Jul 30, 2012

The Box Top Jar {printable}

It's that time of year again. Back to school!  I love this time of year like I love Christmas {maybe more?}.  You all know what a nerd I am, so you really shouldn't be surprised by how much I love celebrating school.  In honor of this quasi-holiday, I have prepared some helpful and fun posts for the parents, teachers, and students all headed back to the pencil sharpeners, trapper keepers and lunch lines. {I'm clearly still living in the 90's}

Last year, Jonathan's teacher encouraged the students to collect the most box tops in the entire school.  Jonathan came home one day and began inspecting cereal boxes in the pantry and scolded me for throwing away precious dollars that could go toward his school.  To which I responded, "what? these little ten cent labels on my brownie mix?  They actually use these??" Who knew.  Turns out that these can really add up, and I know how tight the budget is in our school system, so literally, every penny counts.  Now, we inspect every box, bag, and candy wrapper before we throw them away.

Rather than losing them and letting them collect dust behind the fridge or in the junk drawer, we turned an empty  pasta sauce jar into "Our box top jar".  Recycling AND collecting money for school! Look at us go.  

I hate to sound like a cliche but it really is fun working together and helping his school out.  It was really easy, so easy in fact that I'm sharing the printable here for you.  All you have to do is print it on regular printer paper, cut it out and glue or tape it on a cleaned out jar. {we prefer Newman's Own Marinara}  Set the jar out in the kitchen and make sure every one is checking what they are about to throw out.


When it fills up, pass the box tops  on to the school and they can spend the money on something cool like new dodge balls or something.  

Let me know if you use this in your home. I'd love to see pics!
Linking up: Made by You Monday at Skip-to-my-Lou


Jul 28, 2012

Saturday Sweet Links {Better Late than Never}

I apologize for being a bit absent from the blog world lately.  It always happens after a big vacation like I took, but I just sort of run out of things to blog about. As you can see, that is my empty blog schedule.  {Thank the blog gods for The Book Chat, am I right?}  I took that time to dive into some blog design and came up with a whole new look.  The good news is...that couple weeks off has been very proven to be exactly what I needed because I have a stocked full schedule of blog posts now.  In fact, I decided it's time to branch out a bit with the topics so I have some tutorials, reviews, and link-ups coming.  I'm excited about where I hope the blog is going in the second half of this year.

So for now...a little late, I know...Saturday Sunday Sweet Links!

A great post by my friend, Ballistic Gyspy, to get the kids involved in the Olympics.
Hardware store jewelry ideas...love it!
Megan is celebrating reaching 100 followers with a GREAT giveaway.  Check it out. Great job, Megan!

My current music obsession.  Can't wait for their new album in September.  Seriously, The XX...where have you been all my life?!

And the Book.Chat. topic this week is all about quotes.  They can be quotes from books, poems, speakers, your sister...doesn't matter.  I need a break from just rattling off books I've read.  I think I need to read more books so I have more options for the book chat answers!
This week should be fun.  I love quotes.
Hope you join us this Thursday!

Well, it's not much, but that's all I have for today.  We've been too glued to the Olympics to do anything else.

Speaking of...did you see that Opening Ceremony last night?  Phenomenal, I thought.  Ending with "Hey Jude"...awww shucks London.  You had me all teary eyed.  And the kids pretty thrilled about that.

Happy weekend!


Jul 26, 2012

the.book.chat. {new releases}

I don't generally watch the new release lists.  Unless I am waiting for an installment to a series or something from a much-loved author, I don't really pay much attention.  I tend to wait for someone else to read them and spread the word.  I sincerely wish I had the time to be a book blogger and read 'advanced reader copies' before they were released, but that is a pipe dream for now.  Until then, I enjoy reading other blogs and scoping out what's new in the book world these days.

As for anticipating a book release, there is one I'm clearing my schedule for: Promised by Caragh O'Brien.  
Release date: October 2, 2012

This is the third book in the Birthmarked trilogy.  I absolutely adored the first two, and I cannot wait for the finale.

Honestly, I'm a bit of a cheater when it comes to these trilogies and series. I usually like to wait until all of the books come out before I begin to read them.  I really hate waiting.  In fact, when I started this series, I thought all of the books were out already.  To my devastation, I finished the second and immediately tried to download the third and what...I have to wait ten months for the next one?!  Such cruelty.  I hate waiting because I'd rather finish the story while it's still fresh in my mind.  And I don't have time to re-read ever series when a new book is released.

While we're talking about finales: Requiem by Lauren Oliver.
Release date: March 5, 2013
I wrote about this series in last week's book chat and I even did a little review of it earlier this year.  This book won't be out until March of next year, and after an ending like that, I really wished I had waited until they were all out before I read them. Phenomenal series.

I guess waiting isn't too bad.  It builds up anticipation.  It makes the books that much more fun to read.  It's a good kind of torture, I guess.

So, what do you think?  Do you enjoy reading series?  Do you wait for the all of the books to come out, like I do?

And what book releases are you excited for?  Link up below if you choose to join in!

For next week...Share some of your favorite quotes.  They can be from fiction, non-fiction, poetry, authors, articles, anything. 

Jul 19, 2012

the.book.chat. {favorites of 2012...so far}

Well, let me start by saying that I have read more in half of 2012 than I did in ALL of 2011.  It's been a banner year of reading for me.  This is due in part to the book.chat itself.  Hosting the book.chat has inspired me to read more, but it has also opened up a world of new books to me too.  I sincerely hope it has done the same for you.  

These are my favorites of 2012 so far:
In no specific order...

1. The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner

My friend Melissa of Press Play turned me on to this series.  I was seriously obsessed with these three books for a week straight.  
Read my review here

2. Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

To be completely honest with you, I didn't expect to love this book.  I expected it to be a cliche YA dystopia.  It is now my favorite YA dystopia.  This was the first book I read of 2012, and it set the bar high.  The ending rocked me to my core.  When Pandemonium came out in February, I devoured it, and the ending rocked me to my core's core.  Now I am desperate for the third book, Requiem, to come out in March 2013.
Also recommended to me by Melissa. 

3. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

Listen. When you've read a series for 3 years and 10 books and one of the original characters has his heart broken 8 books ago and you get to read about him falling in love all over again, it's pretty awesome.  So all I'm saying is, don't knock it till you've tried it.  
Plus, the last line in this book made me scream.  Out loud.  

4. Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

My best friend gave me this book a couple years ago as a Christmas present.  I've left it sitting on my shelf since then.  The idea behind our book swap is to introduce each other to new and different genres.  Well, let me say, this is a different genre for sure!  It's such a cliche but you know when someone is so adamant about not liking something, they refuse to even give it a try, and then once they do, they love it.  Yeah, that was me with this book.  I feel as if I'm letting Robbins down for not having something more witty and poignant to write here.  Sorry, Tom.  Loved your book.

5. A Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Duh.  I don't want to oversell it to you, but I had it oversold to me for months before I finally read it.  I didn't even fight loving this book.  And you shouldn't either.  This one actually lives up to the hype.

These are just 5 of my favorites of this year so far.  I've read 17 books since January, and that is a lot for me actually.  You can see my entire Read list here.  

So what have you read so far in 2012?  You can share them all or a select few.  Link up below.

For next week...what books are you looking forward to?  Any new releases you can't wait for?  


Jul 12, 2012

the.book.chat. {covers}

I don't think anyone can say they don't judge a book by its cover.  It's the first thing we see of a book.  When looking down an aisle of book spines, we don't only look at the title, but also the style and font in which it is portrayed.  The outside design of a book is incredibly important.

I have to say, I'm a fan of the more simple, easy-on-the-eyes design such as...
I'm not ashamed to admit it.  It was this series' cover design that instantly intrigued me.  I love how simple, symbolic and confident it is.  There are no cheesy characters or elaborate designs.  It says, "this story is so good, we don't need anything else".  I'm not going to lie...just looking at it here, I think I want to read it again. 
On that note, I'm a huge fan of them re-releasing the classics in the same design to intrigue young readers.  They even shelved them in the YA section by the Twilight series, and even though it was a ploy to make money, I say "bravo" publishers. 

I also love a cover that grabs my attention.  One that peaks my interest and makes me want to know more about the book.  This is the first one that comes to mind...
This cover is bold and artistic.  It is so confident and immediately grabs you and makes you feel like you have to read it.  Much like the story, the cover of this book is vivid and demanding, and I love it. 

Sometimes, a cover is too elaborate.  It tries to tell the story right there, and it becomes overwhelming for the reader, and in many cases, it loses them before they even start reading. One example...
 This cover is so unfair to this book.  Before I say anything bad, let me say, I absolutely adore this book.  I gave it 5 stars.  It is an incredible story, and I cannot wait for the final installment this fall.  But seriously.  What is going on on this cover?  I don't even know that it goes well with the story.  There is just too much and none of it really makes sense.  I only read it because of another reviewer raving about it, but sadly, if I passed this on the shelves, I probably wouldn't even have picked it up.  (But you should, because it's amazing)

Then, there are those covers when I wonder if the designer even read the book...
I'm sure there is some in-depth literary response as to why this cover is appropriate to the story, but I feel like it doesn't fit.  The only thing on this cover that made me want to read it is the award and the NYT caption at the bottom.  Again, this book in amazing.  This cover is not. 

This cover, on the other hand, is pretty awesome. 

And just a few of my favorites...
For the record, I have not read the last four, but their covers alone have made me want to.  I just hope they live up to them.

What are your thoughts on book covers?  Do you have any favorites?  Which ones do you think did/did not live up to the story?  

Next week: 2012 is half over.  So what have been your favorite books of the year so far.  Or just share what you've read so far this year. 

And please link up below if you joined in the book chat this week.  (sorry for the late link-up)

Jul 9, 2012

Midsummer Reading Challenges

I'm participating in a couple book related blog things this week that I wanted to share with all of you. 

The first one is going to make a certain group of friends very happy. 

I stumbled across this through Kimberly's blog and it's being hosted by some book blogs that I now adore.  As soon  as I saw it, I knew I had to join in.  I have finally decided to read the series since I have been feeling a little left out of some seriously awesome book chat conversations.  It's basically a readalong where we discuss the sections of the book as we go along.  I'll be honest, I'm going vvveeerrryyy slowly through this book.  It's not that I'm not enjoying it.  It's mostly because I've been busy on vacation, but also because I've already seen the movie and sort of know what's going to happen.  I wouldn't normally read something after I've already seen the movie, but I can't just skip it so I'll read it anyway.  Confession: I've only seen the first Harry Potter movie.  This is actually a good thing because then everything from here on will be somewhat of a surprise. 

The next event I'm doing is going to be more of a challenge for me, but I'm determined to do it. 

It's basically a read, read, read-a-thon.  Yes, I am still on vacation, and I realize I've used that as my excuse as to why I have not been reading, but I'm just at my parents' house for the rest of the trip, and so I'm hoping it will be a bit quieter and I'll have more time to just bury my nose in a book.  Here's to hoping.
This is what I plan on tackling in these 3 days...

I have heard excellent things about this book, and I cannot wait to read it.

I'm hoping I can get through it one day to check that requirement off my list for Megan's summer reading challenge which I'm still working on...

I'll also be reading these for the challenge as well...



So, that's what going on with me reading-wise.  I hope you join me in one of these reading challenges if you are interested.

What are you reading this summer?
Do you find that you read more or less when on vacation?

Jul 7, 2012

Saturday Sweet Links: My mountain escape

Well, we are finally on the last leg of our Arizona trip.  Jeremy had to stay back in Alabama because of his busy school schedule, and we miss him terribly, but we're having a blast with family here. We're spending this week up in the beautiful AZ mountains hiding from that crazy Phoenix heat.  I'm enjoying the chance to unwind and relax, so for now, I'll share some cool links I've come across this week.  But first, pretty pics...

I was a little bit outraged when I learned on Caitlin's blog that seasonal firefighters do NOT have healthcare options.  Infuriating. You know, they're the ones who put their lives on the line daily to fight the wildfires that rage this country every year.  sheesh.  Sign this petition to help

Didyaknow...I went to El Paso to hang out with a little blogger who happens to be one of my longest, bestest friends.  We can call this a blogger-meet-up.

An adorable vlog with some great blog design tips. I can't wait to redo my blog design this fall!

A new awesome blog to follow. She scares me with how much we have in common: Free as a Bird

Beautiful, heart-wrenching video about the star of Spartacus' battle with cancer: Be Here Now.  (via Chrissy's blog)

Okay you Potterheads (you know who you are), I'm finally reading the books! {mass cheering}  So, I've decided to join in this Potterthon read-a-long.  Good fun!

I've been stalking Amazon MP3 lately because of the amazing deals!!  I bought some awesome, new albums for $.99 each!  My recent purchases: Regina Spektor's new album, The Lumineers, Beach House, The Hunger Games Soundtrack, Gotye and Kimbra. Also, they have a cool, free songs section that's a little addicting.

If there is one song that I cannot get enough of right now, it is this one:

"You can judge the whole world by the sparkle that you think it lacks. Yes, you can stare into the abyss, but it's staring right back"

Happy weekend friends!

Jul 5, 2012

the.book.chat. {favorite authors}


There are just some authors out there whose books I purchase as soon as they are released.  They are authors whose writing style I have come to know and love.  They are familiar to me and they have inspired me in my own writing.  I don't always love the most popular authors and the ones I do cherish aren't necessarily the best out there, but they are the best for me.  I think that is one thing every book worm must do.  Find the authors who fit your reading personality best. 

Well these are mine...

1. J. R. Ward -  Ward remains the only romance author who I enjoy to read.  I love her humor and her style.  Even if she's writing a facebook status, I'm reading it. My favorite thing about Ward is her love of her own characters.  She treats them like they are real people respecting her readers' adoration for them.  I also love that she shows no sign of quitting anytime soon.  Keem 'em coming Ward!

2. Markus Zusak - It was instant love for Zusak when I read The Book Thief.  His writing style is creative and engaging.  Reading The Book Thief was so refreshing and new!  It is one of the only books where I can remember the "way" it was written.  I also enjoyed I am the Messenger, but much less so than The Book Thief.  But seriously, Markus, whatcha been up to man?  We're waiting...

3. Kristin Cashore - The first time I read Graceling I loved it, but then that was about it.  A year or so later, I read Fire and it was real love.  Here are the things I love about Cashore: she writes her stories in the same fantasy realm and it is SO cool.  You wouldn't know her stories are even YA at all because the characters are mature, the subject matter is dark and her writing has integrity.  And most of all, her female characters are amazing.  She's getting lost in the crowd of YA authors and I really want people to see her for the brilliant storyteller she is.

There are, of course, many more authors who I enjoy but these are the ones whose every piece of work ever dreamt, printed and published I will read the very first second I can.  Anyone can write a good story, but these authors go beyond that.  They write those stories in a way that makes it personal.  They speak to me and it's their voice I prefer.  Write on you brilliant storytellers!

So who are your favorite authors?  I would love to hear.

Next Thursday we will be talking about cover art.  Do you judge a book by its cover?


Jul 3, 2012

Bonnaroo tips and final thoughts

I promise this will be my last Bonnaroo post for a while.  I just wanted to compose some tips and final thoughts for anyone who was thinking about going to Roo next year (or any other music festival). So here ya go...

-Don't lose your friends in the dark! 
{Long story short: While sitting among 80,000 people watching Radiohead somewhere around 11pm, I chose to walk to the bathroom alone with no phone on me.  I figured it was a straight shot up to the bathroom, surely I wouldn't get that lost.  HA!  Walking around all of those people in the dark, trying to get my bearings and figure out which way was up, I started to panic a bit.  Needless to say, when I heard Nicole shout my name after 15 minutes of looking, I was so happy to see her I practically attacked her.  Stay with your friends after dark!}

-Rest whenever you can. Sleeping on the ground during a concert is totally normal here.

Naptime at Bonnaroo
-Bring chalk or spray paint. There are blank canvases all over the place.  You are encouraged to leave your mark.

-Bandanas are your friend...and sometimes your shade, hair-hider, sweat collector, lung protector and sneeze catcher.

-Get early to the Tent shows.  The tents are not very big and they are slightly elevated (why? I don't know), so if you are not IN that tent, you're not seeing much at all.  You can usually hear pretty well right outside the tents, but if it's something you really want to see, get there early.  About an hour before the show is a good time to get there.  I suggest getting against the rail on the sides of the stage.  The view is great and it's easy to get out if you need to.

-The big stage has a pit you can wait in line to get in.  I wish someone had told me this, but apparently, in order to get the closest to the acts on What Stage (the biggest), you have to wait in line for it.  Some people would wait ALL day to be a part of this pit for bands such as Radiohead and Phish.  I don't know whether or not I would have actually done it, but it would have been nice to know about it.

-Don't be a slave to the schedule.  There is so much to see and do, so don't waste your time sitting around waiting for your bands to play.  Doing that for one or two bands is okay, but you'll stretch yourself thin if you make every band you like a priority.  See the Sonic Stage!  Many bigger bands will do short 30 minute sets at the Sonic stage and they are so worth seeing.  Even the random acts you'll catch here are bound to be phenomenal. 

-The water is all FREE and potable.  You'll hear this quite a bit, but you need to drink a lot of water.  Luckily, they have free water stations all over the grounds.  The water back at camp smells like rotten eggs (sulfur), like a LOT.  The water in Centeroo tastes like water.  I would bring my own gallons of water for teeth brushing and hand washing at camp and a Camelbak to fill up at Centeroo. 

-Freeze water bottles for the cooler.  We had one of those 5-day coolers and we had about 30 frozen water bottles in there and we only had to buy ice once on the last day, which was $4.  The nice thing about the frozen water bottles is you can take a couple out each day to take to Centeroo with you.

-Take a point-and-shoot camera.  iPhones suck at taking far away pictures.

Final Thoughts:
Even while I was at Bonnaroo, I had a hard time processing everything I was experiencing.  It's very overwhelming and I know that anyone's first time to Roo is a learning experience.  I would probably enjoy myself even more the second or third time because I would know what to expect and I would have all of those tips and ideas I'd learned from before.  But will I go back?  Well...maybe.  Here's what I did gather about Bonnaroo...
 Bonnaroo is it's own world.  It will start to feel surreal for a while being so far from the modern world for so long.  It's really more than a music festival.  It's a place to be free, really.  Free of judgment, scrutiny, stress and the rest of the general modern-day bullshit we have to deal with.
The general kindness and open-mindedness was my absolute favorite thing about Bonnaroo crowd.  There was nothing you could do, say or wear that would get you made fun of or make you stand out.  The minute you drive through that gate, everyone is your friend, neighbor and fellow fest-goer.  Everyone is there to have fun and no one wants to stop anyone else from doing that.  High-five strangers, share your goods and feel free to dance your back-side off.  Enjoy this ambiance while you can, because we all know it's not like this on the outside.

So will I go back?  Probably not. And not because it wasn't amazing, because it was!  I probably won't go back only because going to Bonnaroo means shedding your responsibilities for a few days and escaping the real world.  With two kids, it's not that easy to do.  This is why I say, go to Bonnaroo while you can!  Before you get married and have kids and swamp yourself in a busy career, run off to Tennessee and party with the hippies in the middle of nowhere to at least say you did.  Everyone should do it at least once.
Also, I'd like to find a more family-friendly music festival. There were a few kids at Bonnaroo and I'm not one to judge, but there was a LOT of herb-smokin going on as well.  I'm hoping to find a more music-centered festival to take the kiddos to someday.  Perhaps Austin City Limits or Hangout Fest.
Who knows. Maybe I'll change my mind and go back afterall.  When I hear certain songs, I do get all nostalgic and miss it a lot. 
Bonnaroo is amazing!

To read about my Bonnaroo 2012 trip, click here.