Thursday, July 20, 2017

An Affordable Moana Birthday Party

When I began searching for Moana themed birthday party ideas for my two year old's party, I was underwhelmed. Every Pinterest and Google search revealed extravagant, over-the-top, expensive custom decor. Ain't nobody got time for that! He's turning two; he probably won't even remember it! I wanted him to have a fun day, with a theme from his favorite movie, but I wasn't willing to break the bank to accomplish it. Here's how I threw a memorable party for under $50.


I hit the Dollar Tree for decorations. Since his birthday is in June, there were lots of summer Luau themed options. I picked a couple of garlands, a palm tree, a table cloth that looked like a grass skirt, hot pink plastic silverware, spunky colored napkins, and bright flowery plates. I also picked up some colorful leis to double as fun party wear and a take home favor. I got all of it for $15. I reused a 'Happy Birthday' banner I had on hand, and put a couple of fun leftover streamers around it. The only thing that didn't work out like I wanted was the table cloth. I thought it was a full table cloth, and it ended up being just a grass skirt for a table. Had I known, I'd have grabbed an actual table cloth in a contrasting color to add more to my colorful theme.


The most important food at any birthday party is obviously the cake! We got this gorgeous cake from Costco ($18). I chose the beach theme, then asked them to leave off all the beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. and just write his name. I picked up the Maui and Moana figurines at Target on clearance for $6 and added them myself. 

Birthday Boy enjoying his cake on his luau themed plate.
 In terms of snacks, I got creative. Here's the menu:

Maui's sun (Pineapple rings, watermelon in shape of sun)
Tamatoa's seafood (goldfish)
PB &Jellyfish/ star fish sandwiches (PB and J cut into shapes with cookie cutters)
Coral Reef (Cheetos)
Lolotai Seaweed (Grapes on a skewer)
Sea Snails (mini hot dogs in crescent roll strips)

To add some flair, I put the grape skewers in the pineapple husk. I put the bright plastic silverware in plastic cups, and put the cutesy named food labels out so people could enjoy my hilarious commitment to theme (also, my niece mentioned she loved my food puns at the last few birthday parties, so the pressure was on!)
For the goody bags, I put blue Sixlets in a snack size bag with goldfish, swedish fish, and gummy sharks.

Going 90s

Overall, I'm really pleased with how it all turned out. The decor made the porch feel nice and festive, everyone loved the food (and my niece was a fan of the continued puns, so #winning!), and our now two year old had a blast. We may not have had a custom balloon arch with life-size Moana cut out, but what would I do with that after the party anyway!? I like 90s style parties, like I had as a kid, with kids running around, yummy cake, and a few decorations. If my kiddos have fun, I'm a happy mama.

How do you like to do your kid's parties?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Check out my latest post for the Knoxville Moms Blog here!

Small Size, Big Fun Toddlers at Dollywood

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mott's Juice Pouch Review

I received coupons for free Mott's Juice Pouches to try and review. Here is the review!

We tried the Apple Cherry flavor of the Mott's juice pouches. Both of my boys, ages 2 and 4, loved the flavor. I like the pouch shape, as its easy to toss in a bag on the go. It had a good flavor, but they drank it super fast. It was a little difficult to get the straw in the pouch as well. Overall, it was a hit. It's something I can imagine picking up every now and again as a special treat, but not something I'd buy consistently since it didn't satisfy their thirst for long. 

We also usually water their juice down, because they're both extremely active which leads to us needing to make sure they stay hydrated. By watering down their juice, we make sure they only drink the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended amount of juice while also getting plenty of water. I really liked the convenience of having a drink prepared, and all I had to do was grab and go.

Do you have a favorite juice brand? What is it?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Liv and Maddie Love Letter

I never thought I'd get so upset with Disney that I'd take a break from classic Disney Channel shows. But with the cancellation of Girl Meets World, I needed some space to heal for the first time. I loved that show, and I felt it was prematurely cancelled. But time heals, in this case, and after catching bits and pieces of Liv and Maddie, I saw the entire series was on Netflix and have been steadily watching it while folding laundry. Then I got so caught up in it, I started watching it when I was just wanting to chill and watch something. The more I saw, the more I liked, then loved, the show. Here are my top 5 reasons why I'm officially a Liv and Maddie fan.

1. The portrayal of familial relationships is great. While each parent has their weakness, overall they're great parents. They listen without prying too hard, and own up to their prying when they do. They're involved, but also let their kids solve their own problems. The siblings seek each other out for advice, but also give each other a hard time. The parents collaborate and show each other respect and are always there for each other. I love seeing positive relationship portrayals in youth television; it's important to show realistic, healthy relationships. Their family isn't perfect, but it's great, and attainable.

2. They take a more realistic view on things. Sometimes you get hurt at the wrong time. Sometimes long distance relationships don't work out. Sometimes you like your best friend's guy, and then once they break up he's still out of reach because he's your bestie's ex. The right thing isn't always the easy thing, and I seriously respect the show for demonstrating that. They allow the characters to not get everything they want, and to make poor choices and learn from them. There are, of course, unbelievable things that happen (the Parker tunnels, anyone?), but overall, there's a healthy dose of reality not often seen in kids/tween/teen television.

3. Real world issues pop up all the time. When it's pointed out to Liv that reporters don't ask her deep questions about her roles like they do her male costar, she (and guest star Kristen Bell- say what?!) addresses it. When women are ranked by nasty high school boys, the girls react. They don't show the sunny side. They show how societal expectations can affect even  the most level-headed girls (oh, Willow.) When their mini-protest doesn't change the boy's actions, they realize they can't control what people think and say about them, but they can spread the word that objectifying women is wrong.

4. Confession: I love the music. Dove Cameron has some pipes, and she knows how to use them. The songs get stuck in my head all the time. It's not a musical show, but having a main characters that's a singer/actress allows for the occasional song.

5. This little Disney channel show is so empowering. Not only do they teach people of all ages (I know I'm not the target demographic, but their messages totally get me in the feels) that they can make an impact, but they show them how. When Maddie learns an acquaintance is homeless, she takes action. She teams up with someone to build a tiny house out of recycled materials, contacts the city about where it can be, and learns how to apply for grants to make more. If a teenager can tackle homelessness, why aren't we adults? I love that they're showing that every single person can make a difference, if they'll just try.

So, yeah, I'm obsessed with this show. I've only get a few episodes left in the series, because it ended last spring after four seasons. But the entire series is now on Netflix, so you can binge to your heart's content. There are plenty of grown-up laughs to be had, and you're sure to love it.

Are you also a Liv and Maddie fan? What are some of your favorite moments?

Friday, June 30, 2017

As a mom, it’s easy to allow yourself to be swallowed by that one label. So much of our days are spent as caretakers, fixing plates and filling cups, changing diapers and, sadly, wiping bottoms long after the last box of diapers is gone. It’s hard to find time to remember the self you were before these tiny humans captured your heart and practically all your time.

As my kids grow, I find myself growing as well. Farther away from the individual I once was. Where is that fierce girl, striking out on her own without knowing anyone in a new state? Where is the woman who planned on naming her daughter Audrey to honor the great Hepburn who taught her that style and class go hand in hand with kindness and heart? Gone are the days of curling up to watch a black and white movie at 9 p.m., worrying about no one’s bedtime but her own. Or taking a bubble bath with a new book, without fear of the sound of the faucet waking the baby. Or just sitting on the porch, listening to crickets and watching the stars, without the ever present, slight whine of the baby monitor (or the toddler you just can’t shake). 

These days, I look for that fierce girl while debating whether to try and venture out on my own, with two kids, in a place where I don’t know the parking situation. Street parking is terrifying when the four year old has to stand by my side as I unbuckle the two year old. Trying new things has gotten scarier, as I don’t know how one kid or the other may react. Simply going to a new park can be frightening, as one child has a tendency to wander off while the other deliberately runs away.

I try to salvage pieces of the person who I was once that feels so much stronger than the one I am now. I’ve always been an avid reader, but these past few years reading has taken on a feverish intensity. It feels like the last shred of something the child-free me loved, and I cling to it. Each year, I challenge myself to read more than the last. Last year, I topped out at 54 books. This year, it’s June and I’m on book 41. It’s a desperate attempt at remembering I’m not just a mom; I’m still an adventurous spirit, tethered by the desire to put down roots for my babes while also stretching my limbs to experience as much of life as I can. Reading takes me to places I can’t physically go, to people who don’t exist but often feel like friends nonetheless.

It’s hard to find balance. The person I used to be seems glamorous now, but she struggled too. The grass is truly always greener, and looking back allows me to choose personality traits I’d like to rediscover. A love for classic movies? Absolutely. I hope my kids grow up knowing who Audrey and Humphrey are, and I think they will, if only because one day I’ll get to sit down with them and show them Sabrina. My love of books and porch sitting are already being imparted. My adventurous side, previously explored through circus arts and travel, are a little out of reach right now. I can't stride recklessly into new scenarios without research and preparation, as these little pieces of my heart walking around need me unbroken and present. These parts of me aren’t truly gone; they're simply on a shelf, waiting for the day I can help these smallish people discover the same things I once loved. 

The reality is, I am still strong. I’ve handled midnight illnesses with a strong stomach I didn’t know I possessed, and childbirth, for heaven’s sakes. I’ve overcome a fear of appearing impolite in order to advocate for my children’s healthcare. This strength is different than the bravery the old me had; this comes from a deep well of love resultant of caring for other people, and giving them parts of yourself along the way. 

New parks and situations may give me a fleeting pit of panic in my stomach, but that doesn’t make me weak. It means that in this stage, new situations with tiny kids can be scary and that’s just something I have to deal with. The grocery store before lunch is equally scary, and that’s well tread ground. Different seasons hold different combinations of the me I used to be and the mom I am becoming, and that’s where I find the balance. Thankfully, years of tight wire walking have made me an expert at balance. In the meantime, I’ll be driving to the same old park while singing “Yellow Submarine” with my four year old (and the two year old, because this park is fully fenced so there is no escape). Maybe one day I'll even get to teach this precious cargo of mine to leap into a chasm, holding onto a metal bar and, for just a moment, fly without a plane.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

To win Father's Day this year, I created a special breakfast for my husband that I knew would make his day. He loves bacon, and he loves cinnamon rolls, so instead of making some of each, I combined them. I present to you: Bacon wrapped cinnamon rolls!

Granted, I took some shortcuts. I didn't make my own cinnamon rolls, but you could. You'd need to bake them for a bit, then add the bacon, then finish baking them. It's quite a bit easier with store-bought rolls, since all you do is wrap, bake, and blow someone's mind.

Take your ingredients. Crack open that pressurized can, set each individual roll in the prepped and sprayed (I use Kirkland olive oil spray to guarantee some non-stick action) pan, and then open your bacon.

Wrap one slice of bacon around the outside of each cinnamon roll. You can do some lovely tucking and scrunching to make it prettier; it's entirely up to you. I made one extra special one that had bacon wrapped from the spiral inside, all the way around the outside. I had to unroll the cinnamon roll, lay the bacon inside it, and re-roll it. I don't know that it made a big difference though.

Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Check bacon. You may have to compromise on how crunchy you like it if the cinnamon roll tops are browning too fast. I recommend using a lower shelf in the oven to delay the cinnamon rolls and make both items be complete simultaneously.

Let cool and enjoy!

Have you tried these? What did you think?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Once upon a time, I was a punctual person.

Then I had kids.

I hate being late. I hate being perpetually late even more. Yet any time I'm not going to work or dropping the kids at school, I'm running behind.

I've tried prepping things the night before. Arranging shoes in a neat line. Getting up extra early. But most of the time, right before we're meant to leave, someone has to go potty or needs another diaper change (even if I just changed him!). Shoes that were on nine seconds ago have gone missing, cups are misplaced, the dogs are let out when moments before, I called them in. Something inevitably delays us.

I cringe when we sneak into church several songs in. I sigh when everyone is loaded in the car, only to be told someone has to pee right now! I bury my face in my hands when we have to go back inside for a forgotten bag, phone, or beloved toy.

It's easy to get frustrated by these moments. Regardless of organization hacks and task efficiency and planning and prepping, something always pops up. It's easy to get mad, to be irritated we're late yet again.

I was having one of those days yesterday. It seemed like the boys' ears were just closed to me. They adore going to church, and we recently started a Wednesday evening study for the summer, so they get to go an extra day. They love their teachers and their playtime and just getting out of the house. Yet each time I asked them to put on shoes, I'd walk back by the playroom to find them still engrossed in their playtime. They were slow to walk out the door, painstakingly sluggish to get in the car, and the youngest literally crawled when I asked him to hurry. Most days, he'd give famed runner Usain Bolt a run for his money.

I was not feeling benevolent. I was grumpy that they'd been ignoring me all. day. long. I was seeing red that they were so blatantly disregarding my sense of urgency about going somewhere they adore. I was so, so frustrated.

No matter how late I am, I make sure to drive the same as I would if I were early. Better late than dead, right? So I'm driving my typical, reasonable pace while the radio is on scan, trying to drown out the negative thoughts in my brain. I stop on the NPR traffic report, because I'm already late and don't want to be later. That's when I hear that there was an accident along our route, right where we would've been had we left on time.

How many accidents have I not been in, simply because circumstances caused me to be late? I think in most of these instances, God has a reason for it. Last night, the reason was that I simply wasn't meant to be there at that time. He protected me, driving my two young boys, and kept us safe. Were their ears closed to my pleas to put on shoes? Yes. Did I have to drag-carry my heavy two-year-old because he insisted on crawling to the car? Did they dawdle during  dinner, further delaying our departure? Typically one of these delays occurs, but not all of them. We don't usually leave twenty minutes later than I planned.

I often feel too small for God. I'm not a pastor, a worship leader, or even a Christian writer of any notability. I'm just a freelance writer, mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend. But God doesn't see me as just anything. He isn't inconvenienced by me. He has a plan for my life.  I have value to Him. So do you.

So if you're stressing over running late, or feeling inconsequential, just remember: you are loved and valuable. God has you right where you're meant to be.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mother's Day, the Disney Way

Disney has received a lot of criticism throughout the years for their many motherless characters. When you think about it, it makes sense that so many beloved classic films lack a mother figure. After all, moms get things done. They fix problems early and swiftly, so our beloved classics would be significantly shorter were moms present. The lack of two parents also provides our protagonists a struggle to overcome, and justifies the remaining parent's over-protective nature (see: King Triton, Marlin, the Sultan, etc).

Thankfully, throughout recent years, Disney and Pixar have given us plenty of Disney/Pixar moms to love. With Mother's Day this weekend (That's right, slackers! Go buy your mom something lovely and shower her with praise- she deserves it!), I thought we would honor our wonderful mothers, along with the Disney moms, who all inspire us and instill in us these wonderful beliefs. Thank you, Mom.

Moms teach us

To forgive

To cherish

To love unconditionally 

To work hard

To count our blessings

To laugh in the face of danger

To hope

And last, but certainly not least:

To be fierce 

What's the most valuable lesson your mom and your favorite Disney mom have taught you? Shout out in the comments!

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful moms in the world! You are dearly appreciated. You are seen. You are important. YOU MATTER. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Road Trip Guide to Potty Training

Hey y'all! I've got a new post up over at Knoxville Mom's Blog- The Road Trip Guide to Potty Training. You can read the whole article here. See you there!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Review

It's a tale as old as time, yet Disney's latest remake is everywhere you look these days. I'll admit, I was pretty concerned. It looked good, it had an all star cast, and yet...I worried. Several reviews said it was, essentially, a live-action scene by scene reincarnation of the animated original. That animated original is one of my favorite Disney films, with Belle being a bit of a hero to me (she loves books and is sassy!).

I saw Beauty and the Beast opening weekend, and I've delayed this post because I was still processing. There's a lot to love, but also some I didn't like as much. Fear not; a film review of a movie this new won't contain spoilers!

Contrary to many reviews, 2017's Beauty varies quite a bit from the animated inspiration. It has a definite setting, in powdered-wig era France. This is actually a bit I'm not a fan of, to be honest. As a fairy tale aficionado, I like my stories to be timeless. The elaborate makeup and period costumes will most likely earn this movie an Oscar nod for hair, makeup, and costuming, but at the expense of fairy tale integrity. It's also a reminder that Belle and her prince may not live happily ever after, since they're living in pre-revolutionary France, and we all know what happened to the aristocracy there.

There are new characters, and further details on missing information from our beloved animated film. How long the castle has been cursed, the fate of Belle's mother, and the village's ignorance of the castle's existence are all appropriately addressed. A few new characters pop in, but they're largely forgettable.

A benefit of animation is the movement and expression of the cursed servants turned objects. The flatter faces and shallower eyes lessen the emotional impact of their expressions. The general muted colors of the castle under the curse effect even Belle's scenes, with the 'Be Our Guest' musical number having less of an impact because of it.

Lumiere's expressions are muted in the live action remake.
Lumiere and Cogsworth are less animated.

The character of Belle herself is a little different. She is still strong, and is seen teaching other girls to read as well as inventing things of her own. Conversely, she lost some of her gentle spirit that the animated character possessed. Her gentleness and patience is meant to contrast with the harsh impatience of the Beast, and allows her to teach him to be kind. Unlike the animated character, who intends to sacrifice herself to save her father, 2017's Belle plots to escape from the moment of her incarceration.

The town, and Gaston in particular, are displayed in an interesting light. Much like the cursed Prince, Gaston is selfish and cruel. He is regularly reined in by LeFou, possibly one of my favorite characters in this version. Unlike in the original, we see growth and change in 2017's LeFou. This LeFou actually has a conscience, and we see it at war with itself. Gaston, a war hero, struggles between current life and reliving the war, where his cruelty and savageness were useful and admired. In the village, there is room for the hero but only hunting can quench his blood thirst.

Emma Watson played an interesting Belle. Because I'm obsessed with the original animated film, her singing voice didn't quite meet my expectations. She did well with the character, and added her own flair. It did drive me crazy that her dress was tucked into her apron randomly, but I'm sure there's a reason for it. I personally prefer the swish-swish of a flowing skirt, but I'm a skirt dork. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts brought tears to my eyes; Josh Gad's LeFou impressed me. Gaston was perfectly cast, and I love that Belle's father was less of a stereotype and more of an individual.

Overall, I enjoyed Disney's latest remake. I adored 2016's Cinderella, for the depth it added to the story. Beauty and the Beast added depth to some characters, but fell short on others. Although I'm glad I saw it, it's not a film I see myself watching repeatedly, like the original. The constraints of being set in a particular time, as opposed the classic fairy tale timeless village, really took its toll for me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Springing up Disney

It may still be February (you know, until tomorrow), but it's felt like Spring here for a few weeks. To further encourage the Spring love, here are some Disney movies to help get you in the mood for all things Spring!

Sleeping Beauty
Stroll through a lush forest with Briar Rose.

One of my favorite scenes from this film is the crossing the country montage, which shows green grass, fresh breezes and adventures galore.

If it's still cold in your neck of the woods, watching Aladdin and Jasmine in their desert oasis is sure to warm you up.

Journey through the fluffy white clouds with Carl and Russell to Paradise Falls.

Wreck it Ralph
Candy trees just scream Spring to me; how about you?

Best day ever! Swing from a vine with Rapunzel and help Flynn take in the view while imagining its your feet splashing in that winding forest stream.

Toy Story
To infinity, and Andy's room! Help Woody and Buzz teach Sid a lesson against a backdrop of blooming trees and Spring storms.

The Rescuers Down Under
Follow Bianca and Bernard to Australia to soar in the sun-soaked skies and help little Cody along the way.

Nothing says spring quite like a muscular hero saving a damsel who doesn't need saving, now does it? Add in smooth dirt roads, green trees, and clear blue skies, and you've got a Spring-y flick on your hands.

What are some of your favorite Spring films? Has it warmed up in your area yet?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Deeper Meaning Behind Moana

So, obviously I'm obsessed with Moana. I saw it last November, and I can't stop listening to the soundtrack and thinking about it. Months later, y'all, and I'm still there. It's that good! There are two parts I want to dissect today, so if you haven't seen it yet, bookmark this post and come back later! Skedaddle! I don't want to spoil anything for you!

If you're still here, I'm assuming you've seen it or don't care about spoilers! The first line I'd like to highlight is in the song, now nominated for an Academy Award, entitled "How Far I'll Go." You can watch the whole song here:

The part I love the most is this:
"I can lead with pride/ I can make us strong/ I'll be satisfied/ If I play along/ But the voice inside/ Sings a different song/ What is wrong with me?"

How powerful is that, y'all? How often do we try and play along to make others happy, when all the while our hearts are leading us another direction? What courage it takes to change your life and realize the voice inside is the main one you should be listening to?

The second moment I want to discuss comes later in the film, as Moana realizes who Te Ka really is. She sings, "They have stolen the heart from inside you/ But this does not define you/ This is not who you are/ You know who you are."

The worst thing to happen to you doesn't have to define you. How many people, all over the world, need to hear that message? Whatever life or other people have thrown at you, that you've suffered through, you are still you. Perhaps a changed you, a different version. We all see the world differently after we've been hurt. But turning into a monster only makes you more similar to the one who hurt you, and removes you from yourself. It's okay to change, and it's okay if part of you stays the same. 

The overarching message of Moana is, truly, that the worst thing to happen to you doesn't have to define you. Moana's father lives in fear due to a tragic past; Maui feels as though he is missing a critical part of himself without his hook; Te Fiti turns into a literal monster after she is attacked. Moana teaches all three of them that the past, and their greatest fears, do not have to dictate how they live their lives.

Moana comes out to Disney digital on February 21 and on blu-ray March 7. I'll be here counting down if you need me!

What was your favorite part of Moana?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Knoxville Moms Blog

Hey, y'all!

I'm now also writing over at the Knoxville Moms Blog. It's a great group of talented writers, and I'm really excited to be a part of it! Here's a snippet of my first post over there. Feel free to follow the link and read the whole article!

Many a New Year’s resolution is centered around fitness. If you have any doubt, just look at any store ad during the month of January: all workout related gear is on sale. There are a lot of great forms of exercise out there, but if you’re looking for something adventurous, look to the big top. That’s right- think circus! I first learned circus skills 13 years ago, and I’m still obsessed. Some skills you can learn on your own, while others you’ll need special instruction and equipment.

Circus arts provide a variety of skills while working your whole body. For busy moms, a single activity that encourages flexibility, strength, and endurance while also building muscle and ramping up your heart rate almost seems too good to be true. You have to be daring to try it, but circus really does provide a fun and worthwhile workout. 

Go here to read the whole article. I'll meet you there!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Saying Goodbye to 'Girl Meets World'

If you haven't heard the sad news, Disney has cancelled beloved (to me) series Girl Meets World after three seasons.

I'll pause here while you get the tissues and have yourself a good cry.

I was really disappointed to hear about the demise of the show not only because I love it, but also because I feel like they're tackling serious issues that teens care about in a realistic way. From Riley being bullied to having to accept that not everyone will like her, the characters deal with real world problems. They do it well, too. They don't always do the right thing first, and not every episode is realistic, but the characters themselves are. As Farkle proved, people change. Being bullied also changes people. People come together and grow apart. People move. Impossibly sad things happen.

I'm also selfishly motivated, because I want to see these characters grow more. I want to find out if Riley and Lucas are like Cory and Topanga, and if Farkle and Smackle will make it. I want to know if Maya and Josh get together. I want to know if Maya finds joy in learning besides in art class, and if Zay ever gets his revenge on Riley for the cookie incident. I'd like to continue to watch Cory and Topanga as parents and business owners. I want to see one family continue to make the world a little bit better every day.

If the show doesn't somehow get saved, and fingers crossed the internet will bring it back to life beyond the final two episodes (airing January 13 and 20). I know I'll be watching.

To the writers: thank you for continuing the wonderful world you first created in Boy Meets World. We loved every minute.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Upcycling 101: A Simple Canister

I really dislike waste. I don't like wasting food, or supplies, or even containers that food comes in. I try and repurpose things, because you're constantly hearing about how overflowing the landfills are and giant trash islands in the ocean and birds dying, and that's just not good. So I try and do my part without being a total hippie, and I also like saving money. 

I recently finished off a giant canister of bread crumbs from Costco, and it seemed like such a waste to throw away the container. So I removed the label, rinsed it out, and set to brainstorming.

Remember that fabulous coffee bar I made from an old dresser? I had some leftover adhesive shelf liner, and silver spray paint. So I set to work.

My beginning materials.

I measured the shelf liner and applied it. Then I used an exacto razor knife to cut off any overlap.

Then I spray painted the clear plastic lid in metallic silver.

I waited a few days for it to dry, and voila! Here's the finished product!

It was pretty easy, and that's coming from someone who is generally pretty challenged when it comes to crafting. I considered drilling a hole and putting a little glass knob on the top, but its a suction-y lid, so it wouldn't come off with a knob anyway. This is nice, simple, and pretty fun. I like immediate results! Now I can use it to store flour, or hide candy, or a million other little things.

What have you upcycled or repurposed? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 in Books

We all know I'm a book nerd. I'd even go so far as to say I'm a bibliophile, addicted to books, on the verge of having a reading problem. I'd say I'm on the road to recovery, but we all know I'd end up at the library.

This year I had a goal to read 52 books; a book for each week of the year. I'm glad to report I not only met my goal, but exceeded it! Bam! Take that, 2016! 

I keep a list of each book I read every year for two reasons. Firstly, I have accidentally checked out the same book on multiple occasions, not realizing I'd already read it. Secondly, I read a book in sixth grade that I adored and have yet been able to remember the title of, despite several years of working as a bookseller and searching the inventory system high and low, and despite my and  Google's best efforts to locate it, it eludes me still. So for the past several years, I've kept a list of what I've been reading so I can reference it later if I can't remember the title or author.

Without further ado, here are the books and short stories I read in 2016.
  1. Angel Falls, Kristin Hannah 
  2. The Girl Who Fell from the sky, Heidi Durrow
  3. The Memory Thief, Emily Colin
  4. The Diary, Eileen Goudge
  5. No place like home, Barbara O'Neal
  6. Chez Stinky, Susan Daffron
  7. Isle of the Lost, Melissa De la Cruz
  8. Picture This, Jacqueline Sheehan
  9. A Paris Apartment Michelle Gable
  10. Fakers, Meg Collett
  11. Best of Enemies, Jen Lancaster
  12. When the Cypress Whispers, Yvette Corporon
  13. Little Bee, Chris Cleave
  14. The Demigod Diaries, Rick Riordan
  15. Flawed, Cecelia Ahern
  16. It's Not Me, It's You; Mhairi McFarlane
  17. The Sword of Summer, Rick Riordan 
  18. Three Wishes, Lianne Moriarty 
  19. The Weekenders, Mary Kay Andrews 
  20. Out of the Spin Cycle, Jen Hatmaker
  21. The Art of Crash Landing, Melissa DeCarlo
  22. Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan
  23. The Crown of Ptolemy, Rick Riordan
  24. 7, Jen Hatmaker
  25. The Alchemyst, Michael Scott
  26. Love and Gelato, Jenna Evans Welch
  27. Things Left Unspoken, Eva Marie Everson 
  28. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove, Susan Gregg Gilmor
  29. For the Love, Jen Hatmaker
  30. The Race for Paris, Meg Waite Clayton
  31. The Magician, Michael Scott
  32. How to Eat a Cupcake, Meg Donahue
  33. Falling, Jane Green
  34. The Beach House,  Georgia Bockoven
  35. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, JK Rowling
  36. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? , Maria Semple
  37. The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty
  38. The Sorceress, Michael Scott
  39. Thrice the Brinded Cat hath Mew'd, Alan Bradley
  40. The Wedding Dress, Rachel Hauk
  41. The Necromancer, Michael Scott 
  42. The Death of Joan of Arc, Michael Scott 
  43. The Warlock, Michael Scott
  44. Billy the Kid and the Vampyres of Vegas, Michael Scott
  45. The Enchantress, Michael Scott 
  46. Two by Two, Nicholas Sparks
  47. A Vintage Affair, Isabel Wolff
  48. Trials of Apollo, Rock Riordan
  49. Change of Scene, Mary Kay Andrews
  50. Instructions for a Heat Wave, Maggie O'Farrell
  51. The Sock Wars, Maia Sepp
  52. The Garden of Happy Endings, Barbara O'Neal
  53. Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick
  54. Arf, Spencer Quinn 

I was reading Amy Schumer's memoir, Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, but didn't finish it. 2016 marked a lot of change for me, in that I finally decided to stop reading a book that didn't hold my attention and make me want to pick it back up. I KNOW! Typically I have a little OCD about not finishing things, and I particularly dislike not finishing books. I (foolishly, irrationally) feel like the characters in any book are stuck in whatever situation they're in when I close the cover for the day, so I don't like to leave them in mortal danger or awaiting potentially terrible news. This is why I finish books so quickly and never get any sleep.

So, favorite of the year. Anything by Barbara O'Neal was incredible, and I'm a tad obsessed with her (but in a totally non-stalker-y way, in case she wants to be besties). Where'd You Go, Bernadette? was one of my favorites, for sure, as was Arf. As you can see, I tend to read an author's entire catalogue, so when I discovered Jen Hatmaker I went on a bit of a binge. I adore her and her 'life is for real so here's what it really looks like' take on life. She's hilarious, and loving, and making the world a better place.

Irish author Cecelia Ahern is another favorite, and her new young adult series is fabulous so far. If I had a Top 10 of 2016 books list, Flawed would definitely be on it. Mary Kay Andrews is another beloved author, and she had a novel and novella come out this year, so I was one happy camper.

I'm not sure what my reading goal for 2017 will be. I'm honestly still kind of reeling that 2016 is over; I've been ill since Christmas and time has been rather foggy, so I keep forgetting it's 2017. This is the year my oldest starts preschool. This is a year of change. There will be a lot of adjustments and learning for all of us, and books are my adult version of a security blanket. I'll keep you updated on what I'm reading!

Did you read anything wonderful last year? I'm always looking for recommendations! I highly recommend BookBub- they email you daily ebook deals in the genres/authors of your choosing. I don't have an endless book budget (or endless storage space on my Nook!), so I keep a list of books I want to read from BookBub and check the eBooks out from the library. You can also recommend books to the library. I feel a bit like a literary rock star every time they buy a book I've recommended!