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family fun memes & carnivals things I learned this month

16 Things I’ve Learned in July

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Emily at Chatting at the Sky is asking us to share what we’ve learned again this month. I really enjoyed playing along with this last month so I thought I’d do it again. Here, in no particular order, are sixteen things I learned this month.

  1. I learned that our local zoo has a bird called a Rhea that looks suspiciously like an ostrich but we are told it is not, in fact, an ostrich, but a Rhea. I’ve decided to call it an ostrich anyway because I’m obstinate like that and it didn’t correct me so I’m assuming he or she was okay with that.
  2. I discovered frozen chocolate covered banana bites – the bites bit is key. They are so much easier to eat this way and really very delicious. Genius.
  3. I learned that when my kids stay up impossibly late to watch fireworks, that they sleep in blessedly late the next morning. Silver lining!
  4. I learned a tremendous amount about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson and all about their time spent in Paris in the 1920’s with a lot of other very famous authors like Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. I learned that Hemingway was a really awful husband and that even before he was a famous author he was pretty sure he was the bee’s knees.
  5. I learned that Bruce Willis tends to start out fairly unimpressive and smart assed in Die Hard movies but after having his family’s life threatened enough he turns into a super hero – it happens so often, it’s no wonder he went bald.
  6. I learned that when I ask my kids “what do you want to do today?” all open ended like with sky’s the limit possibilities really that they will respond with requests like “ride my scooter” and “watch Sofia the First” – I have raised a couple of homebodies just like their daddy!
  7. I learned that there are board games I actually enjoy playing with my kids – MM and I played LIFE together for the first time this month and had a blast. There is life after Candy land people and it is good!
  8. I learned how to make my husband say, “These are the best waffles I’ve ever eaten!”
  9. I learned that my daughter, who just celebrated her fourth birthday, continues to keep me on my toes – ranging from a fiercely independent brute to a meek preschooler who may be terrified to go down that slide after all!
  10. I learned that I should have started watching 30 Rock ages ago because it’s fantastic and Tina Fey is amazing but I’m glad to have finally found it because each episode is only 22 minutes without commercials which makes it really easy to have mini-marathons with it.
  11. I learned that I can entertain my children for hours with paper and stickers.
  12. I learned that I can read three books in three days if necessary. The Selection by Kiera Cass made that necessary this month.
  13. I learned that some people take mustard very, very seriously.
  14. I learned that the woman who voices Merida from Brave was in a romantic comedy with David Tennant and it is fantastic!
  15. In other Doctor Who cast-sightings, I watched Mansfield Park from Masterpiece Theater today and discovered that Billie Piper stars in it and that Niklaus from The Vampire Diaries plays her brother! I learned that he looks kinda like a vampire even when he isn’t trying to and that Billie Piper has a history of loving guys who seemingly have no clue.
  16. I learned that there are weeping angels VERY close to my home, but luckily they don’t seem to have any interest feeding off the energy of my life’s possibilities. I’m not surprised, there are probably far more energetic people than an exhausted stay at home mother. Don’t blink, y’all!

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family fun

Things Loved Recently. July 29, 2013

the selectionI read 3 books in less than a week. The Selection books are my new drug. The last book doesn’t come out until like spring 2014 which means I now have book-junkie itch. I’m trying to ignore it and read The Great Gatsby – the first few paragraphs were almost annoyingly descriptive but it got a bit better. I finished the first chapter and have not completely given up on it, so there you go.

We made very tipsy bread pudding this weekend, mostly following Ree’s recipe but adding extra alcohol and we forgot to add pecans. Irish Cream and vanilla extract are sort of the same thing, right?

decoy brideWe watched this rom/com called The Decoy Bride starring David Tennant AKA The Doctor and Kelly Macdonald AKA Merida from Brave, bt-dubs. I really loved it, and even better, so did Dan. A romantic comedy that both wife and husband can enjoy is sometimes rare, so I feel the need to give it a Big Mention. It takes place on the remote Scottish island of Hegg and the cast is just brilliant. It’s funny and it made me cry and oh gosh, you must see it!

We’re now partway into Season Four of 30 Rock. I know, I am seriously behind the times with this one but I am loving the show SO much – Last summer Dan and I watched all the seasons of the reboot of Doctor Who (we’ve also watched about half of the classic series available on Netflix). This summer we are watching 30 Rock. I recommend both shows highly!

I made homemade French Bread Pizzas this weekend using the recipe linked from Joy the Baker – her suggestions were fantastic and I had a lot of fun coming up with pizza combos. We made a couple pepperoni pizzas, a bbq chicken with mushrooms and garlic and an awesome veggie pizza with diced tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, garlic and fresh basil. All came out fantastic.

What things are you loving lately?

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family fun mommy & me monday photography

Mommy & Me Monday: Mustard, Weeping Angels and a Weekend Wrap-up

mustard museum

There is a museum in our neighborhood that is dedicated to mustard. Yes, mustard. The National Mustard Museum is free and open to the public daily – you can learn all about the history of mustard, see an amazing assortment of mustard, play mustard trivia games, sample different mustard (and salsas, etc.) in their mustard store and buy mustard, mustard books and mustard memorabilia. There is even a mustard tasting bar. These people clearly love mustard.

It’s a small museum and provides just enough fun to make it worth the drive but a short enough experience that you can fit it into a busy schedule easily. We have been meaning to check out the infamous Mustard Museum since we first moved here back in 2009 and we finally made it happen this weekend. We took the kids’ pictures next to a giant mustard bottle, and did all the requisite mustard activities. And just outside the museum… we saw weeping angels.

Don't blink!

Sort of. Minus the weeping. But they were still rather unsettlingly similar to the weeping angels of Doctor Who. So of course I took a picture – clearly, I like to live dangerously:

And then we took pictures of me and the kids in front of the fountain (see top of post collage) so I could share them for Mommy & Me Monday @ Really, Are You Serious. Then we threw coins in the fountain to appease the angels (yes, I know, we are nerds). Then we had dinner.

Other cute happenings from the weekend:

watching the lorax

Watching The Lorax with her bestie after we all had homemade French Bread Pizzas and amazing chocolate chip cookies from Costco (seriously, you need to run there and get some now). These girls are so cute together, it kind of delights the mommies to watch them interact together.

passed out

The lengths she’ll go to to avoid sleeping in her own room. Passed out in the hallway at the top of the stairs.

Not photographed weekend fun:

I read 3 books in less than a week. The Selection books are my new drug. The last book doesn’t come out until like spring 2014 which means I now have book-junkie itch. I’m trying to ignore it and read The Great Gatsby – the first few paragraphs were almost annoyingly descriptive but it got a bit better. I finished the first chapter and have not completely given up on it, so there you go.

Dan and I did a trial packing run to make sure we had enough luggage for our upcoming trip / decide which bags to bring, etc. I was convinced we didn’t have enough luggage – he proved that we didn’t need all the luggage we have. He wins. We are getting supremely excited about this trip – wee!!!

We made very tipsy bread pudding, mostly following Ree’s recipe but adding extra alcohol and we forgot to add pecans. Irish Cream and vanilla extract are sort of the same thing, right?

We watched this rom/com called The Decoy Bride starring David Tennant AKA The Doctor and Kelly Macdonald AKA Merida from Brave, bt-dubs. I really loved it, and even better, so did Dan. It takes place on the remote Scottish island of Hegg and the cast is just brilliant. It’s funny and it made me cry and oh gosh, you must see it!

What did you do this weekend?

Any book or movie recommendations?

Feel free to share in the comments section!

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

Categories
family fun motherhood photography

Her musical ballerina treasure box.

ballerina music box

Her first music box.

It was a birthday gift from her great grammy, along with some adorable bracelets that she wears basically everywhere now.  The music box dubs itself a treasure box because it has tiny drawers on basically every corner of the box to keep your most prized possessions in – so every bracelet now has it’s own special home!

Both kids love to turn the dial and then ever so carefully open the lid and watch the little ballerina spin to the music. Again. And again. And again.

Some things are timeless.

Categories
family fun motherhood photography

A 4th Birthday Celebration Fit for a Princess!

party

We almost didn’t have a party for BB’s 4th birthday. Looking around our group of friends, it has occurred to me that she really only has one female friend her age that would get super excited about the concept of a Princess Party. But when she started announcing all the things she wanted to do at her birthday party, shortly after her brother’s party in April, I knew that I wouldn’t get away with skipping it even if we did have a company picnic that afternoon and her brother and daddy were going to Cub Scout Camp the next day. A party was happening.

So I invited two of our friend families who basically comprise her best friend and MM’s best friend and their associated siblings and Dan’s best friend and his wife for good measure. Enough people to feel like a party but a small enough guest list that it would be pretty low key, which I am loving lately. I ordered a Princess ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, picked up a few princessy decorations and goody bag items for the three girls in attendance and some more boyish and gender neutral stuff for everyone else.

I found some great Disney princess line art drawings on Deviant Art that I was able to download and print for free that the kids all used as coloring sheets while hubby heated up the grill and we waited for guests to arrive. The food was pretty much just staple BBQ stuff – hot dogs, brats, a veggie platter, chips & salsa. We opened presents (just enough to feel spoiled and delighted but not so many that I was panicking trying to imagine putting them all away later) and had ice cream cake and in general kinda just hung out and chatted while the kids played. I didn’t really need to establish party activities because the kids kept themselves busy. I really think ALL birthday parties should be this easy and laid back. It reminded me a lot of my family’s birthday celebrations growing up.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the party or sent gifts or gift cards before or after the fact. BB felt like a True Princess for the weekend and had an amazing fourth birthday!

gifts

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books

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

the selection I have been eager to read The Selection by Kiera Cass since I first laid eyes on the cover art. Reading the description, I was hooked enough to buy a copy stat. Of course then it sat on my bookshelves for awhile waiting for me to be in between book club books and other books that had simply grabbed my attention first, but then finally it was time to read The Selection!

“For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.”

So the story is sort of  like The Bachelor but set in a dystopian future society in which America (the country) is almost unrecognizable, with a new name and new leaders (royal ones) and a new way of life involving a caste system which determines what jobs you can have and how much money you’re likely to make doing it.

But every time a crown prince is of age to marry, they hold a Selection that women from all over the country, regardless of caste, can enter for a chance to woo and marry him. The whole thing is televised and publicized and very much in the public eye – because of course a futuristic America would do that!

So the only thing that kept this from being a five star read for me is that the writing itself is not quite up to par for me – but it’s a book written for tweens and teens so I think that’s likely the reason. This is almost completely made up for by the fact that the story is really good and the characters are fantastic.

This book sucked me in and refused to let go until I was finished a dizzying two days later. If you know me, you know that that is an absurdly fast time for me to read a book. I literally spent all day Wednesday with the book by my side, reading it any chance I got until I finished it that night. It was that good.

Really, it’s the love story which makes this book compelling for me – give me a good love story and I will follow it until the end typically. Add in a sassy heroine who refuses to just do what society asks of her and really makes an excellent narrator as she is very hyper aware of everything going on around her – and two love interests that are equally compelling for different reasons. I downloaded the sequel to the book and a novella short story featuring the Prince before even finishing book one. It was that good.

How long does it typically take you to read a book?

Categories
family fun photography

The “Pay it Forward Sandals” Story.

the pay it forward shoes

We spent her birthday shopping around town a bit – having a bit of a Girl’s Day while the boys were at Cub Scout Camp. I was planning to paint her nails when we got home so I thought we’d look for a cute pair of sandals to show off her toes.

After a couple hours at the mall, we found a really cute pair of golden sandals at Payless that were on sale – score! We headed to the register to wait in line. BB was a bundle of excitment – she let pretty much everyone she met know that it was her birthday – in case the tiara on her head wasn’t a give-away (though really, for her, a tiara is often just part of her regular wardrobe). We kept busy waiting by chattering about how great being four was and what should we do next – we chatted amiably with the sales clerk and the woman in front of us in line and then eventually it was our turn.

BB tends to charm the pants off of everyone we meet and being her birthday, she was in rare form. I’m pretty sure the sales clerk was falling madly in love with her cuteness but I was utterly floored when the woman in front of us in line asked to pay for her sandals – say what?

You hear about these pay it forward stories, but it’s never happened to me and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to. I guess that’s really the beauty of those moments – when they are totally unexpected and out of the blue. I almost protested because we really didn’t need the help financially but the woman looked so thrilled to be able to do it – probably especially because it was for an adorable, friendly girl on her birthday – and the sandals were inexpensive enough that I knew it wouldn’t likely set her back any so I smiled and thanked her about a million times and the sales clerk and I both remarked that we’d never experienced anything like it.

Of course now I will be on the lookout for a way to pay it forward, though I kind of want to save the opportunity for a similarly perfect moment, you know? I was so surprised and flattered by this small gesture – I think of it every time that BB asks to wear these sandals (how can I say no, really?).

Has something like this ever happened to you?

Categories
books

Book Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

the paris wifeThis month, my book club is discussing The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage with Hadley Richardson. I didn’t know much about Hemingway’s personal life before reading this book, much less about Hadley – which I know is probably a major crime for an English major, but I was kind of glad to be able to read this story blind to the historical ending.

Here’s a description of the book from goodreads.com:

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

Things I loved about this book:

  • McClain’s writing style is pretty much to die for – descriptive and passionate – you really get a full sense of Hadley and the world that she and Ernest shared together.
  • Hadley – I am very drawn to character driven novels and this one definitely fits the bill. If you don’t like Hadley, you might have a hard time reading this book – but I loved her and found her to be a compelling main character.
  • The literary references! English majors will rejoice at this book which tells not just Hemingway and Hadley’s story, but also features Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and more.

Things I loathed in this book:

  • Ernest Hemingway – He may be brilliant, but he was an ass – at least in this story. The fact that Hadley put up with all of his shenanigans is a real testament to her love for him or possibly just the time period. He just might win the award for Worst Husband Ever.
  • Marriage in this circle of friends was just a sad, cruel joke really. The insane amounts of adultery and betrayal were heart breaking and I often wondered “Is it the time period? The effects of the war? The literary world? Is this just how a lot of marriages are?” It really saddened me how many of Hadley and Hemingway’s friends were in equally awful marriages.
  • The Other Women in this book really had a lot of nerve. I won’t name names because I don’t want to give any spoilers for people who have yet to read the book and are equally unaware of the historical facts surrounding this crazy Literary Soap Opera!

Basically, I really loved this book and I’m looking forward to my book club’s discussion tomorrow!

Have you read The Paris Wife?

Any other similar historical fiction books you think I should check out?

Categories
books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: July 2013

I was thinking about what to blog about today – BB’s 4th birthday party? The Amazing Pay it Forward Shoes? Yes I definitely want to tell you about those things soon, but then I noticed it’s time for What’s On Your Nightstand? @ 5 Minutes for Books! Who can pass up a chance to talk about BOOKS? Certainly not me!

Never participated in What’s On Your Nightstand? Just answer some or all of the following questions:

What books have you read recently? What are you reading right now? What will you read next? Basically what books are on your nightstand, either literally or figuratively.

Since last month I have read:

  1. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – Finished July 5, 2013 – It was really fun to read a little of the back story on Nicholas Benedict from the Mysterious Benedict books – he was a pretty amazing kid! The story itself stands on it’s own so if you haven’t read the other books in this series, you can feel free to read this one first. I found the book to be well written and funny with plenty of mysteries to solve.
  2. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (July Book Club) – Finished July 21, 2013 – I’m kind of grateful that I didn’t previously know very much about Hemingway’s life, much less his wife Hadley’s, because there was never any moment in this book where I definitely knew what would happen next. Beautifully written, this book was a favorite of mine. I really sympathized with Hadley and found the book to be a fascinating look at marriage, literary history and life in the 1920′s. – Full Review

the selection by kiera cassI just started reading The Selection by Kiera Cass last night. I am definitely intrigued by the story’s premise and the main character, America Singer, is definitely that right mix of a sassy, fiercely independent free thinker who suffers from being in love with the wrong guy, according to her society. Yes, it’s a YA Dystopian Story – my fave! Here’s a quick description:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

So when I finish this book, here are the books from my Summer Reading Challenge I’m thinking I’ll read next:

I have to confess though, my wandering literary eye has been itching to read a few other books that have come into my possession recently. I have been doing a really good job sticking to my original list, but sometimes that gets tough when really good looking books come my way.

Also contenders for upcoming reads:

The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – I downloaded this on impulse on my Kindle the other day for super cheap and I really would like to read it before seeing the movie, plus it would still qualify as reading a book on my kindle which was one of my goals for my Summer challenge.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz which I won in a Goodreads.com First Reads Giveaway. I don’t actually have the books in my hands yet as it still needs to ship out to me – but I think I’ll have a hard time ignoring it when it gets here.

What are you reading right now?