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Month: July 2016

What I’ve Been Reading + A Reading Round Up

What I’ve Been Reading + A Reading Round Up

It has been a crazy week around our house. Between work, a couple of family day trips, and our senior dog having some health issues, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading. In fact, many nights include me picking up a book, reading the same sentence about three times, and then putting said book down and falling asleep.

But I have managed to finish a couple books. So I wanted to share what’s on my nightstand with you and host a link up party!

What is a link up party? My invitation to you to post your recent blog posts and book reviews. Let us know what you are reading. Maybe it will give someone their next great read!

I went “impulse shopping” at the library this week. I selected two random books off the shelf because they looked like fun and I liked the covers. Both were books in pre-existing series’ that I hadn’t read before. Thus, both took me a while to get into, but were enjoyable.

Read to Death
by Terrie Farley Moranread to death
Two friends, Sassy and Bridgy, own a bookstore cafe called Read ‘Em and Eat. On a trip with one of the book clubs they host, the bus driver is murdered and Bridgy becomes the prime suspect. Sassy and friends try to solve the mystery and clear Bridgy’s name. Sassy and Bridgy’s mothers come for a visit to boost the girl’s morale, which adds a fun dynamic to the book. Overall I liked the series and will read more. Especially because I’ve been wanting to start / get involved in a book club recently, this was a fun way to experience one without leaving my house!


Murder Most Howl

by Krista Davis 
murder most howlHolly Miller is hosting a murder mystery weekend at the Sugar Maple Inn in Wagtail, a pet friendly town in rural Virginia. But when life imitates art and a real murder takes place, it is up to the Holly to separate fact from fiction and solve the case. This one was a fun read. I liked the author lists a “cast of characters” at the beginning of the book. This was a great reference to someone like me coming into the series in the middle. I love animals as much as the next person, but it took my practical side a little time to get used to the fact that Holly took her dogs everywhere she went (and never needed to ask other business owners permission to bring her pets inside their establishments. The pets eat like kings and queens with their own menu prepared by the cook at the Sugar Maple Inn! It was an entertaining book and I look forward to checking out earlier books in the series.

Now, friends. It’s your turn. What have you been reading? Click on the link below and share your posts with us!


My Top 5 Natural Energy Boosters

My Top 5 Natural Energy Boosters

Sometimes we all need a little pick-me-up. That mid-afternoon crash can come at you hard. Or maybe it is an after dinner slump that has you stuck.

For several years now, I’ve been using Young Living Essential Oils & have found many of their products to be of benefit to me and my family. One of the things I use my oils for is an all natural energy boost.

Below are five of my go-to energy boosters. I am not a doctor or health care professional. Just a mama who is trying to do what is best for herself and her family. That being said, I know I always find value in knowing what is working for other people. Thus, here are some things that have been working for us. I’d love it if they could help you too!

This isn’t an oil. It is a little tube you drink down quickly. It is the first thing I grab to nitrotake during a midday slump or “brain fog.” It contains essential oils, ginseng, and green tea among other things. What I like about it is the focused feeling it gives me. It doesn’t give me crazy energy like chugging a large mocha, but it gives me a crisp, alert focus feeling that allows me to zero in on whatever the task at hand and tackle it head on. This is also the hubby’s choice for something to pop quick before a hockey game.

Diffuser Blend: Fresh & Fruity
Diffusing essential oils is a great way to aromatically take in all the benefits they have to offer. My two favorite options for diffusing for energy are fruity and minty. (I know, I’m great at names, right?) First, fruity. Combine eucalyptus globulus (tea tree), lime, and lemon essential oils. Three drops of each into your diffuser. I love this clean, refreshing blend. I like to diffuse this when I’m cleaning. It gives me energy to clean and the fresh, clean smell is motivation to keep on with my work.

I bought this oil awhile back on impulse and it has been a great addition to my collection. It will probably last me forever because my favorite way to use this oil is just to open the cap and sniff directly from the bottle. It is a blend of essential oils that contains rosemary, juniper and lemongrass. A favorite time of day I use this oil is first thing in the morning. I like to diffuse it in my kitchen while I go about my morning routine and get ready for the day.

This is a new one for me. Young Living recently came out with this combination of sparking water, pear and blackberry juice, infused with lime and black pepper essential oils. I liked the taste of it more than I thought I would. In a glass over ice I find it makes a refreshing summer drink. My issue with it has been I enjoy sipping it, which doesn’t give me as quick of an energy boost as I sometimes crave. Still it’s been a fun summer drink to have on hand.

Diffuser Blend: Minty MaxWMG11910C69MH4YTK
My final favorite diffuser blend for an energy boost is my Minty Max. I do three drops of both peppermint and spearmint oil. The burst of minty freshness is a great boost. I love having this going on my desk while I work during the day.

There you have it. Five quick and easy things to try the next time you are in need of an energy boost. If you don’t know anything about these products or are looking to purchase, I’m more than happy to help hook you up. Just comment or send me an email. We’ll make sure your next wave of tired doesn’t send you crashing down!

5 Ways to Utilize Your Public Library

5 Ways to Utilize Your Public Library

It is no secret I love to read. It is also no secret I am cheap thrifty. Combining these two things makes the public library my best friend. I love the library. I love using it personally and for the kids. Today I thought it might be fun to discuss five ways to make sure you’re fully utilizing your local public library.

Check out ALL the libraries in your area.
Depending on the size of your area, you may have access to more than one library. Check out all the different libraries in your area (many even have programs that allow you to check out books from any location). Every library is different and you may find you want to utilize different branches for different purposes or activities. We do!

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Do they allow you to reserve items online?
Who says all of your online shopping as to be done at Amazon? Before I purchase a book, I always go online to see if my local library network has a copy. Many libraries do a “share” program with nearby libraries, so you have access to a wider variety of materials. You can reserve online and pick up your nearest location.

Check out eReader books.
Did you know that many public libraries also offer check out services for your Kindles and other eReaders? Don’t forget to check if your library offers this service!

Programs & activities at the Library.
Libraries are jam packed with some awesome programs. From story times, to book clubs, to community speakers. One of our recent family faves was a program offered to allow children to read to dogs. My reluctant first grade reader loved it! And best of all, most of these programs are free!

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Every town has a library. 
If you are going on a trip or vacation and have a little extra time, don’t forget to check out the local library in the city you are visiting. It might be fun to just go sit in a comfy chair and read a little. (It’s also a great thing to do with kids when you have an hour to kill). Also make sure to check out their program schedule. There might be something interesting happening during your stay.

Sometimes we get so bogged down in our daily activities and to-do lists that we think of reading as a luxury we just don’t have time for. Reading is an essential part of life. It allows us time to relax, think, dream, escape, and learn. Take time to read today and take time to allow your local public library to be the key that unlocks the imagination within you.

Sanity Saver: Online Grocery Delivery

Sanity Saver: Online Grocery Delivery

Does this sound like your house? You’ve just had a long, hard day. You finally get home. You sit down to relax and, without fail, someone asks the question:

What’s for dinner?

And you forgot to get groceries. So you spend too much on takeout. Again. And think that you really have to get this whole meal planning thing in gear next week.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. I’ve been right there with you. That’s why I want to talk a little today about something that has totally saved my sanity and taken my meal planning and budgeting game to a whole other level. Online grocery shopping.

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This is seriously the greatest thing ever created. Sitting at home. In my sweatpants. Ordering my groceries for the week. And then a nice, friendly delivery man brings them to my door at the specified time.

No more spending an hour at the store. Loading and unloading my groceries. Cursing the extra “impulse buys” the kids and I just had to have. This service has saved me time and money. It allows me to be intentional with my purchases and also free up the time I used to put into the grocery shopping process.

I’m going to talk a little about my top tips shopping online with the grocery store that I use. Hy-Vee. I’m know there are others, but this is my local grocery store, and the one I have experience with. If you have been on the fence about trying Hy-Vee’s delivery service, hopefully this post will give you some insight as to what to expect.

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  • Order 24 Hours in Advance
    You cannot order and expect delivery an hour later. Make sure you plan ahead. I’ve never had any issue scheduling a time when I schedule 24 hours in advance.
  • Don’t be afraid to select “No Substitutions”
    Hy-Vee offers you the option to allow or not allow substitutions. I’ve tried both. Since I am picky about my groceries, I’ve come to appreciate the “no substitutions” option. I do add a note that I am open to most substitutions and to please call with questions. They never hesitate to call and we can work out on the phone a suitable substitution that I am happy with.
  • Delivery is FREE on orders over $100
    Know if there is a delivery fee. Hy-Vee offers free delivery for orders over $100. I order once a week for a family of five. I am able to get free delivery and stay within my weekly grocery budget.
  • I do tip my delivery person
    When I’ve talked to people in person about this service, one of the most common questions I get is if I tip the delivery person. I do. They are always kind, friendly, and carry my groceries into my house and put them on my kitchen table for me. I feel that deserves a couple extra dollars for their effort.
  • Check Your Expiration Dates
    This is something we usually do in the store ourself, so when someone else is shopping for you, make sure you check those expiration dates when you put away your groceries. If you are frequently getting expiration dates that are sooner than you think is normal, call your local store and let them know.

For me, the option to order my groceries online and have them delivered to my door has been amazing. It has given me back both time and sanity that I lost spending hours wandering the aisles of the grocery store (many times with all three kids). If you are on the fence about trying a service like this, I would recommend giving it a go. It may end up being a game changer for you too.

Have you tried online grocery delivery? Leave me a comment and let me know!

It’s Party Time – A Bakeshop Mystery Edition

It’s Party Time – A Bakeshop Mystery Edition

My sister, Lisa, and I had a little fun this weekend. We had a Sunday Sister Party (along with my three boys). The inspiration came from the Bakeshop Mystery books that we are both reading. We made three recipes straight from the pages of the books and then a couple of our own creations, inspired by the series.

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The Menu:
Beef Stew (because we are Iowa girls like a little hearty food)
Braised Green Beans
Homemade Basic Bread
Caprese Salad
Chocolate Molasses Cookies & Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caramel Lattes with whipped cream (of course)

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I was a little nervous entertaining on a meal that included three recipes I had never made before, but it went well. The boy’s favorite part was the cookies! The Chocolate Molasses cookies were a new recipe for me (from the Bakeshop Mystery book series) and they just tasted like fall. Everybody loved them. I know they will be made again in our house for sure.

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We had not had sister time in awhile so it was super fun to have a little time to just hang out. I love how books gave us an excuse to get together, hang out, enjoy food and good company. We’ve already been talking that there needs to be more Sunday Sister Parties. We are thinking an apple theme would be a great way to kick off fall!

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Enjoy the Process

Enjoy the Process

We planted a garden for the first time this year. Not a big one, but it is a perfect size for our first attempt. We lovingly plowed up a small plot of land in the yard (with a little help from my Dad), planted our seeds, watered and cared for them, and have enjoyed watching them grow.

While we are waiting and watching, I noticed a few friends posting pictures to gardensocial media of the bountiful harvest they are receiving from their gardens. Us? Not quiet so much.

This made me impatient. I was putting in the time. Why didn’t my harvest look like theirs? Of course I had to post my frustrations to Facebook and got some thoughtful comments from friends.

But this got me thinking. How often does my impatience get me into trouble in life? How often do I focus so much on what I think the end result is going to be (or that my experiences aren’t looking like those of others around me), that I miss so many wonderful parts of the process that I’m experiencing right now.

Parenting is like this. We all put in a lot of time and effort to raise our kids. We try our best – never quite knowing if what we are doing is right. Hoping for a sneak peek of the person our child will become, to let us know we’re moving in the right direction. And raising a child is more than just “planting a seed” and hoping for the best. We cultivate and grow them at every opportunity because we never know which moments will have a lasting impact on their lives.

IMG_1060Fast forward to today. About a week since I took the picture above. Our garden is still growing. Slow and steady. Especially the peas. Every day my kids run out excitedly to see what has grown and what they can bring in today. We may not have experienced an overflowing bounty (not yet anyway, I still am holding out hope), but we are making slow and steady progress. And it is bring us joy.

The garden has given me something good to think back on when the trials of parenting rear their head. When I question my parenting method, or how I’m doing. It is a good reminder to always keep at it. The small moments of teaching, love, and encouragement. You might not see a big harvest overnight, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening under the surface. Growing stronger and waiting to sprout and blossom at any moment.

My Recent Reading Recap

My Recent Reading Recap

Recent reading recap. Try saying that fast three times! I love to read and want to make an effort to share a little more about all things reading on the blog.

My hubby and I were recently discussing the merits of speed reading. He is excited to try a new speed reading technique he found online. I’m skeptical. For me, part of the enjoyment of reading is savoring the book. Picking it up and putting it down. Seeing what it challenges me to think about in between reading sessions. But the hubby is trying the speed reading thing out and I’m excited to see how it works for him.

Okay, onto my recent reads. It’s been a cozy mystery kind of couple weeks. Usually I like to rotate the genre of book I’m reading for a little variety, but it seems to be becoming a summer of cozies for me.

Caught Bread Handed by Ellie Alexander.
I’ve told you about this series before. It is the one that my sister and I are reading together. A new book in the series came out recently and my wonderful sister pre-ordered it for me. I had a copy on my doorstep on the day it was released. How’s that for sisterly love? My sister, Lisa, and I even IMG_1169participated in a super fun Facebook Launch Party the author hosted and geeked out talking about the series with fellow readers. The book was a quick, fun read. Stay tuned for pictures of the sister tea party Lisa and I plan to throw ourselves where we make recipes from the book.

Do you ever have those books that have been sitting on your shelf for awhile and for some reason you just haven’t got around to reading them? One Bad Apple by Sheila Connolly was that book for me. It is the first book in a series about a 30-something woman who is recently laid off from her Boston job in the financial industry and decides it’s time for a change of pace. This includes restoring an old family property in the New England countryside to get away from city life. Of course, she finds a murdered man on her new property (which includes an apple orchard) and has to get to the bottom of the case while working to restore her century old house.

This was a fun read. It was enough to invest me in the characters and check book number two in the series, Rotten to the Core, out from the library. Now the trouble is the third book in the series is checked out and not due back until the end of the month. So I think a little Amazon shopping may be in my future.

So there you have it. What I have been reading when I have a free minute during the day or am ready to shut my brain off and wind down for the day. Now the only question that remains is … what to read next?!?!

Sanity Saver: How to Make Your Own Mocha

Sanity Saver: How to Make Your Own Mocha

I love coffee. I love the fancy coffee drinks you get at Starbucks. But my bank account doesn’t like that they cost $5 each. That lead me to start making my own coffee drinks at home. And you know what? It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be!coffe

Now, I don’t do anything super fancy. But I wanted to share with you my current favorite morning pick-me-up.

Hazelnut Mocha

1 12 ounce cup of your favorite coffee
1 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. hot chocolate mix or syrup
1 tbsp. hazelnut syrup
Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

It is that easy. And it’s super easy and fun to modify this depending on what you are in the mood for. Do you make your own coffee drinks? What’s your current fave? I’d love to swap recipes!

6 Things to do Instead of Checking Facebook

6 Things to do Instead of Checking Facebook

I have a confession. When I have a few free moments of time, do you know what I do? I check Facebook. Or Twitter. I scroll through my feed and use it as a way to kill time. I use to as a way to feel like I’m doing something and not just sitting there “doing nothing.”

Lately that got me thinking. What could I do, when I have a few minutes, instead of instantly reaching for my phone to scroll through social media sites? Now, don’t get me wrong. I like social media. I think it has a place and value. (Following these dogs on Facebook makes me smile). But this is about being intentional with my time. Not just scrolling through a feed to “kill five minutes” or because I’m putting something off.

So I started a list. My goal? Every time I reach for my phone with the sole intention of checking social media, I think about these things first. If I can do them instead, I do.

  1. Drop & Give Me 20.
    Out for a quick walk with one of my littles last week.
    Out for a quick walk with one of my littles last week.

    Exercise and me are not always friends. I am lousy at finding 30 solid minutes to work out. But five minutes to do crunches? A couple minutes for jumping jacks or push ups? That I can do. It keeps me active and not feeling like a total failure in the exercise department.

  2. The Dreaded Chores.
    You know the ones I’m talking about. The things we all put off but would only take five minutes if we really just did it? Take the dishes out of the dishwasher. Sweep the kitchen floor. Fold a load of laundry.
  3. Pick Up a Book.
    I always like to have an easy and fun book going. This is a great time to take five minutes to pick up my book.
  4. Write someone a handwritten note “just because.”
    Handwritten notes are a lost art. One of the main reason I don’t write more is because it feels like I just don’t have the time. Keep some notecards handy and send someone a little note and let them know they are loved – it will be sure to brighten their day!
  5. Actually sit and do nothing.
    We all tend to pick up our phones because, in the moment, it feels productive. But in a culture that is built on sound bytes and instant gratification, when was the last time you stopped to just think? We need those moments of nothing. Those moments where your brain can take a minute to decompress. To think. To dream.
  6. Snuggle a Kid.
    I have three little ones still at home. I am very aware of how fast time flies and that they are not always going to enjoy hugs and snuggles from their Mama. Thus I make it a goal to get an extra hug or snuggle in every chance I get.

So next time you sit down for a minute and reach for your phone, stop and think. Is there something else you’d like to do with your free minutes? Something that may bring extra joy, value, or happiness to yourself or someone else? Try it. It may be way better than checking your Facebook feed one. more. time.

Tour My Home Office

Tour My Home Office

I have been loving my home office lately. It is a space that was originally a formal dining room when we bought our house. But let’s be real. We have young kids. The room has light colored carpet. We are not in the years where a formal dining room makes sense. So we decided to turn the space into an office room.

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My goal for this space is to have a structured place where I can work from home. And also a space that anyone in the family could sit down to do a little work, homework, etc. Something cozy and inviting, but practical.

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The space is still a work in progress, but I wanted to give you a little tour. Summer decorations are up and give the room a nice, colorful touch. I still have more empty wall space than I like. The goal has been to get out and go shopping for some fun, local artwork. Someday I’ll get around to it.

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I try to keep my desk clear so the hubby or kiddos can sit down and work when they need to. But it has the essentials. Computer, day planner, and of course, my current cozy mystery reads.

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I had an office mate today. (In addition to the one I have most days – See if you can find my “regular office mate” in the top picture). It is always great to share the space and “do” life together as a family.