The Importance of Being Reese: June 2014

Things I'm Loving Lately

I'm actually watching The Bachelorette. This is big if you know anything about me. I typically hate all reality shows. I have no idea who the Real House Wives of Atlanta, Florida, Orange County, or Chicago are, I just know that the level of drama on those shows far exceeds my level of patience. For now, the Bachelorette seems more my speed. Minimal drama, amazing dates, candle lit romance. Yes please.

My parents officially get the "Best Grandparents Ever Award." A few months back they purchased this amazing chalkboard/whiteboard easel for Little J. This is amazing for two reasons, One: it cuts down on Little J's attempts to decorate our walls--with permanent markers and/or crayon and colored pencils. Two: It's a great learning device. It also comes with additional storage space!

 Speaking of education, Mable Kids Museum in Raleigh, two words: AMA-ZING! We took Little J there this past weekend and were blown away by how incredible it is. Expect loads more from that later!

Am I the only one who didn't know about Girl Meets World? This is very exciting news for me. I grew up watching Boy Meets World and may or may not remember all the words to the theme song. Don't hate. Seriously though, this revelation is almost enough to make me get cable again. But not quite...

If you follow me on Instagram, I'm sure by now you've noticed an influx in juice/smoothie related posts. Since Mr. A is required to maintain certain fitness/health standards for the National Guard, we've been making strides to take better care of ourselves. The major upside is it's a great way for us to trick get Little J to eat her veggies. She absolutely loves her spinach smoothie and I absolutely love the fact that she's eating her greens without having to basically tie her down. It's a win-win for everyone.

I recently discovered Humans of New York on Facebook, and I'm in love. I've always been an avid people-watcher, so I was immediately drawn to this page. I think the creator of this site has done a marvelous job at capturing the beauty and diversity of the streets of New York. It sort of makes me almost want to move there.

What sorts of things are you loving lately? Any interesting new Summer TV shows? New recipes? Leave links below for me to check out.

Until next time,

Strawberry and Kale Cleanser

Once upon a time, Mr. A and I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead...and then promptly went and purchased our first juicer. For more than a year now, we've both been pretty active juicers. Though we haven't done anything extreme--like go for more than 2 weeks only drinking juice, we've started to add juices to a regular part of our diet. This recipe is one of my latest experiments.

Like many of my other juices, one of my favorite things about the Strawberry Kale Cleanser is it's health benefits. As small as they are, Strawberries are packed with nutrients. They are also low in calories. So if you're juicing for weight loss, a handful of strawberries will give your juice flavor without packing on the calories.

Here are a few amazing benefits of strawberries:
  • Decreases risk of cancer
  • Increases brain function and performance
  • Low calorie count
  • Helps strengthen bones
  • Good for eyes
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Curbs overeating
  • Has positive effect on blood flow
  • Contains nutrients that fight against many anti-inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, cancer and asthma 
  • Helps bowel movements
Kale is another of my favorites to juice with. Like strawberries, it's packed with a wide array of nutrients. Though kale was once considered one of the more unpopular vegetables, in the past few years, it has been growing in popularity. Mostly because it's natural flavorful and taste great in any form, juice or otherwise.

Here are a few amazing benefits of kale:

  • Reduces risk of heart disease 
  • One cup of kale contains...
  • Only 33 calories
  •  9% of the daily value of calcium, 
  • 134% of vitamin C
  • 206% of vitamin A, 
  •  and  684% of vitamin K
  • Good for the eyes
  • Promote healthy blood clotting
  • Decreases odds of cancer

The list goes on. The point is, both of these fruits and vegetables are vital to your health. And the best part, they're both incredibly tasty. Especially when you combine the two and tun them into a juice.

For this recipe you will need 

  • one cup of strawberries, 
  • 8 kale leaves, 
  • one handful of spinach 
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 apple
  • 1 cucumber
The instructions are the same as always. Wash each ingredient thoroughly. Kale is especially difficult to clean, so you may want to soak them for 10-15 minutes to ensure that you've removed all the dirt. Run each ingredient through your juicer. Serve in glass with plenty of ice. Enjoy!

As always, if you give this recipe a shot, come back and let me know what you thought of it.

Until next time, 

Escape the Scrape with Crest Pro-Health: Review, Recap and Giveaway

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written in partnership with One2One Network and Crest Pro-Health. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

This past weekend I was invited back to my old stomping grounds in Charlotte for the opportunity to sit down with the one and only (and completely gorgeous) Dr. Travis Stork of The Doctors to learn all about excellent dental and oral health. The event, which was sponsored by the Crest Pro-Health team was held during the Diva Dash, which only further highlighted point that good oral health contributes to your overall health. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you must take care of your teeth!

Dr. Travis was kind enough to sit down with me and provide information about how good oral health and your overall heath are connected. He also answered a few of my questions regarding proper dental maintenance and since I believe that sharing is caring, here is some information about oral health that will help keep you happy and smiling this summer:

Good oral health care is your body's first and most natural line of defense against bacteria. By practicing proper oral care, you can drastically reduce the odds of getting sick. Scarily enough, bad oral health has also been show to increase the likelihood of a heart attack. It's important to realize that taking care of your oral health is just as important as proper diet and exercise.

For those of you who have small children who don't like to brush their teeth, try to find ways to make it fun. Dr. Travis gave me some EXCELLENT pointers, a few that I intend implement in my own home. Check out the graphic below for three useful tips to get your children more involved in maintaining good oral health habits.

When it comes to foods that promote good oral health, always try to "eat the rainbow." If you're like me and immediately assumed that "eating the rainbow" is an open invitation to chow down on some Skittles, let me assure you, it is not. Eating the rainbow simply means eating various colored fruits and vegetables. Eating the rainbow gives your body the nutrients it needs to maintain excellent oral health. Don't just stick to your favorites, shake it up a bit. You may be surprised at what you find.

And finally, but most importantly, Dr. Travis recommends that you consciously set out to improve and maintain your oral heath instead of just focusing on dental health. Oral health includes not only healthy teeth, but healthy gums. Both are needed to improve and maintain your overall health.

In addition to inviting me out to ogle interview Travis, Crest provided me with a bottle of their Crest Pro-Health Tartar Protection Rinse. I had a few days leading up to the event to test out the rinse and it gets the grade. Here's why:
  • The only rinse that prevents tartar build-up and cavities
  • Rebuilds enamel
  • Helps freshen breath
  • Protects against surface stains
  • A healthy routine to help prevent cavities
As I said, it get's the grade. So much so that I've actually started to carry it around in my purse. Too much? I don't think so. I am not a fan of the dentist...
As a thank you for reading this post (and hopefully taking notes) I'm going to give you the opportunity to win your very own bottle of Crest Pro-Health Tartar Protection and a Crest tote like I'm holding in the image above. To enter, follow the steps below on the Rafflecopter. The winner will be announced next Wednesday on the widget below. I will also send you an email so be sure to keep an eye out because you will have 48 hrs to respond before I draw again. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Danger In the Backseat: What You Need to Know about Small Kids and Hot Cars

It happens every year. A mom is in a rush to get to an important interview. There's a million thoughts jumbled in her head as she hops out of the car forgetting that her child is asleep in the backseat. She rushes into the building without looking back, eager to get inside and get the interview underway. Her husband's company has been downsizing and things are starting to get tight. Her oldest daughter needs braces and her car is on its last leg.

Hours later, she exits the building. Things are looking good and she can't wait to tell her husband. As soon as she enters the parking lot she notices the firetrucks and police cars. They seem to be surrounding her car. "That's odd," she thinks, walking towards her vehicle. As she gets closer she notices the tiny stretcher. Her breathing falters and her hands begin to shake. Her briefcase falls to the ground with a hollow thud. She begins screaming.

You think it can never happen to you. After all, you're a super parent. Other parents both fear and envy the way you seamlessly breeze through one crisis after another. You could never be that careless. Until you are. The simple fact is, it can happen to you. It could happen to me. It can happen to anyone. Since 1998, 619 children have died from heatstroke after being left in hot vehicles. 73% of those deaths have been children under the age of 2 (source). Sadly, those number continue to grow daily.

Even on a mildly hot day, the inside of your car can overheat quickly.  According to Dr. Christoper Haines, DO, Director Of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, "On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature [inside a car] can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes”  (source). It can take as little as 15 minutes in hot vehicle for a child to suffer irreversible brain and or kidney damage.

It's so easy to point the finger of blame and judgement. After all, how could a parent leave the person they love most in the world, to die alone? That sad fact is that in all 619 cases, the parents were devastated. They are asking themselves the very same questions we are. But instead of moving on with their lives and forgetting about the tragedy, they are forced to relive that day over and over and over again.

So, what can you do?

Always place your purse or briefcase in the backseat 
Doing this forces you to look in the backseat before exiting your vehicle. I can't tell you how many times my own daughter has fallen asleep and I've forgotten that she's in the backseat. Since she was a baby, I have always made it a habit to always, always, always look at the backseat before getting out. I can't imagine how devastating it is as a parent to realize that simply looking back before they got out of the car could have saved their child's life.

Don't be afraid to check up on each other
So many of these tragic cases are the result of parents simply going on auto-pilot and forgetting to drop their children off at daycare. If you're deviating from your typical routine or schedule, don't be afraid to call your significant other and check up on them. It may be annoying, but consider the alternative...

Write yourself a note or hang a sign
Again, many of these tragedies are the result of parents switching their schedules and simply forgetting. If you are breaking your routine, or have a lot on your mind. Write yourself a small reminder. Better still, purchase a sign to help you remember. It may seem silly, but once again, consider the alternative...

What can others do?

Stop judging and start helping
It's so easy to say what you would or wouldn't have done in situations like these. Instead of judging, realize that this can happen to anyone. If you see one of your friends or family members struggling, offer assistance. Offer to drop their children off at daycare. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.

Call 911 Immediately
If you happen to notice an infant or toddler alone in a vehicle, get involved. Call 911 immediately. Follow the advice of the dispatcher. Don't be afraid to break a window if you have to. And please don't walk away.

On a more personal note: my thoughts and prayers are with the Harris family in their time of mourning. No matter what your opinion of this father may be, we can all agree that he is truly living every parents worst nightmare.

Image Credit: Emily

Conversations With Myself


When I was in high school, I made the unfortunate mistake of harboring a crush on the most popular guy in school.  You know the type--star football player, track team hero, and all-around ladies man. In other words, Trouble (literally with a capital T).

 I, on the other hand, was a walking advertisement for your ABC Family movie of the week. You know, the one where the geeky girl (who's portrayed by some ridiculously gorgeous actress) falls in love with the the High School "Hottie", who realizes the error of his ways and professes his undying love and devotion to said geeky girl in front of the whole school. Only that's not how it worked for me.

No, I never got my high school happy ending. Luckily for me, instead I got my real life happy ending.  Which was really the best thing because most high school romances are all about the drama. By the time I met Mr. A, I was mature enough to know who I was and what I wanted. And so far it's worked out well for both of us.

Of course high school me had no way of knowing that things would work out for the best. Especially the day my crush decided to announce to the cafeteria that he would not go out with me. Loudly. Purposely. And that just broke my little high school heart.

I wish I could say I tossed back some witty little line about how I'd rather be subjected to having to listen to Nicki Minaj's entire album--twice--rather than go on a date with him. Only I didn't, (partly due to the fact that Nicki Minaj had not yet graced us with her presence). No, instead I skipped 4th period and hid out in the bathroom sobbing my poor little high school eyes out.

I often wonder what I would tell my high school self if I could find a way to travel back to those turbulent adolescent years. I suppose, I would simply tell myself that it gets better. It never seems like it at the time, but it does. I think I'd say, "One day, you'll look back at those moments, those terrible moments, and you'll smile because they made you the woman you are today. One day you'll understand. One day you'll forgive. One day you'll love, and you'll be loved. Immeasurably. Absolutely. Deeply."

I'd tell myself that one day she was going to have an amazing daughter, and her daughter would need her mother to fight for her the same way hers did for her. I'd tell myself to look in the mirror, because the girl I see staring back at me is going to be incredible one day.

Mostly I think I would just hug myself and tell me to pray, and pray hard. And that one day, I would wake up and love myself just a little bit more. And in that moment, I would know that everything was going to be okay.

I suppose this is the great paradox of life. We can always see where we have been and where we currently are, but we have no idea where we are headed. And sometimes that's the most difficult thing of all. To understand that pain is just temporary. I strongly believe that if we can find a way to love ourselves though the pain, we are all the better for it.

Mean Green Energy Booster

This is another one of my favorite juices. If you've seen Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, this is the infamous "mean green" juice that Joe talks about throughout the documentary. In addition to being delicious, it's packed with nutrients that will give you a powerful and sustained bout of energy. And unlike coffee, this juice will give you what you need to get you through the day.

I like to drink this one before hitting the trails. It's light, filling and gives me everything I need to push myself a bit further. This is also a great breakfast juice.

This recipe is simple enough. The ingredient list includes: 

7-8 Kale Leaves
1 cucumber
4 sticks of celery
1-2 apples (I just do one because I prefer greener juices)
1 lemon
1 inch of ginger

Always remember to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly. Even if you're using bagged kale that says it's been washed thoroughly it's always a good idea to give it another rinse or two. Pesticides are not something you want to consume on the regular--or at all really.

Once you've washed your fruits and veggies, toss them into your juicer, and let it take care of the rest for you. Stir well and give it a sip. If it taste too sour, feel free to toss another apple in there. However, a quick warning, although fruits are obviously good for you, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Fruits contain quite a bit of sugars and calories, so if your main goal with juicing is to shed some weight, you may want to go easy on the fruit. Your body, and jeans will thank you later.

As always, if you give it a go, stop back by and let me know what you think.  Feel free to tweet, pin or share on facebook.

Until next time,

The Cost of A Medical Crisis or Unexpected Death

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored, however, after reading it, I'm sure you will see that this is clearly a matter that is very close to my heart. All opinion and thoughts are clearly my own. I ask that you read this post with an open heart and mind. 

Life rarely goes as expected. The reality is that for most, there will be some major hardships in life. Whether it be an unexpected death of a loved one, or a medical crisis, things happen that are far beyond our control.

A few years ago I watched as a close friend of mine battled cancer. He put up a heck of a fight.  One that went on for years. He eventually lost that battle, and left behind his wife and two young children. And that's when the other battle started.

I watched in disbelief as the woman I had once jokingly called the "world's most meticulous planner" struggled to gain access to the bank account she and her husband shared. She wasn't trying to use the funds for some frivolous venture or shopping spree, she simply wanted to pay for her husbands funeral and feed their two small children until she could get back on her feet and venture back out into the workforce.

Even though she and her husband prepared for the inevitable, and had signed everything in both of their names, it took weeks, countless hours, and many tears of frustration and rage before she was granted the rights to have access to her own money. She eventually won the battle. But still, instead of being able to focus on properly laying her husband of 15 years to rest, she was instead focused trying to gain access to her own account.

My friends story is not unusual. In fact, in the recent years it's a tale that has become quite common.

Looking back, there were so many people who sent flowers throughout her ordeal, myself included. But now, I wonder how helpful those flowers truly were? Sure they were pretty, but they served no purpose other than ornamentation. Just imagine for a second how helpful it would have been if they, if we, had instead sent money? I'm sure it would have eased her burden. I'm sure it would have helped her feed their two small children and pay the electricity bill.

Though she is still one of the proudest women I know, I can't help  but wonder how GiveForward could have helped fill the gaping wound that years of expensive medical treatments and an unyielding banking industry left behind? With GiveForward, money could have been raised to pay for the essentials until the bank finally released it hold on their money. They could have helped give her the time she needed to get back on her feet and wade back into the workforce.

GiveForward is an incredible company that helps people raise funds in their time of need. Unlike similar models, only .5% of funds raised goes to GiveForward.

And to ease your mind about potential security threats, any donations facilitated through GiveForward are secured through their encrypted technology.

In addition to providing you with a platform to fundraise and keep family and friends updated with your progress, GiveForward pairs you with a personal coach that can give you the one-on-one support that you need. In fact, GiveForward is the ONLY crowdfunding site that offers personalized coaches to help walk you through the process. That in itself says a lot about them.

It is my deepest wish that you never find yourself in a situation similar to the one I just described, but should you find yourself in the misdst of a medical crisis or dealing with the fallout of an unexpected death or tragedy, I want you to know that there are options. GiveForward can help.

As of today, GiveForward has heped raise $104, 690,000 and has changed countless lives. Who knows, GiveForward could very well change your life or the life of someone you love.

Please take a moment to check out GiveForward, and while you're at it, read a bit more about the stories of the people pictured below.

“No act of kindness is too small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many.” ~ Kevin Heath

50 Fun Summer Books for Babies and Toddlers

Summer is just around the corner and now is the perfect time to head to your local library or bookstore and stock up on some great reads for your little ones. With expectations for school-aged children at an all time high, schools are encouraging parents to get an early start on at-home learning. This list of 50 baby and toddler friendly books will increase their reading comprehension and captivate their attention.  Ditch the television and give your little ones a chance to savor summer fun, and learn in the process.


1. Welcome Summer 
Ages: 0-2
This bright, tactile board book celebrates a first encounter with the hottest season: summer! Bold, simple illustrations and textures show what a child first sees, hears, touches, and tastes. And no matter how sticky it may be outside, this child ends up safe and cool in Daddy's arms. The last installment in this series of four seasonal offerings.

2. Summer
Ages: 0-2
With fun pictures about the hot Summer holiday season, this is an engaging book to share with babies and toddlers. There pictures of cold ice-cream, the hot sun, the sandy beach and more to look at, and the pages have different touch-and-feel textures, which little fingers will love to explore.

3. Baby Loves Summer
Ages: 1-4
Little ones will love lifting the flaps in this new Karen Katz book to reveal a big yellow sun, flip-flops, an ice cream cone, and everything else that Baby loves about summer! The sturdy format and easy-to-lift flaps make this a perfect summertime treat for parents and children to share.

4. Where's Baby's Beach Ball?
Ages: 1-4
It's summertime, and Baby is looking for the beach ball--but where can it be? Little ones can lift the large, sturdy flaps in this board book to reveal pretty seashells, crawly crabs, and more! Babies will love this interactive adventure!

5. Buzz Buzz Baby 
Ages: 1-4
In this adorable book from Karen Katz, little ones can lift the flaps on each spread to reveal cute critters such as little ladybugs, crawling caterpillars, teeny-tiny ants, and more! Filled with Katz’s signature multicultural babies, this book with its sturdy, easy-to-lift flaps is perfect for parents and children to share.

6. To The Pool With Mama
Ages: 2-4
It is Friday, and John J. and Mama are off to the pool. Bathing suit and towel are carefully stowed in a backpack. In the baby pool are many toys, and the water is just the right height for a toddler to splash and roll around in. Water is great fun to play in, but it is important for John J. and his friend Elise to remember that water belongs in the pool, not on the deck or each other's heads!Going to the pool is tiring, and at the end of the day a happy, snuggly little boy is carried home, warm and safe in the arms of Mama.

7. Caterpiller Spring, Butterfly Summer
Ages 2-6
This beautiful story about a caterpillar's busy day features a colorful, fabric-covered spring that lends a bouncing effect to the lively artwork, mimicking the motion of a crawling caterpillar.

8. Let it Shine 
Ages 2-6
School is out and the sun is shining. It's time to play outside! Celebrate all the wonders of summer in this final book in Maryann Cocca-Leffler's delightful series about the seasons. With soft-colored art, adorable children, and vibrant outdoor scenes, LET IT SHINE celebrates all the seasonal awe of summer.

9. Mouse's First Summer
Ages 2-6
Mouse and Minka invite YOU to celebrate summer with a picnic in the park. Roll down the hill on tickly green grass. Fly kites fluttery high in the sky. And don't forget juicy watermelon! But before it's time to go home, a summer surprise sparkles in the sky.

10. Summer Days and Nights
Ages 2-6
On a hot summer day, a little girl finds ways to entertain herself and stay cool. She catches a butterfly, sips lemonade, jumps in a pool, and goes on a picnic. At night, she sees an owl in a tree and a frog in a pond, and hears leaves rustling. Before long, she’s fast asleep, dreaming about more summer days and summer nights.

11. Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef
Ages: 3+
With painstaking detail each illustration is created entirely of polymer clay, then photographed, creating a 3-D impression of tremendous vitality. Kids will sing, clap, and count their way among pufferfishthat puff, gruntfishthat grunt and seahorses that flutter, and begin to appreciate life in the ocean.

12. Summer Stinks
Ages: 3+
Summer stinks. What more do you need to say about a hot, sweaty, bug-riddled season? Well, Marty Kelley, author of Fall Is Not Easy has a few things to say (and draw) about summer--26 of them, in fact. Summer Stinks, Kelley's paen to the "estivally dispirited," takes a comic look at both the alphabet and summer. From "A is for ants" to "Z is for [bug] zapper," Summer Stinks is a seasonal treat that you can enjoy all year long.

13. Summersaults
Ages: 3+
What do you like about summer? Mountain hikes? Picking cherries? Curve balls? Ice cream cones? What do you not like about summer? Blackouts?

14. Summer
Ages 3+
Oh, the wonderful things that summer brings—swimming at the beach, making sand castles, catching butterflies, eating watermelon, toasting marshmallows, watching fireworks! The simple, timeless activities featured in this abridged, board-book edition of the classic Beginner Book Summer make it perfect to share at the shore (or anyplace else!) with young and old alike

15. How I Became A Pirate 
When Braid Beard's pirate crew invites Jeremy Jacob to join their voyage, he jumps right on board. Buried treasure, sea chanteys, pirate talk--who wouldn't go along? Soon Jeremy Jacob knows all about being a pirate.

16. Mama, Is It Summer Yet
Ages: 3-5
A little boy who can’t wait for summer keeps asking his mama, “Is it summer yet?” Mama says, “Not yet, little one,” then points to the signs that spring is turning to summer—the softening of the earth, the nest-building of squirrels, the singing of birds—and encourages her son to savor the beauty of spring.

17. How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Ages 3-7
Some kids spend their summer vacation at camp. Some kids spend it at Grandma's house. Wallace Bleff spent his out west...on a ride, a rope, and a roundup he'll never forget.

18. Hey Little Ant
Ages: 3-7
What would you do if the ant you were about to step on looked up and started talking? Would you stop and listen? What if your friends saw you hesitate? That’s what happens in this funny, thought-provoking book. Originally a song by a father-daughter team, this conversation between two creatures, large and small, is bound to inspire important discussions. It might even answer that classic childhood question: To squish or not to squish?

19. Beach Bugs: A Popup Book
Ages 3-7
From picnic bugs and fireflies to rollercoaster bugs on a warm summer night, this next installment of the wildly popular Bugs series captures what everyone loves about summer!

20. A Night Before Summer Vacation
Ages 3-8
A little girl and her family are getting ready to go on vacation . . . or at least they are trying to. In the effort to pack everything that will be needed, there's bound to be something overlooked, and what that is provides a funny ending to this meter-perfect "twist" on Clement Moore's classic.

21. The Icky Bug Alphabet Book
Ages: 4-8
For many children, "icky" bugs are endlessly fascinating. This book helps children discover why farmers like the praying mantis, how the water spider breathes underwater, and other intriguing facts about the world of bugs and insects.

22. What Lives In A Shell
Ages: 4-8
A house is a home for you, a nest is a home for a bird, and a cave is a home for a bear. But for some animals a shell is a home. Snails and turtles and crabs and clams all have shells that act as their homes and protect them from harm. In this book you'll learn all about these and other crustaceous creatures, for whom a shell is just the right sort of home.

23. Come On, Rain
Ages 4-8
Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse recreates the body and soul-renewing experience of a summer downpour after a sweltering city heat wave.

24. The Raft
Ages 4-8
Nicky isn't one bit happy about spending the summer with his grandma in the Wisconsin woods; he'd much rather be back in the city. He's not too thrilled about all the chores either—especially fishing. Before long, though, a raft appears in the nearby river, and it changes everything. As Nicky explores, the raft works a subtle magic on the obstinate young boy, opening up the wonders all around him: the animals of river and woods, his grandmother's humor and wisdom, and his own special talent as an artist.

25. Blackout
Ages 4-8
One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, "Mommm!" His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can't work on her computer, and Dad can't finish cooking dinner. What's a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights--in stars that can be seen for a change--and so many neighbors it's like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun--talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again.

26. Weslandia
Ages: 4-8
Now that school is over, Wesley needs a summer project. He’s learned that each civilization needs a staple food crop, so he decides to sow a garden and start his own - civilization, that is. He turns over a plot of earth, and plants begin to grow. They soon tower above him and bear a curious-looking fruit. As Wesley experiments, he finds that the plant will provide food, clothing, shelter, and even recreation. It isn’t long before his neighbors and classmates develop more than an idle curiosity about Wesley - and exactly how he is spending his summer vacation.

27. Plantzilla
Ages: 4-8
When Mortimer Henryson offers to take care of a strange plant called Plantzilla for the summer, he is in for more than he bargained for.

28. One Crazy Summer 
 Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

29. The Berenstain Bears Go To Camp
Ages 4-8
The Berenstain Bears are at in again. Join them on their latest adventure, to camp!

30. Biscuits First Beach Day
Ages 4-8
 Biscuit is going on his first trip to the beach! He is excited about making sand castles, collecting seashells, and playing in the ocean. Have a great day, Biscuit. Woof!

31. Canoe Days
Ages 4-8
A fawn peeks out from the trees as ducklings fan out behind their mother. Butterflies pause and fish laze beneath the lily pads. Ruth Wright Paulsen’s sunlit paintings and Gary Paulsen’s poetic text capture all the peace and pleasure of a day when water and sky are one.

32. The Night Before Summer Vacation 
Ages 4-8
The first day of summer camp is almost here, and one little camper doesn’t know what to expect. For a while everything is hunkydory . . . until rest time rolls around and he gets a bad case of nervous butterflies. But an unlikely friend appears out of the crowd and reassures him that the best cure for the summertime blues is tons of summertime fun!

33. Zoomers Summer Snowstorm
Ages 4-8
Who's ever heard of a snowstorm in the summer?Zoomer, that's who! It's a hot summer day and Zoomer is all ready to cool off with a snow cone. But when the snow cone–making goes too far, the hot summer day turns icy cold! Luckily Zoomer knows just how to make the best of the situation: He goes on a snow safari, visits the polar empire of Zoomarctica, rides his snow locomotive—and that's just the tip of the iceberg!

34. One Hot Summer Day
Ages 4-8
An effervescent city child dances through a hot summer day until a thunderstorm brings welcome relief. Executed in collages made from color photographs, imaginatively redefined in unexpected juxtaposition....A wonderful concept book, grounded in ordinary events yet touched with magic, that will strike a familiar chord with preschool audiences while enlarging their perceptions.

35. Pictures From Our Vacation
Ages: 4-8
Does 1 + 2 + 3 = summer vacation? What about how it felt to swim in the lake? What about the stories their cousins told and the taste of a just-invented strawberry and whipped cream dessert?For those memories—the memories of summer and the memories of family that mean the most—they need to look someplace else. Someplace deep inside. Someplace permanent.

36. Watermelon Day
Ages: 4-8
There's a watermelon growing in the corner of the patch where the fence posts meet, and Jesse is waiting for it. Waiting for it to fill up with the cool summer rain and the hot summer sun. Waiting until at last it is ripe and ready for eating. Waiting until it is ready for her family's annual Watermelon day.

37. Carl's Summer Vacation
Ages: 4-8
Carl and Madeleine are supposed to be napping while Mom and Dad get the summer cabin ready for company, but this lovable canine and his charge have better things to do. They escape from the hammock to do some canoeing, pick blackberries, and enjoy a picnic

38. Painting The Wind
Ages: 4-8
On an island, surrounded by water and light, a young boy waits for the sun to shine, and for his friends, the painters, to return: The landscape painter and the painter of flowers. The painter of still lifes and the painter of faces. They all come to the island to paint when the days are long and their dogs can run free. The young boy watches and learns. This summer he will try to do what he has never done before. He will try to paint the wind.

39. Heat Wave 
Ages: 4-8
The mercury is climbing in Lumberville, and the folks are doing everything they can to keep cool. Officer McGinnis spends the day in a cold bath, Lottie Mims does her housework in her bathing suit, and Abigail and Ralphie Blue sell ice cubes. When the temperature refuses to relent, the entire community seeks solace by the river--where everyone dreams of cool relief.

40. Taffy Saltwater Yummy Summer Day
Ages: 4-8
Taffy is determined to build the perfect sandcastle, but when Rollo, the cheery beach ball, is carried off in the style of Mary Poppins, via umbrella, Taffy must hurry to rescue him. Fortunately, Bob the inflatable sea serpent is in Taffy's bag, and soon he is tearing down the beach, in hot pursuit.

41. Lemondae Sun 
Ages 4-8
 Like the spicy sweetness of an ice-cold glass of lemonade, these bright and happy poems promise--and deliver--a shiver of recognition and refreshment. From the classic subjects of "My Lemonade Stand" and "Jacks" to the jazzy rhythms of "Jump Rope Talk" to the lyrical beauty of "Backyard Bubbles," this stunning collection from Rebecca Kai Dotlich is drenched in summer colors and pleasures.

42. The Berenstain Bears Go On Vacation 
 Ages: 4-8
 It's summer vacation, and the Berenstain Bears are off to the seashore for sun and fun. There is so much to do—swimming, fishing, building sand castles, browsing through the general store, eating delicious dinners at Gull Island CafĂ©, and visiting Gull Island Museum. Each glorious sunrise heralds a new adventure!

43. Guess How Much I Love You In The Summer 
Ages: 4-8
It's summer and Little Nutbrown Hare learns about all the different colours there are - the red of the berries, the green of the leaves, the blue of the sky... but can he guess what the loveliest colour of all is?

44. Curious George and The IceCream Surprise
Ages 4-8
George is looking for a way to beat the summer heat. Swimming, running through sprinklers, a glass of lemonade—none can help George cool off! What George really wants is a sweet, cold treat from the ice cream truck, but will he ever catch it?

45. The Fourteen Bears In The Summer and Winter
Ages: 4-8
Once upon a time, in a summer forest, there were fourteen bears . . . so begins a sweet story of a bear family’s life throughout the year, told in loving and simple detail. This book features two popular stories written by noted Southern author Evelyn Scott, and has been out of print for decades. We’re pleased to reissue this book in response to the requests of several booksellers, and hundreds of people who want it for their children and grandchildren.

46. A Swim Through The Sea
This 1994 alphabet and alliteration book continues to be a favorite of kids, parents, and teachers everywhere. It is truly an exceptional swim through an alphabet of sea creatures. Each page highlights a selected species with a full-color illustration and a paragraph of fascinating facts, surrounded by a frame full of extra creatures and vocabulary.

47. Seashells By The Seashore
Counting from one to twelve, Sue picks up shells--periwinkle, kittens paw, scallop--and carefully adds them to her bucket as a gift for Grandma. She and her friend identify the shells, and when they discover one that still has the mollusk living inside they put it back in the water--learning that shells are actually the (usually) abandoned homes of sea animals

48. The Gardner
The Gardener introduces readers to a winsome and determined young heroine, whose generosity will reward all who meet her." A cute book of simple letters from the heroine Lydia Grace accompanied by sweet illustrations. Children and adults will appreciate.

49. Swimming Lessons
Ages 5+
Although she has found many excuses for refusing to take swimming lessons, Jane finally faces the inevitable and jumps into the water for a very good reason.

50. The Summer Solstice
Ages: 6+
From ancient times to the present, people have found many ways to express their thankfulness for the sun's gift of warmth and light. The Summer Solstice depicts the mysterious rites of the Egyptians, the tales of fairies and selkies, the modern parades and baseball games--all part of the fun and folklore of this happy time. What is summer solstice? Read this book to find out!

Did I miss a good one? What are your favorite summertime reads for your littles?

Tula 7 Day Balanced Skin Challenge

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post

I have a secret. I have had terrible skin. No really. I have dark spots, dry spots, breakouts and uneven skin tone. Makeup, good lighting and well-angled shots have worked wonders in helping me conceal my dirty little secret.

A few weeks back I was invited to participate in the TULA 7 Day Balanced Skin Challenge. After giving it a bit of thought, I accepted the challenge. At first I was skeptical. Real skeptical. When it comes to my skin, I'm exceedingly careful about the products I use. I've had a few bad experiences that have, quite literally, scarred me for life. Luckily, my experience with TULA has restored my faith in skin care products.

Lately I've tried to become more aware and conscious of foods and ingredients that I'm ingesting. Even though its a skin care regiment, I paid careful attention to the ingredient list for the TULA products. One of the things that immediately stood out is that the TULA skin care line uses patented probiotic technology. Like most yogurt and cheese eaters, I've heard of priobiotics, but only when associated with food. I did a bit of reading and discovered that probiotics help protect your skin against external bacteria and negative environmental influences, i.e. reduced breakouts and repairs UV damage. Nice.

Here's what came it my kit:
  1. Purifying Face Cleanser: A one-step face/eye make-up and impurity removing foaming face wash. Massage onto skin day and night. Rinse after 30 to 60 seconds. Follow with TULA illuminating face serum.
  2. Illuminating Face Serum: Discover the ultimate daily dose of radiance, designed to help even skin's tone and refine skin's texture by promoting a youthful glow. Apply after cleanser and follow with TULA Hydrating Day and night cream
  3. Hydrating Day and Night Cream: Like a multivitamin for your skin, this rich, age-defying moisture cream delivers intense sustained hydration and complexion-fortifying antioxidant protection to visibly reduce fine line and improve skin's smoothness, suppleness and youthful appearance. Apply to clean skin in the morning and at night. Follow with TULA eye cream.
  4. Revitalizing Eye Cream: This nurturing and revitalizing lift for eyes is packed with nutrients and patented ingredients to hydrate, tone and help minimize the appearance of fine lines, dark circles and puffiness. Pat around the delicate eye are to complete your TULA Skincare regimen. 

After 7 days I noticed a BIG change in my skin. Namely the breakouts and dry skin. The dark circles are still under my eyes, but I'm certain that with a bit more time those will clear up as well. The end results of my 7 day challenge is that my skin is clearer, lighter and healthier and I am very much loving the skin I'm in.

If you liked what you saw, and are thinking about trying TULA, you're in luck. Next month TULA will be available for purchase on QVC. Even better still,  if you're like me, and are a bit skeptical about the effectiveness of skin care products, you'll be able to purchase what is called a discovery kit. Essentially its a sampler of the entire line. This way you can try TULA before committing to purchasing the larger sizes. Even with the discovery kit I feel confident that by the end of the week your skin will feel better.

Be sure to check out TULA online and on facebook for tons of skincare advice and information of their new products

Disclaimer: Although I was compensated for this review, I truly enjoyed the results of my 7 Day Balanced Skin Challenge with Tula. Every word in this post is truly reflective of my thoughts and opinions of the TULA skin care line.