Saturday, May 27, 2017

Summer Brings Joy and Sadness

Today begins the glorious days of summer for our family. This year we have a bountiful 88 days of summer. Now, of course, a good number of those days include drumline practice, cross country runs, and other various camps. But, for the most part, we have a pretty low-key summer ahead of us. I can't wait. I miss reading for hours and lounging on the back porch. I miss listening to the birds chirping and smelling the flowers. I miss cool summer evenings with friends and nights around the bonfire.  I can't wait to experience all the joys of summer with my family.

Unfortunately, the joy is surrounded with sadness. This week, I was shattered by the news that my dear friend, Patrice had died suddenly. She was one of the first people I met when we moved to this small town 13+ years ago and we became fast friends. She was also our town librarian, so, of course, we had lots to talk about. Last night at her wake, my husband and I waited in line for two hours to greet the family and pay our respects. There were just as many people waiting when we left as when we arrived. The love for this beautiful friend of mine was wide and true. She will be deeply missed.

I used to give storytime at our library with Patrice and this photo is from one of our Halloween storytimes. It reminds me that she was always up for anything and had a deep love for children. My heart literally aches knowing I won't see her smiling face down the street or sitting at the library desk when I walk in. As a member of the library board, we are slowly trying to acclimate ourselves to the running of the library. This has changed my summer a bit as I am helping with the day to day operations of the library until a new director can be hired. It has been difficult to be in the library, but I know she would want us to keep the ship running smoothly. That's what we'll do!

Yesterday was the last day of school. Next year, for the first time, all three of our kids will be in the same building. I'll have a 7th, 11th, and 12th grader. Oh, my! With graduation looming ahead, I hope to knock out some projects related to graduation this summer. The kids and I leave June 5 for DC/NYC with the high school band and choir. Long days and many miles will be exhilarating and exhausting. I haven't been to DC since I was a child and to NYC for several years. I'm excited to experience it with my fellow band/choir moms and our kids.

Of course, I am also super excited about my summer reading list. Stop by next week to see what's ahead for my summer reading!

May your summer be full of flowers, books, birds, and laughter. Don't forget that life is short and friendships fill your heart. Take a moment today to text or call your friends and let them know you love them!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Children's Book Review: The Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle By


By: Beth Montgomery

Published: January 31, 2017

Publisher: Your Stories Matter


Azzie Artbuckle is quite a talented artist and loves to create things. But, what she doesn't love is reading. Every Sunday, Azzie dreads having to go back to school because she just doesn't like reading and spelling words. It seems to be so much more difficult for her compared to her friends.

Azzie expresses her frustration through the pages of this book and as someone who works in the school system, her feelings are very common. Her friends tire of waiting for her to read out loud and it takes her hours to do her homework when it takes her friends 20 minutes. Finally, Azzie's mom takes her to the doctor and a diagnosis changes Azzie's life forever.

Since Azzie is an artist, the pages of this book are full of creative, multi-media images that make Azzie's mixed up letters pop off the page. The author makes the child feel like they are truly reading and seeing Azzie's story.  Even though Azzie is British and calls her mom, "Mum" and talks about having tea, children anywhere will identify with her frustrations and struggles with school. This book is written for younger elementary-aged kids. All of the books from this imprint should definitely be in counseling offices and reading recovery rooms in schools across the country. I'll be donating my copy to our elementary school counselor.

The new imprint, Your Stories Matter, is publishing children's book to help kids realize that whatever they are struggling with, they are not alone. Whether their diagnosis is Asperger's, ADD, Dyslexia, or Autism, these books are giving them a voice. The books shown above are also part of the Your Stories Matter imprint and are written for younger elementary. For more about all these stories, check out the website, HERE.

Beth Montgomery - source

Beth Montgomery wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until she was 37 years old. That did not stop her from adding a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University and a Nursing degree from the University of Nottingham.
After stints as a teacher and a shoe designer, she became a qualified nurse and now looks after patients with Alzheimer’s disease in a Nottingham care home. Beth Montgomery wrote and illustrated THE BACK TO FRONT WORLD OF AZZIE ARTBUCKLE

To purchase a copy of THE BACK TO FRONT WORLD OF AZZIE ARTBUCKLE, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children's and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to the publisher 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 links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book Review: One Minute Mentoring By Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz

How to Find and Work with a Mentor - and Why You'll Benefit from Being One

By: Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Published: May 2, 2017

Publisher: William Morrow


I have never worked in the business world, instead, I worked in human service and education. I never had a mentor in that form of the word, but I did have people I could go to for advice, like fellow counselors in my office and people that worked in similar agencies as myself. But, I was never assigned a mentor or sought one out during my work as a social worker. As a substitute teacher, I am kind of an outsider. I just come in once in awhile and fill-in. But, within our district and in the state of Iowa, there is a teacher leadership program that uses teacher leaders and mentors within the district and through their education agency to offer mentoring to new and seasoned teachers. I've seen the changes in our own district over the last few years from that program and believe it has offered numerous benefits to staff and students.

In ONE MINUTE MENTORING, the authors take a fictional scenario and make it a realistic example of a mentor/mentee relationship. Blanchard, a management expert and well-known author, and Diaz-Ortiz, named on of the 100 Most Influential People in Business by Fast Company, join together to share the importance of being a mentor and being mentored. By offering the example of an overworked and stressed executive and a underachieving sales associate, many of us can identify with their struggles. This book shares how the two of them could help each other find a new passion in their careers and maybe offer some insight to inspire each of us to reach our highest potential.

As someone who hasn't worked in the business world, I was afraid I couldn't relate to the stories shared in this "parable of two employees". But, I did and found it offered me a new way to see my role as a member of the school staff, a member of the numerous boards I am on, and as a member of my community. Realizing that mentors don't have to be in the same field as the person they are mentoring was eye-opening. I assumed teachers have to mentor teachers, but not necessarily. Thinking about our own children and the paths that lie ahead of them as they approach college and careers, I hope they can find someone to offer insights and advice. Someone they can call, have lunch with, email, or check in with that will support them in a different way than a parent, co-worker, or boss would.

This book offered a simple approach to the idea of mentoring and was a very quick read, reading it in just a couple hours. If I was an employer, I would be handing this over to every new employee and making it their first assignment. Then helping them make connections to find a mentor in their life.

Ken Blanchard, Ph.D. - source
Ken Blanchard is the chief Spiritual Officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies, and a highly sought-after author, speaker, and business consultant. He is the author of over fifty books. For more, check out his website, HERE.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz - source
One of the first employees of Twitter, author, speaker, and businesswoman. For more check out her website, HERE.

To purchase a copy of ONE MINUTE MENTORING, click the photo below:

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase this 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 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Life Here in Our Corner of the World

Patrick in Lane 1

Thanks to those of you who wished us luck and offered good wishes for Patrick's trip to the Iowa State Track Meet. It was quite the experience and one I'm sure he will never forget. Even though he didn't run his best race ever, he ran on that famous blue oval and had a blast.

He finished 21st in 3A in 10:10.45 which is a great time. I have no doubt his Cross Country and Track season next year will be full of success.

This week closes out the 2016/2017 school year for us. After this week, our focus will shift towards preparing for graduation and college for Patrick. We have numerous college visits to fit in this summer. We need to start looking at scholarship applications. I have a HUGE project list of items to work on in preparation for Patrick's graduation party. I am sure many of you are is a year away. But, if I am anywhere as close as busy next school year as I was this year, I have to do as much as I can this summer. Thankfully, I have a pretty light summer. I will be joining the band/choir students on their trip to DC/NYC in early June and then after that, I'm free to run my own schedule pretty much. After last summer of the major house remodel taking over our lives, I am frankly, quite thrilled to have a peaceful, relaxing summer.

Yesterday, we watched many special students graduate. So many of these students feel like part of our family and I will miss seeing them in the halls and having them in our home. Kelsey is very special to our family and we look forward to seeing all that her future holds! Congrats Kelsey!

Next week I'll be sharing the books that arrived in May and what I am excited to read this summer. I'll also give an update on the two reading challenges I'm in and what I have left to read to complete them. I can't wait to get back to reading and reviewing books. I've missed it, but when life is full, something has to drop to fit in what is important at the time. I also have a couple product reviews to share with you and they are both items you might want to have this summer!

As always, thanks for waiting for me to bring you more books and letting me share a bit about our life here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Traveling to the Blue Oval

Image Credit - Traci Nolan

Last week our son ran his toughest race ever and finished second in the 3200 meter at the State Qualifying Meet. He finished with a personal record best time of 10:02.70.

Photo credit - The Gazette

Today our family heads to Des Moines to watch Patrick along with several other teammates run their hearts out on the famous "Blue Oval" at Drake University.

It will be a fun weekend and I can't wait to see how everyone finishes. Patrick is going in ranked 7th in 3A and several other teammates are ranked in the Top Ten as well. I'm looking forward to hanging with all the other track parents and watching some close races!

If you'd like to watch, there is a live feed - Patrick runs at 4:05 today.

So, it's been a crazy week with my maternity leave subbing, meetings at night, and getting ready to leave for state track. I'm sorry that the blog is quiet, but I'll be back soon with more bookish posts and reviews.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Children's Book Review: Animal Ark By Kwame Alexander

Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures

By: Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Kikaido

Photography by: Joel Sartore

Published: February 14, 2017

Publisher: National Geographic Kids


This amazing book shares the importance of taking care of our world for the animals that live in it. It gives our youngest children an introduction the idea that our actions matter and how the amazing creatures that live among us can disappear unless we do something to make sure they can live in a world that protects them.

Using a form of Haiku poetry (which I was reminded how much I loved and missed reading) the author describes the amazing qualities of animals next to detailed and vivid photography of that animal. With a photographic glossary of all the animals in the book, parents can teach their child the names and learn along with their child. From well-loved animals like pandas, tigers, and butterflies to those lesser known ones that are also near extinction like the Quokka, Common Yabby, and the St. Andrew Beach Mouse. Talking with your child about the location of these animals and why they might be vulnerable to extinction will help them understand the role they can plan in our ecosystem.

By describing animals through the creativeness of a Haiku gives each of the pages a unique twist. Some of them are silly, while others will make you pause to soak in the amazing characteristics of these animals. Children and adults won't be able to turn their eyes away from the pages of full-color, stunning photos of animals. This really is a powerful story for toddlers and preschoolers. This book is an excellent way to introduce lyrical prose to young children as well as have a conversation about being kind to our planet and the animals that live in it.

Kwame Alexander - source
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include SURF'S UP, a picture book; BOOKED, a middle-grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

ANIMAL ARK was inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark, a multiyear effort with Joel Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity.

To purchase a copy of ANIMAL ARK, click the photo below:

To purchase the companion adult book THE PHOTO ARK: One Man's Quest to Document the World's Animals, click the photo below:

I will be linking up this review on Booking Mama's regular Saturday feature, Kid Konnection. This is a place for bloggers to share posts related to children's and YA books. You will find spotlights, reviews, and sometimes even giveaways by clicking HERE, every Saturday.

Thanks to the publisher 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 links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cookbook Review: Gumbo Love By Lucy Buffett

Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life

By: Lucy Buffett

Published: May 9, 2017

Publisher: Grand Central Life & Style


If you need any reason to check out Lucy Buffett's new cookbook, then National Shrimp Day would be it! Fans of Gulf Coast specialties, fruity libations, and flavor-rich dishes won't want to miss out on the recipes featured in Lucy Buffett's newest cookbook, GUMBO LOVE. From starters and snacks to deep friend southern favorites to desserts and cocktails you'll be able to pretend you are on the Gulf Coast no matter where you live.

I shared recipes from Buffett's previous cookbook LULU'S KITCHEN last summer and am just as excited for this one. This cookbook is thicker than her previous one and the photos shared throughout the pages make me want to jump in the car and revisit our favorite Gulf Coast spots. Any photo that has Lucy Buffett in it shows the happiness oozing out of her. There is no doubt that life is good in the Gulf. What I love about Buffett's cookbooks is she shares her heart along with her recipes. In each chapter, she shares stories or traditions to give you a bit of background on the recipes she offers. I love that she begins the cookbook with dessert. Buffet states that she is a "lifetime rule breaker...and chooses her rebellions more wisely - like having dessert first." That is my kind of philosophy on life! There are so many recipes I can't wait to try, I'll be working my way through this cookbook all summer. Some of the recipes I can't wait to try include:

  • Lazy V Chocolate Fudge Cake (her mother's recipe)
  • Easy-Peasy Chocolate Sauce (Will it be as good as MY mom's recipe?)
  • Bad Girl Buffalo wings
  • Black Bean & Corn Salad Dip
  • Trout Amandine
  • Daddy's Fried Chicken
  • Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad
  • Hurricane Cocktail
  • Plus all of her favorite sauces, seasonings, dressings, and tips for cooking or frying seafood

This cookbook is making a permanent place on my cookbook shelf as it is just full of amazing dishes and stories that will make me laugh. I'm thrilled to share one of her recipes with you. Since it's National Shrimp Day, this shrimp recipe is perfect for celebrating shrimp day or really any special day in your house!

Image Credit: Angie Mosier



2 pounds poached wild-caught Gulf shrimp (recipe follows)
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
¾ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
1 teaspoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus ¼ cup for serving, if desired
Juice of 5 limes (about 1 cup)
Juice of 2 lemons (about ½ cup)
Juice of 1 orange (about ½ cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced (optional)
2 limes, quartered (optional)

1. Chop the shrimp into thirds or bite-size pieces, or leave them whole if you prefer, and place in a large bowl.
2. Add the red onion, celery, tomatoes, cucumber, jalapeño, garlic, ginger, cilantro,
lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, salt, white pepper, and sugar and stir well.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. While the mixture marinates, occasionally turn the container to evenly coat the shrimp in the liquid.
4. Transfer the shrimp and liquid to a glass bowl to serve or divide among eight martini glasses. If desired, garnish with avocado, cilantro, and lime.



I USE THIS method to cook shrimp that have been peeled. It takes only a few
minutes, so be careful not to overcook the shrimp. Poaching lets them absorb the
flavors from the poaching liquid, which is called court bouillon in fancy French
cooking and typically uses wine. Staying in step with my beloved Gulf Coastal
Caribbean and Mexican influences, I use tequila or rum!

2¼ pounds large wild-caught headless Gulf shrimp in the shell
8 cups water
½ cup tequila or rum
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
½ white onion, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
4 fresh cilantro sprigs

1. Peel and devein the shrimp. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
2. Place the water in a large heavy skillet or saucepan. Add the tequila, lemon, onion, garlic, salt, peppercorns, and cilantro. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Boil for 5 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat until the liquid is simmering. Add the shrimp, cover, and cook for
3 minutes only! Pour the shrimp into a strainer and immediately cover with ice.When the shrimp are cool, remove and discard the lemon rounds, garlic, and cilantro. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

Excerpted from the book GUMBO LOVE by Lucy Buffett. Copyright © 2017 by Lucy Buffett. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.  

Lucy Buffett - Image Credit: Chandler Williams of Modus Photography
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. You can find more information on Lucy at

To purchase a copy of GUMBO LOVE, 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. 

Thanks to the publisher for sending an eBook for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase this 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