Wednesday, December 11, 2013

From FOUR A’s to FIVE!!!













So many things have happened since March. I cannot believe I have taken such a long hiatus from blogging. Writing is one of my favorite things to do. Things are insanely busy around the Five A’s and a D house, but I’m going to try to keep up with my blog. It’s my little creative outlet.

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According to the new blog title, this particular post is to introduce you to A number 5. She graced us with her presence in late September. Her big personality is already shining through!

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Having all these little girls with names starting with A made me realize that I need to come up with unique nicknames for each of them. I’ll work on that.





   



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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Greenwoman Magazine

Many of you know that I do book reviews as a part of Sage’s Blog Tours from time to time. This time, Sage has asked me to review a magazine instead of a book. 

Greenwoman Magazine celebrates garden writing in all its forms: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, commentary, biography, art, and comics! 
Daring and fun, Greenwoman is for the hip gardener who loves digging into the world of art and environmental thought that underlies gardening."

Greenwoman Magazine is a completely independent, one-woman-owned-and-run publication.  (Well, two-women, when Sandra’s daughter Zora, who is the Deputy Editor, has time from her full-time college work).



I have always enjoyed gardening. When I was young I would help my grandfather plant his vegetable garden, and then help him pick the veggies when they were ripe. Those are some of my favorite childhood memories. Reading the stories and articles in this magazine brought back some of those memories. 

The entire magazine was a wonderful read. I particularly enjoyed the fictional pieces. “Diary Of a Garden Goddess” was a fun read. 

One of my favorite short stories was “A Generous Season”.

"We’ve warned friends to watch out, that the squash vines may be growing faster than they can run! Savvy friends visiting our ranch know about our squash problem and lock their cars, lest their back seats somehow mysteriously become filled with zucchini, neatly stacked like cord wood.”




Another of my favorite snippets of the magazine was this picture: 


I think I would like to print and hang this in my kitchen. 


There really wasn’t a part of Greenwoman Magazine that I didn’t enjoy. There are so many contributors it takes three full pages to list them! It’s refreshing to read quality content and not have to flip through pages and pages of advertisements to find it. 

This wonderful magazine is available in PDF format for less than $3 an issue. 
You can order your copy on the Greenwoman Magazine website.

You can also visit her on Facebook!






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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Gated by Matt Drabble




Synopsis:

Michael and Emily are a happy and contented 
English couple, a writer and a school teacher. 
Their lives are complete when Emily falls pregnant,
 however their dreams are shattered one cold 
winter night by a car accident that robs 
them of their happiness.

To overcome their loss they up stick and move to Eden Gardens, a US gated community that offers "Heaven on Earth and Twice as Nice". The people are warm and friendly and welcome them with open arms. The town is a beautiful throwback to a bygone age, where the sun always shines and the sky's always blue.

As they settle into their new perfect lives, the circle is complete when Emily falls pregnant. The town is perfect, the weather is perfect and their lives are perfect. But are the stares from their neighbours a little too intense, is the town a little too interested in their happy news, and is Eden all that it seems.

They are about to find out that paradise comes at a cost, and when you sign a lease, you should always check the fine print.

My Review:

    Michael and Emily Torrence are an English couple looking for a fresh start after the loss of their unborn baby. Michael stumbles across some information about a little town in America called Eden Gardens. It claims to be “Heaven on earth, and twice as nice.” It seems like a wonderful place to live, so they sell most of their belongings and move to Eden Gardens to start their new lives. 

    After their arrival in Eden, Michael and Emily quickly get used to living life in their new home. They have a large beautiful home, and Emily has a job teaching at the elementary school. Michael is a writer and stays home to work. Everything is within walking distance. The town is always beautiful and clean. Everyone is extremely nice....maybe a little too nice. 

    Michael starts noticing little quirks and curious goings-on. Emily is so happy in their new home that she dismisses his claims as being the product of a writer’s overactive imagination. She becomes pregnant and begins to notice that her neighbors’ stares tend to linger a little too long. She and Michael begin looking into the town’s history, which is dark and twisted with mysterious disappearances and deaths. The town’s history catches up with them and they land in real trouble. The residents have plans for the Torrences and their unborn baby, and Michael in Emily weren’t included in the  planning part. 

     
   Horrors and thrillers are not my usual genres. That being said, I found Gated to be a well-written book. I couldn’t stop reading it. There are so many twists and turns in the  story that you don’t know which characters to trust. The author includes detailed accounts of the town’s history to help you understand a little bit more about Eden without giving away what will happen next. This story reels you in and keeps you on the hook. Drabble ended the book in such a way that you’ll be wanting to read more about Eden Gardens and the Torrences.


You can purchase Gated in Kindle Edition on Amazon for only $1.49!




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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review: HerStory





HerStory
by Delaina M. Waldron



Synopsis

HerStory a novel by Delaina M. Waldron is a paranormal/thriller that takes the reader on a journey in the life of a young African slave woman named Ayira who has a dark secret.  A dark secret she does not understand and is beyond her control.
Ayira can see the past and the future and she can also speak to the dead. 
It is the beginning of slavery in America, a Native American tribe rescues Ayira and she struggles to balance her special powers and face her dark past to help the people around her.
Ayira must overcome her fears of her dark past, survive the present and accept her destiny to help prevent the Indian tribes fatal outcomes.
My Review
Ayira is an African woman who was sold into slavery. After she arrived in America and was sold to a slave owner, her group was attacked by Native Americans on the river.  Ayira and the other slaves were taken to live in their village. 
One of the elders of the Native American tribe had foreseen her coming. He knew she was there for a purpose. Ayira, however, was haunted by her past and by visions of the future, so she kept to herself. She rarely left her teepee and didn’t socialize with the members of the tribe if she could avoid it. 
Ayira is a very intriguing character with secrets beyond her control. As the story progresses, more light is shed upon her secrets and the powers which she possesses.  She must deal with the demons from her past who are haunting her as she learns how to use her gift to help the tribe. 
I enjoyed HerStory. It was a great, quick read. Waldron does a wonderful job of keeping just enough secrets to keep you interested as the story progresses. She knows just when to give you a little more information to make you want to see what happens next. 
Author Bio


Delaina M. Waldron is a Screenwriter, Novelist and freelance writer in her spare time.  She wrote two feature length screenplays one of which was adapted to her novel "HerStory" and the other a comedy called "Ghetto Ghost Hunters" was a finalist in the 2011 Hollywood Screenwriting contest.  She also wrote a short screenplay a thriller called "Peeper", which is currently in production.
Delaina M. Waldron is a single mother of one and is currently a city bus driver and a military veteran for the Army Reserves, based in New York City.


Twitter:  @delainawaldron










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HerStory

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wordless Wednesday






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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Little Conversations

This is a conversation that Middle A and I had the other day. We have many cute, strange, and funny conversations around here. I need someone to share them with, so I choose you! Aren’t you so lucky!?

Middle A
Me

Soooo......I want a tree house.

You do?

Yes. One with bars I can climb on. Outside in our tree so I don’t get hurt.

Really?

Yes. How can I get one?

Maybe you could ask Daddy to build it.

[gasp] I have my own tools!
(She’s referring to a toy tool bench).

Wow! You do!

I have a hammer, and stickers (nails), and I can help Daddy build it!

Sounds good to me, kiddo!


That night, she woke up in the middle of the night looking for her sheep. Sheep is her favorite stuffed animal. She sleeps with it every night. We found sheep and I started to tuck her back into her bed, but she got upset and started kicking the covers off.

What’s wrong?

I want to sleep in my sleeping house!!!

Sleeping house?

Yes. I want to sleep in it. 

Honey, I don’t know what that is.

Outside! I want to sleep in my sleeping house.

OH! Your tree house? 

Yes! My tree house.

We don’t have a treehouse yet. 

I have to ask Daddy to build it?

Yes, sweetheart. 

I can use my hammer and my stickers? 

Yes, love. 

I love you so much, Mom.

I love you too, sweetheart. 





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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: The Second Daughter



The Second Daughter
by J. Jeffrey
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Synopsis

You try turning out all right after you overhear your mother wishing you hadn’t been born.
It had started out well. Umbrellas tangled. A storybook romance followed. A wonderful wedding. A beautiful, sweet first daughter. They were complete, a family, happy.
And then they went and had another daughter.
Her charming and witty father Theodore starts disappearing, then worse, starts coming back. Her once allegedly sweet older sister Regina angrily resents her, and the sisters are at constant war. Her mother Helen is so busy what-iffing about the life she might have had that she overlooks the life she is actually having. Everyone blames Debra for pretty much everything as the family slowly, then quickly, then one day explosively disintegrates. Along the way there are secrets and lies, heartbreaks and betrayals, plus the dramatic unexpected death of a central character at a pivotal moment. The now young woman finds herself living awkwardly alone with her embittered mother when the phone rings—and her mother’s secret past suddenly crashes back into the present.
Their life may be about to change forever; or rather, perhaps, revert back to what it should have been all along.
But not exactly because of that phone call, as it turns out.
Because of the remarkable second daughter. For what Debra Gale has is unyielding determination. What she has is an irrepressible capacity to love. 
And now at last what she has is a chance.
The complex dynamics of a changing family. Mother, daughters, sisters, and the father who both divides and unifies them. That dramatic unexpected death, plus more than the ordinary amount of banana cream pie. Welcome to The Second Daughter: a funny but poignant, unusual but beautiful love story.
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My Review

   I have to admit, The Second Daughter didn’t immediately draw me in. It started out as kind of a slow read for me. I had already read the synopsis, and knew that the story was going to be a good one, so I read on. After a chapter or two, I couldn’t put it down. There was so much going on in this small family’s life that I had to keep reading to see what happened next.

   J. Jeffrey does a great job of creating a complex story that creates a wide range of emotions for the reader. You swoon over their love story, and get annoyed when Theodore shrugs off something important to Helen. You love their new baby, Regina, then feel bad for poor little Deb. You get angry at Regina for constantly getting Deb in trouble, then you are happy when Deb and Helen become best friends. So many things happen in this book that the reader cannot possibly predict what will happen next. Theodore’s character is completely irresponsible and unpredictable, while Helen is proper and organized. They seem to be one of those ‘opposites attract’ couples, but their relationship (and eventually lack thereof) is the source of only half of the family drama. 

   Regina is a calculating, conniving little girl. She is very jealous of her younger sister and frequently conspires ways to get her in trouble. Her personality is more like Helen’s, whereas Deb is more like Theodore. Because of the differences in their personalities, the girls’ parents never believe Deb when she tries to tell them that Regina has done something on purpose to get her in trouble. Their sibling rivalry lasted into adulthood, and is the other half of the family drama. 

   I absolutely recommend this book. One of the qualities I look for in a book is that it completely submerses me into the story. J.Jeffrey did a fabulous job of that. He incorporated just enough drama, romance and conflict into the story to keep me glued to my kindle and wish there was more to read at the end! 
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About the Author:




J. Jeffrey stands about six foot three and likes poetry. He has been known to climb the occasional mountain and tame the occasional lion. He sings opera as an amateur but is trained as a masseur, and he is extremely partial to his wife’s green tea perfume. He drinks too much coffee, and gets lost a lot. Two words: Florence, Italy. Pastry for breakfast, over the crossword puzzle, preferably after noon. Soup for lunch, preferably late afternoon, over another puzzle (the first having been solved). His favorite drink (after coffee) is red wine. He knows a word or two but will not play scrabble. Regrettably, he believes he might be happy if only you would think him as funny as he thinks he is. But most importantly, he is not to be trusted. He writes biographies full of lies, or are they novels full of truths? Such a fine line.
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You can purchase The Second Daughter on Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition. 
   



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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Cauliflower-crusted Pizza




A healthier, low-carb alternative to the regular, carb-loaded, bread-crusted pizza. 



Ingredients:

Crust

2 cups of steamed cauliflower

2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

2 eggs

Toppings

You may use any toppings you like, but if you would like to keep the recipe on the healthier side, I recommend using vegetable toppings, and minimal cheese.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 450º.


Mix cauliflower, mozzarella cheese, and eggs in food processor or blender.

Spread out the mixture on parchment paper, on a pizza pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Remove crust from the oven.

Add toppings, then place it in the oven until the cheese melts on top.




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Today’s Tasty Tuesday recipe was submitted by my little sister, Kelly. She has been kickin’ butt and takin’ names in her battle to lose weight. She has completely overhauled her eating and exercise habits. To date, she has lost 80lbs! I am so extremely proud of her! She is truly an inspiration to me! 








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Monday, January 28, 2013

Will Run for Chocolate!!!


After Little A was born in November 2011, I kept telling myself I would run a 5K at some point in 2012. That was my fitness goal: to be able to run a 5K. I didn’t get serious about it until close to the end of the year when I saw this: 




This was amazing! If any of you know at least one thing about me, it’s probably that I LOVE chocolate.  I could combine my fitness goal AND my favorite sweet treat. 
Seriously? 
I’M IN!

The race wasn’t actually until January 2013, but better late than never, right? 

With this being my first race, I didn’t want to go it alone, so I told my little sister about it. 
This girl. 
I am so proud of her! 
She has lost 80 lbs and is an exercising fool! 
(I’ll actually be sharing one of her healthy recipes tomorrow!)

We downloaded running apps onto our Iphones so we wouldn’t kill ourselves trying to train for the race. We used the free app 10K for Pink. It’s very handy. It starts you out doing intervals of running and walking so you don’t jump right into running and give up. 

So race day came.  We arrived bright and early, or in this case, dark and early. 


We put on our race bibs and went to our race corrals!

There were close to 20,000 runners in the 15K & 5K. That place was packed!

We started at Turner Field, ran a 3.2 mile loop, and finished back at Turner Field.



It took us 38 minutes and 32 seconds to finish the race. 
I’m pretty proud of us!


After the race we enjoyed our finisher’s mugs! 
We got lots of tasty treats to dip in chocolate, and a cup of hot chocolate to go with it! 


Fitness Goal? 
Check! 
Tasty Chocolate?
Check!
Cool Race Hoodies?
Check!
Fun day with my little sister?
Check! 


I think this one was a winner! 

I’m gonna be doing it again next year! 




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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Caring Mom, or Fallback Plan?


 

   Every  day after school, Big A has the same routine. After we talk about her day for a few minutes, she goes to her room to do her homework and she reads for twenty minutes. She has a homework packet that her teacher hands out at the beginning of the week. Inside this packe, there is a page for each day of the week, Monday through Thursday. They do the work throughout the week and turn it in on Friday. 
   
    Her teacher had them put together binders at the beginning of the school year. Inside, they have an agenda, some notebook paper, a pencil pouch, and various folders labeled for certain things. One of these folders is labeled ‘Homework’. Can you guess what that one is for? RIGHT-O! That’s the folder she’s supposed to keep her homework in throughout the week so she doesn’t lose it before Friday. 

Does her homework ever make it into that folder? 

No. Never.

It gets shoved into her binder, or her backpack, or she lays it on her desk. Never, ever does the child put it in her homework folder. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve told her to put it there. It.doesn’t.happen.

Now, let’s talk about last Thursday. 

I’m sitting at my desk writing some content for my blog when Big A comes into my bedroom and asks me where her homework is. I have no clue. It’s not my homework, it’s hers. Plus, I told her the night before to put it in her homework folder. Of course, it never made it there.

“I can’t find it anywhere!”

“I told you to put it in your homework folder last night.”

“I know.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I thought I did.” 

“Obviously you didn’t.”

“If I don’t turn it in tomorrow, Mrs. H will make me sit out at recess and do the whole thing all over again!”

“Then you better get lookin’!”

“I need help!”

“No you don’t. It’s your homework. Not mine. I told you to put it where it belongs last night and you didn’t listen.”

>Insert more whining and complaining about needing help finding it, and me refusing.<

    She finally found it and completed it. After I checked it for errors, I gave it back to her and told her to put it in her homework folder. She said, ‘Ok,’ and took it downstairs to her room. Silly me, for not checking to see whether it made it there or not. Should I have to check?  Or should I just assume that, at 8-years-old, she’s old enough to be responsible for her homework?

    Fast-forward to the next morning. It’s time to walk to the bus stop and she’s about to walk out the door. I have to remind her to get her coat. She makes a trip downstairs, comes back with her coat in one hand, and (did you guess?) her homework in the other.

“Why is your homework not in your homework folder?”

“I set it on my desk.”

“That’s not where I told you to put it.” 

“I know.”

>banging head against wall<


 It was freezing outside, so I insisted she put her coat on. She put it on, grabbed her backpack, and walked down to the bus stop. Since the bus stop is at the bottom of our road (only about 3 houses down from ours), I stand at the end of our driveway and watch her get on the bus. Little A & Middle A are still sleeping at this time every morning, so I don’t want to go too far away from the house. I watch as the bus pulls up, she and the other kids at the stop get on, and they head to school. I walk inside, take off my coat, hang it up, and turn to walk up the stairs. 

Guess what’s sitting there on the stairs? 

HER HOMEWORK! 

The very same homework she was freaking out over the day before. 
 
The very same homework she was so worried about having to re-do during recess. 

She sat it on the step as she put her coat and backpack on, and neither of us realized she had left it behind. 

    So now I have this inner quarrel going on: 

Should I take it to her? 

or

Should I let her learn her lesson?


If I take it to her, I would be ‘the best Mom ever’ for saving her little butt. Right? But then, what if she makes a habit of it? She obviously isn’t being responsible with her homework in the first place. I don’t want her to think that she can just use me as a fall-back plan whenever she’s irresponsible, or when she makes wrong choices. On the other hand, I want her to know that I’m there for her when she needs me. Is this a ‘she needs me’ moment? 

Ahhhh crap! 

Parenting is hard. 

Is there a right or wrong answer? 

Who knows?

    In the end, I chose not to take it to her. I know from our conversation on Thursday that she knew what the consequences were if she didn’t have her homework on Friday. If she was so concerned with having it, she would have put it in her homework folder, right? Then it would have been in her backpack and ready to take to school.  Instead, she laid it on her desk and grabbed it on her way out the door the next morning. 



Let’s hear from some other moms! 

Do you agree with my choice? 

Disagree? 

Why? 
 




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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tasty Tuesday


Chicken Lasagna
Submitted by Bree Masters



Ingredients
6 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces 

1 cup finely diced carrots

1 cup broccoli florets

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 jar Alfredo sauce, reserve 1 cup

3/4 cup 2% cottage cheese

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes 

lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese




Directions:

In a large skillet, saute the chicken, brocolli, carrots and onion in oil until chicken is no longer pink. 

Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Stir in flour until blended; gradually stir in Alfredo sauce.

Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until thickened.

In a small bowl, combine the cottage cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, egg, Italian seasoning.

Layer as you would a normal lasagna.

Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

You may add more alfredo sauce depending on your preference. 


Enjoy!


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Today’s recipe was sent in by Bree Masters.


"I've been cooking since I was old enough to pull a chair to the stove to see. There's a sense of satisfaction in watching people enjoy something I've made. I have a 4 year old stepson who loves to help me in the kitchen. I've found he's more apt to eat it if he knows what's in it, and it helps him develop a healthy relationship with food. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as he does!"
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Would you like to be part of Four A’s and a D? I’m looking for more people to submit their favorite recipes for Tasty Tuesday. It can be any type of recipe; dinner, breakfast, dessert, appetizers, or snacks. Just click the ‘Contact Me’ tab at the top of the page and fill out the form so I can send you an email with more information.    
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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Vagabond Studio


Meet Shai.


Shai is one of my BFF’s and the mastermind behind The Vagabond Studio.
I get a lot of my creative inspiration from her. 
And parenting inspiration. 
And productive motivation. 
This woman is ahhh-mazing! 

Honestly, I think she has some sort of device that freezes time. Nobody can get as much done over the course of a day as this girl! 

She’s a full-time student, wife, mom, blogger, and Etsy shop owner. 

Last year, Shai was named number 7 in Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms on Circle of Moms.
Voting is currently being held for 2013’s Top 25 Eco-Friendly Moms. 
PLEASE click here to vote for her! 

Her latest feature was in Eco-Beautiful Weddings Magazine, Winter /Spring 2013 issue. 
How could these beautiful bouquets and boutonnières NOT be a big hit?!

She also makes beautiful hair clips!

You can read more about Superwo....Shai....at her blog, The Vagabond Studio

Or if you would like to see more of her handmade goodies, visit her Etsy shop!

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