Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Family Time February - Wrapping It Up

During the month of February, I featured games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  I hope that these posts have inspired you to take some time and pull out those old favorites from your childhood to teach to your kids, or maybe add to your family's collection...even finding some new favorites.  We have certainly had lots of fun over the years playing games with the kids and with friends.  I would love to hear your favorite games as well.  Maybe we will find a new favorite from your list.

To finish off the month, rather than highlighting one more game, I want to list a few no-brainer games that little to get started.  

HANGMAN - All you need is paper/pencil and words/sentences in your head.  This is great for passing time at a restaurant, Dr's office, or driving in the car.

WAR - Just a regular deck of cards is all that is needed.  This game can go on for hours, so either set a time limit or play it out.  This has been a favorite of our kids and can be played in the car while traveling.

YAHTZEE - Since I played this so much as a kid (a great game for single play), I don't need the score sheet anymore to keep track.  But, score sheets can be found in stores if needed and found in GOOGLE images as well. Then all you need are 5 dice and you are set.

PICTIONARY- Again, just paper/pencil and your brain to come up with different things to draw and get your partner to guess.  The fun is in the drawing and getting the other person to figure it out and not so much winning or losing.  Who needs the actual game to play it?

The point is to find ways to have fun while working in maybe a little education, strategy, brain work, or creativity.  (The kids won't even know your ulterior motive.)  You are also teaching valuable social skills.  When I am at school, I can instantly tell who has played games at home and who hasn't as well as the kids who never lose, because the parents lose on purpose.  The skill of winning and losing well are both greatly important as our children grow and playing games is the earliest way to expose them to that. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Family Time February - Spot It

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

The kids got SPOT IT  from their Aunt Elaine for Valentine's Day but this week was the first chance we got to play it.  This game has easily moved up to our favorites for quick and fun games that all of us can play.  

The best part of this game is that it can be played four different ways and all of them are fun.  For all the games you are looking at the cards and comparing them with the other players to find a match....such as the dinosaur, ladybug, snowflake.  Then depending on the game you could pile on the cards to the other players by finding matches or they could be piled on you.  The game requires quick mental thinking, but not too difficult for kids over 7. All the images are easily remembered, but the tough part is you have to forget them when you get to the next card with different images.

The game comes in a circular tin and is small and perfect for travel.  You just need an area, such as a floor or table for all players to sit around so all cards can easily be seen.  This would make a great game for summer camping.  Each game type is quick, so even though the games might be short, they can still be numerous.

This game is for 2-8 players and for those ages 7 and up.  SPOT IT is available on the BLUE ORANGE website HERE for $12.99.  I assume it is also available at your local discount stores, but I haven't noticed if it was at any of ours or not.  This is a perfect game for siblings to play together or if the parent has only a 15 minutes to devote to game time.  You can squeeze in a lot of fun and laughs in a short period of time with this one!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Family Time February - Qwirkle

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

Throughout the month, you have seen games that make you think or teach skills, games that get you moving, games that just help you have fun with your family, and games of strategy.  This is another one of those strategy games.  QWIRKLE is really fun and all of us like to play it.  This game has also received the Parent Choice Gold Award, Mensa Select Award, and Creative Child Magazine Award.  

This game is all about matching colors and shapes, but the twist is you need to plan out your moves in order to score the most points and block the other players.  The player with the most points when all tiles have been played is the winner, not necessarily the one who goes out first.  So, there is quite a bit of strategy involved and is not a quick play, but still lots of fun.  This game is for 2-4 players and for those ages 6 and up.  The tiles also come in a cinch bag inside the box, so could be traveled with, but you do need a large flat surface for playing.

If you are interested, you can find QUIRKLE on the MINDWARE website HERE for $24.95 which is pretty comparable to prices at your local discount stores.  Our family highly recommends this game.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Family Time February - Blokus

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

BLOKUS is a game we have had for a couple years.  I put off getting this game because it was a bit more expensive than some of the other games and I just wasn't sure if our kids would like it.  But, they do.  BLOKUS is another strategy game and really makes your brain think about your best play.  It has even received a Mensa award for promoting healthy brain activity!

The goal of this game is to fit all your pieces on the BLOKUS board.  You can not place your piece on the board next to other player's pieces, but you have to place your piece with its corner touching another player's corner.  Your pieces are also all different sizes and will not always fit in all locations, so this is where the strategy and brain activity come in...figuring out when to play your bigger pieces vs smaller pieces.  

This is definitely a game for those that like and are good at spatial thinking.  This game is best for those ages 5 and up, but I am glad we waiting until the boys were a bit older to play it.  You can play this with 2 to 4 players.  This isn't a quick game by any means, but can be played in an evening.  Once you get the hang of it, you will want to play it again and again.  

Amazon is listing this game for $22.99 HERE or it can also be found at your local Wal-Mart or Target stores.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Family Time February - Monopoly

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  
MONOPOLY is THE classic family board and is one of our family's favorites.  This was one I played all the time growing up....yes with my dolls and stuffed animals....but I still played it fairly! Ha! Ha! I remember starting a game on Saturday morning while watching cartoons and finally finishing it up Sunday night before I went to bed....leaving it out on the living room floor all weekend.  Now our family is doing the same thing.  We will start a game and continue it until it is done over the course of a day or two. 

MONOPOLY is a game of luck, change, wheeling and dealing.  You travel around the board buying up properties.  As you land on purchased properties you must pay rent to the other players.  There are other pitfalls along the way; luxury tax, income tax, and cards that require you to pay or maybe, if you are lucky, receive money.  As you build up your property stash, you can then wheel and deal and purchase houses and hotels to require more rent. 

This is not a quick game.  As I said, depending on how many have been playing it can take 1 or more days to truly finish it out.  If your time is limited, you can set a time limit or end it after properties are all purchased or whatever works for your family. 

Monopoly is great for teaching your kids about money.  You frequently have to figure change and you can role play how you would count the money back to the person.  (This seems to be a lost art in our computer generated customer service world, sadly.)

Monopoly is for 2-8 players and for those ages 8 and up, but we have been playing with our kids since they were 6 or so.  Monopoly has several different versions as well to meet this needs of all kinds of players.  You can get Monopoly themed to your favorite city, favorite sports team,  or favorite cartoon character.  There are also several versions including electronic banking, here and now, or monopoly deal.  We like the Here and Now version for a change once in a while.  The money amounts are more realistic and the properties are new, like Disney World.  We also have Monoply Deal which our sons like to play but isn't my favorite.  It is a card game similiar to Monopoly but can be least for me.

You can get MONOPOLY at Hasbro HERE for $14.99 or at your local discount store, often times for much cheaper if you watch for sales. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Family Time February - Name 5

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

NAME 5 is a game we got as a gift this Christmas.  We have played it several times and had a blast each time.  This game is a little tough for our 7 year old, but the boys do ok, if teamed up with a parent. It states it is for those ages 12 and up and for 2 or more players or teams.  Some categories are easier than others and so it will just depend on your child.  This would be great for two couples or for an adult party. 

The game has categories like naming 5 Tom Hank's movies, 5 things that cause a person to sneeze, 5 TV Dads, 5 Vegetables beginning with "A", 5 Tina Turner songs,  5 pizza toppings, or 5 video games.  Then you have a certain amount of time to answer 5 things in the specific category to be able to continue on with your turn.  If you don't, it is the next team's turn.  Sometimes you are playing alone and other times you are competing against the clock with the other team.  It really is harder than you think for some of the categories. 

NAME 5 is a product of ENDLESS GAMES and can be purchsed HERE for $22.99 or at Amazon HERE for $15.73.  It is also available at your local discount stores. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Family Time February - Cranium Brain Breaks

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

CRANIUM BRAIN BREAKS is a fast-paced game that can be played anytime and anywhere.  Each game lasts only 60 seconds, so it is great for the kids to play during that crazy time while you are trying to make supper. 

The kids got this game for Christmas and we tried it out one night.  I had the 2 boys in mind when I got this (ages 11 and 10).  I thought it would be fun for them to play this together without any adult intervention for those snow days/rainy summer days/bored weekends. 

In this game you race to beat the timer buy doing the usual Cranium game activities of sculpting, drawing, acting, or solving word puzzles. You complete each activity before the timer empties and you win.  Short. Sweet. Fun. 

This game is for 2 or more players ages 8 and up.  The boys enjoyed it as did our 7 year old.  Sometimes you don't have a whole night to devote to a board game, but spending 15 minutes before bedtime will show the kids that you are still fun! Playing Cranium Brain Breaks will meet that need for you. 

This game is available at your local Target/Wal-Mart as well as on Hasbro's website HERE and retails for $12.99.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton


By Rosamund Lupton

First Published in 2010, Republished December 20, 2011


When her mom calls to tell her that Tess, her younger sister, is missing, Bee returns home to London on the first flight. She expects to find Tess and give her the usual lecture, the bossy big sister scolding her flighty baby sister for taking off without letting anyone know her plans. Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered.  Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess's apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister's life--and all its secrets. 

Though her family and the police see a grieving sister in denial, unwilling to accept the facts, Bee uncovers the affair Tess was having with a married man and the pregnancy that resulted, and her difficultly with a stalker who may have crossed the line when Tess refused his advances. Tess was also participating in an experimental medical trial that might have gone very wrong.  As a determined Bee gives her statement to the lead investigator, her story reveals a predator who got away with murder--and an obsession that may cost Bee her own life.

I read this along with a couple girlfriends on my Kindle.  Even though I didn't pick to read this book, I think I still would have read it eventually based on the synopsis.  I don't typically read mystery/thrillers, but I guess I don't necessarily place this book in the typical thriller category with Stephen King or James Patterson.  Rosamund Lupton was a new author to me since SISTER is her first novel.  Again, I am thrilled to find a new author that I can follow and someone whose first novel I really liked.    

Right away, you know that the character's sister has died, but you don't know how and the novel takes you through many twists and turns all the way to the absolute last page of the story.  It had me literally sitting on the edge of my seat as I was reading through the last 2 chapters.  

The story is told to me the reader as if I am the dead sister.  So, it took some getting used to as the living sister (Beatrice) is recounting the events of her sister's (Tess's) death through the telling of a letter as well as through the telling of the events to a lawyer.  There are divisions in the book so you know when there is a change in the telling of the story, but at times it was still confusing.

The story is set in London. Since I have never been to London I am not familiar with the places the writer talked about, but her descriptions allowed me to easily picture the parks, the weather, and the scenes in the story.   I also appreciated that I was reading it on the Kindle and could easily find the definitions of the British terms that were used.

Another great perk to reading on the Kindle is being able to highlight certain passages along the way.  A lot of my highlights were common to other readers.  They were things I wanted to remember and sentences that made me pause to think.

In some cities birds can't hear each other anymore above the noise.  After a while they forget the complexity and beauty of each other's song. Some have given up birdsong altogether, and faultlessly imitate car alarms.  Page 14

Usually time alters and affects everything, but when someone you love dies, time cannot change that - no amount of time will ever change that - so time stops having any meaning.  Page 55

People think it's reassuring to say, "life carries on"; don't they understand that it's the fact your life carries on , while the person you love's does not, that is one of the acute anguishes of grief. There would be day after day that wasn't the day you were found; that hope, and my life with my sister in it, had ended.  Page 58

Our mind is who we are; it's where we feel and think and believe.  It's where we have love and hate and faith and passion.  Page 110

If equal affections cannot be, let the more loving one be me. Page 190

But grief is the ultimate unrequited love.  However hard and however long we love someone who has died, they can never love us back. At least that is how it feels.... Page 195

She pans life for gold and finds it daily....only learning the words to describe a wonderful world, refusing to know the words for a bleak one and in doing so linguistically shaping the world that you inhabit. Page 279  This last one, I really loved.  What a happy way to live.

This was definitely a page-turner and kept me interested all the way to the end.  There were shocking twists, but towards the end of the book, I did figure out the murderer.  But the author still found ways to bring more twists at the end.  I was a little disappointed in the ending. I was left wanting more and a little unsettled, but still was left with hope for the character. 

This would make an excellent book club pick as there are lots of discussable topics including grief, trust, relationships, and genetics.  The topics in this book are heavy and may not be for everyone.  Cystic Fibrosis is featured in this story and has brought this horrible disease and it's treatment to the forefront.  

SISTER has won several writing awards including the Best Debut of 2011.  Rosamund Lupton has since written another novel titled AFTERWARDS set to be released April 24, 2012. I look forward to following her writing career and am sure she will find great success.  Be sure to check out her website, for more information.     

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Scenes From Our Week - Week 20

Another busy week in the books for the Gorkow family.  Every day was packed and nearly every evening too. We managed to squeeze in our annual Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt for the kids.  They had fun running around the house, deciphering their clues to find books, movies and candy.  Pat got me a Colbie Caillat CD and I have been really loving her soothing music this week.

Pat surprised me with these gorgeous tulips on THURSDAY; an after Valentine's Day surprise.  He has also been working very hard on a new shelf for my cookbooks.  I can't wait to see how it turns out.  Stay tuned!

Patrick played in his last basketball tournament of the season.  I love watching him play, but I won't miss the "bleacher butt" I get from sitting all day at tournaments.  Soon we will be outside (freezing probably) watching the boys play soccer.

This is what Reagan gets to do during the tournaments.  She and another sister of a player bring toys, notebooks, and coloring books and spend all day creating and playing in the stands.  They always have such a good time.

Patrick and Coach/Dad watching the action on the court.  I know Pat really enjoys being able to be a part of the boys sports activities.

Patrick hustling down the court.  You really played well this season and showed some great improvement in your skills!  I can't wait to see you play in middle school next year!

And we are off on another busy week.  We have something very exciting coming up next week which is making this week extremely hectic.  I have resigned myself to the fact that I will get little sleep as I try to accomplish everything on my list.  I can't wait to share about it in the next couple weeks! I am super excited.  Stay tuned!!!!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Family Time February - Swap

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

SWAP is a card game that our family has been playing for a few years.  I remember when we first got this game, our son, Bennett would ask if we could play SWAP (rhymes with lap).  The game's tag-line is "It is a Swift Swappin' Switchin' Slappin' Card Game", and that about says it all.  

You need to try to get rid of all your cards, but it isn't as easy as you think.  Your cards are constantly changing hands.  You may match a color and then end up having to swap hands with someone or having to be the first to slap the pile.  Watch out for the Super Swap where EVERYONE has to change hands.  This game is fast-paced and super fun.  The first to get rid of the cards in their hand is the winner.  

This game is for those ages 7 and up and it is for 2-10 players.  It is available your local discount stores like Target or Wal-Mart for around $5.  It is also available HERE on Amazon for $7.22.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Friends Count at Build-A-Bear Workshop

Whenever we are in a mall with a BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP in it, our family can't resist going in.  The kids love looking at all the different animals and then spending all kinds of time looking at the different outfits they could get for their bears.  I have to admit, it is just a happy place to be.

Did you know that BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP has been around for 15 years?  Since the company opened its doors in the St. Louis Galleria Mall on October 27, 1997, it has grown to become a global brand as well as a company with heart.  This year they are also celebrating the selling of their 100 millionth furry friend.  Now, that's a lot of stuffed animals to love!

BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP's message has always been that friends count, no matter if they are furry or real.  Reagan has two furry friends from BUILD-A-BEAR, Olivia and Rachel.  Rachel is a bunny and was given to her by her brothers when she was born.  Olivia is a pink tye-dyed bear that she picked out for her birthday a couple years ago.  Both are very special to her and are frequently taken along on trips and tucked in bed with her.

For me, I am so blessed to have so many friends that I can count on.  I remember reading a saying about friends once, and it basically said how women have friends for every situation in their life, and each one of them has a purpose and is very special.  I can totally agree with that.

I have my BFF, Tammy, who I met in college and even though we are opposites in some ways, we clicked and have been close ever since, even though a lot of our friendship has included living apart from each other (like now).  I love that every time we talk, we pick right up where we left off.  I love that I can send a text about something funny and she knows exactly what I mean.  I love that she loves to read, like I do, and we can talk books.  I love that we can really talk about anything for hours and it seems like only minutes have passed.  I miss our Saturday "dates", but I am hoping to be able to head to Nashville to visit her soon!

My friend, Diana, is a relatively new friend, but when I met her we just clicked.  We can talk for "hours", as the kids say, and we have a lot of common things going on in our lives.  I love bouncing stuff off of her and getting her opinion on mothering.  Diana is also an avid reader and I can talks books with her for hours too.  I look forward to our coffee "dates" that somehow turn into late afternoon sessions and we didn't even notice.  I look forward to our kids growing up together and the two of us supporting each other through the teens years with lots of laughs, oh yeah, Diana also has the best laugh!

My friend, Mary lives in the same town as me and in the summers is my walking buddy.  Our families love to get together on the weekends and "hang out" usually playing a game while the kids create some sort of show for us to watch before the night is over.  Mary and I have similar values and similar shopping habits.  There is always laughter when Mary is around and I can count on her to help me out anytime we need it.

I met my friend, April at church and am so glad I did.  She is a go-getter if I ever met one.  She can literally build a house and then decorate it to look like a magazine feature.  She can sing and play the piano.  She can create a beautiful garden out of nothing.  She can be covered in paint and dust one minute and the next look drop dead gorgeous for a night on the town.  She tells it like it is and at the same time, makes you feel comfortable around her.  She is the epitomy of the "Jill of All Trades" and is someone I am blessed to hang out with.  April and I started an after-school program at our church and we have made a great team.  When I am with April, I believe that anything is possible and what better quality is there to have than that?

Finally, my cousin, Melanie is one of the dearest people in my life.  Melanie is the person I talk to most outside of my husband and kids.  We chat nearly daily on the computer and help each other get through our crazy days.  I have known her my whole life and even though as kids we didn't get to see each other all that often, when we did, we always had fun.  As adults and moms we became close due to our similar values and the simple fact that our kids are the same age and we wanted to build memories for our kids like we had growing up.  Our families get together once a year and Melanie and I get together with our moms once a year.  I look forward to those times so much...even counting down the days....just 24 more days.  If we get to see other more than that it is an extra treat.  We always say how we wish we lived closer (we are 7 hours apart) because we would help each other out with all the volunteering we get ourselves into, or with parenting, or her job, or parties, etc.  But, we dream of one day, after the kids are grown, seeing each other as often as we want.

I don't know what I would do without these women in my life.  They hold me up when I am slumping, make me laugh when I am crying, and remind me that we are all truly blessed.  Thanks for always being there friends!

Thanks to BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP for reminding us that Friends Count.  Congrats on your accomplishments and may you have many more milestones to come! To learn more about BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP, check out their website at

By promoting this milestone, I was entered into a drawing for a Build-A-Bear gift card from MomSelect and Build-A-Bear Workshop.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Valentine Box


For the first time ever, we had to come up with our own Valentine's Box for school.  Prior years we just had to contribute a cereal box or something and the kids made it at school.  But, this year, the options were wide open and we were able to come up with our own idea for a Valentine Box.  What I really wanted to do was find a paper mache/cardboard type box that we could then mod-podge different Valentine related paper too and cut a hole in the top.  We looked all over Michael's and couldn't find any that were the right size.  Then in their wooden section, I saw this kleenex box and had an idea that it would work.  Have you seen that section at Michael's?  Reagan wanted to buy one of everything just to paint them up.  Guess I know what some future gift ideas could be now!    

So, I let Reagan pick the paint colors, (purple, pink, green and blue) and different wooden embellishments (teddy bears, flowers, and the letter R and G) and we finished it up yesterday.  It turned out really cute and since her class only has 16 kids, I think it will fit all the valentine's just fine.  The best part is that it will be great for her to use in her bedroom after Valentine's day and it matches her room colors already.  She can use it for a kleenex box or to keep special things inside.    

Family Time February - Stratego

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

I remember when the boys were little Pat couldn't wait to get the game Stratego and play it with them.  It was a game he loved and remembered playing with his brother when he was a kid.  I remember the first time I played it....I didn't do so well.  I quickly realized this wasn't going to be my favorite game.  But, the boys LOVED it.  I remember them playing it a lot.  A few years later we even got the Transformers Stratego version.

To play the game you set up your "battle field"  and by moving your marked pawns, you engage in a battle against the other player. Your whole purpose is to protect your flag while trying to capture  your opponents.  Certain pawns can be beaten by others when matched up, so strategy is key in this game.

This game is only for 2 players and is recommended for ages 8 and up.  STRATEGO is readily available at your local discount stores and online HERE for $19.99.  If you have kids who like battles, Star Wars, or strategy type games, this is for them!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scenes From Our Week - Week 19

I just realized this weekend that Tuesday is Valentine's Day.  It isn't that it hasn't been on my was just that last week was so busy, it kind of got pushed to the back of my mind.  I knew it was coming up, but now packages are going to arrive late in the mail and I am upset about that.  Hopefully those getting "Love Gifts" from me will understand!

So, here are some scenes from our busy week.....

The week started with a football game....the SUPER BOWL.  Every year we enjoy sharing the evening with friends and family and cheering our team on.  This year all of us were cheering for the Giants except for Bennett.  We had lots of great food and fun times!

Our Saturday morning was spent watching more basketball.  The boys really played well this week and have showed a lot of improvement in their skills.  Here is Patrick is going up for a shot and bringing the ball up the court.

They got 2nd place in the tournament.  Patrick was pretty excited to get his own trophy!

Reagan and I got to watch our niece, Ali perform in our school's Touch of Class Show Choir Competition.  Our school and community comes together to put on this amazing competition and I am proud to be a part of it.  Ali hung out with us after their performance and while waiting to see if they made the finals. Reagan was so excited to watch her and spend some time with her. I'm not sure Reagan realizes that very soon Ali will be going off to college and we won't see her as often.  That will be a tough day for her!

Ali (in the center) performing during the finals. They placed third out of fourteen teams.  We were very proud of their performances and I am so glad I got watch them and cheer them on!

 Don't forget to share your love with all those close to you this week.  Did you know it is also RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS week?  What random act will you perform?????

Shocked and Saddened

Everywhere I look, I am reading about the death of Whitney Houston and while that is sad and shocking in and of itself, the death that has left me nearly speechless is the death of author, Jeffrey Zaslow.

photo courtesy of

Jeffrey Zaslow, a longtime Wall Street Journal writer and best-selling author with a rare gift for writing about love, loss, and other life passages with humor and empathy, died at age 53 on Friday of injuries suffered in a car crash in northern Michigan.
He died after losing control of his car while driving on a snowy road and colliding with a truck, according to his wife and the Antrim County Sheriff's Office. The condition of the truck driver wasn't available.
Courtesy of

Jeffrey Zaslow has become one of my favorite non-fiction authors.  I haven't read GABBY or HIGHEST DUTY, but his 3 others were wonderful.  I recently reviewed his newest book THE MAGIC ROOM, here.  In THE MAGIC ROOM he wrote about his great love and dreams for his three daughters while researching the bridal dress business.  It breaks my heart that he will never see his daughters in their wedding dress or walk them down the aisle.  But, his daughters will no doubt know how proud he was of them. 
I can't imagine the amount of lives Zaslow has touched through his column in the WALL STREET JOURNAL or through his books, but mine will forever be grateful for his words and lessons on life, love and happiness.  
My deepest sympathy goes out to his wife and his three daughters.  My hope is that even after his death, his words will continue to inspire others to live each day to its fullest and tell those closest to you how much they are loved.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Family Time February - Feed the Kitty

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

FEED THE KITTY by Gamewright is not one of the games you will find on every game shelf, but it is certainly worthy of being there.  FEED THE KITTY has won several awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award, Today's Parent Magazine Top Toy of the Year, Parenting Magazine Mom-Tested Toy of the Year, and Family Fun Magazine Toy of the Year Finalist to name a few.  

FEED THE KITTY is super simple to play.  We got this game when our daughter was 4 and it was a hit with our family.  It is also great for our family of 5, because all of us can play together.  It is playable for 2-5 players, ages 4 and up.  It is also a quick game taking around 15 minutes to play and needs no paper or scoring, just a spot to roll the dice.

Everyone starts with mice and you take turns rolling the dice and either passing your mouse to a neighbor, putting a mouse in the kitty bowl or taking a mouse out of the kitty bowl.  Play keeps going around the circle until you run out of mice and have no opportunity to get one from your neighbor.  The winner is the only person left with mice.  

FEED THE KITTY retails for $11.99 HERE.  It is available online at several other places and can be found in your more specialty toy/game stores.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Family Time February - Cranium Hullabaloo

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

When the kids were little I especially liked games that got the kids up and moving.  CRANIUM HULLABALOO did just that!  HULLABALOO is a game that gets kids moving around on floor pads that are placed around the room.  Based on the item called out by the game console, the children will jump, spin, leap, crawl or even tip toe to the appropriate shape, color, food item, animal, or instrument. It will randomly stop and whomever is standing on the item called (like the elephant) is the winner!  The winner will then be asked to do a funky dance or some other trick.  Then you can start the game all over again!

CRANIUM HULLABALOO is perfect for kids ages 4-10 and can be played with 2 or more people.  This is a great game for daycare, homeschools, preschools, birthday parties, playdates, or rainy days!  Even the grown ups have fun with this one!

This game has also been discontinued by the manufacturer, but can still be found online at places like ebay and AMAZON.  Because it is discontinued, it is retailing for $49.00, but if your kids are little, it will provide years of fun for the money!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Family Time February - Bananagrams

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

Today's featured game is BANANAGRAMS.

You know I LOVE word games and BANANAGRAMS fits the bill.  This is a much more fast paced word game in comparison to Scrabble, but much like it in some ways.  BANANAGRAMS can be played alone or with as many as you can fit around a table.  Really, the more the merrier and more challenging it gets.

Everyone starts with the same amount of tiles.  Using those tiles you build your first word and others from it until you have used up all your starter tiles.  Then as you run out of tiles, you "peel" another from the main pile which causes the other players to also have to "peel" a tile.  Using the tile you draw to add to a word or create a new word on your own personal game area.  As other players run out, they will "peel" and cause you and others to "peel". This goes on until all the tiles are used.  The first person to use all their tiles to create their own scrabble like board wins.  The other important part of the game is that your tiles are movable.  You can move them around to create different words as you need to.  So, it makes the whole game much more exciting.

This game is best for those ages 10 and up.  There is no scoring, you just play and start a new game.  It is a great way for kids to work on word recognition and spelling.  BANANAGRAMS is available at your local toy and discount stores as well as Amazon and Target online HERE.  It retails for $14.99.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave


By Chris Cleave

Published February 10, 2009


WE DON'T WANT TO TELL YOU TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS BOOK.It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.  Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this:
This is the story of two women: Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again-- the story starts there...

Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.
As much as I wanted to know what was going on in the story, it is truly best if you don't know.  This was one of those books that without the "back of the book story" to tell you what to expect, you were a little confused by how it began.  But, by page 100 I DID NOT want to put the book down.  This is a book you will want to discuss and talk about, but don't spoil it for someone who hasn't read it.  
Because of what happens in the story, I did have to, at times, read it in small doses.  It is a bit graphic and the subject matter could be difficult for some.  Even though this is a work of fiction, I have no doubt that the atrocities in the story likely took place....which is difficult for me to wrap my brain around.  
This was our book club choice for this month and I CAN NOT wait to talk about it with the gals.  There are sooooo many topics to discuss and questions to ask.  Topics that will likely be included in the discussion are death, grief, immigration, infidelity, and parenting, among others I can't mention without giving away too much of the story.
If your book club is looking for a book that will make everyone stop and think and create a wonderful discussion.....THIS. IS. IT.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Family Time February - Trouble

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

I think my husband's favorite game as a child was TROUBLE.  In the last 30+ years the game hasn't changed much except for maybe adding Disney or other movie characters to the theme of the game.

The game is a classic and includes the fun pop-o-matic dice roller that any kid will love using.  I remember playing and letting our youngest be the popper while we played with the older kids.  The overall purpose of the game is the get your four pawns into your home base while traveling around the board.  But you have to watch out for other players who can send you back to start as they come around the board.    This game is for 2-4 players and for ages 5 and up.

My husband still enjoys playing this game with the kids and it is a quick and easy game to play.  The kids always think it is funny when they get to send Pat or I back to start!

Trouble is sold by HASBRO and retails for $11.99. It can be found at toy stores and discount stores or online.

Tastefully Simple Winner!

The winner of the Tastefully Simple Souper Douper prize is.................

True Random Number Generator  4Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Reads, Rants, Raves and Reviews said...
Love Tastefully Simple's ready to make dip mixes and monkey bread!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Scenes From Our Week - Week 18, A Penguin Snack

I guess we had a busy week because I only took one photo this whole week. I had planned on taking some shots at Patrick's basketball tournament, but then I ended up keeping stats and running the clock, so I couldn't take pictures.  So, the only picture I took this week was.......

Friday was Reagan's snack day at school.  She had seen in her AMERICAN GIRL magazine these penguin snacks and had been begging to make them.  We decided to make them for her snack and she was so excited. They were also a huge hit with her classmates!

We used regular oreos, snack size oreos, and frosting (white to seal the oreos and yellow for eyes and beak).  I will say, it wasn't as easy to break or cut the oreos in half and I was glad I had purchased 2 packages to cover for all the broken wings.  But, they were relatively quick to assemble.

I will do my best to get some better photos this week!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Family Time February - Balloon Lagoon

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

Today I am featuring another great Cranium game.  Sadly, it is also discontinued, but still available on Amazon.

BALLOON LAGOON is definitely one of our kids' favorite games.  Playing this game is just like being at a carnival but without the crowds! There are four mini games to complete.  As you complete each "challenge" you collect balloons to put into your game piece.  The person with the most balloons at the end is the winner. The four mini games include a slot-machine like game where you match pictures on a card (like the four pieces to a shark), flipping frogs into the pond, fishing for magnetic letters to spell words, and a dice matching game.  You have to complete each mini game before the song/timer runs out.

We have great memories playing this game.  I always struggled with the frog flipping and the kids always thought it was so funny that they could do that better than me.  They loved fishing for the letters.  This is such a great game that includes both cognitive and physical abilities.  The game states it is for 5 + years which I think is pretty realistic.  This is a relatively more expensive game at $34.99, but our family has gotten several years of enjoyment from this game.  This is one of those classics that we will hang on to forever.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Family Time February - Mouse Trap

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

Another game from our childhood as well as one we enjoy now is MOUSETRAP.

Because the set up is more work for the parents, it may not always be our first choice, but it still is fun!  As you play and move around the board, you build pieces to the contraption.  You collect pieces of cheese to use as payment once the entire trap is built.  Then you try to trap another player's mouse in the mouse cage as you release a marble through the contraption maze.

 I remember when the boys were really little, they would get so excited to watch as the marble wound its way through every part of the maze and eventually dropped the cage on the potential mouse.  This game teaches patience for the building process, teaches the science of how to get the marble to drop to engage the next process, and is always good for laughs.

The game states it is for ages 6 +, but I expect most 6 year-olds would need help from a parent in building the maze.  The game is available on Amazon for $18.15.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Family Time February - SkipBo

During the month of February, I am featuring games that our family has enjoyed over the years.  February is a great time of year to get cozy with your family and play some games.  I guarantee there will be lots of laughs and memories made.  

Today's featured game is SKIP-BO from Mattel.

I don't remember how this game came into our family, but it started with my husband and I playing it together.  When the kids were little, we would put them to bed and play a few rounds of Skip-Bo.  Now we have taught our kids how to play.

The object of the game is to use your cards along with the other player's cards to build stacks of cards in sequential order.  You must use strategy, planning, and luck in playing your cards.  The winner is the first to get through their own stack of personal cards first.

The game is appropriate for ages 7 to adult and can be played with 2 or more people.  You do need to have a flat surface to play it on due to the stacking of cards.  This game retails for $6.99 and can be found at your local Target, Wal-Mart or toy store as well as Mattel's website HERE.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Losing It

A week ago I started Weight Watchers.  My cousin is doing the online version and I decided to join in.  10 years ago, after having our second child, I started Weight Watchers and lost 40 pounds in about 4 months.  I had a 2 year old and a 1 year old so I am sure that had something to do with the weight loss too!  But, I really liked Weight Watchers and how their plan worked.  It has changed some since then, but still an awesome program.  

Well 10 years later, nearly all of that weight had worked its way back onto my hips, thighs and stomach.  Bleh! Before Christmas I had gotten sick and wasn't able to eat for a few days, so that kick started my weight loss.  In that time, I lost 8 pounds.  Christmas partying put 3 pounds back on, but I kept off that first 5.  Last week I lost an additional 2 pounds! I want to have 10 pounds gone by the time I hook up with my cousin for a weekend in March.  I feel strongly that I can do it!  Only 3 more to go!

So, while I was on Pinterest one night, I saw this FAB AB FEBRUARY and thought, I can do that.  What a great way to amp up my treadmill/healthy eating/weight loss.  I thought maybe some of you might want to check it out too.  You still have plenty of time to get it done today!