A few of my favorite things…

Do you have favorite things? Things you’ve stumbled across that you rave about to your friends and gift them with because, really, their life couldn’t be complete without said “thing” in it?

I do.   And as an avid blog fan, one of my favorite posts bloggers sometimes do is on THEIR favorite things. Through these posts I’ve found some of my favorite recipes, makeup, home-improvement tips etc.   So I thought it would be fun to do the same. Especially since the gift-giving time of the year is officially upon us!

Warning. This list is on the eclectic side. I jump around a lot, and they are in no particular order, but I thought it might be fun to share a few of these. Enjoy!

First up. Bathroom spray.

6a00d83451616069e2017d3caac640970c-450wiSurprised? Remember…I said no particular order. I found this because someone put it in one of the bathrooms at  the school I used to teach at. There is NOTHING worse that going into the bathroom after someone who, well, let’s just say had some business to attend to, and finding it smelling like poopy flowers. This stuff doesn’t do that. It can kill even the worst of smells. And besides that, they have cheeky names that crack me up. They are a little more expensive than your average spray, but worth every penny and last ten times as long. So if you are looking for a fun stocking stuffer to make someone giggle…pick some up!.

Next up. These candles. Again. Expensive. But worth every penny. I used to nanny for a family who had these all over their house, and I became obsessed. Bonus, the jar is pretty too!

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Now as a good Christian girl, this next one’s name makes me blush a little. Pun intended. NARS blush stick in a certain scandalous name. Best blush ever. This lasts me at least 6 months. I wish for it for my birthday and Christmas every year. Mainly because it’s expensive…and I’m cheap.

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I’ve already mentioned my deep love for my discman and tune belt in a post. But it’s worth mentioning again. I love this outdated bit of technology.

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Green tea. And not just any green tea. THIS green tea. I’ve tried them all, and it can’t be beat. Now, being pregnant right now, I’m not able to enjoy this right now. (Did you know green tea flushes iron and folic acid from your system?) But it’s getting packed in my hospital bag to enjoy the minute after I give birth. Not even joking.

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Cloth Diapers. They have come a LONG way since our mothers and grandmothers used them. I was originally convinced to use them by this blog post. After a lot of research, I even got my skeptical hubby on board. They save us a LOT of money, and they are so easy…not gross at all…and super cute.

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Bulldogs. Both the French and the English variety. As a Butler University Alum, I have a special place in my heart for the wrinkly, overweight, smooshed faced, gassy blobs of cuteness. And after years of owning a huge Airedale terrier who required a five mile run every day just to stay sane, their complete lack of exercise requirements is refreshing.

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Beach Body Workout Tapes.

I’m doing my best to keep these guys in business. I now own P90X, Insanity, and P90X 30.

Working out is a priority for me. It keeps me sane.  Now that we have a 1 and ½ kids, going to the gym every day isn’t an option. I’m lucky if I can sneak out a few mornings a week to run before everyone wakes up! These tapes have been used over and over again. Well worth every penny, and I know that I can get a good workout in no matter how much time I do or don’t have.

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Netflix.
I always say this would be the best gift for someone about to have a baby. Do you know what’s on TV at 2 am. when you wake up with a newborn and have to stay awake through a ½ hour feeding? Nothing. There is nothing on TV.
Enter Netflix.
It got me through those first few months of being up all night and  home all day with nothing but talk shows and soap operas on TV.   And now I use it daily when I workout in our basement at 6 am. Because again…there is nothing but vaccume clearner infomercials on at that time of day. Worth. Every. Penny.

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This post wouldn’t be complete with out mentioning chocolate. Just like no day is complete without a little chocolate. Am I right? (Now you know why I have to workout so much!) And if you are looking for the BEST out there, you have to go to Albanese. And I don’t’ say that because I grew up with a lot of the Albanese kids. (Not technically related, but they are my cousin’s cousins so it took me a few years before I REALIZED we weren’t.) But they seriously make the best malt balls, chocolate covered raisins and chocolate covered peanuts out there. And don’t even get me started on their gummy bears. You haven’t had a gummy bear until you’ve had theirs. I used to live minutes away from their store. Deadly. Luckily, they ship, and I visit the area enough that I get my Albanese fix.

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Last but not least… Lake Shafer. I know this isn’t exactly a product like everything else. But I had to mention it anyway. I spent every summer of my childhood on this muddy river, and it will forever have a place in my heart. It’s the lake of Indina Beach fame, but it will always be full of sunburned memories of cousins, swimming, capture the flag, and fishing. Sigh. It’s where my heart is happiest. I just had to mention it.

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So there you have it! A few favorite things. I’m sure I forgot something on here…and if I come up with enough maybe I’ll do a follow up post. Who knows.

What are your favorite things?

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Boys and Books…

As an ex-middle school English teacher, I can testify that boys are often some of the hardest ones to get reading. Now, there is always the exception to the rule, but on the whole they were my biggest challenge. They are so easily turned off from reading. Maybe it’s because our culture emphasizes sports and video games as “boy” things and reading as a “girl” thing, but whatever it is, I refuse to believe that it’s because they have a harder time falling into the fantastic world of a book. Long story short- I don’t know, but boys are a hard sell.

I over came this challenge a lot of ways as a teacher, and I think on the whole I did a pretty good job of it. By the end of the year, most of the boys in my class had experience reading a book that they just GOT. If you’re a reader, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that book that grabs you and won’t let you go. The one you stay up too late reading and can’t get out of your head after you’ve finished it.  I am proud to say that I helped put a lot of those books in their hands. How? By reading A LOT of books to find the ones that would speak to a boy’s soul. Maybe that’s why I wrote one that would appeal to boys. Hmmmm.

Anyways.

Here, are some of my favorites for boys. (Also-girls love these too! I can vouch.)

The Lightening Thief

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This one is a tried and true boy favorite. Greek gods. Epic Battles. Teachers turning into monsters. All winners in the world of boy.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp

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King Arthurs knights of the round table are still around…except now they drive lamborginies.   Usually all I needed to sell this book.

The Hunger Games

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I feel like this one needs no explanation. It’s fabulous. Nuff said.

Looking for Alaska

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Have you read John Green yet?  Have you watched one of his vlogbrothers posts?  You are missing out if you haven’t. This one has some language and content, so probably better for the older boy in your life (think 13 and up), but he is by far one of my favorite authors. (And I’m not just saying that because he also lives in Indianapolis.)

Acceleration

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A boy finds the diary of a serial killer. Now he has to stop the killer before he kills his next victim. So intense you CAN’T put it down.

The 5th Wave

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This one has a girl main character, but it doesn’t matter. Aliens have taken over the world, except…they aren’t anything like you’d expect. Incredibly fast paced and action packed.

Holes

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An oldie but a goodie. There is a character named Armpit. Again, nuff said.

Maniac Magee

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I used to read this one out loud to my students. It’s old enough that a lot of people have forgotten about it. But it is fabulous.

Hatchet

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Another oldie but a goodie. For the boy who loves hunting and survival. Fun fact-it was my husbands favorite book as a kid. And he was a boy who “hated reading.”

The Maze Runner

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Another one that has become so popular I don’t feel that it needs an explanation. This is a boy book through and through.

Harry Potter

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No list is complete without this series. It’s a book everyone will love. My little brother wasn’t a reader, until he read Harry Potter.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

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This book kept me laughing all the way through. There is a little bit of language in it, but over all, a fabulous read.

Legend

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It’s actually an updated slightly tweaked retelling of Le Miserable which makes it just that much cooler in my book. A legendary thief (think Robin Hood type character) and the girl prodigy assigned to bring him down makes for a  fast paced and very well written story. The whole series is great.

Leviathan

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So for a long time steam punk was going to be the next big thing in publishing. Almost every literary agent seemed to be interested in it, but it never really took off. No clue why. The exception to the rule was Leviathan. A reimagining of World War I with a major steam punk twist this story is told from two separate points of view. The illustrations are phenomenal, and the imagination is divine. Although, since it’s written by Scott Westerfeld, creator of the Uglies series, I’m not sure why I was surprised.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few, but if you are looking for a good book for the boy in your life. Start with a few of these. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh.

And don’t forget this boy book coming in May!

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Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Ps. Amazon has their description up for it now!

I’m back!

HELLO? HELLO? Is this thing on?

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I apologize for the impromptu blog hiatus, but for the last few weeks I’ve been putting every spare minute I’ve had into getting book two for The Edge of Extinction ready to send off to my fabulous editor at Harper Collins. Now please don’t be confused and think the novel is done. It is FAR from done. If past experience holds true then it has at least two major editing overhauls to survive, line edits, and galley edits before it sees the light of day. BUT, the book is at least written and sent off so the whole process can begin. Why the rush? I understand your confusion considering book one is still months away from hitting real bookshelves.

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Although fun fact. You CAN pre-order it now here!  Hint Hint.  Nudge Nudge.

The real motivator in all of this is baby Martin number two’s impending arrival sometime at the end of February. I let my editor in on the impending arrival before I’d even let some of my family members know because I knew it would impact the timeline for getting book two ready to go. ( Also, please enjoy the picture of “skinny” Laura. I put that in quotes because “skinny” is a relative term. I’m sure in that picture I was obsessing over 5-10 lb. Now, I would give both my arms and a leg to look like that. And I would probably have to give up all three of those appendages to hit that number on the scale. Sigh. Growing a baby is fun…)

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Anyways, back to my blog abandonment. My thought process in getting book two done ahead of schedule is that it’s hard to get much accomplished with ONE baby in the house. TWO…well, hold on to your hats folks.

From what I’ve heard, showering becomes difficult…let alone finding time to write. So lets just say I’ve been in hyper drive trying to get EVERYTHING accomplished. Book stuff, house stuff, organization stuff.   Please picture Yoda saying “The nesting force is strong in this one” and you might have the idea.

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Photo credit here.

The result has been driving me poor husband up the wall with my never-ending To-Do lists as I panic at him nightly about all the things WE STILL HAVE TO DO! I even typed up the massive to-do list in hopes that it would make him panic too. It didn’t. He’s oddly sensible and calm. Annoying.

Just to prove my point, my daughters nursery was done, clothes washed, stuff on the walls, diapers stocked and ready to go before I was even 25 weeks along. I’m not joking. Neither was Yoda… the force is strong.  (This is a pic from her original nursery before we moved.  DONE. WEEKS in advance. )

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This time around it hasn’t been so easy. For one, the cute but incredibly busy toddler who decided naps are for wusses slows me down quite a bit. For another, when she finally does fall asleep, it takes everything in me not to just pass out as well.

But of all the things on the list that needed to get done my biggest priority was draft number one for book two getting out the door. Until that happened, everything was put on hold. And when I say everything, I mean everything.

For example, our English bulldog is balding. Again.

Before the balding…. cute, cuddly, chubby…lots of hair. My vacuum cleaner can testify to that last one.

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After the balding began… notice the odd patches on her back. Not good.

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The day after the draft went out the door the poor girl finally got drug to the vet lest she soon look like Dr. Evil’s cat in Austin Powers. She doesn’t have the bone structure to pull off that look. Chubby girls shouldn’t be bald.

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One hundred dollars later, and we are assured the hair should soon stop falling out in tufts. Here’s hoping.

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Along with our bulldog’s hair situation, the house was dirty. Things on every available surface were cluttered and unorganized. Laundry was starting to develop it’s own personality. Projects I wanted to do for the nursery and the house sat half finished and abandoned in random corners. Every spare minute went to book two. Then editing book two. Then editing it again. Then editing it one more time for good neurotic measure.

But! Book two is now OUT THE DOOR! So until it comes back and needs one of the overhauling edits I mentioned, things have been getting DONE. It feels good people. Really good.   It also helped that this weekend my in-laws whisked our daughter away to Chicago for some fun at the Shed Aquarium. It is AMAZING what can be accomplished when you have a few connected hours. I think back on my life before kids, and I wish I could give myself a good shake and yell “You think you’re busy? You aren’t busy! You’re on vacation!” And if time travel ever gets invented. I probably will. Until then. I’ll just satisfy myself with getting things checked off my to-do list. Confession.

Sometimes I even write things on the list just to check them off. It feels that good. Some people have addictions to smoking or drinking or gambling…my addiction might be to-do lists. It’s sad. But true.

Also-as I write this. I realize I might have officially turned into my mother.

Not a bad thing. The women gets things accomplished like you wouldn’t believe. Efficiency and Organization should be her middle name. It’s just so NOT who I used to be. My natural state is “hot mess.” But somewhere along the line I turned into someone who relishes organizing the mess underneath her bathroom cabinets.

Weird.

So while I work on a few new blog posts to stockpile for when my adorable toddler comes back home and makes getting things accomplished difficult again. Here are a few before, after, and progress shots of what’s been happening while this blog was silent. Enjoy!

First up….the dining nook.  New pillow covers sewn. (note the green pillows in the first picture I pulled from my daughter’s birthday.)  And the backs of the built-ins are now painted a lovely grey.  (please pardon the pictures taken from my phone. And the blue car…no excuses on that one. Just too lazy to move it.)

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Next up was the playroom.   Which recently got a new ikea couch, and I sewed a “gender neutral” banner.  I didn’t think  that baby number 2 (which is a boy by the way) would appreciate all the pink.

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The nursery accent wall got painted. And yes…the mask is VERY attractive.  But if it means I get to help paint…I’ll wear it.

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A random “Ho” got painted too, just for good measure.  Bring on Christmas!

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So again, I apologize for the absence. I’ll try not to do it again any time soon!   Now back to my to-do list. I get to check of “write blog post”.  And you know how I feel about checking things off to-do lists!