. Right out the gate, if you are a fan of the Food Network, consider yourself a rookie foodie, or enjoy going to restaurants with wait lists and highly coveted tables, you are going to love this book. I'm more a fan of a good greasy spoon restaurant so admittedly, I don't get the entire concept around this book. I can't imagine my life being so focused on food, to be honest. But, I've got enough friends to tell me that good food is kind of amazing and that there are people who will play dirty just to get a chance to go to certain restaurants. 

Crazy balls, if you as me. 

But the book is about Tia, who is in love with food and her dream would be a restaurant critic and be wined and dined by the best of the best all for her opinion. A seemingly too good to be true deal lands her in her lap (only after having her internship basically squashed) where she can shop, eat, drink, and be merry and give her opinion on all of it. The only problem is that it isn't her getting the credit for these reviews, it's Michael. While initially she didn't think this would be an issue, as time goes on it does get to be a problem for her and she has to figure out what the next step is going to be for her career. 

Overall? Entertaining book. I will say that by the end of the book I didn't like any of the characters anymore. Like, not at all. Maybe it was meant to be like that, an example of what New York City can do to people or something? I'm not sure. I do highly recommend this if you enjoy reading restaurant reviews or you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, you might know more about the things talked about in the book than I did or what it's such a big deal. Since getting rid of cable and not having Food Network anymore, I've gotten food terminology dumb! 

You can find Food Whore on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, stay in touch with author Jessica Tom on her website, Facebook and Twitter

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Fourteenth Goldfish

So remember how last week I told you I was participating in the Battle of the Books at my kids' elementary school and kind of helping them with the program? Well I finished one book so far, and as I finish them, I'll post a mini review of sorts and maybe a few other things in case you want to read along with me with your 4th or 5th grader.

The Fourteenth Goldfish- Jennifer L. Holm
The Fourteenth Goldfish
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

Obviously, this is a book I would have read as a kid simply because the cover is pretty rad. The book itself isn't long at all, 193 pages, which some kids have already said, "Mrs. Strand.... it's almost 200 pages!!". I usually reply with an eye roll and follow it up with the pages are short. Chapters are VERY short and I managed to read this in just under two hours. Once you get into the story, it's hard to stop. 

We start with Ellie talking about a goldfish experiment she once had and how she thought she must have a really special goldfish because hers never died. Obviously, her mother was just replacing the dead one for a live one all of the time, and that kind of stuck with Ellie. One day her mother comes home after an "incident" with her grandfather and arrives with an oddly dressed boy her age. Turns out, that's her grandfather- he discovered a serum that is essentially the fountain of youth and of course, nobody in his lab believes him. So from then on, Ellie is in charge of Grandpa Melvin, who attends school with her and creates a little havoc but also sparks an interest in science in Ellie who quickly discovers science is all around her. Everything in her life and environment is science, and she embarks on a mission to steal a jellyfish- crucial to Melvin's experiment. 

It's a super fun book, the kids who have read it so far have really loved it. In order to get kids excited about the book, we watched the book trailer: 

I also read an article from the New York Times about jellyfish possibly being a cure for aging, and discussed what the implications would be. What if people didn't age, didn't die?  If your kids are interested in this book, have them watch the trailer and summarize the article for them- it's a fun thing to have in your head as you are reading. I'll have to tell you that this would be a fun Christmas gift for kids ages 10-13, anything older than that and it might not be exciting enough for them. 

The next battle book I'm reading is The Witch From Blackbird Pond, which I confess I haven't started yet. Tonight! I'll start it tonight! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

In the News: Jen wins, ugly cars, bad moms, and bad drivers.

Let's just do it, folks.

Jen WINS everything. God dammit, Jennifer Aniston is just the greatest and she is a thousand times better than Angelina Jolie. You screwed up, Brad Pitt. I cannot stand Angelina Jolie, I don't care if she's adopting a million kids, doing political stuff trying to save people, or having her boobs removed because of cancer. I feel like once you do something so heinous as stealing another woman's husband, you really can't redeem yourself. Brad Pitt has gotten all douchey as he ages and ugh. The worst. Jen Aniston is like, grace and beautiful and I love her. Now that she's married to Justin Thiroux, it's like she has won the lottery. His is gorgeous and hilarious and I love him. I don't know how the universe has not exploded. 

Pull your shit together, Ohio. So in Ohio, people  must be hardcore Halloween enthusiasts who have life like decorations up to scare the shiz out of the neighbors or something. I mean, that's the only plausible excuse that a murdered woman is mistaken for a Halloween lawn ornament, right?

Olivia Pope is not real. Tell me you don't read this story and instantly want to be friends with this moron. Bless her heart, thinking Olivia Pope is real in her drunken state.

Nobody wants your car, Little Tykes. At first I thought this was a joke because a couple of years ago I saw a photo on Facebook that someone had taken in a parking garage where someone had their small vehicle painted to look like the Little Tykes car. But the company itself made a vehicle to model their toddler size version and shocker- nobody wanted it. I mean, who wants to spend money on what looks like a large golf cart? Yes, it can go 70 mph but imagine getting into accident. Good gravy.

Teen Mom Leah, loses custody. Shocker. Once upon a time, when I had cable, I would watch Teen Mom on MTV pretty regularly. Not because it was stellar programming but because I cannot wrap my head around teen pregnancy, at all. I remember being a teen and being terrified to get pregnant. I went above and beyond to take precautions because I knew I wasn't equipped in any way to take care of a baby. I mean, I broke my egg within an hour of the class that makes you simulate having a kid. We only had so many dolls so the rest of us got an egg and I broke mine almost immediately. But Leah was one of the moms who I really thought might get her crap together. But nope, not even close. First off, she basically shits on her relationship with Corey Simms, who seems like a great guy. Cheats on him, gets all whiny when he isn't home because he's WORKING and every time he tries to do something to make it better, she would cry and whine. Fast forward and she's on kid #3, marriage #2, addicted to prescription medication and an overall hot mess. But by god, she's got her nails and hair done all of the time. I'm not saying you have to look like a slob but I am saying that maybe priorities aren't where they need to be and this is going to be for the best. God knows no kid needs to grow up like that.

Oh, the CIA guy was maybe hacked. Awesome. What is insane to me is that we have been talking about Hilary Clinton's email issue for years and the CIA Director's email possibly being hacked? Mentioned so briefly and that's it. I'm not saying that Hilary didn't make a boo boo, but I am saying that I am far more worried about a CIA Director's email being hacked by a god damn HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT, no less that I am about Hilary. It's this kind of thing that makes me want to shake people.

Road rage- I can't even. So there was some kind of incident on the road and this little 4 year old girl was shot by some guy who, apparently, was angry at something her father did while driving. The dad thought he heard gun shots and noticed his daughter was bleeding, so pulled over and tried to help her out. Turns out, she was shot and she later died. Over driving. They caught the guy but details beyond that are slim. Sad stuff.

God damn punks and Twitter. Imagine you're a mother and you just found out your 16 year old boy was hit by a car and died at the hospital. You're there, you're grieving, and all of a sudden, your niece comes to tell you that the person who hit your son posts a picture of his body with the tweet, "I just killed a man, RIP". I mean, ugh. This poor mother. Add to that the driver of the car also tweeted he had been ingesting "lean" which is cough syrup and soda (Which, gross. I mean, come on. Whoever thought that was a good idea is an absolute moron.). Both tweets have been deleted but the end of the article where the mom said she doesn't want to go home because she has to pack her son's clothes and give away his shoes? Ugh. Just makes my heart hurt for her.

OK, lambs. That's it for this week, I'll have more next week. I'll have a Try It Sunday for you this week, and lots of good posts for next week. Follow me on Bloglovin so you don't miss anything! 

Welcome to Sara's Organized Chaos

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Battle of the Books: Elementary Edition

All of my readers know I am a huge fan of books and I read all kinds of books. I'm willing to give every genre a couple of tries and I can go into books with an open mind. Something that has been really important to me is to pass down my love of reading to my children, but more importantly, to other kids. I don't think my childhood would have been as great if I didn't have access to so many different books. Some of my best memories as a kid were in libraries or getting books for Christmas, or that rare time when my mom would let me buy one from the store when she had extra money.

My dream job was always to be a librarian. I wanted to work in a school either as a teacher or a librarian because some of the best people in my life have all been teachers. I wanted to be that super enthusiastic person that kids thought was just a hair on the side of crazy but also contagious and they would pick up a book and get it. Last year I was the library assistant at my kid's school and I have to be honest, it was one of my best jobs. Watching kids pick out books, helping them find new stories, reading with them, watching them excitedly race to get another book by the same author- those were all of the best things about my job. My favorite part of the job was easily the Battle of the Books.

If you aren't familiar, Battle of the Books is a reading challenge geared towards fourth and fifth graders here and the kids read books from a specific list. The guidelines in our district is that they read the book, we have them do a story map to make sure they understand the main parts of the story, and they need to come up with at least five questions for the book that we can use to quiz kids. In the spring, kids are divided into teams and we hold practice battles and the librarian and I ask questions from books and the students have to come up with the answer AND author of the book. The top three teams from our school go on to compete at the middle school against all of the elementary schools in our cities. I believe it's the top three teams from there that advance to Ashland, Wisconsin, where they compete against kids across the state. And then I think there might be another step beyond that, but our school has never made it beyond Ashland.

So this year, because I couldn't find affordable daycare for Penelope, I had to resign as the library assistant. Which, I won't lie, I was pretty upset about. That was basically the closest I'll ever get to being a librarian because I can't afford to go back to school. The really great thing is that I was able to stay on and volunteer for the Battle of the Books and I have been since the beginning of October. We have the kids signed up and they've started reading. I'm reading right along with them, doing the work, and the returning students from last year knows that Mrs. Strand makes hard questions for them. I'm trying to find activities to go along with each story to make Battle of the Books fun and engaging for them, and keep them coming every week.

Here is out reading list for this year, a great mix of classics and new:
Some of my book reviews coming up are going to be off of this list, so if you have an elementary age child(ren), stay tuned because I'll be reading some great books that might be a good fit for them! 

Welcome to Sara's Organized Chaos

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dying lonely.

Once upon a time, I was in my early twenties, fresh out of college, in search of work. I put my resume and application into a senior volunteer program who was in search of a Program Assistant. The job was paying $10.08 to start and that was unbelievable to me, I had never made that much per hour in my life so I figured it was a long shot I'd even get the job.

As it turns out, the Program Director loved me and hired me on the spot. I was over the top excited to start my first "real" job post college, long before my student loans were going to be due.

On my very first day, I got a brief orientation of what I was going to be doing (a lot), we went shoe shopping, and I dropped off dry cleaning (which I had never done before so that was kind of exciting), and I learned that my first job every morning was going to be to read obituaries. Not just the local ones, but the ones from each county and city we served, which was a pretty vast area. I was to look at the names and compare it to the active and retired volunteer list to see if we lost anyone. At first, it wasn't a big deal because I had never met these people and I didn't have any kind of connection with them.

Fast forward a year and I had grown pretty attached to the volunteers. I'd talk to lots of them daily, some to call with questions and some who were clearly lonely. I was getting married shortly after starting so some would call and offer me advice for becoming a new bride and potential mother. I'd see them at monthly meetings and they'd tell me I'm losing too much weight or too thick in the hips, ask me about my husband and when were we going to have kids. Every month these men and women became like surrogate grandparents for me. They took an interest in me, I heard some fantastic stories, and I gained a better understanding of aging that I never would have had without this job.

Then I went to the very first funeral I have ever attended in my whole life.

It was for a volunteer, died of natural causes, alone at home. I knew she had children and I thought I would have the opportunity to tell her children what a difference she made in the lives of children at the place she volunteered but also, what an impact that she had on me. She told me of her struggle raising her children alone, being widowed before she was 40, and living off her husband's social security in her final years (she never worked, so she didn't have a retirement fund or her own social security) and how she made it on $310 a month. To me at the time, I couldn't fathom this. I couldn't wrap my head around not being able to buy food when I was hungry, or heat my home when I got cold. I learned a lot of things from her, and some people thought she was gruff but I thought she was amazing.

Except the only people at her funeral was the pastor of the non-denominational church she sometimes attended, the woman who lived across the hall from her in their senior apartment complex, and the complex's secretary. That's it. No children, no friends, just these few people, my boss, and me.

I cried for her. Not because she was gone, she had lived a long life and she went peacefully. I cried that, as it turns out, she had some kind of falling out with her two children years ago and they didn't even care enough in the end to visit their mother. Their mother. I don't care who you are, I don't care what your family has done, that's your mother. Is holding a grudge really worth it? I mean, sure- maybe if your parents were violently abusive to you, I'd get that. But there is a freedom in forgiveness and these people will never have it.

So as I sat at the graveyard, because she didn't have a service- straight to the grave for her, I thought about all of the people in my own life that would die the same way. I thought about death, and how maybe having a painful death was bad, but maybe being all alone in those final moments is the worst that could happen.

There is an interesting article in the New York Times today that talks about this very thing- dying alone. I really recommend it as a good read and maybe keep it in mind when you think of estranged family or others in your life who don't have a large circle. Be a part of that circle. One of my favorite songs of all time is by Death Cab for Cutie and it's called "What Sarah Said", has a line that says, "Love is... watching someone die." and damn. Isn't that true? Think of how awful WE feel, letting that person pass to somewhere we can't go and leaving us here with all of these emotions, last wishes, things we wished we could have said. That's true love- being the one to sit with that person and helping them pass. To me, that is what sums up love. Love is being selfless. Love is giving what you've got to someone else when they need it. Being that person that someone can depend on, even during the worst of the worst.

So maybe think about that. The next time you run into a senior who gives you attitude- think of the life they've led. Think of the possibility, they may be alone. They maybe have faced tremendous hardships that you can't even imagine. They might be dying alone. Think of that when you ignore your parent's phone calls or texts. And then always ask yourself, who will watch you die?

Welcome to Sara's Organized Chaos

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Fat girls, rejoice- there is a book for us!

Dumplin' - Julie Murphy
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Remember when I told you about my very first OwlCrate box? Well this is the book that I had received but I'm only now getting to it. I know, it's taken awhile but at least I got it read before my next box arrives, right? Let us all call it a win anyways. 

First up, the book is geared towards a YA audience but I don't even care because I could absolutely identify with Willowdean. All of the teenage awkwardness came rushing back and it was such a reminder of what high school was for so many of us who couldn't fit into a cheerleading costume to save their life so they just did nothing at all and had no boyfriends and worked at a fast food restaurant every weekend because she was guaranteed to be the only one available because you didn't get invited to anything. Willowdean is just like me, and that's why I love her. The other great thing about this book is that not only could my teenage self relate to this, but my grown up self can too because the things Willowdean feels about herself doesn't go away with age, sometimes it actually just gets worse. 

So let's talk about the book. We have Willowdean, also known as Dumplin', and she's the teenage daughter of a former hometown beauty pageant and the niece of a dead aunt who was morbidly obese. Willowdean isn't thin by any means but she's just really realistic about it. She has her best friend Ellen, who is skinny and tall, and they are basically like sisters from another mother. But as is the case with high school, the drift apart a bit and their friendship is tested, as a result of new friends and you've guessed it- the local beauty pageant. Meanwhile, Willowdean has her eyes set on her co-worker Bo, who is athletic and model worthy and when they begin testing the waters, Willowdean doesn't feel confident enough in her own skin to accept that someone of the opposite might actually be attracted to her. She assumes the worst and worries that she'll be that girl with a hot boyfriend and everyone will wonder how did SHE get HIM. 

The best part of the book for me was how much I related to her. It was like the author knew me personally and was like, "Let me write a story about her as a teenager and see what happens" and it was so spot on. One line that I'm strongly considering framing for my bookshelf is on page 207, 

"There are moments in my life when I feel like I know everything and that I've left no rock unturned. But things like this remind me of how small my world is." 

Like, DAMN. Nevermind this was part of a passage where Willowdean and her group of fellow unattractive friends join the local beauty pageant as way to say, "Hey- we're ugly and/or fat but we can totally participate", and they find themselves at a Dolly Parton night at a gay bar. Which is something that would totally be something I would inadvertently attend. 

Even better is when we get to pageant training and the absurdity of it all, and you are reminded this is taking place in the deep south and there are things like ice tea and barbecue ribs you don't mess around with. Page 335, 

"They serve us barbecue for lunch. I think that maybe lunch is some secret component of our final score because there is no higher achievement for a southern woman than the ability to eat barbecue and walk away stain free."

The entire book is about Willowdean trying to get through being a teenager, trying to learn how to love herself for what she is, trying to accept compliments and love from someone else, working on the rocky relationship with her mother, repairing her friendship with Ellen and.. Bo. Oh Bo. I really liked Bo. 

I absolutely adored this book and I really enjoyed every second of it. To be honest, I don't know why this book is getting mixed reviews because I thought it was highly entertaining. The only fault I can really find in it is the ending felt rushed. Like we worked so hard to get there and it didn't leave me fully satisfied. Not everything gets an "ending" but it isn't enough of a flaw to mark the book down or to not recommend it fully. I know some people are slamming this as a skinny shaming book and to that I say, oh stop it already. Seriously. Stop it. It's like these reviewers have forgotten what it was like in high school. The author nailed the inner voices of teenage girls perfectly. Anyways. 

I totally recommend it. I loved it and it's a fun read. You can find it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Happy reading! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Carrying Albert Home

I am telling you right now, if you are one of my friends who I normally give a book to for Christmas, this is probably going to be it because I enjoyed this book so much.

Carrying Albert Home - Homer Hickam

Big Fish meets The Notebook in this emotionally evocative story about a man, a woman, and an alligator that is a moving tribute to love, from the author of the award-winning memoir Rocket Boys—the basis of the movieOctober Sky

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam (the father of the author) were high school classmates in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked with a dancing actor named Buddy Ebsen (yes, that Buddy Ebsen). But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree days with Buddy every day because of his unusual wedding gift: an alligator named Albert she raised in the only bathroom in the house. When Albert scared Homer by grabbing his pants, he gave Elsie an ultimatum: “Me or that alligator!” After giving it some thought, Elsie concluded there was only one thing to do: Carry Albert home.

Carrying Albert Home is the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1000-mile adventure. Told with the warmth and down-home charm that made Rocket Boys/October Sky a beloved bestseller, Homer Hickam’s rollicking tale is ultimately a testament to that strange and marvelous emotion we inadequately call love.

Oh lambs. I've been told that when I write a book review, sometimes you can tell how much I loved the book by the way I talk about it. I sure hope that comes across in this review because this was such a tremendously wonderful book. Truly. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love it. 

The book is told by Homer Hickam, the son of Elsie and Homer, and he's pieced this story together based on the snippets of the larger story told to him while growing up. His parents would casually drop a statement like, "She learned how to do that when she was with those damn bootleggers." and then give him a small sampling of the story. The story of course, was when they took their trip from West Virginia coal mining community to Orlando, Florida on the mission to carry Albert home. Albert, of course, was Elsie's pet alligator that she had since he was a baby and treated much like a cat, honestly. He was given to her after her wedding to Homer by an old love she still carried a torch for, and so obviously Homer wasn't pleased. After some time, Homer made her choose Albert or him and she reluctantly chose Homer. On the start of their trip, they also acquired a rooster (or really, the rooster chose them) and the rooster also goes on their travels. 

The really spectacular thing is that all along their trip they meet fantastic people (Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck is a sampling- CAN YOU IMAGINE?!) who later become icons in American history. Add that to the story taking place during the Great Depression and you have a great setting, a fantastic adventure, and a couple trying to make it work. Homer, desperately in love with Elsie, and Elsie, who hates coal mining and never wanted that to be a part of her life, kind of come together on this trip. I worried the entire book about Albert, are they really just going to leave this domesticated alligator off on his own? What will become of him? 

Honestly, at first I didn't like Elsie at all (except her unabashed love of the alligator made her pretty endearing) but the more I read, the more she reminded me of the senior volunteers I had once worked with. I think, given the times they were living in, you really had to be spectacular to get through it and Elsie was. One line in the book isn't funny at all, but I absolutely laughed because I remember a volunteer telling me that she knew she was just about dead when her son came to see her. 

In October 2009, my mother lay on her deathbed, clearly disappointed. She was ninety-seven years old and had hoped to live to be one hundred but, based on her doctor’s candid report and the fact that her second son was uncharacteristically hovering about, she knew she probably wasn’t going to make it.

It's certainly not funny to laugh when a person is at their end but then I thought, if only one tenth of this story was true versus family legend, what an amazing adventure she has. I certainly can't imagine any of that to happen in today's times and maybe that's what makes this book so special. Honest to goodness, this might be my number one book of the year. This will be a book I read again and again and I will likely read it to my children because it was just a fun journey.

And I am a sucker for old photographs, so at the very end of the book we get pictures of what Elsie and Homer looked like back then and some of the other characters mentioned. And I won't lie, I cried at the end. I really was so concerned about this poor alligator. I became attached to a damn alligator, you guys. Seriously.


I cannot urge you enough to purchase this book (Amazon or Barnes & Noble) because truly, it's such a great story that makes you laugh at the absurdity of it and honestly, this makes me want a pet alligator. I will call him George. Even better, follow the author on his website, Facebook or Twitter

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Try It Sunday: EASY Caramel Bars!

I'm sorry I haven't been updating this feature as frequently as I should, but I figured I'd come back with a great one for you!

Easy Caramel Bars
1 package of yellow cake mix
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
36 Rolo candies

 First things first, preheat your oven to 350, and while that's happening, cut your Rolos in half.

Next, you will need to get out a mixing bowl and get your ingredients together:
Everything EXCEPT your Rolos. The batter is super thick and sticky.

I highly recommend that you line your pan with foil and spray the HELL out of the foil with a non stick spray.

Put HALF of your batter in the pan.
Be super patient, this is time consuming because it is so thick and sticky. You'll bake this for about 10 minutes.
It will look puffy and set.
Put your candies on top. Now, the recipe calls for 36 but I didn't use all of them. I basically ate the rest, so I still think you should have all 36 handy.
Then you are going to cover your candies with the rest of your dough. Again, this is such a pain because it's so sticky.
Bake for another 25 minutes and cool on a wire rack and then cut. Even though I used foil and a ton of spray, my bars did stick a bit so I think I will use more spray on the sides of the pan.

These are addicting! I made these for a parent teacher conference dinner and they were all gone by the end of dinner with a note asking for the recipe. I love cake mix recipes the best, so easy and we always have one on hand! I bet you could even use any flavor of cake mix, I might try a chocolate next time to see if it works. But this is a GREAT option if you like bars, don't like lots of ingredients, and need a cheap option for dessert!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Nonsense Show

I am so, so, SO excited and over the moon to have a chance to review Eric Carle's new book, The Nonsense Show.

The Nonsense Show - Eric Carle
The Nonsense Show

Ducks growing out of bananas? A mouse catching a cat? What’s wrong with this book?

Yes, there’s something strange, something funny and even downright preposterous on every page of this book  But it’s not a mistake – it’s nonsense!  And it’s also surrealism. Nonsense lies at the heart of many beloved nursery rhymes.  Children readily accept odd statements like “the cow
jumped over the moon” and “the dish ran away with the spoon.”  This fanciful bending of reality is also basic to surrealism.

In this book, nonsense and surrealism combine to spark creativity and imagination.  What’s true? What’s impossible? What’s absolutely absurd? From Eric Carle, creator of the classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, comes a book to make children laugh and think, preparing them for a
lifetime of loving both words and art.

Following on the heels of The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (an homage to the artist Franz Marc and expressionism) and Friends, with its semi-abstract artwork,  The Nonsense Show  forms a trilogy of sorts, dedicated to introducing young readers to different styles of artwork without ever overlooking the need to, first and foremost, appeal to children and their love of play. One of the true legends and pioneers of picture book making continues to expand and challenge the genre. 

First and foremost, I am probably biased because I am a huge fan of Eric Carle. We have so many of his books and my children love his illustrations and we never tire of his wonderful stories. When this book showed up at my house my kids got SO excited. We read it immediately and my kids loved it. The great part is that we recognized so many things from some of his other books and as usual, the illustrations were on spot. 

As an extra bonus, I decided to read it to three first grade classrooms who are actually celebrating Eric Carle as their author of the month and these kids were SO excited to see the book, read it with me, and talk about why each page was silly. The children were all laughing, they liked how the book had lots of opposites (the lion taming the people, the rabbit pulling a man out of the hat, etc), and their favorite was the duck with human feet and the horse/human switching heads. The children also really enjoyed the illustrations with Eric Carle's distinctive artwork and a few even noticed his author photo on the back cover was altered! Each page is a different silly photo with an even sillier description of what happens during a Nonsense Show. 

It's books like Eric Carle's that can really jump start the love of reading and literature and his career is epic. To think this may very well be his last children's book, well that's kind of sad. I understand it though, he's reached an age where anyone of us would want to be retired and enjoy life. But with that in mind, this would be a great note to go out on- this book is funny, it's silly, and it's a great family read. If you have little ones, this would be a great addition to your family library! 

You can get this book on Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble. Seriously, this is going to make a great Christmas gift for any child in your life, I highly recommend it! It's perfect for younger children who cannot read on their own yet, those just learning their sight words, and even those who are fluent readers! 

In the News! Yes, I still watch the news.

I know, I know, I KNOW it's been a few weeks since I've done this but what can I say? I actually have a life outside of blogging. I know, that also is crazy. But I haven't stopped reading and watching the news, so here we go.

Bristol Palin- just stop it. Not only is she upset about a story that was proven to not even be true but let's be honest- I think Bristol Palin is the last person who should be railing against free birth control to prevent teen pregnancy.

Hayden Panettiere has post partum depression. As someone who has had post-partum depression, I totally applaud her. Having post-partum depression is awful and there stigma around it is even worse. People automatically assume you don't love your child and what kind of mother are you? But it has nothing to do with that. Hormones are awful and the fact she recognizes she needs to get help is huge, so many of us don't get to that point and suffer quietly.

Man beaten at church. A 19 year old boy has died after being beaten, along with his 17 year old brother, at church by his parents and other churchgoers. Supposedly it was to get them to confess their sins but honestly, if this is what God wants then God is the worst. It makes you wonder at what point do a religious person turns into a fanatic to a nutjob.

Get your shit together, Shonda. I swear, if Shonda is going to do the same exact story over and over again on Scandal, I'm going to lose it. The fact that show fans aren't rioting over the repeat of story is beyond me. Olivia and Fitz, together, broken up, together again, broken up. It's like she can't make a definitive decision and move the show forward.

Man kills boy while mom was working.I'm getting really tired of low life assholes who beat a child to death and then say that they didn't beat them, the child fell. I'm sorry, but you don't get a lacerated liver from jumping on the bed. Ugh. The worst thing is not knowing who you can trust with your children. I can't even imagine what that mom is going through.

Short list this week! I have lots of stuff on my plate, some cool updates next week and a recipe for a super easy caramel bars and that'll be live on Sunday!

 Welcome to Sara's Organized Chaos

Thursday, October 15, 2015

If you smell bleach, you need to be worried.

I don't always post certain things on my blog because I don't think people who aren't living it day to day would necessarily understand. But then time goes by and I think yes, I will share that because sometimes it would be nice to know someone else just gets it and I'm not the only one feeling the way I do.

I guess that's the whole purpose of a blog, is it not?

A few weeks ago I was feeling particularly low about myself and life in general. It's no surprise that since having Penelope, my body hasn't gone back to what it was, what took me so long to get to, and it's upsetting. It's frustrating, it makes me angry, it makes me feel defeated and it makes me feel like maybe I'm really meant to be a fat girl. Maybe I'm not supposed to be thin and maybe that's why it's such a damn struggle to get anywhere.

It all kind of came to a head about two weeks ago now when Matt basically let me know that yes, I've physically changed and yes, it's kind of an issue for him. But then he quickly back tracked and tried to make it sound less harsh than how it originally came out and let's be honest, there is no way to un-ring that bell. The damage was done and I was hurt.

But then the next day, in true Sara fashion, I got angry.

How fucking dare you criticize me. I've had three kids. I was never a thin girl to begin with. Yeah, maybe I don't exercise as much as I should but my level of exhaustion is cannot be accurately measured. You know why I don't feel like going out for a 3 mile walk/run? Oh, because I've been with a baby all day, hauling kids around, cleaning the house, running errands, and trying to minimize what my husband has to do when he gets home from a 14 hour work day. I kind of just want to go to sleep by 5 p.m.

The only way I know how to work through my anger without freaking out on people is to clean.

So that's what I did.

I sorted all of our winter gear in our front porch, made donation piles and washed everything else that we can still use. Cleaned the floors, moved the furniture around.
Washed all of the windows, cleaned the picture frames, and cleaned out the kids' art cabinet.
Then I took a break and read in my sunny porch area.

I had to each lunch and then I realized, I haven't cleaned my fridge in awhile.
So I took the son of a bitch apart, cleaned everything, and wiped all of the bottles down.
I also took apart my freezer, which was no east feat because freezers on the bottom are the WORST. I hate them.

Needless to say, my entire kitchen area smelled like bleach and you could have done one of those germ tests in my refrigerator and came back with nothing. It worked because when Matt came home and got hit with a wave of bleach smell, he knew he was in trouble. Didn't say a word to me all night.

I stewed for another week (I'm a Pisces, it takes me awhile to mentally go through things), I stupidly signed up for my first half marathon. Can I run around the block without wheezing and gagging? No. But that is a post for another day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mailbox Swap!

Oh man, I totally almost forgot to get this post out!

So this is my second month doing the Mailbox Swap for a Facebook group I'm in. For the month of September I got partnered up with my friend Shirley so I knew my box was going to be on point because she knows me well enough that I would trust her to clean up any of my stuff that might be best if nobody saw them when I die.

When my box came I had just gotten a text saying she forgot a book but that would be coming separately. Which, FUN.

Her packing skills are not on point like mine. She says I could get a body into a handbag and I'm certain that I could as well.
So I got this super adorable wall hanging that I am totally going to put pictures and artwork on. I got a shit ton of candy that I may or may not have eaten. The orange slices were my lunch and I am not ashamed of that. I got a super cute spatula, washi tape (which I'm sure came from her hoard and she's trying to bring me to the dark side), and then this:
Not going to lie... I'm kind of scared. Jackson is not scared. Jackson is all in and thinks this is HILARIOUS. But let's be honest, I'm poor and out of chapstick so tough times call for this.

She also sent me kiddos Flarp which is driving me up the wall. I actually am hearing fart noises in my sleep because when Jackson can't sleep, he's in his room playing with the Flarp and making the loudest possible noise that he can. Touche, Shirley. Touche.

But the best?! Is that Shirley and I are partners again for October and I already have an epic idea for her box. Honestly, I might have to bow out after it because I don't know if I can top it. EEK!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Boo At The Zoo, Halloween season has started!

Honestly, it doesn't feel like October OR Halloween until we have gone to Boo at the Zoo. Every year it seems like the weather can be gorgeous or brutal and thankfully, this year we picked the weekend it was gorgeous.

Our poor little Lake Superior Zoo has had a rough few years. First we had a flood that not only killed several animals but basically ruined a bunch of habitat areas for animals. Which long story short, some of our favorite animals that survived have gone to other zoos because we don't have the money to fix up their living areas. Combine that with decreased funding, decreased attendance (through no fault of theirs), and some City Councilors who want to get rid of it all together, it struggles. We absolutely love the zoo. We can't go often because it IS expensive for us (this little outing cost us $40, but it will be more once Penelope is older), but when we do go, we always have fun.

This year for costumes was a struggle because again, we're poor. Penelope is a duck because it was the only costume left in her size when Target had a one day only 40% off costume flash sale. Olivia is a witch and Jackson is Iron Man because again, the only costumes left in their sizes when Target had a buy one/get one costume sale last week. So.. nobody's first (or second, or third) choices but we made it out the door with no tears.

Plus, it was such a warm day that nobody had to bundle up in winter gear! Woo hoo! I will say though, Penelope wasn't too impressed with her costume but she pretty much just licked it the whole time so we'll call it a win.
Easily the best part of the day was that ALL of the animals were really active! We spent more time walking around the zoo because all of the animals were out and about. The tiger came by the window a few times.
We saw the Flemish Giant Rabbits, and we got to hear Matt tell us all about them because this is what he raised in his 4H days as a kid. He says I can't have one though.
Jackson actually went up to people, all on his own, which is usually not the case. Most times he won't go to new people without his sister with him, so that was good to see.
Also? Our zoo does amazing themed areas. Seriously, whoever puts this together does such a fantastic job. In the primate area it was all designed around Nightmare Before Christmas and I can't say that I've ever seen that movie, but apparently my kids have and wanted their picture next to the tree.
Obviously the best part of the zoo is the Barnyard Area. Sadly, it wasn't "open" but I got to see the llama.
And my beloved goats. This one REALLY wanted to be my friend AND come home with me. I do not understand why Matt is so anti-goat. He even refused to take my picture with the goat.
But next to it are these little statues and Olivia said she wanted her picture on a goat.
Then my failure as a mother comes through after Jackson declared he wanted to sit on this goat. I had to explain to him it in fact, was not a goat, and he told me I don't know anything. So. There's that.
Penelope missed pretty much everything because all of her costume licking made her sleepy. Duck down.
Oh! But the zoo has wallabies now! I kind of want one of these as well.

Outside of the Australian exhibit though, there was this incredibly creepy guy with the scariest costume/face mask and he stood literally inches away from me. I turned around and not only did I scream, I almost peed my pants. He just stood there like a complete freaking creeper. Ugh. Not to mention that we saw a mom dressed as a sexy nurse and it was pretty clear she was not wearing underwear. It's like you want to shout at these people that this is a family friendly event and if you want to dress as a serial killer and/or hooker, maybe save it for the countless bar parties in the area.

So while waiting in line for candy, Jackson gave me his best super hero pose. Looks a little more Saturday Night Fever, but I'll take it.
Oh! Inside the main building it was a Harry Potter theme! I'm so sorry I didn't get a picture of the stuffed bear (it's massive, seriously) dressed as Dumbledore. Or the sign above the women's bathroom saying "Moaning Myrtle's Washroom". But I did get the kids' picture taken on the wanted poster.
 Such a fun time wandering in there.
We sat outside for awhile so the kids could eat some candy and we could enjoy the last of the nice days without having to be bundled up.
All of my kiddos. It still feels weird to see another cutie in these pictures.
Overall? The day was good. We had such a good time, spent a couple of hours walking around, saw a few familiar faces, thanked a local police officer for doing what he does for his job (and he seemed taken aback but also grateful), and spent time all together for the first time in awhile. We really don't get many days together as a whole unit so it's nice when we do.

BUT. We're officially broke now until the 21st so no more fun for us. Next weekend there are some free local activities in our city so I'm hoping to take the kids there for a bit. Still not sure if Penelope will trick or treat with the big kids and I, we'll see how the weather is, I suppose.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Line of Blood

Maybe the fact I've been watching a lot of crime shows is why I really enjoyed this book. Give me crime and family drama any day!

A Line of Blood - Ben McPherson
A Line of Blood: A Novel
A London family must deal with the murder of their secretive neighbor and the nerve-wracking police investigation that follows in this highly provocative, intensely twisty and suspenseful debut thriller that will have you guessing if one—or all—of them is guilty

For Alex Mercer, his wife Millicent and their eleven-year-old son Max are everything, his little tribe that makes him feel all’s right with the world. But when he and Max find their enigmatic next door neighbor dead in his apartment, their lives are suddenly and irrevocably changed. As the police conduct a methodical investigation, Alex becomes increasingly impatient for them to finish. After all, it so clearly was a suicide.

But as new information is uncovered, troubling questions arise. Why was the neighbor charging his home improvements to the Mercer’s address? How did a possession of Millicent’s end up in his apartment? And what has Max been listening to through the common wall they share with the neighbor? As the knot of suspicion grows tighter, this close-knit family begins to crack. Is Alex really the loving husband he professes to be? And where does Millicent disappear to on those long walks, stewing over something she can’t forget?

Each of them is suffering. Each has something to hide. And as they each question how well they really know one another, the Mercers will be forced to decide how far they’ll go to protect themselves—and their family—from investigators carefully watching their every move . . . waiting for one of them to make a mistake. 

After reading A Line of Blood, you will never look at your loved ones the same way again.

First of all, it is going to take everything in me to NOT squeal and tell you who the murder actually is and why. Everything, lambs. Everything. Mostly because it's so unthinkable and I look at the people in my own little family and I can't connect it. I can't connect it, which is what makes this novel phenomenal. Is it slow? Kind of. But did it read almost like a British episode of Law & Order? Absolutely. Gut punches and all. 

It all begins with Alex and his son Max, who basically trespass into the neighbors house after their cat, and find the neighbor dead. Naked in his bathtub, he's very clearly dead. Alex, obviously stunned, returns home with Max in tow and is absolutely convinced his son is irrevocably scarred after seeing a dead body. The wife, Millicent, is such a strange character. Right from the beginning, I honestly suspected her of something just because she disappears and her husband doesn't know where to. Max seems to hear and see everything, like most kids, and his parents are seemingly oblivious to what he knows. 

It's not so much the "who killed the  neighbor" that carries this book, it's more of what happens to the family as they find out. How they are all affected by it and what it means for them going forward. Sadly, I can't give you much  more that won't ruin the book for you because as the reader, it's super important you discover things at the pace set by the author because you get the feeling of devastation, anger, fearfulness, and more just as the family does. Excellent book. I wouldn't say thriller, but it is definitely suspenseful and it would compare to seasoned authors in this genre with no problem. I highly recommend this is you are a fan of a story that will keep you on your toes! 

You can purchase this book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, of course. Happy reading, lambs! 
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