Saturday, July 18, 2015

Back into Blogging...

It's time...I have taken a year-long hiatus from blogging as I focused on the kids, my classroom and moving into a new house.  I feel like it is time to get back into blogging WITH A VENGANCE!  I have been reading, canning, quilting and planting up a storm so I am hoping to expand the blog a little to include all of that PLUS my usual book reviews.  Maybe blogging a little about my classroom during the upcoming school year too!
Here's a quick update.  The boys are growing like weeds and this year we will have a kindergartner and a second grader!  Life is good at the new "homestead" as I am calling it.  I have quickly realized that my ambitions are lofty for what I want to do with the new land and I need to pump the brakes a little.  We have so much to I guess baby steps.
I have been reading like crazy this summer.  I just finished The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs - delightful!  I'll have a review coming soon.  I also read a dynamite young adult novel last week, The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel.  I am re-reading currently the My Side of the Mountain series by Jean Craighead George finishing up all three in about two days and pondering how I will incorporate them into my curriculum next year.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
I am working on a four year quilt - yes, I said four years because although that is an exaggeration it FEELS like it has taken me four years to complete it!  I have more fabric waiting for me as I owe some baby quilts to a few nieces and nephews. 
Summertime here in Virginia has been wet so I am patiently awaiting my tomato plants to really start producing, plus they were late getting into the ground since we were moving this spring.  I am relying on the farmer's markets and a good friend's farm right now for all of my produce.  Canning so far has been light, a few jams and jellies but I did experiment with a fine mesh strainer which made for some delicious blueberry jelly!  I have been using the dehydrator for blueberries and raspberries, yum!

To end, what I have loved most about this summer so far is my new life out in the woods.  Each night I find so much happiness in the quiet of the back porch with a great book and a glass of wine.  Our outside cat agrees...the country life is good!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman

Masterminds & Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman is above all else a fantastic read! After perusing through it over the last few weeks one thought immediately comes to my mind – if you are someone who has any interaction with boys, this book should be continually clutched under your arm as a guide to how to navigate the shark-infested waters otherwise known as “raising boys.”

What I love most about this book is its reference manual style. This is not something that you have to read in its entirety from cover to cover but more a book you can use as a reference point for a particular problem or situation. Son comes home tight-lipped and you suspect it is an issue with friends? No problem, grab a cup of tea and flip to chapter three – Popularity and Groups. Having an issue detaching your son from the ever tightening grip of social media? Chapter nine, “Social Networking” should help direct your intervention. I am a huge fan of parenting books in this style.

One of the more appealing aspects of this book is that it is based in the absolute true reality of day-to-day parenting of boys. This book offers no pretenses and no illusions about just how hard this can be for parents and is quite frank about the lack of support parents of boys get from our modern day culture. I like it…and find its honesty quite refreshing. She really encourages parents to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and start finding solutions since after all, it’s all up to us.

If I had to choose a favorite chapter it would be thirteen, “Redemption and Reconciliation.” Many parenting books focus on the surface stuff. For me, this chapter reaches the depths that parents really need to go. Teaching our young boys that they will sometimes fail, mess up, or find themselves in situations which will require them to really dig deep to get out of. I like that Wiseman encourages parents to teach their young men about how to respond to difficult situations – and everything is in the way you respond. Responsibility, redemption, and reconciliation are the key to her message and I think parents everywhere would do well to really digest that message.

The most applicable chapter for parents today is definitely chapter nine on social networking. Because of social media, parenting today is harder than ever before. The entire universe (literally) seems against us and it is a scary place to just throw our children without adequate preparation. Since cutting them off completely is very unlikely, Wiseman really encourages earning trust and building skills so that they are prepared. As a teacher I see firsthand on a daily basis the negatives of social media and how that can impact our young boys. It is an entirely different world than we grew up in and this book really discusses how to prepare your son for that world – it is something no parent can afford not to do.

 If you’re interacting with young boys this book would be the perfect addition to your parenting arsenal!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sights From This Spring

I am already jumping into gardening, canning and all things spring/summer.  Here are some sights from my spring so far (and if you couldn't tell, I have been playing around with PicMonkey a bit):

Those carrots were left over from last year - I can never seem to grow good carrots so I guess the trick must be to leave them in for a year and a half!

We hatched 30 baby chickens in my classroom this year, this is one just hatched in the above picture!

Spring has sprung and I couldn't be happier!

Keep It Pithy by Bill O'Reilly

I am a big fan of anyone who is a straight-shooter, anyone who isn't afraid to tell the truth, or speak their opinion regardless of how popular or unpopular it is.  I think this is the predominate reason I really like Bill O'Reilly and after reading several of his books, watching his news program, and even following his Talking Points via email, it all reinforces just how much I agree with many of his viewpoints.

Keep It Pithy is a neat book - short, concise, a quick read.  It is conversational meaning that O'Reilly is writing like he is having a conversation with you.  There are many different examples of how he uses bold and italics changes to emphasize his point or pose a question to the reader.  And while I usually find this difficult to read I didn't with this book.  It was very simple to follow along and honestly it made me read more quickly because it was broken up into smaller chunks.

He makes no apologies and clearly states that this read is entirely based on his opinions and he wants to give readers a clear and pithy summary of his viewpoints.  Along with that, he is teaching readers how to keep it pithy in their political conversations.  The subtitle states it all, Useful Observations in a Tough World. 

Great Book: 4/5

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ingenue (Flappers #2) by Jillian Larkin

The first one was so good I just had to delve into the second.  While I appreciate the story continuing, I did find this one a little harder to get through (at least compared to the first.)  That being said, I have read a number of reviews that say the second is the slowest - and it wasn't bad by an means, just slow - of all three so I am definitely still looking forward to reading the third, Diva.

About the Novel:

Power . . . love . . . scandal . . .
There’s never enough to go around.

In the city that never sleeps, Lorraine Dyer is wide awake. Ever since she exposed Clara Knowles for the tramp she was—and lost her closest confidante in the process—Lorraine has spent every second scheming to make her selfish, lovesick ex–best friend pay for what she did. No one crosses Lorraine. Not even Gloria.

True love conquers everything—or so Gloria Carmody crazily believed. She and Jerome Johnson can barely scrape together cash for their rent, let alone have a moment to whisper sweet nothings in the dark. And if they thought escaping Chicago meant they’d get away with murder . . . they were dead wrong.

Clara was sure that once handsome, charming Marcus Eastman discovered her shameful secret, he’d drop her like a bad habit. Instead, he swept her off her feet and whisked her away to New York. Being with Marcus is a breath of fresh air—and a chance for Clara to leave her wild flapper ways firmly in the past. Except the dazzling parties and bright lights won’t stop whispering her name. . . .

INGENUE is the second novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic Flappers series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . where revenge is a dish best served cold.

About the Author:

Jillian Larkin’s fascination with flappers and the 1920s began during her childhood, which included frequent home screenings of the classic Julie Andrews/Carol Channing film Thoroughly Modern Millie. She lives in New York.

My Thoughts:

Let me first say that this cover is the most appealing to me out of all three.  I just love how sleek and sophisticated it looks, very much a representation of exactly what comes to mind when I think about the 1920s.

This novel was a slight bit slower of a read than the first one but it was still a great novel and I was still enveloped right into the 1920s.  This novel was set in New York after Gloria and Jerome move away together.  An interesting twist was the heavy focus on Lorraine in this novel.  She was the center focal point and the entire storyline was told through her viewpoint which I liked.  Lorraine is an interesting character and very representative of girls out there who have not yet found their niche and sometimes find themselves sucked into the latest and greatest, even when it isn't good for them.

Another interesting part of this novel is the appearance of Gloria's father - he comes in a big way although his role in the second really is just setting it up for his even larger role in the third (the final book opens with a scene involving him and Jerome.)

The only part of this novel that I found somewhat hard to wrap my mind around is how Lorraine managed to find graces with the biggest mobster and then be hired to run one of his clubs.  I realize she was the bait but it still seemed a little farfetched and her naivety really does shine through as she finds herself in way over her head.

The setting is amazing, the fashions fun to imagine and the characters fun to follow, I look forward to seeing what the third and final novel in this series has to offer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Vixen (Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin

Vixen was chosen as our March young adult read for the teacher book club I belong to - I have to confess,
as I was reading I had to keep reminding myself that these were actually KIDS because much of the lifestyle they are living is very adult, very VERY adult!

About the Book:

Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.

About the Author:

Jillian Larkin’s fascination with flappers and the 1920s began during her childhood, which included frequent home screenings of the classic Julie Andrews/Carol Channing film Thoroughly Modern Millie. She lives in New York.

My Thoughts:

Wow, this book packed a punch!  Such a punch that I had to keep reminding myself that it characters were kids!  The lifestyle is so adult, which I am sure is accurate for the upper elite in major cities in the 1920s.

I couldn't put this book down because it truly kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.  Each chapter follows from one of three points of view - Gloria, Clara, or Lorraine.  Gloria and Lorraine, best friends forever, have a fledgling relationship that as the girls get older is tested past its breaking point.  Clara, Gloria's country cousin who has a secret and sordid past of her own is trying to fit in to the Chicago scene without arousing any suspicion about her past in New York.

Throughout book one we follow the girls as they discover the speakeasy scene in Chicago and get caught up in all of its glory...we follow them as they fall into forbidden places both figuratively and literally.  The plot line is fast and easy to follow and the characters are charming and have depth to them.  But most of all, the setting makes this book - the 1920s are a fascinating time period which provides an amazing backdrop for Jillian Larkin's dynamite series.

I am about three-quarters through the second book, review coming soon!


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dispatches From Bitter America by Todd Starnes

I needed this book - at a time where there seems to be so much going wrong with our country, our world, and our lifestyles in general, it was so comforting to read something so humorous from someone whose beliefs are aligned with my own.

About the Book:

FOX News Radio reporter Todd Starnes is a self-professed “gun toting, chicken eating son of a Baptist” whose Dispatches from Bitter America is “a collection of stories from my travels across this country (and) conversations I’ve had with regular folks who have deep concerns about the direction we are going as a nation.”

In his award-winning, satire-meets-serious writing style, Starnes jumps headfirst into the current culture war, taking on the topics that are dear to every American: religion, health care, freedom, country music, barbeque, and so forth. Along the way, he shares exclusive interviews with political commentator Sean Hannity, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, cooking sensation Paula Deen, and pop singer Amy Grant, always hoping to go from bitter to better.


"In Dispatches From Bitter America this 'Great American' finds that not only is our American way of life under attack, but also that most Americans do in fact love God, this country, their families, and are anything but bitter!"

Sean Hannity, New York Times best-selling author, FOX News host of Hannity

"Todd Starnes combines sound research with his signature wit to tell the stories of regular Americans who are standing up to a secular movement that seeks to remove all religious expression from the public square. This is a compelling book that puts our entire existence into the perspective of eternity."

Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council

About the Author:

Todd Starnes is the host of FOX News & Commentary — heard daily on hundreds of radio stations. Throughout his journalism career, Todd has covered a number of high profile stories — taking him from Wall Street to the White House.

He is a regular contributor of FOX & Friends and He writes a weekly column for Human Events and

Todd is the author of two books. “Dispatches From Bitter America”  is a collection of essays detailing how President Obama has declared war on the values that made this country great.
The book is endorsed by Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Gretchen Carlson and Mark Levin.

“They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick” was published in 2009 and became a best-seller. The book was a collection of humorous and inspirational stories from his open heart surgery in 2005.
In his spare time, Todd is active in his church, plays golf, follows SEC football, and eats barbecue.

My Thoughts:

Like I said, I needed this book - I needed someone else to reinforce all of these DUMB things happening in our country are just that - DUMB!

I needed someone else's fresh and funny perspective about the state of our nation.  Todd does that in a way like no one else - in a way that has you laughing your head off but then shaking your head wondering how in the world we got into this mess.

Splashed throughout are religious Christian references which I appreciated.  He is a Baptist, like me, so I could absolutely relate.

I like his writing - and I will definitely be recommending this book to my friends...both liberal and conservative!