Thursday, February 23, 2012

In my opinion memoirs are usually a risky choice to read because I either end up completely loving the book or completely wishing I had never read it in the first place; thankfully The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith falls into the former category!

In this book, Smith takes you along on her journey of grief from learning in her teens that both of her parents have cancer to their passings and the journey beyond.  She is a woman trying to work her way through this grief and ultimately feeling the "why me?" that we so often can relate to.  She explores the five stages of grief, ultimately working her way to her happy ending.

This is a story filled with joy, sadness, confusion, fear, and a little teenage rebellion thrown in there, too!  It's a story about finding yourself in the midst of chaos.  It's a story that I highly recommend reading!

Come over to The BlogHer Book Club's Rules of Inheritance page to check out more about this book!

**Disclosure: As always, this is a paid review by BlogHer Book Club, but all opinions stated are fully my own!

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's no secret that I love to host dinner parties; having people in my home is something that I really enjoy!  One key thing to having people over, however, is to make sure that I (as the host) am not stressed out by the preparation or the timing of the evening.

This week's Life Well Lived Getting Organized question on BlogHer is on that exact topic: What is your best tip for hosting a gathering, get-together or party that is enjoyable and stress-free for both the host and guests? 

I've hosted a variety of dinners and get-togethers, ranging from having just one guest to having 20+ guests!  If there is one thing that I have found helpful, it is to allow myself to let go of the reins and allow others to help out with preparation.  In fact, for some meals (such as family gatherings) I will even go so far as to make them responsible for bringing certain dishes or certain ingredients to prepare dishes!  Having others help to prepare the meal allows a comfort level that would not be there if I were to take the responsibility fully on myself!
All of my happy helpers at Ethan's 1st Birthday party:

Do you want to see other tips on stress-free hosting?  Visit the discussion on to hear other suggestions and join in on the conversation!

Don't forget to head over and enter the sweepstakes for your chance to win a Kindle Fire!

I can't wait to hear your tips, too!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Monte and I made a pretty big decision this year regarding Valentine's Day: we weren't going to hire a babysitter and go out.  Instead, we decided that we were going to make the day about celebrating our kids and showing them that this holiday doesn't have to be about the romantic love that it is made to seem, but instead we can celebrate the love we have in our families and, most importantly, God's amazing, unfailing love.

Best.  Idea.  Ever.

We had so much fun celebrating the kids, and from their responses, I think they had a lot of fun, too!  They all woke up to a small card and a gift box full of Hershey's Kisses - but little did they know that was the least of the surprises they were going to have.

Shortly before they arrived home from school, I hurriedly made some heart-shaped cinnamon rolls for them to enjoy them as an after-school snack (and yes, I cheated and bought the ready-to-bake rolls instead of making them from scratch!).

The cinnamon rolls before they were baked.

Lo and behold, they were a hit!  The kids were excited to come home to this treat!

Ellis and Iain getting ready to eat the rolls.

After school I helped Colin go through his Valentine cards that he received and put the candy aside to enjoy later.  We then worked on some homework together and got all of his things ready for school the next day - then I kicked him out of the kitchen, as I was ready to begin preparing the best part of the surprise!  See, awhile ago (maybe a month or two) our local grocery store had lobster tails on a mega-sale, so we snatched some up and put them in the freezer to use for a special occasion.  Valentine's Day ended up being that occasion!  Since I am allergic to seafood, we decided to make it a surf 'n' turf dinner so that I would have something special to enjoy, too!  So, next to the lobster tail, we served some delicious steak, along with gourmet potatoes and asparagus.  The kids were so excited!

Dinner is served!

Add to that the candlelight that was glowing in the middle of the table as we ate, and the kids had a perfect Valentine's Day celebration!

 Monte serving dinner to the masses :)

 Even Ethan was excited even though he didn't eat the surf 'n' turf!

Enjoying a truly delicious meal!  Thanks for helping me make this so special, honey!

After dinner, we cleaned up and dad was rewarded (for making the delicious steak and lobster) with a back massage courtesy of Iain.  It didn't take long before almost all of my kids got in on that one!

What follows dinner?  Why a back massage line, of course!

To end the evening, we spent a little bit of time on YouTube searching videos with Foghorn Leghorn in them, because my kids didn't know who he was!

Top it all off with a goofy game of Catch Phrase and I say this Valentine's Day is the best one I've ever had!

What did you do to celebrate the day?!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Picture courtesy of Google Images

It's 4:40am and suddenly I am awakened by the sounds of KTIS on my radio.  I stumble over all of the buttons on the clock until I find "Snooze" and push it quickly, the relief of silence my immediate reward.  Then the internal battle starts, "I need to get up.  I really need to get out of bed and go.  I don't want Monte to wake up.  I will feel better if I do" vs. "If I just shut off the alarm I can sleep for two more glorious hours.  I don't think I can work out very well if my body is so exhausted.  Who needs to work out?  Oh yeah, I do.  Ugh!"

If it weren't for my husband and his sweet way of rolling over and kissing my cheek to let me know he's awake (which I much prefer to being shaken, kicked or told to get out of bed!), I don't think I would have the motivation to get up.  However, knowing that he can enjoy one more blissful hour of sleep usually gets my butt up and moving pretty quickly, as I don't want to be the hindrance that prevented that sleep!

I stumble to the bathroom, still half asleep.  Turn on just one of the two lights - can't handle too much brightness.  Use the toilet.  Brush my teeth.  Brush my hair.  Put on my swimsuit and clothes - grab my bag and I'm out.

By 5:00am I am in the truck and headed off to our local pool.  Thanks to my amazing friend, Susan, I have learned about the open swim hours that are available and have taken to swimming during the insane hours of the morning while the rest of town is still drooling on their pillows and snoring.  I pull into the parking lot around 5:10am (give or take a few minutes) where Susan is promptly waiting (she's much better about getting there early!) and we head into the building.  Talk a bit about our lack of sleep, the cold weather, our lack of sleep.

Drop my stuff in the locker room and head to rinse off before the swim.  Get in the pool and spend the next 45 minutes doing laps.  Reminding myself of why I'm doing it.  Reminding myself to focus on my breathing because, once again, I forgot my inhaler at home and can't afford to have an asthma attack without it.  Counting my strokes and wondering what it will take to learn to swim in a straight line.  Maybe my former bosses (all Physical Therapists) were on to something when they said that one of my legs is longer than the other?  Maybe that's why I can't swim straight?!

Regardless of what's rolling through my mind, I get through the swim and am out of the pool again promptly at 6:00am and into the showers.  I'm still working on getting over the whole locker room showering experience.  I'm more modest than I would have thought.  It's getting easier, though.

Back into the truck by 6:20am and home by 6:30am so Monte can be off to work.  Greet him with a kiss and, almost always, the phrase "I am SO exhausted!".  Make breakfast and begin my day.

I never in a million years would have thought that I would be one to get up early to work out - but once breakfast is done and I am fully ready for the day at the early hour of 7:30am, I remember just how much I think the early mornings are totally worth it.

If only I can convince myself of that when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Disclosure: I have been compensated for giving this review for BlogHer Book Club, but all of the opinions expressed are my own!

"Don't be ridiculous.  I'm exactly like you.  We're all exactly alike, you know."
"Sure.  In the way that we're completely different."

Those two statements so perfectly encompass the relationship among the three sisters featured in The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.  These ladies, now adults, grew up in a small college town where their father was a well-known professor with an extreme love of all things Shakespeare (so much that all three of their names came from Shakespeare's works: Rosalind, known as Rose; Bianca, known as Bean; and Cordelia, known as Cordy) and their mother was happy to move through life focusing on the things in front of her as well as being lost in the dreams within her heart.  When the sisters learn that their mother has cancer, they all find themselves once again living under one roof.

Shaped by the many different directions in which life has taken them, they fight to find the common ground that ties them together.  Though seemingly so very different, they come to understand how very much alike they actually are.  This book perfectly encompasses the relationship between sisters and the love that binds in the end.

Come on over to the BlogHer Book Club and join in on the discussion of this fabulous book - you won't regret it!