No Life Rehearsals

Live, Love, Laugh–Your Life Depends on It

Non-Extreme Couponing, Free Samples, and Other Obsessions

scissors with grocery coupons

Couponing, great in theory, hard work in reality.  Watching even one minute of Extreme Couponing makes my head spin. I get the thrill of the “game” but when you have closets full of paper products, detergent and pasta sauce, it’s time to go to rehab!  I’m not greedy and I don’t need free, I just want to save my family a little money each week on the things we buy all the time.  Lofty goal?  It shouldn’t be, but it is.  Notwithstanding the great coupon deals on paper products and deodorants, when it comes to food, coupons mostly cover the interior of the store, not that health conscious perimeter we all should aspire to.  But is a life without Oreos really worth living?  I think not.  We need some of the interior items just to keep our sanity.  Plus, the wine and beer aisle are closer to the perimeter than the interior, and chips and soda are oftentimes dead center.   Ever think about  that?

To get those great “food” deals takes tenacity, a veritable survival of the fittest in the grocery store world.  However, with various printable coupon websites such as and the Target cartwheel app, saving has never been easier. Or harder. Because here is the truth, drum roll please, couponing is addicting. You can’t just say I’m going to do a “little couponing”  no siree Bob, it doesn’t work like that.   Once you score a great deal, you keep looking for your next big hit. You scour for coupons, sign up for loyalty programs, buy multiple Sunday papers because you know you can “save” more. Truth be told, there are worse “time sucks” our there than couponing (read Candy Crush) because at least couponing saves you money and Candy Crush might actually cost you if you give in and buy some boosters to complete a level or buy your way into the next section (not that I would know anything about that).

In my adopted state of North Carolina, couponing at Harris Teeter is an art form. From Facebook groups to spreadsheets to ad previews, these ladies spend as much time on couponing each week as I did studying to get my law degree (and I’m only half kidding).  Their dedication is astounding and I take my hat off and bow to them.   It’s a Facebook community filled with love and support.  Fellow couponers post to brag about their “score” and share their knowledge.  The exchange of information is rapid and fever pitched. If you want to get started couponing, at Harris Teeter or otherwise, a great resource for finding coupons is  You can also join closed Facebook groups for fellow couponers at your brand store.  The best one for Harris Teeter is Couponing at Harris Teeter.  You will learn all the ways of the force and a s**t ton of useless jargon/three letter acronyms unique to the couponing world.

In the couponing world the word “free” is the end all be all.  The holy grail of couponing, though that’s not technically correct, the holy grail are the “money makers,” the coupons (and stacking of coupons and deals) where the store pays you money.  For example, Walmart policy states “If coupon value exceeds the price of the item, the excess may be given to the customer as cash or applied toward the basket purchase.”  Money makers are few and far between for us average run-of-the-mill couponers.  Though scoring one (and not to overdo my drug analogy) must be like taking a big hit (of something, how should I know???).  Kind of like getting someone to pay you to sample their full-sized product.

sample grunge retro red isolated ribbon stamp

Which brings me to samples, another of my obsessions. Who doesn’t love free samples?  I wish I could tell you about a great way to get free samples.  I too have seen those advertisements that show up on my Facebook news feed, but haven’t yet clicked on any of them yet. Once I do unlock the secrets, you’ll be the first to know!

Right now my “free” sampling fix is limited to the Saturday afternoon of food I get on my weekly run to Costco.  But that does not abate my need for samples.  Samples, samples, samples.  I’m talking about my borderline unhealthy obsession/interest in beauty product samples. There must be others of my kind similarly beckoned by the mother ship also known as the subscription beauty box.  I’ve limited my subscriptions to two:  Birchbox and Ipsy.  I’m relatively new to Ipsy (Christmas gift to myself!) so can’t really comment on it yet but have been a long time Birchbox subscriber.  If you haven’t heard of Birchbox, wipe those cavewebs out of your hair and come into the light.  Birchbox is beauty product sample heaven (cue the Alleluias).

For the bargain basement price of $10 a month, who could possibly resist.  To rationalize, I make a few less trips to Starbucks and my financial universe remains in alignment.  My nine year old daughter is green with envy (or should I say pink) when the pretty pink box appears in our mailbox each month.  From anti-aging creams, to face masks, to hair spray, makeup; every month is a delight.  I’m rarely disappointed with my haul and have in fact purchased full-size products as a result of this “sampling.”  Try it out for yourself and use this link so they know who sent you. Birchbox Link.



No Comments »

Helicopter Parenting, Free Range Parenting and Other Useless Labels

Empty playground swing with children playing in the background concept for child protection, abduction or loneliness

I’m ready to get back to blogging and have been stewing over a piece of news I read several months ago.  Although I’m weighing in a bit late, parenting style is once again in the media hot seat. What a shocker. Because we all know that the media knows best when it comes to weighing in on parenting choices.

This time it is a Maryland couple, Danielle and Rafi Meitiv who have allowed their appropriately dressed and seemingly well cared for 10 year old and 6 year old to walk in the neighborhood….ALONE without parental supervision.  Yes, that’s right, it seems to be a matter of debate whether children should be permitted to walk to the playground without an adult in the great State of Maryland or whether by allowing them to do so the parents are guilty of “neglect.”

The Meitivs were questioned repeatedly with multiple interviews by Child Protective Services who released a finding of “unsubstantiated” neglect.  The family is now appealing.  “Unsubstantiated” neglect, are you kidding me?  That sounds like some Orwellian double speak to me.  I don’t think that CPS has to travel far in Maryland (read Baltimore) to find substantiated neglect.

The original “incident” of unsupervised walking and play was several months ago, then just two weeks ago the family was in the news again when the police picked up the children on their way to the park after receiving a call from a “concerned citizen.” The police held the children for hours without notifying the parents.  The police claim they were complying with CPS protocol but one wonders what protocol could prevent the police calling the parents to at least inform them of where their children are (a simple phone call people!).   It was only after the mother called 911 that CPS had the decency to call and tell them.

There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. First, ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  Really, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Let me say some states, including Maryland, have Unattended Minor laws on the books, including my own state of North Carolina.  These provisions, for the most part, relate to children being left unattended in dwellings or motor vehicles.  The North Carolina provision can be found in the Fire Code stating that a child under the age of 8 should not left unattended in a dwelling because of the dangers associated with fire.  In light of a recent tragic case in Louisiana of the two beautiful little souls (aged 4 and 3) that died in a house fire while their mother was getting her hair done, these provisions make some sense.  The North Carolina provision allows for parental judgment regarding the child’s maturity, etc.

Fire is a real and identifiable risk, especially if small children are involved.  On the other hand, there is nothing inherently risky with walking our city streets to get to a local playground. Especially if these children have been taught (as they appear to have been) the route so they don’t get lost, how to cross the road safely, etc.

Someone has labeled these parents “Free Range” parents and the media has picked up on it.  Free Range parenting means parents who allow their children to roam unattended lumping this in with those free range chickens or eggs that we purchase in the store.  This terminology is disturbing on so many levels.  What do they have Don Draper coming up with copy now?

I don’t know about most of you but at a fairly young age, certainly younger than 10, I was allowed to walk/ride my bike to our neighborhood park.  I was allowed to wrap my ice skates around my neck by the laces and trudge to the pond to go ice skating with my friends.  No judgments, no problems.  I took my bike to the town swimming pool where I had a season pass.  I learned to be a confident young woman with a can do spirit that served me well when I traveled alone to foreign countries in my twenties.  I learned to trust myself, trust my instincts through experiences.  I learned to speak up for myself, to ask questions of adults because I had to, and no one was there to help me.  If I had my parents hovering over me, locking me inside because of all the “dangers” outside, would I be the person I am today?  I doubt it.  I can hear the naysayers now–“But that was a different time, there are so many predators out there waiting to scoop up our children off the streets.”

Children are more likely to be injured in a car accident with a parent at the wheel, than they are likely to be a victim of stranger violence.  Motor vehicle fatalities are the number one cause of death of children aged 2 to 14, yet we still get into our cars every day with little or no fear.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we give want to live in a society where we are governed by our fears and hysteria over unsubstantiated stranger danger or do we want to live in a society and raise our children with freedom, faith, hope and trust.


1 Comment »

Ch, Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes and New Year’s Fixes

Change-David-Jakes“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…” –Bob Dylan. Yes, I know my headline is David Bowie but Dylan is still the master.  I have to admit it’s been awhile since I’ve listened to Dylan and, yet, his lyrics come to me at the strangest times.  So why did I think of Bob Dylan in this moment?  I guess it’s because I’ve been trying to come up with an answer:

Where is this blog going?

What do I want to do with it?

Why do I even have it anymore?

And, just like the Grinch, I puzzled and puzzled over these and other questions til my puzzler was sore.  But, unlike the Grinch, no answer has come to me but could that be, itself, an answer?   Change is hard.  Case in point–New Year’s Resolutions.  Why do so many of us come up with New Year’s Resolutions each year and then pretty much fail miserably at each and every one. Year.After. Year. After.Year.  Change is hard mixed with a never give up spirit! That’s right.  Never.Stop.Changing.

For me, not fixing (or at least trying to fix) is not a option.  Scandal’s Olivia Pope and I are cut from the same cloth (no, not fashion cloth unfortunately!).  I, like that wonderfully conceived Shonda Rhimes character, consider myself a “fixer” of problems. To not fix, is to not be in my book.  The fixer gene is strong in me, a familial trait, one I’m proud to carry on.  My mother, of course, being a master fixer in her day.

So, the fix is on.  In the weeks ahead, I plan on making some changes, some tweaks to the blog.  Please stay the course, keep coming back, and  hopefully this blog will be bigger, better, stronger, faster.

If your time to you is worth savin’ Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin‘ — Bob Dylan.

1 Comment »

Three Easy Steps to Getting Your Back to School Groove On

most wonderful time

Today is the first day of school for many (mine started last Monday, more on that later). I imagine all the smiles and waves as the bus drove off this morning taking your precious ones away for the first of 180 glorious days. Maybe there were tears, probably a few cheers and possibly even giddiness bordering on euphoria.   For me, when that bus turned the corner, I vowed that it was time to reclaim my house and my life!  I would make a change.  “No more procrastinating, it’s time to get back writing.”  That was eight days ago.

FAIL.  Epic fail.

I had such high hopes.  Finally, the peace and quiet I’d been longing for, yearning of, dreaming about, salivating over …you get the idea.   Oh, dear me, can it possibly be TOO quiet.  Nah, impossible, inconceivable, no bloody way.   If I had to rank one of the hardest parts of being a parent it would have to be:

Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!

There’s one thing I hate! All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

The Grinch and I are firmly aligned on that point.   So, what could be the matter?

Some of you may be shaking your head saying “nope, no problem here.” Carpe back to school diem all the way. Snap. Plenty of time to workout after I get the kids on the bus. There go the the five plus pounds of summer barbecue weight. Snap snap. I’m uber-organized, firing on all cylinders. Ten ready to reheat meals for the freezer. Snap, snap, snap. Closets changed over from summer to fall clothes.  Applause all around to you ladies. Good for you, you go-getter you! Better cover your head: falling sarcasm here.

This blog post is for the rest of us. The ones that are jarred by the change from summer vacation to school days. The deer in headlights Moms that can’t believe the house is empty and quiet for huge swaths of the day. The Moms that are drowning under a sea of school paperwork and dirty dishes.

You CAN get back on track. I promise you and all it takes is three easy steps to start you down the yellow brick road to school day productivity.

First, turn off social media.  Yes, that means Facebook, Pinterest, and the like. Or, limit it to the time it takes you to drink a cup of hot coffee (and don’t let that coffee go cold!).  If you check social media all day long, it’s nothing more than substituting one distraction for another. Instead of “Mom, can I set up a lemonade stand?”, it’s “[Insert name] commented on a post you’re tagged in” or “[insert name] repinned one of your pins.” Distractions take many insidious forms and shapes. You need to eliminate them. I know it will be hard but you CAN DO IT!

Second, set manageable goals.  My to-do list was a mile long at the beginning of last week and only two things got crossed off the list. Every time I glanced at it, I reached for a bag of Cheetos instead. Snap. Back to school weight gain. Rip that list up (or just tuck it away somewhere in case your Mommy brain forgets some of the stuff on it) and start over with just two or three things to accomplish.

Third and last, set up a routine and stick to it.  We always tell ourselves that kids thrive on routine but parents do too. Whether you’re a stay at home mom or work full-time outside the house, the back to school routine is different than the summer vacation routine. You need to make sure you stick with your routine whatever it may be.

It may take some of us a little longer to get our back to school groove on but we’ll get there. I know we will. Writing this blog post was a great first step!




No Comments »

I Want to Consciously Uncouple From [fill in the blank]

Broken heart
Foter / CC BY-SA

Leave it to Gwyneth Paltrow to try to put a positive spin on the state of her life and pretend she’s not getting [whisper here] D-i-v-o-r-c-e-d.  How Holly Holliday of her!  In case you didn’t get that reference, maybe you should think about putting Glee on your Netflix streaming list.  Just a suggestion.

So to recap if you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, Gwyneth and Chris Martin are calling it quits.  But, rather than call a spade a spade, and in this lovely era where celebrities must do things differently than the rest of common folk(i.e. name their kids Apple, Blue or North), their announcement wants everyone to know they are “conscious uncoupling.”   

Now, I normally love WORDS and applaud new creative uses of the English language, but this made me laugh out loud (and not in a good way).  So, is this a case of a divorce by any other name promises not to be as nasty?  Or, have they really taken pretensiousness to a new level and think that only you “little people” have divorces?  We get to consciously uncouple.  

I want to give them both the benefit of the doubt and given Gwyneth’s “new agey” spirit with holistic this and juice cleanse that, this may be consistent for her, no matter that it comes across to the rest of us as a completely highfalutin, la-di-da way of saying the D word.  However, can any of us really picture the Coldplay frontman ringing his mates and telling them that he’s consciously uncoupling from the lovely Ms. Paltrow?  That surely would elicit responses ranging from “What are you on about?” or “Are you barmy?”  Yeah, I’m just not buying it.  This is Gwyneth all the way.

Pretentious or not, it seems that the rest of us want to get in on this action and consciously uncoupling is not just for divorce anymore.  That was so 12 hours ago! Some of my favorite tweets:

@cagfoto When I mentioned #consciousuncoupling to my wife she went and got the pink fluffy handcuffs from the secret hiding place…

@crisXmusic #ConsciousUncoupling: Watching Closely & Losing A Finger While Chopping Carrots

And, my personal favorite (in light of my own recent addiction)…

@ramsaywoodside I may have to “consciously uncouple” from Candy Crush #ConsciousUncoupling

Do you feel the need?  The need to consciously uncouple from something in your life?  I want to hear!  That’s what the comments are for…c’mon don’t be shy.

No Comments »

Writer’s Digest – A Great Resource for Writers

AlexVan / Pixabay

I thought I would do a quick blog post and give a shout out to one of my go-to writing resources.  If you are a writer, a wannabe writer, or someone who’s may be intrigued by writing, your first stop should be Writer’s Digest. I’ve signed up for their webinars, read their magazine religiously, and visit some of their editor blogs daily!  One blog in particular I’m reading a lot right now is the Guide to Literary Agents (GLA) blog.  They happen to be running a contest for contemporary middle grade fiction right now and if you are writing in that genre, you should definitely check it out!

Also, if you are at the query stage and you want to learn more about what agents are looking for, GLA is a great resource.  I happen to be looking for an agent for my middle grade book Trouble with Triangles so wish me luck!



Cheap Family “Adjacent” Vacation: Weekend Getaways Don’t Need to be Fancy

glynn424 / Pixabay

It’s time to take a much needed break from this seemingly endless winter.  When I think about a vacation, I usually envision a sunny destination, beach, pool, a stack of new books to read and waitresses who bring me drinks.  While I might need/want that type of vacation, I think it bears reminding our kids don’t need a “fancy” vacation to have fun or be happy.   So if you can’t afford or don’t have time to go on that “fancy” vacation this year, there are other alternatives your kids will love!  I personally like the idea of a “staycation” and taking day sightseeing trips.  BUT, as the term implies, the staycation means staying at home.   For kids, staying at home ≠vacation.

So, let me tell you how you can plan an awesome weekend getaway that kids will love for under $100I’ll call it the Adjacent Vacation because you won’t go far away and your kids will have just as much fun as any fancy family vacation.  Remember, in order to qualify as a fun kids vacation, the following must occur:

1.  Packing of the Suitcase:  The ritual Packing of the Suitcase is a necessary component to any vacation.  They can start packing days in advance to prolong the excitement.  Parenting Advice #1:  Pick your battles and just pretend you don’t see the massive quantities of useless items included in your kids suitcase (because your son may just want to play with that Star Wars action figure that he hasn’t played with for years).

2.  A Road Trip:  No one ever said you had to drive far for a vacation but I would suggest that you drive at least 45 minutes so it feels like you are going to a “destination.”  Play car trip games like I Spy and spotting “landmarks” (it doesn’t have to be famous to be a landmark, it can be a church, a train station, even a funny looking sign), just point things out to make your kids feel like they are going somewhere.

3.  Hotel Stay with a Pool: Sleeping in a hotel WITH A POOL qualifies as a vacation in any kid’s eyes.  As parents we might be a tad bit jaded and “over” the hotel with a pool but you’re kids aren’t…far from it.  Bonus points if you can score a hotel with a game room and hot tub for when you can’t stand the “heated” pool for another minute (heated means two different things to kids and adults).  Don’t forget the noodles, beach balls and  pool toys!!  And, I haven’t forgotten about the adults, make sure to bring along a new book to read, beverage cooler, and plastic cups for bringing your own drinks!

Search for hotels within a 50 miles radius of your house.  There are bound to be a few to choose from and make sure you check for promo codes on sites like RetailMeNot or Coupons to help you save even more.  I just booked a stay at La Quinta outside Providence, Rhode Island that advertised for $79 on Orbitz but got it down to $67 a night just by getting a promo code and booking directly at the hotel website!  Yes, that is $67 a night for a nice updated hotel room with pool and breakfast for four people! Are you starting to like the idea of my Adjacent Vacation?  

4.  Breakfast at the Hotel:  What kid doesn’t want to make their own waffle, pick from a myriad of sugar cereal choices, try every muffin, donut, and pastry.  Parenting Advice #2:  Let your kids go wild.  Breakfast at a hotel=food freedom.  If they want to mix apple, cranberry and orange juice together, let them.  If they want to try peanut butter and scrambled eggs together let them experiment!

5.  Snacks, Treats and Other Goodies:   For a kid, nothing beats a hotel fridge and counter stocked with their favorite treats!  They get to salivate over them all weekend long.  And who doesn’t love a mini fridge? Let the kids pick the treats beforehand and stock the fridge when you arrive. Adults that fridge isn’t just limited to kids beverages!

6.  Board Games, Cards Games and other Non-Electronic Games:  Last but not least, I get to the fundamental thing required for making a memorable family Adjacent Vacation.  What do kids want more than anything else….YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION! Figure out some fun family games to play together or use some of your budget for new board or card games.  Leave the electronics at home!

Let’s see how the Adjacent Vacation budget stacks up:

One night accommodation with breakfast:  $67

Pizza or Subs for dinner:  $20-25

Snacks, etc:  $8-15

TOTAL:  $95-107

So, what are you waiting for, get going!!


No Comments »

When Your Kid’s Friend Drops the “F” Bomb in a Homemade Birthday Card

cussing-7Parenting conundrum of the week.  It was my son’s birthday party last week.  He just turned 9 and we went to see the Lego Movie which, by the way, was completely awesome and a must see for kids and parents alike.  LOVED IT.  All of the kids gave him homemade birthday cards that were, for the most part, so precious.  The themes of the cards were all the things my son loves–Legos, Minecraft, video games.  

BUT one kid who I will give an “A” to for effort for including a comic style birthday card complete with the talking bubbles.  He gets an “F” (literally and figuratively) for his use of profanity.  One of the comic characters tells the other “F*** You.”  My jaw dropped and I yanked the card out of my son’s hand, hoping he hadn’t seen it.  Though, I’m pretty sure he saw it because he reads as fast as I do.  Which now leads to the conundrums:

1. Do I talk to my son about it ?  Meaning do I draw attention to it because I certainly don’t want him getting any ideas despite my good intentions.  I don’t know about the rest of you but sometimes my “heart to hearts” backfire on me by putting ideas into my son’s head that weren’t there before.

2.  Do I say something to the other mom?  I don’t want to come across as judgmental and I know she will be MORTIFIED.

What to do, what to do?

No Comments »

Top 15 Children’s Books You Will WANT to Read to Your Kids Again and Again

Family reading.

Children’s books (especially baby books) we love em, we hate em.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration, we don’t really hate them, we just hate them if they’re boring to read.  We’ve all been there as parents.  The bedtime ritual, already brutal when you account for the whole teeth brushing requirement, gets even more tortuous when your little cherub wants you to read the same boring book night after night.  Shoot me now, the little voice in your head says.  Or, maybe you do rock, paper, scissors with your better half or make promises you know you won’t keep to get out of reading that book.

If push comes to shove, you dial it in, a monotone voice replaces the funny voices you managed when the book was still fresh, your mind on that episode of the Bachelorette or Walking Dead the DVR is recording.

I’ve wanted to do a blog post about great read-aloud kids books that adults will love too for awhile now.  The problem is narrowing it down.  I’m sure I forgot some gems (and that’s where the comment section is awesome for people to chime right in) or included some that you think don’t belong on this list.  Reading is like eating, you like what you like and no one can convince me that lima beans taste good (unless that person also likes to eat chalk then they’ve got bigger problems).

Without further adieu, here is my bulletproof list of bedtime books that is guaranteed* (standard exclusions apply) to NOT put you to sleep and will engage you night, after night, after night, after night…..forever, and ever Amen.  Sorry, got carried away there.      

Baby/Toddler Board Books  In this category engaging books are hard to find but I think these two are gems.

big red barn1.      Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown  My all time favorite bedtime book.  I could still read it to my kids if they’d let me.  The illustrations are so captivating as is the story about life for the animals on a farm and how they go to sleep at night.  Truly a special book.




2.     The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton A great book about bedtime routines.  If you do all the actions like brushing your teeth, exercise and rock to sleep it makes it fun and engaging for both you and your child.


Toddler Picture Books

246883.     Cars, Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry  You may be thinking we have plenty of Richard Scarry books at home we don’t need another one.  Let’s me explain something.  This is the ONLY Richard Scarry book you need (I’m not kidding!).  It’s that good!  The best part is finding “Goldbug” a little gold bug hidden on every page.  The adults will love looking at the hundreds of details that are packed into each and every page.  It will take MONTHS before you exhaust this book.


 knuffle bunny4.     Knuffle Bunny (and to a lesser extent Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free) by Mo Williams  Who doesn’t love a story about a child and their beloved stuffed animal.  After a trip to the laundromat, Knuffle Bunny gets left behind but Trixie can’t talk yet so she does all kinds of things (my favorite being “She went boneless”) to try to get her daddy to understand.


1911135.     Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus also by Mo Williams  A raucous read that will have your kids screaming (maybe not such a good thing but I still maintain that it’s better than boring any day!) “NO” as the pigeon begs to drive the bus.



7121006.     Five Little Monkeys Wash the Car by Eileen Christelow  There is a cadence to this book and once you find it, you will LOVE reading it to your kids.  Play around with it, you know you can do a great crocodile voice.



Best Books for Girls  (please pretty please with sugar on top don’t go all p.c. on me for calling something a “girl” or “boy” book.  I’ve found, in my humble opinion, that the following appeal more to my daughter than my son, enough said)


7.     Ladybug Girl by David Soman (also Ladybug Girl at the Beach and Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, I can’t really pick my favorite, I love them all for different reasons)  Lulu has her fears and insecurities but when she becomes LADYBUG GIRL she can do anything.  I love this empowering tale for girls about overcoming your fears.


4266268.     Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O’Connor (a close second would be Fabulous Fashion Boutique)  We are a Fancy Nancy family but this one is by far my favorite.  Nancy thinks she wants one kind of dog but discover that maybe the “fanciest” dog is not right for her family.  This is Nancy at her very best!


Best Books for Boys  (see above)

8390779.     Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and Helen Oxenbury  This hilarious book where the pig is the bad guy will have your little boy grinning, especially when the TNT  comes out to blow up the wolves fortress.


Or on the same theme…

125507The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith  Hilarious story from the wolves’ point of view.




99937610.  Fix it Duck by Jez Alborough  All of the “Duck” books are great but this one has to be my favorite.  A great rhyming book that is so fun to read.  There’s a leak in the roof (or so Duck thinks) and he’s going to fix it.  But nothing good can come from Duck trying to fix things.  It’s a great read again and again.


Great Books for Big and Little Alike (ages 4+)

 14532511.  Take Me Out of the Bathtub (and other silly dilly songs) by Alan Katz (the follow up book I’m Still Here in the Bathtub is equally good if not a little better!)  Time to get silly.   This book takes your favorite songs like Take Me Out to the Ballgame  or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and sets silly songs to those tunes.  Your kids won’t care if your singing voice isn’t quite up to par.


29143012.  Magic Hat by Mem Fox (Sleepy Bears is a close second for me): This author has written so many great books and it’s hard to choose just one but this one stands out from the rest.  A magic hat floats through town and makes magic wherever it lands.  The illustrations are engaging and the story will captivate both adult and child.


7413013.  Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Book by Lauren Child  I’m not a fan of the Charlie and Lola books (sorry!) but this one is a gem!  When Herb falls asleep on a book of fairy tales he finds himself trapped.  As soon as he finds himself out of one story, he gets trapped in the next.



105115314.  Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman A listen to the audio reading of this book is almost a must to get the voices just right of the witch, mummy, ghost, vampire, and bat but I have faith that you will nail them without the help.  Once you do, you will love reading this book over and over no matter what the time of year.



40742915.  The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka (I love this author and luckily he’s prolific and writes for many age levels.  My 9 year old loves the Time Warp Trio series right now). As I wrap up this list, I see some themes running through it, humor and a heavy emphasis on fairy tales and when the two combine as this author does so well,it’s pure magic.



1 Comment »

Has Downton Jumped the Shark?


Photo:  Carnival Films

Photo: Carnival Films

I’m coming to the conclusion that Downton Abbey has either jumped the shark (if you don’t know what that means Google it) or gone Hollywood and I don’t know which one is worse.  You would think that Lord Julian Fellowes (writer, creator and actual peer in the House of Lords) would have a bit more mettle and could resist the urge to go all Dallas on us.  It’s PBS for pete’s sake!  But after watching last week’s episode,  I am baffled, befuddled and profoundly disappointed (yes, a trifecta of words was required here to adequately articulate my feelings in this matter).    I cannot speak to last night’s episode as it remains on the DVR while I sort out my feelings about last week’s episode. [Spoiler alert:  If you are still catching up on Netflix read no further or major plot points of this season and seasons prior will be revealed].

Clearly Lord Fellowes has never had any issues with “killing his darlings” –first, Sybil and then beloved Matthew from last season.  Though I can forgive him Matthew.  Based on my limited research (assuming it’s correct),  Matthew’s exit resulted more from the actor’s desire to get out than by any contrived plot device.  But last Sunday’s episode and what happened to Anna went BEYOND THE PALE, well and truly beyond.

For those of you that saw it, or those of you that aren’t following Downton but are curious what got me all in a dither, Anna (beloved and pure as the driven snow Anna) was brutally assaulted (physically and sexually) downstairs by a visiting servant while everyone else was upstairs listening to an opera singer.   What’s Lord Fellowes going to do next?  Have Mrs. Patmore’s evil twin show up and wreak havoc on the kitchen?   My point is that this “twist” “turn” or whatever you want to call it was utterly and completely unnecessary and felt like a contrived Hollywood plot device.

Is this the first of such grievous offenses?  No, I must admit it is not.  Lord Fellowes tiptoed there before when he had Mr. Bates framed for murdering his estranged wife and then the subsequent convoluted exoneration.  Felt a little too Days of our Lives for me (or for the British contingent, a little too Eastenders), but I let that one go.  But now, Lord Fellowes seems to be drinking the Hollywood kool-aid and can’t seem to get enough.   I know these are harsh words but I hope he takes them in the meaning in which they are intended or to put it bluntly – SHAME ON YOU!

Downton Abbey is not a show that needs crazy plot twists to keep us DDs (Downton Devotees) interested.  I hope I speak for other DDs when I say that we care more about the characters and their daily lives than the overall plot.  I, for one, enjoy, week after week, being immersed in 1920s England and the life of a Lord and his manor.   The first three seasons were pure bliss, and for someone who has never met a period drama on PBS she didn’t like, my needs were fulfilled.   But now, I wonder whether I can go back to Lord Grantham, lady Mary and the absolutely wonderful Dowager Countess of Grantham (played to perfection by the actress Maggie Smith)?

He may have jumped the shark or gone Hollywood but maybe it’s not too late.  Go back to your roots Lord Fellowes.  You have drawn such beautiful and rich characters there is no reason to take any page from the soap opera playbook.  How about it DDs, do you agree?

No Comments »