Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December Countdown

December Countdown

We started a countdown this year for the month of December, but it doesn't just end on December 25th like most.  We continue until the end of the year, that is why I call it a DECEMBER COUNTDOWN.

I wanted to make it special, fun, and a lesson of giving unto others.  

Each morning they wake up and find an envelope with an activity card.  It might say: MOVIE NIGHT, S'MORES BY THE FIRE, HOT CHOCOLATE TASTE TEST, GO LOOK AT LIGHTS, MAKE AN ORNAMENT, FAMILY GAME NIGHT...etc...

In addition to the activity card, there will be a rhyming riddle leading the kids to a stash of cash if they can solve the clues.  The agreement with the $$ is the kids get to keep half while they donate the other half to a charity.

My daughter chose to donate to the animal shelter.  My son chose to donate to children with cancer.  I have to say that I am really proud of my son.  He has been donating more than half thus far.  He amazes me with his generosity daily.

I'll try to post each day's riddle.  To catch you up:

Day 1.  I'm full of every thing
             I'm bound, not on a ring.
            A through Z
            But the one with all contains me.

The answer was the Encyclopedias, but more importantly, the money was in the Index, which was separate (but contains it all A-Z).

Day 2.  Galloping along in frozen time,
             People bet.  Do you have a dime?
             After my rounds, I'm probably thinner,
             But behind glass I sit, forever the winner.

I realize that probably sounded weird, but I couldn't think of a better idea at the late hour I wrote it.  I was referring to the picture I took at the horse races.  I put the dollars on the back of the picture.

Day 3.  The first is known to twinkle.
              The second is synonymous with dollars.
              Caitlin begs for me.
              Zach thinks I'm yuck.
              No, it isn't tea
              So off you go; good luck!

This one was much easier.  
Zach: "Caitlin begs for me.  I think it's yuck.  That is obviously coffee."
Caitlin:  "Yeah because stars twinkle and bucks is dollars.  Starbucks coffee."
Zach raced to the coffee pot while Caitlin opened the freezer (that is where I keep my coffee).
Zach:  "It's not going to be in the coffee, Caitlin."
Caitlin:  "Oh yeah?  Well here it is!  It was in a bag."

Day 4.  The moon is in front.
              The sun is behind.
              Wear glasses to look
              Or risk going blind!
              Hint:  I'm one of a saga.  For fangs, the girls go gaga.

Zach:  Eclipse.
Caitlin:  Fangs!
Zach:  The Twilight's Eclipse, but is it the books or movies?
He raced to the books and grabbed the Eclipse book.  Then handed it to Caitlin.  
Zach:  You look in the book while I go look in the movie.
Me:  Before you go upstairs, open it since you have it.
Caitlin:  It's right here, Zach!

I'm excited to see what they think of tomorrow's clues!!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fall Off the Bone Turkey

 Fall Off the Bone Turkey  

This Thanksgiving we weren't feeling 100%, so we didn't get to spend the holiday with our extended families.  While the family in TN was making turkey, my parents in SC were making 4 turkeys (yes, you heard that right), and family in NC was making both a turkey and a ham, we were left with no turkey...or so I thought.  My husband made a mad dash to the grocery store looking for a small turkey for our family of four.  The only full size turkeys available were HUGE, so he had an alternate plan.  He brought home a 7.5 lb turkey breast.  Awesome!  I can make this work, I thought. was frozen, and I wasn't sure there was enough time for it to thaw with it being the night before Thanksgiving.  Hmmm....  I scanned ideas on the net and settled on an idea that never would have crossed my mind.  My crock pot was to the rescue!!!!

I know what you are thinking.  How can you cook a turkey in a crock pot, and how on earth will it come out tasting good?  Trust me.  You can, and it does!  And best part is there is no need to baste or watch it.  It cooks overnight!!!!


  • a frozen turkey breast (I used 7.5 lb) 
  • 4-5 stalks of celery chopped
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 5 carrots, shredded and cut into sticks
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick of butter 
  • 1 packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix

  1. Place frozen turkey into crock pot.  If you'll notice in the picture above, I couldn't get the gravy package out because it was frozen solid.  After a few hours of it cooking, it slid right out.  I threw the package away and made my own gravy (see below for details), but you can use it if you like.
  2. Surround the turkey with the cut up vegetables.
  3. Pour the water over the turkey and vegetables.
  4. Cut the stick of butter into thick slices and place on top of vegetables.
  5. Sprinkle the packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix on the turkey and vegetables.
  6. Cut crock pot on HIGH for 1 hours.  Then switch to LOW and cook an additional 10-11 hours.  ****Note: If using a thawed turkey breast, it should only cook for 6-7 hours.
If your turkey sticks too far up above the rim of the crock pot like mine did, simply put a large sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the turkey and fold around the rim of the crock pot.  It will help hold the heat in and help it cook.  I still placed the lid on top because eventually, as the turkey cooked, the lid began to fit properly.

This is what the delicious result looked like!!!!!

When my husband reached in to fetch the turkey out, it LITERALLY FELL APART!  Juicy, Juicy, Juicy, Tender, Tender, Tender!

Once we got the turkey breast meat on a plate, I used a ladle to scoop out the onions and celery.  I then put the tender and flavorful onions and celery pieces in a bowl with 1 cup of the stock (juice) to aid in making the dressing.  The stock was so tasty that there was no need for extra salt or other seasoning.  I don't know about you, but instead of dried bread, I use homemade biscuits.  

To make the gravy, simply use the stock (juice from the turkey) and mix it with a little flour.  Cook it on the stove in a pan.  Voila!  Again, there is no need for extra salt or seasoning.  It comes out perfect!

I am all about gravy!  I love gravy!  I'm Southern!  After I make the gravy, I put my turkey into the gravy to soak up that amazing goodness.  I let it sit for maybe 10 minutes before serving.  

I've got to say that of all the years I've had or made turkey, this was the best.  It far outranks roasted, grilled, and fried turkey.  I think this is going to be a keeper for me.  If I ever have a big crowd over one year, I may need more crock pots!  Ha!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Prisoner B-3087

I'm not sure I have the words to give this book the justice it deserves.  This book was not only moving but inspiring, teaching us as living, breathing humans that no matter what conditions are pressed upon us, we should never give up.  The trials we face in our everyday lives are nothing in comparison to the devastating history of those who had to endure the Holocaust.  

Based on a true story, a Jewish boy of only ten years, Yanek Gruener and his family find themselves under the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over Poland.  They do all they can to stay together and free from the deathly grasp of Nazi hands.  Unfortunately, the arms of the enemy were too strong to avoid.  

One by one the family was taken to various camps.  Yanek was alone to fend for himself until he too was taken.  Plaszow Concentration Camp was his first destination before nine other camps.  No matter which camp he was taken to, they seemed no worse or better than the one before.  They all had three main things in common: work, starvation, death.  It was an amazing feat to have survived all that he faced.  He rode the cattle cars, walked in death marches, witnessed countless murders, tasted ashes in the air, was beaten, and starved.  Despite it all, his one goal was to survive.  If he could keep his head down, remain anonymous (aside from his tattoo B-3087), and work hard, he prayed he would make it out alive.  

It is hard to imagine a time when this was a reality for so many.  However gruesome and terrifying, it is a story that must be told if we are to avoid anything of this nature in the future.  Alan Gratz took the details of Jack Gruener's, or "Yanek Gruener" life and added such detail to create a story suitable for students.  While this book has many details that make the stomach churn, it is written in such a way to avoid scaring or scarring of its readers.  In fact, it is the desire to live Yanek holds on to that leaves the reader hopeful rather than in despair.   

This book was written fully suitable for students or adults who wish to learn the truths behind the gates of concentration camps.  I have been to Dachau--one of the concentration camps Yanek spent time as a prisoner--and though I left with a feeling of sadness, I still had not fully understood the atrocities that had taken place.  Perhaps it is because as a child we are only exposed to Diary of Anne Frank, which isn't a horrible book, but it leaves much to the imagination.  Her words end when she is captured.  Prisoner B-3087 will have the answers...It is the full scope of the unfathomable.  

I received this book courtesy of Netgalley and Scholastic Press.  In no way has my review of this book been influenced by either of these companies. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Moon Over Edisto

Beth Webb Hart's Moon Over Edisto is a book that grabs you by the heart and doesn't let go.  

Julia Bennett's childhood was spent in the South Carolina low country where she enjoyed the leisure of fishing, crabbing, and painting along the shores of Edisto Island.  Her family and childhood were picture perfect until they weren't.  

During their years in college, Julia and Marney were the best of friends.  Because Marney didn't have a family of her own, Julia and her family welcomed Marney with open arms.  Unfortunately, it was Mr. Charles Bennett's arms that Marney ran into.     

Twenty years later the Bennett family is still in ruins.  Mary Ellen, Julia's mother, never quite recovered from the shock of the divorce.  Meg, Julia's sister, holds such a grudge that she even keeps her own husband and children at distance, being sure to keep control as much as she can.  As for Julia, she left it all behind, vowing never to return to Edisto again.  She fled to New York, became an academic and artist, and recently got engaged to a rising art dealer.    

With the new life she was leading and the distractions, Julia thought she had everything under control.  She had fought with her emotions enough--therapy and pills to assist--but they couldn't stay hidden for long especially when Marney showed up on her doorstep pleading for help.  

Marney, a recent widow, has lung cancer and asks Julia to return to Edisto in order to care for her half-sisters and half-brother whom she has never met.  Coming face-to-face with the woman who stole her life right out from under her forced the hidden past to rise like a lump in her throat.    Julia couldn't let her mother do it, and asking Meg was fruitless, so she begrudgingly agrees to help for one week.  

In such a short week, Julia falls in love with more than just the offspring of her father and Marney, but also a doctor who as a teen had stolen a kiss from her.  Some questions still remain: Can Mary Ellen get over her divorce?  Can Meg let go of her grudges?  Which man will Julia choose?  Will Julia ever forgive Marney?   

Being a girl from the south who spent many summers at Edisto Island (not to forget to mention my husband is from Charleston), I really enjoyed this book.  Beth Webb Hart did such an amazing job describing the area that I completely lost myself, imagining all the times I've spent fishing and crabbing out there during the summer with friends.  Such great memories washed over me!  

Aside from my own experiences in the area in which the story is set, the book as a whole is really good.  Laughter and tears will be shed with this book.  

My only complaint is the author's use of the same name for two different characters.  That is one of the main rules in writing.  To avoid confusion, refrain from using the same name for different characters.  There was one sentence when I wasn't sure who the author was referring to until I moved on to the next few lines.  My suggestion is that if she wanted to keep the same name, she should have referred to the younger as "Preston Jr."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mixed Mushrooms and Chicken

This dish is so good but comes with a cost...butter and cream.  Aren't all the best dishes made with butter and cream?  Ooooh It is so worth it, though!


  • 3 Perdue Roasted Garlic and Wine Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts  ***See Note
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 stick of butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 lb of mixed mushrooms, sliced (shitake, button, field, oyster, Swiss brown)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 10 fl oz cream
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (the kind in the shaker is fine)
  • pasta (I used plain, but I think spinach or tomato flavored would be good too)
  1. Put 3 Tbsp of the butter into a pan and cook the (pre-flavored) Roasted Garlic chicken breasts and onions until thoroughly cooked.  Be careful not to dump the juice from the chicken package into the pot...only the chicken breast otherwise the flavor will be overwhelming in this dish.
  2. Begin cooking the noodles as directed.  
  3. Add the remaining stick of butter and mushrooms.
  4. Cook on medium-high heat until mushrooms become tender.
  5. Add wine and boil at medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in cream and boil at medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle and stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
  8. Cook on medium-high heat for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Serve over drained pasta.
  10. Enjoy!
***NOTE:  If you do not have access to these pre-flavored chicken breasts by Perdue, you will need to alter the recipe by adding 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Baked Chicken Taquitos

My step-brother's wife made these a few weeks ago.  I had to force myself not to over-indulge in these delicious and flavorful rolls.  They are so much easier to make than they look.  I was pleasantly pleased, and I practically begged for the recipe.


  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened at room temp
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 package of dry Ranch dressing (do not be tempted to use the whole thing=too rich)
  • 1/4 cup buffalo sauce
  • 2 skinless/boneless breasts of chicken, cooked and shredded  
  • 6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumpled
  • 4 Tbsp green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 20 (6 inch) flour tortillas (do not be tempted to use corn tortillas=fall apart)

  1. Mix cream cheese, sour cream, dry Ranch dressing, and buffalo sauce.
  2. Add chicken, bacon, and green onions, and stir until well coated.
  3. Put 2 Tbsp of mixture onto bottom 1/3 of flour tortilla.
  4. Sprinkle cheeses on top.
  5. Roll tortilla and place seem side down on a lightly greased baking pan.
  6. Spray tops of tortillas with oil.
  7. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.
  8. Serve with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Plain Death

"A Plain Death" by Amanda Flower opens on a country road as Chloe Humphrey hauls her entire life in a rental trailer hitched behind her small car to what may seem like an even smaller town.  If it weren't for the job she were recently offered, she would never have caught herself on such a journey.  

Along the bumpy ride, Chloe spots a young girl being harassed by two men in a green pickup truck along the side of the road.  She did what any responsible person would do.  She rescued young Becky Troyer.  Little did she know that this simple, ex-Amish young girl would be the cause of an even bumpier ride.

Before Chloe knew it, she was thrown into the middle of more excitement Appleseed Creek had ever seen.  Becky began living with Chloe, which attracted more than just her handsome older brother, Timothy, who Chloe had more than once blushed over, but most unfortunately, Becky also attracted the entire town's attention when she killed Bishop Glick who just so happened to be the father of the man she was suppose to marry had she stayed in the Amish faith.  

At first, everyone thought it was an accident, but when police Chief Rose shined light that the brake line had been cut, the realization of murder hung in the air like a bad stench.  Chloe was determined to find out who sabotaged her vehicle and why, just as much as to help her new friend.  She dove head first into the mystery as an amateur sleuth to find the answers no one else seemed to be asking.  Was her brake line cut to hurt Chloe or Becky, and if it was to hurt Becky, how did they know she would be the one to drive the car that day when she doesn't even have a license.  Something else weighed on Chloe's mind, If everyone in Appleseed Creek knew everyone and all their little secrets, how come no one was coming forward about other crime in the area that might have been linked to Bishop Glick's murder?  Chloe was going to uncover the truth even if she had to question every single person in Appleseed Creek including the resistant Amish who seemed to know more than they were letting on.

Usually I am very fond of books written about a world not open to outsiders: the world of the Amish.  The Amish have always fascinated me.  I don't particularly know why.  It could be a mixture of many things: their closeness to each other, their secrecy, their simple ways of life that teach a person to be patient, kind, understanding, and to stop and smell the roses after an honest and long day of useful work....  What ever the reason, I enjoy slipping easily into the pages of a book that involve the Amish.  I feel that for a brief moment, I have been given permission to slide past their rules and into the heart of their lives to uncover a little bit more of who they are.  

Amanda Flower's "A Plain Death" does a great job of engaging the reader.  I fell in love right away with her characters whether it was the courageous Chloe, the naive Becky, or the strong and handsome Timothy.  I enjoyed reading through their moments of friendship, love, and struggles. 

However, as much as I loved the characters and the story as a whole, I was disappointed with the ending.  I was able to forgive the grammatical errors, but it was the story losing steam that deflated my spirits.  It seemed just as the story was getting to the climax of uncovering the true antagonist-- Amanda Flower either realized the story was taking too long, or perhaps her agent told her to eliminate some of her word count--the ending cut short.  The finalization happened much too quickly.  I was hoping for a little more of suspense.  Don't get me wrong.  This book was good, which is why I gave it four stars.  Personally, however, I would have preferred a little bit more UMPH to the ending.

I received this book courtesy of Netgalley and B&H Publishing Group.  In no way has my review of this book been influenced by either of these companies.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Key Lime Cupcakes

For a party, I was asked if I would make Trishia Yearwood's Key Lime Cake into cupcakes.  I made some alterations to her recipe and thought they were a hit!  The alterations are listed below in the recipe (mainly the glaze and slightly with the icing), but you are able to search the net for the original recipe for her Key Lime Cake that was featured in her "Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood."

Cupcakes (makes 36)
  • 3 ounce box of lime gelatin
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup oil (IMHO I think that is too much though I still use it--I might try only 3/4 cup next time)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (best way to obtain this is to squeeze over a mini-strainer to avoid seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Either grease and flour muffin tins or line with cupcake liners.
  3. Mix dry ingredients.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  5. Bake 15 minutes.  (For sheet cake, 35-40 min.; For 3 round 9inch pans, 20-30 min.)
  6. Pour glaze over cupcakes immediately after removing from oven.  Glaze recipe is below.
     Ingredients (This is where Trisha and I definitely differ)
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (zest first and then put through a good juicer)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. I zested each of the limes (3) and saved the zest for sprinkling over the iced cupcakes.
  2. Put the 3 limes into a good quality juicer to get as much juice from it as possible.  It should equal 1/2 cup.
  3. Mix the lime juice with 2 cups of powdered sugar to make a glaze.
  4. WHILE THE CUPCAKES ARE STILL HOT, pour a little bit of glaze on top to allow it to soak down into the cake.
  5. Be careful to reserve between 1/4-1/2 cups of glaze to add to icing.
     Ingredients  (here I add some lime glaze for a slight bite to mellow the sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter at room temp
  • 8 oz box of cream cheese at room temp
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) of powdered sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of the reserved lime glaze
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until well blended.
  2. Slowly add powdered sugar and lime glaze until well mixed.
  3. Pipe the icing on top of cupcake and sprinkle lime zest on top for added decoration.


Mary Beth Keane paints the portrait of Mary Mallon in an amazing, heart-wrenching story that delivers her life and struggles in a graceful flow of words that will captivate your very soul and open your eyes to another side of this negatively plagued "Typhoid Mary," as she was called.  

Mary Mallon was a brave young woman when she left her home in Ireland to seek a new life in America.  New York was far from what she imagined.  It was filthy with horse manure, trash, and the stench of decay, but she was determined to make something of herself.  She started out as a laundress, but when the house cook became ill, she was given the opportunity to prove her cooking skills.  She did so with such ease because it was her passion to cook.  Mary enjoyed that cooking also furthered her advancement and pay more than the position of laundress ever would.  

From the first bite, she won the palates of many.  However, her reputation of creating wonderful food wasn't the only thing following her from one job to the next.  People around her began to contract typhoid fever; some even met their fate.  To Mary, it was simply an unfortunate coincidence--after all not all became ill, but to Dr. Soper, a "sanitary engineer," it was a medical fascination.  

Dr. Soper was determined to study Mary because she was the first asymptomatic carrier, and she was unknowingly inflicting those who ate her food.  After many failed attempts to talk with Mary and convince her to allow him to remove one of her organs he felt was creating the typhoid bacilli, he resorted to obtaining her by force.  Mary was transported to a hospital, unable to contact her friends or her boyfriend, Alfred Briehof, a German immigrant and alcoholic whom Mary had chosen to live with despite the scrutiny of others.   Still not receiving cooperation from Mary, the Department of Health quarantined her on North Brother Island from 1907-1910.   

During her time in quarantine, she yearned not only for her freedom but to be with Alfred.  Through all the uncomfortable tests and embarrassing samples she was required to give, she continued to plead for her release, stating she was healthy and had harmed no one.  

Her only companion on the island was John Cane who was the groundskeeper.  If not for him, the hope of seeing Alfred again, and the belief her lawyer, O'Neill would get her off the island, she might not have been such a strong woman through the ordeal.  

Upon her release, she learned her time on the island had come with a cost; her two passions were taken from her.  Alfred was hers no more, and she was to swear off cooking for anyone ever again.  She was thrust back into the dirty streets of New York with no money, living in a boardinghouse, and working yet again as a laundress.  Her spirit was nearly broken.

A chain of historical events continued to unfold shortly thereafter: the Triangle Waist Company tragedy; the Titanic; even the less known woes between Mary and Alfred.  Just when life started to seem as if were settling down--Mary and Alfred were living together again and Mary was offered a good paying job as a cook at the Maternity Ward in a hospital--the life of Mary Mallon would come to a sudden halt.  She was cooking again.  People began to get sick.  

In one clean sweep Mary realized she could actually be the cause of the fever, Alfred died of drug abuse, and she was taken again by Dr. Soper to North Brother Island.  She didn't put up a fight this time, not even when she was taken before properly burying Alfred.  

It was at North Brother that Mary served out the remaining twenty-three years of her life.  Though she died in 1938, her legacy of spreading typhoid fever lives on.  Mary Beth Keane's book Fever allows Mary Mallon to live beyond the whispers, judgment, and news headlines.  She looks beyond the fever to the story of a woman and pens her beautifully.

I received this book courtesy of NetGalley, but in no way has my judgment of this book been influenced.  My opinions are that of my own.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dragons in Our Midst? Bring on the Dragon Adventure!

Every now and then I find a book that my children and I can enjoy and share together.  We discuss our likes, our dislikes, and whether the book left us wanting more.  Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis is one of those books that left us wanting more.  It is an action-packed, nail-biting adventure for all ages.   

Billy Bannister was an average teenage boy, or so he thought.  His life begins to turn upside down when he has strange dreams and symptoms of scalding hot air coming from his lips.  The kids at school gave him a name, "Dragon breath," and it was closer to the truth than any would have imagined.  

When Billy accidentally sets off the fire systems at school and gets suspended, he sneaks into his own home to avoid being caught by his parents.  In doing so, he overhears their conversation that explains everything.  In one clean swoop of eavesdropping, he learns his dad is a real dragon cloaked in human skin.  That would make Billy half dragon!  He instantly feels betrayed, wondering why his father has kept such an important detail about his life from him all these years.  

If that wasn't enough information to take in, Billy learns he isn't the only child of a dragon, the secret of who they are is out, and a band of dragon slayers is after them.  The leader of the dragon slayers is evil in the worst way and will do anything necessary to achieve his goals.  Can Billy, his dad, and others survive the wrath of the slayers?  And in the heat of it all, can Billy learn to trust again?

From the very opening, I was thrown into the world of mystery, dragons, and Arthurian tales. The book kept me captivated until the very end.  Davis does it with such ease by allowing the story to continue its flow and yet still allowing for those "AHA" moments when a clue or detail is pulled to light from earlier in the reading in order to further the plot. 

The book was a fantastic read for all ages, and the best news is that the story doesn't have to end with the last page.  There are three more books in the series, Dragons in Our Midst.  The Dragon Adventure can continue.

I received this book courtesy of NetGalley, but in no way has that altered or influenced my opinions of this book.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate-Covered Baloney: Confessions of April Grace

I don't know about you, but I miss the 80s.  I miss the simple nature of not having everything at my fingertips.  Today, with the internet, cellphones, texting, emails, Google searches, nothing is left to the imagination.  I covet the days of waiting excitedly for the phone to ring and having to guess who the caller was on the other end before hearing their voice.  I miss using my imagination to figure something out or waiting to visit the library in order to rummage through the encyclopedias for information.  

One day I was writing letters to friends or family in another state, and the next, I was facebook messaging them.  What happened?  Everything changed, and it seemed to happen overnight.

I'm not a huge fan of change, and neither is April Grace Reilly, a sixth-grader from Cedar Ridge.  
April Grace's life turned upside down in such a short time, and it all started with a simple warning in church.   It was almost as if the sermon Pastor Ross gave that Sunday morning in 1987 was meant specifically for April Grace and her family.  He simply said, "Things are gonna change." (pg 1)  And boy, oh boy, things surely did change!

Simple things occurred at first.  Isabel, the Reilly's uppity neighbor from California became April Grace's gym teacher.  Isabel wasn't just any ole gym teacher; she was teaching them dance the Proper Way.  

Then, April Grace's sister, Myra Sue starts acting very sneaky.  For a dumb fourteen year old, Myra Sue was acting more dumb than usual according to April Grace.  She became suddenly interested in the mail and homework, which April Grace highly suspected was just a cover-up for something else.  After all, Myra Sue never did her homework and was too accustomed to making Cs to start studying now.  Even more peculiar, Myra Sue became overly fascinated in the phone--way more fascinated than her average teenage, soap opera-loving self.

Still trying to figure out what Myra Sue is hiding, another stick is thrown in the road when a long-lost relative suddenly appears.  April Grace has reached her limit of change, but the boulder won't stop.  What was Myra Sue hiding?  Who is this relative, and Why is this person in her home, her life, expecting to be part of the family when they haven't been before?

Problems of change come in all sizes, but the biggest comes towards the end.  I won't spoil it for you (you have to read it for yourself), but the Reilly family as a whole learns to listen and forgive right smack in the middle of a crisis.  Most of all, April Grace learns to treasure her sister, Myra Sue, and that sometimes, being a big-fat tattletale is the right thing to do.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book.  Katherine McCrite's Chocolate-Covered Baloney: Confessions of April Grace took me back to the time of phone cords being stretched as far as they'd reach for privacy, solving problems without the internet, and entertainment of days long ago.  This book is perfect for a young girl of today who needs a different perspective (after all the 80s are back in style).  It is also for us adults who as a child of the 80s can relive those moments all over again.  

Change isn't easy.  I can say I wish some things were still the same as they were in the 80s...except BIG HAIR.  That is one thing that definitely needed to change!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beer Anyone?

It is amazing how quickly time can get away from us.  We can easily get so caught up in our daily lives that the little things get swept under a rug.  

I must apologize to any of my readers out there who have been waiting for me to create another blog story.  I'm sorry I have failed in keeping a constant flow of words.  

However, life is so important when we have family.  I admit I set the blog aside to spend those precious moments with my children and husband.  I don't regret that time spent with them, but I want you to know that I haven't forgotten you.  

I recently came across this story (you might have heard it before).  Not only is it a life lesson to live by, but it has a great ending.  I loved it and thought of you.

A meteorology professor stood before his Meteorology 101 class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty glass mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a jar of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar and of course the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous yes.

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and then proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions -- things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

"The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18.

"There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."

So I say, "Cheers to you in the New Year!  I hope each of you have a fantastic year ahead of you!"

Side note: I have to argue that from the beginning the jar was never empty.  This would be the educator and hopefully optimistic side of me speaking.  Air filled the jar.  You may look at air (invisible but still there) in any way you like.  Just keep in mind that your life is never empty.