My Favorite Holiday & Bittersweet Pumpkin Carving

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween everyone! What do you all have planned for the day? We are taking the two younger kids Trick-Or-Treating tonight (the other boys are with their Dad) and that's about it. Not a whole lot going on. We're not usually ones to go to adult Halloween parties and such, although it is my favorite holiday, I would much rather just cozy up at home. I did spend some time Saturday watching a few Halloween movies with Sam, so I got my holiday fix in. Tonight, we'll get the kids dressed up and go out in search of tons of candy that neither of them will eat. If we could just get everyone to hand out Hershey bars to Max and raisins or cheerios to Sam that would be grrreat. Since Sam isn't walking quite yet, I didn't want to dress him in anything over the top or too much of a hassle, so he will be going as a lumberjack. I'm going to make him a little cardboard ax that I'm sure I will be struck with several times throughout the evening. Looking forward to that. Max got a skeleton ninja costume with his mom the other day to wear, but then this morning informed us he's going a a hunter. So, we'll see what happens there. You'll find out the answer if we show up at your house tonight. Somehow this year I lucked out and had very minimal work in the Halloween department. Watch, next year we'll have all five kids for trick-or-treat night and they'll all want the most intricate costumes known to all of man kind and tell me about it a day or two in advance.
I'll enjoy this year off.  

This year we decided at kind of the last minute to find another pumpkin patch to take the kids to. It's a tradition that we all like to do. Each year on the day that we go searching for pumpkins or carve pumpkins, we also have Chicken n' Dumplings for supper that night. The last couple of years, the local pumpkin patch hasn't been opened, so we've gotten them at the supermarket. (Which, I will add....for those of you that like getting them from the store, go to Aldi. They are way better and bigger pumpkins than the other store's small ones for the same price!).  We ended up picking an out of town pumpkin patch to try this year and had the day set to go, and then when it got here the weather was pretty crappy so we decided not to go and just get them at the store again. A note was made to plan "Pumpkin Patch Day" earlier for next year as well. Oh, and don't worry about the kids being disappointed that we didn't end up getting to go, I've mentioned this in other posts, but this is why you never want to tell your kids of plans that could possibly get canceled. Our kids were super pumped over the Aldi pumpkins and we still celebrated store bought pumpkins that night with Chicken n' Dumplings. Over the next couple of weeks, if I would have received a quarter for every time the kids asked when we would carve the pumpkins, I could probably have $20 in my pocket. Each time explaining to them that we want to wait until Halloween got closer so the pumpkins wouldn't be rotten that day, they couldn't contain their excitement and continued asking. 

Do you enjoy carving pumpkins? Or carving pumpkins with your kids? I love carving pumpkins and it's a tradition I really enjoy, thank goodness, because I end up doing almost everyone's for them. When I was a kid, I could never handle the pumpkin guts. I would have to leave the room while the insides got cleaned out and then return for the carving, otherwise I would gag....alot (I have texture issues). When I got to high school, and we were all older, the tradition of carving pumpkins had stopped, but I wanted to keep doing it. It was then that I was forced to endure the slimy pumpkin guts that I was able to avoid my whole life up until this point. But, I wanted to carve pumpkins, so I stuck it out. I can remember the first couple of years I would be on the porch scooping out my pumpkin and gagging the entire time, a, but it got easier. It doesn't bother me at all, but I think that has more to do with being a Mom of boys than it has to do with getting used to carving pumpkins. 

Anyways, I get excited like the kids do to carve pumpkins. I just love them. I love seeing what each person decides to do with their pumpkin, and I especially love when we light them up at night. But the actual process of assisting my kids with carving pumpkins takes some God given patience....
Pumpkin carving day finally arrived and we spent most of that morning doing whatever and waited to start the pumpkins when we only had like an hour before we had to leave for Gradey's football game (I think I am actually to blame for this), and although we were surprisingly not rushing due to the time constraint, this is how it all went down:

- First, Marty had a good fire going in the garage and had everything setup before we got out there. So, that was super awesome of him. 

- Gradey and Max pick their pumpkins from the row, took them over and dropped them hard onto the plastic folding table that I was truly amazed didn't bust. 

- We put Sam in his walker thing to keep him busy while we helped the boys. 

- With permanent markers they began drawing their cut out. They immediately began complaining about how the markers stopped working on the pumpkin. I explained that they needed to wipe the dew off with paper towels and it would help, but they continued to complain that the markers stopped working and we ended up having to have a short time out session so they could calm their shit before we continued. 

- Drawing again, one drew a small "stick person shooting a gun and spinning a fidget spinner" that was smaller than my hand and the other one drew a giant fidget spinner where he only "wanted the inside cut out".  We had to explain to both of them that A, the stick person was way too small and had too many details to be carved into a pumpkin, and B, the fidget spinner outline would be cut out and look like a giant star. 

- Stick person kid drew a new picture of a mans face with sunglasses. I think at this point Marty has already had to take Sam out of walker because he's bored. 

- I cut the tops off their pumpkins, during which both kids asked me about half way through if I was "done yet" and I told them they could do it themselves. No responses. 

- Pumpkin tops off, we start scooping. One kid doesn't like the guts (no, it wasn't me this time) and requires rubber gloves. I take Sam so Marty can help put rubber gloves on for several minutes, once they’re on, he takes Sam and I'm back to helping with the pumpkins. 

- Rubber gloves come off after only a few minutes because it's "too gross" and he leaves. I start scooping out the pumpkin for him and he comes back a few minutes later to check in and see how the progress on his pumpkin is coming and he decides he's hungry.  

- Marty puts Sam in baby thing as I'm elbow deep in pumpkin and he goes to make lunch. On his way out, other kid says to Marty that he's hungry too and wants a sandwich to eat while he carves his pumpkin. 

- Fidget spinner kid has his pumpkin cleaned out mostly, I get the rest cleaned out and he begins cutting out his fidget spinner slash star. 

- While Marty is getting kids lunch, Sam is bored again and yelling. After several minutes of trying to talk to him and entertaining him with conversation and song, he's still pissed and wants out. I half-assed wash my hands and get him out to play with him until Marty gets back. 

- Marty comes back with fidget spinner kid's lunch that he asked for, hands it to him and then kid says "Actually, I think I'm just going to go inside and eat. I'll finish my pumpkin later."

- Marty takes Sam. I finish cleaning out stick person kid's pumpkin. 

- We take a break while the kids are off eating and I think I went in with Sam and he finally went down for a nap. 

- Fidget spinner kid comes back to finish his pumpkin and asks for helping cutting. After he explains what he wants, I tell him how we need to cut to make it happen, and he continues to cut it however he wants anyways (I could care less if it looks like a giant star....but he didn't want that). I show him once more, and then he says "You just do it". At the same time, stick person kid has come back and Marty is helping him cut sunglasses and a sad face smile line out of his pumpkin, also while explaining again that small details can't be cut out of a pumpkin. Midway he decides he’s done again. 

- I finish cutting fidget spinner kid's pumpkin. 

- I finish cutting stick person kid’s pumpkin. 

- Both kids come back, excited to see their finished pumpkins after we put a votive candle in them and are in awe at all of their hard work. 

Then I left Marty with the kids during his Vikings game while I took Gradey to Football. (poor guy)

After Gradey's game, I went back out with just Sam to carve his pumpkin. That went about as good as could be expected, considering that fact he's only one. He was all about helping with the process though, which was good, but his idea of helping while I was trying to scoop out the guts was by taking the pumpkin's lid on and off, and on and off, and on and off....and getting mad at me for being in his way. Every once in awhile he would try to eat the lid. He actually stuck it out through the whole cleaning process. He tried to scoop the guts and stuck his arms inside the pumpkin to feel (he wasn't a fan), and even tried helping with the cutting (using the kids pumpkin carving knives from the kits. Calm yourself.) I think I got one pumpkin eye cut when Sam checked out and went to Marty while I finished it. Once it was done, we sat him down with it so he could see it all lit up. His only concern was to take the lid off, remove the votive, try and eat it, and then attempt to put it back into the pumpkin through the eye hole in which it didn't fit and he would get mad and cry, so we would remove the lid and put the votive back in it's original place. Then the game would start over again. So, that was super fun. 

While Sam and I worked on his pumpkin, Brody had come out to join us. He got his pumpkin, drew on it, cleaned it, and cut it without any assistance from anyone AND cleaned up everyone's pumpkin guts and brought all the tools/bowls in to be washed. I know this isn't that impressive since he's fourteen years old, but I loved him for it anyways. Teens aren't so bad after all! 

After the kids were off playing, Marty and I were cleaning up any leftover newspaper mess...
Marty: "Well, that went well."
Me: "Kids suck." 

We celebrated the whole thing with Tacos......and I had some wine. 
In the end, all the kids were happy and love their pumpkins, and that's why we parents do what we do, right? To see their smiling faces and happy hearts is all that matters in everything we do.

These kids are lucky I love them so damn much. 

* * * * *

I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween and your kids get lots of candy, for their sake! Any parent that can get through the chaos of the evening all while keeping their sanity deserves a gold star. I’m going to hand out small bottles of liquor or coffee shots to parents as I walk by them tonight to help get them through the night of hyper, sugar filled kids. 

I'm not really going to do this, so if you see me out and about tonight, just keep walking.
But you can say "hi" though if you want.

Oh, and if this news doesn't scare the hell of you this Halloween, then I don't know what will. 

Our Bookshelf

Sunday, October 29, 2017

I love reading and anything to do with books. I wish I could read more than I do! I am a member of two large online bookclubs, and some of the people in there read like five or six books a week! My Goodreads Challenge for this year is to read one book a month and this is the first year ever that I'm actually going to reach my goal. It's just the end of October and I have read 11 books already, so I'm actually a month ahead of schedule. Go me.

During the holidays, I try to make a point to pick out a small pile of books that I'll leave in the living room or by the kids' toy bench. But being out and maybe they will spark some interest. Right now all of our boys are where reading just isn't something they do for fun. Having their reading homework is enough to kind of take the fun out of it for them I think. To me, reading shouldn't feel like homework. Brody gets the occasional chapter book to read for school, and the two middle boys both usually come home with a monthly reading sheet, where we have to write down what books we read with them that month so they can get their monthly book-it (a.k.a. a free personal pan pizza), and then each night they have to read for homework, as well. But these are things like reading sheets to track how many words they read per minute while we time them. I understand it's purpose, but it's not fun for them. The middle boys enjoy going to the library after school sometimes, but I have to restrict the iPad station there until after they've each picked out a certain number of books. They usually run in and pick out just enough books without much browsing and go straight to the iPads so they can get more time on them before we have to leave. Truthfully, I wish they weren't even in there and it makes me not enjoy taking the kids to the library as much. Perhaps if I changed my routine with it and allowed the first ten minutes there on the iPads, the rest of the time would be used better for looking at books and they would be more interested in what they're picking. I'm going to try that next time.

These books that I just got out at home for this Halloween week are comfortably at Max and Gradey's reading levels, but Sam enjoys listening to them and looking at the pictures, and also giving all the characters kisses.
"Vampire Pets" By Roger Priddy Books
Sam has been loving this book. The big shapes, bright colors, and big googly eyes is a sure win for this book, and the words are short and sweet little rhymes. Quick and easy read for parents, fun for the kids.
Source: Gift...I think.
Amazon|Thriftbooks Barnes & Noble|Goodreads

"The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything" By Linda Williams & Illustrated by Megan Lloyd
I've been reading this book to my kids since Brody was little. They love it, I don't. I mean, I get why the kids love it. It's a fun book and it's very repetitive (kind of like 'The Old Woman That Swallowed a Fly"), which is why I don't really enjoy reading it. I can only say the words "CLOMP! CLOMP! WIGGLE! WIGGLE! SHAKE! SHAKE!" so many times before my fire feels like it's getting low. For the kids sake, it's a fun book for the holiday and the illustrations are great.
Source: Gift...I think.
Amazon|Thriftbooks Barnes & Noble|Goodreads

"Ten Little Pumpkins" Illustrated by Jay Johnson
This is another great sing-a-long book to do with Sam. Although I feel like we were all born knowing how to recite 'Ten Little Pumpkins', I do have to actually sing-read this because there is alot of pages in the book with words I didn't know existed in the song. Perhaps my entire life has been a lie?
The illustrations are very bright and colorful. A happy halloweeny type book.
Source: Scholastic Book Order
Amazon|Thriftbooks Goodreads

"Otis" By Loren Long
I grabbed this book for the pile not even knowing if it is at all related to the Halloween Holiday, and it's not. But the illustrations made me add it anyway. The photos have such a dark and ominous feel to it for such a sweet story about an old tractor and his best friend. A nice contrast and still a good book for a spooky holiday.
Source: Unknown
Amazon|Thriftbooks Barnes & Noble|Goodreads

"Because I'm Your Dad" By Ahmet Zappa and Illustrated by Dan Santat
Although not a Halloween Book, I grabbed this for the pile because of the Monster characters. Monsters are scary and scary is Halloween, so I thought it fit. While reading it, I came across one page that was Halloween themed, justifying my selection even more. This book talks about a Monster Dad and all the fun things he does with his son to show his love. Reading this to Sam, obviously it made me think of him and Marty, especially when every time I read the word 'Daddy', Sam would perk up and look for him. It was super adorable and my heart was already feeling full, and then the last page made me think of Marty and his dad, and I teared up. Like, big lump in my throat and water eyes teared up. So yeah, this one was good.
Source: Scholastic Book Order
Amazon|Thriftbooks Barnes & Noble|Goodreads

"The Best Halloween Hunt EverBy John Speirs
This book follows Halloween 'Day' with small lists of Halloween items to find on each page. Kind of like 'Where's Waldo', but you're looking for like 50 items instead of just one person. Definitely not a Sam book, although he may look at the pages. A great book for Max and Gradey's age. Or even me, for that matter. The pumpkin patch page is on 'expert' level. 
Source: Scholastic Book Order

This last month, I really broke out of my "one book at time" habit that I'm trying to keep to. My problem is that I want to read so many books NOW and I know at my pace it will take months to get to it, so I have been having three or four going at a time and I read whatever interests me at that moment. Or I'll spread them out so there ready in different parts of my day. One will be my "In the car while waiting for kids to get out of school book" or a "beside table book" or a "bathroom book" (that I read while I give Sam a bath...and when I go to the bathroom. *GASP!*).
Trying to find ways to enjoy them all at once instead of waiting.
Here's what I've had in my reading pile lately....

"Columbine" By Dave Cullen
I'll be honest and I say that I don't know alot of the details from Columbine. Dave Cullen was one of the original reporters to cover the story and has been following the event since it happened. I've only heard good things from ratings and reviews over this book and Marty just read it recently and agreed that it was good. It has been interesting from the very first page and sucked me in from the start.
Source: Half Price Bookstore

"I Am That Girl" By Alexis Jones
This is my most heavily read book at the moment. I was kind of on the fence about reading another 'self-help' book right after I just finished The Energy Bus, but this book is soooooo good, ladies. It is just what I need right now and I'm eating this book up! It's the kind of book that will have almost every page dogeared and lots of highlights and markings to reference back to. It's so inspiring and eye-opening. Highly recommend it if you're looking for some 'Girl Power!' and wanting to feel like you can conquer the world. 

"The Lincolns" By Candace Fleming
Not even joking, I have been reading this book for like two years. I love this book. For those of you that don't now me, I am a big Abraham Lincoln Fan, so I just think this book is just about the best thing ever. It's not a chapter book, but full of photos and clippings. It's more of a scrapbooky type book that covers the timeline of Abraham Lincoln, his wife, and family from beginning to end. It's just so awesome, and I have no desire for it to end so I'm just taking my sweet time with it. 
Source: Half Price Bookstore

"In Memory Of Bread: A Memoir" By Paul Graham
At the beginning of the year when I discovered that my body can't handle eating certain foods, gluten being on of them, I picked up this book. I had it on my 'to be read' list before that, but this gave me the nudge to go ahead and get it. Although Graham's writing style is nice and enjoyable to read, I hope that he begins to talk less about his personal experience at some point and shares how we can incorporate the knowledge he's acquired throughout his journey in our own lives. Some tips from the 'been there, done that' would be appreciated. 

Sam has been getting more and more into books recently and we spend alot more time reading than we used to. Sometimes I read his books to him, or read out loud to him when I'm reading my books. He has been spending more of his play time reading alone as well. I'll catch him in his play area or in his car seat with a book and he's talking in his 'reading voice'. It's cute. 
This last month, these are the three books that Sam and I have been reading the most.

"BOOM!" By Mary Lyn Ray & Illustrated By
Boom is about a little dog that isn't afraid of anything except thunder. It goes through all of the places that make him feel safe, and nothing else but his owner. It's a big book with lots of color and letters. The illustrations are great and it always gets Sam's attention.
Source: Gift

"If You're Happy and You Know It!" By Jane Cabrera
I love the art in this book. Sam probably loves it too, but this is his favorite song to sing ever. He's just happy with the 'clap your hands' part, so this book sent his favorite song into overdrive and he's been loving singing this together with the bright pictures to go along with it. Normally he likes to do the motions along with me, but when we use this book, he just sits there and smiles so big the entire time like he's in shock. We may be hanging on to this one for awhile. 
Source: Scholastic Book Order

"The Day The Crayons Quit" By Drew Daywalt & illustrated By
I. Love. This. Book. So. Much.
This is hands down my favorite kid's book I've read to the boys. Sam likes this book, but doesn't love it. Max and Gradey, every time they see it laying out, they'll pick it up and comment about how funny they think it is. And it is! I don't know what it is about this book, but I think it's hilarious and if the kids check out half way through it, I'll finish reading it alone. It's very well done for both kids and parents. It's about a box of crayons that each write a letter to their owner to complain about what jobs they do or don't have in his art, but all come together in the end when he draws a huge masterpiece with all the colors used accordingly. Very cute. 
Source: Half Price Bookstore (inside pictured below)

Marty and I have a current order from Thriftbooks coming in the mail, so I will be sharing those and reviews on my current reads soon. (Which, if you haven't checked out Thriftbooks......doooo it! And thank me later with a giant platter of gluten free/dairy free desserts).

We are both looking forward to getting Pablo Escobar: My Father. We've been hard into watching Narcos lately on Netflix, and what's better than a good book on the topic to go with it?

* * * * * * * 

What books are you and your family reading this fall?? 

Let's be minimal

Friday, October 27, 2017

Have you ever heard of minimalism? Until I watched a Netflix documentary, by The Minimalists, one rare day when I was being seriously lazy af and literally watched documentaries all day, I had never really heard of it. Up until this point, I just believed that feeling overwhelmed by too many "things" and fighting my own inner genetic hoarder demons was a normal thing. When I watched this documentary, a  light bulb went off.  I knew that living in a big house, with a big family and each one of us having a lot of 'stuff' was really contributing to my workload and feeling overwhelmed in motherhood. Anything that I can do to take some work of my back is something to look into and at least try. 

There are so many ways to minimalize your life, but I was mainly focused at first on getting rid of the extra stuff. As long as it is contributing to my workload, I don't have the extra time to dedicate myself to more important things that matter to me the most, like spending more quality time with my family and myself. When Marty and I moved in together, I was six months pregnant, our upstairs renovation was yet to be completed, and I was still working full-time, so we basically just combined all of our items without getting rid of much. Prior to moving and as I packed, I put together a decent size load to take to Goodwill with alot of decorative type items, books I didn't love and already read, things like that that I could go ahead and ditch, but kept dishes, towels, blankets, and such because I wasn't sure of what we would want to keep of whose once we were together. Almost two years later, I feel like I have been drowning in just dishes and laundry alone. I literally move mountains of clothes and run the dishwasher twice and still hand wash some days. No more. 'Cuz Mama was going to loose her shit and no one in the house was about to use less clothes and dishes any time soon.

"God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference." 
Can I get an Amen for this Serenity Prayer, please? This scripture has gotten me to alot of days in my life and is always a great reminder. I first read it on a bookmark that my Grandma gave to me, which makes it extra special. 

Getting everyone to stop changing their clothes several times a day or getting a new glass from the cupboard every time they need a sip of water are things I cannot change, no matter how hard I try.  But, the amount of stuff in my home is something I can change. If there's not as many dishes and clothes in this house, then they can't dirty as much, can they? Taking the extra out of this house is not some form of punishment for making more work for me, it's the realization that we are living well beyond our means in certain areas of our lives. There's no reason for a family of 7 to have enough for a family of 14. Having more isn't always better and I would rather have to wash a cup if necessary than do another load of dishes where the top rack is literally holding 20 glasses, which happens...alot! 

It has taken me a couple of months to really jump on this wagon and start diving into every room, closet, and drawer in this house. My list of spaces to declutter is ginormous and a little discouraging at times, but in I went and the next few weeks-slash-months is going to be kind of sucky, yet awesome. I love getting rid of things and cleaning out, but as I mentioned I do have hoarder blood running through me and I have to really fight myself on some items, and it's ridiculous. My constant need to clean up and organize at the same time always being prepared for the occasion is a battle yet to be won. While going through the kitchen, in my utensil drawer (this is aside from the TWO utensil canisters I have on the counter.....yup.) I found three small spatulas, three serving spoons and three slotted serving spoons that I never use and I talked myself into keeping all of them except two of the spatulas. Can you believe that shit?? This is what I do, I look at them and think "You watch, the next time we have everyone over again in the garage for a cookout (like we do on occasion) I will need these and be mad that I got rid of them." So, I compromised and moved them to the "Cookout Tote" in the garage that contain the table cloth, paper plates, etc that we need when that time comes. It may not seem like I really got rid of them, but I did. I downsized from six whisks (yes, SIX!) to two, so progress was made, okay?

So far I have gotten through all of our kitchen except for the pantry and the junk drawers, and I have to tell you, doing the dishes this past week as been a dream! Oh my gosh, who knew that the chore of dishes could be so enjoyable?! So far, the "If there's not as much to dirty, there won't be as much work" is proving to be true. Now that there is less, we can't just get a clean dish out of the drawer or cabinet each time. I know this will prevent less mess from everyone in the house, but I've noticed that I use less while I'm cooking now and knowing that there is less in the cupboards has made me quicker to get the dishwasher unloaded in the morning instead of waiting until it needs loaded after supper, which suuuuuucks. This has made me realize that I, too, was a big contributor to my own problem. So, this has been a humbling experience. 

I started the whole process with my clothes, I always start there when I declutter for some reason, and that actually went pretty well. Although I started like two or three weeks ago, it's yet to be finished. So, maybe it hasn't gone so well. The kitchen has been easier to tackle through since we have to be in there every day, where with our room Marty and I can just walk by the massive piles of stuff on our way to bed and pretend likes it's not there. And you guys, Marty and I alone have so. many. clothes. It's terrible. I truthfully think he has more clothes than I do and we both only realistically wear less than half of what we own. I still need to have him spend some time going through his stuff, but I've been tackling mine and it's been a job. With fluctuating weight and not having any clothes that I really love, deciding what to keep and what to ditch hasn't been easy. This time around though I've really been getting rid of things and not hanging on to anything anymore that I keep 'just in case' or 'because I've had it since high school'. If it doesn't fit, if I don't love it and feel good in it, if it's stained or poorly made, and if I never wear it then it's gone.

I've been interested for quite awhile in creating a wardrobe capsule for myself, in the hopes that not only will it help with the decluttering problem and leave me only with clothes I wear and love, but having fewer items to mix and match may form some kind of fashionable style for myself, and that wouldn't be so terrible. Fashion is something that is outside of my comfort zone, and I would like to create something for myself that allowed me to feel confident and comfortable at the same time. I have to believe this is possible! The polka dotted fleece pants, extremely over-sized Guardians of the Galaxy t-shirt, and hoodie I'm wearing at this very moment are the best thing ever as far as comfort goes, but leave alot to be desired if I were to leave the house in them.
Which I've yesterday.
#dontjudge #idontthinkanyonesawme #dontcareiftheydid

Have a great weekend and enjoy your Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite. 

READ IT: The Last Bar in NYC

Sunday, June 4, 2017

BY: Brian Michels

Published: April 24th 2016 by AntiStar
Genres: memoir, fiction, food & drink, alcohol
Pages: 248
Format: Kindle/Ebook
Source: I received this book from the author for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

"Thank heaven for New York City bartenders. They satisfy your boozy thirst in a strife filled life and a good one will listen to anything on your mind when no one else will. Our barman/narrator is one of the good ones. He’s been disposed under chins and elbows and cocktail napkins and ashtrays and spilled drinks for decades in New York City for countless drinkers willing to confess anything to a bar top. From one bar stool to another our barman’s raw and soulful voice delivers a metropolitan story of good times, struggle, regret and salvation - a story put together with well-known real life places, countless celebrity faces and amazing characters only found in New York City. Maybe you live in New York or simply wondered about living there. Maybe you’ve dreamed of tending a bar or owning a bar or sitting in a bar in New York City. Maybe you’ve always wanted to meet a bartender from the prohibition era who pissed into Al Capone’s beer or a horse-betting Rabbi that can explain the world order or see Mickey Mantle fall down drunk with his face buried in a filthy barroom toilet. Maybe you’re interested in a wine and beer stained, cigarette burned oak top metamorphism that will add some hardened experience to your teetotaler life. Or maybe you just have a tiny sadistic stripe and you’d like to witness what a big city, countless smokes and lots of drugs, liquor, sex, and bearing witness to the eternal under the neon glare of Times Square can do to somebody, to anybody. From 1966 and his first job in a South Bronx bar at 4 years old opening cans of beer to shining shoes in bars across the Bronx to serving booze in iconic bars and restaurants all over Manhattan our Barman spars with the life force of New York City for fifty years until last call when he’s faced with an unforeseen betrayal and is left almost broke, without a plan and nearly a hollow man. That is until he learns to forgive and luckily realize that life without warning has just begun."

First Impressions/Cover? (Because we judge the covers even though we’re ‘not supposed to’)
It was okay. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. I think it fits the book well, and portrays the colorful city life that I would think of for NYC Bars. It's a good fit. 

How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately or did it take you awhile to get into it? How did you feel reading it - amused, sad, confused, bored...? 
I had the hardest time getting into this book in the beginning, then got into it a few chapters in, then fell back off. Throughout this book I kept thinking how much I felt like I did when I read The Catcher in The Rye. I think that would very much be considered a compliment, as Catcher in the Rye is a classic and loved by many. Just as I also think is the case with this book, especially based off of the numerous amounts of 4-5 star ratings it has received. For me, and my personal taste and style, I didn’t enjoy these memoirs as much as I’d hoped I would. I really wanted to love this novel. After talking to the author and reading a couple of online interviews with him, I was sure I would love his writing style, and I did. What kept me from giving it a 4-5 star rating was that there was a lot of extra details that felt overwhelming rather than adding importance to the story. Not quite half way through reading I felt so much had already happened and I was not getting the “lead up” or mystery pulling me back in and leaving me on the edge of my seat, wondering “What’s going to happen next?”. 

What characters did you like best from the book? Why? 
As I mentioned, this book reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye, however, in that novel I couldn't stand the main character. In this memoir I thought the main character was interesting, hardworking, and funny. I enjoyed reading about his background and family history. 

Favorite/Insightful passages?
"I liked what they said because it made me feel better about pissing my pants"
Only because this made me laugh out loud while reading :-) 

Was the ending satisfying (no spoilers)? 
Referring back to what I said about having no "lead up" or suspense, there was no ending to fall back down to. Which is what I enjoy in books. However, I do enjoy reading about and have a great respect for others that can take a hard upbringing or past and make things better for themselves in the end. Having to work as a young child to help support the family and his fathers drinking & gambling, only to make something of himself, follow his dreams, and find success makes for a captivating story worth reading. 

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? 
I've had conversations with the author, but something I haven't asked that I'm curious to know is if he plans on writing any fiction novels? Because I love his writing style, I would be interested to see what he came out with that was fiction. 

Final Thoughts:
I think my opinion of this book and feeling like I was missing something is based more off of my personal style and love for thrillers than it is of Michels' writing talents. His memoir is the third that I’ve read that had similar style and flow, and I felt this same way about all of them. Perhaps I don’t enjoy memoirs as much as I thought? However, as I mentioned, I did love this author's writing style and the personality that came through in his words, and for this reason I will continue to follow this him. I look forward to seeing what he comes out with in the future, he’s someone to watch for.

What's next? 

This is my circus and these are my monkeys

The last two months has been craaaazy  and I'm going to throw a pretty short n' sweet post your way just to say "Hey, how are you, I'm still alive and breathing and here's what's been up".

Finding time to shower has become an actual life struggle, let alone finding time to do any writing & blogging. Fulfilling my goal of one day writing a novel got moved to my "To do in my next lifetime" list. Even sitting down to write this post took twice as long to do because two of my kids saw me typing and then that turned into "Oh, I want to type something!" and ended up with them typing random letters into a blank word document for a solid 15 minutes, both pounding the keyboard with excessive force. I truly did not know if my "C" key would even work for this post.

So much has been going on, and it's stressful and chaotic at times, but it's been filled with fun activities from my active and healthy family, which I can't complain about and feel so blessed to have in my life. There is such a thing as good chaos, even if it doesn't always feel like it. Between the daily life of chores, housework, bills, working, and all the adulting Marty and I are required to do, the kids schedules have been keeping us plenty busy on top of everything else with school ending and summer beginning. 
As the younger kids were finishing out school with spring concerts and field trips (seemed like they had something going in daily), we also got the garden started at home (which has since been neglected already and needs restarted. awesome), and ball season got underway before school even ended. Brody also decided to play ball this year as well, and thankfully his season beginning and Gradey's ending are just overlapping, rather than having both going on at the same time. Brody is still in his cast from his hand surgery he had back in February, so although he doesn't get to play much, he's really loving being a part of a team and getting to practice and play any time he gets. Gradey had a great ball season. He had new coaches this year and improvement showed in the whole team and they finished the season 9-2-1! Max is thinking of starting baseball this year with soft pitch, which is a shorter season for younger kids that introduces them to getting the hang of the basics and comfortable with catching and hitting the ball. When the boys aren't at practice and games, they have a game going in town with all the other neighborhood boys. I love their love for the game. It's either baseball or nerf guns around here. Alyssa has been busy with dance as usual and just finished her track season. She did an awesome job at her meet a few weeks ago when Marty and I took the boys to go watch. I don't mean to brag, actually yes I am...but these kids possess some pretty amazing talent. 
We've been going to Des Moines quite alot the last few months. Sometimes weekly. Since Brody's surgery, he has to get routine x-rays, CT scans, and cast changes as he's healing, which is a slow process. This week we go back up for what we're hoping is the last cast removal, and then go into a splint that he would have to wear for an extended period of time. We're getting burnt out of the trips and he's tired of the casts, so he's ready for it to be over. I've been in the process of having my ears checked out and tested again to get some new and better hearing aids, so we've added a few more trips up for that, plus a couple trips for Sam to see the neurologist to have his head checked out since it measures too big, although his development is fine, just to be on the safe side. He also had to take a trip for hearing test to rule out any hereditary hearing loss. I will be very happy once on our long trips to Des Moines comes to an end.
Gradey just celebrated his 9th birthday with a nerf war party that turned out pretty good (I would consider it Pinterest worthy. *pats self on back*) and he had several friends come. They all showed up in camo and we gave them camo head bands, face paint and their own dog tags. They all looked pretty badass. After setting up the war zone, I didn't have the ambition to take it back down until the following week, so the kids and all their neighborhood friends took advantage of that while they could. The amount of nerf bullets in the yard during cleanup was unreal. I'm getting ready to start planning Sam's first birthday party for next month (.....Like, I can't even believe this is here already and I'm probably most likely going to cry that day). The last few years we've made the tradition of having a get together at our house for the Fourth of July, and since his birthday is the 10th, we will make it one party until he's old enough to want something else. I mean, who doesn't want a fireworks show at their birthday party?! And bubbles....he has to have bubbles. 
Since my last post, Brody got his drivers permit and Alyssa will will get hers this fall. A few nights ago Brody also had his 8th Grade Graduation and is heading into can this be happening already?!........I'm just going to go cry now. 
After months of what feels like "go go go", it is the perfect time for Marty and I to take a much needed break, since we haven't had one since....ever. Next week we are taking a very much needed, quiet weekend to ourselves, spending most of our time fishing, which we both love. I am going to sleep through the night....for first time in over a year. The level of excitement for this is beyond anything I've ever felt before.

Until next time... ♥ 

Elocin Designs Studio Giveaway

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I’m hosting a giveaway where FOUR LUCKY WINNERS will walk away with one of these watercolor pieces, painted by Elocin Designs Studio (aka me)!!
To enter, you must (do all three): 

- “Like” Elocin Designs Studio Facebook Page
- Share this post to your Facebook timeline and tell your friends about the giveaway
- Leave a comment on the Giveaway post telling me which one is your favorite! 

All entries must be submitted by the end of the day Friday, April 7th and winners will be announced the following day! 
*First person drawn gets first pick, second gets second, and so on. 
*Pieces will be given in a lightweight matte and frame (not pictured)
*Winners must meet for delivery of piece, or can be mailed if not local.
*All pieces are hand painted by Elocin Designs with Watercolor only

A WALK IN THE WOODS (not by Bill Bryson)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

This last Wednesday, the kids had no school, and for those of you that are real parents like Marty and I, will admit that we were fully prepared to have a day full of mild chaos, the occasional bickering and arguing between kids over "who looked at who first with the wrong facial expression", every dish in the house dirtied, and not being able to walk through the main living areas of our house from being bombarded with toys. Not always, but usually, those days can be exhausting. Especially when the weather outside isn't the greatest and we're all cooped up indoors. 
On snow days, the kids say "YAY!" and we say "....yaaaaaay."

With the new year, one of my resolutions was to have three things on my schedule each month, and having a 'family day' where we take the kids to do something away from the house is one of them. Would you look at me, staying true to my resolutions three months in?! (gives self high five). So, with a day of no school...perfect day for family day. We decided to go walking on trails and have a picnic where Marty used to work in his Neature Walk Glory Days (where we met when we worked together over a decade ago) or to the water park if the weather was crappy. I called the water park to make sure our backup plan would work and their hours were 4pm-9pm! What the hell kind of inconvenient hours is that?? No way that would work. So, I was praying that the weather would play in our favor, or we would be looking at said day described above. The DAY BEFORE our scheduled family day, I had to drive out of town for a doctor's appointment in the worst. weather. ever. The snow flakes were literally the size of cotton balls and I thought that all hope for a day outdoors was lost, until Marty messaged me from home that the sun was shining! Thank. God. 

The next day, I packed all of us a lunch (sandwiches for the guys, something puréed for Sam, and a salad for me. The two older kids made other plans and skipped out on us. Teens...) and we loaded up and told the kids it was time to get dressed so we could leave for the trails. If you're a parent you also know that it's in the best interest for your sanity to keep such things to yourself until the very last minute to avoid A) having to tell them if there is some unexpected reason that you have to cancel plans and B) because they will hound the ever-living shit out of you until you leave. We loaded everyone up to go, but before we took off, Marty had to explain to the kids that they could stop trying to find sticks around the yard to take with us, because there would already be sticks in the woods. Apparently they were unaware of this. Life lessons. 

When we got to the park, we got lucky and the nature center was opened. It has several different taxidermy animals, fish, birds, etc on display that the kids could look at and some areas that allow them to feel fur, skeletons, turtle shells and such. It's a nice little center and has tons of different things for them to look at and kept the kids entertain for awhile. Not quite as long as Marty and the nature guy that was working gabbed about nature things, but close enough. While we were in the center, Marty and I saw my old boss (the man that introduced us) working outside, so after we left the center we stopped to say hello. It'd been about ten years since we'd seen him, and he hadn't learned that we were together or had Sam, so that was such a nice little unexpected reunion. We were both very happy to see him. 
And Clete, if you're reading this (which, if I know you like I think I do, you haven't gotten on a computer since you retired, let alone read a blog!) we both agreed that you don't look like you've aged a day since we last saw you. Lookin' good, sir!

Despite the fact that it was chilly outside, the kids ran straight for the playground when we go to the shelter house. My kids are obsessed with playgrounds (and nerf guns). I could just make every 'family day' at a school's playground and they would be happy. Marty got a good fire going in the fireplace while I took Sam on the swings. Sam didn't know whether to freak out with excitement or lay his head on my shoulder and attempt to sing himself to sleep, so he did both simultaneously. It was amazing to see such talent come from an eight month old, to be honest, considering that he proved to be more capable of multitasking than this guy that is all over the internet right now

Before we headed off into the woods, we decided to eat lunch first. We got everything out of the cooler and handed everyone their items, and shared fruits, veggies and healthy things and I was feeling very proud of myself for being organized and gaining some bonus brownie points in the Mom department, when I realized that I forgot a fork for my salad. This isn't like when you prefer to eat your pizza with a fork, but are okay to pick it up and eat it by hand when none are available. I mean, soup would have been easier to have at this point because then I could have atleast drank it. Although the thought of making myself some chopsticks out of twigs did cross my mind (I only didn't do this because I reminded myself that I don't know how to eat with chop sticks), I was left with the options of eating with my fingers or using Sam's spoon. I'm embarrassed to admit that I tried the spoon, but I ended up eating a salad (with dressing!) with my hands and I know for a fact that I had more food on my face and hands than any of the children did and I didn't even care. 

As soon as we stepped foot on the trails, Sam (who I was packing in one of those baby back pack thingies) fell asleep. About half way through the walk, I couldn't decide if the dead weight of this 20lb sleeping baby was worse than if he was awake and squirming. By the end, my shoulder blades felt like they were connected to my ass. But the trail was so nice. It felt amazing to be outside in nature and getting fresh air after being cooped up so long with new baby and winter. The kids climbed around and got dirty, we found trees that the beavers had been munching on, a bald eagle soared through the woods, Marty spotted the first wild flowers poking up through the dead leaves. It was just great. After we reached the end of the trail, and Marty and I were hit with the realization of the shape we're in, we sat around for a bit while the kids climbed all over the picnic tables, still left with levels of energy that we only dream of having. We packed up and drove home with a car full of two exhausted parents, a rested baby and two kids who looked like they just got done eating dirt and it was perfect. 

We are just as guilty as other parents of letting daily schedules, work, and chores get in the way of what's important sometimes, and it's sooooo easy to fall into that. There are so many ways to find time together, even if for only a few hours one day a month and not spending a dime. It's not always easy to find the time or plan something that works for everyone each time, but you'll always be glad you did it. These are the things your kids will remember that you did with them over their toys and videos games. Sometimes, you just need that off day to spice things up, away from your normal life, to keep you all grounded yet on your toes. 

Our walk in the woods wasn't perfect...the kids didn't listen a couple of times and I ate a chopped salad with my hands for crying out loud, but it was a perfect day for me. It brought back so many memories of Marty and I, seeing an old friend and familiar place, and bringing our kids to the place where our history began.... money can't buy days like these and nothing in this life means as much to me as these people that I call mine. 

*     *     *     *     *

Also, today marks one year ago that we announced to our loved ones that we were expecting another boy! And I just can't believe how fast time is flying by, you guys... 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

A few weeks ago Marty’s mom came to visit and, bless her soul, she brought me a bag of books! I was currently reading Behind Closed Doors, but knew that this one was going to be next as soon as I saw it. I’ve been on a mystery/thriller/suspense kick lately and after I read the description of this book, I couldn’t wait to read it.

Let’s get the rundown of it, shall we?

Oh, and please take a moment to appreciate this scene…. Sometimes as parents, getting away to read, if only for 5 minutes or just long enough to get into a comfortable position, that means hiding away in an empty kids’ room and hanging out on an Angry Birds bed with the entire tub of mixed nuts.
*Disclaimer: I was only okay with laying here because I had just washed everyone’s bedsheets, so I was confident with the cleanliness of the situation. You never know what you might be getting into with kids… 
BY: Fiona Barton

Published: April 24th 2016 by AntiStar
Genres: mystery, fiction, crime, thriller, suspense
Pages: 324
Format: Hardcover
Source: Given to be my a family member
Buy: Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore. There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…”

First Impressions/Cover? (Because we judge the covers even though we’re ‘not supposed to’)
This was one of the books in the bag that I was immediately drawn to the cover. I may have been a little biased since, as I said before, that I was reading Behind Closed Doors (and loving it) and that cover felt very similar….which, we all know has absolutely nothing to do the similarities of the stories, but hey….not everything we do has to make sense.

How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately or did it take you awhile to get into it? How did you feel reading it - amused, sad, confused, bored...? 
I got into this book from. the. very. first. page. and that is always awesome. This book had me on the edge of my seat from the get-go up until the very end. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that started that build up so early and really hung onto it throughout the entire book. Very suspenseful.  

What characters did you like best from the book? Why? 
I didn’t have a favorite character in this book. I felt I leaned more toward Jean’s character, like I got to know who she was more than the others, but didn’t favorite her. However, I will say that my opinion of her changed throughout the book. I gradually came to terms with the fact that I think she was borderline crazy. The author did a great job of really introducing you to each character though, leaving sort of a mystery behind each one.

Favorite/Insightful passages?
“The simple lies are the hardest, funnily enough. The big ones seem to just fall off the tongue.” – Jean

Was the ending satisfying (no spoilers)? 
I’m just going to be honest and say that when it comes to endings, I’m hard to please. Perhaps too much build up makes endings fall flat for me, or perhaps it’s because I have closed books before and just been so in awe that I just spend a few seconds with the closed book in my lap, blown away by how good it was and asking myself how I’m going to continue living my life and compare every book thereafter to it.
This book ending fell flat for me. I mean, I got the closure I needed but just wasn’t ‘wowed’ like I was for the entire rest of the book. I keep asking myself what kind of ending it was that I was hoping for, and I’m not sure what that would be. I felt like it all built up to the very last pages and then I was like “….that’s it?”

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? 
Not really a question…but when reading the book, I saw her portrait on the back, and thought “Whoa….this looks like a sweet lady that would bake me some cookies, not write about  _____________.”  
So maybe I would ask her where her inspiration came from.

Final Thoughts:
I rated this book 4 starts on Goodreads, only because of the ending.
Despite my thoughts on the ending, I would definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys suspense and mysteries. I actually enjoyed this book as, if not more than Behind Closed Doors (which I will be leaving a review on soon). Even if the ending really is a dud, the rest of the book is well worth the read, and I will be looking out for more of Fiona Barton’s books

What's next? 

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