Organizing Ideas for the Rest of Us

Book Reviews: What I Read Last Week

Welcome to my very first in what I hope will be a series of book reviews every Tuesday.  When I started to journey to read 52 books in 52 weeks, I specifically said I wasn’t going to do some sort of book club on the blog.  I’m still not.  I’m just finding that I typically have a bit more to say about what I’ve read than I can reasonably fit into my Starting Successful on Monday planning posts.  I also realized as I was working on my update for this goal that I needed a more organized system for keeping track of what I had read.

Why not offer some brief book reviews of what I’ve read the previous week?  I decided I’d start sharing them every Tuesday on the blog.  Maybe it will help if you are looking for some new reading material.  If you’ve already read a book I review, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

My plan is also to add a page that will be an ongoing listing of all the books I’ve read so that I won’t be scrambling at the end of the year to make a list and see just how close or far away from the goal I fell. I’m hoping it will also help my readers if they are trying to remember a certain book I was reviewing to simply have a page where all the books are listed.

On to the book reviews for the past 2 weeks (I would jump right in with last week but I really enjoyed the books I read the week leading up to July 4 and want to discuss them a bit).

Books Read June 3-July5

Book Reviews

City of Ember books

I actually read the entire City Of Ember series of books the week of July 4.  The series includes City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold, all by Jeanne Duprau.   G thought I’d like this series since it reminded him a bit of the Divergent and Hunger Games series.  He was right.  Of the 3 series of dystopian youth novels, this was actually my favorite.  The characters were a bit more interesting and positive.  The third book in the series which is actually a prequel was my favorite based on the strong think for yourself theme underlying the main story.  The books also tie together a bit nicer than the other two series.  Apparently, they did make a movie of the first book which we’ve ordered via Netflix set to arrive this week.

Books Read July 6-July12

Book Reviews

What I Read Last Week

Last week, I slowed down a bit and only read 2 books.  The first book I read was Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth.  This was a quick read although very hard to put down.  It was interesting to read the stories from Four’s perspective.  I wish it had been a bit longer and I felt like the last chapter was pretty much her rough draft of Divergent‘s first chapter. It did leave me wishing I had bothered to see the Divergent movie and thinking I may like to re-read the books at some point.

After my foray into the young adult novels, I felt like returning to the world of grown-ups and looked for a book to help with that.  I found the book in the Dollar Tree, an autobiography by Belinda Carlisle, lead singer of the G0-Go’s.  Lips Unsealed was an intriguing read that briefly discussed Carlisle’s rather unhappy childhood before going in full detail about the formation and ups and downs of the Go-Go’s and the explicit drug addiction problems she had most of her life as well as her attempts to sort out herself on the road to sobriety.  I admit that at one point that I told my husband they should re-title the book, “I did drugs during the ’80′s.”  However, once I got over my initial frustration of reading about the drug use of one of “my” 80′s bands, I found myself continually turning the pages and  hoping she would find happiness and sobriety.  It is definitely worth the read if you come across it.


I believe I’ll be seeking some lighter fare to read this week.   Do you like to read book reviews?  Do they make a difference when you are seeking a book to read?



Back to a Basic Menu Plan

It’s time to return to a basic menu plan. This week I’m going to work through my fridge, freezer, and pantry and try to get back to the basics of menu planning simple, healthy meals for us all.   I’ve slid off into the land of not so good for us prepackaged convenience foods as well as fast food a bit too much and I know that it is affecting our attitudes as well as our energy levels (well, at least, I think it is impacting mine).  I even drank diet pop last week just because it came free with our Casey’s pizza.  YUCK.  I could definitely feel that as I felt more depressed on the days I drank it.  I am sure that wasn’t in my imagination.

I need to start seriously planning our dinner menus again so I’m going to simply put what I’m planning for the boys in parenthesis for the rest of the summer instead of making the lunches the focus of my menu plan.  I’m honestly so far out from menu planning that I feel as though I don’t know where to start.  Ever get like that?  However, here goes my attempt at a back to a basic menu plan.



Taco Salads   (We had scrambled eggs and French Toast sticks (box) for lunch.  It felt good to eat a little protein after our “healthy” breakfast of Krispy Kreme donuts).   I don’t think I could put anything more fitting on a basic menu plan for us.


Individual ham slices, baked sweet potatoes (I have Bunco tonight!)  (I’m suddenly working all day so the boys will have sack lunches today.  Peanut butter sandwiches (crackers for J), chips, and a fruit.)


G will have pizza at youth and the rest of us will have chili lime drumsticks  (Lunches will be late and probably just leftover taco salad fixings)


BLT’s on biscuits and french fries or slider hamburgers on the grill depending… (Lunches will be pretzels, cheese slices, and fruit)


One pouch feast to hopefully go along with camping in the backyard, smore’s for dessert, of course.  This is a new one so hopefully, it will be fairly well-received.  (lunches will once again be late and so…honestly, I think I will pick up some already cooked ribs from Hy-Vee (they are good and cheap on the weekends!) so there will be another option if the one pouch feast turns out to be unpopular.)


My menu is admittedly simple this week as I try to get back to a basic menu plan that I actually follow instead of deciding that I don’t feel like cooking and heating up something out of a box or running out for fast food.  I’m also hoping to put together some simple snacks from our overflowing pantry as well.

As usual, I’m linking up over at Menu Plan Monday hosted by Laura of I’m An Organizing Junkie where you can go see many different varieties of menu plans.  I dare you to go look at the post and not find just the tiniest spark of inspiration!

What’s cooking at your house this week?






Fresh Start Monday and Hoping for Success

It is time for a fresh start.  I’ve not been planning my weeks or doing very good about planning (or following when I do plan) my menus all summer.  It was starting to show.  The house was (okay, it still is) a nightmare and our attitudes were not pretty.  I confess mine was probably the worst.

J’s attitude had to have been tied with mine or a very close second.  Then, we did something simple.  We started cleaning his bedroom.   We cleaned up the Lego’s strewn across the floor that had been blocking his dresser.  He cleared off his small dresser and organized the top.  I hung some posters we found mixed among the clutter and in a Pokemon book.  It wasn’t perfect but the first time since the end of school, I felt like I could breathe in there.  I think he did as well.  He actually spent time working on Lego’s and his attitude had brightened considerably.  It was the catalyst for our fresh start!

It’s sort of funny because a fresh start for me actually means a return to the basics including the Starting Successful on Mondays blog posts, an idea originated over at Felicia’s Red Door Life.

Weekly Planning

Scripture of the week:

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds

(Proverbs 27:23)

*I confess with all the bad attitudes (mine included) floating around this place, I’ve been ignoring my family a bit.  It’s time to give them some more attention (whether they act like they want the attention or not).

Focus of the week:

Making a fresh start and taking actions to make it happen.  That sounds so much better than I am going to clean the house, doesn’t it?

The Weather this week:

It is supposed to cool down and be in the high 70′s during the day and mid-50′s at night.  I’m hoping to talk my husband in to setting up the tent so the boys can have a backyard camp out one night during the cool weather.


I’ve just returned from picking the boys up from a sleepover at their cousin’s house and we are all doing our own thing as we eat breakfast (I picked up Krispy Kreme donuts for them, so much for a fresh start on the healthy eating!).  The attitudes this morning could really only be described as “tired and grumpy.”  Hopefully, that will change sometime this afternoon.

To-Do List:

This is an area that I have really been neglecting!  Time to start holding myself accountable to actually getting things done.  I’m going day by day with it again as that seemed to work rather nicely when I did it in the past.


Today is my only day completely off work this week so my list for today is a bit longer.  Get back into the habit of writing planning blog posts (in process) and make a menu plan that we will follow.  Do some laundry!  Spend 15 minutes cleaning each room of the house.  Since it is game day, have J go through the games in his closet and see if we can clear a few out of there.  We may play some as we work although I’m pretty sure our days of playing Rhino Rampage are finished.  If it doesn’t pour down rain, have the kids pick up sticks in the backyard and mow the lawn.  It’s pouring!  Go to the grocery store.


I work from 2-5p.m. and it’s Bunco night for me!  Go to Target and get some Ticky Tack (I’m not sure the official name of the blue junk that is used to hang posters.).   Put together a “while mom is at work” box for the boys.  I feel a blog post about that coming sometime in the future.


I work 8-1 and 2-5 so basically all day.  G also has youth at church from 6-9.   Make sure the boys have easy options for breakfast and lunch.   In fresh start style, leave the boys a schedule of activities and chores to follow for when I’m at work.  Find the boys a Redbox movie to watch while I’m working on Thursday.


I work 8-1 and 2:30-4:15 so basically another all day adventure for the boys.  Make sure I leave them a schedule of activities and chores to follow while I’m at work.


I only work from 8-1.  Bring back Follow Through Friday posts on the blog.  I’ve missed them and I apparently do need them to keep on track.  Do the 3 things on the list.  G may be having a friend spend the night so I will see if my husband will set the tent up for a  backyard camp out.

**Bonus to-do list items:  After this week, there is exactly one month (geez, where did summer go?) left before school starts so I need to be sure and protect my time with the boys for the next month and not take on any full day subbing jobs.  Ideally, I’d like to not work at all until school starts.  Make my husband get out his calendar and mark off specific dates for a vacation (this will have to happen in August) and narrow down some locations.

What I Read Last Week:

I’m trying something new with my fresh start and adding a blog post to the daily line up called Book Reviews:  What I Read Last Week.   It will be posted on Tuesdays.

From the Camera:

My 2 favorite Fourth of July photos:



Watching the Fireworks

Watching the Fireworks

I also accomplished a huge “bucket list” goal last week of getting the kids to the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum on day the inside was actually open!  I still didn’t take any inside pictures although they’ve changed policy and now allow it flash and all.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do it (I think I heard the flash damages the art speech too many times in my life to change my thinking).  The outside was still my favorite place anyway.

Fresh Start

Reflecting Pool

Fresh Start

View from steps near the front of the gallery

On the blog:

I’m going to try having a very loose blogging schedule for the next few weeks.  Mondays will be starting successful and menu planning posts.  Tuesdays will be book reviews.  Wednesdays and Thursdays will be open to whatever I feel like posting those days and Fridays will once again be Follow Through Friday posts although probably not as a link-up this time.


Pretty much just another typical summer week around here.  What is on your agenda for the week?








Book Report: Update on 52 Books in 52 Weeks

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read one book a week this year for a total of 52 books.


I thought I’d take a minute today and stop to list all the books I’ve read (I guess the list will be roughly 26 titles long if I’ve been successful so far.  If not, I guess I have some extra reading to do!).
I haven’t always read an entire book in a week and sometimes I’ve read more than one in a week so it will hopefully, all even out in the end.  Without further ado (although there is no Shakespeare on the list…hmm…yet), here is my list including my current selection:
Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Krucinka.
I’m a huge proponent of her book Raising Your Spirited Child (it is one of my absolute favorite parenting books out there!) and this one has not been a disappointment.  Sound, common sense “real-life” advice that employs treating children with respect rather than intimidating them into compliance.  I’m about halfway through and just now starting to try the ideas which were as always quite illuminating.   I also picked up her companion workbook for Raising Your Spirited Child but have not begun to go through it yet.  I’m debating if I want to call the friend who borrowed my book and see if she’s finished with it yet.
The rest of the books I’m going to just list and if I mentioned my thoughts on them somewhere else on the blog, I’ve included a link.  Note they are in no particular order.
  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows  (What you noticed a theme?  Yes, I also watched all the movies again with the exception of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because I couldn’t find it in the teenager’s room.  Starting with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the movies start to leave out quite a bit of the book subplots.  I still like the movies but the cliché of the “book was better” holds true even in the Harry Potter world.)

  8. Under the Dome by Stephen King

  9. Prelude to the Foundation by Isaac Assimov  Book

  10. The Foundation

  11. Second Foundation

  12. Foundation and Empire

  13. Foundation’s Edge

  14. Foundation and Earth

  15. Edge of Tomorrow by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (This was previously published as All You Need is Kill.  I still haven’t seen the movie although I would like to do that soon.)

  16. Divergent by Veronica Roth

  17. Insurgent

  18. Allegiant

  19. Duty by Robert M. Gates

  20. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

  21. Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

  22. Composed by Rosanne Cash

  23. Dr Montessori’s Own Handbook

  24. Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

  25. Maximum Ride, School’s Out Forever

  26. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

  27. The Final Warning

  28. Stranded by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbets

  29. Who Is Steven Spielberg by Stephanie Spinner

Yes, I realize that there are a lot of Young Adult books on my list.  I like Young Adult fiction.  It also gives me something to talk about with my 13 year-old son.  I’ve sort of been using his room as a library when I need something to read.  I have The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau sitting here in my pile to read next because he wanted me to read it (he’s working on book 3 in the series right now).  He thinks I’ll like it because it is kind of like Divergent. Video games aren’t my thing so it’s nice to have a way to relate to him.
My list also contains a lot of science fiction type books.  I enjoy reading it and when I started this project, it was just to read a book a week to get back to my love of reading.  I’m not out to read all the books on one of those “150 books you should have read to be a properly educated person” type lists.  I try not to judge what others are reading (or not reading)…happens to be a pet peeve of mine when people do that.  If your kids are reading a comic book, let them!  It is STILL reading and they’ll get around to reading chapter books at their own pace.  I guarantee it will be a slower pace if  you judge their choice of reading material.
I didn’t include the many picture books I’ve read on the list since I’ve pretty much read them all many times.  I may do a list of my favorite preschool books sometime if there’s interest from my blog readers.  Eric Carle is my favorite picture book author.  I’m also fairly certain I’ve read the other two books in the Stranded series by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbets but I can’t find the books in either of my boys’ rooms to verify that.
I suppose there is only one way to end this post and it’s by asking if you’ve read any good books lately?

Menu Plan After Missing A Week

I didn’t exactly mean to take a week away from this blog but it’s summer and sometimes it just works out that way.  I’d love to be telling you all about my exotic Tahiti vacation and offering a giveaway for your very own trip.  Unfortunately, I didn’t go and I don’t have any extra tickets either.

I spent last week working a full-time schedule at the preschool to cover a vacation and relaxing on the weekend.  As much as I still love working at the preschool and enjoyed my time there, it was very hard to be away from the boys and leave them on their own each day.  They did survive and we did eat although probably not the healthiest options at times.  I’m glad though to be at home feeling guilty about them spending too much time inside playing video games instead of working and feeling guilty about them spending too much time playing video games.

I missed my blog as well!  It took me a bit to get back around to it but I couldn’t think of a better place to start than with a menu plan for the Fourth of July Week!  It’s still a plan for lunches with dinner thrown in as well and fairly low-key because it is also swim lessons week for us:


MONDAY:  Frozen Pizza

(dinner was bacon, French Toast sticks, and cantaloupe)

TUESDAY:  We ate lunch at Sam’s Club

(dinner is going to be beer can chicken on the grill and I have no idea what we’re having with it)

WEDNESDAY:  Popcorn Chicken

(Lasagna, garlic toast, and salad)

THURSDAY:  Mozzarella Sticks

(Fish Sticks, baked potatoes)

FRIDAY:  Happy Fourth of July!!   Slider Hamburgers

(We’re eating dinner at my brother’s house.  I’m bringing Crunchy Coleslaw per tradition)


What’s cooking at your house this week?  Even though I’m a day late, I’m still linking up over at Menu Plan Monday hosted by Laura of I’m An Organizing Junkie.  I really do get some of the best ideas checking out her menu as well as the menus of all the other bloggers who join in the fun.  Spend some time checking it out!


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