Tag Archives: Blogging

How to Make a Donut Bouquet

Did you know that National Donut Day is the first Friday in June? Did you know it’s not just a gimmick developed by the donut conglomerate to push its pastries on the it’s-national-whatever-day calendars? Do you even care about the “how and why” since we’re talking about the deliciousness that is donuts?

As it so happens, the first National Donut Day was celebrated in 1938 by The Salvation Army in Chicago to help raise needed funds during the Great Depression and to commemorate the work of the “donut lassies” who helped make the donut what it is today by feeding the tasty confection to American soldiers during World War I. The donuts became synonymous with The Salvation Army, as well as the American soldiers who were returning home with the nickname, “doughboys.”

I like a national day with some solid history and philanthropy behind it. So anyway, I did not find this out because of random Googling. I found out through desperate Googling. I discovered National Donut Day was a thing because my daughter came to me one hour before midnight on the first Wednesday in June and asked, “Is that florist still open near the school?”

“Um, it has been closed for about five years. Why?” I asked.

“Because I need flowers for the band director for Thursday night,” she said.

My husband uncharacteristically chimed in, “Would he even want flowers?” (“Uncharacteristically” because he usually avoids input on all things gift related so I can’t blame him later. This tactic works about 10% of the time.)

And thus a debate was launched about the likes and dislikes of our fabulous band director who deserves all the good things in life and this said discussion ended with me saying, “Sure I can make a donut bouquet. I’m sure it’s on Pinterest.”

Guess what? There are not any good donut tutorials on Pinterest. I nearly fainted dead away. Good thing I am a Craft Queen with the ability to publish my own material on the interwebz.

See, all I could find were donuts stuck on sticks in a vase. That’s great if you like stale pastries. Also, that design is not portable, like, AT ALL. My daughter had to get it to school, put it under her chair on stage, and then present it at the end of a concert. Yeah.

Also, I have taken a turn or twelve thousand through the kitchen creating outlandish bake goods and I just didn’t believe that donuts would stay on skewers extremely well. Spoiler alert: I was right.

So here was my answer: a design that was more along the lines of a Miss America bouquet. Not counting getting the materials, it truly only took me 30 minutes to construct. It worked out great: scoring huge points for portability, mess containment, and wow factor.

How to Make a Donut Bouquet (Tutorial). Deliciously perfect gift for National Donut Day or any occasion! Quick, easy, and impressive: everything a craft project should be. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

Materials

  • Donuts (do not get ones with filling)
  • Candy bar
  • Cookie Sticks or Bamboo Dowel Rods
  • Foam Core Board
  • Duct Tape
  • Clear Packaging Tape
  • Ribbon
  • Decorative Wire Garland
  • Clear Cellophane Gift Wrap

How to Make a Donut Bouquet (Tutorial). Deliciously perfect gift for National Donut Day or any occasion! Quick, easy, and impressive: everything a craft project should be. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. Cut the foam core board into a triangular shape. This is easily done running a box cutter or rotary cutter along a ruler as a guide. (Don’t do this on your counter. Use a cutting mat, or like I did, the garage floor.) I trimmed the points off of the top angles so that it would be easier to wrap later.

How to Make a Donut Bouquet (Tutorial). Deliciously perfect gift for National Donut Day or any occasion! Quick, easy, and impressive: everything a craft project should be. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

2. Carefully put your donuts on the skewers. Not going to lie, I wrecked a couple of the smaller donuts and donut holes. Make sure you have extra. Lay your arrangement out on your board and start duct taping into place. I used tape that matched my board, but you could do something more decorative or contrasting. Duct tape choices are limitless nowadays.

How to Make a Donut Bouquet (Tutorial). Deliciously perfect gift for National Donut Day or any occasion! Quick, easy, and impressive: everything a craft project should be. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

3. Using clear packaging tape loops, I attached the candy bar to dress it up. I also added a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

How to Make a Donut Bouquet (Tutorial). Deliciously perfect gift for National Donut Day or any occasion! Quick, easy, and impressive: everything a craft project should be. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

4. Next I measured out the cellophane: twice the height of my project plus 14 inches. I laid the cellophane out on my counter and placed my bouquet on it so there was 7 extra inched below the pointy end. I folded the cellophane over the the top of the bouquet and secured it at the bottom with the wire garland. I folded the sides under the board and secured them with clear packaging tape. Then I added the ribbon.

How to Make a Donut Bouquet (Tutorial). Deliciously perfect gift for National Donut Day or any occasion! Quick, easy, and impressive: everything a craft project should be. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

This really is one of the easier projects I have gotten myself into. While it is perfect for National Donut Day, it is swell for most any occasion. Remember that famous quote that I am making up right now: “A donut makes any day better.”

Ellen

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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How to Stay Connected with Your College Kid

We are on a wild ride here at The Sisterhood: The Express Chute to College. It goes from 0 to 600 without any brakes, takes surprise hairpin switchbacks that leave your disoriented for days, swings your emotions from elation to heartbreak on the turn of a dime, and grinds your bank account until it physically hurts . . . but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It’s a blessing, but, oh my goodness, it’s exhausting. Between the two of us, we’ll be on this ride so long we may need a rehabilitation program to adjust us to life without SATs and submitting the Common Application on the regular.

Just so you can be sure to follow along on your scorecard, Erin has five kids–four sons and one daughter–and Ellen has two daughters. Erin kicked this party off by sending her oldest son to college last year, Ellen sends her oldest daughter away in August, Erin follows up the next year with her daughter, then we both get a two year break until “Boom!” Erin sends another son while Ellen sends her youngest daughter for a double graduation year. But wait, there’s more! Literally. Erin has two more sons.

And we’re not going to sugarcoat it, it’s hard adjusting to the shifting dynamics of your family. You almost feel like you need a guide. Luckily Erin wrote one: Handle with Care: A Sweet and Simple Guide to Helping Your Friend Send Her Kid to College. If you need some commiseration or direction, this is it.

But just to cut to the chase, there is one lifeline that will trump all others. Staying connected. We’ve written oodles of advice about keeping the lines of communication open with your kids, BUT . . .

Sometimes it’s not about leaving yourself open to their ideas and opinions.

Sometimes it’s not about leaving your own agenda behind and following their lead.

Sometimes it’s not about keeping your mouth shut and your ears open.

SOMETIMES IT’S ONLY ABOUT THEM HAVING A CHARGE ON THEIR EVERLOVIN’ PHONE WHEN THEY HAVE A MOMENT TO TALK TO YOU.

How to Stay Connected With Your College Kid | How do you stay connected with your child across the miles? Modeling good listening skills is a must, but it may be as easy as making sure their phone is always charged. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Seriously. Sometimes it’s that simple. And what is simply wonderful is that this is one of those moments where blogging has made our parenting easier and better. We have been lucky enough to partner with myCharge several times over the past couple of years, but this time they really came through for us by gifting us the myCharge HubPlus 6000mAh. (By the way, we’re able to gift you with a 40% off coupon code and a chance to win an iPad mini and a HubPlus of your very own, but more on that in a bit, also known as “at the bottom of the post.”)

We’re not even kidding when we say myCharge gave Erin one of the best conversations of her life.

Erin: Since my son went to school 300 miles away, texting has been our connection. There have been some calls and Face Time with the whole family boisterously talking over top of each other as is the dog pile M.O of the Dymowski clan, but calls between just my boy and me have been few and far between. Until The Call.

I hadn’t shared an actual conversation with him since our good-byes as he went back to school after winter break. So while I was pleasantly surprised when HE called me out of the blue, my first words were a panicky “Is everything ok? Are you bleeding?” But he babbled right over my initial nervous blurt, we bantered a little, and then he talked NON-STOP for the better part of an hour. It was Christmas in April, a ticker tape parade, and perfect haircut all rolled up in one! I heard all about his summer internship (which I knew nothing about), his new girlfriend (who I sort of knew about. Thank you, Instagram feed!), his classes (which his sister said were kicking his butt), and his work on the television and radio stations there (which I watched or listened to each week). Never underestimate the power of real spoken words in real time over the airwaves to warm a Mom’s heart and keep the connection going strong.

How to Stay Connected With Your College Kid | How do you stay connected with your child across the miles? Modeling good listening skills is a must, but it may be as easy as making sure their phone is always charged. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

This picture with myCharge was posed when I picked my boy up from school, but the moment myCharge gave me with my son was 100% authentic. We call this one: Call your mother!

Ellen: And remember those hairpin switchbacks we were talking about on The Express Chute to College? My family was thrown for its own loop. Just eight days before a commitment had to be signed, we were visiting the University of Miami–an eleventh hour addition to the Common App. A school that was ultimately added because of its academics and opportunities, but was initially thought of because I asked my daughter to apply to a school in a city that was not a past terrorist target. See, the applications were due just weeks after the Paris bombings and her school choices were all located in either Boston, New York City, or Washington, DC.

So, Miami wasn’t the top choice–at that point, she was pretty set on Boston–so only my daughter and I went down because, well, airfare. But our trip seemed worthwhile from the get-go because our meetings with students and the assistant dean impressed us. And as we texted, snapchatted, instagrammed, facebooked, and tweeted our way through the campus (to keep my husband and family in the loop), my daughter knew this was the one. The joy in her face and voice can still choke me up. And all I could think of was “I can’t believe this is the one Frank missed after going all over the East Coast.”

I told her, “You have to call your father and explain to him how this feels to you. Texting is not enough”

And I’m not even kidding, because of myCharge she could. Snapchat can kill a battery.

She dialed her dad for an actual conversation which is almost like spotting a unicorn except more rare.

How to stay connected with your college kid? Modeling good listening skills is a must, but it may be as easy as making sure their phone is always charged. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

And they talked . . .

How to stay connected with your college kid? Modeling good listening skills is a must, but it may be as easy as making sure their phone is always charged. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 And talked.

How to stay connected with your college kid? Modeling good listening skills is a must, but it may be as easy as making sure their phone is always charged. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Because we had the battery power, her Dad was able to share in the magical moment, I was able to take pictures of the whole thing, we were able to continue using Google maps to get us around, and we both never missed a beat on social media. Did I mention my daughter and I both fully charged our phones off of a single HubPlus charge??

But enough about us! Let’s talk about what you can get! If you’re a US resident you can enter to win your own iPad mini and HubPlus! We’ve been talking about all that it has done for us phone-wise–like extending talk time by a whooping 45 hours–but this baby is so powerful it can charge an iPad! And no cords to lose! The wall prongs, micro-USB cable, and Apple® Lightning™ cable are all fully integrated. And one of our favorite features is the pass through charging. You can plug this into the wall, plug in your device and the powerbank and connected device will charge simultaneously. We never knew how much this was missing from our lives until MyCharge introduced us to it.

How to stay connected with your college kid? Modeling good listening skills is a must, but it may be as easy as making sure their phone is always charged. myCharge HubPlus can help. | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Even if you don’t win the giveaway or unable to enter because you’re not a US resident, you can still come out on top.

Go here to myCharge, enter promo code CONGRATS and receive 40% off your very own HubPlus! (The code is valid until the end of June 2016.) There is free shipping on all orders over $25. These would make swell graduation or Father’s Day gifts!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and stay in touch!

Ellen and Erin

We were compensated for this post, but all love for our college kids and this product are genuinely our own.

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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10 Ways Blogging Makes Us Better Moms

As the urban legend goes, blogging makes you a bad parent. Time spent scrolling the internet instead of soaking up Sunshine’s every little ray can never be recouped. Um, by that logic any and every job would make you a bad parent. So there’s that . . . but we’re also pushing back with this: blogging actually has the power to make you an even better parent. Just soak that up for a minute.

If there was such a thing as a parenting genie who would grant our wishes with a rub of a magical sippy cup, we would ask for two things: a mystical rear view mirror and a telescope into the future. With the rear view mirror we could relive those fleeting childhood moments of chubby knees and downy heads. With the telescope, we could gaze into that fuzzy future to see how our every parenting decision impacts our children’s growth into adults. But we don’t need magic because we have something better: blogging! Unconvinced? Let us present our case.

As the urban legend goes, blogging makes you a bad parent. We say, "Nay, nay!" Working in this diverse field improves our parenting every day. | 10 Ways Blogging Makes Us Better Moms | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

1. Improves our Time Management

All parents know time is THE hot commodity. Learning how to use those precious minutes wisely is a better gift to the whole family than a subscription to Netflix (although our kids might not immediately agree). Like most mothers, our schedules were jam-packed . . . and then we decided to blog. The idea of shoehorning a new job into our already overflowing schedules seemed crazy. Right?! Dash away visions of abandoned children sacrificed at the Temple of Blogdom because a miracle happened! Budgeting our time for writing and promotion spurred us to mindfully carve out minutes for what matters most, and to put our phones down during those moments.

2. Develops Us into Better Role Models

Good parenting is telling kids what to do. Better parenting is modeling it. We talk a good talk with our kids about taking advantageous risks to put themselves out there, but it wasn’t until we started blogging that we put the proverbial money where our pie holes are. Putting our words, beliefs, and advice out there for the world to see—and critique—takes a fair amount of hitching up our big girl britches. Blogging makes us doers, not just preachers.

3. Expands Our Horizons

Stepping outside our comfort zone was one thing, but launching into different time zones was unexpected gravy. Conferences and summits and advocacy, oh my! Blogging is not about isolation, but opening up the world in a whole new way. We’ve gotten lost on our way to yoga in Chicago, promoted a foundation in Atlanta, spoken about podcasting in Baltimore, and advocated for global vaccines on Capitol Hill.

Acting as Shot@Life Champions | As the urban legend goes, blogging makes you a bad parent. We say, "Nay, nay!" Working in this diverse field improves our parenting every day. | 10 Ways Blogging Makes Us Better Moms | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Acting as [email protected] Champions

Don’t start lamenting over our precious little ones left behind. They have actually gotten to tag along on some occasions, been sponsored by our employer to go to a leadership conference, and have been published on a sponsor’s website. Not too shabby.

4. Introduces Us to New Things

Social media may conjure up visions of moms staring at their phones while their kids beg “hey Ma, look at me!” from the monkey bars, but we found that blogging and the attendant social media required, blasted open a window into our kids’ worlds. We were beyond savvy before any of our kids even asked for an Instagram account. The social media boot camp gave us some serious parenting stripes.

5. Gives Us Time to Reflect

Never underestimate the power of the pause. The discipline of writing weekly means we are also processing our lives as parents each week: the good, the bad, and the disappointing. Our blog is not about cute kid stories, but focuses on analyzing our experiences on the parenting crazy train. This “pause button” has prompted us to actually reset our practices at times because no job needs chances for a do-overs quite like parenting.

6. Introduces Us to New Friends

Yes, we have friends in our computers. Yes, we’re sure they’re not trolls of the 50-year-old unshaven Limp Bizkit fan variety because we’ve actually met them. Our internet tribe has some of the most intelligent and kind-hearted women you would ever be lucky enough to have in your corner–professionally and personally. Wherever our kids decide to attend college, they will be within thirty minutes of a blogger friend—no, a surrogate mother. You can’t buy that kind of peace of mind.

BlogU Conference | As the urban legend goes, blogging makes you a bad parent. We say, "Nay, nay!" Working in this diverse field improves our parenting every day. | 10 Ways Blogging Makes Us Better Moms | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Some friends at the BlogU NickMom Prom

7. Gives Us New Ways to Talk to Our Kids

Want to talk about sex, drugs, and alcohol with your kid? Of course you don’t. But if you have a writing deadline, suddenly you can broach touchy topics with very little preamble. Our kids are conditioned to respond without flinching to questions like “Hey, I need to write an article about kids and alcohol, come talk to me!” or “Hey, do you know anyone who abuses cough syrup?”

Interviews notwithstanding, our kids retain rights to their stories and hold the right to veto us sharing them. Our writers’ hearts hurt for the tales we can’t tell, but these discussions stress the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries between private and public lives. For a generation cutting their teeth on social media, and for their moms who need to keep up, this is the greatest prize of all.

8. Encourages Us to Model Good Friendships

We were friends before we were business partners, but blogging took our friendship to a new place. That new place was the world of compromise and generosity. While we think the United Nations would appreciate our skills in diplomacy and cooperation, we know our kids are learning from them every day.

9. Gives Our Kids Fodder for Their Own Memoirs

Our blog is not a baby book, but it is peppered with memories that will last as long as their digital footprint (as long as we keep paying our website hosting bill). In the final analysis, we hope our kids see that blogging is another way we share our experiences not just with each other or the internet, but with them.

10. Gives Us Another Dimension 

Hear that noise? It’s us roaring. We’re proudly showing our kids what women can achieve.  We have become coders, graphic designers, speakers, advocates, and parenting experts. We’re professionals who have learned to negotiate and put a fair price on what we’re worth as we cobble together an income. Blogging has prodded us to lean all the way in.

2014 Baltimore Listen to Your Mother Cast | As the urban legend goes, blogging makes you a bad parent. We say, "Nay, nay!" Working in this diverse field improves our parenting every day. | 10 Ways Blogging Makes Us Better Moms | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

We were so happy to be a part of the 2014 Baltimore Listen to Your Mother Cast

So basically, blogging has made us happier, more skilled, and more greatly fulfilled moms. To flip that annoying saying to the positive: everybody knows if momma’s happy then everybody’s happy.

The evidence is clear. We rest our case.

Ellen and Erin

You can follow us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”

 

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Doughnut Magic New Year’s Eve Tradition for Kids

Ah, New Year’s Eve. It really is a time for the young, but not too young. While the night is made for twenty-somethings to rock it out, the preschool set is often left completely out. It’s hard to be tucked in at 8 o’clock when all of the focus is on the magic of midnight.

That’s why we were beyond delighted when our reader, Sandra Tuckman, shared one of her family traditions with us.

Doughnut Magic New Year's Eve Tradition for Kids - Make special memories and convince them that being in bed before midnight is cool! | Parenting |Hoilday Traditions | DIY | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

The real magic is how stinking easy it is. The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy should take notes.

  1. Show your precious snowflakes a plate of Cheerios.
  2. Let them sprinkle milk and/or Magic Dust of choice on the little Os.
  3. Explain to your kids they have to be asleep waaaaayyy before midnight for the magic to happen.
  4. Enjoy a quiet glass of champagne with your sweetie at midnight . . . or 10 PM. Whatever.
  5. Remember to replace the Cheerios with doughnuts!
  6. Behold their delighted faces in the morning.

So simple! But remember to match the number of Cheerios to the number of doughnuts. Makes more sense that way  . . . like a bunny delivering eggs or a fairy collecting teeth.

Now you can up your game if it all feels too simple. Remember the Magic Dust we mentioned? It allows all sorts of room for creativity.

  • Sprinkle cocoa for chocolate doughnuts.
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar for powdered doughnuts.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon for, you guessed it, cinnamon doughnuts.
  • Use sprinkles over the Cheerios, then do the same for the doughnuts.
  • If you really want to impress Pinterest, you could dip the Cheerios in icing and sprinkles for frosted doughnuts.

PLEASE do this and report back on how it works!

Oh, and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Doughnut Magic New Year's Eve Tradition for Kids - Make special memories and convince them that being in bed before midnight is cool! - Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

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Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!!

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway! It’s here, friends. The end of summer is upon us. We know. We’re sad too. But just because lazy days on the beach are ending, doesn’t mean the reading stops! In fact, just the opposite. No time like the present to lose yourself in a great book to escape the hassles and woes of Back-to-School prep and fuss. There’s some solace to be had by making the most of these last summer days.

To this end, we asked the uber-important question of our blogging buddies: What book would you recommend for a last blast of summer reading?

Actually, our friend, Meredith, from The Mom of the Year asked this question and was nice enough to include us. Every month she and Normal Level of Crazy meet through a virtual book club* to allow moms to come together and chat about fab books while still rocking their pj pants in the cozy comfort of their own homes. It doesn’t get any better, really.

This month, the skies have been blown wide open with an entire book list of great reads that you need to check out! Even better, we are giving one of you a $225 Amazon gift card along with seven of the titles on this list to read! In short, you will be in a reader’s heaven and completely forget that the daily school grind is around the corner. Oops! Did we just remind you? Forget we said anything and focus on the sweet deal instead.

Enter to score the gift card and the hard copies of the books before 8/14/15 at 5:30am ET through the Rafflecopter below. As long as you are resident of the continental U.S. and 18 yrs. or older, you are eligible to win!

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway!

 

What’s on the list of recommended reads?

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks (Jessica of Herd Management)–Possibly the best Sparks’ book I’ve ever read. Two couples in completely different time periods paths cross and the end result is amazing. Tear-jerking romance is enfolded within the pages of the characters’ captivating challenges. Plus, I can’t resist a cowboy. Read this before you see the movie!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Courtney of Our Small Moments)– How would you feel if the one you loved turned out to be from one of the richest families? Crazy Rich Asians shows the complexity of that situation.

The Liar by Nora Roberts (MamaRabia of The Lieber Family)–What would you do if you found out that your recently deceased husband was not only a liar and a thief, but possibly worse? Shelby Pomeroy decides to take back her life by clearing her name and fighting to make a better life for herself and her young daughter. But her dead husband still has some surprises in store for her!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Jennifer of Real Life Parenting)–The primary female characters in this historical fiction are strong, feisty, and full of heart and personality. The way their lives in time are so far apart, their connections are close and poignant. I loved the blending of history with modern day happenings! A quick read because you just don’t want to put it down.

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway!

Child, Please, How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself by Ylonda Gault Caviness (Stacey of One Funny Motha)–Maybe I like this book because I’m old-school myself. Or it could be the author’s funny, lively, entirely personable voice that makes reading it feel as though you’re talking to a friend. Or it could be that I write about similar issues myself and found much to agree with in the author’s perspective. Whatever the case, this memoir is a throughly enjoyable read of one woman’s straight-talking journey through motherhood and was selected by Ebony as 1 of the top 4 must-reads of the summer.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Alyson of The Shitastrophy)–Was the most amazing read for me. After having walked away from reading for pleasure for some time due to work commitments I selected this book to read on an airplane. I couldn’t put the book down and finished it within 2 days. The story winds and weaves through three friends lives together. The ending was something I didn’t see coming and was suiting to see how justice can come to fruition, even when not done judicially. I have gone on to read the rest of her books available and none have disappointed.

Now the Hell Will Start by Brendan I. Koerner (Femme of FemmeFrugality)–Part history, part thriller, all non-fiction. Now the Hell Will Start is the story of Herman Perry, a WWII American soldier on the run in Burma after shooting his commanding officer. Not only does it expose a massive part of WWII history we never learn about in school, it also follows his incredible run from the law, including marrying into a local, headhunting tribe.

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran (Alicia of Sadler House)–Many writers have extolled the virtues of Italy’s countryside, but no other story of Italian transplants is quite like this one. This witty memoir recounts how an award-winning Hollywood comedy producer finds himself renovating a 300-year-old house in Tuscany, where escapism gives way to real-life hilarity.

The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman (Janene of More than Mommies)–We all have those reader friends who we want to be like. You know . . . the ones who are always reading WAY cooler books than we are reading? Well, this book came HIGHLY recommended by my reader friend who I have reader envy of, so, I think we should ALL read it and discuss! (I’m planning on reading it in August . . . so if you pick this one to read I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown (Dani of Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine)–My BFF sent me Secrets of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown for my birthday in March and I absolutely COULD NOT put it down. I only ever trust her book recommendations, and she was spot on with this one. It’s the perfect late summer / back-to-school read, and will not disappoint!

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (Norine of Science of Parenthood)–Though it reads like a Downton Abbey-esque drawing room drama, behind the mansions and manners and horse-drawn carriages, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth is a fierce social commentary on the proscribed roles for American women in the 1880s. Wharton is a social commentator bar none. And Lily Bart, whose story this is, is my favorite tragic heroine. Every time I read this book, I root for Lily to emerge victorious … and am heartbroken all over again when she falters.

On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad (Amy of Funny is Family)–On Borrowed Wings is the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy to attend Yale University in the 1930s, before women were allowed to enroll. It’s a fantastic read that weaves well-researched historical details and the strong desire of a girl to break away from her predetermined life path.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner (Meredith of Meredith to Mommy)–This book really struck me. Well-off, suburban, mom blogger who is trying to do it all winds up addicted to pain meds. This constant monologue of “I can fix this myself. I have a plan. I don’t REALLY have a problem.” as she falls deeper and deeper into addiction made me choke up at how easy it is to lose control and wind up in a hole that you have no hope of clawing yourself out of alone, while still keeping up a strong facade as someone who has it all. I’ve read it multiple times, and find myself just as drawn in as I was the first.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (Kimberly of Red Shutters)–Did you love Rob Lowe in “The Outsiders” and “St. Elmo’s Fire” as much as I did? Then, you’d love this memoir in which Lowe pulls back the curtain on his life in Hollywood, from 19-year-old heartthrob to award-winning actor, sharing life wisdom along the way. I enjoyed the audio version of this book, which Lowe narrates himself, complete with impressions of Christopher Walken, Francis Ford Coppola, and other film industry luminaries.

The Martian by Andy Weir (Kim of Let Me Start By Saying)–A man gets left on Mars by accident and his personality, smarts, creativity, and sense of humor carve a place in your heart for him as he tries to figure a way to survive–and eventually leave–his new home in space. What is happening back on Earth and in the ship that left him will have you cranking through the pages, itching to know what will happen next, because this book is full of surprises, laughs, details that make you feel right there.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion)–A thought-provoking punch to the gut that, unfortunately, mimics reality a little too closely. I read it before I had kids, then again after I had my three, and I think a parent’s perspective is far more frightening. In the novel, a sociopath “kid” commits the darkest of sins and turns a town–and his family–upside down. *Shivers*

Finding Zoe by Brandi Rarus (Stephanie of Binkies and Briefcases)–the story of a deaf mother and how she came to find herself raising an adopted daughter who is also deaf, as well as her biological children. As an adoptive mom myself, it can be hard to find other stories that relate to my own journey mothering a child with special needs who joined us out of foster care, and this book certainly does that. More than that, Finding Zoe also gave me a glimpse into deaf culture (which was neat for me because before my grandmother passed away she volunteered as a sign language interpreter) and was full of cool trivia, like the author being cast as Marlee Matlin’s understudy in a play, but it was also real and relatable on a human level. I think any mom will be able to relate to this memoir.

Last Blast of Summer Book List and Giveaway!! Grab some reading inspiration and suggestions plus a chance to win a $225 gift card and 7 books in our giveaway!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (Melanie of Not So Super Mom)– I like it for summer reading because it’s not too heavy of a story but it does make us think a bit about our own lives, the expectations we had when we were younger and how changing priorities can set our lives on a different course than we imagined. What a difference a decade makes, right?

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Ellen and Erin of Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms)–Stop looking to other authors to give you the next Gone Girl and just read Flynn’s earlier work. Dark Places is told in a captivating flashback format, with Libby–complicated and damaged from a horrific tragedy in her childhood–narrating the present-day chapters in first person, while the flashback chapters, told in third person, describe the actions of several key characters on that one winter’s day in 1985.
The plot is gripping and complex enough to have you guessing how the puzzle really fits together until the very end. I only wish the story had been longer because it was the type of read you just want to binge on, but are sorry when it’s over.

Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro (Carrie of Normal Level of Crazy and Meredith of The Mom of the Year)–With raw and heartwarming honesty, Fierro’s debut captures the sacrifices we make in order to seek understanding, compassion, and love.

Now that you have this whole list of awesome recommendations, it’s time to get reading, friends! Grab up these titles and make sure to enter in the Rafflecopter below for a super sweet $225 Amazon gift card and seven of these books for your very own!

We are thrilled to have you reading with us!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter before 8/14/15 at 5:30am ET. As long as you are resident of the continental U.S. and 18 yrs. or older, you are eligible to win!

A huge thank you to the publishing houses that offered copies of the books included in our giveaway! All the books were chosen because we genuinely think they are fantastic. We love reading and we so appreciate working with you, Grand Central Publishing, St. Martin’s Press, Penguin Random House, BenBella Books, The Crown Publishing Group, and Penguin Press.

* Note to Meredith and Carries’s dedicated book club fans: They will be discussing Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event as promised, but in the interest of this ginormous giveaway and recommendation list post, they’ve decided to table this discussion until September. Check in on the first Friday of the month, 9/4/15 to catch their thoughts on this book and snag their pick for the next month! It really is a good time!

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What Type of PITA Are You?

What's a PITA, besides funny fodder? Well, if you have to ask, you might be one of the worst offenders. But anyway, it's "Pain in the A**." No matter how great you are, everyone has that little sliver of their personality that occasionally rears its ugly head and causes much eye rolling. So . . . What Type of PITA Are You? | Humor | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

You can just stop blinking with that doe-eyed innocence right now. We’re talking about Pains in the Asses–PITAs–and we’re talking to you!

Yeah that’s right, but rest assured we are not singling you out as a bad person. Each and every one of us has our own brand of pain in the assery–that little sliver of our personality that rears its ugly head from time to time and makes the ones nearest and dearest to us roll their eyes with abandon. We’re just asking you to embrace yours.

Now for those of you who are COMPLETE PITAs? You’ll never acknowledge who you are which is one of the reasons your flavor of PITA is in the “complete” category. Just know that if every phone call you make goes straight to voicemail, you might be a Complete PITA.

For the rest of us, here are some of the types of PITAs we’ve observed during our time on Planet Earth.

Perfectionism PITA

This is Ellen’s brand and it’s usually triggered by work standards. She can walk by a sock crumpled in the middle of the floor for a week, but darn it, anything she creates–blog posts, graphics, foot washing stations, cakes, balloon towers, life-sized zombies–makes her perfectionism kick into high gear and sends her exacting PITAssery into a collision course with whomever is closest. But really that’s only fair because it’s usually the person closest who deserves the fallout. Erin gets splattered with it all of the time. Just sayin’.

There may be other things that trigger it, but you never have to wonder because it is always direct . . . and mostly always annoying. “Let’s cut the crap and get this wrapped up” is her battle cry.

Stealth PITA

Erin likes to describe herself as a Labrador puppy–all happy go-lucky, brimming with sloppy kisses and enthusiastic tail wagging. A good portion of the world views her as easy-going. And that is true . . . until it’s not. Then it’s “Surprise! I’m going to grind everything to a screeching halt!” Ellen is always amazed by what triggers Erin to dig in her heels. There really is no rhyme or reason.

While her PITAssery is so random, it’s like waiting for a shooting star, there is a way to ignite it. Just start putting foods she loathes on her plate and watch her “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” turn into actual gagging. Or just try the magic word “cantaloupe.” That should be enough to see her undercover PITAssery bubble to the surface.

The Rules Aren’t for Me PITA

For this PITA, all of the world is a sapling ready to bend to her will, or be transplanted, or be completely ripped out by its roots and replaced by a birdbath.

She’ll sign on or up for anything because she knows conditions and plans are for other suckers, not her. No photography during the show? Well, that doesn’t mean she can’t take a picture of her princess! Open bar only has wine or beer? She will have her liquor! Of course she’ll select the fixed price menu because it’s the cheapest option but . . . “Yes, I know it’s a fixed menu, but could you replace the bruschetta appetizer with mussels, and the chicken penne with pad thai? That would be great.”

Monopolizing PITA

If you’ve ever wished you could visit the sun, just hang out with this person because she is the center of the universe. She’s the person whose sentences you feel like you can complete because YOU CAN. You’ve heard each and every one of her stories at least eleventy times plus three because she has never met a conversation she couldn’t hijack.

Oh, so you think you’re going to finish your conversation with your friends about editing software? WRONG! You’re hearing about the time Monopolizer thought she was running a 5K, but it was really a 10-miler, with her friend, Betty–“who is a hoot”–but you’re never going to meet because she now lives in Dubai and that makes Betty soooooo much more interesting than you. But rejoice that Betty is some obscure perfect friend who is halfway around the world because if she were here right now, you would be tempted to stab her in the toe with a steak knife just to give Monopolizing PITA a new story to tell.

Stir the Pot PITA

This PITA is also a conversation stopper, but instead of grinding girls’ night out to a stop from boredom, she lights it on fire. If the previous PITA’s MO is monopolize, this one’s is sabotage, and her arsenal is a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of everyone’s emotional vulnerabilities. She is a master of mercilessly digging into Achilles heels like a pair of Jimmy Choo slingbacks bought on clearance one size too small.

Enjoying silly chit chat and mojitos with your girlfriends talking about how you should all live together on a commune when you are old and retired? Not when Stir The Pot PITA marches you down the memory lane of all the squabbles everyone has had that would make living together IMPOSSIBLE. Forget fantasy living arrangements. You’ll be lucky to leave the restaurant speaking to one another.

My Problem is Your Problem PITA

This is another sneak attacker. You may not have heard from her since the calendar flipped its page, but clear your schedule now because now she has a problem and she expects you to drop EVERYTHING to solve it.

The PITAssery usually starts creeping up on you with an innocuous request: “Could I call your babysitter for Friday night?”

Easy enough. But when that sitter is unavailable, you find yourself peppered with calls, buried  in text messages, and tangled in a web so sticky, you cave and cry, “I’ll just come over and babysit for you!” Just. to. make. it. stop.

“That’s great! Do you think you could bring dinner, too, because I’m swamped. Remember Billy has allergies to Swiss cheese, peanuts, and mangoes, and Sally is a vegan, tofu hating, junkfoodivore who gags over anything green.”

Superior PITA

This is probably the same as a Complete PITA. You know the one who can find everyone else’s personality hiccup without ever turning the searchlight on herself?

Wait, what?! Don’t you go labeling US with this moniker. Remember we kicked this all off roasting ourselves? Don’t be a Stir the Pot PITA.

What Type of PITA did we miss?

-Ellen and Erin

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Better Parenting Through The Happy Family World Summit

If you are landing here from The Happy Family World Summit, WELCOME! And here are the tips for handling social media with your kids we promised you. Just click here.

Social media woes? Check out these great tips for handling social media and your kids---Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

If you are “just” a faithful reader, we have a little bit of explaining to do. You know how we’ve been known to give some parenting advice? Like when we shared why kids need the word “No” in their lives or when we talked about kids not having all of their friends in one basket. Really, with seven kids, a masters in education, and a medical degree between us, we can’t help ourselves.

We generally base our blog posts off of questions people ask us or discussions that pop up with friends. But guess what? Someone asked us all official like for our advice on setting kids up for success in the middle years and interviewed us about it. That someone is Elizabeth Mary Hancock: the emotional freedom and transformational wealth coach, the founder of The Happy Family Summit, and the possessor of a lovely British accent.

What is The Happy Family Summit you ask? It is a fantastic parenting resource for you! Liz asked us and over 22 other well known authors, speakers, family therapists, parenting and
wellness experts to join in a discussion that will inspire you and fully equip you to create a calmer and happier family.

Better Parenting Advice for a Happier Family! Access to over 22 family experts with some superb parenting advice is just a click away! Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

 

This telesummit doesn’t cost a thing, but signing up gives you access to 12 days of interviews where family experts discuss the science, psychology, and spirituality behind raising a happy and healthy family.

Topics covered so far include “Helping Your Child to be Un-Bullyable,” “The Case for the Only Child: Releasing the Judgement and Guilt,” and “How to Help Your Worried, Anxious, or Frightened Child.” Plus there is so much more!

So how do you get all of this awesomeness into your life? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Here is How You Sign Up!

1. Go through this link and check out the topics.
2. Sign up with your email.
3. Links to daily interviews are sent to your inbox. Easy!! And worth it!

The best news is you have access to all of the interviews, even the ones that already happened! Ours is coming up June 21st, so register now and follow us in all of these places to never miss a thing we have to say!

Best to You All!

Ellen and Erin

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How My Middle School Awkward Was Put to Rest

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Over the past couple of weeks my worlds have been colliding and my time machine has been revving up because middle school dances have been ruling my life. That’s right, people; you can never escape the past, history repeats itself, and clichés help round out a sentence nicely.

Not only did I help orchestrate my daughter’s eighth grade dance, I was the part of the steering committee for The BlogU Conference where Nickelodeon® anointed our Saturday night shindig as an homage to #MiddleSchoolAwkward.

Seriously, people, for a woman firmly in her fourth decade of life, that was A LOT of middle school partying to shoehorn into my calendar. And into my soul.

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Both events were pulsing with lights, lousy with balloon towers, and ripe with photobooths, but you know what was missing from my daughter’s dance . . . besides the appletinis? THE AWKWARD! I don’t know what it is with these kids today, but between Invisalign, superior acne products, and the propensity for flowing tresses, they are gorgeous! And not in a “all kids are beautiful in the eyes of their mothers sort of way.” I’m talking “where are the contracts and the cameras because Nickelodeon® could use them in their next show” kind of way.

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

I almost feel sorry for them. What will any one of these girls be able to do when Nickelodeon® asks them to submit an awkward middle school picture? They certainly won’t be able to come up with a gem like this:

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

They’ll never know the triumph of transforming from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, or at the very least, into a handsome chicken. They’ll never take comfort in their crow’s feet as a measure to mark their distance from the train wreck of their adolescence. They’ll never be able to work so many avian references into one paragraph.

And they’ll never have the vindicating moment of glory when Nickelodeon® acknowledges that they were the second most awkward of them all.

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

My daughters’ reactions when I texted my family about my second place victory:

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

This right here is why I was not the gold medalist of awkward. For the love of a Flock of Seagulls, SHE COMBED HER BANGS FROM THE BACK OF HER HEAD. Established 1975 totally deserved first place."How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

And quite honestly, I’m not sure how I beat Modern Mommy Madness out for second place. SHE HAD A BERET! (Please check out both of these ladies’ blogs to see how things have improved.)

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

But you know what? I don’t envy the beautiful girls of 2015. They still have the friend turmoil, grade pressures, and the rocky road of growing into the people they will become; but their pictures make you think everything is perfect. You look at OUR middle school pictures and you know we had angst. With my daughters and their friends, you have to imagine it, but it’s there. I have spent the past six years going through middle school two more times with my them. I KNOW.

They deserve some sympathy for their middle school years, too. Don’t hold it against them that their mother used up all of the awkward in her DNA so there was none to pass onto them.

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

At the very least pity them because they will never have this on their mantels:

"How My Middle School Awkward Was Put To Rest" | Thanks to The BlogU Conference, Nickelodeon®, and a trophy for this story of triumph, humor, and inspiration. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

BOOM! The glasses and suede vest were totally worth it for this moment. (No they weren’t.)

I wrote this post as part of Nickelodeon’s® sponsorship of The Blog University. The series “100 Things to Do Before High School” premieres on June 6 @ 8pm on Nickelodeon®. Tell your kids to tune in! Mine will!

-Ellen

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Breaking Down the Capsule Wardrobe Craze

Breaking Down the Capsule Wardrobe Craze - Brilliant idea or one step away from a prison uniform? Can you get your wardrobe down to 37 pieces? |Fashion| Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Are you hiding in your closet? Or are you hiding from your closet? Might be time for a radical change with a dramatically simplified wardrobe. Simple is good, right? Keep saying it and you might believe it. Ellen isn’t quite buying it yet either.

So what is this capsule wardrobe you ask? It’s basically just the latest catch phrase for cleaning out and paring down. It’s been around for a while, but we first read about it on Dallas Moms Blog.

Caroline of the blog Unfancy describes it as “a mini-wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear.” She recommends maintaining a 37 piece wardrobe: 15 tops, 9 bottoms, 9 pairs of shoes, 2 dresses, and 2 jackets.

Wh-wh-WHAT?!!!

Addendum: As our friend pointed out, this is 37 pieces per season. But still.

Ellen might have a long way to go. Her closet looks like this:

Breaking Down the Capsule Wardrobe Craze - Can you get your wardrobe down to 37 elements? | Fashion | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Even after she took out this much stuff:

Breaking Down the Capsule Wardrobe Craze - Can you get your wardrobe down to 37 elements? | Fashion | Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Erin might actually be most of the way there:

This closet isn't too small. It's just right for the closet capsule craze. Read (and hear more) from Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

But we know it can be done! We have a friend who has actually succeeded at this. Read all about how Binkies and Briefcases did it here.

And now listen to what we have to say about it in our latest podcast. Just click the player at the bottom of the post!

 

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