Monday, March 28, 2022

Book Review: Be The Boss Of Your Stuff

I feel like I say it with every post, but life really and truly is kicking my rear lately. If it isn't me feeling like absolute trash, then I'm out of control busy, and God help us all if all of that is rolled into one day because I'm not sure how I'm getting through each day. I have a ton of updates for you.... all in good time. Hopefully. Ha! 

Be The Boss Of Your Stuff - Allie Casazza

Give your kids the decluttering guide that will encourage their independence and create a more peaceful home for your family. Allie Casazza has created a resource for you to show kids how to create and design their own space, offering practical ideas on organization and productivity, kid-friendly inspiration for mindfulness, and interactive pages for creativity.

Allie has encouraged women to simplify and unburden their lives as the host of The Purpose Show podcast and through her first book Declutter Like a Mother. Now she's helping you equip your kids and tweens to discover the same joy of decluttering as they design and create a space that supports their interests and goals, make more room in their lives for playtime and creativity, increase productivity and find renewed focus for schoolwork, learn valuable life skills, and cut down on cleaning time, reduce stress, and feel more peaceful. Your kids will start to understand that the less they own, the more time they have for what's important. Written in Allie's fun, motivational voice, Be the Boss of Your Stuff is ideal for boys and girls ages 8 to 12, includes photography and interactive activities with space to write, draw, imagine, and plan,
shares step-by-step instructions for decluttering, offers added practical, personalized instruction from Allie's children, Bella and Leeland, and is a great gift for coming-of-age celebrations, the first day of spring, New Year's, Easter, birthdays, back-to-school, or school milestones.

As your kids become more proactive in taking care of their stuff, you'll find your whole family has more time and space for creativity and fun. After all, less clutter, less stress, and less chaos in your kids' lives means more peace, more independence, and more opportunity to grow into who they're meant to be.
If you're a mom, you know that one of the more harrowing tasks is spring cleaning. It just is. We do a giant purge twice a year in our house, usually in the fall to really get rid of unused toys and summer clothes, and then in the spring to basically do that but that's really when I take stock of what summer clothes we need and all of that. I dread it but also love it because you don't realize how much anxiety the stuff surrounding you is giving you until you see it leave it your home. 

The worst part of the whole ordeal is the kids. Kids have a bizarre affinity for hoarding weird things. I've found broken toys that are no longer usable but the kids have flat out refused to get rid of them, wrappers from snacks, don't even get me started on those stupid loom bracelet bands that were so popular and are trying to make a comeback and I want them to burn forever, dried up markers, just random things that anyone would normally toss, but kids want to keep it F.O.R.E.V.E.R. 

You can't rationalize with insanity, you have to work with it. This isn't an episode of Hoarders, so we're on our own and tears will almost surely happen. Sometimes the kids cry, too. 

Now that spring is just about here, I'm gearing myself up mentally to do the dance again, so it is the perfect time for this book to arrive. While it is geared toward the 8-12 year old age group, this honestly is a great book for teens too. I think we just assume that by the time kids get to the teen years they have an idea of how they want their room, they have their own system, whatever, but that's actually not true. I think teens need some guidance through this process because the goal is to get them out into the adult world but also being a functioning adult. Aside from that though, your room is a safe space, it is a little haven away from the insanity of school life, even from your own family, we all need a space we can call our own and feel good in. It is so important to give kids that, but also teach them how to make any space that way for themselves. 

The book is an amazing step by step for everyone, and if you personally have a hard time organizing your life, but adult aimed books feel too hard, (I'm looking at you, Marie Kondo) try this. It's everything explained simply, but you can relate to it, and it makes the process incredibly easy. Starting with this book could really overhaul everyone's habits in the house and I don't care who you are, you can always use a refresh. 

The next thing I loved about this book is it asks pointed questions and space to answer them, if you so choose. It has tips for storing annoying things like Legos, what to do with the mountain of art masterpieces each child creates, how to help a child plan their room, checklists to help you decide what to keep, what you need, what you can get rid of, etc. 

I absolutely love this book, I have time blocked off on our family calendar to do this with each kid, on separate weekends because four kids all at once might send me over the edge. I really think going through this will help them develop a system they can use for life and adapt as they get older. I'm also a fan of Easter baskets being something that has small, fun things they can use for spring/summer, but I also love giving a book, so I highly suggest considering this as you make Easter baskets. Or heck- give each kid their own copy and make it step one of the spring cleaning process because each kid is going to be wildly different, and that's OK. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Tommy Nelson Publishers for sending me a copy to review. 

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Book Review: Neon Gods

Man.... it's Monday and though I went on a trip, it feels like I didn't even really get a spring break, you know? On the other hand, having everyone go back to school this week is going to be nice, I'm excited to get back to my boring life.  

I'm also excited to read the next in this series, or literally anything by Katee Robert. 

Neon Gods - Katee Robert

He was supposed to be a myth.
But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell... he was, quite simply, mine.

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth... a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

A modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet.
You know when you see a book all over Instagram and you know you have to read it? That's what this book was for me, and I don't regret it. In fact, I want everything Katee Robert writes, that's how much I loved this book. Also, you know I love a good retelling, and one of my favorite couples is Hades and Persephone, so as soon as I saw that this is exactly what this was? I was all in. 

I was absolutely not disappointed. In this series we have Persephone, who is seemingly given over to Zeus by her mother, and this is the worst case scenario because Zeus has a reputation of basically using his wives and then they suddenly disappear forever, a fate Persephone refuses to have for herself. Suddenly she finds herself running in the night, as far away as she can, and soon finds herself approaching the River Styx. People cannot easily pass over it, and in the shadows, Hades watches the scene unfolding in front of him. He's forbidden to cross, or help anyone cross, so he just watches as this unknown woman musters all of her courage and strength to get across and away from Zeus' guards. Soon, Persephone comes face to face with Hades, the man she always wondered about, who she seemingly lusted for but she doesn't know why. 

Hades now finds himself in this internal struggle on what he should do. If he helps her, he's basically signaling to Zeus he is ready to battle, but if he doesn't, he is all but sealing Persephone's death warrant, and there is something about her... 

This is a romance novel so you can imagine what happens next. I loved this story and I love how Hades wants to come off as hard and ruthless, but all who really know him knows he is anything but. As Persephone gets to know him, she sees all of the aspects of Hades others sees, but she also becomes perplexed as to why Zeus hates him so much. But everyone knows war is coming, and when it does, Persephone knows it is up to her to save the man, and the community, she loves. 

I loved their relationship and how it unfolds, I love Hades so much, he is basically my absolute favorite kind of hero. I had the hardest time putting this one down, but at the same time I didn't want it to end. I honestly have to give this five stars because I bought book two (which is Electric Idol, the story of Eros and Psyche) after reading the first three chapters of this one, so you know I'm all in with this series. 
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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Book Review: The Best Kept Secret

Happy Sunday! I have SO many pictures to share from the trip Olivia and I took, so look for that this week. I feel like I took a ton, but also not enough, if that makes sense. Now that I'm back though, that is such a huge stressor off of my plate so I'm slowly trying to get back into things and get organized again. The sunshine and warmer temps where I live help, too. 

Let's talk books, though. 

The Best Kept Secret - Tawna Fenske

Nurse Nyla Franklin knows three things to be true. Taking care of others brings more joy than a basket full of kittens. A triple-fudge sundae can cure just about anything. And no good ever comes from keeping a secret… So when her best friend spills his biggest one ever, Nyla knows she’s not just holding a secret. She’s holding a ticking time bomb.

Mr. Always Does the Right Thing Leo Sayre knows three things to be true. Piloting smokejumpers over burning forests is the best job in the world. His best friend Nyla is the smartest, funniest, and okay, sexiest woman ever. And pain meds are apparently his truth serum. Now his post-surgery confession has everything flipped upside down and turned inside out… including his relationship with Nyla.

Secrets have a way of piling up, and it’s just a matter of time before someone lights a match. Because while the truth can set you free, it can also burn completely out of control… 

I am so late on getting this review up, but I ran out of time before the trip, so here I am, just late as can be. I finished this up the night before our trip so I've been ready to talk about this one for awhile. 

In The Best Kept Secret, we have Nyla and Leo. Nyla is a nurse and she's kind of a control freak and can't lie to save her life. After an experience where lies ruined things, honesty is the best policy, but Nyla also believes everyone should live by this rule, even when keeping a secret is for the best. So when Nyla learns Leo's secret, she is basically bursting with stress over keeping things quiet. Leo is a really standup guy, who always does the right thing and people can always depend on him to be steady on his feet. Eventually though, being best friends isn't enough, so when things turn into more, relationships are tested and new adventures develop. 

I really liked this one, it's a fast read, funny and sexy. Nyla got to be a little annoying at times because as someone who says she thinks about everyone else, she always assumes she knows what is best without ever really asking someone what they want to do. I know that's a common theme in romance books but it always drives me a little nuts, but aside from that, this was a fun read. If you are looking for something light, with humor and no crazy drama, this is an excellent option. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Entangled Publishing for having me on this tour and sending me a copy for review! 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Book Review: Edward and Annie

It's been awhile since I've done a children's book, but today I have one! It's even about an aquarium I've actually been to!

Edward and Annie - Caryn Rivadeneira

Join famous penguins, Edward and Annie, the viral sensations, as they waddle through Chicago's Shedd Aquarium in this adventure story.

When no one comes to visit the aquarium, penguin pair Edward and Annie wonder, Where did everyone go? This romp through Chicago's Shedd Aquarium takes children and their families on an adventure through the marine world. As Edward and Annie explore the unknown parts of their aquarium home and meet the other wonderfully strange creatures living there, these penguin friends discover that the world is much bigger and more interesting than they ever knew. After much excitement and many surprises, they return to the penguin habitat for the best end to any day: a cozy rest at home.
Maybe for the first time ever, I have actually been to the place the book is from. For real. Picture it, Chicago, August 2012: 
Matt and I brought Olivia and Jackson to Chicago for the weekend and one of our stops was the Shedd Aquarium. If you're in the area, you should go because it's a very cool aquarium and your kids will love it, but you will, too. That's my plug for the aquarium. You're welcome. 

OK, so let's talk about the book- it's cute. It's a super cute book, illustrator Katy Tanis did a great job with each page, truly. I have to mention that my youngest, Lucy, absolutely loves penguins so she was all about this book but towards the end, there is a white-spotted guitarfish named Lucy and she thought that was the coolest, and funniest, thing in the whole world. I did make the mistake of reading this as a bedtime book because it's a little long but it also led to both Penelope and Lucy asking a TON of questions. Just non stop questions. The story is all about penguin sensations Edward and Annie learning about the Shedd Aquarium by taking a tour of the place, so we meet other animals and learn about the animals, but also about exploring and being curious and brave. 

If you have a kiddo who loves animals, or maybe you're looking for a good gift idea, consider picking this up with some tickets for your local zoo/aquarium! Thank you to TLC Book Tours, Tommy Nelson Books, and Shedd Aquarium for having me on this tour! 

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Book Review: 50 States, 500 Campgrounds

Hey- it's March, and do you know what THAT means???? It's my birthday month! I'm turning 40 on the 10th, and that's crazy. I'm not even really excited about that and I feel like that's kind of a bummer. I'm not sure what my problem is this year, but I don't know. It feels like it will be just another day. We'll see. 

50 States, 500 Campgrounds

Plan your next getaway to the great outdoors with this one-of-a-kind resource for campgrounds across North America. In this comprehensive sequel to the best-selling 50 States, 5,000 Ideas, you'll discover the top tent and cabin campsites, as well as RV resorts and glamping destinations around the United States and Canada. Along with destination information—location, contact info, open seasons, and amenities—along with expert recommendations for activities including hiking, biking, and water sports; the best restaurants for days you need a break from the camp stove; and nearby attractions—from sights within nearby national and state parks to local museums. Choose from 10 sites in each state, Western and Eastern Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, including a cabin at Yogi Bear's Delaware Beaches Jellystone Park Camp Resort; a tent near the stunning waterfall at the Grand Canyon's Havasupai Campground; or a cozy yurt in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Whatever your camping bucket list includes, 50 States, 500 Campgrounds has the site for you.
The quickest way to give me wanderlust is to hand me literally any book from National Geographic, because they have a way of making me want to go anywhere. If you know me in real life, you know that I am not an outdoorsy gal, and I certainly am not a camper by choice, but as I as paging through this.... I have to admit I kind of want to do it once. 

ONCE, I tell you. 

The best thing about this book is that even if you aren't a camper, or maybe you're more of a glamper, or maybe you're neither and would rather stay in an RV, this book has something for everyone. Even you, hotel snob. While it isn't an extensive list of campgrounds for each state, it does pick some of the best of the best for you to choose from. Each listing gives you the run down of what you'll find on site from approximate costs, permit requirements, amenities, number of available spots, but best of all- things to see and do. So even if you know you aren't going to be camping persay, you can easily find something to do for your next vacation. A quick introduction to responsible camping is included of course, and each state's section ends with a "something special" mention, and of course, stunning photographs throughout. I also really liked that Canada is included because I live in northern Wisconsin, right at the tip of Lake Superior, so a jaunt to Canada is a half day away, so I know Canada is never out of the realm of possibility for a quick summer trip. For those who want to venture a little farther from home, information for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is also included, so you can go camp on the beach if you'd like. 

Not going to lie, as I was going through this book, I learned that you can camp in Constoga wagons... a bit upgraded from the ones that once roamed the American frontier, but wagons nonetheless. Head to Utah if you're interested in that. Are you a fan of The Hobbit? Maybe you should head to Tennessee, where you can go glamping in a gully hut... which is basically an underground cabin. I actually tabbed this off because we drive right by it on our trips to Florida and back and it would be kind of cool to surprise the kids with this instead of a sketchy motel off the hotel. They'll think we've actually lost our minds. 

I highly recommend this one, or literally any other National Geographic travel book, if you're in the process of searching for your next vacation. You'll end up with a list of places and have a hard time picking just one. Thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour! 

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