Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson

by Diane Estrella

the princess spy melanie dickerson

About the Book

Margaretha has always been a romantic, and hopes her newest suitor, Lord Claybrook, is destined to be her one true love. But then an injured man is brought to Hagenheim Castle, claiming to be an English lord who was attacked by Claybrook and left for dead. And only Margaretha—one of the few who speaks his language—understands the wild story.

Margaretha finds herself unable to pass Colin’s message along to her father, the duke, and convinces herself “Lord Colin” is just an addled stranger. Then Colin retrieves an heirloom she lost in a well, and asks her to spy on Claybrook as repayment. Margaretha knows she could never be a spy—not only is she unable to keep anything secret, she’s sure Colin is completely wrong about her potential betrothed. Though when Margaretha overhears Claybrook one day, she discovers her romantic notions may have been clouding her judgment about not only Colin but Claybrook as well. It is up to her to save her father and Hagenheim itself from Claybrook’s wicked plot.

About the Author

Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter, both Christy Award finalists, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010’s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at http://www.MelanieDickerson.com.

My Review

Another winning title from one of my favorite authors!

All of Melanie Dickerson’s books, thus far, have been based on fairy tale classics, and I hope she continues as such. This story is a vague retelling of The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm. I was slightly disappointed that this novel did not have more references to the original, but the new tale this author told, more than made up for this lack.

Margaretha is definitely one of my favorite heroines from all of these stories. I’d like to think that if I had an alter-ego, or if ever I went back into the 1400’s, that I would resemble her. Her quick thinking intelligence, empathetic heart, and ability to kick some bad-guy butt is how I’d hope to come off as well. She was a woman that our hero Colin, could respect in both his head and in his heart. We always have to keep our motives in check and decide where our actions are taking us. In one way or another, freedom or destruction usually awaits us.

This can be read as a stand-alone book, but it is so much fun to revisit other characters from the author’s previous books. I love to catch up with old friends and see how their happily-ever-after’s are progressing along. Another quick read for teens and even older lovers of fiction and, of course, true love’s first kisses…..

Buy it Here

The author sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Melanie Dickerson.


Sunday, November 02, 2014

5 Tips for Help with Homework

by Diane Estrella

visual latin 3

If your first child has started school it can be a little overwhelming for you when they begin bringing school work home. How much help is too much? What if you don’t know the answers? Even if it is your fifth child now it is probably not getting any easier. Curriculum seems to get more challenging with each passing year and every teacher has different expectations. Not to mention, if you haven’t done algebra for many years you may feel the urge to run and hide when the books come out.

  1. Create an Ideal Homework Environment – Ideally, your child will have a desk in their room, but sometimes this is not possible. Doing homework at the table is “okay,” but if there are other kids in the house they will easily get distracted. Plus, their homework space should have supplies they need ready and waiting. You can easily create a space with a small desk in a large closet, under the stairs, or in the corner of your own office.
  2. Have a Routine – Creating a homework routine is very beneficial because they will always know their expectations. If they have to do homework before they go out and play, they will know better than to ask to go outside before they are done. If you let them play after school when it is still light out and save homework for after dinner this is great, too. Obviously, you have to be flexible when soccer practices and dance classes infiltrate the schedule.
  3. Know the Teacher’s Expectations – Parent-teacher nights are not created just to inconvenience you or talk about your child’s outburst in class. Teachers are available during these times for you to ask questions and get involved with their education. Know what their expectations are. Ask about homework policies and what role they would prefer you take in terms of helping.
  4. Don’t Hover – There will be times when you need to sit and help, but this does not mean you need to hold their hand through everything. Some kids feel nervous when someone is looking over their shoulder. Others become too dependent on someone being there for assistance, so they don’t put forth the effort to figure out the answer. Buy yourself a calming slate water fall from stores like Luxe Water Walls and take this time to go relax and read a book. Check on them periodically or wait for them to ask for help.
  5. Praise Efforts – It is important to not only point out when they get something wrong. Even if nearly every spelling word is wrong, maybe they were closer than last time or perhaps they got a word right they were struggling with before. They need a little encouragement to stay motivated.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vitamin C Facial Toner from InstaNatural

by Diane Estrella

instanatural vitamin c facial toner

Hydrate… Renew… and Restore Your Skin With InstaNatural’s Vitamin C Facial Toner

Our Facial Spray is a premium toner that provides many benefits and is suitable for everyday usage:
– Cleans and purifies skin
– Provides Anti-Aging Benefits
– Shrinks appearance of pores
– Removes excess oil and dead skin cells
– Restores balance to natural pH levels
– Helps protect your skin against impurities
– Gives you instant refreshment
– Preps skin for other applications

Our Vitamin C Facial Toner is unparalleled to any other product on the market.
– Huge 4oz bottle will last a long time and provides great value
– 100% Natural with Mostly Organic Ingredients
– Each bottle contains powerful anti-aging and astringent properties
– Cruelty-free
– Made in the USA

InstaNatural backs their products with a Lifetime Money Back Guarantee, no matter where you buy our product. If you’re not satisfied, simply contact us and get a full refund.

My Review

I always enjoy using natural products on my skin. Since our skin is the body’s largest and fastest-growing organ system, we need to take care of what goes on it and then absorbs into it.

I have used other Vitamin C facial products before and I am sure that each brand has differences that set them apart. The InstaNatural Vitamin C Facial Toner has a spray top that can be sprayed directly onto the face, or I like to spray it into my hands and then rub it on my face exactly where I want it to be. It does have a stronger citrus-y smell then another Vitamin C product I have used before, but it is not unpleasant in any way. It dries almost instantly when it hits the skin. It is not oily and does not leave your face feeling wet. It’s almost like giving your face an immediate wake-up call. It feels refreshing and invigorating.

Lovely to use first thing in the morning or anytime during the day to freshen your face and ignite your senses. I like this product very much.

Buy it Here

I received one 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.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Christmas at Rose Hill Farm by Suzanne Woods Fisher

by Diane Estrella

christmas at rose hill farmAbout the Book

Bess Riehl is preparing Rose Hill Farm for her Christmas wedding, but her groom isn’t who she thought it would be. Billy Lapp is far away from his Amish roots working as a rose rustler for Penn State and wants nothing to do with Stoney Ridge, his family, or Bess. And that suits Bess just fine. Why should she think twice about a man who left without a word, without any explanation? It’s time she moved on with her life, and that meant saying yes to Amos Lapp, Billy’s cousin and best friend. But as Bess and Amos’s wedding day draws near, her emotions tangle into a tight knot. She loves Amos. Yet she can’t forget Billy.

When a “lost” rose is discovered at Rose Hill Farm, Billy is sent to track down its origins. Get in, identify the rose, and get out. That’s his plan. The only catch is that he’s having a hard time narrowing down the identity of the lost rose, and he can’t get those tropical blue eyes of Bess Riehl out of his mind.

As the history of the lost rose is pieced together, it reminds Bess and Billy–and Amos, too–that Christmas truly is the season of miracles.

Join bestselling, award-winning author Suzanne Woods Fisher for an Amish Christmas to remember. Filled with heart-twisting moments amid the sweet anticipation of love, this story will charm readers into the holiday spirit.

My Review

I am always skeptical if a shorter novel will pack just as much punch as a full-length story does. I am happy to announce that Christmas at Rose Hill Farm more than tells a full and fulfilling story of rejection, reconciliation and ultimately redemption.

This book is a prequel to the Stoney Ridge Season series the author previously wrote. I enjoyed learning about Amos’s daughter in that series and thoroughly adored finding out how it all began for Amos in this, the author’s latest book. Things don’t always turn out the way we hope or expect, but sometimes, even through heartache, they actually become better than we ever could have dreamt possible.

I feel like I got a huge botany lesson on roses. The author did a ton of research to give wonderful detail on the art of rose rustling and identification. Very informative and interesting too!

This is a perfect read for Christmastime with the themes the author included. Miracles, and new beginnings, and angels are all around. This was a lovely story that I will be happily passing on to both my 14 year old daughter and 82 year old aunt. A winning book from young to old. Enjoy!

Buy it Here

Revell sent me the above book for review purposes. It will allow me to keep the book. I have no other connection to and have received no other compensation from Revell.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Helping Your Child Set Academic Goals

by Diane Estrella


Goals are important to set because they give a child something to focus on and work towards. It also allows them to see how far they have come when they achieve their goal and provides a pretty good reason to celebrate! The problem is that many kids don’t create any and some who do end up creating goals that are nearly impossible to reach. For example, a child practically failing algebra may have the goal to get an A, but if only half a semester is left and they would have to get perfect grades on everything it is unlikely they will hit their goal. This can leave them feeling bad about themselves when they should be thrilled that they bumped that D- to a B. Helping your child set academic goals ensures they are not impossible, but challenging enough to demand an effort. It is a bonding experience, too.

  • Speak to Them Alone – If you have multiple children in the home it is important to talk to each one separately. Quite often, kids will hold back a little out of fear of being judged by a sibling, or they try to be an overachiever to outdo the other person’s goals. These goals should be personal and not influenced by goals set by anyone else. Talk to them individually where no one else can hear.
  • Explain the Importance of Goals – Some kids can be resistant to these conversations. The ballerina or the quarterback with a big future in front of them may not see the purpose of setting academic goals. They need to understand that goals help them focus their attention on priorities. You have probably already explained the importance of a good education because sometimes talent won’t get them everywhere they want to go in life.
  • Find Out What They Want to Improve – Some kids will know exactly what they want to accomplish. Others will need a little help. Find out what they want to improve upon. It could be as ambitious as getting straight A’s, but it could simply be improving their use of punctuation.
  • Write Them Down – Goals should always be written down. You feel more accountable for things when you do. You want them to be able to read their goals to stay on track.
  • Make it Fun – Rewards are always welcome. Little ones may be thrilled with stickers on a goal chart. Teenagers might need a little incentive to keep them motivated.
  • Provide the Right Environment – Kids need a good study space. Four kids at the kitchen table equal nonstop distractions. Give them personal space. Bean bag chairs are the best pieces of furniture to study in. You can sit in one reading for hours and your back won’t hurt. Plus, quality ones last a really long time and they are perfect for kids of any age. You can get them from online stores like ProHomeStores.com. Lastly, make sure they have good lighting.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Chores for Toddlers to Preteens

by Diane Estrella

hugz 2

Kids can start handling chores when they are as young as 2 years old. Obviously these responsibilities will differ greatly from the chores you expect a 15-year-old to handle, but they can still put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket and help with making their bed. If you are creating a chore list for a child under the age of 10, you may not be too sure what they can and cannot handle. This list of ideas will help. Of course, younger children will need parental help or supervision, but kids 8, 10, or 12 years old should be able to handle most of these.

  • Clean and fill a pet’s water bowl every day
  • Make their bed in the morning before school
  • Set and clear the table
  • Load the dishwasher (older kids can rinse the dishes first)
  • Help prepare food for meals (break up lettuce for salads, etc.)
  • Match socks in pairs when the laundry comes out of the dryer (the job everyone hates)
  • Hang up their towels in the bathroom after a bath or shower
  • Choose their daily outfit for school
  • Put their backpack in their room after school
  • Put their bike and outside toys away before it is time to be inside for the evening
  • Arrange decorative pillows on the sofa nicely
  • Empty indoor trash cans from bedrooms and bathrooms into one large can
  • Fold and put away laundry (younger kids can do towels)
  • Clean floor fountains (kids can clean tubing of fountains like those at SoothingWalls.com)
  • Set their alarm clock for school and wake up using it
  • Fill out thank you cards for gifts they receive for birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions
  • Keep their bedroom clean
  • Help pack lunches
  • Pull weeds from the cracks in the driveway (older kids can pull them from flower beds)
  • Assist with checking smoke alarms monthly (create a schedule to initial when this is done)
  • Put toys away in appropriate places
  • Help carry in light bags of groceries when you get back from the grocery store
  • Clean mirrors and low windows with vinegar and water
  • Remove sheets from beds on laundry day and put sheets back on when they are clean

It’s important to not expect kids to know what they are supposed to do. Create chore charts or lists. Make chore time fun. Do power cleaning for 15 minutes after dinner every day. Let them work for stars they can cash in for something new. If you make chores fun, they will be eager to help.