Matched – A Book Review

I love reading. There’s no doubt in my mind really and when I find a good book I get pulled in and find it hard to set it down. Then, of course, there are times when I start a book and just get stuck. I can’t seem to get into the book and find myself forcing myself to read it because I may finally break through the slowness and get to the good parts. Sometimes it gets better and other times… well, I just set it aside for a while.

I just finished reading Matched and I’ll be honest with you, it started out pretty slow. I had a hard time reading it. Part of it was because I was angry. The book is set in the future and it’s a future where the officials (government) control almost everything that the population does. What they eat, when they eat, what job they get, who they marry (if they even can), how many kids they have, and when they die. Every bit of life was controlled by the officials and everyone believed that it was for the best.

Matched. When teens reach the age of 17 they attend a banquet where they are matched up with the person they’ll spend the rest of their life with. It was hard to not be happy for Cassia when she was matched with her long time friend Xander. But yet, I found myself annoyed with the Officials and all of their control and reading it was slow because of that I think. I pushed on though and the book did get better.

Other characters are introduced and fleshed out as the book continues. Ky, Cassia’s love interest being one of the most important. Of course there’s a hint of rebellion, and as always a bit of foreshadowing of future stories.

The main character, Cassia, goes from an agreeable teen to one who starts question things (not out loud though) and starts pushing back in subtle ways. It all begins with her grandfather’s death on his 80th birthday and a poem that he gives her. A poem that is not one of the approved 100…

Anymore and I will end up giving away the entire story! In the end I found myself liking it more and more and wondering what happens next, what will Cassia do or say, what new twist will the officials add to the story, and how will all tie together.

Could you live in a world where everything is decided for you… where you have no control? Could you have faith in a world controlled fully by the government?

If you want to learn more about the author, Ally Condie, check out her Facebook page, Twitter, and of course her blog.

Join me in discussing Matched over at BlogHer Book Club page!

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Family Movie Night with Papi

Every once in a while on those rare occasions I am able to sit down and watch a movie with a couple of the kids (getting all 4 of them together to watch a movie we agree on is impossible) for the evening.

This weekend was one of those rare times and you know what? I loved it… we watched an entire movie together! I know that my daughter loved it because it was a movie that she wanted to see.

What movie was it that enthralled my 10 year old and my 2 year old? Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3! Of course Lauren was really concerned because she hadn’t seen the 2nd one yet and didn’t want to have miss anything. Of course, we did see the first one… multiple times… while we were in Florida a few years ago for our Disney trip. I think we watched it at least a dozen times in the car while we drove around Orlando! I don’t think that we missed anything, the movies seemed to stand well enough on their own.

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Beverly Hills Chihuahua is hilarious! I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it! I won’t give away much of the movie but the part where they were auditioning bands for Rosa’s party…. awesome! And all the dogs that they had in the movie… wow! It always amazes me how well trained and behaved they are… I mean I could hardly manage to get one dog to sit down let alone multiple dogs.

Are you looking for a fun movie to share with your family? This is perfect! Just take a look at the trailer! A little popcorn… a few cookies… and a fun movie is a great way to spend a fall evening at home with the family.

Just head on over to Disney where you can get your very own special Blu-Ray combo pack copy today!

You can also join in on the Twitter party that Social Mom’s is hosting on Tuesday, September 18th from 7 – 8pm EST for the big release of the movie. The best part… you can win a $20 Amazon.com gift card or a Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3 Blu-ray Combo Pack. All you have to do is RSVP and join in on the Twitter party fun!

I know that we’ll be watching this one again… because my daughter let us know that she loved it and wanted to watch it at least 5 more times!

I was compensated for writing this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Disney blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. To read more posts on this topic, click here.

Cute shirts & a Great Cause

Who doesn’t love cute t-shirts? I know that I do and these shirts from Mommy at Heart are awesome and not just because they’re cute but they also support a great cause.

mommy at heart

When I was first contacted by Reece from Mommy at Heart about helping to promote their shirts I was a bit wary as I am when I get pitches, but she was so nice and when I checked out their site I loved it! I probably would have helped them out even without the cause because the shirts are so cute!

Being a mom means you need to wear many different hats. At the end of the day you’re exhausted, worn out and drained from fulfilling so many roles to support your family. The title of “Mom” means that on any given day you could be a taxi driver, personal chef, sanitation engineer, judge, referee, potty trainer, play-date coordinator and so much more!

We realized that moms play all of these roles and more—so we decided to design a few mom shirts that focus on the many jobs you perform each day to keep your family safe, happy and healthy. The best part about our shirts is that when you place an order on MommyAtHeart.com we will donate $5.00 directly to a worthy cause.

For the months of July and August they’re helping out Brittany’s Hope Foundation which is a non-profit foundation dedicated to aiding and facilitating adoptions of special needs children from around the world. Brittany’s Hope foundation was created with the hope of building a bridge to unite special waiting children and families who wish to adopt a child but are burdened by the substantial cost associated with adopting a child internationally. Isn’t that a wonderful cause to help support?

Okay, so a bit more about the shirts. They’re 100% pre-shrunk cotton and each has a cute logo and saying on it that is one of the many rolls that we play as a mom.

I had a tough time deciding which shirt I wanted and finally just gave Reece my two favorites and let her decide. She sent me the Social Coordinator shirt that you see above…. cute right? Aren’t we all at one point the social coordinator for our kids… scheduling play dates, going to the park, and all sorts of other kid activities?

Some of the other shirts are Head Laundress (I didn’t want to be reminded of that job), Corrections Officer, Bartender, and my other favorite Marketing Director because I spend almost more time at the grocery store than I do at work!

Please take a few minutes to check out their website, blog, Like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter. I know that you’ll love them!

Moody Sisters Review

I love finding new skin care products! Soaps, lotions, perfumes, and everything in between… if you were to look at the top of my dresser or my bathroom closet you may think that I have a slight addiction. Honestly, it’s hard finding a good lotion and to find a lotion & perfume combo that I really like is even more difficult.

I recently had the chance to check a couple of the organic products from the Moody Sisters. Wait… are you wondering who they are?

Moody sisters

Moody Sisters was founded by two sisters who are different as can be, even down to their skincare needs! Moody Sisters Organic Skin Care caters to “moody” skin. Moisturizers and cleansers designed for sensitive and troubled skin. Free of chemicals and preservatives, these are not only 100% organic and environmentally “green”, but vegan products as well! Products are made fresh and shipped weekly.

I used the hydrating sugar scrub and the Violet Vixen body mist and I loved both of them!

The body mist had a sweet violet smell to it and seemed to last most of the day. It could have been a little stronger but I bet if it were paired with some of the other Violet Vixen products the scent would have super staying power. Now my daughter checked it out too and she didn’t like it and thought that it smelled like old lady perfume. Ehh… what does she know! I really liked it!

violet vixen

Okay, so the sugar scrub is awesome! But I am a huge fan of almost any kind of scrubs! Now this one I won’t use on my face because my face it SUPER oily and I avoid adding to much extra oils or butters to it, but the rest of my skin loved it. It helped get rid of the dry skin and left it smooth and soft. I think that this, with it’s peppermint scent, would be perfect for an at home pedicure! Hmmm… now that I mention it I may have to give it a try this weekend.

You can find them all over the internet too! Follow the Moody Sisters on Twitter and if you become a fan on Facebook you can get 10% off of their entire purchase!  You can also sign up for their monthly coupon too!

The Moody Sisters are also looking for sales reps! If you’re interested or know someone who might me drop them a line.

Marlow & the Monster Book Review

I recently had the opportunity to review an incredible new children’s book called Marlow and the Monster and I must say that it’s great!

Marlow & the Monster

Marlow is a little boy who has an annoying monster visit him regularly and of course the monster thinks that he’s scary… but he’s not. The monster spends a lot of time frustrating Marlow and getting him in trouble because no matter what Marlow does he can’t seem to get his parents to believe him. They keep insisting that monsters simply do not exist.

So what does any little boy do? Well, he pawns the monster off on his little sister, Sarah. The monster scares Sarah at first and Marlow finds himself in trouble but ultimately it’s his little sister who figures out what to do with the monster.

What’s unique about this book is that it is drawn in quill pen and ink with only the monster in bright colors. Andrew and I have read it several times and to get through the entire book I ask him to find the monster on each page. At 2 years old he probably doesn’t fully understand the story but he loves it and brings it to me every day to read.

The book shows that monsters don’t have to be scary and that sometimes they’re silly, funny, and our friends. We’ve never had many issues with monsters under the bed or in the closet but this book would be perfect for parents trying to dispel the scary monster worries that their kids may have.

Marlow and the Monster is the 4th book by author Sharon Cramer. She just finished her first full length novel, The Execution, and is working on a young adult, fantasy series called The Cerulean Star.

You can learn more about Sharon by visiting her website, Facebook Fan Page, or Twitter.

Would you like a copy of Marlow and the Monster? Well it’s FREE this week on Amazon! If you don’t have a Kindle you can download the software to your computer and read it that way! It’s Windows and Mac compatible.

I received a copy of Marlow and the Monster to review. As always thoughts and opinions are all my own.

Tide Pods Review ~ Easy Peasy Laundry

Aside from doing the dishes one of the things that dislike the most is doing laundry. Honestly…. who really enjoys it? Nobody is what I think.

And with 4 kids from toddler to teen the laundry is endless.

I may have found a way to help ease the burden of doing laundry…. Tide Pods. I’m sure that you’ve seen them in the store on the shelf with all the other Tide products. Have you given them much thought? I did, but I never bought them because they seemed a bit expensive and when I was given the opportunity to give them a try I jumped at it! They’re easy peasy! They’re Detergent + stain remover + brightener in one you simply toss one in the washer when you throw the clothes in and that it.

tide_pods

I have a few more details to share with you about them just in case you’re wondering how they work and all that.

Tide Pods work well in standard and high efficiency machines & dissolve quickly in hot or cold water. There is no need to worry about the  film that the detergent is in because it is designed to dissolve in all water temperatures and they’re available in three scents: Spring Meadow, Ocean Mist & Mystic Forest.

They’re convenient, easy to use, and I think that they really help eliminate waste because there is no more plastic bottle! Oh… and you won’t spill detergent ever again using these little things!

Now the important question… Will I buy them? Well, the answer is yes if I have a coupon and they’re on sale.

You can follow Tide on Twitter and Facebook too!

 

This review was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own.

Shutterfly’s Long Live Summer Photo Contest

Summer is a time where we spend countless hours at the beach, splashing in the pool, visiting friends and family, and exploring fun locations near and far and of course we bring along our camera and phones and take tons of pictures. I know that I do…. okay… I’ll be honest with you. I take both my iPhone and my DSLR and take as many pictures as I can so I can remember all the special moments.

At the end of the summer I’m left with a camera full of memories that I now have to figure out how to preserve and lately one of the best ways that I can think of doing that is to create a photo book. I’ve done this several times and love it! My kids like to look through the books and talk about what we were doing and why I used “that” picture (which never fails to be one of them that they don’t like).

This year Shutterfly is running a great promotion! And the best part is that it’s easy to enter using one of those great summer pics that you took!

You can win a trip for four to The Bahamas and a professional photo shoot so you’ll remember your vacation forever (I love the idea of a photographer coming on vacation with us!). All you need to do is upload your favorite photo and caption based on the theme of the week. Get a gift from Shutterfly just for entering! You can enter at any point during the 5-week sweepstakes period.

shutterfly

Photo themes
• Week 1(7/9): Americana
• Week 2 (7/16): Great Outdoors
• Week 3 (7/23): Water Fun
• Week 4 (7/30): Sports & Activities
• Week 5 (8/6): Parties & Celebrations

Prizes
• Instant win prizes just for submitting a photo!
• Weekly prizes (contestants can enter one time/week)
• Weekly featured photos: up to 5 weekly entries will be selected from the gallery and featured on the Facebook fan page and awarded a $500 gift card on Shutterfly and a copy of the new Lonely Planet travel photography book.
• Grand prize: trip for 4 to Bahamas, 4 nights, family photo shoot

Now to enter just follow this link and you’ll be there!

Of course there are official rules that you may want to check out.

I am working with Shutterfly to help promote their summer contest and in return they’re giving me a photobook. Of course all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Simple Green Laundry Detergent Review & Giveaway

With 6 people in my family the pile of laundry that I have is never ending and it seems that just as soon as I get caught up someone brings more down to the laundry room.

Oh… and I have to say that my favorite is that when the girls clean their rooms and all of a sudden find a huge basket of clothes that need to be washed. Let’s not forget about all the towels & bedding… and of course the potty training toddler. But with all of the laundry that I do I don’t really have a favorite laundry detergent… there are a few requirements though.

  1. no bleach in it
  2. smells good
  3. get stains out the first time
  4. works in my front loader
  5. good price

See, nothing to difficult…. or so one would think. Well, that’s not the case because I haven’t found that one that I must buy all the time no matter what. That being the case when Simple Green contacted me to see if I would be interested in trying out their new laundry detergent I agreed. Their other products that I really like using around the house and are always reliable.

A few quick facts about this new Simple Green laundry detergent. It’s naturally derived formula that is biodegradable, has no added dyes or scents, and contains no allergens, asthmagens, phosphates, chlorine, or optical brighteners. It’s a powerful 2x formula that is gentle on your skin and clothing, but works great on stains. Also, it works well in hot or cold water, in your HE or regular washer, giving you the option to use just cold water to save money!

Simple Green Laundry Detergent

Now the down side is that it isn’t yet available in stores, but it will be later this year in 100oz bottles that will do up to 100 HE (high efficiency) loads of laundry! Bring it on kids!! (I should just teach them how to do it, huh?) Although I should mention that you can buy it online now! If you want to buy it now I have a great deal for you! You can get free shipping on your entire order through August 31st that includes the new Simple Green laundry detergent, when you use the code BLOG2012.

I gave the laundry detergent a try and overall it was really good! I only used a small amount even on the largest, dirtiest loads (think clothes from a week of camping) and everything came out  looking great! It took the funky smell out of the towels, got out the layers of dirt that my toddler got on his clothes while playing. The only thing that I didn’t really like was the lack of smell, but that was overcome with a bit of fabric softener.

Want to win a bottle?? Just use the easy Rafflecopter below!

First… a few rules.
  1. Winner must be in the US
  2. Winner must be over 18 years old
  3. Winner must provide address (No PO boxes)

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Simpli Stamped Review & Giveaway

I love hand stamped jewelry because it’s unique and customized just for me… or you. What’s even better is when another blogger is taking that hand stamped jewelry and making it her career. I applaud Amber for following her dream and working towards a career where she is able to be at home with her kids.

When Amber put out the call to everyone on Twitter for some help promoting her new jewelry business, Simpli Stamped,  I offered to help and after I took at look at what she had on her website I was really impressed!

When my bracelet came in the mail I fell in love with it and so did my daughter! As a matter of fact she nabbed it and had it on her wrist before I even realized what was going on and no joke here… I had to practically pry it off of her! She really wanted me to give it to her…. instead I offered to get her one of her own.

The jewelry is all hand crafted and made of sterling silver. Each piece can be customized just for you too! Maybe it’s for a birthday, anniversary, or just because… regardless of the reason the person that you’re giving a beautiful hand stamped piece of jewelry to is sure to love it!

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"amor vincit omnia" which means, love conquers all

So how did Amber get started? Well, how about I let her tell you in her own words.

There was a gift store that I used to visit often. I would walk along the aisles gazing at all the beautiful little trinkets. I would reach out and open boxes and lift up items to admire them. Towards the middle of the store were two shelves that had christening gifts on them. In one of the little boxes was a tiny bracelet that said “Jesus loves me”. I walked by that bracelet every time I went in the store. And every time I had to talk myself out of buying it for “someday”. When the time came that I was having my own little one, the bracelet was long gone. Shortly after my son was born, my very good friend gave birth to a daughter who was diagnosed with a grave illness. Many times I tried to find a sweet little bracelet like the one I had seen so many years before. When the time came that my friend was attempting to adopt a child, I decided that I would learn how to make a bracelet for their soon to be child. Instead of putting Jesus loves me on the bracelet, I decided to put “I am Loved”. This has always been a special phrase to me, reminding me that I was truly loved… no matter what. I knew this child would be loved like no other child had, and I wanted to reflect in the gift I was going to give. The bracelet I gave my friend was the first one I made. I knew then that I had found something I was passionate about and had a talent for. The shop was built from love and each of the items in my shop has been inspired by love.

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Beautiful, right?

I know that you want to go check out all the beautiful items that Amber has! So here’s how…

Check out her Website
Follow her on Facebook
Chat with her on Twitter

And for all you my lovely readers I have something special. Amber has graciously given me a discount code for all of you to use an anything that you would like, custom pieces included! All you have to do is enter BITOFMAGIC when you check out and you will get 10% off of your order! This is good until July 31, 2012.

How would you customize your favorite piece?

Now for the giveaway part!! Enter below to win an item of your choice from Simpli Stamped up to $55.00! The giveaway ends on July 1 when a winner will be selected and have 24 hours to respond. If I don’t get a response another winner will be selected.

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My Artist’s Way Toolkit ~ A Review

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about my writing and how to improve it and it’s something that I’m sure a lot of other bloggers have pondered once in a while too. Right?

There are so many ways that you can make small steps to improve your writing and grow as a person. One of the ways that I’ve found is by using Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way Toolkit. The toolkit is full of ways to awaken or re-awaken your creativity and commit to doing something daily.

Here’s an excerpt from the help section that I think really explains the exercises better than I could ever paraphrase.

The Artist’s Way is an experiential path. We awaken our creativity through using it, not through theory. Through the simple building blocks that are the exercises in this section of the Toolkit, you will learn to heal old wounds and move toward new horizons. You will examine and discard damaging mythology and painful personal experiences in the arts. An exercise at a time—one for each week of the year—you will learn how to construct a new and more positive life built on greater optimism and resiliency. You will not learn to be fearless, but you will learn to create despite your fears.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been very good at completing the daily exercises or the morning writing. Why? Well, morning writing is hard when you’re trying to get out the door in a reasonable amount of time in order to get to work and even more so when you have a toddler who has to be right there with you all the time you’re getting ready.

I love the idea of morning writing though. Three full pages of longhand writing (Yes, there are reasons for doing it this way) that is totally off the top of your head, stream of consciousness type writing. It is definitely a challenge but it’s a great way to clear your head and work through whatever is on your mind…. maybe you work through issues, use it to de-stress, maybe it’s a way of brainstorming some of the strangest ideas you’ve ever had or possibly it’s just a list of everything that you need to accomplish that day.

Julia Cameron is an award-winning poet, playwright, and filmmaker, and has written thirty books and you can connect with her on Facebook or on Twitter.

Join me in the continuing conversation at BlogHer about The Artist’s Way Toolkit

I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.