Thursday, June 19, 2014

The #FabFitFun Summer VIP Box (+ a #couponcode for Owl's Skull Followers)

Recently, I learned about the Fab.Fit.Fun VIP box. I already have a monthly Birchbox subscription (which I love - I like getting new surprises in the mail every month), so I decided to check it out.

Here's the deal, in general: Every three months, VIP members look forward to a new seasonal gift box filled with items hand-picked by the Fab.Fit.Fun team. With a VIP membership, every season you get a box full of full-sized fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and fitness products worth $200+ for only $49.99, four times a year (one blogger whose post I checked out received $241.47 worth of products for $49.99 in the Spring Box, including some very cool sunglasses and Purlisse lip gloss. That seems like a score to me). The box is designed to give readers a taste of the latest fashion finds, glam beauty secrets, and fitness gear.

Every summer VIP box, for example, will include a $95 full-sized Flash Facial from skin-care expert Sonya Dakur, PLUS a slew of other finds (note: this product alone is double the cost of the Summer Box). I received a sample of the Flash Facial to try, and I adore it. Designed as a one-minute facial (one that Allure magazine named a "Product that Will Give You Better Skin Instantly"), the Flash Facial smells amazing, plus you can feel it working the moment you put it on. My skin looked more radiant and youthful after one use, so I give it a thumbs up.

The other item Fab.Fit.Fun has revealed as part of the Summer Box is the Thursday Friday Make-Up Clutch (see below; I love the designs!!). You can read more about the bags here.

If you are interested in the Fab.Fit.Fun subscription box, you can sign up by following this link. Be sure to enter the following coupon code at check out to get $5 off of the Summer VIP Box: owlskull5. Let us know what you think when yours comes in if you decide to order!! A/J

*I received the Flash Facial as a product to try before promoting the Fab.Fit.Fun box.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's NOT Just a Dog! Blog Tour and #Giveaway

Welcome to The Owl's Skull, a stop on the It's NOT Just a Dog! blog tour. We'll offer you a little bit of information about the book, tell you why it's a fun read for both you and your kids, and then send you over to the main website for the tour so that you can enter the amazing giveaway going on there. First things first, however - a little about the book.

Available on Amazon

ISBN: 978-0615858326
Publisher: Legacy Media Press
No. Pages: 268
Middle Grade

About The Book: In the second book of the Project Madison series, things get complicated as Madison and Cooper try to navigate their new relationship. School has ended and they're spending more time together, blogging, working at the kennel, training dogs—including Lilly. 

When Jonah, the new neighbor who has moved into Paige's old house, begins to spend more time with Madison, Cooper isn't at all happy. Jonah's uncle, a Native American, shares his knowledge about Madison's power to see and feel canine memories and emotions. The mysterious white wolf returns and fills her mind with dreams and more questions. Madison starts a dog-walking business and discovers Ben, a crotchety old man whose dog is skin and bones. 

When the kennel receives a dog that has been brutally injured, Madison is determined to find out what happened. She and Cooper realize they're going to need Jonah and Donald to bust this investigation wide open and save the dogs. But getting to the bottom of the mystery will threaten not only Madison, but everyone she loves.

Early Review:  "Torres's style is lighthearted, with a lovely sense of humor, and the references to internet and social media (her hashtags explaining her feelings were whimsical) will resonate with young readers, as well. There are also some interesting insights on the 'noise' that all of these distractions create, resulting in a barrier between humans and animals, which is expressed in a believable fashion by one of the Native American characters. Torres's descriptions are vivid and help put the reader right into the scenes." —Award winning author, Margo Sorenson 

Our Review: I really liked the emphasis on children and their connections with the animals in their lives, as well as the difficulties of negotiating friendships between those old and young. My daughter Maggie (age 9) was also drawn into the world presented, as she found the characters and the language they speak identifiable and amusing.

Be sure to swing by the main tour website to enter the giveaway, which you can learn more about below. Have a great and happy Wednesday!  A/J

Prize Packages
Grand Prize- Set of illustrations signed by the illustrators, set of bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series, and a dream catcher.

First Prize- 3 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, hard copies of both books in the series.

Second Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, bookmarks, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, full set of magnets, set of stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series.

Third Prize- 2 illustrations signed by the illustrators, official Netta recipe card with biscuit mold, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, signed hard copies of both books in the series.

Swag Packages- One 5x7 signed illustration, bookmarks, magnets, stickers, an ebook in the format of your choice.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

10 Books to Celebrate Dads on Father's Day

Father's Day is just around the corner. And it can be a challenge to find good children's books that present admirable fathers (many find children either abandoned, orphaned, or concentrate on the mother/child relationship). Here are 10 books/book series to share with your kids that celebrate good fathers - Dads who make their children think, hold them accountable, and teach them valuable lessons.

#1: To Kill a Mockingbird. Need I say more about Atticus Finch? I would argue that there never was a literary father with more wisdom.
#2: Mothers don't come off so well in this little tome from Neil Gaiman (which I've written about here), but Coraline's real father is an admirable character, with a very important lesson to teach about bravery.
#3: Hans Hubermann, in The Book Thief, is a seemingly simple, but complicated man, who cares for his "daughter" Liesel deeply. I've written more about why you should read this amazing book here.
#4: It may just be me, but I always loved the goofy, blundering Papa Bear in the Berenstain Bears books. He always seemed to teach his lessons by doing the absolutely wrong thing in the most spectacular fashion. Also, look at the sly dog looking at his wife. I wonder what they're thinking;)?
#5: As many of us know, fathers aren't always in the picture, for a variety of reasons. One thing that I like about the Harry Potter books is that there are many strong male role models in the books who share the role of father in Harry's life: Mr. Weasley, Dumbledore, Sirius, Hagrid, even Snape by the end of the series. These are a good choice for a child who may find himself/herself in a position like Harry's, bereft of a father and in need of someone to look up to.  
#6: I'll always remember this book, in which Ramona Quimby's father loses his job and she tries to help him out. I think what I love most of all is that they learn from one another:).  
#7: At one point in my childhood, I wanted Pa Ingalls to be my father. I wanted him to hold me up in the moonlight to see the ring of wolves. I wanted to fall asleep listening to him softly playing his music into the night. Pa Ingalls was a rock, who never seemed to waver.
#8: Relationships between children and their fathers are not always easy. This book shows that in meaningful ways, especially with regard to Meg and her discoveries about her father.
#9: Technically, he's a grandfather, but Charlie's Grandpa Joe is still one of my favorite fatherly figures in children's books.
#10: I'll read just about anything that Jane Yolen writes. And this book is delightful, about a girl and her father's adventure owling.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Helping Your Kids Continue to Grow as Readers over the Summer

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge
When I was growing up, there was nothing more delicious than reading away a summer day (it's so much harder for me to do this nowadays; I always feel like I should be doing something else - cleaning, gardening, painting, etc.). While many lament the summer months as a time when children regress in their academic skills, I like to look at it as a time when we can foster in our kids an individual desire to do something for themselves, whether that be reading, exploring the natural world, honing one's skills in a particular sport, stargazing, writing, you name it (I also used to write a lot during the summer; I made up a newspaper and "reported" on the events going on around town;)).

Since I'm a reader myself, I've always made reading a big part of our summer vacation. I leave books lying around everywhere that I would like my kids to pick up. I find that if I tell my oldest she should read something, she won't read it. However, if I leave it lying out on the coffee table, she will pick it up and start reading it herself. I also sign them up for the Summer Reading camp at our local library, which is a great way to get kids excited about books - they often do crafts and activities related to the books, plus they take two wonderful field trips that are different every year (the cost of these trips is partially covered by the library as well; check this out in your area, as it may do the same:)!!).

This year, we are also going to do the online, free Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, which is called "Reading Under the Stars" and runs through September 4. The Summer Reading Challenge "is a free online program designed to motivate and excite your kids around reading books this summer. Kids can log the minutes they spend reading, earn virtual rewards and prizes, and enter sweepstakes, all in an effort to set a new reading world record for summer 2014!" You can sign your children up at the website linked above, which also features excellent resources for parents, videos about summer reading, a reading timer app, book recommendations, and more. The key, I think, is to make it fun. If you make it too much like school and are too school-marmish about it, your kids most likely won't want to do it. If it's more of a fun activity that kids can look forward to, they will be more willing to jump on the reading bandwagon.  

Let us know if you sign up and how your experience goes. Here's to many hours of happy reading (why not make it a family activity? When they read, you read too;)). A/J

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Challenge Nation: The Ultimate Urban Scavenger Race

Somehow, I allowed my sister-in-law to sign me up for a Scavenger Hunt Race in downtown Pittsburgh. Let's make a few things clear: I'm not a racer - I am slow, and I don't like to run (if I am running, you can be pretty damn sure something is chasing me and you should start running too). I'm also not really a joiner; I'm more the type who stands by, drink in hand, poking fun at the people dressed up in ridiculous costumes (I also made stipulations about the costumes - no tutus, no tights, and no mom jeans). Needless to say, I was a little skeptical about the Pittsburgh Challenge, but we had a blast.

The challenge itself is an urban adventure race that travels around to different cities throughout the US. According to the company's website, "Each challenge is part 5K, part scavenger hunt, and part urban exploration" (Challenge Nation). Here's a little taste of our experience, running around the city (sometimes like chickens with our heads cut off).

The Neon Moms. Wrapping up the last challenge on the overlook at the top of Mount Washington. You had to take a photo of you documenting that you were at least 120 feet off the ground. Yikes.

Sustenance. A little sharkbite never hurt anybody.

'Merica. Nuff said.

The skinniest building in Pittsburgh. I now want to know the back story of said building ... more later. (Oh, and one of the 9,000 7-Elevens downtown). My sister-in-law looks super-enthused (I think she just really wants a beer).

Pretending to send the postcard that will remind us to come back next year (each photo you have to take requires you to meet some kind of requirement - like taking a picture with an old-fashioned blue mailbox ... above).

Or pushing over a statue. This. thing. won't. budge.

Well, when I joined my husband's family, I never thought my sister-in-law and I would be this close.

Finding a tourist and reenacting a scene from his or her home state. Can you guess which movie??

Getting ready to kill this thing. And by kill, I mean come in dead last. (You mean we were supposed to run? Why didn't I wear my sweatbands?)

O Captain, my captain ... at the starting gate.
For more on the race, and whether it's coming to a city near you soon, visit the website here. Hope you had a great Sunday too! I'm now ready to kick my feet up, relax, and finish Fifty Shades of Grey. A/J

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Some thoughts on a Saturday morning ...

I have so much to tell you. First of all, I missed writing to you every day. Yesterday, I felt, for the first time in a very long time, like I could breathe again. You see, I had this gigantic albatross of a project hanging over my shoulders since late January, a project I spent more time brooding over than actually working on from the months of January to April because I just didn't have the time to invest in it. Then, May hit, and the hard deadline I had set for myself, and things went into overdrive. And I had to tuck you away in a corner.

So, now, I'm back. I've learned a few things (some for the second time around) over this last month and a week. Here they are:

1. It feels so much better to spend your time actually finishing something than to spend it thinking about finishing it.
2. You don't have to know or cover everything. To try is a fool's errand.
3. Large tasks are best broken down into small pieces. Large goals are achievable by stacking small goals on top of each other.
4. Working out at 6AM makes one very productive for the rest of the day (except around 2:00. At 2:00, you just want to nap).
5. Blogging keeps me sane. It allows me to have complete creative control over one thing, which I find absolutely delicious.
6. Never give up. Ever. Once you give up one time, it becomes so much easier to give up on everything else. Keep trying.

I have so many plans for the next few months of my summer vacation - lots of projects around the house, for the blog, vacations, reading. We are also leaving for Disney in 14 days (I.can't.wait!! Disney fanatic right here. I think I'm even more excited than my kids). And I have so many plans for me - my life. In some way, I feel like my life is just beginning. I can't explain it more than that. Anywho, I hope you keep coming back:). J