Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bookworm Wednesday: Me Before You

For all those about to head out on a fantastic spring break vacation, I have the perfect book for you: Me Before You



I sped through the engaging prose in 3 days, sneaking in daytime reading (which I never do), and staying up way too late. The story was compelling and thought provoking but the writing was simple and clean with lovable characters and interesting family and relationship dynamics. It wasn't perfect, but I enjoyed every second I spent with it. Some language, but otherwise a pretty clean read. Highly recommended!

Goodreads.com summary: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. 
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. 
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Good Eats: Super Simple Caramel Brownies

These brownies were my dad's favorite growing up and they quickly became my husband's birthday treat of choice. I love them because they only take a few ingredients and are super simple (and dangerously addictive)!




Caramel Brownies

Ingredients

1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 stick of butter, melted
1 small can 8 oz. evaporated milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag (14 oz.) caramels

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Mix the cake mix, butter, and 1/3 C. evaporated milk together in a medium size bowl.

3. Press half of cake mixture into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

4. While the first half is baking, unwrap the caramels, add the rest of the evaporated milk (2/3 cup) and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute, then stir...repeat until the caramels are completely melted. 

5. When the bottom layer is done, pour the melted caramel over the top, then sprinkle with the chocolate chips. pat the rest of the mixture flat with your hands and layer on top of the chocolate chips (you will have to do this in pieces; it is okay to have some spaces in between, they will seal as it bakes). 

6. Bake the brownies for another 20-25 minutes.

7. Let cool. (These are one of the few treats that are better when prepared a day ahead. If you eat them before they are cool, they just don't taste as good! I promise.)

7. Cut and enjoy!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What the Memphis Grizzlies Can Learn from A Few Kids



Two weeks ago, my parents took my 11 year old son and me to a Utah Jazz game. It had been years since I had watched the NBA, and boy had things changed. The beginning was spectacular with fire, motorcycles, cheerleaders and a crazy mascot. The players were pumped and the crowd was ready. I was impressed.

Until the national anthem.

The woman singing was pitch perfect. The National Guard was serious, strong and reverent. The children on the court were in 2 lines, standing still as could be with their hands over their hearts. The crowd was mostly quiet and attentive. My eyes drifted from the singer to the players, and I was shocked.

The Memphis Grizzlies, currently #2 in the Western Conference, stood haphazardly. One continued his stretches and his warm ups, bouncing up and down. A few stood chatting with each other and laughing, and only TWO had their hands over their hearts. I watched a bit longer, hoping that perhaps they hadn't realized what was going on yet. I wanted their coach to look down the line, and like an embarrassed mother, snap his fingers and motion to where their hands should be. But he didn't. And they didn't. It continued for the entire "Star Spangled Banner."

Afterward, my son asked me why the soldiers' presenting the flag were so serious. My answer to him was because that flag and that anthem mean something to them. They know men and women who have died defending the freedom it represents. They have personally sacrificed months and years of their time, leaving the people they love to fight for our country and what it stands for. Some of them have mental, physical and emotional injuries that might never be healed because they volunteered to protect us, so of course they take it seriously...that flag represents goodness, honor, bravery and above all else, freedom and sacrifice.

So, if the opposite is true, then to those athletes perhaps that flag and that anthem mean nothing. If it did, they would certainly be able to pause for 3 minutes to honor those who fight while they play. They might take a minute and reflect on how living in a free country gave them public education, parks with basketball hoops, recreational leagues, volunteer coaches, high school sports, college scholarships, and a capitalist system that allows excellence in anything to be celebrated and monetized. Because of our freedom, they get to make more playing basketball for a week than many soldiers will make fighting in the Middle East for an entire year.

The Grizzles played a practically flawless game; they were brilliant on the court and made winning look easy; but to me they were an absolute disappointment. Perhaps in their pre-game huddles, Coach Joerger should talk a little less about basketball and a little more about character. A little more about gratitude. A little more about heart.

I hope at our next NBA game, my son will whisper, "Mom, why are the athletes all so serious during the national anthem? and I can say, "Because, their freedom means everything to them."

**After this experience, I wanted to make sure my own children understood how to show respect during the national anthem at sporting events or any event. We had a nice dinner table discussion that was enlightening to us all and reminded us of the sacrifice so many make on our behalf. We are so incredibly grateful! If you have ever wondered what you are supposed to do during the National Anthem (hint: hands behind your back is not correct), here is a great link: National Anthem Etiquette .


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Help the March of Dimes help Babies in Michigan!

If you or someone you love has ever had a baby that needed special care, you know how scary it can be. The March of Dimes has been helping babies and families through difficult situations for years. This month, in Michigan, you can help too! See below for all the details! 








Date: Sunday, May 17, 2015
Start time: 11:00 AM
Registration time: 10:00AM
Hudson Mills MetroPark
8801 N Territorial Road
Dexter, MI 48130


Oakland (formerly Troy) www.marchforbabies/event/oaklandmi
Date: Sunday, April 26, 2015
Start time: 10:00 AM
Registration time: 9:00AM
Oakland University
2200 N. Squirrel Rd.
Rochester, MI 48309
(248) 359-1550

Detroit www.marchforbabies/event/detroitmi
Date: Sunday, April 26, 2015
Start time: 9:00 AM
Registration time: 8:00AM
Wayne State University
5045 Anthony Wayne Drive
Detroit, MI 48202


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Books Your Boys Will Love Right Now


The Young Samurai Series: This is my 4th grader's favorite series ever. He likes it even more than Harry Potter and Percy Jackson (I know, hard to believe). Every time he gets a new book in the series, we don't see him until he is finished. Highly recommended! Great for ages 10 and up. 8 Books in the series.

Summary: Shipwrecked on the shore of Japan, twelve-year-old Jack Fletcher is wounded and alone. His father and the entire crew have been slaughtered by ninja pirates. Jack's last remaining possession is his father's rudder, an invaluable book of maps and notes about the world's uncharted oceans. Masamoto-sama, one of Japan's greatest samurai, rescues Jack, adopts him, and sends him to samurai school, where Jack will be trained in the Way of the Warrior. Will it be enough to help Jack defeat Dragon Eye, the ruthless ninja who is intent on stealing the rudder at any cost?


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The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel): Another series that has my boys holed up under the covers and finishing every last word. Recommended ages 12 and up. 
Summary: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.



The One and Only Ivan: This book got serious thumbs up from all my kids, and it would make an excellent read aloud. The story's main characters are animals but the themes and lessons could not be more human. Give this one a shot! Great for ages 8 and up.

Summary: Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all. Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better. Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.



Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin: This book would also make a great read aloud, a perfect present for a book lover or reluctant reader. Ideal for ages 8 and up, this new yet familiar story will be a real winner in your house! 

Summary: In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.
To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.


Island: This is an awesome adventure story for the younger crowd, recommended for ages 8-12. It would also make a great read aloud or a good book for a boy who doesn't love reading yet. There are 3 books in the series that are all very engaging.

Summary: Six kids. One fate.
They didn't want to be on the boat in the first place. They were sent there as a character-building experience. But now that the adults are gone, the quest for survival has begun. This first book in a suspenseful survival trilogy delivers the gripping drama of people battling the elements to younger readers.

For More Book Recommendations for Boys, click HERE
For Great Family Read Alouds, click HERE