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Fall Bookapalooza: Spotlight on “To See the Moon Again” (and Giveaway)

September 16, 2014
see the moon again

It’s week two in the Fall Bookapalooza! This week I’m excited to spotlight To See the World Again by Jamie Langston Turner. Another great story about family, secrets, redemption and forgiveness.

see the moon againFrom the publisher:

Every day of her life Julia Rich lives with the memory of a horrible accident she caused long ago. In the years since, she has tried to hide her guilt in the quiet routine of teaching at a small South Carolina college, avoiding close relationships with family and would-be friends. But one day a phone call from Carmen, a niece she has never met, disrupts her carefully controlled world.

Carmen is a study in contrasts—comical yet wise, sunny yet contemplative, soft yet assertive. As she sets about gently drawing Julia from her self-imposed solitude into a place of hope, she also seeks her own peace for past mistakes.

Together, the two women embark on a journey that takes Julia far from the familiar comfort of home and gives Carmen the courage to open her heart. Together, their sightseeing trip turns into a discovery of truth, grace, redemption, and, finally, love.

GIVEAWAY: I have one copy of To See the World Again to give to one lucky reader. To be entered to win, simply leave a comment about any topic you’d like. The giveaway closes Sunday, September 21 at 5 pm Pacific time. 

And don’t forget to check back next week for the next novel and giveaway in the Fall Bookapalooza event!

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of To See the Moon Again to review for this blog post.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse books that I am proud to recommend to others.

Fall Bookapalooza: Spotlight on “House of Wonder” (and Giveaway)

September 9, 2014

Congratulations Julia Munroe Martin as the giveaway winner!

In celebration of fall and back-to-school, I have an exciting series of posts for all of you book enthusiasts! For the next five weeks, I’ll be spotlighting a new book and offering a giveaway too. There are so many awesome new novels and memoirs coming out and I’m eager to share them with you. First up: House of Wonders by Sarah Healy

house of wonderFrom the publisher:

Theirs wasn’t always the misfit family in the neighborhood. Jenna Parsons’s childhood was one of block parties and barbecues, where her mother, a former beauty queen, continued her reign and her twin brother, Warren, was viewed as just another oddball kid.

But as her mother’s shopaholic habits intensified, and her brother’s behavior became viewed as more strange than quirky, Jenna sought to distance herself from them. She is devoted to her career and her four-year-old daughter, Rose. But now, in his peculiar way, Warren summons her back to 62 Royal Court.

What she finds there—a house in disrepair, a neighborhood on tenterhooks over a rash of petty thefts, and evidence of past traumas her mother has kept hidden—will challenge Jenna as never before. But as she stands by her family, she also begins to find beauty in unexpected places, strength in unlikely people, and a future she couldn’t have imagined.

Books about family mysteries always intrigue me and this book was no different. Sarah’s tale is engaging and there were several passages she wrote that I feel like I could have written myself. A good sign when the story is that relatable to the reader.

GIVEAWAY: I have one copy of House of Wonders to give to one lucky reader. To be entered to win, leave a comment telling me what you’re currently reading. The giveaway closes Sunday, September 14 at 5 pm Pacific time. 

And don’t forget to check back next week for the next novel and giveaway in the Fall Bookapalooza event!

Other Posts You May Like:

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of House of Wonders to review for this blog post.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse books that I am proud to recommend to others.

Welcome to 1st Grade!

September 8, 2014

Sophie started first grade last week. I’m in awe of how much she’s grown, just over the summer months. She stopped sucking her thumb completely (more on that later). She got her ears pierced. She can now read entire books by herself, road signs, and so many words. She is so much more confident at her school and knowing more kids. I’m so proud of the little person she’s becoming.

What I learned in just the first few days of school is how first grade is quite different from kindergarten. The expectations are higher. The classroom is completely learning focused; there is no “free choice” playtime anymore. The kids have text books. They are treated as responsible little people. I like that. And Sophie is definitely ready for it too.

I can already feel that this school year is going to be a great one for Sophie. I’m excited to see how she grows. Bring on first grade!

My 1st grader.first day of 1st grade

A few photos from the week (walking to school). sophie walking to school

School supplies! school dask

At her “big kid” desk with an “under pocket” (under the desk tray for books). She’s very excited about this because kindergarteners don’t use under pockets! sophie at desk

And of course, a look back at previous first days of school.first-days-of-school_collage

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Snapshots: Thinking, Reading, Doing, Snapping and Eating (August)

August 25, 2014

Thanks for all your positive comments about my debut “Snapshots” post. Here’s the latest roundup-esque post with a glimpse of things I’ve been doing, thinking, writing, reading, photographing, and eating during the last week.

Thinking …
I’ve certainly been doing my share of thinking. But I’m not going to write a lot at this moment. I woke up Saturday morning having pulled a muscle in my neck and it’s been so painful all weekend. I suspect typing until all-hours on this computer won’t help. So I’ll catch you up with my thoughts in future posts.

books_aug 24

Reading …
I’m continuing my summer binge-reading with some great books. I already told you about Good Chinese Wife, which was a wonderful read. I went on to read The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard. This book was sitting on my “to read” pile for months and I finally picked it up, and proceeded to finish it within a few days. I love it when you find a hidden gem of a book waiting for you all along.

This is a great story about a Midwestern family that is torn apart after the girlfriend of one of the son goes missing. It was beautifully written, heartbreaking, yet not depressing either. It was a really great reminder how something like what this family went through could really happen to any one of us. And the cover’s beautiful image of fireflies in a jar is just gorgeous too.

I just started Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen. This story takes place under the backdrop of India’s transformation and follows a woman who must confront her past in order to fight for her future. I just started this one, so I’m not ready to give it a full review. But it’s definitely help my interest so far.

IMG_7226

Eating …
The best thing I ate (and baked) in the last few weeks was a Finnish marble cake from the Apples for Jam cookbook. This book is gorgeous, chocked full of colorful photos, family stories, and simple recipes that are organized by color (love this idea). This cake was absolutely mouth-watering and so simple. The recipe is below. Make it today! You’re welcome!

2 1/4 sticks softened butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 1/4 cups plain flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9 1/2″ spring-form cake pan. I used a 9″ cake pan.
  • Beat the butter and sugar until pale. Gradually add the eggs. Sieve in the flour and the baking powder. If the mixtures looks curd-ly before, add some flour. Beat well, then beat in the cream.
  • Divide the batter into two bowls, adding more batter to one bowl. In the bigger batter add the vanilla extract, and mix well. Sieve the cocoa into the second bowl, whisking in completely.
  • Dollop most of the vanilla mixture in the pan. Then add spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture, here and there. Then add the remainder of the vanilla mixture. Use a skewer or a tsp to make a few swirls. Do not blend in the two batters.
  • Bake 50 – 60 minutes until skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan before serving. I added a dollop of fresh whipped cream and fresh raspberries to mine.

Snapping …
This month, Sophie enjoyed her first baseball game. Go San Diego Padres!

baseball

We’ve been spending time in our backyard watching the sunflowers. sunflowers

Sophie’s been keeping busy coloring her cardboard castle.castle

Tess and Casey are hanging around.Tess

Casey

And we only have one more week of peaceful sleeping in and leisurely days until school starts next week! sleeping sophie
So how was your August? What are you reading, eating, cooking and doing? 

A Beautiful Spirit

August 15, 2014

I’m not a big believer in the supernatural. But occasionally something happens that you just cannot explain. And sometimes you have no idea what it means at the time, and other times it may be clear as day. I had an experience a few months ago after my little Bippy cat died that I now believe was more than a random act.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Bipp lately. There’s still not a day that goes by where I don’t shed a tear as I think about him. I miss that little guy so much.

The week Bipp disappeared (and also died) was a strange, eerie time in San Diego. It was the hottest week we had in a long time. The Santa Ana brought a stifling dry heat, and the winds were causing tree branches and yard furniture to crash around the backyard. A fire ended up breaking out not far from us. The air was so thick with smoke and heat that Sophie’s school closed for two days that week. There’s a term called pathetic fallacy, which is a way writer’s use to depict human emotion through nature and weather. I can see why it’s such a powerful literally tool as the weather and conditions that week mirrored the chaos, uncertainty and sadness we felt.

I spent most of my time in the family room that week, hoping to see Bipp make his way to the back door with a meow to be let in. Sophie and I were laying on the sofa Wednesday afternoon, watching television with all the windows and the back sliding door shut. A loud thud crashed against the sliding glass door and I bolted up, thinking it must be Bipp. (Although Bipp died Tuesday morning, I wouldn’t find out until Friday that he was truly gone.) We went outside to see what the commotion was, and we found this little bird perched on the ground right in front of the glass slider.

IMG_6170

I had never seen such a beautiful little creature in my life. The wind must have caused the birdie to fly into our glass door. I was worried he was hurt or frightened because when we went near him, he didn’t even try to fly away.

I immediately thought of Bipp. He was a clumsy soul and would have also run head-on into a glass door. Oh, how he would have loved this bird! After all, birds were one of his favorite “gifts” to give us.

I couldn’t bear to see such a beautiful being hurt. So with a piece of cardboard, I gently picked up this little guy and placed him on our wooden fence; just a little closer to the sky. We watched him for a few minutes and told him to fly off and be okay. About 15 minutes passed and I went back outside to check on the bird. He was gone! Little birdie had survived the crash and flown away. It felt nice to help something flourish during a time I felt completely helpless.

Just like Bipp, I think a lot about this little bird since that day in May. I ask myself what his visit meant. The answer finally came to me recently and I finally understand. When Bipp was hit by the car, he was crossing the street, making his way back to our house. Is it a coincidence that just a day later – after Bipp didn’t make it home that day – this birdie showed up? I don’t think so.

I think Bipp was determined to come home to see us. And the only way he could was through this beautiful bird. He was coming back so we could say goodbye and let us know he would be okay. Then he was ready to flap his wings and fly away.

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