Saturday, May 28, 2016

I've Been MIA, But It's Finally Summer

A recent sunset from my back yard

I've been a little MIA lately. Gosh, where has the last month gone? Yesterday was the last day of school for our kids and frankly, for me too. I subbed all the way through the last day of school. I wasn't expecting to be subbing for the last couple weeks straight, so other things got put to the side...including reading and blogging.



But, summer is here! All 87 days of it! Starting today, no more 6:00 AM phone calls or waking the kids up. It's going to be a little more relaxing around here. I am hoping to enjoy many more of those sunsets from my back yard....maybe with a book and a glass of wine in my hand.

We are joining the boys on their school band trip to Canada this summer. We are going to be visiting some pretty amazing sites and can't wait to experience it all with some really awesome high school kids.


This is also going on this summer. I came home to this hole in my front yard on Thursday and this is just the beginning. We are adding on to our home and even though it will be so awesome when it is done, the mess to get there can be a little stressful. But, we are all excited to see the process while we are home. I just have a lot of work to do to get ready for indoor construction. YIKES! I'll keep you updated throughout the summer.

All of us are looking forward to a summer of enjoying the moments. These summers with our kids are soon going to be memories and like the song goes, "I don't want to miss a thing."

Here's to 87 Days of Summer!


A post from today, 6 years ago - School's Out for Summer
A post from today, 4 years ago - Day #4 of Summer Vacation
A post from today, 3 years ago - Summer Planning Made Simple with Confident Mom
A post from today, 2 years ago - Book Review: The Qualities of Wood By Mary Vensel White
A post from today, 1 year ago - Book Review: Out from the Underworld By Heather Siegel

Friday, May 27, 2016

Children's Book Review: Sam's Top Secret Journal - Memorial Day By Dr. Sean Adelman

SAM'S TOP SECRET JOURNAL
Memorial Day - Book 3

By: Dr. Sean Adelman

Published: February 5, 2015

Publisher: Raise Expectations

Fiction

Sam is a 9th grader who also has down syndrome. She tries to fit in and be like everyone else but knows that sometimes she is just too different. Sometimes others treat her poorly and she expresses her feelings in her journal, either through her writing or drawing. When her family travels to an old military base for Memorial Day Weekend, she realizes that other people feel differently as well.

Sam's cousins are also joining them over the weekend. Her cousin Madison is dealing with her feelings of anger and frustration over her dad, Sam's uncle, who was injured in Afghanistan. He wasn't able to join them on this weekend trip like they had planned because he is still in the VA hospital receiving therapy. Madison's anger is causing her to act out and make poor choices. Sam sees her making these choices and resorts to her journal to figure out how to help Madison.

This is an easy read and perfect for those in the middle to upper elementary. Even though the main character is a freshman, the themes are relatable to a younger audience. Readers will problem solve with Sam and learn about kindness, empathy, and handling our emotions.

Since the book is set during Memorial Day weekend, it focuses on our Veteran's and their great sacrifices for our country. The family visits an old military base and learns from a WWII vet about his service in Japan.

There is a lot you could discuss with your child while reading this novel including children with down syndrome, handling anger, having empathy for others, and how to honor our Veterans.

Dr. Sean Adelman - source

Dr. Sean Adelman is a practicing orthopedic surgeon in Seattle, Washington.  He grew up in a military family and served in the Air Force. Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder close to his heart, as his daughter, Devon, has Down Syndrome. He wrote the book to give hope to parents of kids with "special needs" and create a character that would inspire others. Sean enjoys his free time with his lovely wife, Susan, and their three children. When he’s not busy being a dad, surgeon, and author, he can be found running or playing classic rock and roll on his electric guitar. Dr. Adelman has written two other novels in the SAM'S TOP SECRET JOURNAL series and hopes to teach children acceptance through them for many years to come.  For more information about the author, click HERE

To purchase a copy of SAM'S TOP SECRET MEDICAL JOURNAL, click the photo below:





I will be linking up this review with Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. Her feature offers bloggers a place to share their posts related to children's and YA books. To see all these posts, click HERE.


A post from today, 5 years ago - Celebrating the Last Week of School and a Recipe
A post from today, 4 years ago - Scenes from Our Week - Week 34
A post from today, 4 years ago - My First Try at Making a Wreath - A Patriotic Wreath
A post from today, 3 years ago - My Thoughts on Philippians Chapter 1
A post from today, 2 years ago - Book Spotlight: The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue



Thanks to the author for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com. 


Monday, May 16, 2016

Bout of Books Wrap Up




Bout of Books

I spent last week participating in the Bout of Books Reading Challenge. There are no parameters. No hours you have to read. No amount of pages or books to be read. Just a casual atmosphere, where books are loved and read...as much as possible.  There were fun daily challenges to participate in and a couple Twitter Chats where you could chat and answer questions and meet other book lovers.

When I originally signed up to participate in Bout of Books, I was only scheduled to substitute teach 1 1/2 days during that week. By the time Bout of Books rolled around, I was subbing every day during the week, 3 evenings were full, and the weekends were shot. So, I did the best I could with the time I had. See my original post about Bout of Books, HERE.

I was happy because I finished two books that I had been reading for the last couple months.

I finished BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande.



I also finished FIND THE GOOD by .



I started reading THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah and I am over half way through it.



I wanted to start on two other books but with the week I ended up having, it just didn't work out that way. I finished the challenge with a total of 300 pages read for the week.

I participated in 3 of the Daily Challenges and one of the Twitter Chats. The Daily Challenge themes were lots of fun and one of them may be leading to a new feature on the blog!

1 ~ Post a photo of one or all of your bookshelves. This is one of my many to-read shelves in our house.



2 ~ 5 Favorites: I chose to share 5 of the Favorite Books from My Childhood. I read these books over and over as a child. I bet I could still recite some of them by heart. What I noticed was that they all had a theme of kindness and being generous to others.


PETUNIA By Roger Duvoisin
GUS AND THE BABY GHOST By Jane Thayer
SOCKS FOR SUPPER by Jack Kent
LITTLE BEAR By Else Holemelund Minarik
ONE KITTEN FOR KIM By Adelaide Holl

3 ~ If you liked this....then you'll like.....

I had a hard time deciding what to choose for this challenge. I think I will definitely be doing some more blog posts on this topic and maybe even a regular feature.


I decided to choose ~ If you liked THE HELP, then you would also like YELLOW CROCUS and THE KITCHEN HOUSE.

Not related to the Bout of Books Challenge, but I did attend a Book Reading/Signing Event for a local author. I featured her book here a week ago and I wanted to meet Carol Steingreaber in person and hear her read from her 1st book, PANTS OPTIONAL.  You can see my original post about the author and her book, HERE.


Carol was so awesome to meet. She is down-to-earth and absolutely hilarious. She read stories from her book using the people from the stories to read their actual lines. It made the stories even more real and way more hilarious. We had a lot of laughs in this room.


Carol even surprised me this week with this gorgeous flower bouquet to thank me for the feature article I wrote about her book for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. It is rare that I am thanked by an author in this way. Usually, it is through an email, Facebook comment, or Tweet on Twitter. These flowers made my day and I felt great knowing I am helping spread the word about a great book and wonderful author.


So, even though I didn't meet all my goals during Bout of Books, I had a great week of reading and enjoying a love of books. In fact, during my subbing, I read a couple of the books that I had recently reviewed to the elementary kids. They loved hearing a new story.

So, that is my wrap up for the Bout of Books Challenge. If this sounds like something you would like to do next time it rolls around, mark your calendars for the week of August 22, 2016. You could join in just like I did.


A post from today, 8 years ago - Flowers and Daughters
A post from today, 2 years ago - Children's Book Review: Bitsy Bear By Anne M Jenks



The above links will take you to that book's Amazon page. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your book. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Children's Book Review: Being A Captain Is Hard Work By Carole P Roman

BEING A CAPTAIN IS HARD WORK
A Captain No Beard Story

By: Carole P Roman

Illustrated by: Bonnie Lemaire

Published: December 31, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Fiction

I am a huge fan of Roman's books. She offers two great series of books including this Captain No Beard series as well as If you Lived In...series introducing children to cultures all over the world. Roman has also written several stand-alone children's books, including a couple new ones that I will be reviewing this summer. To see all my review of Roman's books, click HERE.

In the Captain No Beard series, a group of friends takes off on a pirate adventure, each time with wild imaginations and lots of lessons learned. In this story, the captain has let his job go to his head a bit and decides that he knows everything. Even when his dependable crew is pointing out the stormy seas and the dark clouds, he ignores their warnings...and almost too late. When the captain finally comes to his senses, he realizes he almost lost his crew to his silly notion of being right.

Children will love the excitement in the story and all the characters that have continued to make an appearance in all the Captain No Beard stories. Different types of clouds are discussed with an inclusive glossary at the end of the book describing all the clouds for you child to learn.

Lemaire has illustrated some of Roman's other books and she is extremely talented. The characters, the storms, the vivid colors, and expressions on the faces bring the pages and the story to life. This newest addition to the series will encourage imagination, pretend play and a love of adventure in your children.


Carole P Roman - source
Award winning author Carole P. Roman is a former teacher turned businesswoman. She has successfully run a family business with her husband. Her most favorite job is being a grandmother to her many grandchildren. She currently lives on Long Island with her husband. Carole has written several books for children including the IF YOU WERE ME AND LIVED IN...series as well as a fiction series for children, CAPTAIN NO BEARD involving lots of fun adventure and imagination. For more on Carole, visit her website, caroleproman.com.

Accolades for Carole P Roman's books:

Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012 for her first book, award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born."Captain No Beard- An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life" has not only been named to Kirkus Best of 2012, it received the Star of Exceptional Merit, and won the Pinnacle Award for 2012. "Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience" Book 2 in the series, received 5 Stars from The ForeWord Review The Clarion Review. Strangers on the High Seas has won second place in the Rebecca's Reads Choice Awards 2013. It has followed with six more books to the series. This year, Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis was named to Kirkus Best 2015. The entire cultural non-fiction series If You Were Me and Lived in... was named Best Series by Shelf Unbound.


To purchase a copy of BEING A CAPTAIN IS HARD WORK, click the photo below:





I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. Click HERE, to see other links to bloggers' posts related to children's and YA books.


A post from today, 4 years ago - Scenes from Our Week - Week 32
A post from today, 1 year ago - Book Review: Troika By Adam Pelzman 


Thanks to the author for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Product Review: VIVID Lighting LED Bulbs


LED bulbs seem to be the best way to save energy and money when lighting an area of your home. LED bulbs last much longer....up to 20-30 years longer than regular light bulbs.

A major complaint I have had with LED bulbs is that they are harsh or too bright. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the VIVID Lighting Sample Pack I received to try. Even though they are a 60 Watt bulb, each one only uses 8 Watts of energy. I received an LED Soft White bulb and an LED Daylight bulb.



I also liked that the bulbs looked like normal bulbs and not the spiral shape that a lot of LED bulbs look like. When you are changing them out in an overhead light, they look like regular bulbs. 

My husband was anxious to try these bulbs in the garage. Even though I was thinking of using them in another room, I gave in since most of the products I get to try are for me.  Our garage is really dark and the lights are on a lot because someone is usually going in and out of there all day long. So, we were hoping these bulbs would make a big difference in our garage lighting. Since they also last longer, that adds another benefit because it's a pain to change the bulbs in the garage.


As you can see, between the before photo and after photo, the lighting is quite different. It is definitely brighter. These photos were taken just minutes apart. The outside lighting hadn't changed (we only have that one small window) and I think you can really tell a difference in the amount of bright light these bulbs put out.


For around $20, you can get a 6-pack of either the LED Soft White or LED Daylight bulbs. That will cost you roughly $1/year for each bulb. That is an amazing deal.

If you would like to purchase these VIVID Lighting Bulbs, click the photos below:

Daylight Bulbs

Soft White Bulbs



A post from today, 8 years ago - Rhubarb Crisp 
A post from today, 7 years ago - Review and Author Chat: Matrimony
A post from today, 6 years ago - Prayer 
A post from today, 2 years ago - How to Have a Fun Summer with Your Kids 


Thanks to VIVID Lighting for sending this product for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the product through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cookbook Review: LuLu's Kitchen By Lucy Buffett

LULU'S KITCHEN
A Taste of The Gulf Coast Good Life

By: Lucy Buffett

Published: April 26, 2016

Publisher: Grand Central Life & Style

Cookbook



Lucy Buffett is the sister of the famous Jimmy Buffett, but she has become quite famous in the Gulf Coast area in her own right. After returning home to care for ailing parents, Lucy Buffett surprised herself by becoming a restauranteur and owning  LuLu's Sunset Grill. It was a huge success in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and she eventually opened a second location in Destin, Florida. This book is more than a cookbook, but a peek into Lucy's life and her joy of food, friends, family, and most of all, laughter. I'm sad to admit that even though we have been to this same Gulf Coast area a few times, we have never visited her restaurants. But, I can promise we will be checking them out on our next visit.

LULU'S KITCHEN is full of Southern and Gulf Coast dishes you would expect including lots of seafood. But, there are just as many recipes that will remind you of those family dinners around the table full of delicious home cooking. For fans of the south, there is a whole section on grits recipes and for all the Buffett fans, there is a section on Specialty Drinks. In fact, I'm hoping to enjoy a tall glass of LuLu's Rum Punch this weekend!

LuLu's Rum Punch - submitted photo
Buffett offers stories and anecdotes throughout the book giving readers a peek into her journey of becoming a chef and business owner. She offers "Ten Things I Absolutely Know About Cooking" including a requirement to like cooking, to keep it all casual, to listen to music while cooking and most importantly, to never cook shrimp for more than three minutes. Even though I didn't try her shrimp recipe, it certainly looks delicious. But, I'm sharing the recipe with you so you can try it!

LuLu's Perfect Peel and Eat Shrimp - Photo by Sara Essex
LuLu's Perfect Peel and Eat Shrimp
Excerpted from LuLu’s Kitchen: A Taste of The Gulf Coast Good Life (Grand Central Life & Style; April 2016) by Lucy Buffett 
Makes: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 ½ - 2 gallons water
1 cup LuLu's Perfect Pepper Hot Sauce ™
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ cups liquid Zatarain's ® crab and seafood boil
1 (3 oz) bag Zatarain's ® dry crab and seafood boil
5 bay leaves
½ cup LuLu's Crazy Creola Seasoning ™
¼ cup salt
2 – 3 pounds large headless shrimp with shells
  1. Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a large stockpot. Bring to a full rolling boil. Be prepared to have the spices "tickle" the back of your throat. Gesundheit!
  2. Add shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat and cover for 1 minute. Drain shrimp in a colander and place a layer of ice on top to stop cooking process.
  4. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Drain and refrigerate. Serve with my Red Horseradish Sauce.

Excerpted from LuLu's Kitchen: A Taste of The Gulf Coast Good Life by Lucy Buffett (Grand Central Life & Style; April 26, 2016)

As you can see, the recipes are simple and easy to create right in your own home with ingredients easy to find in your local store. I found several I'm anxious to try from the Mahi Mahi Tacos to Barq's Root Beer Chocolate Cake. But the recipe I chose to make for my family was the Meatloaf Sandwich. This is a recipe you can make ahead and serve later that evening or even the next day to your family. It's filling and the leftovers are even better.




This cookbook is full of recipes to fit every taste pallet. Buffet even includes a section of her essentials. These essentials include recipes for seasonings, dressings, and stocks. There are party specific groupings to host your own theme dinner, birthday party, or summer picnic. The personal stories that Buffett shares will make you laugh and will encourage you to visit the beautiful Gulf Coast region.

LULU'S KITCHEN is full of amazing photographs that will make your mouth water and have you marking up the pages to try all the recipes. Looking at this cookbook will remind you to bring joy to your cooking and laughter to your table.

UPDATE: Lucy Buffett appeared on Fox and Friends this week and they are sharing these recipes on their blog from her appearance. I thought their segment focused a bit too much on her brother than on her, but it's still a great promotion for her. Click HERE to see the recipes and watch the video below.


Lucy Buffett - submitted photo




Lucy Buffett is a restaurateur of the award-winning, fun-loving LuLu’s which serves more than one million guests a year at two locations, one in Gulf Shores, Alabama and the other in Destin, Florida. Lucy has also been recognized for her tireless work on behalf of sustainability and the environment. However, the greatest passion of this self-proclaimed gypsy rebel and reluctant entrepreneur is cooking good food for the people she loves. LuLu's Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life (formerly Crazy Sista Cooking) is her first cookbook and is full of recipes and stories that made her restaurant the famous destination it is today. You can find more information on Lucy at www.LucyBuffett.com.

If you would like to purchase a copy of LULU'S KITCHEN, click the photo below:




I will be linking up with other bloggers on Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking linkup. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. Click HERE, to see all Weekend Cooking posts. 


A post from today, 7 years ago - Mondays Matter - Week 19 
A post from today, 6 years ago - Rhubarb Berry Crisp
A post from today, 4 years ago - More Summer Planning
A post from today, 1 year ago -  A Little Monday Inspiration - A Mother's Legacy


Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Book Review: The Ones Who Matter Most By Rachael Herron

THE ONES WHO MATTER MOST

By: Rachael Herron

Published: April 5, 2016

Publisher: NAL

Fiction



This is my second Rachael Herron book and I'm becoming quite the fan. The first book of Herron’s I read, SPLINTERS OF LIGHT, was one I really enjoyed, covering the delicate topic of Early Onset Alzheimers. See my review, HERE.

THE ONES WHO MATTER MOST will likely be a favorite of 2016 for me. Herron takes a story with an interesting plot and engages the reader from nearly the first page. This tale of friendship didn’t happen easily but the end result will have you grabbing a Kleenex and wishing you could have friends like Abby and Fern.

After her doctor lets it slip that her husband got a vasectomy behind her back, Abby decides it is time to get a divorce.  Abby feels betrayed after months of trying to have a baby with no results. When Scott returns home from work, Abby tells him their marriage is over. He seems to be unaffected and goes upstairs to get ready for bed. What Abby finds instead, is her husband lying dead on the floor. In the ensuing days and weeks, Abby tries to understand her grief and despair over a husband she no longer wanted. She tries to grasp the idea of a lonely life ahead for her. With both her parents gone and a sister who died before she was even born, she truly has no family. Even though she has plenty of friends and her mom’s best friend, Kathleen, as an amazing mother figure, she feels alone. While going through her deceased husband’s desk, she finds a box full of photos of a woman and child she does not know. Her search reveals something so shocking about her husband that she must find the woman and child to know the whole truth.

Fern has been doing everything she can to get by while raising her son, Matty, and taking care of Elva and her father-in-law, Wyatt. Her salary as a city bus driver barely covers their expenses and she is one disaster away from losing everything she has worked so hard to establish. Then Abby shows up on her doorstep and Fern's life is turned upside down. Fern is a stubborn, independent, Hispanic single mother who isn't about to let a rich, skinny, white girl into her family's life. Herron creates conversations and characters so vividly that you can picture them in your mind while reading. There is a vast difference in the community that Fern lives in and Abby’s much more posh lifestyle. Their complete separation of class and culture makes it nearly impossible for them to see each other as anything but the enemy. But, as fate intervenes and walls crumble, Fern sees that keeping Abby out of their life isn’t in any of their best interests. Forces beyond her control show her that the definition of family isn't as narrow as she originally thought.

I haven’t read a story where I felt this engaged and invested in some time. I found myself truly frustrated over the character’s choices and emotional over others. I was a little put off by Herron’s racy details and felt they were unnecessary, but it seems that the explicit descriptions are the trend for today’s readers.

As you can imagine, Herron creates multi-dimensional characters that struggle, have fears, make bad decisions, have regrets, and forgive. They love hard and are hard to love. Both Abby and Fern are successful, strong, and independent in many ways, while weak and needy in others. Their friendship builds and crashes and rebuilds over the chapters and what develops is truly something I didn't predict. Even the secondary characters of Matty, Wyatt, and Fern’s brother, Diego, give depth to the story with compelling and honest reactions to Abby and Fern's choices. Herron's novel cultivates a friendship between two very unlikely sources. It’s messy and awkward and scary, but it will change your view of what it truly means to be part of a family.


Favorite Quote:

"It ached so much, opening like this. 
Her chest creaked with it, and it was hard to remember the combination 
to open the locks she'd put around her heart."

Rachael Herron - source
Rachael Herron is the internationally bestselling author of the novel PACK UP THE MOON, the five book Cypress Hollow romance series, and the memoir, A LIFE IN STITCHES. She received her MFA in writing from Mills College, and when she's not busy writing, she's a 911 fire/medical dispatcher for a Bay Area fire department.  She lives with her wife, Lala, in Oakland, California, where they have more animals and instruments than are probably advisable. Rachael is struggling to learn the accordion and can probably play along with you on the ukulele. She's a New Zealander as well as an American. She's been known to knit.  For more on Rachael Herron, check out her website, HERE. You can also find her on Facebook, HERE and Twitter,HERE

To purchase a copy of THE ONES WHO MATTER MOST, click the photo below:


A post from today, 6 years ago - Kids Take Charge
A post from today, 3 years ago - Reagan's Fairy Garden 


Thanks to the publisher for sending an eBook copy of the book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com.