Monday, December 31, 2018

The Wonder Of Mary Poppins Returns

Last night my hubby and I had date night. We went to see Mary Poppins Returns. I was hoping it would be a good movie. I mean, a new Mary Poppins? Do we really need a new one? And you know how people screw up "sequels". I had my hopes up that it would at least be enjoyable. Just be aware that what follows may be considered a complete spoiler, but I'm ok with that. This is your fair warning.

Cue the start of the film, and I KNEW something magical was about to happen. There may be a lot of "remember when" statements coming in this review starting with, remember when movies began with the credits? They lasted a couple minutes with a musical piece? It took me about 30 seconds to realize that the movie hadn't started, the music was still playing, and we were still watching credits. That put a smile on my face and I wondered how many people remember movies beginning this way. Then I also wondered how many people were impatient for the movie to start. I just thought, "I already love this."

I read on Facebook that someone was saying to not forget this movie was a musical. Of course I wasn't sure if that meant the entire thing was full on musical scene after scene or even if the score would be any good. Would the songs be on par with the original music and dances. I mean, the bar (in my opinion) was set extremely high for this movie to reach.

Let's just say that Mary Poppins Returns is a musical just like the original. It made me think of those classic childhood movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Robert & Richard Sherman composed music that made those movies absolutely delightful. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman did a spectacular job at staying true to the original movie with new songs that I believe the Sherman brothers would've approved of! I think the only part in the movie that I thought was a bit "hokey" was the BMX bikes in the "Trip A Little Light Fantastic" scene. It's probably my age, but it just didn't seem to fit the rest of the movie.

I'm not sure at what point in the movie I realized I felt like a child again. Mary Poppins Returns made me feel like a 6 year old little girl who watched the movie with wide-eyed wonderment. The humans were able to interact with cartoons. I thought it would be incredible to experience that kind of interaction. I literally got lost in the movie. I remembered what it felt like to watch a move that seemed magical. I want Mary Poppins to be MY nanny although I've never had a nanny and I'm almost 50. hahahaha

Do you approach movies that are "family" oriented or for children and wonder how they're going to add adult themes? I mean, why can't children's movies just be sweet and innocent? No inappropriate talk by the characters, no implied meanings, no innuendos. Simply a straight forward children's movie. You get all the fun & sweetness of a children's movie that you would hope for with Mary Poppins Returns.

Emily Blunt, I can't say enough about her performance! As soon as you see her feet turned out, you know she's going to be great! I'm not one to join the hype of an actor or actress' performance, but hers was spectacular. I feel as though Dame Julie Andrews would be very proud of this revival of the character she brought to life. BTW, did you know the original Mary Poppins was Julie Andrews' feature film debut? Back to Emily Blunt though. She is probably one of my favorite actresses. I don't think I realized it until this movie. She's such a versatile actress. I can't imagine anyone else playing this role!

Lin-Manuel Miranda did a good job as Jack, the lamp lighter. Can I admit I've never seen him in anything before? No, I haven't seen Hamilton. I also don't keep up on awards shows to know that he's won nearly all 4! Lin-Manuel certainly showed me he can sing, dance, and act all in one fell swoop.

No way I could leave out seeing Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury in this movie. What icons! My heart swelled when I saw them and heard them sing. Dick Van Dyke certainly hasn't lost his gift of singing, dancing, and acting. I had no idea Angela Lansbury was in the movie, so to see her at the end was delightful! I also had no clue Meryl Streep was in the movie. I must live under a rock.

I can't leave out the actors who played Michael & Jane as well as the kids, Anabel, John, and Georgie. I remember Jane (Emily Mortimer) from something, but for the life of me I can't remember what. I looked through IMDB and didn't find anything that I'd know her from. Maybe she just has one of those faces. The kids were fantastic and I really enjoyed them as Michael's children. I think when they look back 20 yrs from now, they'll realize what an amazing opportunity it was to have roles in this movie.


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Monday, December 24, 2018

My New Devi Water Bottle From KOR

I know everyone is focused on Christmas, but somehow life has been so busy in general that I haven't done most of the things I have in years past. What I AM looking forward to is starting the new year. I'm hoping to make better choices with my health. That's where my new KOR Devi water bottle comes in to play. I have a few water bottles from KOR and I was excited to review this one!

One of the biggest things I struggle with is drinking water. The guys in my house, they drink it like it's going out of style. I can only drink it if I'm working out or if the water is incredibly cold. I don't know why, but it's one of the biggest hurdles I have with living a healthier lifestyle daily.

As you've probably seen if you follow me on Instagram or you've read my blog, I love my Zumba. I drink water like it's going out of style while I'm at my class. My Devi has been amazing during my class especially during this crazy time of year. I've been filling my KOR water bottle up with cold water when I leave the house early, do tons of running around, and then head to class.

Remember how I said I like my water super cold? When I finally get to class the water is still cold thankfully! At my class, I also need a bottle that's going to be one that's safe to have in class. We just randomly place our stuff around the room which can easily be knocked over. The Devi comes with a lock to help prevent leaks and spills. Yes, I've spilled between dances and that is such a hassle when you don't want to stop your exercise, but have to so that you can clean up the mess.

The KOR Devi is a bottle that also keeps liquids hot between 6 to 12 hours. That's done with the KORtemp Technology that helps keep water cold for up to 24 hours, too! It's double insulated and vacuum sealed. That way if you have hot beverages you don't burn your hand and if you have cold beverage on a hot day, it won't sweat!

One of my favorite features on every KOR water bottle is the Perfect Spout. The one on the Devi is probably my favorite of all the ones I have. It's a separate piece from the stainless steel bottle and also disconnects from the lid. It's smooth and threadless so it's gentle on your lips. No hard edges with this spout.

And can we just talk about the color? The pearl pink is absolutely gorgeous! I love the ombre. I'm not typically a pink person, but the bottle's color just grabbed me. It also comes in onyx, arctic ice, and Caribbean green.

Make a commitment to being your best you in 2019. Start off with hydration. Fingers crossed I can do it! That and get back on my treadmill. Another place where I'm not succeeding since we got back from Peru. Let's make 2019 a hydrated healthy one!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Artsy Olive Framed Art Print Review & Giveaway

Are you like me and love giving gifts with a personal touch? They always seem to say you thought about that person a bit more for their gift. I had never heard of Artsy Olive before I was offered a framed art print for review! I was so excited when I saw the samples.

Now, I don't know about you, but do you get sucked into looking at pretty much every, single, design just to find the perfect ONE? I'm pretty sure I looked at every option trying to decide who I was going to receive my sample for and which design fit exactly what I wanted to say to them. As I was clicking through the many options, I came across ones for friends and that's when I knew I was going to get one from my bestie, TP.

It wasn't an easy decision to make. Some sites make shopping SO difficult #IWantAllTheCuteThings! hahahaha Ok, let's chat about the site first of all. Since Artsy Olive is brand new, they have a "how it works" section right at the top. Sheesh, if more sites had something like that it would cut down on so much frustration. They even have a quick video to show you how their art works. The rest of the site is pretty straight forward and allows you to search by a variety of options.

As you get started with your creation(s) you have a choice of size from 7.7"x7.7" all the way up to 13.7"x18.7". My review art was a 7.7"x7.7". After you choose the design you want, you get to choose your frame style or if you already have a frame that you want to use again, you can choose a print only.

Next you get to choose a background if the design comes with the option. It's fun to play around with the different back grounds with different frames. Some of the designs come with different size options as well. If you create an account, you can even save your favorites so they're easy to go back to and order. From there you get to personalize your picture!!

The picture I chose for TP gave me the opportunity to tell her in a paragraph how much she means to me. I picked the True Friend Is Family. Now, I followed the example and after I got the package I realized I probably didn't need to add her last name. hahahaha I suppose it's always there in case either of us forgets it. 😀

The check out was quick and easy. As you're reviewing your order you have the opportunity to change your frame. Thankfully you can review it right in the same line item if you make a change. Heck you can even admire your creation one more time before you make your purchase. HA!

Right now, I'm seeing 20% off select signs and Free Shipping. I don't know when it expires so no quoting me on those. Not only that, you can get 15% off until December 30th by using the code "blog15"!

Ready for the giveaway? Here's your chance! Artsy Olive is giving away 5 framed prints! Click on the image above or here for your opportunity to win.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Spending Thanksgiving With The Ex In-Laws

Yes, you read that right. We spent Thanksgiving with my ex in-laws. That might sound crazy, but let me explain more about how this worked.

I've known my in-laws or let's call them in-loves for 20 yrs. I became best friends with my ex's oldest sister, Liz. She had a daughter from her first marriage, I had two daughters from my first marriage. She and I then proceeded to have two boys 6 months apart and two boys 3 months apart. I was in the room taking pictures and videotaping when she had her second daughter! His other sister, Becky, had a daughter almost a year after our first set of boys were born. Then we were all pregnant at the same time with our next kids, but I lost the baby and got pregnant a couple months later. So Liz and Becky both had boys, and then along came my son a few months later. Lastly there was his brother, Dan, whose wife, Maria also had a little girl already from her first marriage, then had a son a year after the first boys were born and then proceeded to have two more girls.

Needless to say our kids grew up pretty close to their cousins, aunts, and uncles. While Becky and Liz lived only about a half an hour from each other, we were 8 hours away up in Minnesota, and Maria was all the way in Virginia. Fourth of July was always spent up at Gram's cabin in Aitkin, MN. Thanksgivings and every other Christmas was spent in Illinois for our family.

Even after the separation and divorce, I still stayed close to my sisters-in-love. When the boys and I moved to the East Coast, we were only 3 hours away from Dan & Maria! While we haven't made it down there as much as we'd like for holidays because my family and Fred's family are here as well, we have had more opportunities to spend with them the past 5 yrs. Not nearly enough as far as I'm concerned.

One of my worries after the divorce was how I'd fit in with the family. Liz and I were close, but she was no longer family by marriage. I had always told her, jokingly, that I'd never divorce my ex because I love her too much. hahahaha Well, life happened and divorce was what needed to happen. Thankfully my sisters-in-love didn't ditch me.

I know there are many families who turn their backs on the in-law who is now divorced from their child/sibling, but this group of people weren't like that! I'm so incredibly blessed by that fact. We've spent holidays together still. The one holiday we haven't spent together in years is Christmas. Being out here with my parents & siblings has made it hard to go anywhere else. Not only that, it's almost a 15 hr drive. Not super easy to get there and back.

That being said. Dan & Maria have been hosting Thanksgiving for the past 6-5 yrs. We have only made it a couple times, but those times have been such a blessing. This year, when we were invited, I wasn't sure if we'd be able to make it. I called my father-in-law, Fred "Sr", to see how he'd feel about spending the holiday with my ex's family. It would've been completely understandable if he'd said I was crazy and he'd never consider such a thing. Shockingly, he didn't respond that way. All he said was, "Whatever you guys decide to do, I'll go along." Isn't that amazing?

On a side note, my ex wasn't there. I won't ever celebrate a holiday with him. So, that's something we'll never have to run into. Of course that means limited holidays spent with the extended family since he's at most of them these days.

I think it helped that Pap met Liz and her daughter, Renae at Brieanne's wedding in July and they absolutely loved him. For my hubby it's still really awkward for him. I totally get it. It's my ex's family. They are warm and welcoming, but it's still my ex's family. lol Since he wasn't welcomed and well loved by his ex's family he isn't used to having a wonderful relationship with in-laws, except now he gets to experience it with MY family, his new in-laws.

We played games, walked around Williamsburg, ate a Thanksgiving dinner together, and family photos. The boy cousins built a fort out of the bamboo that grows in the yard. The girls tried building one, but I don't know how well it turned out. We watched the Tech vs UVA game and that was pretty exciting. Then the girls had a good time trying out a "golden" mask.

One of the bummers of this trip was my oldest son wasn't able to go down with us because he had to work Friday and Saturday morning. I know as he gets older it's going to be harder and harder to have him at family gatherings. Whether it's with my parents, Fred's dad, or the boys' extended family, the boys are getting older and have more responsibilities.

We also missed having Liz, her husband, John, and their youngest son there. Their son had a basketball tournament, which he missed last year, and he didn't want to miss another one. Totally understandable, but they sure were missed.

I know it's an unconventional way to spend a major holiday, but a wonderful time was had by everyone. I don't know if we'll ever do that again, but it was a very special few days with some very lovely people.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Precious Moments Holiday Ornament

I can't believe it's December! Shouldn't it only be August?! Time flies and I have no idea how to slow it down. Along with time flying, I'm at least a week behind getting all of our Christmas stuff out. I have one table decorated. ONE!

Some of my most treasured Christmas pieces are our holiday Precious Moments ornaments and figurines. Of course when they asked me if I'd review & share about one of their 2018, I said, "yes" since it's such a natural part of our holiday tradition.

The "Have A Magical Holiday Season" 2018 Dated Ball Ornament is only $30.99, which you can find on the Precious Moments website. It's about 4.5" high and is made of fine bisque porcelain, which is hand painted. What I love about this ornament is that it also comes with a porcelain base in case you'd rather display it on a mantle or tabletop.

If you love traditions as much as I do, make this the year you start collecting the Precious Moments Ornament. It makes a wonderful gift for a loved one. When we went to Williamsburg for Thanksgiving, I brought mine down and gave it as a gift to my sister-in-love. I wanted to find a special way to thank her for hosting all of the extended families in her home for several days. They've made it a tradition, and I felt like the "Have A Magical Holiday Season" ornament was the perfect way to show her how much it meant to me.

I'm not sure about you, but I'm all about the dates on holiday gifts. I love remember when I received a gift or got a new ornament. This one has dates in spades. lol There's a date on her scarf, on the back of the ornament, and on the base! No way anyone will forget when you got this. There's still plenty of time to get more of your Christmas shopping done so be sure to include Precious Moments in your holiday gifting!

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Minimalist Home By Joshua Becker

The Minimalist Home
by Joshua Becker
Publisher: WaterBrook
ISBN: 9781601427991

I was so thrilled when I was chosen to review this book for WaterBrook. I'm an accumulator and as my old boss refers to it as a "surface abuser". If there's a surface somewhere, you can pretty much bet your bottom dollar I'll plop something down and it'll be come a pile so that you can't see the surface in a matter of time. I had a lot of hope that this might help me turn a corner.


A popular minimalist blogger and author of The More of Less shows you how to methodically turn your home into a place of peace, contentment, and purposeful living.

One of today's most influential minimalist advocates takes us on a decluttering tour of our own houses and apartments, showing us how to decide what to get rid of and what to keep. He both offers practical guidelines for simplifying our lifestyle at home and addresses underlying issues that contribute to over-accumulation in the first place. The purpose is not just to create a more inviting living space. It's also to turn our life's HQ--our home--into a launching pad for a more fulfilling and productive life in the world.

My Review:

Living a minimalist lifestyle has been popping up quite a bit in my life for just over a year. Our friends in Peru started living more intentionally and each day for 30 days they would get rid of a number of items that went with the day of the month. 1 item on the first, 2 items on the second, 3 items on the third and so on. That seemed scary to me! lol

Then we went back to Peru in October for our 5th mission trip, and you can't walk away from what you see there and not be affected by it! It certainly made me want to come back and evaluate the "too much" that we have. After we got back I received The Minimalist Home and was hesitantly excited about learning more.

We were so busy I didn't have a chance to get started reading right away because we were so busy with life.

A couple weeks later the pastor at a church we were visiting was talking about how we accumulate so much unnecessary stuff. It was pretty amusing, but really a great way to get us to look at what we really do in our homes and how we spend our money. He pulled out a bunch of his family's coffee cups as he talked about how they "need" this cup and "need" that cup. All I could think of was, "please don't ever come to my house where you'll see my intentional Starbucks coffee cup collection that I have displayed!" hahahaha

Living like a minimalist was coming at me from every direction.

So, let's talk about the book.

This was a no-nonsense, but gentle approach to living life with intention and spending your money & time more wisely. The author, Joshua Becker, understands how our minds and our hearts work. We attach so much to "things" that shouldn't have those attachments. For me, the things that I don't attach a value to are easy to toss, I just never get around to it. Well, over the past couple of weeks I've gotten around to it!

He also encourages us to determine the kind of life we want to live. How do we want to spend it with family? Where do we want to spend it? What do we want to enjoy? What do we want our home to feel like as we live in it and have people come over to spend time with us?

I want to have a home that looks crisp, clutter, free, and like it belongs in a magazine during every season and in every room. For me, that's sort of a pipe dream. I might be able to make a dent in my clutter, but I'll never be a decorator. lol I'd have to have someone stage my home for it lo look that way. HA!

  • I would love to learn Spanish to be able to translate, speak to Spanish speaking people, and be able to communicate when we go to Peru
  • I'd love to own a hobby farm in Minnesota
  • I'd love to take my kids to Disney World & some day grandkids as well as travel

The author goes room by room explaining how to look at each of the spaces in the room and what we tend to keep in those rooms. Some times I got ahead of the author because I'd have a spark of energy to go through something and just get rid of whatever the stuff was. I got rid of so many sheets and towels in both linen closets. I went through some of the kitchen cupboards and got rid of so many things we just never use but I hold onto "just in case".

One thing I'm thankful for is that in The Minimalist home, nothing is pushed on us. In fact, Joshua encourages us to be very mindful of what we're doing. He encourages the reader to not throw out someone else's items and to include the kids at their own pace. The reader is also encouraged to talk the changes over with the family before going gang busters. Words of wisdom right there!

Something that I've learned about myself over the past years is that I have a fear of not enough (FONE) or fear of running out (FORO). I grew up without a lot. My parents didn't have a lot of money and I always knew about the money issues. So, as I became an adult I started keeping things. Not lots of things, but a little here and there. It began to turn into tubs and tubs of stuff. Now, although I've gotten rid of a lot of things over the years, I still have tubs. That may never change, but reading this book sure has made me want to make changes.

While this book isn't necessarily Christian, there aren't scriptures or references to faith, it's a good  book that's practical. It'll help you either take the plunge or baby steps towards living a less cluttered life. I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking to make a change!

About the Author:

JOSHUA BECKER is the founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website dedicated to inspiring others to find more life by owning less. The website welcomes over 1,000,000 readers each month and has inspired millions around the world to consider the practical benefits of owning fewer possessions and given them the practical help to get started. He is the best-selling (Wall Street JournalUSA TodayPublisher's Weekly, Amazon, Audible) author of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own. Joshua's writing has led to speaking opportunities all across America and internationally. He is a contributing writer to Forbes and has made media appearances in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post Live, and the CBS Evening News. Joshua and his young family live in Peoria, AZ. In many ways, they are just your typical middle-class, suburban family--minus the dog and relentless pursuit of physical possessions.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Baby Essentials For The First Year Giveaway

As a new mom, there will be many things that you will want or need. Here are a few of our favorite items for the Baby's First Year.

Stuck On You:

Australia based Stuck On You was founded in 1995 by Carrie Felton, a mom of three boys. A global leader in personalized products for baby & beyond, Stuck On You products are available in more than 15 countries. Felton created Stuck On You to celebrate the individuality of every name, bring joy to new parents with unique, timeless products for every child, save families time, energy and money and help them to lead a more organized life. In addition to a broad offering of labels, the Stuck On You collection includes activity and personalized books, durable and stylish bags, lunchboxes and drink bottles, stationery, bag tags and gorgeous gifts for all ages.



WeWarriors is a reusable product created for all women with mild to moderate incontinence. With an innovative design (patent pending) and ultra-absorbent technology, WeWarriors EcoPads provide a unique solution for mild or moderate urinary incontinence. With WeWarriors, you no longer need to worry about incontinence leaks when you run, jump or laugh. WeWarriors is safe to use daily—simply wear, wash and wear again. WeWarriors hold up to 5 teaspoons of liquid. This is comparable to most incontinence panties that are designed to be worn all day.



For the first time a person can get a simple 20 minute relaxing, foot pain busting and beautifying portable foot soak by slipping on a pair of the new Soakees "Slip-On and Tie" Foot Bath Booties - the only "Slip-On and Tie" Foot Bath that needs only 2 cups of water (vs the heavy messy gallons of a floor foot-bath tub) - and can be used absolutely anywhere - anytime and anyplace."

Motif Medical

Nurturing your little one is about so much more than simple nourishment. Our motto is if it matter to you, it matters to us. We know that your baby’s health, hygiene, and comfort matters – and that’s why we created the Maylilly Collection. These products are about helping you to be the best parent you can be; allowing you to nurture and protect your baby quickly and conveniently, so you have more time to enjoy this precious and fleeting time in your child’s life.

Australia based was founded in 2007 by Dannielle Michaels and Monique Filer. products are fun and functional to make parent’s lives that little bit easier with a touch of cool thrown in. The award-winning collection of innovative designed everyday baby essentials includes the Travel Drying Rack, Sippy Cups, Feeding gift sets, silicone drink tops, Diaper Wallet, Baby Bottle + Dispenser, Diaper Caddy, bibs, Snack Pack, Mesh Feeder, Baby Spoon, Bowl + Straw, Toddler Cutlery Set, Divided Plates, gift sets and universal fit drink lids.

Covered Goods Nursing Cover

San Clemente, CA-based Covered Goods was founded in 2012 by mom Jamie Yetter. The original multi-use nursing cover, Covered Goods covers provide true all over coverage and can also be used as a scarf, car seat cover and shopping cart cover. Covered Goods covers are manufactured in the USA.


UnbuckleMe uses a type II lever to reduce the force required to unbuckle by more than 50% (Note: this has been tested and confirmed). Leverage is critical to creating a mechanical advantage, and thereby lowering the amount of force needed to unbuckle.

Infantino Musical Soother & Night Light Projector

Babies will go gaga for this soothing fox night light that plays lullaby music while projecting a colorful, moving light display. Features 20 minutes of music or nature sounds, including 5 songs and 3 nature sounds. The gentle movement of the fox’s tail brings motion to the light projection, creating visual interest and promoting eye tracking and focus. The baby fox is removable, for a night light little ones can hold. Adjustable light and music settings, to use with or without audio.

One lucky Winner will receive the Baby Essentials Giveaway Package Including:

WeWarriors Cloth pads for mamas Soakees Motif Duo pump Motif bottle Sterilizer Motif baby nail kit Stuck on You Personalized Onesie Sippy Cup and Travel Bib Covered Goods Nursing Cover Unbuckle Me Clip

Disclosure: A no purchase is necessary. Will Run 11/26 -12/9/2018. Open to US Residents 18 and older. Winners will be selected by random using the Giveaway Tools Form. You have 48 hours to claim your prize. This Mamas Life, and any participating bloggers are not responsible for prize shipment unless otherwise noted. The promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mark Of The Raven By Morgan L. Busse

Mark of the Raven
by Morgan L. Busse
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 9780764232220

I have to admit, I grew up reading fantasy novels. My biological dad got me hooked on them. None of them were Christian and they drew me into a world that wasn't good. Finding books like Mark of the Raven has been so refreshing, and ones I can enjoy with my sons, I've been able to dive back in and enjoy this genre again! When I was given the opportunity to read the book for a review, I was in. Besides, look at that cover! Who can resist?!


Dreamwalker. Nightwatcher. Lady of Ravenwood.

Lady Selene Has Come into Her Family's Power.

But Has She Inherited a Gift or a Curse?

Lady Selene is heir to the House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person's dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. Soon after the gifting, however, Selene discovers that the Ravenwood women have been secretly using their gift to gather information or to assassinate those responsible for the fall of House Ravenwood to the Dominia Empire hundreds of years ago. 

As she becomes more entrenched in Ravenwood's dark past, Selene longs to find out the true reason behind her family's gift, believing that its original intent could not have been for such evil purposes, but she is torn about upholding her family's legacy--a legacy that supports her people. Selene's dilemma comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations--but who is also prophesied to bring about the downfall of her own house.

One path holds glory and power and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and likely death. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen?

My Review:

Mark of the Raven starts off by diving right into Selene's life. Her "gift" comes to her almost immediately and wow, it sounds like something I would certainly pass on experiencing. The author gives great detail on how it fills her. We also meet Selene's sister Amara, who takes sibling rivalry very seriously.

There are seven Great Houses that we meet as the book progresses. I really like the introduction to each of them as we get to understand them a bit better. I do have my favorite house (or at least a house I'd like to get to know better). Grand Lady Bryren made quite the impact on me during the House gathering. As the reader, we don't get to experience all of their gifts, but we do see how Damien from House Maris can use his!

As Lady Selene grows in her understanding of her powerful gift, a gift that's even more than her mother's, she has to figure out how she's going to use it. Her mother and the Dark Lady seem to have plans for her powers which she isn't quite sure of! She definitely feels torn. When she tries to close her heart off to how she feels about using her gifts, I kind of get the sense she's trying to channel Elsa from Frozen. Selene doesn't want to think or feel. Also I think the people in her house once refer to her as the Ice Queen? That was about the only part of the story I wasn't a fan of.

I really liked the flow of the story. From watching Grand Lady Ragna trying to teach her daughter about her gifts, to learning more about Selene's father, getting to know Damien, and bringing all of the Grand Houses together, the book was fast paced.

The worst part of the book was coming to the end. The end was such an epic cliff hanger, I was kind of upset that I read the book before book 2 was coming out. hahahaha I mean, seriously, the ending will absolutely hoping the author will be inspired by God to write at such a great pace that book 2 will come out months before expected. 😂 Thankfully we only have to wait until April of next year!

My son is currently reading it, and I'm excited to be able to talk to him about it when he's finished!

About the Author:

Morgan L. Busse ( is a writer by day and a mother by night. She is the author of the Follower of the Word series and the new steampunk series The Soul Chronicles. Her debut novel, Daughter of Light, was a Christy and Carol Award finalist. During her spare time she enjoys playing games, taking long walks, and dreaming about her next novel. She and her family live in Bloomington, Illinois.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

My Experience With A Monarch Butterfly

Every summer when I go back to Minnesota I go to a lady's house and buy plants that she grows in her gardens. This year I picked up a berry bush. I can't for the life of me remember what it is. I guess next year it'll be a surprise! I also grabbed a milkweed because she said it attracts butterflies.

I stayed at my daughter's apartment and put the plants on their balcony. I didn't really pay much attention to them. I watered them a couple of times and then left them. One day I went out because I was going to bring an iris I'd brought for a friend to her. I walked out and saw a big, fat caterpillar crawling around on the berry bush. Not only that, it had eaten EVERY leaf off the milkweed except for a few at the very tippy top. I don't know how it survived on those few sad little leaves.

I immediately went to Instagram because I knew a couple of people who had experienced caterpillars before and asked if it was a Monarch. Darcy, an influencer I knew, got back to me almost immediately that it indeed was a monarch. I was SO excited, except I didn't know where I was going to put it!! I started searching the web and a few people gave advice on Facebook on how to help it.

Thankfully my daughter lived right next to a pond and I was able to find it. I mean, I've never seen milkweed before and yet here were a few plants right in the backyard right when I needed it!

Here are a few things I learned about monarch butterflies.

1) They go through 4 generations: the first 3 generations only live for about 6 weeks and each one lays eggs for the next generation. The last generation lasts the longest and is the one that flies south.

2) They're endangered.

3) They form a J before they become a chrysalis. This doesn't last long. The chrysalis can last 7-10 days.

4) When they're ready to emerge, the cocoon will be translucent and they'll come out by mid-morning. They need to dry their wings before they take flight.

I named the pupa, Penelope, having no clue if it was male or female. The name just seemed to fit! I started sharing pictures of the chrysalis every morning to capture the entire experience and share it with anyone who was interested.

Did you know I had NEVER seen a cocoon in real life?!

I brought Penelope into the apartment and found a jar to keep it in. It ate more of the milkweed I picked from the pond and within a day, it had formed the J position. I was SHOCKED when the skin started peeling away. It happened in the morning while I was watching it, thank goodness! At first I was watching it and sakes alive it looked like it was in incredible pain. Next thing I know, the outer shell started moving up it's "body".

It was incredibly cool to watch the process. Penelope just hung there for the next 10ish days. It was interesting because at certain angles of my pictures, you could barely see a wing outline. And while it seemed like nothing was going on, it was totally changing!

Unfortunately, it picked a very weak stem to attach to. After a couple of days I could see the stem starting to sag. One day I used a bread tie to tighten it to a sturdier stem. The next morning it was even worse so I used a second bread tie to secure it. It started to sag between the ties, so a day later I used floral tape to secure it to the stronger stem. Whew, thank goodness that worked!

I knew it was going to be transparent when it was ready to come out, but when I woke up on the last morning with Penelope, it was completely BLACK!! I kind of freaked out at first. I went to bed at about 1am and when I woke up at 7am it had gone from bright green to black! I thought something had caused it to die.

Not even kidding. I panicked! I sent Darcy a photo wondering what had happened. Then I started to realize the chrysalis had become transparent! Literally in 6 short hours it went from opaque to transparent.

I'd had plans to go hiking, but since Penelope could emerge as a butterfly at any point, I wasn't going anywhere. I brought the jar out to the living room so I wouldn't miss it once it started breaking out. Well, just like when Penelope turned into the chrysalis, I missed the first moments of it coming out. Once I noticed some movement, I grabbed my phone to grab a video of it!!

Like a nervous new parent, I was afraid it might fall from the branch. I had to get it out of the jar so it could dry out its wings. I took it outside to the patio and grabbed a couple of flowers in case it wanted to get to one easily and quickly. We sat outside for an hour or so, and without so much as a "howdy do," Penelope took off and I never saw it again. I was hoping we'd have a moment, but mmmmm nope! Thankfully every time it tried its wings I started taking video. I was able to watch it fly off.

I'm hoping the milkweed I brought back with me will bring more monarch butterflies to it so I can watch the process all over again in the coming springs!

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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.