TIL Tuesday: Things In My Mailbox Edition

I haven’t done a TIL Tuesday (Things I Love Tuesday) post in awhile – and that’s a shame because it’s probably way more fun than reading about all of the things that are currently freaking me out or me griping about the weather. I’ve gotten some fun stuff in my mailbox lately so let me tell you a few things that I’ve gotten that I adore.

Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique – Protect
This came in January’s Birchbox. Birchbox remains one of my random splurges these days – my house may be freezing but I’ll spend ten bucks a month to get a box of fun things in the mail. The Keratase is an awesome heat protecting styling product that does some awesome mojo when I straighten my hair (it makes no discernible difference when heat styling products aren’t used – at least for me). But I’ve used this twice now when straightening my hair and the end result is softer and shinier hair with less frizz. It also makes the ends look healthier. So full of win.

Actually, I love Birchbox in general. While I don’t love every product (perfume samples? Mehhhhhh…), I do love the fun of opening each month and trying things I wouldn’t try otherwise. I’ve found some amazing things that someday I’ll actually purchase. Probably.

When My Baby Dreams of Fairy Tales

I remember seeing the blog – the mom who made these amazing scenes every afternoon while her baby girl was napping. I know neither of my daughters would have ever slept through that, but the blog was lovely and now the images have been made into a book. I received a review copy today. My daughters love it, the photographs are lovely and I think it will make an excellent baby shower gift.

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Secret Admirer

I know this may seem ridiculous but I am kinda glad to see they have Fancy Nancy growing up a little for her readers that are getting better at reading. It was one of my favorite series for Pumpkin and I was bummed to see her outgrow the series. Now we can hang on to this fun series a little longer.

The Awesome Book is Awesome.

I may just be a little bit in love with Dallas Clayton right now. Can I say that? Because even though I had no idea who he was before I received this book, I really kind of loved this book. Hard. And not only did I love this book, but my daughters did as well. If you can please all three of us picky-cranky-curmudgeonly reviewers, well, then you’ve got yourself a winner.

I guess I am the ideal target for books like this. Not only do I love children’s books, I love children’s books that encourage our children to dream, reach, achieve and to let them think all of the magical things in the world could be so.

There are places in the world where people do not dream of rocket-powered unicorns…

And so begins “An Awesome Book!” with it’s vivid and engaging illustrations and the far-reaching, creative and outrageously and gloriously imaginative prose.

One afternoon, I arrived home and this book was there. The Princess and I opened the front cover and immediately began reading it aloud and in unison as our eyes slowly took in the bursts of color on each page and we recited the lines, these fantastical lines (“of magic watermelon boats and musical babboons…”). We’d smile at these thoughts, these silly thoughts.

You see, the thing is, I’m a creative person. Being creative is both a wonderful and terrifying thing – and when I read these words, these words about dreaming big and how your dreams can change the way things are and the way that things are not – on a parental level and on just a “human being in the world” level, I think it hits in the same place. I want my kids to be dreamers, to reach beyond what they can see and to strive for that which may seem impossible.

But then.

I should too.

This is why children’s literature never stops being exciting for me – because the same basic lessons I hope my children absorb from it, those lessons are sinking in my own noggin as well.

This morning, I pulled the book out and set it on the counter so I would remember to write this review today. Pumpkin woke up and with an arm full of stuffed animals, silently turned through the pages reading the words to herself. I watched her – how her lips curled up in a smile at the delightful illustrations and silly copy – I watched my girl reading (silently! Finally, silent reading!) and enjoying herself, unprompted. Reading as in, “Here is a book that looks good to me, I think I’ll open it up to see what’s inside.”

I. Love. That.

On the back of this book, Dallas Clayton listed the appropriate reader age as 0-1000. I’m not gonna disagree. This may be a children’s book but it’s found a new home on my bookshelf.

So, if you like books that make you happy, that are encouraging and that work whether your a toddler in diapers or a great-grandparent in diapers… you should definitely check this one out.


I wasn’t paid to write this review but did receive  a copy of this book in the mail, outta-the-blue, free. I loved it and felt compelled to share.

Plant a Kiss – A little bit of love in a storybook.

It goes like this.
Little Miss planted a kiss.
Planted a kiss?
Planted a kiss.

And so begins “Plant A Kiss”,  the latest children’s story book written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (@missamykr on Twitter – and author of some of my favorite kids’ books – as well as the beckoner of lovely) and illustrated by Peter Reynolds (You may recognize his style from the Judy Moody series.

Little Miss plants a kiss and she nurtures and cares for that kiss and patiently waits for it to grow.

Like all of Miss Amy’s stories (that’s what we call her in my house – we kind of really love her – a love that was cemented even further when she called The Princess and read a story to her on her birthday a few years ago), this book has much to do with love and kindness and giving – and the simplicity, along with the whimsy of the illustrations, brings such joy to my heart.

It’s a very very sweet story, and one that I’ll love long after my children decide they’re “too old” for it.


I received this book free for review but this post is 100% from the heart and I was not compensated for writing it. I do like my opinions and I’ll give them for free. Especially when books are involved.

So I packed my car and headed east…

…to see Mat Kearney in concert.

A few months ago, the awesome folks at One2One Network sent me a message asking if I’d like to go see Mat Kearney in concert. I think it took me thirty seconds to respond and say, “Um. Yeah. Absolutely.”

I’d seen Mat perform earlier this year in Nashville at Blissdom and loved his set then (including the cover of “Dancing in the Dark” he performed with Michelle Branch – even though I don’t like that song, otherwise).

I loved his set so much that way back when I was still taking guitar lessons (OH I MISS GUITAR LESSONS), I opted to learn “Nothing Left To Lose” one week (okay, like two weeks) because I really love the song.

AND THEN, I had the opportunity to review Mat’s album, Young Love, back in September and I enjoyed it. A lot. “Learning to Love Again” is still my favorite track from that album, by the way.

In addition to giving “Young Love” several rotations on my iPod (rotations? That’s probably not the right word in the digital age), I was familiar with Mat’s popular singles: “Breathe In Breathe Out” , “Closer To Love” and “Nothing Left To Lose” but not so familiar that I was in rabid-fan-singing-every-word mode (don’t get me wrong – I love rabid fan mode. There’s nothing more awesome that seeing a band you love performing live and singing every word and dancing your face off). It was a different experience for me – I usually only invest in concert tickets when I am a rabid fan, and since One2One gave me these tickets (disclaimer: You can give me free tickets, but my opinion is still my own) it was an entirely different concert experience: I love the artist but there were still many unknowns for me.

Mat Kearney is an energetic performer and he kicked off his set with a high energy song. The concert was at the St. Andrews in Detroit – and the standing room only environment meant that I was on a balcony (I thought a lot about my odds of falling through the railing, though clearly I’m an idiot who has issues with heights – and also, more obviously: I did not fall), and when the music started, that hall got LOUD!

I loved the numbers where Mat played the acoustic rather than electric guitar (what? Like you’re surprised?) and at times wished that last night’s set had been a little more stripped down, a la his performance in Nashville when I first saw him.

My favorite part of the set was when, mid-song, Mat wandered into the crowd, singing, giving hugs and high fives to his fans (Not me, though, I wasn’t on the floor. I was too busy clinging to the railing trying to not fall). I’ve only seen one other performer do this (Michael Franti, I’m lookin’ at you) and I really REALLY love when artists do this – it makes people feel connected to get to touch musician sweat and to not feel that there’s some unbridgeable distance. I wonder if it skeeves the singers out, random people touching ’em – but that’s for them to worry about, not me.

I LOVED when he went into the crowd – and they loved it too.

Mat Kearney is an awesome musician – I love his voice and I love his music. Was it the most exciting concert ever? Well… no. I prefer in concerts for the band to knock a new spin on the favorites we already know – when a song that you’ve committed to memory is performed in a completely new way during a live show, it’s an exhilarating experience (Counting Crows are great at this – I’ve never heard them do a song the same way twice, and I’ve seen them live several times now). I wish there had been a little more variation in this performance – a break from hearing the songs the way I’m used to – but, did it make me love him any less?


If every building falls
If every star fades
We’ll still be singing this song
The one they can’t take away…

Finally I don’t have to order pizza from the place that takes three hours to deliver.

Once upon a time, our family ordered pizza from one of the (oh-so-many) pizza places in town and three hours later, our pie still had not arrived. [Sidenote: I hate the term “pie” as it relates to pizza. Or pretty much everything. Pie is the brussels sprouts of the dessert world. Blech.] Three hours. Apparently the place was busy, but y’know… three hours? Really?

Fortunately, there are several other pizza places in town – but sometimes the decision to have pizza for dinner is born of impulse, of laziness – of not wanting to spend $15 or more and wait for dinner. Before Blissdom last year, I received coupons for Freschetta. Before that, I’d never had it. I’m uh, not really a fan of “freezer pizza” (as my kids call it). It’s never filling, the toppings look like dehydrated imitations of real food and the crust – my favorite part of the pizza – always tended to leave me wanting for more. By more, I mean something that resembled FOOD not cardboard.

In Nashville, I consumed muchas Freschetta. I had the opportunity to participate in a focus group, learn more about the brand, the product and try a lot of it too. And you know what? It’s good.

I’m not just talkin’ it’s good… “for freezer pizza”. It’s actually good.

Especially the crust.

Bonus points for the good crust.

Last month, Freschetta sent me another coupon for a free pizza (they also sent me super cute pink headphones – which was awesome because I had just broken YET ANOTHER PAIR of iPhone earbuds – how are those things not better quality? Don’t ask how many pairs I’ve killed – IT’S A LOT).

A four-cheese medley pizza in the oven after a long day of work? Easy. And not just easy, but yummy. And not just yummy but without whining from the kids that it was “yucky” or “didn’t taste good” or “EW! What did you make? WHAT IS THAT IN THERE?” or any of the normal gripes that normally accompany my putting a meal on the table. Gosh, kids, no wonder I hate cooking.

But, Freschetta is a win – the kids love it, I love it – it’s simple and it tastes good. Now that I’m back in the office, having a reliable back up plan for the days when cooking seems like an overwhelming task, well… that’s definitely a good thing.

The only problem? The kids love Freschetta so much they almost never save their crusts for me to eat.


Thursday Ten: And School’s Back In Edition

1. The first week of school for my kiddos is almost over and so far the transition for the kids seems mostly seamless.  Not too much complaining about things – but the amount of paper in the house has quadrupled, it feels like. PAPER EVERYWHERE.

2. There are days when I drink far too much water. Those days – and today was one of those days – I spend hours alternately walking to the kitchen for more ice water, and walking to the restroom because you can’t drink all that water without really having to pee. I’m sorta known for “peecrastination” – getting so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I hold off going until I absolutely can’t stand it anymore. Not today. Why am I telling you all this about pee? I really don’t know. I’m so sorry.

3. Lately, I’ve seen Crazy Stupid Love and Friends With Benefits. Emma Stone was in both of those. She was also in The Help (Which I read and have no desire to see the movie). Why is she in everything? I’m not sure why it even matters to me, but it she’s everywhere these days.

4. The weather outside has cooled down (WHOOHOO!) but the air conditioning at work? Still cranked up. Wore a sweater today. Considered double-bagging myself and putting a sweater over my sweater. I wonder how much money places waste with hyperactive air conditioning?

5. This morning, I couldn’t muster the interest to throw together a lunch for myself, so I picked up lunch in the cafe near my office. Today’s special sounded gross, so I just got a burger. Which was also gross. So gross that I spent all afternoon queasy and kicking myself for eating it. Also, kicking myself for not realizing that I’d have been better off just grabbing Pop Tarts out of the vending machine.

6. ArtPrize in JUST UNDER TWO WEEKS!!! I’m not sure how many times I went out to see all the exhibits last year (A lot. I know that – A LOT), but I hope to get to spend as much time seeing as many of the exhibits as I can this year, also.
Street Piano, UICA

7. Yesterday, I bought Skittles at work and I threw out all the purple ones. Why? I don’t like the purple ones. When I tweeted that – several people seemed shocked – and a few people asked me to ship them the purple Skittles. Really, people? YOU LIKE THE PURPLE SKITTLES? I bet you even like the pink Starbursts, too.

8. Up until tonight, I hadn’t worked out in two days. I have no doubt that is part of the reason I have been such a gigantic cranky pants.

9. So, I guess football starts tonight?

10. And last but certainly not least. I received Mat Kearney’s YOUNG LOVE album to review, and like I said last week, at that point, I hadn’t had time to sit and really listen to it. Well, I listened on my drive to work the other day. And I listened last night while I was working. And I listened today during cardio. And in between all of those times, I have had various songs from this album stuck in my head and I have to say I mostly like this album I say mostly because there are a few songs that are total misses for me (and most albums have at least one, so it’s not like I’m hating on Mat). I like Mat Kearney’s music best when he’s mellower and the guitars are prominent and it’s almost like you’re hanging in a coffee shop listening to a guy who is too good to be playing in a coffee shop. I like Mat like that. Which is why I love the song “Rochester” (though, I’d love it more if it were about a minute shorter). Though, surprisingly, I love the hand-clappy poppiness of “Hey Mama”. But the song that keeps getting stuck in my head most of all is “Learning to Love Again.”

“Cause that was the real you running through the fields of gold wide open
Standing in places no picture contains
That was the real you, windows down, we could smell the mint fields crying
Sing with the radio to song we can’t name…”

If I rated albums with stars – and I didn’t get all scientific-y with his one – I’d give Young Love about a 7. It’s not a huge departure from the Mat Kearney you already know from “Breathe In Breathe Out” – and that’s either a good thing to you, or you wanted to see him evolve more (or you’ve thought nothing of it). It’s catchy, for sure, and the melodies will likely get stuck in your noggin… *

(I received this album for review, but the opinions are my own and solely my own…)