Fall Bucket List: Family Game Night

One of our Fall Bucket List items was to have a “Family Game Night.”  Last Friday night we played this game:

Made by:  Mindware
Retails for $24.99
Ages 6+
2-4 Players

This was a gift that “C” received for his sixth birthday this past July.  It was also the first time we took the box out of the wrapping!  “A” was familiar with this game, having played in second grade but no one else in the family had ever heard of it.  Although reading over the directions for the first time it seemed a bit confusing, it’s really not a difficult game.  The game consists of 108 tiles with various colors and shapes.  The goal of the game is to get rid of your tiles by creating lines with similar attributes (same color or shape) and scoring the most points.  You get six bonus points for completing a “quirkle” (a line of six – either all six colors or six shapes). This is how we were playing:


We were attempting to finish a six by six square of tiles and whoever scored the most points at the end won.  We ended up playing two rounds of the game (with me winning both times!).  I was wondering why we had so many tiles left and why we had to keep using turns to trade in tiles.  After doing some research, it turns out that we should have been playing like this:

                                                                              Image via Mindware

This explains the large number of tiles!!  So, it turns out that we will be playing this game again soon….the correct way!  This game has won several awards including the Mensa Select Award and the Parents Choice Gold Award.  It is a game that was fun for everyone to play, although it’s probably even better playing the correct way!  This was a great game to start off our Family Game Nights!


Book Themed Thursday: Halloween

I thought I’d try to do a semi-regular “themed” kids book review.  Have I mentioned that we’re a book loving family?!!  We read a LOT of books.  Picture books, chapter books, non-fiction, poetry.  We like them all!  I especially like to incorporate books that relate to my kid’s school curriculum or holidays.  With the new Common Core curriculum being implemented, there’s a big push for kids to be reading non-fiction books.  So, I’m really trying to find and read books with the kids that fit into this genre.  There’s about a week left until Halloween so I thought it would be fitting that the first “Book Themed Thursday” focus on this holiday.  These were all books that we read over the past couple of years that I had posted and reviewed on my old blog “The Busy Mom Café” that I thought I’d share with you!  Hope you find one that you enjoy!

FYI:  Our Rating System:

2 thumbs up = Amazing!  We all LOVED this book!
1 1/2 thumbs up = Great book.  We really enjoyed it.
1 thumb up = Okay book.
thumbs down = Don’t bother reading it!  We did not like it!

Scary, Scary Halloween

Scary, Scary Halloween
Written by:  Even Bunting
Illustrated by:  Jan Brett
Published by: Clarion Books, 1986
40 pages

from goodreads.com:
Four pairs of eyes stare from the blackness to watch fearsome creatures trick-or-treat.

This is an oldie but goodie Halloween book.  Award-winning author Eve Bunting has written over 250 books and illustrator Jan Brett (a family favorite)  is also an award-winning author and illustrator of many books.  Written in rhyme, this book is told from the perspective of something with two green eyes, shining in the night.  It watches as children go trick-or-treating dressed up as goblins, witches, and ghosts.  Only at the end of the book is the identity of the narrator revealed.

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

Cinderhazel: The Cinderella of Halloween

CinderHazel:  The Cinderella of Halloween
Written and illustrated by:  Deborah Nourse Lattimore
Published by: The Blue Sky Press, 1997

from goodreads.com:
Filled with wonderful details and funny mishaps, this spin on the classic Cinderella fairy tale is the perfect Halloween treat.

Cinderhazel is a blond witch who loves dirt more than anything. When her stepsisters and stepmother fly oiff to attend the annual Halloween witches’ ball, where the elusive Prince Alarming will make an appearance, they leave Cinderhazel behind. All her attempted spells turn to dust — until her witchy fairy godmother appears and sends Cinderhazel off to meet the equally messy prince. Could this be the beginning of filthily ever after?

The kids are already very familiar with the traditional Cinderella story.  In this book, Cinderhazel’s stepsisters are going to the Witches’ Halloween Ball in hopes of seeing Prince Alarming.  But with the help of her witchy godmother she makes it to the ball.  The story takes a detour from the traditional tale because when the clock strikes midnight Cinderhazel meets the Prince, and of course there’s a fairy tale ending.  I didn’t like that the title of the book is CinderHazel but the character’s name in the story is spelled Cinderhazel, with a lower case h.  This definitely wasn’t one of my favorite versions of the tale of Cinderella but the kids seemed to like it and it was fitting for Halloween.

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
Written and illustrated by:  Adam Rex
Published by: Harcourt Inc., 2006

from goodreads.com:
Being a monster isn’t all frightening villagers and sucking blood. Monsters have their trials, too. Poor Frankenstein’s cupboard is bare, Wolfman is in need of some household help, and it’s best not to get started on Dracula’s hygiene issues. What could be scarier?
Nineteen hilarious poems delve into the secret lives of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bigfoot, Godzilla, and others. In a range of styles that pay homage to everyone from Charles Schulz to John James Audubon, the monstrously talented Adam Rex uncovers horrific–and clever–truths you won’t want to miss.

This is not your typical Halloween book about trick or treating.  But it does involve all kinds of monsters, zombies, and mummies that are featured in poems.  Yes, this book is a book of poems about monsters and some of the poems also feature food.  The kids especially liked the Phantom of the Opera who keeps appearing and can’t get songs out of his head, which of course requires the reader to sing the words to that particular tune.  A lot of the humor is for older kids and adults but my kids still enjoyed listening to the poems and looking at the detailed and funny pictures.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

The Halloween Queen Who Lost Her Scream

The Halloween Queen Who Lost Her Scream
Written by:  Donna Davies
Illustrated by: Rob Peters
Published by: All Hallows Eve Press, 2011

from goodreads.com:
Halloween author, Donna Davies has created an exciting Halloween mystery that will have your kids sitting on the edge of theirs seats. An action-packed tale of a Halloween Queen named Calliope who lost her scream right before Halloween. Meet an amazing cast of Halloween monsters from witches to zombies as they go on an adventure to help their Queen and save Halloween. Filled will stunning colorful Halloween illustrations by the very talented Rob Peters. This delightfully fun book is sure to become a family tradition.

* Calliope, the Halloween Queen kicks off the Halloween Bash every year with a scream.  But this year, someone has stolen her scream. Told in rhyme, we follow the black widow Mina as she searches for clues to who stole the Queen’s scream.  Then we go on an adventure as she helps to gather the special ingredients needed for Witchy Wanda’s special potion to get the Queen her scream back.  After reading this book I discovered that the author is a local Hudson Valley resident and owns/runs the publishing company.  Overall, this was a cute Halloween read.

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

The Hallo-wiener

The Hallo-Wiener
Written and illustrated by:  Dav Pilkey
Published by: The Blue Sky Press, 1995
32 pages

from goodreads.com:
Oscar is short, like all dachshunds and other dogs make fun of him. On Halloween he takes more ridicule than ever in his hot-dog costume, but one brave act makes him a hero. Color illustrations throughout. A “School Library Journal” Best of the Best of 1995.

* Dav Pilkey is the author/illustrator of the famous Captain Underpants series (which my son loves!).  In this story, Oscar, a dachshund is picked on by the other dogs.  For Halloween his mother gets him a hot-dog costume.  He doesn’t want to make her feel bad so he wears it, even though he gets made fun of.  He can’t walk fast in it and misses all of the treats.  The other dogs who have gotten all of the candy and who usually make fun of him have a change of heart after Oscar helps them out.  There is some hot dog humor in this book, that probably only older children and adults will get.  But overall the story is cute and the kids enjoyed it.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 1/2 thumbs up.

The Haunted Ghoul Bus

The Haunted Ghoul Bus
Written by:  Lisa Trumbauer
Illustrated by:  Jannie Ho
Published by: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc., 2008

from goodreads.com:
Of course children know about the big yellow school bus…but have they ever heard about the haunted ghoul bus? It’s wilder and way cooler, with a Mutant Mummy driver and a menagerie of monster passengers. But one Halloween day someone else gets on board by mistake: a normal little boy. Soon he’s taking a ride with a furry werewolf, a skeleton whose rickety bones go clitter-clatter, a grinning pumpkin head, a swirl of bats, and a friendly witch named Dolores. Told in fun and appealing rhyme, and featuring holiday-bright illustrations of a cast of unforgettable characters, this playful picture book has sturdy cardstock pages and embossing throughout. It’s perfect for celebrating a (not too) scary Halloween. Kids will want the ghoul bus to come to their neighborhood, too!

* This Halloween book, told in rhyme, tells the story of a little boy who mistakenly gets on the ghoul bus.  He meets lots of different creatures on his ride.  The pictures are bright and colorful.  Overall, the story was just okay.

*This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

City Witch, Country Switch

City Witch, Country Switch
Written by: Wendy Wax
Illustrated by:  Scott Gibala-Broxholm
Published by: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2008
40 pages

from goodreads.com:
Mitzi is a city witch.  She likes pizza and plays, crowded subways and noisy streets. Muffletump is a country witch. She prefers hayrides and fresh air, pumpkin picking and her pet snake. When the cousins visit each other, their differences come between them. How can they solve their problem? With a spell, of course But finding the right one isn’t so easy. The rhyming text makes this a wonderful read-aloud, while the vibrant watercolor and colored-pencil artwork contains fantastically funny details for kids to pore over.

* This book isn’t a Halloween themed book but because of the witches I thought it was seasonally appropriate.  Prior to reading this book I was more familiar with author Wendy Wax’s novels for adults.  This book, told in rhyme, is a take on the classic tale The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.   Witch cousins Mitzi and Muffletump visit each other’s homes and discover that they each prefer their own homes better.  This is of course after they perform spells to create a more enjoyable visit. The illustrations are eye-catching and colorful helping to make this a fun read.

* This book was borrowed from the library.

Family Rating: 1 thumb up.

Friday Favorites: Book Edition



So, for this Friday Favorites I’m listing five books (in no particular order)  that I’m really looking forward to reading:

1.  Ugly Love by Colleeen Hoover


Colleen Hoover is a recent new to me favorite author.  The book was published in August of this year and I’ve been on the library wait/hold list since September.  From a youtube pre-release video I watched of the author promoting this book, Hoover said this book is more “mature” than her other books.  If you have never read a Colleen Hoover book before, I recommend Slammed.  That was my first Hoover book and got me hooked!

2. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult


Jodi Picoult is probably hands down my favorite author.  I’ve read and own almost all of her books.  She writes about really thought provoking topics and really takes the time to research what she’s writing about.  This book just came out this week.  There are 183 people ahead of me on the library wait list.  But, in the meantime, I have some other Picoult books sitting on my shelves that I haven’t read to get my Picoult fix while waiting.

3. Big Little Liars – by Liane Moriarty


I read one of her other books The Husband’s Secret and enjoyed it.  I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about this book as it seemed to be a popular summer read.  So, we’ll see if I end up getting to this anytime soon.

4. On Dublin Street – by Samantha Young


This is a book that I actually own that’s sitting on my shelf!  I got it from paperbackswap a few weeks ago.  I know when Fifty Shades of Grey and the Crossfire series came out, this book became popular.  I never ended up reading it, but after hearing such good things about it I thought I’d give it a try and requested it from paperbackswap.

5.  Hope to Die:  The Return of Alex Cross – by James Patterson

Cover image

I know, James Patterson is one of those you love him or hate him authors.  I have to say his earlier stuff was better.  But I’ve read the entire Alex Cross series, so I have to continue.  And, when I’m in the mood for a quick, suspenseful read, Patterson’s books get the job done.  The super short chapters make me feel like I’m making good progress!

Well, I’m currently on the wait list for four out of the five books here.  I am hoping to get to On Dublin Street soon.  Have you read any good books recently? I am ALWAY looking for good book recommendations!!

Linking up again with Amanda @ Meet at the Barre Andrea @ Momfessionals and Karli @ September Farm.

What’s Been Cooking In My Kitchen – Thursday Edition

Life's great questions      via

So, another week, another menu.  This is what we ate this past week:

Saturday:  The Weekend Chef made Rosti (a Swiss potato dish).  Of course no recipe….but delish!

Sunday:  The Weekend Chef grilled a London broil (probably one of the last grilling meals of fall!) and made some
roasted broccoli and sautéed red cabbage with egg noodles.

Monday: Creamy Lemon Stove Top Chicken from the blog The Mother Huddle.  We weren’t huge fans of this and gave a
2.5 star rating.  It needed more lemon because it just tasted like a cream sauce to me.  Since we bought a
jumbo pack of chicken thighs and they didn’t all fit in the Dutch Oven, I ended up cooking the extras in the cast
iron skillet.  My husband noted that this chicken with the sauce added on at the end was much tastier than the
chicken cooked in the sauce.  Definitely not something I’d make again.

Tuesday: Cavatelli with Broccoli Rabe from FoodNetwork.com courtesy of Family Circle Magazine.  I’ve made variations
of this recipe several times, just not this particular one from foodnetwork.com.  I used rotini for this recipe, since
that’s what I had.  I also substituted 1/2 cup of white wine for the chicken broth the recipe called for.  I think the
wine adds a bit more flavor.  This was one of those go-to recipes since I already had sausage in the freezer
and broccoli rabe was on sale last week.  This was a 3 star, nothing special recipe but quick and tasty enough.

Wednesday: Pineapple Pork Chili from food blog Melanie Makes with Sweet Corn Bread from allrecipes.com by
bookworm70.  I think I was most surprised that this chili recipe didn’t need to cook all day.  So, I was a bit
hesitant….chili in 20 minutes?!!  I have to say, it did pretty much come together within that time frame.  Plus,
there was enough for lunch leftovers.  We gave this 4 stars.  Pretty flavorful and super quick and easy!  And
while the chili was cooking on the stove I whipped together the corn bread.  We rated this 3 stars.  It was nice
and moist and complimented the chili perfectly.

Thursday:  Leftovers!  This doesn’t happen too often….but I LOVE when it does!

Friday: Taco Pockets from food blog Plain Chicken.  My son is a pretty picky eater.  One meal that he does enjoy are
tacos.  So I’m often trying to make variations of tacos – different fillings, different forms, quesadillas, burritos, etc.
As long as there’s some meat, cheese, and tortilla, he’s good.  I was a bit hesitant having to make these on Friday
when we get home around 5 pm and I have to get dinner cooked and my daughter fed before her 6 PM Girl Scout
meeting.  She wanted to help me cook and was a great help in getting these taco pockets made.  Again, this dish
reminded me of another homemade variation of Hot Pockets this time using a biscuit.  This got a family rating of 4
stars.  Everyone, especially the kids really enjoyed these!  I served this with bagged Caesar Salad.

Did you make anything for dinner this week that you’d recommend?  I’m always looking for new recipes and suggestions!

Too Blessed to be Stressed

I’m joining Taylor and Helene again for another day of:

The Daily Tay
Today’s blog prompt is to share your favorite quote and tell why.  I don’t have a lot of “favorite” anythings.  Call me indecisive if you may, but it’s hard for me to commit to just one thing.  I like so many things!  I love quotes.  My Pinterest board of quotes is filled with so many inspiring and meaningful quotes.  However, I picked the following quote as my “favorite.”
too blessed to be stressed... i wish this was realistic in my world!

I was raised Catholic, but don’t think of myself as very religious.  However, a couple of years ago, I read Every Day a Friday:  How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week  by Joel Osteen and have remembered the above quote from the book still to this day.  On the days when I feel like things just aren’t going my way: work was stressful, the kids weren’t listening, etc.  I remind myself, that I am so blessed.  Sometimes, I have to say these words aloud to myself to really have them sink in.  To gently remind myself that no matter what is going on, I have a wonderful husband, two amazing kids and some great friends.  I have a home and, even though I may not love it, I have a decent paying job.  Life is good.  While I may not be rich with money, I am definitely rich in things that money can’t buy.  And every now and then I need to give myself the above reminder.  It’s not worth it to sweat the small stuff and even when I think things are stressful and not going my way, I have to remember all that I do have!

I have only recently started a Pinterest board for my blog:  The Family Bucket List, but feel free to check it out here.

You Don’t Get a Day Off….


I’m tired…..it’s been a long day.  I’ve been going to bed much later than I should be and I’m short on patience.  The kids are fighting…..again.  I’m about to lose it…..

But, as a parent, you don’t get a day off.  Once you become a parent, you are always a parent.  While I’m at work I’m wondering if they’ve eaten their lunch, if they remembered to hand in the trip money, if they’ve aced their spelling test.  Even on the few occasions when the kids are away at their grandparents they are always on my mind.  Being a parent is the hardest yet most rewarding job I will have.  It is a 24/7 job that isn’t all roses and good times.  The sibling fighting and teasing occurs daily.   But, I’m not always in the mood to deal with it…..like this afternoon.

So, on this particular bad afternoon, I take a deep breath.  I separate the kids.  I do my motherly duties, checking to make sure homework is done and showers have been taken.  I get dinner ready and feed the kids.  I don’t necessarily do this with patience.  There may have been (definitely was) some yelling involved.  But once I know that they are all set and taken care of, I excuse myself.  I take my book and I give myself a mommy time-out.  I let the kids know that mommy is going to her room and needs a few minutes.   I then cherish the ten minutes of peace and quiet that I’m giving myself.  And then after I have taken my ten minutes, I am in a calmer place.  Even better, my husband has come home from work just as I am making sure that the kids have brushed their teeth and are getting ready for bed.  I have the rest of my evening to myself as he takes over putting the kids to bed.  Because, as rough as this afternoon was, tomorrow brings another day….I can hope that it goes better than today, but I know the bad days are going to continue to come.  And I will need to continue to cope with these days as best that I can because a parent doesn’t get a day off.

How do you deal with a bad day?