Sunday, August 16, 2015

Usborne Books and More!

As a children's librarian at a public library, I see a LOT of books.  Some are fun. Some are educational.  And some are both!  I recently discovered Usborne Books and hosted a home party.  I was so impressed that I signed up as a consultant so I could get more free books.  My boys love them.  They'll be my new go-to gift for kids.  Usborne is a publisher that began in England, and the books are sold in the U.S. mostly through direct sales (remember how DK books used to be sold only at home parties?).  Click here if you want to learn more about the 2014 Children's Publisher of the Year!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: Anchored by Kayla Aimee

Anchored: Finding Hope in the UnexpectedAnchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected by Kayla Aimee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a beautiful read that brought me some much-needed catharsis; my preemie is 3 now but there are a lot of thoughts and feelings I haven't yet processed from the traumatic birth and NICU experience. I so appreciated Kayla's honesty about her experiences and her faith struggles and when I finished the book I wished I could chat with her over a mocha. I would recommend this to preemie parents especially, but really to any parent who has ever realized how little control we have when it comes to our children's health and safety.

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an e-galley for review.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Author Interview with Jewell Parker Rhodes

I've been reviewing books for School Library Journal for several years now, and the last book I reviewed was Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  I enjoyed it very much, and SLJ published my review with a star.  Then my editor asked me if I would like to do an interview with the author, and I was thrilled at the chance.  Ms. Rhodes was lovely to work with, and if you'd like to see the interview, it's here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Two Rave Reviews

I love NetGalley. When I saw that they were offering advanced e-copies of new middle-grade novels from two of my favorite (Newbery-winning) authors, Louis Sachar and Rebecca Stead, I jumped at the chance to read them.  I was not disappointed.  Sachar's Fuzzy Mud is a page-turner about a man-made environmental disaster and personal responsibility.  Stead's Goodbye Stranger explores the connections between friends and family and the challenges of growing up, and even tackles "sexting" in an age-appropriate way.  Fuzzy Mud will appeal to both girls and boys; Goodbye Stranger will mostly appeal to girls.

For more reading suggestions, check out my book reviews on Goodreads!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Favorite Sunday Slow Cooker Recipe

This is my favorite throw-in-the-slow-cooker-before-church meal because it's super easy, yummy, and is one of the rare meals to have earned the approval of my picky preschooler.  (He will not eat beef in any other form.)  I adapted it from this recipe at Menus4Moms to make it even easier (frozen peppers and onions!) and a little broth-ier, and to use mostly Trader Joe's ingredients.

Slow Cooker Mexican Meatball Soup, Trader Joe's edition

1 bag Trader Joe's Party-Size Meatballs (frozen)
1/2 bag Trader Joe's Grilled Peppers and Onions blend (frozen)
2 t. Trader Joe's jarred garlic
1 container Trader Joe's beef broth (32 oz.)
1 16-oz. jar salsa (your choice, but we like mild)
1 T chili powder (or less, if you prefer less spicy)
1/4 t. ground cumin
1 c. Trader Joe's Orecchiette (or other small pasta)

Combine first seven ingredients in slow cooker.  Give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours.  Toss in pasta for the last hour of cooking, or cook separately and toss in right before serving. Depending on your slow cooker, you may want to add a cup or two of water towards the end.

Garnish with sour cream or plain yogurt and shredded cheese.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Brief YA Review: Like No Other

Like No OtherLike No Other by Una LaMarche
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when two teens from very different backgrounds fall in love? Thankfully, this is no Romeo and Juliet, but it is realistic and satisfying, even if there can be no happily-ever-after.

Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley for review through NetGalley.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Experience with Essential Oils

Disclaimer: I do not sell essential oils.  I do not have any sort of financial affiliation with any of the resources I am going to mention.  And I truly don't want to offend anyone I know who sells essential oils, since they are honest and lovely people, but here goes...

Suddenly, essential oils are everywhere -- in my Facebook news feed, taking over blogs I follow...maybe you've noticed it too?  Maybe you are a little "crunchy" like I am (using cloth diapers, trying to eat whole foods) and you're intrigued by the thought of using something all-natural to treat ailments or clean your home. Well, that was me.  And my first introduction to essential oils was through the two big MLM (multi-level marketing -- think Avon or Thirty-One) companies, who shall remain nameless.  When I saw the prices, I balked.  With a husband who has been unemployed or under-employed for over a year now, just trying a few oils seemed like a huge investment I couldn't afford. But I thought I could at least do some research (hey, I'm a librarian) for the far-off day when I might be able to.

And boy, did I learn a lot.

First of all, I learned that the prices being charged by the MLM companies aren't necessarily an indication of quality, but are higher most likely because a lot of people are getting a portion of the price of every oil sold. (For more on these quality claims, see this article from Granola Living.)  I also learned that some of these companies were promoting irresponsible uses of oils (i.e., applying them undiluted or taking them internally without being supervised by an aromatherapist).  I joined a few Facebook groups to learn more; one woman claimed she had esophageal damage from drinking water with a few drops of lemon essential oil in it for several weeks at the recommendation of her sales consultant.

I also joined a group sponsored by an MLM comapny to learn more and saw firsthand that unsafe recommendations are being made.  I also found out that the page is policed and censored.  I had a few comments deleted.  One was just a link to a different company that sells essential oils; someone asked for where to buy supplies for mixing up your own oils, since this particular MLM company doesn't sell them, and I posted a direct link to the page where these items are sold -- not the oils themselves, mind you, just the supplies, on Plant Therapy. Another resource I shared (not a commercial one) that was a reminder of some essential oils that aren't safe to use with children was deleted as well.

Which brings me to the company I have ordered a few oils from: Plant Therapy.  Direct sales (i.e., much lower prices), high quality, and free shipping, as well as certified aromatherapists on staff (who answer questions in their Facebook group, Plant Therapy: Safe Essential Oil Recipes). The Calming the Child synergy is a miracle in a roll-on bottle for helping my little guys go to sleep at night, and I've been happy with all of the other products I've gotten from them so far -- I was able to order quite a few when they were having their Christmas in July sales.  What has most impressed me so far is their new line of "KidSafe" essential oil blends, which were developed in collaboration with Robert Tisserand, who literally wrote the book on Essential Oils Safety.

My conclusion: essential oils can be helpful for a lot of things, but they're not meant to be a cure-all. The oils I've found most helpful deal with emotions, like anxiety or depression, and are very effective when inhaled. They also don't have to cost a fortune. I don't have any sort of arrangement with Plant Therapy, but I have learned from my research that there are lots of non-MLM companies that sell high-quality essential oils, and usually at much lower prices, Plant Therapy among them.  So if you're interested, shop around like I did!  And if you want to do more research for yourself, I'm leaving you with a list of the best online resources I found for educating yourself on essential oils, including a free online class from the Aromahead Institute.

Learning About EOs (a website by a certified clinical aromatherapist)
Using Essential Oils Safely Facebook group
Plant Therapy: Safe Essential Oil Recipes Facebook Group
Robert Tisserand
Aromatherapy 101 -- free class from Aromahead Institute

And where I've purchased from:
Plant Therapy