Again…and again

By Stacy Thompson

So it’s more than 120 days until college football season…and watching pro baseball is mind-numbing, to say the least.  College basketball (men’s and women’s) is over as well…we do have the NBA playoffs and NHL playoffs to get excited about, but nonetheless, it’s a dead time around here for the most part.  I have no fantasy football roster to prepare, no tailgate food to organize and ready, and my next trip with Mom is several weeks away, so what’s a girl to do??? Well, I could binge-watch Friends yet again for the nine-hundreth time, could binge-watch another of the ‘critically acclaimed’ or ‘audience favorite’ series on cable TV or online….or, I could just re-read some of my favorite books.

Re-reading a book, to me, is akin to channel-surfing on a lazy Saturday and stumbling upon a John Hughes classic film (think Ferris Bueller’s Day off, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, etc. etc.)—you’re going to experience a plot-line you know by heart and words that you either quote incessantly or live by daily, but you’re going to enjoy it nonetheless.  The list below is eclectic, mainstream, classic and personal, all rolled into one – when I read for pleasure (which isn’t often enough) I lean toward books and series that I can simply let wash over me—nothing too serious or too deep that I can’t pick it up and put it down but rarely want to do the latter.  For the most part I want a book that will entertain me while at the same time allowing me a chance to turn my mind off—but something that will make me laugh or cry without being a total bummer. Like many readers, I have several that I go back to time and time again – for the familiarity, the comfort and the pure joy of a well-written story.

So here are my choices for Books You Can Read Again and Again…and Again

  • To Kill ATo Kill A Mockingbird – yes, you probably had to read it in high school, but give this gem another chance and appreciate the message behind the story – I think Atticus Finch impacted my decision to go to law school more than any advisor ever could and his code of ethics are the barometer we should all strive to meet daily
  • The Stand – take the time to wade through Stephen King’s uncut version of this opus – it’s not a quick read, but extremely worthwhile, with characters on all sides of the ethical spectrum dealing with life-altering dilemmas – this book is, by far, one of King’s least horror-leaning books.  I’d also recommend two other King books, Mr. Mercedes (more recent) and Different Seasons (four short stories, one of which was made into the classic film Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me)
  • Gone With The Wind – I was ten years old when my fifth-grade teacher gave me her copy of this book and challenged me to read it – it’s a history lesson, guidebook on the old South, human-interest illustration and love story all rolled into one
  • The Harry Potter Series – I got into these late (why all the fuss? I asked at the time)harry potter – hadn’t read any until the fourth one was coming out, and then cursed JK Rowling for not getting the remaining volumes out quickly enough – yes, it’s a meant to be a tween novel series, but adults are sure to enjoy every page
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott manages to give every character a different character while weaving a most cohesive story
  • Little House on the Prairie – Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert may have brought these characters to life on the TV screen, but after reading the books, I wanted nothing more than to make maple syrup popsicle sticks in the snow and to churn my own butter
  • Hunger Games trilogy – once again a tween-read, but an entertaining read to the very end—we all would want any young girl in our life to have the strength of Katniss
  • The Great Gatsby – I’ll admit that I had to force-read this in school, but reading it again as an adult proved this timeless classic should be given a second chance…and a third chance…and (you get the picture)eat pray love
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed – if you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I love a good hike…what this woman did was above and beyond that, and her story is worth repeating
  • James Elliott – All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful…etc.
    After reading these books I was convinced I need to become a veterinarian –I settled instead on being a lawyer who takes in any and all furry creatures that cross my path
  • Eat, Pray, Love – see “Wild” above, but with much better food and more showers…for sure

Everyone has their go-to book, the one you would have to take with you on a desert island – I, of course, would skirt the desert island one-book minimum by insisting on a Kindle to house several dozen books!  Happy Reading everyone and enjoy this down time until football and tailgate season!!

My Favorite Things: Holiday Edition

By: Leah Prescott

If you know me, you know I love LISTS. In fact, I plan to blog soon about my favorite method of life-planning called “notebook journaling” which is essentially creating and collecting lists and lists of lists! Since it is the holiday season, some of the items on this list will be perfect for gift giving; others will be helpful for making the New Year less stressful for your family!

SnowballIndoor Snowball Fight – We are lightening our toy purchases this year for Christmas, but my friend introduced us to these and they are absolutely fabulous. Too light to cause any harm, but somehow heavy enough to really fly through the air, these truly are the closest thing you can imagine to a real, friendly snowball fight. Kids of all ages will enjoy!

Marpac Sound Machines  We are a family that values sleep highly. We make it a point to keep regular bedtime routines for our kids, and when traveling we drag all of our sleep routine items along with us. That includes our Marpac Sound Machines. We are all addicted to the soothing white noise and a calm environment for sleep; and now I don’t have to lug a box fan around everywhere!

Chick-fil-A Cow Calendar –This calendar is a fun (and funny) gift that comes with an offer card to scan each month at the restaurant. Offers include free drinks, fries and nuggets, along with lots of mystery offers. We eat at Chick-fil-A at least once a month so this is a no-brainer. 2016 Calendars are sold out online, but should be available at your local restaurant.

Natural Calm – Since my family has started taking this supplement every day, we’ve had a significant improvement in stomach complaints and anxiety. The inexpensive supplement we use is available on Amazon.

HGTV’s Fixer Upper – I know I’m late to the party, but this show recently came to Netflix streaming and my girls and I are really enjoying it. It’s completely family friendly, which isn’t always the case for other shows in the genre, and moves quickly enough to interest all of us. Now I want to purchase a ramshackle old mansion with the understanding that Chip and Joanna will completely renovate it prior to our moving in.

Instant Pot – I have blogged about this before, but it deserves another mention. I still love it and use it constantly. In fact, I used it twice just today; I hardboiled some eggs for deviled eggs and I made a pot of chili. With 7 functions in 1, this machine should eliminate several other appliances; in fact, it’s like you’re giving multiple gifts at once. The newest version is even blue-tooth enabled!

I considered making this list longer, but I was really trying to stick with things we truly love and recommend. (You can always take a look at last year’s list here for more of my all time favorites.) This has been a year of simplifying for our family, so perhaps my shorter list reflects that. I hope you have a very blessed Christmas Season and a Happy New Year!

My Favorite Things

By: Leah Prescott

It’s almost THAT time of year and I am super excited because I love gift giving! I love choosing gifts, making gifts, and watching people open their gifts! In fact, it makes me kind of sad when there isn’t time for gifting opening at a party. Since I love gifting and shopping, I really love “Favorite Things Lists.” I thought I would share my list of favorite things just in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. Here they are, in no particular order.  

 1) Boogie Board Doodle Pad: This is a fun gift for all ages and it’s perfect for those long holiday trips coming up. This is kind of like a glorified Magnadoodle and all three of my kids love drawing and writing on it, then erasing with the push of a button. It’s also great for homeschooling! Ours were about $20 on Amazon and has provided hours of fun ever since its arrival. Helpful fact: if your children lose the stylus repeatedly, you can buy a huge pack of Nintendo DS pens and they work great. Not that my kids lose stuff, ever…
http://www.amazon.com/Boogie-Board-8-5-Inch-Writing-PT01085CYA0002/dp/B00AFPR68E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435767&sr=8-2&keywords=boogie+board

2) Barefoot Dreams Chic Lit Calypso Wrap: This is marketed as a bathrobe but I wear it out ALL the time. It is the softest possible fabric combined with a perfectly flattering drape, and it goes great with everything. This is far and away my favorite piece of clothing, period. I am not sure why I don’t have more than one. The only reason I am not wearing it right this very second is that I spilled coffee on it this morning and felt obligated to wash it. True story. http://www.amazon.com/Barefoot-Dreams-Womens-BambooChic-Calypso/dp/B00BC34E2O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435678&sr=8-1&keywords=barefoot+dreams+calypso+wrap

3) Vitamix: I know I have blogged about this before, but because of its health value, long-lasting quality and the general appeal of the smoothie, it has to make an appearance again. We still use this thing every day. Save your pennies, it’s worth it! http://www.amazon.com/Vitamix-1811-Certified-Reconditioned-Standard/dp/B00LBFUKIA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435548&sr=8-6&keywords=vitamix+mixer

4) Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Tea: I have to give a shout out to my friend Melody for introducing me to this perfectly delicious beverage. She made it for me one day and I really couldn’t believe she hadn’t added sweetener. It truly is naturally sweet and spicy, and no sugar is needed. A couple years ago, it wasn’t very easy to find but now you can get it at most grocery stores, of course Amazon, and I recently found it at Publix. I’m not a huge fan of tea, but this stuff is really yummy.
http://www.amazon.com/Good-Earth-All-Natural-Caffeine-Free-version/dp/B00F8LX34G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1416435953&sr=8-2&keywords=good+earth+sweet+and+spicy

oball5) Oballs: These were popular a few years ago but I haven’t seen much about them latel. They STILL deserve a place on the list. They are such a fantastic toy for all ages. We have a lot of balls, but this is the only one that can be safely thrown around inside without causing any damage. The little holes make it easy for the tiniest toddler to catch, and, best of all, its completely dishwasher safe.
http://www.amazon.com/Rhino-Toys-Oball-Original-Colors/dp/B000BNC9DM/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1416444237&sr=8-4&keywords=oball

6) Hanna Andersson for kids’ clothing: Especially dresses, unders, and long johns. These are absolutely soft, absolutely comfy and absolutely adorable for years of wear. They are expensive, yes, but they last through multiple children. In fact, most of my Hanna items are second hand and still going strong. The cotton is so soft and sturdy. It tends to be easily treated for stains and to hold up through hundreds of washes. This brand is always on my hunt list when thrifting and trolling ebay. Also, you can get on their mailing list for outlet sales and score bargains that way.
http://www.hannaandersson.com/

7) Strawesome glass straws: These are beautiful, functional and surprisingly strong. If you think it’s crazy to drink out of a glass straw, consider the difference in drinking from a cheap disposable cup compared to drinking out of your favorite glass or mug. You might be surprised how much you will love them! I think this would be a lovely gift for a teacher or friend and there are some really beautiful designs. We use these for our delicious smoothies from the Vitamix!
http://www.strawesome.com/

8) Choceur Cocoa Dusted Truffles from Aldi: Maybe one of these days I will make a post about all my favorite items from Aldi. For now, let me just assure you that these are the most delicious, most inexpensive chocolates you will find and, with their adorable red box, they are totally gift worthy. People, these are under three bucks! (I should really be keeping these great gift ideas to myself, but I just can’t keep a secret.) Get them now because they are only available for the holiday season.
https://www.aldi.us/en/grocery-items/holiday-headquarters/winter-seasonal-items/seasonal-detail/ps/p/choceur-cocoa-dusted-truffles-1/

tangle teazer9) Tangle Teezer Hair Brush: It may seem odd for a hair brush to make my top ten list, but I assure you that this weird little piece of plastic has truly SAVED MY SANITY. I’m not sure that I’ve mentioned this, but my twin girls have curly hair. Really, really curly hair. We’re talking, so curly that I once randomly found a Christmas Tree ornament hook in one of their heads and she hadn’t even noticed it was stuck there. True Story. We have tried tons of different products, techniques and a whole slew of brushes, and this one is the ticket to gently de-tangling the curliest of curly hair. I couldn’t love this brush more. You can find it at Sally’s for less than $10.
http://www.amazon.com/Tangle-Teezer-Salon-Elite-Pink/dp/B00264NW7G/ref=sr_1_1?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1416444889&sr=1-1&keywords=tangle+teezer

10) Klean Kanteen water bottles: My husband and I have purchased close to twenty of these for our family and for gifts. Who doesn’t need a great water bottle? We use ours every single day. We love their commitment to the environment, their amazing customer service and their quality designs. I once emailed the company with a concern and received a phone call from a real person less than an hour later. Who does that? Klean Kanteen, that’s who. You can trust these bottles will last for years to come and help you stay hydrated without compromising health and taste (if you’re like me and think plastic is gross).
www.kleankanteen.com

So that’s my list of favorite items. It was really hard for me to keep this list to only ten but I didn’t want to put ya’ll in the poorhouse this Christmas. Send me a message or a comment with your favorite items for gift giving this season. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Shopping!