Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

THE YELLOW HOUSE


By Patricia Falvey


Published: February 15, 2010


*****

THE YELLOW HOUSE delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Eileen O'Neill's family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life.
She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior's soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore.
I got this book back in 2010 when I won it from a blog.  Unfortunately, I didn't keep track where I won it from though.  Since then it has been sitting on my To Read shelf, patiently waiting.  Then a few weeks ago, I saw it listed as the Kindle Deal of the Day for $2.99.  I had recently started a mini book club with two of my friends and since they both have Kindle Fires, I thought this would be the perfect book for us to read.  So THE YELLOW HOUSE got bumped to the top of my reading list just like that!
As you know, I LOVE Historical Fiction and this book gave me plenty of it. I love reading books and learning about parts of history that I never even knew happened.  Since I grew up and have always lived in America, I had very little knowledge of the political and religious uprisings that occurred in Ireland.  This was another book that gave me a greater appreciation for the country and era that I grew up in.
The story was also filled with family secrets and struggles that I think most of us can relate to.  Eileen and her family loved each other deeply, were hard working, but also had a bit of the past that prevented them from moving forward.  Some of the twists in the story were expected but others made me drop the book and gasp in surprise.  You also can't have a story without a little romance and the author kept the love lives in the story interesting!
If you would have been eavesdropping while I was reading this novel, you would have heard laughter, gasps, sniffles, and even a few sobs.  This novel kept you focused and interested.  All the characters were easily imaginable and Eileen was someone I would have loved to have been friends with as well as been afraid to cross! She definitely made life interesting!  This would be a great choice for book clubs as there are a lot of topics worthy of discussing including: family loyalty, politics, religion, war, friendship, love, dreams, values, grief, and parenting.  This book has it all.
Another thing I loved about this book was that it was the author's first novel.  It thrills me to find a new author and then to fall in love with their first novel.  I'm always excited to hear of their next novel.  Since it took me so long to read this one, Falvey has already come out with her second novel, THE LINEN QUEEN, which is also set in Ireland and has been added to my To Read list.  Falvey is also working on her third novel.
Courtesy of www.PatriciaFalvey.com
For more on Patricia Falvey, check out www.PatriciaFalvey.com or check out her Facebook Page HERE.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scenes From Our Week - Week 17


The week started with a "SNOW DAY"  The above picture is what happens in our house when there is a snow day.  Kids still in their jammies, each one on a different electronic device, completely happy with another free day at home.


One of the gorgeous sunsets we have had this week.  Apparently there is a "storm" on the sun which is helping us to have these beautiful sunsets and others to be able to see amazing northern lights.  Wish I could see those here!

We took a little trip this weekend to Minnesota. Pat needed to see some clients so the kids and I went along too and spent our entire Saturday at the Mall of America.  Nine hours of shopping and walking around with the kids and I actually had a blast!  :)



We were even able to get in a little education while at the Mall of America.  There was an American Citizenship ceremony going on in the center of the mall.  The Judge told how 40 years ago he came to America with a dream, showed his own immigration papers, and is now giving others their own citizenship. I thought that was pretty amazing! I jumped on the opportunity to talk to our kids about how lucky we are to live in America.  During the ceremony they played this video with scenes of our beautiful country along with photos from other citizenship ceremonies while playing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA".  It was very moving.  Then each of the people in the chairs walked up to the stage and stated their name and country and received their certificate.  We heard people from Kenya, Mexico, and Israel, just to name a few.  I had tears in my eyes and am so glad I was able to share that with our children.  

Reagan and Lady
We checked out the Disney Store, which they have changed and moved to a new location since this summer.  It is now very high-tech with projectors all over the store showing different Disney related images in places you wouldn't expect.  It was fun just looking around.  Reagan used to LOVE going to the Disney store, but this time, I realized she is no longer my little princess girl.  She really wasn't interested in all the princess stuff anymore and I got a little misty realizing she is growing up....tooo fast.  

We spent a lot of time here.  Even Reagan spent some of her birthday money getting another Lego Friends set to go with her Cafe that she got for her birthday.  I hope the kids never grow too old for Legos!  We also got one of the new Super Heroes sets for the boys...and their dad!


A LOT of time and money was spent here!  The boys could have spent all day in here, but a mom does have her limits!  We left with 3 jerseys and some Fatheads.  

We spent a bit of time in the new Microsoft store.  Reagan had no trouble getting right on a computer and playing computer games!


At the Best Buy store, the kids had fun watching one of the 3D TVs.  I can't imagine having to wear glasses every time I watched TV.  Reagan kept reaching out thinking she could touch the things that were flying in front of her.  3D TV just isn't for me.  


The kids talked us into some rides at the Nickelodeon Universe.  The Pepsi roller coaster ride must not have been too scary for Patrick as you can see in the above photo! After the ride, Reagan said, "Mom, I almost peed my pants on that ride!"  I guess it was a little scary for her!

Of course, no hotel stay is complete without pool time! This weekend was the perfect little refresher and was full of great family time!  I'm ready to begin another busy week!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It Is Going To Be One of Those Kind of Days

After spending 15 minutes looking for my coffee creamer, I finally found it....




right where it belongs....in the coffee cupboard. 

Oh my....it is going to be a looooonnnnnggg day!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Orange Leaf Yogurt - Soooo Good


Have you heard of ORANGE LEAF YOGURT STORES?  Well, I had never heard of them until they opened a store on the west side of Cedar Rapids a few weeks ago.  Don't you love their funky decor?  Well, I should have never walked in the door.  It could be trouble for my hips, thighs, and rear end!  It is a bit like COLD STONE CREAMERY, where you pick your ice cream and toppings.  But that is where the similiarity ends.

When you walk in, you will go straight to the numerous Soft Serve Yogurt machines and choose a flavor.  This could take you awhile...they have several to choose from....(not all of these are available all the time at every location)  I chose Raspberry, Cheesecake and White Chocolate.  Put as much or little of a flavor as you want.  You are in charge.

Banana
Birthday Cake
Blueberry
Blueberry Banana
Brownie Batter
Butter Pecan
Caramel
Cheesecake
Cherry
Chocolate
Chocolate Caramel
Chocolate Cheesecake
Chocolate Cherry
Chocolate Coconut
Chocolate Mint
Chocolate PB
Chocolate Raspberry
Classic Tart
Coconut
Coffee
Cookies & Cream
Cotton Candy
Dole Pineapple
Eggnog
English Toffee
Gingerbread
Grape
Grapefruit
Green Apple
Green Tea
Hazelnut
Honeydew
Key Lime Pie
Kiwi
Lemon
Lychee
Mango
Mango, Strawberry, Banana
NSA Chococlate
NSA Vanilla
Orange
Passion Fruit
Peach
Peanut Butter
Peppermint
Pineapple
Strawberry, Banana
Pomegranate
Pumpkin Pie
Raspberry
Raspberry Banana
Raspberry Lemonade
Red Velvet
Snickerdoodle
Strawberry
Strawberry Banana
Strawberry Cheesecake
Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry
Taro
Vanilla
Watermelon
Wedding Cake
White Chocolate


Then you get to add your toppings.  I chose White Chocolate Chips.  But, again, they have tons to choose from.  I thought the Fruity Pebbles would have been fun to try too!  Next time!

Kiwi, Pear, Mochi, Pecan, Peach, Honey, Mango, Banana, Granola, Coconut, Nuts, Pineapple, Blueberry, Strawberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Honey Dew, Jelly Bellies, Cranberries, Watermelon, Oreos, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, Brownie, Gummy Bears, Dark Chocolate, Captain Crunch, Sunflower Seed, Dried Fruits, Graham Cracker, M&M's, Sprinkles, Marshmallows, Butterfinger, Reeses Cups.




Then you pass your bowl over to the cashier, she weighs it and you pay and you are done.  I would say my bowl was average size and I only had one topping so it wasn't too heavy and I paid $3.48 for my bowl of deliciousness.

They also have these funky spoons that make eating your yogurt so much more fun!

What I loved best about ORANGE LEAF YOGURT was how quick I got in and out of there.  I didn't have to wait for someone to mix up my ice cream and then mix in my toppings.  I was in control of the amount I put in my bowl and how much time I spent deciding what to put in the bowl.  My only time waiting was for the 5 seconds to see how much I owed!

Once this place catches on, I expect it to be super busy. I haven't even told my kids about this new place because I know they will be begging me to go there every time we go to town.  I plan to surprise them with it one of these days.  Thanks to ORANGE LEAF YOGURT for coming to Cedar Rapids and especially to the WEST SIDE!

If you would like to find out more about them, check out www.orangeleafyogurt.com.  Once on their website, you can find links to follow them on Facebook or Twitter as well.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Product Review and Giveaway: Tastefully Simple Soups

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. THANKS FOR ENTERING!




Are you familiar with Tastefully Simple products?  If not, you should be!   I have been a huge fan of their products for a long time.  


Tastefully Simple is a dynamic direct sales company based in Alexandria, Minnesota. Tastefully Simple offers a wide selection of convenient, easy-to-prepare foods designed to help people spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the rest of their lives. Their products are available through independent Tastefully Simple consultants primarily at home taste-testing parties nationwide.

Some of our family's favorite Tastefully Simple products are 
  • Bountiful Beer Bread Mix
  • Cinnamon Muffin Melt Mix
  • Spinach and Herb Dip Mix
  • Pomegranate Chipotle Sauce
  • Rhubarb Strawberry Fruit Spread
  • Nana's Apple Cake Mix
  • Truffle Fudge Brownie Mix

All of these items are ones I like to have on hand to.  They are great for whipping up quick and taking to a neighbor or to a gathering.  All their products are very reasonably priced and I haven't found a product that I haven't liked.  I'm lucky to have a consultant that lives close by and can keep me in stock on all my favorite items.  You can find out if you have a consultant in your area by going to www.tastefullysimple.com and clicking on Find A Consultant.  


When my friend, Daralee asked if I wanted to review some products, I jumped at the chance!  I received the SOUPER DOUPER GIFT SET. It retails for $26.95.  The soup mixes come in a gift bag ready for giving.   The set includes:
  • Creamy Wild Rice Soup Mix  -  Comfort food at its finest! Just add hot water for a thick, rich soup brimming with wild rice, veggies and almonds. Makes about 5 servings.
  • Bountiful Beer Cheese Soup Mix -  Smooth, rich and creamy with a little nip of onion and sweet bell pepper. Just add milk and beer. Ready in 15 minutes. Makes about 5 servings. 
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup Mix -  Restaurant-quality soup at home in 20 minutes with the rich flavors of tomatoes, cheese, bell peppers, sweet corn and spices. Just add chicken and water. Makes about 6 servings.



Our first soup that we tried was the Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I added a can of chicken breast, a can of corn and a can of black beans and topped the individual bowls with sour cream.  This was the one our family loved the most!  It had just the right amount of heat and flavor.  You could really jazz this up however you want with peppers, tomatoes, or other spices.  Make it your own. That's the benefit of a mix!

Then we tried the Creamy Wild Rice Soup Mix.  I again added canned chicken breast and then also added canned mushroom and some more wild rice that I had on hand.  This was another delicious meal and reminded me a lot of my Aunt Susie's homemade wild rice soup.  The kids even liked this one!


Then, just the other night, we tried the Beer Cheese Soup.  I made it just as it suggested by adding Beer and Milk to the mix.  We topped our individual bowls of soup with pepper bacon.  The soup was good, but frankly my husband likes his soups with a bit more "stuff" in it.  The package also suggests using the mix as a macaroni and cheese base by leaving out the beer which would be good.  So, of the 3 soups, this wasn't our favorite, but still a filling and tasty one.

All three soups were quick to mix up and were ready to serve in about 20 minutes.  All three soups were the perfect amount for our family of five and were great as leftovers to warm up the next day.

Now for the best part:  Tastefully Simple Consultant, Daralee Schnor has generously offered to giveaway one SOUPER DOUPER GIFT SET to one of my readers.  No matter where you live in the USA, Daralee will send it to you!  This would be the perfect item to have on hand to get your through the long, cold days of winter!  To learn more about Tastefully Simple products, go to www.tastefullysimple.com.

To enter this giveaway...
Leave a comment stating your favorite Tastefully Simple product or one you would like to try. This giveaway will be open through 11:59 PM on Sunday, February 5, 2012.  I will choose a winner using random.org on Monday, February 6, 2012.  The winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond or I will choose another winner.  This giveaway is open to US residents only.




This review is my honest opinion.  I was provided with one Souper Douper Gift Set in order to facilitate this review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post.  I only review products that either myself or my family would enjoy or benefit from. 





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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Scenes From Our Week - Week 16

We had an odd week with very little school.  Monday was a scheduled No School day, Tuesday we had a late start and and early dismissal due to weather, Wednesday was a scheduled early dismissal, Thursday was a FULL DAY, and Friday No School due to weather.  So, I guess winter has officially arrived! YUCK!  I am hoping for a full week of school this week.

Reagan's family party was last Sunday and even though not everyone could make it, we still had a great time!
Reagan was super excited to get these Squinkies.
Has your daughter gotten into these?
Well now they have these Squinkie Zinkies...smaller than your pinkie!  Oh my!
Gotta have cake!  Thanks to Target, we were able to get this Hello Kitty cake.
Hey, I can't be the mom who always makes the cake! Sometimes you gotta let Target handle that job!
Bennett blowing some snow.  We got about 4 inches on Friday.
Patrick was selected for the Marion Honor Band for percussion.  Here he is playing the bass drum.
We did a little shopping before the concert and I couldn't resist this new hat for Reagan.
 It is super cute on her, don't you think?
After the concert we took the kids to Planet X.  It is basically a Chuck E Cheese for bigger kids.  The boys tried the Space Bikes, where they spun in full circles, going upside down.  Bennett didn't feel so good afterwards.
We certainly had a great week and I hope your week is full of blessings, big and small.  Look for any and all opportunities to bring joy to someone's day by sharing your smile and a kind word.  It truly can make a difference.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bit by Bit, I'm Getting Organized - Junk Drawer Organization

I had been frustrated with the state of our junk drawer for quite some time.  Half the time I couldn't open or close it without shoving stuff around.  It took forever to find the stuff that I needed to use.  So, I pulled the drawer all the way out, set it on the living room floor and this is what I saw!

BEFORE
I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and got some wire mesh containers to use in the drawer.  I had some mismatched baskets before but the system wasn't really working....obviously!  I also used an old muffin tin for the small stuff like push pins and straight pins, nails, screws, etc.  But that took up A LOT of space so wanted to find another solution.  So, I took everything out of the drawer.  Put stuff in piles and got to work.  Surprisingly, the throw-away pile was the biggest.  Don't you hate that?  How did all that crap get in there???

AFTER
It really didn't take me long to organize everything.  I had everything back in the drawer in a couple hours.  I got rid of the muffin tin and used an idea I saw on PINTEREST  using Altoid tins for keeping small items.  I was able to scrounge around and find two that could be used.  I put the push pins/straight pins in one and nails/screws/button cell batteries in the other. Taking the muffin tin out of the drawer was a huge change and freed up a lot of space!  I got out my label maker and labeled the Altoid tins as well as all the chargers we had laying around.  I had kept all the cameras and chargers in a basket on the counter, but I was able to fit everything in the drawer and free up counter space.  We also had several screwdrivers and pliers in the drawer.  I consolidated and kept only the main ones that we use regularly in the drawer.  The others were placed in a basket in the mudroom closet.  Still easily accessible, but not necessarily needed in this drawer.

1 Week Later - Still Organized
 As you can see, it has been a week, and everything is still organized.  The kids and Pat are able to find what they need and know right where to put stuff back.  I can open and close the drawer without trouble and I gained some counter space back!

One organization task done and off my list!  What have you organized lately?


Free Kindle Book Websites - Sharing the Knowledge



Since I have gotten my Kindle I have been on the search for sites that offer FREE or LOW-PRICED books for the Kindle.  Since friends of mine have also gotten Kindles or Kindle Fires they have been asking where I find all the FREE books.  So, here is a list of websites that I use to find FREE or LOW-PRICED books.




Keep in mind, these books and their prices have nothing to do with the website listed.  These prices are most often set by the book's publisher.  They may leave the book at that price for an hour, a day, or several days.  You never know.  Sometimes they just want to get the book out in some readers hands and get people talking about it.  Sometimes the publisher will reduce the price of an authors older book to get you to read their more recent book.  Finding these LOW-PRICED books is a great way to be introduced to a new author, to read an older book by a favorite author, or to just find a great book you didn't even know about.

My "rule" (remember rules can be broken, of course) is not to spend more than $5 for a Kindle book.  I have found numerous great books (ones I have even been wanting to read) for Free - $3.99.  For the price of a Starbucks latte, I can get a book and that is a great deal to me!

Do you have any other sites that you use to find Kindle books?  Feel free to leave them in the comments section.  Share the knowledge!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Product Review: Lego Friends



Reagan got the new LEGO FRIENDS CAFE set for her birthday.  If you haven't seen this new LEGO series yet, check it out HERE.  They are brand new to LEGO and are perfect for your daughter who always wants to help her brothers with their LEGO sets.  We got Reagan the LEGO Pink Bucket a couple years ago because she was always wanting to mess with the boys' legos.  But, this new series is even better.  She has a booklet of instructions and can actually build the set all by herself!  She built the cafe in just a little over an hour with very little help from dad or I.  She was so proud to have built it and loved the girl figures that came with it.  She played with the set for quite awhile acting out a whole cafe scene!  Isn't that what Legos are supposed to do....inspire imagination???!!!

There are many other sets in this new Friends Series to check out and all are reasonably priced compared with some of the sets we have gotten for the boys.  The cafe set is $29.99, Beauty Shop $24.99 and the Vet (seen below) is $39.99. There are also smaller sets that would be perfect for Valentine's Day or Easter Baskets!

LEGO has always been huge deal in our house.  My husband even still has his LEGOS from childhood.  We look forward to building with this new series and making LEGO memories with our daughter as well.  I am hoping they will come out with a LEGO FRIENDS Advent Calendar next year!!!  What do you think, LEGO?????  We will be traveling to the Mall of America in a couple weeks and I know that the LEGO Store will be one of our first stops!

Way to go LEGO for creating a set that allows girls to create and imagine in their own little "girly" worlds!





Lego has no idea who I am.  I am getting no benefit what-so-ever from this review.  I just love them and want to share that love with all of you.  This is my honest opinion and I wouldn't review anything that wouldn't benefit myself or my family.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: On Strike For Christmas by Sheila Roberts

ON STRIKE FOR CHRISTMAS


By Sheila Roberts


Published October 30, 2007

3.5 out of 5 Stars

At Christmastime, it seems as though a woman's work is never done. Trimming the tree, mailing the cards, schlepping to the mall, the endless wrapping--bah humbug! So this year, Joy and Laura and the rest of their knitting group decide to go on strike. If their husbands and families want a nice holiday--filled with parties, decorations, and presents--well, they'll just have to do it themselves. The boycott soon takes on a life of its own when a reporter picks up the story and more women join in. But as Christmas Day approaches, Joy, Laura, and their husbands confront larger issues in their marriages and discover that a little holiday magic is exactly what they need to come together.

This book was recommended by my BFF, Tammy, who read it last Christmas. It was our book club read for this month and I am glad I didn't read it until AFTER Christmas. I think I might have gotten all wrapped up in the women of Holly's strike and joined in myself! I do have to admit that it would have been really tough for me to carry out the whole strike...not buying presents and baking. I could have easily given up the decorating part though! Even before reading this book, I decided I didn't need to put every single decoration out this year and only put out the decorations that I really loved. That meant I had a lot less to put away! 

I could really identify with some of the characters in the story and the relationship they had with their husbands.  I am lucky in that my husband does help when we have parties with cleaning and food preparation.  But, with Christmas related items, I really do 90% of it.  I shared the story with him and told him he was lucky I didn't go on strike! Ha! Ha!

This book is a good read anytime of year, but especially around Christmas for that gentle reminder that what is really important is being together with those you love....and maybe a few cookies to share!


There was a Made for TV movie shown on Lifetime based on the book and is available on Netflix that I plan to rent.  Roberts also made a follow-up short story called A VERY HOLLY CHRISTMAS that picks up at the Christmas following the strike. It is only basically one chapter ,but it is available for FREE on Kindle. 


I liked Sheila Roberts's easy, light read and would like to check out some of her other novels.  

Scenes From Our Week - Week 15

We had a birthday in our house this week.  Our baby girl, Reagan turned 7!  It seems like just yesterday, Pat and I were in the hospital room, patiently waiting for our miracle girl to arrive.  The epidural was doing its job and we were tuning into an episode of DR PHIL.  Then all of a sudden everything changed, the epidural quit doing its job and it was time to deliver.  Reagan was born at 3:58 pm on January 11th.  And seven years later, we continued to be blessed every day by her sweet, kind and generous personality.

She took #7 cookies to school for her treats!

She asked for flowers and she got them! Aren't they both gorgeous?!

She loves Hello Kitty

Comfy Hello Kitty PJ's. I wish I had a pair!

She wanted me to get a strawberry cake and luckily I found this one at HyVee
. It was just the perfect size for our family, decorated perfectly for her and the best part....Berry! It was yummy!

Reagan had friends over Friday night and they made Shrinky Dink bracelets.
Remember Shrinky Dinks????  Oh how I loved them as a kid!
We also had a little nail salon going on Friday night with the girls!  
It wasn't all about Reagan this week, Patrick had a basketball tournament too.  
It was a full week and we even got our first snowfall of the season.  We are looking forward to another busy week ahead that starts with a  lazy day at home on Monday! Have a great week everyone!

Friday, January 13, 2012

How I Get Organized With List PlanIt

As I said on Monday, HERE, I LOVE List PlanIt and how they help me stay organized.  They have lists for everything! 

This is one of the many lists that I use here at home.  When I can't think of what to do for supper I can go to my Meal List that I have inside one of my kitchen cabinets.  For most of them, I always have the ingredients on hand.  They are our families favorite and most requested meals. 

This is just one of the many, many lists offered on List PlanIt.  I'm offering a giveaway for one of their memberships.  Sign up HERE to win by Sunday, January 22, 2012. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Scenes From Our Week - Week 14

Not a whole lot of photo opportunities this week.  We were just trying to get back into a regular routine again after the Christmas break!  Next week will feature lots of birthday pictures, I am sure!

Reagan is super excited to turn 7 this week!

Patrick with his bridge that he and his dad built for science.  It passed the weight test...holding 37 pounds!

Our cat, Baxter found a cozy spot to curl up this week....on my lap....which is rare for him.


Amazingly, on January 8th, we had hot air balloons go over our house. 

We are used to seeing the balloons in the spring/summer, but NOT in JANUARY!