Here I Go Again

hereigoagainI feel like I start almost every book review with, “I was skeptical, but…”

Not this time.  I signed up for this review and when the pretty green book arrived on my door step, I almost tripped over my own excitement to get it out of its box.

Friends? I love Jen Lancaster.  Love her. I have read ALL of her books (well, Ok, I haven’t read Jeneration X yet because the Barnes and Noble by my house DOESN’T HAVE IT!  I mean, what???  I think they thought I was a crazy person because I was all “CHECK AGAIN!”

Ahem.  Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Jen Lancaster.

I even met her once.  Oh yes, I did.

Jen Lancaster

She told me I looked cute. And then I died.

So anyway, Here I Go Again is her second fictional novel.  Her first one, If You Were Here, was pretty good. I mean it was classic Lancaster Hilarity.  The only problem I had with it was that the main characters were clearly not just based on, but WERE her and her husband, Fletch.  She gave themselves fictional names and stretched the truth of what they had to go through when doing home renovations, but it was totally them.

Funny, but I wasn’t sure she could pull of more fiction…at least any that was actually fictional.

When I started reading Here I Go Again, I thought, “Oh dear.  This character is a total biz-natch and is just like what Lancaster was like in the very beginning of Bitter is the New Black (her first memoir).  And oh look, it seems to be based on 80’s stuff.  Again.”  I started getting concerned that my favorite author was not able to actually “do” fiction.

Then I got through the first chapter.  And HAD to read the second chapter. And then the third.  And then the next day during my commute I started wondering how Lissy was going to get out of the predicament she was in.  What would she have to do next?  Where was Lancaster going with this plot?

It was a totally easy, fast read…just like all of Lancaster’s books.  They just flow and before you know it, you’ve read the whole book in a matter of hours.  Or in my case, days because I had to stop occasionally to sleep and work and do motherly things.

The basic plot is this: Lissy Ryder was the bitchy, snobby, horribly popular mean girl in high school back in the 90’s. She was a total jerk to every person in the school.  She is now in her 30’s and her life is in shambles and she is finding out that everyone hates her.  By a twist of plot, she goes back in time to try to correct her life…to be a better person…but just like in the movie Back to the Future, every tiny action has MAJOR effects on the future.

I know. It sounds weird.  And even though I am a Back to the Future fanatic, I thought it was a weird premise for a book.

But OMG.  I was totally into what happened.  I mean, halfway through the book you think, “Well look at that, she has made herself a great person…wait, there is half the book left…clearly something is going to go wrong….” And then it does.

So anyway, yes. Jen Lancaster can write fiction. It’s crazy, easy to read, and hilarious.  It’s not going to be the next Great American Novel like The Great Gatsby or Little Women, but it will stay on the best sellers list. And for a good reason…it’s awesome.

If you want to follow my {and other’s) thoughts about this book on BlogHer, check out the BlogHer Bookclub Discussions.

Legal Stuff: This post was sponsored by BlogHer Bookclub, but all opinions are my own.  I really do love Jen Lancaster this much.  But I promise, Jen, if you are reading (which you are not because you are far too busy buying Barbie Dolls while hopped up on Ambien writing something great) I am not a creeper. Swear.

Trying to Be an UpScale Mom

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Before Charlie was born, we finished our downstairs basement.

We knew from the first piece of drywall that went up that this would be the bathroom for the kids that lived downstairs…probably boys (and then, yup, Charlie was a boy), but it would also serve as a secondary bathroom to any guests we have over.

We wanted the room to be cute, but not too kidish; boyish, but not overly boy-themed; attractive, but user-friendly.

My favorite part of building this bathroom was being able to choose everything that went into it.  The color (orange!), the fixtures, the cabinets, the mirror, and all the accessories.

Continue Reading…

Breaking the First Rule of Healthy Club

EpiCor-300x225The first rule of Healthy Club is to never mention you are in the Healthy Club.

Do not talk about Healthy Club.

Yeah, I am going to risk my family’s health and break this rule.

It seems like every time I log on to Facebook or Twitter, someone is sick.  Actually, more like everyone in the social media world is coming down with a form of the plague.

I would be lying if I didn’t feel completely exposed to it just by reading about it.  I may even use hand sanitizer after reading those updates.  I”m just saying.

 

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Willpower Challenged

10865206I have always thought I have horrible willpower and zero self-control.  I have always been amazed by my friends who announce they are going to lose weight and get healthy and then actually do.  Scratch that, I also get immensely jealous.  I want to do that too.  I do.  But I figured because I keep NOT doing it, I must not want it bad enough.

I believe that until, you know, I am a crying mess.  And I am telling Cortney that I just don’t know why I can’t do it.

Why don’t I have the self-control to not suggest McDonald’s when he asks what we should have on a random Sunday night?  Why don’t have the willpower to turn down the donuts in the staff lounge?  Why don’t I have energy or the willpower to get my ass to the gym and move like I know I should?

I’m not usually into self-help books, but when I had the opportunity to read and review The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, I thought, “why not? what do I have to lose?”

I was sure it would be dry (it has “the science of willpower” written on the front.  “Science” of something is usually a bit…boring, ammiright?), but I also figured that since reading all the science behind eating real food made me make a LOT of lifestyle changes for our eating, maybe this could help too.

I was pleasantly surprised that Kelly McGoniagal has a very conversational writing style.  She talks about teaching most of what is in the book as a class, and it’s evident she has learned what works and what doesn’t in the class and giving the readers the best of the best.

The book operates as if you are in her class.  You choose a goal–in the book she breaks goals down into three categories: “I want,” “I won’t,” and “I will”.  I actually chose two goals: “I won’t procrastinate” and “I will be healthier”.

Her class is a 10 week class, and guess what! The book is 10 chapters!  I didn’t take 10 weeks to read the book, but if I had had the luxury to do so, I would have loved it because the techniques and activities and exercises she suggests really fit a 10 week program.  Each task is really quite small, but the explanations and what the tasks provide are huge.

One of the things I learned about myself was that some of the things I thought were “I won’t” goals, were really “I will” goals.  And that the motivation I THOUGHT I had, wasn’t really it.

For instance, I started with “I won’t eat crap.” But soon realized it was bigger than that.  After realizing my motivation was to feel better about myself, my goal turned to “I will be healthier.”

Sometimes our strongest motivation is not what we think it is, or think it should be.  If you’re trying to change a behavior to please someone else or be the right kind of person, see if there is another “want” that holds more power for you. (page 76)

I loved this quote because it reminded me of when Cort quit smoking.  His dad died of lung cancer in 2005, but he didn’t quit smoking until 2007.  He caught SO much grief for smoking, but every time he tried to quit to please others, he failed.  It was only when he did it his way for himself that it worked.  And he has kept that self-control up for almost six years!

Interesting science + useful, helpful tips + conversational writing = a winner of a book in my opinion!

I leave you with another of my favorite quotes:

We all have the tendency to believe self-doubt and self-criticism, but listening to this voice never gets us closer to our goals. Instead, try on the point of view of mentor or good friend who believes in you, wants the best for you, and will encourage you when you feel discouraged. (page 151)

Next time I want to beat myself up for being a quitter or a slacker, I am going to try to hear the voices of those who love me telling me that I can do it.

Want to see what others are saying? Visit the BlogHer Book Club to find out!

What do you think? What is your willpower challenge?

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BlogHer, but the opinions are my own. I read the book, yo.  And I liked it.

And Now One for the Ladies…

According to my blog stats from last week, you all love the posts about this guy:

It's the dimple and the close shave, isn't it?

It’s the dimple and the close shave, isn’t it?

Ok, so the shave isn’t quite so close anymore since he shaved in the morning and this picture was taken in the evening, but that just makes you like this guy more, right? Burly.

I wish you could smell him after a shave. It’s…yummy.

Too much information? (Sorry, mom!)

Anyway, he is a die-hard Gillette user.

2012-12-16 20.52.46

He says he likes it because “it’s the best a man can get.”

I kid.

Really he picked it because he was sent one in the mail back when he turned like 16 or something and he has been using it ever since.  In his words, “I never had a reason to change.”

 I asked him why he picked the shave cream too…I mean, he appears to be a living ad for Gillette.

“I have used the creamy kinds before, but the gel kind protects better. It’s smoother with less nicks.”

I asked him if he picked the smell for any reason and he said, “that’s the smell it comes in. I picked the sensitive skin gel and that is the smell I get.”

Hear that ladies…sensitive skin.  Sensitive skin on a sensitive guy.

Just step back with your drooling.  He is taken remember? By ME!

I must also interject here that in a pinch, I have used his shave gel on my legs.  And while I ended up smelling quite manly, I also had super smooth legs with…you guessed it…no nicks.

Win.

I realize this probably sounds like an advertisement for Gillette. And to be honest? It is.

But let me tell you why.

Because P&G eStores have some super fantastic deals going on right now like…

  • 15% off on a first-time order from a new customer, using promo code: A9Z-MN5-KY3-ISA
  • Free Shipping on orders over $25.
  • Free Samples with every order.

They also have this thing where you can buy bundles and save BIG TIME.

For instance they have one called For Daddy’s Kissable Face Cruisers Bundle where you get a big huge box of diapers and Gillette products for under $60.

They also have a bundle with Pampers and various sizes of Duracell batteries called Power Xmas Day Fun Swaddlers Bundle for under $40. Um. This is PERFECT for our house!

You can tell I am a fan of any bundle that has “Pampers” with it…ahem, Charlie.

Want something for yourself?  Get the Simply Beautiful bundle…mmmm. Olay products. LOVE.

More deals for you on products I know are great (because I have bought and used them myself)…

  • Oral B products (we have the power toothbrushes and love them. I tend to brush too hard and brush the enamel right off my teeth if I don’t use my power brush)
  • Olay products (I am partial to the body wash, but really I have not ever bought anything I did love with the Olay name on it)
  • Cover Girl products (I use Cover Girl lash blast mascara…even though I have tried all the pricey make up counter brands, I always come back to this.  I have long lashes and have a hard time finding some that won’t clump…and this doesn’t.)
  • Downy Unstopables (I got this free from P&G at Blogher11 and LOVED the way it made our laundry smell.  When it’s on sale or I find a deal like this one, I splurge and get it)
  • Gillette (duh)
  • Duracell (this has always been our battery of choice.)

Happy shopping!

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Legal stuff: This post was sponsored by P&G and BlogHer. I was compensated for this post, but all my opinions are my own. I chose to ONLY share the brands they carry/have deals on that I have really tried and love. I wouldn’t lead you guys astray…promise.

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I have a post up today at the US BabyHuddle site about how we are attempting to avoid the Holiday Gimmees with Eddie this year.

A Blurby Gift

Ok, so you all know that I have sort of a “thing” for Blurb , right?

Well guess what…I got another Blurb book.

This one is an instagram book.

See, Blurb has this cool way to make some quick books.

I mean, you can take hours and hours pouring over your photos and writing and making just the right book (like I did last time), or you can use one of their quicker options of making an instagram or facebook photo book.

It’s quick and it’s easy.

The photo-downloading software pulls pictures straight from your instagram feed so that you can choose which ones you want to feature.

And when you’re done publishing, you can order it up, and share it online with people.

I’ve said it before, Blurb is extremely easy to use.

When I had it done and ordered, my book never came.

But, Blurb got right on it. With just one email, they corrected the issues and got the book out to me lickity split.

Their customer service was amazing and so easy to work with.

These books make the best gifts.  Right now I have only done books for our family, but the small-sized ones would be perfect gifts for grandparents to showcase the grandkids.  So much cuter than just a flip book of printed off 4x6s.

Also, since they can be shared online, you can tweet, facebook, or email the link to your book.  People can purchase them and you can profit!

This means if you are a photographer and you want to do one of your art, you could self-publish on Blurb and sell it online.  Wicked awesome.

But let’s be honest.  Most of us just want these sweet picture books for ourselves.

To capture the memories of the now.

And just in time for the holidays, Blurb is letting me give one of you something very special…$50 to spend on a Blurb book of your own!

This is open to the whole wide world…because Blurb loves to spread the joy of memories captured all over.

Giveaway ends Thursday, November 29 at midnight est.

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter widget below and GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blurb is a creative publishing platform that allows anyone to create, share and sell a professional quality book. Make a portfolio of your client work, an archive of your blog, a cook book of your favorite recipes, a photo book of your family pictures or a quick book of your instagram photos – the possibilities are limitless. It’s easy and quick to do – with a variety of software options you could complete your dream book in next to no time.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Blurb. I was given the above Blurb book to show off, but no other monetary compensation. The opinions and text are all mine.

I’ve Got Mail…to send

Holy Snap!  Did you see the calendar?

That’s right, as I start planning which pie I am going to make for Thanksgiving, I also get smacked in the face with… HOLIDAY CARDS!

I am a die-hard sender of traditional paper holiday cards.

Seriously.  Cort sort of has to lay down the law on how many I can send out because I would put us in the poorhouse sending cards to everyone I have ever met.

I think it’s because I love getting mail. All year I love it, but to open a holiday card and know I was on someone’s list just makes me smile.  To know I was thought of when that card was signed and addressed.  To think I made the “cut”.  I know sending cards can get expensive.  I know too, that people can’t send them to everyone.  That is probably why when one shows up in my mailbox, I just get such a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Every year I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to pick out which card (ok cards…I usually get more than one design) to send to our family and friends.

For the past couple years, I have been getting our cards from Tiny Prints.

I have already spent more time than I should scrolling through all their beautiful designs this year imaging what would be the most lovely card to open from the Sluiter family.

Will I send this one?

I don’t think I’ve ever sent a vertical card before, so it would be a first.

I do love to send a folded card rather than flat.  They are easier to display and I have more room to write a personalized note.

So  maybe I will get this one…

Mailing a square card is extra postage, but look how cute!  I haven’t seen the results of our latest family picture yet, but I am SURE I can figure out four shots to add.

Hmmm…or maybe I will get this one…

I mean…so cute.  Right?  Four Sluiters plastered across that card? What could bring you more holiday cheer?

Maybe this one…

Oh it makes me happy thinking about one of these cards ending up in mailboxes across the country (ok…maybe even other countries!  Sluiter Nation has friends EVERYWHERE, after all)!

It really doesn’t matter which card I choose, Tiny Prints always does an amazing job of making my holiday cards look perfect.  And they are always running promo codes…check it out.

Need more of an incentive?  This weekend I am doing a quick giveaway for $50 towards your Tiny Prints order!

Enter in the Rafflecopter widget below for your chance to win a $50 credit toward your total order (shipping not included & cannot be combined with any other promo offers).

Hurry! Giveaway is only open until Monday at midnight!  Once the new week starts, the giveaway disappears!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow Tiny Prints all over the Social Media World:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram: Tiny Prints
Google+
Blog

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Disclosure: I was compensated in the way of store credit to sample Tiny Prints holiday cards for the purpose of this review.  No monetary compensation was given beyond that. Tiny Prints is providing the spoils of the giveaway, but they did not provide my opinions.  Those are all my own.

My Life Map

I like lists.

I also like to plan stuff.

In fact, if I am totally honest (and I always am in this space), I have five ways of keeping track of stuff: my lesson plan book, my online lesson plan book, my personal planner, our wall calendar, and our shared family calendar on Cozi.

Lately, Cort and I have been talking about having a 10-year plan.  Now that we are well into our child-bearing, we wanted to start making those vague “some day” plans into something more tangible.

For instance, ever since moving into our house, we talked about what we would want in our “forever home” and how many kids we would have, and what sorts of vacations we would love to take both just the two of us and as a family.  We’ve discussed new vehicles and possible “fun” items.  But up until recently, with the school loans and the just overwhelming BUSY of our lives, we chunked it all under the category of “Some Day”.

And just like the universe usually works, suddenly an opportunity fell in my lap.

I had the chance to review My Life Map by Kate and David Marshall with the BlogHer Book Club.

It’s actually more of a workbook/journal than it is an actual book you would sit and read, so I was surprised to see it as this month’s choice, but I am not complaining.

It starts by talking about how the book works and why it would be beneficial to make maps for your life.  It then gives you some samples of Whole Life maps.

The book’s chapters guide you through some leading questions to help you figure out how to fill in each section on the Whole Life maps.

To be honest, the Whole Life map sort of overwhelmed me.  I mean, I can fill in the past and the present, but I sort of hyperventilated when I got to the “future” questions.

And so I moved on to the Ten Year Subject Maps.

Ah. Much more my speed.

Cort and I have actually been slowly placing things in our 10-year plan…albeit in our minds and not on paper.  This was a place to write it down.  And just like the Whole Life Map, there was a section of questions to get you started.

I filled in what I could of the Ten-Year Family Plan.  And then I realized that when I turn 44, my oldest will be in the 7th grade.

And I slammed the book shut.

Ahem.

Other than give me anxiety, the book did help me realize that it would probably be better to do the book with Cort rather than on my own. And after I had started writing in the book, I noticed that it comes with directions on how to make the maps online…which would probably give me more room to be overly wordy.

This book also made me realize that I am not ready to sit down and plan out each and every aspect of my life in detail.

But it gave me something to talk with Cort about.

What interested me most was the list in the back of the other books by these authors, particularly The Book of Myself: A Do-it-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions. You can imagine, that as a narcissistic blogger, my interest was piqued.  Also on my list? The Book of Us: A Journal of your Love Story in 150 Questions.

If you want to join our conversation about mapping our lives, come on over to Blogger’s Book Club where we are starting the convo with the question about service: Do you prefer to give your time or your money?

But this is what I want to know right now…are you a planner?  And if so, how do you plan your life?  Or your day?  Or even your hour?

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Disclosure: This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

and then I went BLURB!

I used to be a die hard scrapbooker.

I know.  Let that sink in.  Katie and scrapbooking.  Yes. It was a thing.

Actually, if I had the time and the space, it would still be a thing.  I really love having all my pictures put together in a creative, fun way.  Eddie adores looking through my scrapbooks…especially his baby book, which if I am honest, is pretty impressive.

Charlie does not have a baby book.

At all.

Fail.

(To be fair, the one I want for him doesn’t come out until the beginning of December).

Anyway, since finishing Eddie’s baby book just after his first birthday, I realized that there was no way I would be able to keep up scrapbooking all the pictures I now take.

So for Eddie’s second and third birthdays, I made quick little photobooks of all the pictures that I thought were the best of him from that year.

A few months ago via the blog of one of the most outstanding picture-takers of all time, I was introduced to Blurb.

Blurb is a company and a community that believes passionately in the joy of books – reading them, making them, sharing them, and selling them.

Blurb is different than the average photo book you can make on a snapfish or shutterfly in that they are not just for pictures.  The different templates and page options allow for you to create a book…any book…just how you want it.

It’s 100% customizable.

For the purpose of this post, I made a photo book of my boys.  I named it “The Sluiter Boys: Brothers in 2012”

After playing with all the options, though, I am hoping to turn some of my blog posts into Blurb books for my boys.  I think it would make a lovely gift for them when they are older to create books of the letters that I have written them here on the blog.  The picture quality is lovely because they use bookstore quality materials.

In fact, I started a list of all the different books I could make for my boys, for Cort, for my family.  I have over five years of writing on this blog of mine and with my DSLR camera now a thing I try to use regularly, I could put together some great keepsakes for people.

Check out all the different options for self-publishing a book of your own and the top notch quality of the paper, the binding, and everything else they do for you at Blurb.

This Blurb book sits prominently on our end table and Eddie has asked to look at it with me three of five nights this week.  And as you can see by the picture above, we adore photographs in this house.

I don’t think I could ever choose another site for creating photograph books again.

Blurb, you have my heart.

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Disclosure: Blurb sent me a promo code to make my own Blurb book.  I was not compensated in any other way.  The book I chose was a Large Square (12×12) size with 20 pages.  All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Ready, Set…BABYHUDDLE!

If you are a mom with internet access you have probably visited some sort of group resource site aimed to give you resources and advice.

You’ve probably also fell down the rabbit hole of searching big box department store websites trying to find products for your baby or toddler.

After a while they can all start to look the same, and in my opinion, very cluttered, overwhelming, and confusing.

Everything is blinking at you!

There are things to sign up for!

How can I find the answer I am looking for? Oh look an ad for nipple shields!

Continue Reading…

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