Summer is the perfect season for cold brew coffee. This is a popular drink offered at coffee shops, but that is easy to make at home for a fraction of the price.
We have been making the most of our precious summer so far. Experiencing fishing and walleye dinners, swimming and waterskiing. We have also found opportunity to notice June treasures, such as blooming lady slippers and green blueberries.
Life as a mom of four kids is always busy. But now that my children have all passed through the infant and toddler years. I seem to have a little more room in my mama brain for things that require more mental capacity.
I enjoy reading, listening to audio books and reading to my children. As a teacher and mother, I spend quite a lot of time reading to children. I love sharing stories with children and the genre of children’s literature overall, but I’m also drawn to literature that’s written specifically to grownups.
I particularly appreciate illustrated cookbooks and other inspirational project books when I’m looking for new recipes and ideas. I make an effort to cycle through parenting books for ideas, information and research. I also like to revel in a good novel, travel essay or personal memoir that can give me a little escape from my day-to-day life, even if it is in my imagination.
Summer can be an opportune time to pick up a book and catch up on some reading. Here are some books that I am reading or that I’ve recently enjoyed that you may want to put on your book list this summer:
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America's last true frontier.
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents' passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights' lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt's fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in 18 hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: They are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska - a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night audiobook about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.
This was a captivating Alaskan story.
Why does my voice crack like that? What should I eat to build muscle? What do I do if someone calls me names or bullies me?
Following her New York Times bestseller Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular, star of The Big Bang Theory Mayim Bialik turns her attention to teen boys in a new book about the science, pressures and pitfalls of growing up male in today’s world.
Boying Up: How to be Brave, Bold and Brilliant sees Bialik use scientific information from her life as a neuroscientist, along with personal anecdotes as a mother of two boys, to explain what it means to grow from a boy to a man biologically, psychologically, and sociologically.
Yup, I'm here folks...
Two great spiritual masters share their own hard-won wisdom about living with joy even in the face of adversity.
The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together in Dharamsala for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet.
From the beginning the book was envisioned as a three-layer birthday cake: their own stories and teachings about joy, the most recent findings in the science of deep happiness, and the daily practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives. Both the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu have been tested by great personal and national adversity, and here they share their personal stories of struggle and renewal. Now that they are both in their 80s, they especially want to spread the core message that to have joy yourself, you must bring joy to others.
Most of all, during that landmark week in Dharamsala, they demonstrated by their own exuberance, compassion, and humor how joy can be transformed from a fleeting emotion into an enduring way of life.
I listened to this audiobook through audible and also purchased and read a print version. It is that good.
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.
This story is about as crazy as it gets. It is a story about family, resilience and one woman's journey finding her own way.
Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she's worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancé, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there's her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there's Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won't let her give in to her pity and who sees her like no one has seen her before.
Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.
This is a good story, a good summer beach read.
What is on your bookshelf?
*book descriptions in italics are pulled from amazon.com
**this post contains affiliate links
Easy Veggies and Fruits You Can Have Your Kids Grow - a Guest Post by Kylie editor of Green & Growing
Today I am happy to share a guest post by Kylie, editor at Green & Growing.
Although growing plants require some time and work, there are several types that are great for children to grow with the help of their parents. Not only does growing garden plants teach children responsibility, but they get to enjoy and eat their crop after all of their dedication and hard work!
Tomato plants are a great starter plant for kids. They are hearty and grow just about everywhere. While it may be tempting to buy seeds for tomato plants, if you're just starting out with a garden and are new to gardening, purchasing a small, but healthy tomato plant from a nursery might be the way to go. These are great for kids because tomato plants grow quickly, and the wait time for vegetable production is very short. If you get a plant with small tomatoes already on the wine, within weeks, you child will have ripe tomatoes. Be sure to plant your tomato plant during the warm season (above 75 degree F), plant in full sun, and keep your tomato plant watered daily for best results. Your children can grow most tomato plants in pots as well, as long as the pots are big enough to accommodate your growing plant.
If your child is interested in growing plants from seeds, cucumbers are relatively easy to plant and if properly cared for, they will grow very quickly -- within a week. Children love to watch their seeds pop out of the ground, and the quick turnaround time keeps them interested. Cucumber seeds can be purchased from any nursery or home improvement store and you'll want to pick up a small planter and some potting soil to start your seeds. Have your child lay the seeds on top of potting soil in the planter, and put a very light layer of soil on top of the seeds. Partial shade is best for growing seedlings like cucumbers, and the seedlings need to be lightly watered daily. Soon you'll have plants that your children can transplant to your garden. For best results, your child should transplant the cucumbers when they're 3" tall in full sun and space the plants at least 6" apart. These plants are vines that need room to grow on the ground, so keep that in mind when helping your child prepare the garden.
Strawberry plants are easy to grow and fun for kids because of their small size and the ability to grow these fruits in pots, unlike some fruit trees that take years to produce and require a large yard or farm. If your child is eager for strawberries this year, it's best to buy plants from a nursery instead of planting seeds, since strawberry seeds take several seasons to grow into mature plants. These plants prefer full sun, lots of water, and should be spaced at least 18" apart if you're planting them in a garden. These sweet little fruits are not only fun for kids to grow, but are also delicious and have so many uses -- smoothies, cobblers, strawberry shortcake, juice, and more. Your child will enjoy making delicious recipes all summer long!
While watermelon plants are a little more advanced, they're still a fun choice for kids to grow fruit. These plants love fertilizer, so making your own compost or buying fruit plant fertilizer is a essential. These plants cannot grow to maturity in a planters or bucket, and transplanting will be necessary. You'll want to grow this plant in full sun, keep it fertilized, keep it watered daily, and make sure there is enough space in between each plant since they are vines and grow on the ground. One good tip is to tell your child to cover the vines with soil, as this will encourage extra growth. Watermelon plants take a bit longer to produce a mature fruit than some other fast-growing fruits and vegetables -- approximately 80-90 days if you buy a small plant. These are good plants to teach your child patience and develop skills to care for higher maintenance plants. Starting a compost with your child for your watermelon plants is an added bonus.
Kylie is the editor at Green & Growing. She enjoy the outdoors, especially when she can go on a fun hike or adventure. She likes to focus on the perks green living. She feels it is so important to take care of our earth and hope to spread more awareness as she edits and writes.
It's June in my zone 3 garden!
Here's what I have growing this year:
Herbs: chives, oregano, parsley, dill, cilantro.
Salsa fixings: tomatoes & peppers
Fruits: grapes and raspberries
Root Veggies: beets and carrots
Gourds: pie pumpkins and pickling cucumbers
I am keeping things pretty simple. I am planting and maintaining only what we eat and use. Some things, like beans, I find best to pick up at our local farmers market when I am ready to put up some dilly beans. I have found black plastic fabric has been a great solution to weed control as well.
If you are gardening I hope you are off to a good start as well! Swing by tomorrow for a garden themed guest post by Kylie the editor at Green & Growing.
Our family has just returned from a family adventure out west. As soon as school was out we loaded up our camper trailer and went on the road, following the path of a route that we has planned over our long winter.
Our travels took us to the following places:
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, South Dakota
Medicine Rocks State Park, Montana
Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Mount Rushmore National Monument, South Dakota
Custer State Park, South Dakota
Wind Caves National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
This was an amazing family adventure!
*We saved a lot of money this year with the National Park Service Every Kid in a Park Fourth Grade Pass. Our fourth grader was at the perfect age for this trip and was really able to take a lot in from the learning associated with our adventures at the Visitor Centers and programming. Throughout our trip our kids participated and extended their experiences with the Junior Ranger activities at the National Parks we visited as well. I highly recommend taking advantage of these opportunities if you are planning travels to U.S. National Parks.
**If you have any questions about our trip, post them in the comments, I will do my best to respond.
Find the online link to my article ---> HERE.
If you like what you see, social media 'shares' are appreciated!
As always - thanks for reading!
This past weekend we had the opportunity to beat the heat and spend time lakeside at my parent's island home in Crane Lake, MN. We spent time fishing, swimming and relaxing - it was a wonderful prelude to summer.
Considering that we still had ice on the lakes on May 3, and we were on skis for our first big snowfall on November 12, summer is well-deserved. I am calculating that out as 22 weeks of winter and about 3 weeks of "spring" this year!
The kids and I are now heading off to our last day of school, summer vacation will officially start tomorrow. I am ready to make the most of this season!
Sunday morning I was inspired to go on a trail run. It was a beautiful morning, so I kicked my butt in gear and took to the woods for a vigorous 6-mile hilly woods trail - and I did it! It felt super great to accomplish this and I think I am going to try to do it again! I have high hopes of possibly making this run every week or so in my training for a fall half-marathon.
Accompanying me on the trail was my trusty canine companion and a good audiobook that. I am currently listening to How to Walk Away by Katherine Center.
Later in the day, I went fishing with two of my boys in the canoe and dropped, and lost, my phone in the lake. I am going to have to wait a bit until I can get set back up for my electronic extracurriculars, such as audible and Instagram, but, I know I will survive (although I want to know what will happen next in the story!)
Have a great week!
If you haven't already - be sure to check out my interview/giveaway post with Kira Willey. Enter for your chance to win her new album and/or help me spread the word about this opportunity.
In my role as a writer, I have found opportunities to make unique connections with people from all over the world. This is a gift that connectivity through the internet has given us in the 21st century, which I have leaned into, both in my personal and professional life.
Over the years, I have shared many of my conversations with other writers in my author interview posts. I enjoy this avenue of learning about and from others. I also enjoy the creative process of asking questions and turning my conversations into a post to share with hope to inspire others as well.
I recently had an opportunity to share a conversation with Kira Willey. Kira is an award-winning children’s music artist, kids’ yoga expert, and creator of Rockin’ Yoga school programs. Her most recent release is Mindful Moments for Kids, winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.
1) Kira, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where do you live? Tell us about your family & your interests.
I live in eastern Pennsylvania, with my husband and three kids. We have one in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school, so there’s never a dull moment around here! The whole family is really active, with interests ranging from soccer, biking, and karate to music and cooking. We also have a big extended family that’s spread out all over the US, so we love traveling to visit cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
2) I have been both inspired and entertained by your work. I use your Mindful Moments for Kids CD frequently in my kindergarten classroom. Share with my readers how you share your talents to engage children with movement, music, and mindfulness with children.
I learned a long time ago in my first teaching job that the magical combination of music and movement is a way to completely captivate kids—it just naturally engages all of their senses. So I thought writing upbeat songs with positive, kid-friendly messages which are designed to get kids moving would be a hit with parents and virtually anyone who works with children.
As for mindfulness, I love sharing how simple and fun it can be with children. Parents and teachers are generally amazed when they see how easy it is, and how beneficial. It doesn’t have to be a “thing,” if you know what I mean—no need for a special cushion, candles, or incense—you truly don’t need any special training. The key elements are to keep it short, kid-friendly, and consistent, and the products I’ve created are resources for anyone to do just that.
The critical social-emotional skills of self-awareness and self-regulation aren’t typically taught in our public schools, and in my opinion, they are essential learning for kids. But mindfulness is an excellent way to teach these skills, and I hope to get the message across that we can all practice it, in however small a way, with the children in our lives.
3) Please highlight some of the projects you are involved with and some of the products you have created.
I’ve created three albums of yoga songs (Dance for the Sun, Kings & Queens of the Forest, and How to be a Cloud) which are used all over the world to help teach yoga-based movement to children. I’ve also released Mindful Moments for Kids, which is a collection of simple, totally kid-friendly mindfulness exercises that I narrate, to a musical backdrop of my original songs. This one became the basis for my children’s mindfulness book, “Breathe Like a Bear,” (December 2017, Penguin Random House). I’ve gotten wonderful feedback from parents and teachers on it, and I’ve just learned it’s also going to be published in Spain, Italy, China, Israel, and Korea! I’m really happy to have another vehicle for getting my message out there.
“The Magic of Music” is a training I created for teachers and anyone who works with young kids, showing them how to bring music, rhythm and song into whatever they do, because it’s such an effective way to capture and keep kids’ attention, and can help them create structure in their classes, calm and focus their kids, and ease transitions. I love this training and hope to do lots more of it going forward.
It’s been super fun collaborating with my friend, kids’ music superstar Laurie Berkner. We created some interstitial programming for Sirius XM Radio, “Music You Can Move To,” which they air regularly, and we’ve also performed together a handful of times. I sang on her last record, guest starred in her “Open Your Heart” video, and she sings on one of the songs (“Dream It Up”) on my upcoming album.
One of the recent projects I’m most proud of is my TEDx talk, “Bite-Sized Mindfulness,” where I show how simple, powerful mindfulness with children can be a powerful tool to help them learn how to focus, calm themselves down, and regulate their behavior and emotions. It was a long and challenging process to distill my message down to its most important points, write the talk (and rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it) and then actually deliver it—but it was so worth it!
4) What inspires you most about your work?
When I hear from a mother that a song of mine connected with her non-verbal son who’s on the autism spectrum, or from a teacher that using Mindful Moments for Kids has helped her settle her kids for math class, or from an occupational therapist who writes to say that using my songs keeps her patients engaged in the important exercises she needs them to do—those are the inspiring moments. Also, the hugs and high fives I get from lots and lots of kids, all over!
5) What’s next for you?
I have a new album, “Every Voice,” due for release on June 15. This CD represents a bit of a new direction for me—these are not songs written specifically for kids’ yoga-based movement, but the positive, mindful messages are still there, this time in songs that are a bit more pop-sounding and radio-friendly than what my fans have heard before—I hope families will rock out together to these songs!
6) Anything else?
That’s plenty for me! I have to go cook dinner now.
Thank you, Kira, for this fun and inspirational conversation!
Post a comment on this post by 5/30/18 8:00 a.m. CST and you'll be entered for a chance to win a copy of Kira's new album!