Saturday, December 20, 2014

Kid Konnection: Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Book

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a fun book for kids and adults that's perfect for Christmastime.

Summary: The Poky Little Puppy, the Gingerbread Man, and many other classic Golden Books characters help illustrate this wise and witty guide to the holidays! Delightfully retro yet utterly of the moment, this companion to the bestselling EVERYTHING NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM A LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK will delight fans of those gold foil-spined treasures. Featuring iconic art from Golden Books luminaries including Eloise Wilkin, Richard Scarry, J.P. Miller, Garth Williams, and more — this collection is a must for maintaining ever-important holiday cheer! -- Random House BFYR

Remember Little Golden Books? I sure do! Every time my mom took me with her to the grocery store, I was allowed to pick out one.  They were a quarter, believe it or not; and I loved them. Well, there is a new book out that will bring back fond memories of Little Golden Books. It's called EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHRISTMAS I LEARNED FROM A LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK by Diane Muldrow, and it's a very cute way to get into the Christmas spirit while taking a walk down memory lane.

EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHRISTMAS I LEARNED FROM A LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK is chock full of advice for navigating the holiday season. I just adored this book, and it's such a creative way to combine books from my childhood! It was sweet to recognize classic characters like the Pokey Little Puppy and The Gingerbread Man, but it was even more exciting to see actual images from some of the books I remembered enjoying when I was a kid. I almost got teary when I saw a page from MY LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK ABOUT GOD. I think I took this book with me to church every week for years!

Although I did love the walk down memory lane, I also liked the advice this book had to offer. There is no doubt that the holidays are hectic times -- and that's an understatement for me this week; and this book reminds you of all that has to be done. However, it also reminds you to keep in mind the reason for the season. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the ending and I can't wait to share it with my kids!

EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHRISTMAS I LEARNED FROM A LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK is a special book that will become another Little Golden Book classic in our house. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

I know! I know! There is absolutely no way I can make this review book-related! I guess it falls under the "occasionally some other things" part of this blog.

I have to admit that I haven't really been reading all that much this past week. Things are pretty crazy in our house with the upcoming Christmas holiday. In fact, we are hosting a BIG party tomorrow and that's just the start of our entertaining. We will be hosting company for dinner on the 23rd, a brunch on the 24th, and then dinner again on Christmas Eve.

So in preparation for all of that, I've been cooking and cleaning... a lot. I clean every Thursday and Friday, but I want things extra-special for the next few days if you get my drift. That's why I so eagerly accepted a sample of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers - Extra Power. After I saw all of the uses for this product, I was a bit blown away. And I wanted to see if they really worked as promised.

All I can say is "wow!" These magic erasers are fantastic. I used them in a variety of ways, but my favorite was getting the scum out of the kids' sinks and tub! All you need to do is add water to the magic eraser and scrub. No harsh chemicals are necessary. Of course, you should test the magic erasers on a small surface before the entire area.

Holidays are actually the perfect time of the year to use Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Actress, singer, songwriter and founder of The Real Girl’s Kitchen, Haylie Duff, is sharing some of her top holiday tips for cooking, cleaning and entertaining using Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power:

I love cooking for the holidays with recipes from The Real Girl’s Kitchen! For cleanup, I use my favorite kitchen accessory: the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Power! It makes cleaning cookie sheets, pie pans and a million other tough jobs so much easier! 

For a festive place setting, use Sharpies on glass or ceramic tiles. Wipe away with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and you can use the tiles over and over again! 

Tackle sticky drink spills on floors and baseboard days after a holiday party with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

I have no doubt after Saturday's party, I will find many more cleaning uses for Mr. Clean Magic Erasers! One thing I already know that I will be doing is using my magic erasers to get that sticky price tag residue off of packages. I just hate using my fingernails and I still never get all of it off!

After you try Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, you can add to the #MrCleanMillion uses by sharing your Magic Eraser tips on Twitter with @MrClean. For more helpful uses, check out for some Mr. Clean Magic Eraser inspiration.

Thanks to Citizen for providing a sample for review of this product.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Choice Organic Teas

I primarily stick to writing reviews about books, but occasionally I write one about a product I love. In this case, it's Choice Organic Teas. Teas and books are a staple in my house and didn't C.S. Lewis say, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."?

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to receive a box of Choice Organic Teas. Here's what I've been sampling:

Lift your spirits with this traditional tea that's aromatic and full of flavor. We blend brisk Ceylon and Indian black teas from select mountain gardens with essential oil of Italian bergamot from Calabria. The medium body and clean flavor of this popular classic will have you feeling revived and ready to go.

Treat yourself to a cup of peace and quiet. Treasured through the ages for its soothing effects, this flower holds an honored place in herbal remedy folklore. Our select Egyptian chamomile has a round, deep body and lingering sweetness with an elegant, floral flavor. It's free of caffeine to create an oasis of calm. (Caffeine Free)

Thrill your senses with this naturally caffeine-free twist on traditional chai. We blend rich South African rooibos with the finest masala spices for a cup that's warming, robust and subtly sweet. It's a luscious treat that pairs wonderfully with milk and sweetener. (Caffeine Free)

Breathe deep and help maintain healthy airways with this refreshing blend.** Echinacea, one of the most popular immunity-supporting herbs, is paired with elder flower, trusted by herbalists to support healthy sinuses, ears, and throats.** Eucalyptus, known for thousands of years to help support normal respiratory function for healthy breathing, completes the blend.** Enjoy this amber cup with a bright, minty taste. (Caffeine Free)

Support throat comfort with this cooling brew that combines trusted elements of traditional Egyptian and Chinese herbal formulas.** Smooth, slippery marshmallow root coats and caresses while sweet licorice root cools and soothes.** Anise, Europe’s most popular herb to calm the occasional cough**, lends an irresistible licorice flavor. It’s a slightly sweet, velvety blend sure to please and ease your throat.** (Caffeine Free)

Since the weather has been cold and life has been crazy, it's been nice to sit down with the various tea blends although I admit I haven't tried the Breathing Space or Throat Cozy yet. I'm sure by the end of the holiday season, I will contract a cold or feel a bit under the weather; and I'm confident I will be enjoying those teas as well.

Choice Organic Teas is the original organic tea company and has a wide variety of teas that are perfect for the holiday season. There are teas that are perfect for tea/food pairings as well as teas that can help support digestion in case you overindulge! There are black, white, oolong, and green teas along with herbal and wellness teas to name a few. I was truly impressed by the number of different teas that Choice Organic Teas offer.

Here are some great holiday ideas for using Choice Organic Teas:

1. Soothe Your Stomach… After Your Holiday Dinner, try Easy Digest Wellness Tea
Instead of grabbing a cup of coffee at the end of a heavy meal, try the Choice Organic Teas Easy Digest tea. This warming tonic was formulated to aid digestion and relieve occasional indigestion, which often happens after a big Thanksgiving dinner!

2. Energize Yourself for Holiday Parties or Post-Dinner Game Night
The party is often just starting up after dinner, and with a belly full of turkey, one sometimes needs a little boost to go the extra mile! The Choice Organic Teas Energy Boost Tea is a fantastic compliment to a busy schedule--this crisp, lively blend supports healthy energy levels and vitality with energizing green tea.

3. Pair Sweet Cookies with an Earthy Oolong Tea
A delicious Oolong tea pairs well with homemade Christmas cookies or gingerbread treats. The complexity and gentle earthiness of this sophisticated tea makes it the perfect compliment to sweets.

4. Bake with Tea! Try Chai Pumpkin Bread
Consider making a delicious pumpkin bread for a Thanksgiving morning brunch item or a hostess gift for all of those holiday parties. This Chai Pumpkin Bread blends warm and spicy chai tea with yummy pumpkin for a fantastic holiday treat.

1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter, at room temperature
1 c canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
2 bags of Choice Organic Teas Chai Spice Black Tea, steeped in 1/2 c boiling water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each cardamom, ginger, and black pepper
1/4 tsp each cloves, nutmeg, and allspice

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, eggs, chai tea liquid, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and stir just until evenly moistened. Pour into prepared 8" loaf pan. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. Original recipe from 28 Cooks (adapted with chai tea addition)

5. Offer Your Guests a Signature “spirited” Tea Recipe--Hot Tea Grog
Warm your guests up with Hot Tea Grog, a spicy tea drink with cloves, rum and cognac. The clove flavor and dark run make this a bit of an exotic tasting brew for a festive variation on traditional holiday spirits (serves 4).

4 cups brewed tea (using Choice Organic Teas Wild Forest Black, Classic Black, or English Breakfast Tea)
4 oz cognac
4oz dark rum
Several cloves
2 tsp honey
2 Pinches of nutmeg
Brew four cups of tea using the black tea of your choice. Remove tea bags or tea leaves and pour into saucepan. Add other ingredients to saucepan and heat thoroughly over medium heat. Serve hot with a cinnamon stick in each mug.

You can have Choice Organic Teas delivered to your home or you can find them at a store near you. Right now they have free shipping on orders over $29!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: The Novel Cure & Giveaway

Summary: A novel is a story transmitted from the novelist to the reader. It offers distraction, entertainment, and an opportunity to unwind or focus. But it can also be something more powerful—a way to learn about how to live. Read at the right moment in your life, a novel can—quite literally—change it.

The Novel Cure is a reminder of that power. To create this apothecary, the authors have trawled two thousand years of literature for novels that effectively promote happiness, health, and sanity, written by brilliant minds who knew what it meant to be human and wrote their life lessons into their fiction. Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment, be it agoraphobia, boredom, or a midlife crisis, and are given a novel to read as the antidote. Bibliotherapy does not discriminate between pains of the body and pains of the head (or heart). Aware that you’ve been cowardly? Pick up To Kill a Mockingbird for an injection of courage. Experiencing a sudden, acute fear of death? Read One Hundred Years of Solitude for some perspective on the larger cycle of life. Nervous about throwing a dinner party? Ali Smith’s There but for The will convince you that yours could never go that wrong. Whatever your condition, the prescription is simple: a novel (or two), to be read at regular intervals and in nice long chunks until you finish. Some treatments will lead to a complete cure. Others will offer solace, showing that you’re not the first to experience these emotions. The Novel Cure is also peppered with useful lists and sidebars recommending the best novels to read when you’re stuck in traffic or can’t fall asleep, the most important novels to read during every decade of life, and many more.

Brilliant in concept and deeply satisfying in execution, The Novel Cure belongs on everyone’s bookshelf and in every medicine cabinet. It will make even the most well-read fiction aficionado pick up a novel he’s never heard of, and see familiar ones with new eyes. Mostly, it will reaffirm literature’s ability to distract and transport, to resonate and reassure, to change the way we see the world and our place in it. -- Penguin

Have you ever wondered why you read? I certainly have! It's a wonderful way for me to escape. Sometimes I "visit" exciting places. Other times, I "meet" really amazing people. And if I'm lucky, sometimes I can get caught up in a story and forget everything for a few hours. To me, that's the beauty of novels.

Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderking, the authors of THE NOVEL CURE: FROM ABANDONMENT TO ZESTLESSNESS: 751 BOOKS TO CURE WHAT AILS YOU, have found an entirely new reason to read novels; and I think it's terrific! Their new book has reading suggestions based on what ails you... in other words, bibliotherapy. THE NOVEL CURE has book advice for almost any feeling or event I can think of including depression, lack of courage, childbirth, addiction, and more. There are even book recommendations for control freaks and being a genius!

I have to admit that I didn't read this book through from the first to the last page; however, I'm pretty sure that's not the idea of the book. Rather, I consider THE NOVEL CURE to be a reference book of sorts. I actually skimmed the book to get an idea of the "ailments" and the recommendations, and then I went back and looked up some of my feelings to see what I should be reading. There were some well-known novels and then quite a few that I had never heard of as well as both classic and contemporary ones -- basically, a great mix and definitely something for everyone.

Berthoud and Elderking have really created an interesting book... and a great gift idea for the upcoming holiday season. I was so impressed to learn that they searched through 2,000 years of literature for find the best matches. I thought it was a lot of fun to see their recommendations (as well as their list of ailments); and I found that once I started skimming the book, I couldn't stop reading it. I have a feeling that book lovers are going to truly appreciate this book!

THE NOVEL CURE is arranged in alphabetical order by ailment, and there is also an index in the back. Believe me when I say that this book is thorough! In addition to offering reading recommendations, this book also has some great lists like "The Ten Best Escapist Novels" and "The Ten Best Novels to Be Read in the Hospital."

I honestly loved everything about this book and can't decide what I appreciated more -- the recommendations or the compilations.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of THE NOVEL CURE to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before December 21st at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kid Konnection: Roc and Roe's Twelve Days of Christmas

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you an adorable picture book that's perfect for this time of year.

Summary: Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey's twins, Roc (Moroccan) and Roe (Monroe), put their own fun spin on "The Twelve Days of Christmas"!

Roc and Roe, the twins of beloved celebrity couple Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey, put their own unique spin on the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

In a fun and great Christmas picture book modeled after the popular carol, Roc and Roe decorate a Christmas tree with six festive fairies, FIVE GOLDEN BELLS, four skiing snowmen, and more.

Children and parents alike will love singing along with this new version of the Christmas classic! -- Scholastic

ROC AND ROE'S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS by Nick Cannon and illustrated by AG Ford is a very fun Christmas picture book. I absolutely loved both the story and the illustrations, and I'm certain kids and parents alike will appreciate this new take on the traditional carol "Twelve Days of Christmas."

In ROC AND ROE'S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, the children set out to decorate their tree. The book is written in the same format as the Christmas carol. For example, on the first day of Christmas they put an angel with sparkly, shiny wings. On the fifth day, they put on five golden bells... and so on and so on. The story continues for twelve days until their entire Christmas tree is decorated.

Nick Cannon, host of America's Got Talent and multi-faceted entertainer, wrote ROC AND ROE'S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS; and the stars are none other than Roc and Roe, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon's twins. I think the book is a sweet tribute to his family, and I especially liked how their images kept appearing throughout the book.

What I absolutely loved about this book are the illustrations by AG Ford. He is an award winning illustrator and it's obvious why. This book is just precious from the two cute kids and their sweet expressions, to the decorations, to the Christmas tree itself. I loved how detailed the illustrations were on each and every page.

I'm a sucker for Christmas books, and ROE AND ROE'S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS definitely made me smile. Recommended to preschool age kids... and their parents.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Giveaway: North of Boston

Summary: Like Smilla’s Sense of Snow combined with the best of Dennis Lehane, North of Boston is a dark and deeply atmospheric thriller with a sharp-witted, tough-talking heroine readers will be clamoring to meet again. 

Boston-bred Pirio Kasparov is out on her friend Ned’s fishing boat when a freighter rams into them, dumping them both into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Somehow, she survives nearly four hours before being rescued. Ned is not so lucky. Pirio can’t shake the feeling that what happened was no accident, a suspicion seconded by her cynical Russian-immigrant father. And when Pirio teams up with the unlikeliest of partners, she begins unraveling a terrifying plot that leads to the frozen reaches of the Canadian arctic, where she confronts her ultimate challenge: to trust herself. -- Penguin

One book that I really enjoyed last year was NORTH OF BOSTON by Elisabeth Elo. You can read my review here. This novel was a terrific literary thriller with a very interesting main character. Truly, this book had it all -- suspense, mystery, action-packed scenes, and more. I was very impressed with Ms. Elo's writing as were Publishers Weekly and Booklist who both gave the book starred reviews.

To celebrate the paperback release of NORTH OF BOSTON on December 30th, I have a wonderful giveaway. Thanks to the fine folks at Penguin, I have a copy of NORTH OF BOSTON to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before December 18th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. addresses only. Good luck!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: The Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual & Giveaway

Summary: Reader’s Digest and The Family Handyman—the world’s largest home improvement magazine—have teamed up to produce 528 pages of up-to-date, authoritative home improvement information.

Since 1973, millions of people have bought, used and loved Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. Other home improvement books have come and gone over the years, but none has covered the subject more comprehensively.

This new edition preserves the best elements of the original—including the clear and accurate step-by-step instructions and can-do attitude—while adding new photos, illustrations and wisdom from the archives of The Family Handyman magazine.

The result? A practical and colorful guide that follows the original’s unique proposition: With the right instructions, tools and encouragement, the average homeowner can successfully complete many typical home improvement projects and repairs! -- Reader's Digest

Over the past few weeks, I think I've provided some pretty decent gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season... if I do say so myself. Well, now I've found another one. It's THE READER'S DIGEST COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL, and it's ideal for rookie or seasoned handymen and handywomen.

THE COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL has been around since 1973, and I can only imagine how many people it's helped with home improvement. This 530+ page book is newly updated and includes instructions from The Family Handyman, the world's largest home improvement magazine.

I am probably the least qualified person to review this book because I do absolutely nothing as far as fixing things around the house go. I can change light bulbs and paint, but that's about my limit. On second thought, maybe it's a good thing for me to review THE COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL because I am definitely starting without any knowledge base.

I think this reference book for all things "handy" is fantastic. I'm not exactly saying that I feel I could tackle any job around the house, but I definitely know where to look before calling someone for help. There are specific instructions for both basic and complicated jobs, and the pictures are extremely detailed. I was very impressed with the thoroughness of THE COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL.

I want to give you an idea of the projects covered in THE COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL because the range is amazing. The book is divided into the following chapters: Your Home, Hand Tools, Power Tools, Fasteners & Adhesives, Plumbing, Electricity, Home Climate, Interior Repairs & Improvements, Painting & Wallpapering, Exteriors, Landscaping, Windows & Doors,  Concrete, Masonry, & Asphalt, Woodworking & Furniture Repairs, Metals & Plastics, Healthy Home & Emergency Repairs, and Storage Projects. There are dozens of projects in each section!

I think THE COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL is a must-have resource for every home regardless of the owners' skill levels. Highly recommended!

Thanks to FSB Associates for providing a review copy of this book.

Giveaway alert: I have a copy of THE COMPLETE DO-IT-YOURSELF MANUAL to share with one lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below before December 17th at 11 :59 p.m. EST. I will randomly select and notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you in the U.S. only. Good luck!