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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jack Templar Monster Hunter and Reaching Your Reluctant Reader Review

Jack Hunter Monster Hunter
by Jeff Gunhus
ISBN: 978-0988425903
$ 9.86 (paperback)
$   .99 (kindle)

My thoughts:
This new Middle Grade book opens with a 13 year old's LAST SUPPER before he learns the truth about who he is and who his family is (or was). Jack Smith is our hero and he is a Monster Hunter. And the Monsters want to KILL HIM. Jack Templar Monster Hunter shares his experiences as he tries to stay 1 step ahead of the monsters!

There are several reasons this book is a must on your kid's bedside table. 
1) Monster Hunter is very well written. It's written like a diary and completely in 1st person. Usually I found this method very hard to read but this time it sucked me in and held me till I got it done.
2) You can tell the author took the time to write this story correctly - it catches a kid's attention and makes him WANT to read. The writing is very smooth, spelling & grammar is correct and very easy to read.
3) Action oriented - You kid will be on the edge of their seat throughout the whole book.
4) Read Aloudable (is that a word?) - I strongly encourage you to read this book with your kids at night (maybe not to close to bedtime if you are reading with younger kids). It's perfect to read aloud to kids 8 and up into early high school!

I'd say this book would be good for boys and girls 6-7 years and up. There is mention of Jack seeing a corpse floating face down in the river as he flies overhead (and it is about Monsters but we all know - Boys especially love Monsters and being scared). If your kids enjoyed Percy Jackson or Harry Potter books they'll enjoy this series. There is some violence. So, you need to really know your kid and what he/she can handle emotionally. Try reading it first if you aren't sure.

About the author:
Jack Templar Monster Hunter is book #1 of what will eventually be a 7 book series (Book #4 just came out October 2014). I wrote Jack Templar as a way to get my 11 year old reluctant reader excited about reading. It worked and he's now an avid reader. I wrote about my experience with him in a book for parents called Reaching Your Reluctant Reader. This small parenting book is available on Amazon with 100% of author proceeds benefiting Toys for Tots Literacy Program. 

You can purchase Reaching Your Reluctant Reader on Amazon to read on your Kindle device or computer for $1.99 here or purchase a hard copy for $6.26 here.

As a father of 5, giving my kids a passion for reading has been a challenge. Some of them immediately gravitated to books... others not so much. My experience with my reluctant reader forced me to research creative ways to encourage reading. I hope you agree with me that parents could benefit from the tips I discovered and listed in the Amazon article.

While I wrote the book for middle graders, the Jack Templar series has found a great audience with readers from upper elementary school through adults. Essentially, its the same audience who enjoyed Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books. The books are full of adventure to grab hold of even the most reluctant reader, but each book carries a positive message. Book 1 discusses how bravery is not being fearless, but doing the right thing even when you are afraid.

Disclaimer: I received on or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Combine Goal Setting & Scheduling with the Tools4Wisdom Planner

Tools4Wisdom Planners
by tools4wisdom.com
Available on Amazon

Several years ago I was at an Usborne Books meeting and one of the consultants had invested in a planner that was goal focused and also encouraged her to prioritize her daily tasks/goals at the end of the day. I thought it was a neat set up but never ordered one. A couple years ago when I started up my In Home Daycare I started looking around for something similar and even contacted one of the other consultants to see if she remembered what planner that was that was shown at our meeting and she couldn't remember which it was either.

Fast forward oh, 8-9 years and suddenly I find myself overwhelmed. The last couple of years I've put something together on my computer but it just wasn't quite fitting my needs. Between the daycare and my Simply Aroma business I really needed something that would help me stay organized. I am not very good with goal setting and/or follow thru & frankly the idea of doing every step of this planner is a bit to much for me - but then I don't think that is truly the idea behind a Goal Oriented Planner. To me I think it's more important to start in the areas you can do and then make an effort to add in 1 or 2 new tasks.

The Tools4Wisdom Planner which is one of the Top Rated Planners on Amazon & has several tools to help you succeed with Goal Setting:
1) A monthly calendar (I excell when using monthly calendars!)
2) A double page spread where I can list my main goals, new ideas for meetings, marketing, products, and also to prioritize my actions.
3) The beginning of the book starts with a very easy to read set of instructions on how to set Goals and also how to use my new planner.
4) Each month ends a set of pages where I can write notes to myself about Goal Completion, a section on Goals and how I did in completing them & reflecting on my success.

I can see myself using the monthly calendar for meal planning & tracking attendance for the daycare and using the weekly calendar sections to keep track of my Simply Aroma business: hostess coaching, orders, parties, training & more. Like I said above I'm not a very goal oriented person - but really this planner can be used in many many ways to suit your goal setting style (or not) and your priorities and needs.

Update 1/11/15:
I've now been using the planner for a couple weeks and more regularly in the last week. I think I'm really going to like using this planner more and more as the year goes by. There is plenty of room on the actual calendar to note school holidays, which kids I'm having when, all the little details a daycare (or nanny/parent) could need - dance, tutor's, school holidays, birthdays, etc.... as well as the all important vacation! lol I'm using the daily planner for my other business - to write notes from webinars, hostess info, directions, a to-do list and so on.

What I'd really like to see added to the planner is:
1) A Contact Section - family & business addresses/phone numbers
2) A section for websites/passwords (!!!) and notes about those websites.
3) Monthly Tabs on the side to easily find each month. I find myself going back & forth as I plan certain parts of the year in advance & as I set up my income/expenses spreadsheets on the computer & this would really help a lot. I keep forgetting to check at Walmart to for these little tabs.

Another thing I liked as I learned more about the Tools4Wisdom Planner is that they are working with active volunteers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to evolve & continuously launch new features in future planners. Maybe I'll see my suggestions in next years planner. =D

Learn more about Tools4Wisdom Goal Planners at:
FB: http://fb.com/Tools4Wisdom
Website: www.tools4wisdom.com
Amazon: www.amazon.com/tools4wisdom

Disclaimer: I received the Tools4Wisdom Planner in exchange for my honest review. Regardless I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 

Gabriel ~ Kid Inventor needs some help!

How many of you remember the old Choose Your Adventure Books of the 1980's? These books were written to draw kids into and encourage them to pick up a book and have some control in how the story went. 

Creative Storytelling
Today I learned about a boy named Gabriel who has created a game of Storytelling Cards - a deck of 54 cards that kids can use for storytelling or as a fun game to play with their family & friends. Teachers can use it for Journaling or Writing exercises, Preschool Teachers can use it as Story prompts for memory building to help little ones  make up their own stories. 

You can help Gabriel get funding for his game on IndiGoGo - his goal is $5500 and so far he has 16 benefactors and $288 in his fund so he still has a little ways to go... Click Here to help him out.

Just a heads up part of the funding will also go towards the producing of more books in The Adventures of Joe-Joe Nut & Biscuit Bill Adventure Series. These books are science based and teachers in school districts or homeschools will be able to use them for students in the 2nd - 5th grades. These are mysteries that cover such topics as animal tracks, rocks & minerals, weathering erosion & art. You can learn more about these books on Gabriel's funding page as well as see the book covers. Or go to his mom's author website www.reneeahand.com .

Please feel FREE to leave an encouraging message for Gabriel on FB HERE and then help them out with a ReTweet here: 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Children's Music CD "Sing the Bible" with Slugs & Bugs ~ Review

Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs
by Randall Goodgame
$18.99 (Audio CD)

My thoughts:
We actually received this CD before Christmas and have been listening to it in the car and in the house while playing games. Gianna (1) loves to dance to it and I've caught Connor (7) listening to it very closely. It's great that it's based on scripture and many of the songs actually have the scripture address right in the song. The songs are upbeat and very catchy and even on the first time through I caught myself singing along as most of the verses are just repeated sentences. Very cute CD. There are also 4 others in this series that I could find: A Slugs & Bugs ChristmasSlugs & Bugs Under Wear?, Slugs & Bugs Lullabies and a DVD Slugs & Bugs - The Videos #1

About the CD:
Children's CD, "Sing the Bible" by Slugs & Bugs. Sing The Bible is the fourth installment in the popular Slugs & Bugs CD series for families. Written by acclaimed singer/songwriter Randall Goodgame and produced by Ben Shive (Brandon Heath, Jeremy Camp) Sing The Bible is the first Slugs & Bugs release featuring exclusively word-for-word Scripture songs.
The collection of songs is overflowing with rich and varied collaborations. On highlights “Freedom” and "Trust in The Lord" (Galatians 5:1, Proverbs 3:5-6), Goodgame is joined by The African Children’s Choir.  “Alien” (Deuteronomy 14:21), features hilarious spoken dialogue from Sally Lloyd-Jones, best-selling author of The Jesus Storybook Bible, and on “For Us” (1 John 3:16), Goodgame shares lead vocals with his daughter, Livi. “The New Testament Song,” includes a memorable harmonica performance by harmonica legend Buddy Green, and "Deuteronomy 6:5" includes the surprising vocal contributions of Count Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman... and some singing bumblebees.  
With infectious world beat and bluegrass influences, Sing The Bible raises the bar for children's music with such top Nashville musicians as Ron Block (Alison Krauss & Union Station), Stuart Duncan, (Dolly Parton, YoYo Ma), Dan Needham (Chris Tomlin, Michael McDonald), Jeff Taylor (Elvis Costello, Paul Simon) and others.
“These songs were written to help families learn scripture together,” Goodgame says. “My grand hope is that these Slugs & Bugs songs will help fasten God's word to the heart of all who listen. The musicians on Sing the Bible are some of the worlds best, but they did a masterful job of keeping the focus first and foremost on lifting up Scripture." 
A singer and sought-after songwriter, Goodgame has penned selections for Caedmon’s Call, VeggieTales, Jason Gray and Ginny Owens, among others. Along with award-winning singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson, Goodgame created Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies in 2007 to an overwhelming response from parents. Goodgame, who now helms the series, has released A Slugs & Bugs Christmas (2010) and 2011’s Slugs & Bugs Under Where?, as well as a Slugs & Bugs Vacation Bible School curriculum. His popular Slugs & Bugs LIVE concert for families tours in and out of the country all year long.

Disclaimer: I received on or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sunday Suppers - Beautiful & Entertaining!

Sunday Suppers
by Karen Mordechai
ISBN: 978-0-385-34526-2
$23.16 (hardback)
$16.14 (kindle)
Sunday Suppers on Instagram

About the book:
Rediscover the art of cooking and eating communally with a beautiful, simple collection of meals for friends and family.
With her dinner series Sunday Suppers, Karen Mordechai celebrates the magic of gathering, bringing together friends and strangers to connect over the acts of cooking and sharing meals. For those who yearn to connect around the table, Karen’s simple, seasonally driven recipes, evocative photography, and understated styling form a road map to creating community in their own kitchens and in offbeat locations. This collection of gatherings will inspire a sense of adventure and community for both the novice and experienced cook alike.

My thoughts:
This cookbook isn't just a cookbook - I love a cookbook that is filled with stories and pictures and often it's fun to just sit down and look through the cookbook. Especially since I'm single and big drawn out meals just aren't in my life anymore except maybe 1-2 times a year. Divided into seasons and then times of the day such as Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Within each of those categories you'll find a menu and suggested foods to serve. The foods are mostly easy to prepare (just like moms) and many of them will be regular recipes that you'll use again and again.

This will be a nice cookbook to give for a wedding shower or gift and even if the couple aren't big on cooking they will use this book over and over. You can order a beautiful hardback copy of Sunday Suppers HERE.   Some of the ultra easy recipes you'll find are:

Brioche Rolls (I <3 brioche="" font="">
Watermelon Salad w Lemon & Coriander Seed Dressing (YUM!)
Roasted Spring Vegetables (Mmmmm)
Lemon Hummus
Mixed Root Vegetable Chips (I need to try this one for my kiddos! -Minus the beets)
Whiskey Glazed Ribs
or how about Chili - Texas Style!

What sounds good to YOU?

About the author:
KAREN MORDECHAI, a photographer and stylist, is the founder of Sunday Suppers, a Brooklyn-based food community and blog that has won many accolades, including a 2013 Food and Wine Digital Award, top food blog by Saveur, and #6 in Babble.com’s Top 50 Design Blogs. Karen’s work is regularly featured in the New York Times, Martha Stewart LivingRemodelistaNew York magazine, and more. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York.

Disclaimer: I received this book to review as a member of the Blogging For Books review program in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for reading GivingNSharing!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bake It Baking Mat

Note: I do have a video that will be posted as soon as I get it to show up on YouTube - it's my first vLog and hopefully it will turn out really well.

BakeitFun Baking Mat Review - Red Edition

About the Baking Mat:
The BakeitFun Premium silicone baking mat is very easy to use. It's FDA & LFGB approved and 100% BPA free. It's made up of fiberglass coated with food grade silicone - and perfect for preparing, cooking & heating food up to 450 degrees. You can use it in the Oven or Microwave and clean it in the dishwasher. Use in place of Parchment paper or Aluminum Foil.

What I loved:
1) The ease of clean up!
2) The material itself! It's thick, has a little texture to it and feels like a quality product.
3) The ruler printed on all 4 sides of the mat.

I used it on one of my old ikky cookie sheets that to be honest I'm seriously thinking about replacing but with this silicone baking mat I won't have to anytime soon. I've made cookies on this mat as well as the cute peppermint ornaments that I've been seeing all over Pinterest. The fact that my ornaments didn't work out had nothing to do with the silicone mat! lol

I had no problem cleaning up or removing the ornaments or cookies from the mat - they slipped right off the mat. I also didn't need to oil or spray down the mat which is a great point if you are trying to lose weight and want to cut calories any place possible. 

You can purchase the BakeitFun Baking Mat right on Amazon - it's available for $27.99 and you can use your prime membership for free shipping.

Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for my honest review of this product. Thank you for reading GivingNSharing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WIN a FREE Meal on Artisan Bistro!

The Artisan Bistro Meals

WIN a FREE Meal on Artisan Bistro!
Enter this giveaway tonight, share it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook &
5 LUCKY Winners will Win a Coupon. It could be you!

Disclaimer: I was offered coupons to try the Artisan Bistro Meals in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for reading GivingNSharing!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Artisan Bistro: Sustainable, free-range and grass-fed proteins made simple

The Artisan Bistro Meals

Do any of my readers NOT like to cook or perhaps your like me and do not care for leftovers & finally have resorted to buying from the main 3 frozen meal lines available at the store? I personally have food sensitivities so I'm limited in what I can purchase and have found 3 meals from one line and 4-5 meals from another line so at least I have a tiny bit of variety - the rest of the time I either have a bowl of cereal, a PB&J or a can of tomato soup. So I was thrilled that I now have another choice: 

Artisan Bistro makes eating well simple & easy with their gluten free frozen meals, all containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. Artisan Bistro begins each recipe by selecting only super-premium, real food ingredients including free-range chicken, grass fed beef & wild-caught sustainable fish. 

Varieties include:
Wild Salmon - Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Japanica rice, broccoli, walnuts & dried cranberries.
Ginger Chicken - free-range chicken with brown rice, green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots & ginger puree.
Thai Style Red Curry with Beef - grass-fed beef with brown rice, sweet potatoes, green beans, coconut milk, red bell pepper puree, turmeric and toasted sesame oil.

FPSS slide image
I tried the Ginger Chicken and was very pleased with the amount of the serving, loved the flavor of the seasonings and the veggies were scrumptious. The chicken had a much better taste then the rubber chicken you find in other frozen meal lines as well (which pleased me!) I think I will be trying the Wild Salmon next time. I'm not a great fan of Salmon but will give it a whirl. When they come out with a good Cod or Halibut meal I'll be first in line for those!

I was very pleased with the Gluten Free meals and that many of the ingredients are organic. I'd really like to try the Thai Beef especially since it has Turmeric as an ingredient (Turmeric is a known to help control pain in Fibromylagia and other pain conditions). I'm just a bit concerned that it will be spicy. If any of you try it let me know!

Ingredients List

Artisan Bistro meals and Meals for Two are available in natural food stores & grocers nationwide including Whole Foods, Publix, Safeway & Target. They are also now coming out with a line of Breakfast Meals which I'm personally excited about - I love breakfast! Watch for a review of these items as soon as they are available.

(giveaway ends 12/7 at 8 pm, US & 18+)

Disclaimer: I was offered coupons to try the Artisan Bistro Meals in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for reading GivingNSharing!