Monday, October 31, 2011

Fun in the Fall

I love the fall.  Hands down, it must be my favorite time of the year.  Of all the seasons I missed while living in the South—I missed the fall most of all.  There are just so many great family activities in the fall, it is impossible not to find a great way to spend time with the family. With every sip of locally produced apple cider I am reminded how glad I am to be home.  I especially love how fall festivities are very low key in preparation for the much more stressful holiday season. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: 50 Things Every Young Lady Should Know

Let me tell you about working in an all girls school with young ladies who are required to wear short skirts....How does one politely inform a teenage girl that if she must wear her skirt two inches shorter than the dress code requirement, then she should bend at the knees and not at the waist?  How do you let young women know that lounging on the sofas in the library is not acceptable, even if there are no men around? Sigh.

Thanks to the an opportunity from book sneeze, I received a copy of  50 Things Every Young Lady Should Know: What to do, What to say, and How to Behave, by Kay West.  West does an excellent job of providing concrete etiquette lessons in real life situations explain what to do and what not to do--and most importantly for the teenage reader--a solid explanation of why. I think explaining the why for etiquette is the hardest part for me.  I know that a student won't listen to what I say, without explaining why good manners are important, but I find it so hard when the voice inside my head is screaming, "Seriously child, how do you not know this stuff?"


Monday, October 24, 2011

House Party: Spin Master It's All Fun and Games #QuelfLogoParty

This past weekend we had a blast with two new board games.  We received the opportunity to host a Spin Master House Party featuring Quelf and The Logo Game

Before we played, I figured the Logo Game would be our  favorite.  Essentially, it’s a trivia game for those who have a good sense of common consumable products and their marketing strategies.  I like it because its trivia where everyone has a similar footing. Do you know were Sara Lee cheesecake originated?  No—that’s okay, I didn’t either. Both of our families are hugely in to trivia so we all had a blast.  I was particularly impressed with my husband’s keen ability to identify photos of name brand cereals.


Granola Goodness


I know I shouldn’t snack, but I do.  I try to be good.  With little temptation at work, I’m usually  a little better at controlling my impulse to munch.  But when I get home, look out.  I walk in the door and hit the cupboard. I’ve notice my son is becoming a snacker too. He’s a constant mooch.  If anyone is eating, he needs to be eating too.  And I admit this is a bad habit for him to inherit. 

Recently we’ve had a chance to sample Nature’s Hand Granola.  I know what you’re thinking—granola is typically high in sugar and preservatives.  If it's not high in sugar, it's typically low in taste, so why bother. Not true with Nature’s Hand—just 6 grams per serving from brown sugar and honey.  I also like that all the ingredients are 100% natural.  There are no artificial preservatives, colors or flavor.  Full of whole grain oats and wheat, as well as sunflower seeds, Nature’s Hand Granola packs a lot of nutritious fiber in a small hand full.  


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Burt's Bee's Natural Skin Solutions for Sensitive Skin

I can always tell when fall is in the air.  As soon as we turn the heat on in our home, my skin instantly starts to dry out.  I hate to wash my face from that moment until the spring finally arrives.  My standard washing procedure in the past has left my face red and dry with that super tight feeling.
That's why I've loved the opportunity to try Burt's Bee's Natural Skin Solutions.  It's made specifically for sensative skin.  I've been using the facial cleanser and moisturizer for two weeks now and no dryness, redness or other irritation.  I love that it is 99.5% all natural--with no petrochemicals.  I also love how rich and creamy the cleanser feels--it leaves my skin feeling clean and super moisturized. The moisturizer is very light and doesn't leave a greasy feeling behind.  Both products contain cotton extract, which helps replenish the skin.  They are fragrance and hypo allergenic too.
At the low cost of $10 for the facial cleanser and $15 for the moisturizer, it's definitely a bargain compared to my cosmetic counter face cleaning alternative.
If you're interested in trying Burt's Bee's Sensitive Face Line, visit their website at

I am a BzzAgent. This product and promotional coupons were provided by BzzAgent in exchange for my fair and honest review.  No additional financial compensation was given.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: The Road

In a world where everything is covered in ash and society is on its last breathe, what defines morality?  In Cormac McCarthy's The Road, we follow the travels of an unnamed man and his son as they endure the trials of nature's elements and the quest to survive by scavenging an America that has been burnt to the ground. Among the few remaining survivors of some apocalyptic calamity, they push their cart of blankets, canned goods and other salvaged treasures down a road leading to the sea.  Along their journey, the two fight the elements, starvation and bands of cannibalistic marauders, with the unnamed man assuring his son that they are "the good guys."  Yet in the man's efforts to survive, one must question what it really means to be "the good guys" ?  

On the one hand, The Road is a hopelessly depressing story of unfathomable loss and waste.  Still, it is so eloquently written that one can't help but love the story.  The characters are so compelling that the reader instantly becomes attached to their predicament.  The whole time, the reader is drawn to hope for the best, while always realistically anticipating the worst.  In short, one of the best reads I've found in a while.  A resoundingly strong recommendation to read this book.  I loved every minute of it--even when I couldn't stop reading because I couldn't "leave them" in a bad place--even when I couldn't sleep because they had me so anxious--even when I cried my eyes out... and cried again any time I thought about it.  Ahh, such a great read.


Friday, October 14, 2011

On the Art of Thanksgiving

Is etiquette really dead?  I finally got around to finishing the thank you cards from Peanut’s party.  I don’t like to write thank you notes.  I’ve never been really good at it.  There are some people who know how to truly graciously, genuinely, and sincerely produce a thank you note.  Mine still feel the same awkward clumsy way they did when I first started writing them as a kid. 

Just like when I was six, it’s like pulling teeth for me to get it done.  Except this time, there’s no mom telling me to do it—and no cookies waiting for me when I get it done.  My husband even says that I’m the only person left in all of society who writes the silly things any more.  Yet there I am, with the little cards, the three to four sloppy handwritten lines and my signature, one by one adding up.

Why don’t people write thank you notes anymore?  Why don’t people handwrite anything anymore?  So is etiquette a dying or even lost art? I hope not. I think there is something to be said for putting your gratitude in writing.  I think there is something important in taking that extra step to let people who obviously care about you, know that you care in return.  I’m sure Peanut will hate me for doing it, but when he’s a little older, he’s going to start signing his own thank you notes.  A few years after that he’ll start writing his own.  Whether he continues to do so as an adult, I won’t judge.  But he will at least know how to write one, and he’ll know why it’s an important tradition to continue—even if he’s the last person in society to do so.

Review: My First Hands On Bible

As we prepared for Peanut’s baptism, I knew there were two gifts that I wanted him to have.  The first was a wooden cross made by my great uncle.  Great Uncle Richard is my father’s godfather.  My grandmother commissioned him to make a cross for me and my siblings for our first communion.  For familial reasons, this gift meant the world to me.
The other gift I wanted for my son was a children’s bible.  I’m sure we probably looked at our children’s bible many times, but for some reason I semi-remember the first time my mother read it to us. After dinner each night we’d wash dishes and then we’d read.  Before we started reading this one, she explained how it was a very special book.  She made a special ritual of washing our hands before we opened the book.  Then she read these kid versions of the bible.  I remember asking tons of questions because there were so many foreign concepts.  Needless to say, this experience left a strong impression on my young mind—and its an experience that I want for peanut.
That said, I was very blessed to have the opportunity to review My First Hands-On Bible from Tyndale House Publishers.  Biblical stories are written in accessible language with plenty of colorful illustrations.  I like that the stories selected provide the biblical chapter and verse, because they are real Bible text from the New Living Translation.  The stories are also kept short for the limited preschool attention span. 

As you read each story, you will notice hand-prints which correspond to mini-activities to guide making the story a “hands-on” experience. For example, in the story of Noah, one activity asks the child to make rain noises.  These small activities are perfect for keeping the attention of a preschooler—and in the case of our little guy, it’s the sort of activity that allows him to let out some of that energy.  These would be perfect for preschool bible study classes. 
Following each passage peanut is consistently greeted by two adorable characters.  Cuddles the lamb suggests three activities so your child can live the meaning.  Pockets the Kangaroo provides a short but special prayer that helps apply the biblical passage to your child’s life. 

In short, I was highly impressed with My First Hands-On Bible.  There is not one thing I would change about it.  It is exactly the perfect bible I had been looking for to share with my son.

If you're interested in your own copy, check out Tyndale House Publisher
My First Hands-On Bible retails for $16.99

This is a MamaBuzz Media review. The product was provided by Tyndale House Publishers.  I was provided this book free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion.  I received no additional compensation for the content of this review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Apples and Family

Growing up in the midwest, apples were always a huge part of celebrating fall. As a child, I can remember spending glorious fall days climbing the trees of apple orchards. We’d take an afternoon and pick a good five bushels of apples. Back in the day, and I swear I’m not that old, a bushel of apples cost $5, and if you paid for four, you got the fifth free. Over the years the price crept up slowly, but we still went and picked. My mother would make homemade applesauce which we would can and have all winter. Our basement had a cold storage area I called the “fruit cellar” –even though I think it was supposed to be called the “root cellar,” under the porch. We’d store some of the fresh apples there, and we’d have apples to eat all winter. We made a lot of apple salads. My mother also canned her own apple pie filling. This was heavenly on a damp winter day. We’d come home from school, crack open two jars, whip up some crumb topping and have apple crisp after dinner. If you were lucky, there’d be just enough to heat up for breakfast the next morning.

When I went away to college in Tennessee I’d spend my weekends walking to a small produce stand in downtown where I’d buy apples, bring them home and make homemade applesauce in the microwave. I’d often complain because I’d start my quest in mid September and annually be disappointed when they weren’t there until at least October. When we moved to Savannah, the lack of apples was quite possibly my biggest produce complaint. There were zero locally grown apples and zero variety of apple types. Galas, red delicious, golden delicious. That was it. I think the experience of apple picking was part of my motivation to move back home.

This year, as a family we’ve officially established our first family tradition. It was a miserably gray fall morning, with just the right amount of damp and chill in the air. We packed peanut and his little red radio flyer in the back of the truck. We picked up Grandma and Grandpa and off we went. We drove right passed the more commercial McQueen’s Orchard and its fall festival extravaganza. Pony rides, inflatables, apple fritters, and highly overpriced everything.
Instead we went to a far more sincere orchard in Swanton, where we paid much more than apples went for in my youth, but still cheaper than buying them in the store. We picked a bushel as did my parents. When Rich would ask which types I wanted, I would provide a lecture on the characteristics of the particular apples he was currently looking at, you know, flavor, cooking abilities, storage hardiness…—to which he’d reply, “I don’t need to know all that, just tell me how many you want.” Peanut rode along in his wagon, happily chewing on any half eating apples we tossed him.
You see this is our first family tradition since this was one of peanuts first major expeditions a year ago, when he was only a month or so old. He doesn’t likely remember much of it, since he was mostly hungry and cranky when we went. He probably won’t remember much of this year either—not even the part where dad lifted him in to the tree to get an apple or two. But I don’t think that’s the point. The point is, having traditions, having things that you do regularly as a family help establish connections that last. So as simple as it is and for whatever it’s worth, I’m super glad we officially have at least one.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I first learned of this book while working for Armstrong Atlantic State University's Lane Library.  At the time, it was under consideration as the university's next common read.  The library kept a copy on reserve for faculty members to preview.  Although I wanted to read it, it was never on the shelf.  That's when I knew it must be good. 
The story is much about Henrietta Lacks as it is a story about the author Rebecca Skloot's journey to bring the book to life.  Before this book, Henrietta Lacks was an extremely obscure figure from the past.  Yet, in amazing turn of events, she touched so many lives.  Her cells have been to space, blown up in nuclear testing, and helped discover the polio vaccine.  All this, as her family remained poor and unable to afford health care. 
Henrietta was a mother, wife, cousin and friend.  She was also the source of the HeLa cells--the first immortal line of human cells capable of being  sustained in culture.  Henrietta, an African American woman in 1951 visited her doctor at Johns Hopkins University where doctors removed a tissue sample which would lead to hundreds of scientific discoveries. Henrietta would soon die from the rapidly spreading cervical cancer, but her cells would live on.  
Yet, the existence of these cells was unknown to her family, who were never asked consent for use of the tissues or were made knowledgeable of their value.  Today HeLa sells are a standard catalog item for many lab supply companies.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an excellent example of an interdisciplinary read.  The reader learns of the biology of cell culture, but also the legal and ethical debates that accompany such research.  Skloot artistically interviews the personal element of the Lacks family, past and present creating  a very strong personal element.  Naturally race, historical context and journalistic research methods enter the picture as well.  
When it comes to non-fiction, I am naturally a slow reader.  Yet the story compelled me to read further, ask questions and strive to understand the portions that were out of my comfort zone.  The last few chapters were a huge pay off and made the effort completely worth it. Loved this book and would strongly recommend it to students of any subject. 
The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksBiographies & Memoirs)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Read for the Record

I hate "borrowing" content from other sites, but this is such a great idea, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spread the word.

What are you doing on October 6? How does breaking a world reading record while raising awareness about America’s achievement gap sound? 

I strongly encourage you to participate in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record® presented in partnership with Pearson Foundation. Its a national campaign that mobilizes adults and children to close the early education achievement gap by setting a reading world record.

This annual campaign allows Americans to demand that all children receive the quality early education they deserve. On October 6, 2011, more than 2 million voices will call for an end to America’s early education achievement gap by reading Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney – setting a world record in the process!

Get involved at to help Jumpstart close the early education achievement gap:
1. Pledge to Read: Submit your official pledge and help us reach more than 2.1 MILLION children. 
2. Spread the Word: Use our simple tools to educate your friends and family about America’s early education achievement gap and invite them to read.

Peanut and I will be reading on the 6th and we hope you will join us.
For more information visit