Sunday, December 22, 2013

Just Can't Get Enough: Best of 2013

It was a great year for music.  In my humble little opinion, these are the best tracks released this year.

I cheated and chose six instead of five.  I just couldn't kick any of them to the curb.

1. I Love You by Said The Whale:  This song simply gets back to the basics of a great rock song.  The retro feel is always a bonus for me.  A+ all the way.

2. Closer by Tegan and Sara:  I adore these two sisters from Canada.  They really know how to keep it fresh.  A perfectly concocted track with memories of the 80's.  I can't say no to that.

3. Get Lucky by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell: It's about time someone grab Nile Rodgers and allow him to take everyone back to the delicious groovy sounds of Chic.  I'm a huge Chic fan and a huge Daft Punk fan so the marriage of the two is a slice of heaven.

4. Neon Eyes (Into the Deep) by Saints of Valory:  Moving melody.  Beautiful vocals.

5. Pompeii by Bastille: My daughter requests this song every time I cue up the music in our den.  She loves it and sings along.  She's only three and she seriously has an ear for great tunes.  The drums are killer and take center stage.

6. Follow My Feet by The Unlikely Candidates: Another moving track by a very promising new band.  Catchy with great lyrics and a haunting melody.

What are your favorite songs from 2013?
Do share!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gender Reveal

Looks like I've been snoozing on the blogging as of late.
I have three good reasons for that:

  1. I'm currently growing a human being inside of me and I'm tired.  And completely brainless most of the time.
  2. My 3-year-old does not take naps anymore (thank you in advance for your condolences).
  3. Managing to complete a load of laundry, scrub a toilet, and/or shower and dress for the day has taken precedence over lounging in cyberspace (refer to #2).
With that being said, I do still love to blog and I have a lot of posts piled up in my head. I'm just not sure how/if they'll ever touch ground.

But enough of me whining.  Let's get on to the true meat of this post.  Gender Reveal Parties!  They really seem to be all the rage nowadays and I took my turn with throwing one a couple months ago.

I suppose it goes without saying that after the glowing attention thrown at the birth of a first born child there's not a whole lot of pomp and circumstance with subsequent babies. No showers, no new stuff, no endless spans of time to plan, decorate, reflect, glow.  Heck, the kid won't even have a baby book filled out for him.

Therefore, there are very few options left when it comes to celebrating the upcoming birth of a second (or third, fourth, fifth...) child.  This is where gender reveal parties make a big splash.  They're a great excuse to celebrate, show off, and give your little bean a time to shine.

We decided to use homemade lottery cards to reveal the gender of our baby.  I found the adorable idea on Pinterest and only made some minor modifications.  So easy.  So much fun.  Great memories.

 First I made some silly props using a mustache and lips.  Guests selected a prop upon arrival depending on their guess.

These were very easy to make (granted I only had to make a couple dozen seeing that my party was small).  I found the mustache and lips on Google images and used them as stencils.  Black and red foam sheets were used along with skinny dowels and some Super Glue.  A no-brainer.

Everyone posed with their props (or cried like my 3-year-old).  The majority of guesses were for a boy ... how did they know???

Next came the actual reveal.  This is the winning scratch off lottery card.  I created these in Word and printed them onto card stock.  See Pinterest link above for directions for making the scratch off paint.  SO.  DANG.  EASY.

A little goody for guests to take home.  Again, stolen from Pinterest like everything else.

Here we are!  Soon the tides will shift and Marly and I will be outnumbered by males in our house (dog included).  We are thrilled about our newest little guy and can't wait to meet him.

Gender reveals can be cute, fun, AND easy!  Which is great for the prego hostess.  

Have you thrown your own gender reveal party or attended one?  What did you love about it?  How did you/they make it special? 

Please share!

Linking Up With...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Got Dressed ... For Halloween

Halloween costume ideas are a pain.  I really love dressing up but coming up with a creative concept is not easy.  
I'm typically drawn to an idea that falls into one of these categories:
  • Ridiculously off-beat and tacky (ex: my hubby and I dressed up as Jon and Kate Gosselin back in 2009 during their very public divorce - it's still my favorite costume to date)
  • Classic with attention to details (ex: the hubby and I went as our nerdy alter-egos, Martha Weinerstraum and Ronald Rickenbacher)
  • Retro whimsy (see below)
This year I was on my own with no hubby to complete a dynamite duo ensemble (sniff) and I had another minor obstacle ... a five month prego bump.  Not a huge bump (yet) but still awkward enough to interfere with a regular costume.

I suppose I could have used my bump as the focal point of my costume but painting my belly orange and wearing a basketball jersey is just not my bag.  Instead I tried to think of something I could carry/attach in front of my bump to make it less "center stage" so to speak.

That's when I discovered (after scouring hundreds of images on Pinterest) the Sunmaid Raisin Girl!  Being an American product icon fit perfectly into my retro whimsy category and the basket-o-grapes was a bonus. Sold!  

(see the original Pinterest pin that inspired me here)

Make It!
red bonnet (got mine here)
long brown curly wig - if needed (got mine here)
white t-shirt (got mine here - maternity)
dark blue rick rack trim (got mine here)
fabric glue (got mine here)
any peasant-y looking skirt in white, black, blue, or red (got mine here - maternity)
flats or sandals (mine are old)
basket (my mom's old Longaberger)
fake grapes (got mine here)
thin wire (from our garage)
a box of Sunmaid raisins of course

Only two things required assembly:
  1. The Shirt: I simply cut the rick rack trim to fit the edges of the neck and sleeves and secured it using the fabric glue.  Worked great!
  2. The Basket: My bump actually gave me an advantage here because I could tie the basket around my waist allowing it to literally "sit" on my belly.  No hands!  I chose a small basket from my mother's beloved 1980's Longaberger collection keeping mind of the weight (lighter is better and less annoying).  I took satin ribbon and weaved it through the basket and tied it behind my back.  Then I secured the clusters of grapes to the basket with thin crafting wire and taped the box down.  An old bandana was placed beneath the items to add more color and detail.
What I would do differently:
Add an apron!  I was running short on time and didn't want to pay $20 for an apron or take the time to sew one.  But it would have been really cute to have had a red or blue apron against my black skirt.  Next time...

And because I knew you'd REALLY want to see these...
John and Kate Gosselin - Halloween 2009

John and Kate Plus 8 - Halloween 2009

Martha and Ronald - Halloween 2012

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hidden America

After tying up your garbage and walking it out to the curb, do you really think about the people who handle it beyond that point?

When rinsing those delicious blueberries and thinking about how great they'll taste in your cereal, are you ever wondering about the hands that picked them for you?

Are professional cheerleaders just a bunch of dummies with killer hair and rockin' bodies?

When you pull up to the pump every week do you realize how dangerous it was for the team of riggers to obtain that oil for your car?

Jeanne Marie Laskas's Hidden America explores these forgotten questions and more in her interesting and humbling inspection of the jobs that keep America running and those that most have completely taken for granted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for various reasons.  One being that it completely made me feel stupid.  Why would that be enjoyable?  Because it opened my eyes to essential elements of my country that I had not given much thought prior to reading this book. Although uneasy at times, I actually felt better knowing the truth behind so many jobs that are the glue that holds our everyday needs together.

Laskas explores about a dozen professions including air traffic controller, truck driver, beef rancher, and gun shop owner, just to name a few.  I found almost all of these profiles to be enlightening and worthy of knowing more about but there are a few that are still resonating with me.  My favorite profile was the last chapter where Laskas visits a landfill in California.  Garbage typically isn't something the average person likes or wants to think about long-term.  However, there are engineers out there who have a true passion for trash and devote their entire lives to figuring out how to solve our 50 year dilemma called, "Hey, where are we gonna put all our crap for the next 50 years?"  "Garbage men" so to speak, are not just some dirty guys who weren't qualified to work a "cleaner" job but individuals who are invested in taking care of a huge problem that we ALL have: waste. They take those unsightly bags out of our lives and deal with an issue that most of us don't seem to want to think about ... but we should.  I learned that these professionals are actually environmentalists who care about fixing and prolonging the health of our planet. And they do all this day in and day out without us even giving a moment's thought to the whole scheme of things.

Laskas engages readers not only into the professional workings of each job but the personal lives that ARE the jobs.  The common thread found throughout each job profile is passion.  There was so much devotion pouring from the pages of Laskas narratives that you couldn't help but feel grateful that these people exist for your benefit.  Many of these professions hold a "lifer" mentality where the employees somehow contain the job qualities in their blood and want to work till the day they die.  Laskas captured the pride behind these hidden jobs and proved to readers that there is so much more to what meets the eye.   

Quality Rating: (out of 5 stars) 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Just Can't Get Enough: September

Yikes!  I skipped my August playlist and am barely making it for September.

This is totally a slack in blogging and NOT a slack in jamming.

I'm always jamming.

Take a listen to what's tickling my ears this month.

1. I Love You by Said The Whale:  I'm a new listener to this band but dang, how awesome is this retro-esque track?  So very, very awesome.  Gimme more.

2. Out of My League by Fitz and The Tantrums:  Still not sick of this song.

3. 365 Days by ZZ Ward: I could listen to Ward's voice all ding-dong-dandy day long!  She's brilliant.  Need to see her live

4. Hold On by Alabama Shakes:  This one's not getting old for me either and it's definitely filling up my monthly gritty soul requirement.

5. Hearts Like Ours by The Naked and Famous:  Recycled 80's pop/new wave elements = Happy Brookey (me).

Whatchya Listening To???  Don't be shy ... SHARE!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

We Got Dressed ... For the First Day of School

Don't get too excited now.  This was the first day of our Parent-Tot class.  My little Miss Sassy Pants may look like a Kindergartner (and act like one too) but she's barely just starting her academic career. Nevertheless, it was a BIG deal for us both.

May I also mention that I'm four months preggers and HATE "getting dressed" (this could pose as a major hiccup for my style posts).  This is the most aWkWaRd stage of pregnancy in terms of body shape.  The baby bump is not quite round, firm, and pretty yet and so clothes are just a complete Debbie Downer.  Are you lady mamas with me here?  And so flowy, loose-fitting tops are my only friends.

On Me:
Top: Old Navy Maternity (old) (similar here)  
Capri Leggings: Target (here

On Sassy Pants:
Romper: Old Navy (no longer available) (cute option here)  
Shoes: Target (no longer available in white canvas) ( BUT, we just bought these for fall) 

Fun Fact (not quite): This photo shoot (if you can even call it that) lasted about three minutes total because Miss Sassy Pants tripped over the tripod and scraped her palm. Can you hear the wailing?  

That's a wrap.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Puckering Up With EOS

Fun flavored lip gloss is very nostalgic for me.  I remember as a young girl collecting every flavored Lip Smacker in a small tin container and keeping it on my nightstand.  My nightly (and morning) ritual was to select the next Smacker in my perfectly planned line up so that each gloss was used with the same frequency. Childhood OCD?  Perhaps.

Lip Smackers remained in my use well into adulthood.  I had one in my purse, one in my car, and of course one in my nightstand drawer (sans the ritual).  Then my glossy world got really stale.  My lively Raspberry Lemonades, Orange Crushes, Dr. Peppers, and Cotton Candy tubes were for some reason replaced by a travel sized pot of Vaseline and a couple of Chapsticks.

What happened?

I believe I lost my lip balm mojo.

Then a few months ago a dear friend of mine whipped out a funny little vessel from her purse and applied a fruity scented gloss that triggered my former Lip Smacker obsession.  I was instantly intrigued.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago as I excitedly purchased my first EOS lip balm in the funky container.  I just knew right then and there that I was reviving my lost lip gloss love of yesteryear.  Except this time my gloss is mature like me.  It's organic, hip, and grown-up.  But STILL deliciously fun and fruity!

All I can say is that I feel whole again ... or at least my lips do.  I have this strong urge to collect all the flavors and kick start my nightly ritual.

Are you an EOS fan or have you found a new favorite lip product?  As always, do share!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Last spring a student of mine came to class one day and practically shoved a thick, red book into my chest.

"You HAVE to read this, Mrs. Gira!" Julia pronounced with wide eyes and a shortness of breath.

"What is this?" I asked.  "I've never heard of it." 

"Oh. My. God.  This book IS my entire life.  Just promise you'll read it." 

Well, dang.  If it's YOUR LIFE then how can I possibly say no?  I love when students get excited enough about a book that they feel the need to force it upon me.  An English teacher's dream.

And with that I jumped into the world of Inkheart, where books truly come to life.  It may have taken me a good four months to complete it (things came up like exams, three other books on my nightstand, and raising a two-year-old) but I kept my promise and I'm glad that I did.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is a fantasy novel (trilogy actually) that could possibly rival the treasured Harry Potter series (although in my book, nothing ever could).  However, while reading, I could not stop feeling a strange likeness to Harry Potter.  Not so much in the story line but more in the likable characters and the obvious love that Funke poured into the novel.  I understand there is a big fan base for the Inkheart series and this is not at all surprising.  

Meggie is twelve-years-old and lives with her loving father Mo.  Besides a deep love and reliance for one another they also share a love of books.  Mo makes a living doing what he loves, binding books and Meggie is a voracious reader.  For years, Mo and Meggie have enjoyed their love of the written word and have shared many great stories together EXCEPT for one minor detail - Mo refuses to read aloud to his daughter. No matter how many times she begs he won't do it.  Ever.

As strange as this sounds, Mo has a very good reason for his refrain.  Mo possesses a special power.  When he reads aloud from a book the characters come to life.  They literally come out of the book and into the present world.  As you can imagine this can more often than not be a very bad thing.  Very bad indeed. When Meggie was a baby, Mo read aloud to her and her mother Resa one night from the pages of Inkheart, a story full of old-world characters including nasty, ruthless villains.  Needless to say, Mo's entrancing voice summoned out three fantastical characters - Dustfinger, Basta, and the black-hearted Capricorn.  To make matters even worse, Resa gets transported into the book and they haven't seen her since.

Twelve years later, Mo and Meggie find the mysterious Dustfinger standing on their doorstep and no sooner are they off to find and fight Capricorn in hopes of returning Resa to her family.

Funke's plot is probably every book lover's one true wish - to be able to bring written characters to life (I'm assuming this is why Julia claimed the book was HER LIFE). With an enticing story like this, Inkheart could really do no wrong. Perhaps even stronger than the plot is the development of the main characters, particularly Mo and Meggie.  You feel the love they have for each immediately and therefore are rooting them on the whole way.  My only hiccup with this novel was the length.  It was just too long and it didn't need to be.  Although I was engaged throughout the reading I did feel as though I was being dragged through certain parts. There were a few times when I thought to myself, "Okay.  Get on with it.  I can't wait any longer."  As a comparison to another lengthy fantasy novel, I NEVER felt that way when reading Potter.

Recommended Age: 12 and up (because of vocabulary and style)

Quality Rating (out of 5 stars):

Linking Up With...

Friday, August 30, 2013

My First Feature and Follow Blog Hop

I'm linking up for the first time with the popular book blog hop, Feature and Follow!  I'm looking forward to meeting other book nerds like me.  So ... let's do this!

This week's Feature and Follow question is: 

If you could only have ONE – one book – for the rest of your life. Don’t cheat…what would it be?


I believe this would be a book nerd's nightmare.

However, this is an easy one for me.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

There has not been a single book out there that has come close to comparing with this classic.  The heart wrenching romance between Catherine and Heathcliff is immeasurable.  Bronte encapsulated the true meaning of soul mates.  This story will forever haunt me.

“He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” 
― Emily BrontëWuthering Heights

Nuff said.

Now, let's be friends!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore

This novel spoke to all the nerd parts in me.

Quirky.  Mysterious.  Cheeky.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan creates a wacky world where old-school collides with new-school. Books versus e-readers.  No-tech versus high-tech.  Maturity versus youth.  Quality versus quantity. Tradition versus innovation. The extremes found within this story were endless and kept my nerd-girl fascinations fully engaged.

Clay Jannon is a web-designer who has lost his job and is looking for something a little more low-key.  He randomly steps into Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, conveniently located next door to a strip club, and his fate is sealed.  However, Penumbra's is no hole-in-the-wall.  With shelves that stretch far into the stratosphere housing a mysterious collection of tomes written in code, Clay can't help but be intrigued.

Taking the night shift, Clay has more than enough time to explore the old bookshop.  He soon realizes that the few patrons who visit the store during his wee hour shift are in fact regulars who consistently come in to request only the mysterious coded books.  Eventually, Clay's curiosity gets the better of him and he devotes his time to cracking the mystery behind Penumbra's secret reader society.

Eliciting the help of his techie friends and using computers to find patterns within the shelves of the shop and among the secret readers, Clay breaks the mystery which ultimately catapults him across the country in an effort to uncover the truth behind Mr. Penumbra, his boss and newest friend.

Robin Sloan created a legitimate mystery while keeping his characters witty and likable.  The mash-up between old knowledge and new knowledge was so much fun and kept me coming back for more.  The climax of the novel reveals the backbone of the story and solves the mystery behind the secret readers' society.  At this point I was expecting a shocking revelation for Clay but instead received a simple, heartwarming message about the power of friendship.  A bit underwhelming but endearing all the same.

Quality Rating (out of 5 stars)

Check out Pokiedot on Facebook!

Friday, August 16, 2013

80's Cake

The real name of this recipe is Chocolate Mint Cake but I've always called it 80's Cake because my mom used to make it back in the decadent decade when everything was over the top.  And this cake definitely pushes your sweet buds over the top.  Plus, just the color scheme alone screams 1985 - (mint green + black = white hot). 

I hadn't had this cake in many, many years but I found the recipe stuffed way down deep in my recipe binder and I had like, a totally huge urge, to like, bake this tubular treat.  And of course upon first bite I was transported back to my childhood days complete with hot pink jeans, jelly shoes, charm necklace, and tight perm.  

80's Cake (Chocolate Mint Cake)
1 box white cake mix
6 T Dark Creme de Menthe Liquor
1 jar Hershey Fudge Topping
1 8 oz. Cool Whip
chocolate sprinkles

1. Mix cake mix as directed and add 3 T of the Creme de Menthe liquor.
2. Bake as directed in a 9x13 pan or cupcake tins.
3. Cool at room temperature.
4. When cool, spread fudge topping on cake.
5. Add remaining 3 T of Creme de Menthe liquor to Cool Whip and fold until blended.  Spread over fudge topping and garnish with chocolate sprinkles.

Keep refrigerated!

Like, OH MY GAWD!  This cake is so gnarly!

Linking Up With...
Fun Friday Blog Hop
Time to Sparkle Link Party

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Honey-Do: Return Air Grille

Ah, yes!  The beauty of return air grilles.  Who doesn't love them?  Uh, me.  That's who.  They are just a bunch of eye sores screwing up beautifully decorated rooms.  Especially when they're the size of Timbuktu and have been placed so elegantly OFF CENTER within the wall like the doozy in our living room.  Deep sigh. 

So ... you can understand my delight (or maybe not) when finding this wonderful idea on Pinterest.  I immediately ran to my husband and proclaimed, "This is what we need!!!  It will solve all our horrible return air grille problems!!!" 

Because I can't build anything to save my life, this instantly became a Honey-Do task.  My obliging other half was sweet enough to add yet another home improvement item to his long and dreadful list and now I have the CUTEST return air grille ever!  Don't be jealous.

Before the installation...
We never put the ugly old cover back on after painting this room a gazillion years ago.  We have been living with a GAPING hole for a looooooong time now.  This will explain my over-the-moon excitement about a simple little air grille DIY upgrade. Translation: Get a life, Brooke.

After the installation...

My honey used:

  • sheet metal with this awesome retro pattern (find it at Lowe's)
  • scrap wood from the garage to build the frame
  • matching wall paint
See Pinterest link above for detailed steps.  Again, I'm no Builder Bob.  My talent lies in stealing the ideas from Pinterest.

DIY On Deck: Still thinking about hanging a cluster of ceiling medallions on the wall above my couch (just under the air grille) for a more textured look.  I'd like to figure out a way to add just a dusting of shimmer along the medallion perimeters.  I'm sure it'll be another 6 months before I get around to it.

Linking Up With...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Confessions From a Mistreated Barbie Clan

The complaints are in and it's official.  Our toys hate us.

Barbie 1: What's WITH these damn people?!

Barbie 2: Oh, I know!  Being left out on the deck for over 3 weeks is just ridiculous!

Barbie 3: Do they even realize it's rained on us at least 10 times?!

Barbie 1: My hair will NEVER be the same.  What will Ken think of me now?

Barbie 2: What a bunch of idiots.  They're so lazy.  They can't even take care of their toys.

Barbie 3: I hate living here.  It's so trashy.

   Barbie 4: Tonight's the night, ladies.  We're bustin' outta this joint.  You think the neighbor kids will take us in?

Barbie 1: Shhh!  Don't talk. They're coming back out.

Linking Up With...


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Just Can't Get Enough: July

My playlist this month is very soft and therapeutic.  I must be craving calm.  Have a listen if you will!

1. Modern Life by Little & Ashley:  Whenever I hear Little & Ashley I just want to go running through a meadow.  Yes, I just typed that.  

2. If I Loved You by Delta Rae:  Stop, turn up, and sing along.  Repeat.   

3. From a Window Seat by Dawes: GENIUS!  Seriously now.  Who the heck can recreate a classic 70's sound so flawlessly?  I am transported back to my favorite decade and it's so darn comforting.

4. Only Love by Ben Howard:  Mmmm... (that's all)

5. Skinny Love by Bon Iver:  This is by no means a new track but I am just now really discovering it.  Is it possible to physically curl up into a song?

Do you share my love for any of these mellow tracks?  What tunes are keeping you centered this month/week/day/lifetime? Please, please, do share!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Got Dressed ... For a Wedding

I should preface this post by stating that you are looking at the slightly wilted, party pooped, past my bed time, post wedding festivity photos.  I ran out of time before the event and was unable to take the more suitable and well-lit outdoor photos.  So here I am in my cramped living room with bad lighting and sweaty make up.  Sigh.

As for the wedding ... it was lovely!  A co-worker and good friend of mine got hitched to her long-time love and the ceremony had us all in tears.  There was also a threatening storm hanging above our heads all evening but it never once dropped on the glorious occasion which was a blessing for the bride and everyone's hair.

As for the outfit, I went with the classic black and white ensemble.  I love black and white.  EVERYONE looks good in it.  This dress came with a red skinny belt which was cute but too traditional for me so I swapped it out for mustard yellow.  Black, white, and yellow is SO much more fun and suggests a subtle rock 'n' roll vibe.  I dig it. 

Dress: Target (here)  The entire line of these dresses are adorable and so comfy.  I tried them all on and had a hard time deciding.
Belt: Coldwater Creek (here)  I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to find a mustard yellow belt this time of year. Everything is neon.  I'm not exactly a Coldwater Creek customer but they came through with this perfectly yellow accessory so I am grateful.
Purse: Jennifer Lopez via Kohl's (here)  What can I say?  JLO has some sassy stuff.
Bracelet: Kohl's ~ Chunky and fun!
Shoes: DSW (here)  The cutest and most comfortable dress shoes I own.  And let me tell you ... it's a total witch trying to find shoes for my stupid feet.  I have no shape or curve to my feet whatsoever.  They are perfectly rectangular.  So annoying. These shoes had a narrow cut which is why they fit me so well.  Narrow cut dress shoes that don't look granny-esque?!  I'll take 10 pairs!

Linking Up With...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Out Of My Mind

Wow.  Just wow.

This book has guts.  Susan M. Draper is a courageous author to have stepped into the mind, body, and soul of a physically handicapped girl.  Out of My Mind is a masterpiece of so many things ... reality, acceptance, perseverance, power, understanding, respect, and love.  And all of these concepts are addressed so eloquently with the young adult in mind. Draper does a remarkable job drawing young readers into a world which they are most likely unaware yet leaves them feeling grateful and perhaps better for the experience.

Cognitively speaking, Melody is pretty much just like any other 11-year-old girl.  She loves cool clothes. Purple is her favorite color.  You can find her jamming out to music, especially country tunes, her favorite. Melody loves to watch The Wizard of Oz and snuggle up with her precious pooch, Butterscotch.  Similar to her peers, she gets annoyed with her younger sibling, she worries about what others think of her, and she most desperately wants to be included and accepted.  The only difference for Melody is that nobody knows any of these things about her.  Melody has never been able to share herself with others because she can't speak.  Melody has cerebral palsy.

Melody is an intelligent, witty, thoughtful soul trapped inside a body that doesn't work.  Succumbed to her wheelchair, almost every choice regarding her life is made by another person.  Her day-to-day existence is a guessing game for all who care for her and she's forced to live by what others think she wants, needs, and loves.  That is until the day she receives the best gift of her life: a Medi-Talker.  A Medi-Talker is the high-tech computer that allows Melody to express herself by typing in words, phrases, and even whole sentences and hearing the digital voice speak for her.  It's amazing and it changes Melody's life in more ways than one.

With her new freedom to interact with the world around her, Melody can't leave her special ed classroom fast enough.  The best part of her day is when she's able to escape the mundane routines of her specialized curriculum and join the exciting world of a general ed 5th Grade class.  This is where she feels she truly belongs but it takes a lot of work to convince others of her intelligence and worth as a student.

With much dedication, perseverance, and the love and support of the most wonderful neighbor and caregiver, Mrs. V (who is also the most powerful character in the novel), Melody blows everyone away by making it onto her school's coveted Quiz Team.  The opportunity undoubtedly opens up a whole new and exciting world for Melody but also forces her to come face to face with the harsh realities of being "different."

I loved Out of My Mind for its realness.  Draper does not paint a silver lining around every event that unfolds in Melody's life and I appreciated that.  I instantly fell in love with Melody's character and the fact that she had to face multiple challenges head-on made me love her even more.  For some reason I have been craving these types of stories.  The underdogs.  The obstacles.  The not-so-perfect endings.  The life lessons. I'm so proud of the quality literature that today's youth is privy to. Bless Draper and all the other authors who have the guts and compassion to write stories that really matter.

Recommended Age: 10 & Up

Quality Rating (out of 5 stars):

In other news...
If you get the chance and need a small chuckle, read my latest Facebook post about recently getting locked out of the library. You can also take a peek at my newest library checkouts for both myself and my lil' bean. I'd love to hear what you've checked out lately as well!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Got Dressed ... For the 4th of July

We have a stupid saying in my family whenever July 4th rolls around ... "Well, summer's over." 

Of course, summer is not anywhere close to being over but for some reason the fourth always seems to bring a strange finality with it.  Like all the hype and excitement of the approaching summer season has hit its peak and the following two months just plateau.  I don't know.

Anyhoo, the fourth never fails to produce the ever popular wardrobe challenge.  Who can pull together the BEST red, white, and blue ensemble? Or in my family, who can find the cheesiest Americana t-shirt for under $10?  My brother-in-law always seems to win that one.  As for me, I hate conformity when it comes to apparel.  Most years you'll find me wearing purple on the Fourth of July.  But ever since having a child I feel the need to "play along" for her sake.  

I wasn't about to go shopping for a new Independence Day outfit, that's for sure.  So I started digging (literally) through my closet with every intent of just throwing on another purple shirt and calling it a day when surprisingly I found this very old but very cute top I had completely forgotten about.  

The perfect color scheme (minus blue).

Very hoedown.

 A cutesy flutter sleeve

Shirt: Target (at least 6 years ago!)
Shorts: La Redoute (at least 8 years ago!)  I like these shorts because they're not too short.  I just can't do short shorts anymore.
Shoes: Kohl's (here)

And on a different note but still sticking with the summer apparel topic, how are you ladies feeling about the swimsuits this year?  Is anyone else super excited to see more vintage inspired suits?  I love them!

Check out my Facebook post to read about my new favorite retro suits!

Linking Up With...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Birchbox: May

Dang.  I'm Birchbox belated again.  I just can't keep up with all these fancy little treasures.

May's box was another slam dunk for me.  I loved all of the products, especially the Isaac Mizrahi perfume - ooh baby!

Shall we discuss?

1. Isaac Mizrahi FABULOUS Perfume: I'm always on the lookout for a new fragrance.  Heck, I'm still wearing Happy by Clinique and I wore that in college.  Time to move on.  This perfume is so fun.  A nice, light citrus scent with no over-powering floral notes.  Just what I like.  I would buy this and wear it daily.

2. Supergoop! Daily Correct SPF 35 CC Cream: I'll be honest.  I have no clue as to the difference between BB creams and CC creams and DD creams and XYZ creams.  It's all a foreign language to me.  However, I am IN LOVE with this cream.  It's awesome.  It just is.  Not too heavy but manages to soften my skin and the color coverage is phenomenal!  If I didn't have to cover up a few zits I could easily wear this without anything else.  Gimme more!

3. Amika Nourishing Mask: I've said it before.  I have a weird aversion to conditioner.  My hair is pathetically fine and just one drop too much can leave my hair limp and with no styling options.  However, I have color-treated hair and I really do need to use some sort of conditioning product on the ends.  I tried this with hesitation and was pleasantly surprised how great my hair felt afterwards.  The best part was the great scent.  I have yet to try the accompanying oil treatment because I'm too scared.

4. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle: This is more my speed when it comes to conditioners.  I prefer to use spray-in detanglers as opposed to conditioner creams because I feel I have a bit more control over the product and I can use a lighter hand on my baby fine tendrils.  This is a great product with a pleasant scent.  It gets the tangles out without leaving a bunch of heavy residue.

5. Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream:  Whoa!  This is like shaving your legs in a Willy Wonka factory.  The blueberry scent was so incredible I almost ate the cream.  An awesome product that left my skin feeling soft and moisturized and made me downright giddy in the shower.

Any fellow Birchboxers out there?  What are your favorite goodies as of late?  To everyone in general, what beauty products are you crushing on right now?  Any BB/CC/DD users out there?  What's hot?  What's not?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Got Dressed ... For a Birthday Party

I was heading out to celebrate my BFF's 30-something birthday.  A very chilled atmosphere with drinks, yummies, and giggles (we never grow up, right?).  I could have easily donned a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt but hey, I'll take any excuse to get at least a little dolled up.  Anyhoo, again my pics are not the greatest (still working on my DSLR skills) so it's difficult to see the pattern of my white top.  Oh well.  I'm just going with it.  

 It's all in the details - killer zippers!

If you squint hard enough you may be able to see the pattern of my shirt.

Shirts: Target (last year) ~ I'm wearing two.  A lacy patterned tank over a cap sleeved scoop neck tee.
Pants: Old Navy (here) ~ The softest pants I own besides my PJs.  I really should order these in long but there's something charming about ankle length pants.
Shoes: Target (here) ~ A lot of reviews online complaining about these being painful to wear.  I did not experience this, however I only wore them lightly for a few hours.
Iridescent Ring: Target (a billion years old) ~ Found this little gem in the clearance bin and even though it now has a chip in it, I still adore it.
Headband (even though you can't see it): Walgreens (here) ~ These came in a 4 pack by Scunci.  Little cheapies but perfect for that extra touch and the tiny teeth keep them in my hair too.  I swear I wore the exact same kind when I was eight.

Linking Up With...