Meet Snowflake, our Elf on the Shelf!

Image from bn.com
  In the beginning of December, a mischievous elf visited our home.. he left his box and hid in our refrigerator... we found him drinking some hot sauce and chilling out, trying to get acclimated to the weather in New York.  Madeline just about flipped.. she thought it was the funniest thing in the world.  That first evening, we read the story and named our scout elf Snowflake.  As we read, he was up to some silly tricks... he put Maddie's easel on her bed and put our mirror above our closet!  After checking out his tricks, we settled in for some hot cocoa and watched the Elf on the Shelf movie.  We bid Snowflake a safe trip and scooted Maddie off to bed. 

The next morning she woke up to a yummy breakfast fit for a 5 year old sweet tooth!   It was all set up with fun and colorful plates, cups, and napkins, which added that extra touch of whimsy. Snowflake wrote Madeline a letter, telling her about his trip to the North Pole and that he was so glad he got to report all the good things she did to Santa... he even gave examples (sharing her candy at the holiday parade with another little girl and helping with dishes) which floored Maddie!  For our special Elf on the Shelf breakfast, Snowflake prepared hot cocoa with candy canes, strawberry mini-wheats, gooey cinnamon buns, snowballs (mini powdered doughnuts), and snowflakes (marshmallows). He also brought her a gift... he got her a "grow your own elf", which we promptly put in water so that it may grow and grow and grow! 

Below you can see a few pictures from our Elf on the Shelf breakfast...

I'll be posting more adventures of Snowflake as the month goes by!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



I have a lot of catching up to do.  I am in the process of writing a bunch of mini-reviews of the books I read while I was away from the blog.  Currently, they are all being saved as drafts and I will start rolling them out next week.  As I finish those up, I will start back in on writing reviews of the books I am currently reading.  A colleague of mine just gave me a few books to check out, so those will probably be on the launching pad this month.  I'm also trying to remember all the books I read while away... unfortunately I have missed a few and as I update my 2011 Book List they are not all in the order read this year.

On a fun side note, I am a member of Pinterest and have a pretty sweet board going about books/bookish things called Read Every Day.  It is new, but I am starting to use it as a visual for my book list and may break out in 2012 and just have a "Books Read in 2012" board to help me organize, link, and remember books with visuals.

I also have an Elf living with me for the first time this year (his name is Snowflake) and he is up to a lot of mischievous things!!  I'll upload photos of his adventures soon!

Thanks for sticking with me, and I can't wait to spend some quality time with all of your blogs- I've missed them all!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Please excuse the mess...

Life was kind of a mess.  My landlord is terrible and my apartment is constantly in need of some major repair.  Im looking for a house (I am beginning to head down the 'first time home buyer' road) and really hope to find one within the next 4 months.  I JUST got my craft table put up (thanks to the landlord and his horrible electrical practices)... I am debating where to go with this blog... more focused on craftiness or more focused on reading & reviews... I would like to evenly do both- but time will tell. 
I truly miss blogging!

For now, please excuse my silence and the mess while I re-vamp this blog. 

ps: I am updating my challenge lists on my sidebar since I have completed them... for now, no links to reviews (I have a LOT of reviews to catch up on) but they will be top priority.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


First 'droid post

<p>Hello blog world!&nbsp; Im currently sitting at the bar while Barrett bartends (and I drink Sam Adams and wait for him to get off so we can go see Apollo 18).&nbsp; Normally Im with Erica or playing a cheesy game on my cell or chatting up the other barflies.&nbsp; This time I figured Id give my hand a try at the blogger app and upload from my phone.<br>
So, lately I have been reading lots of short stories.... due in part to the fact that we've been on a few roadtrips lately and ghostly tales are always good for the car and campfire.
I read Garfield's Ghost Stories around the campfire to B's little girl Madeline. She enjoyed them, but at 5 years old she preferred Daddy's made up creepy stories to Garfield's mild spooks.  This is definitely a book for younger children and those who spook easily. Each tale is pretty harmless... filled with pirates and foggy nights... all with a (for lack of a better term) "happy ending"... but credit is due- the endings don't "explain" the ghostly happening... they just keep everyone out of harms way.  I'll link up the book with this post when Im on a computer- not sure how to do it on the phone yet.
As for my other current ghostly read, well.... I'll delve deeply into that later. It is good stuff!
Cheers to my first cell post- heres to hoping it works!



Books up for review

Things are still pretty busy in my world... gearing up for the last week of teaching summer school, then off for a vacation in Massachusetts... then time to pack up the storage unit and move into my new apartment!  So, just to stay in the loop... here is a list of what I've read since my last review (although I may miss a few as 99% of my books are currently in storage)... also, these will definitely be out of order in which I read them- like I said, it was a hectic few months!!

  • Slut! Growing Up Female With A Bad Reputation by Leora Tanenbaum
  • Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher
  • Some Girls: My Life In A Harem by Jillian Lauren
  • When Rabbit Howls by The Troops For Truddi Chase
  • Walking In Circles Before Lying Down by Merrill Markoe (originally read in 2009, but not reviewed)
  • Codependent No More by Melodie Beatie
  • Codependent No More Workbook by Melodie Beatie
  • Make Miracles In 40 Days by Melodie Beatie
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Flat Stanley In Space by Jeff Brown
  • Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Pirates! (A Non-Fiction Companion to Pirates Past Noon) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Secrets To Happiness by Sarah Dunn (originally read in 2009,but not reviewed)
  • Secret Diary of a Call Girl by Anonymous
  • Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh
  • A Twisted Ladder by Rhodi Hawk
Reviews coming soon!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Where in the world is Jenna??

Well hello!  It's been quite some time now, hasn't it?  I needed a break from my blog world, as my life got flipped turned upside down.  Since my last post, I ended a sour relationship, moved home, looked for an apartment for MONTHS, found an apartment, continue to wait for said apartment to be renovated, planned a bridal shower, got happy, started working out again, met an amazing man, continue to be happy, found the love for my job again and quit smoking... whew!  THAT is why I needed take unplug.  I didn't touch my computer for anything more than to watch a movie on Netflix or to get GoogleMap directions in the past 3 months.  I have been reading.  Not my usual rate of reading,  but reading none the less.

My posts may be spotty for the next month or two... but once I get settled into my new place (I move in Sept 1) I hope to be more consistent.  I have plenty of reviews to write from the past few months of silence, and TONS of blog reading to catch up on.  Hope to catch up with you all soon!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Spring Break

Where does the blog go?  Its been a while, but I am on spring break- that means no teaching, lesson planning, grading or supervising.... meaning that I will be catching up on reviews!  I also plan on reading a lot (hopefully soaking up the sun while doing so) and making some pretties for the shoppe.  Speaking of Little Bird's Designs, I've added more to the store- go take a look! 

PS:  Make sure you read my post below about new novel, Jason and the Draconauts - the story just continues to get better!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Jason and the Draconauts

Hello book bloggers!  I have the very special pleasure of sharing with you a new YA novel that is currently in progress and posted online.  The story is titled Jason and the Draconauts and chronicles main character Jason as he discovers a dragon in his barn and all the adventure that follows.  I can't give much away- as it is in early stages (up to chapter 4) and you just have to read it yourself!  Adventure is the name of the game here!

So please head over to Smitty Man and check out Jason and the Draconauts.  Those of you with blogs, leave your feedback here or on any of Smitty's posts.  He is really looking for quality feedback- and I know all of you book bloggers out there can really help!!, especially those of you who specialize in YA and children's literature.

On a side note: my students are listening to the novel (1 chapter per week) an are LOVING it!!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



I've officially made the jump to etsy!!  I have always been crafty and enjoyed creating- anything really!  Mostly I've been working on jewelry and headbands.  I opened the store in the beginning of March and have sold 3 items locally and 1 from the shop. 

Any ideas on networking and getting my name out there veteran etsians?! 

Hop on over to my shop Little Bird's Designs on etsy for jewelry and headbands- soon to branch out to badge/key lanyards for all your work duty needs! (or just fashionable car keys!)

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Jay's Journal

Jay's Journal
Jay's Journal is the journal of a 16 year old boy, Jay that was "found" after his untimely death.  The journal was "given" to Beatrice Sparks by his mother.  She has also "edited" Go Ask Alice- another "anonymous" journal that she published.  There is much debate over the authenticity of both journals... you can find more information about the debates here (Go Ask Alice) and here (Jay's Journal).  She has "edited" many other "true diaries" as well, but the only ones I have read or looked into are the aforementioned.

***be aware that this review does contain spoilers***

This journal is the story of Jay, a troubled young boy growing up in the seventies and trying to find his footing in life- school, family, friends, faith.  Jay begins the journal due to the insistence of those around him.  As he moves through the story, Jay thinks he has found his one true love, but she is mixed up in some serious drugs.  His two best friends, Dell and Brad try to warn him, telling him that Debbie has "been around the block".  After months of providing for her addiction (and of course playing with fire himself) he gets caught stealing pills from his fathers pharmacy.  Sent off to reform school, Jay is miserable.  He hates the other kids there and all the staff.  Missing his friends and his family, he begins to form a bond with a staff member.  Before he realizes it, he starts to dabble in the Occult, learning about magical powers and witchcraft.  Swearing it (and Debbie) off for good before he discharges home, Jay seems to have finally gotten his act together.  However, once he gets home he starts to go up and down on the roller coaster again.  Getting in with another girl, getting deeper into the Occult and witchcraft, Jay's life begins to spiral out of control.  Eventually things get too heavy and much too real, and Jay begins to lose control of everything in his life.  He feels he is being visited by a demon, Raul, who wants his body (that Jay has ceremoniously "given" to him).  As his world begins to crumble around him, Jay begins to crumble inside... the coven with which he was associating with is getting stranger and stronger. Then his two best friends end up dead.  Jay finally ends it all by taking his own life.
Take the story as you will- it is definitely a cautionary tale.  As noted above, the debate surrounding the book is large- google it and you find a lot of entries. However, there is another side.  Some of the material is from Jay (real name- Alden Barrett) and some is from the journal entries / discussions of her other clients... seemingly making some of it true?  The entire Occult, witchcraft, voodoo, auras and Astra explored in the journal are very real- many people practice such beliefs, although I am sure that there is fabrication in this story. Whether or not you believe that these things (witchcraft, supernatural etc) do exist and have power is moot.  Could there be potential that black magic (witchcraft, occult, etc..) really did play a part in Alan Barrett and other local kids deaths?
 Jay's Journal was interesting for sure...

I do want to weigh in on Beatrice Sparks. I personally think she is a fraud.  I also don't think her intentions are pure.  I think that she wrote these journals based on her clients (many all meshed together) and her own ideas on what should and what shouldn't be... and then uses the tragedy of a suicide or death of a teenager to drive her point home- she makes sure to kill off the protagonist to make a statement about it.  I believe that she is trying to throw her judgements on teenagers... basically telling them that ANY exploration outside of her faith is bad, dangerous, deadly.  If you take a look at her other works, all of them carry a similar theme: cautionary tales that stem from her beliefs: Occult/witchcraft/supernatural powers are always indicative of devil worship.. AIDS and teen pregnancy are both works of premarital sex (as in, sex after marriage you are safe from unplanned pregnancy and AIDS)... prostitution, drugs or other mind-altering ideas/substances always have a hand from the devil.  Now, don't get me wrong- having faith is a wonderful thing, and I think that whatever faith is to you is wonderful- if it makes you happy and doesn't hurt.  But I also very strongly believe that every day is a chance to learn and grow, and that children and teenagers should be encouraged to do so.... if it isn't illegal and it isn't harming someone else, it is the FREEDOM of human right.  Humans are inquisitive.. if we shut that off at a young age by making teens and children feel like exploration or questioning (of anything- other faiths, sexual curiosity, questioning, occult, magic, government) is wrong, we are doing a disservice to the world.  We fear what we do not know.  What is most wrong with Sparks is pushing judgement and ideas, and LYING about it to get an end (in her case, fame as well as scaring teens "straight").  I just think that she wants to rid the world of certain things, and killing off a protagonist as a warning is her way of doing it.
Freedom of thought is our only true freedom... and Sparks is trying to crush it by scaring the shit out of a whole bunch of teenagers and parents alike.

By the way, Googling Alden Barrett, Beatrice Sparks, Jay's Journal all come up with very seriously interesting stuff.  Apparently there was some crazy stuff going on in Utah in the 70s...
I did enjoy the 2 that I have read- as fiction, and will probably read the others if for nothing more than to further prove my opinion.

if you don't believe in something, you'll fall for anything.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
I recently read Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by two brothers, Omi and Rom Brafman.  Both of the Brafman brothers are well known in their respective circles- Rom has a PhD in psychology and has taught and given seminars at many universities, as well as conduct research and run his own private practice.  Ori graduated from Stanford Business School and is an organizational expert, speaking regularly for Fortune 500 companies and government and military agencies. (Information from bn.com as well as the book).
Sway is about irrational behavior and why humans so easily succumb to bad decisions- even when we are aware it might not be the greatest choice ever.  Presented in case studies, the Brafman brothers dive deep into the reasoning behind our poor decisions.  Why, for example, would any pay MORE for a $20 than $20???  Why would a pilot take off in almost zero visibility, causing a catastrophic crash?
An interesting read for those who enjoy non-fiction and / or behavioral psychology... or for the person who just wants to know why good people make bad choices- every day.  Written in (mostly) plain English and easy to follow, Sway is a quick read with the possibility to expand your knowledge... and hopefully help you understand why it is so easy to make a bad choice, and to help you stop from making these choices!  I know that it is a lot easier to stay away from bad decision making
write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary

The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
I have yet to actually see Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Movie, but did read the companion book, The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary by Jeff Kinney.  It is really a cool book, because it is still written like a diary and has all the pictures and comics that Greg likes to draw, but it is written from Jeff Kinney's point of view.
It is an interesting read, because it gives you and inside look at the movie making business.  It isn't like other "movie" books I've read- this one really seemed to explain how a book turns into a movie and all about the movie making process.  I totally felt like I learned a lot while reading it.  I didn't realize how much goes into a movie... I mean, I always knew it too a lot of people and a lot of effort, but I didn't really realize it until I saw the pictures and read about it.  I liked that they added so many stills and pictures from the movie and the behind the scenes action.  It was also interesting to learn about the casting process for kids.  I think for a child reading this book it would definitely shed light on a possible "dream life" - while it seemed like a lot of fun it is still a lot of work and a lot of boring time too.  I do plan on seeing the movie... it is currently an incentive and I will be watching it with my class after they meet their goals.  Once I see it I will review it- so far I have heard mixed reviews.... I'll have to judge for myself!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4 & 5

Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 4)I should have gotten around to these reviews a while ago, but things got busy (don't they always?) as I started my online etsy store (Little Bird's Designs) and work got even busier.  Hence why I am now lumping both Wimpy Kid Diaries into one review. 
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth Book number 4 in the Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney is called Dog Days and follow Greg through his summer vacation.  He wants to spend it indoors, but he mother has another idea of the ideal family summer vacation.  Just by looking at the cover you can tell Greg isn't going to have the greatest of all summer breaks.. but he does manage to get through it and survive yet another summer with his family and his friend Rowley.
The Ugly Truth is the 5th installment in the series... in this book, Greg is beginning to go through some big changes.  His relationship with best friend Rowley really begins to go south, puberty is on its way and there are changes happening in the family like his mother deciding to go back to school.  All this puts Greg in a pretty pessimistic state.  As Greg maneuvers through middle school with all this on his mind...  and is pretty miserable.
I liked both books, but found Dog Days to be more appealing than The Ugly Truth.  Greg seemed too miserable in the final book... but maybe that is because as they say "all good things must come to an end".. Not sure if Kinney will continue on with Greg Heffley and The Wimpy Kid series... time (or probably some digging around on the internet) will tell.  Either way, I'm indifferent.  I liked the series a lot- it was quick and fun, the comic book style art kept the story moving and as a teacher there is a lot I could us these books.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last StrawThe story of Greg Heffley continues as The Last Straw, book #3 in the Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney.  This time around we begin with a New Year- where Greg and his emo rule his New Year's resolution (to help others improve).  Dad has a big presence this time, continually trying to make Greg into a tougher kid.  Sports, miltary school, scouts?.. something has to make Greg less of a wimpy kid.  Rowley, Rodrick and the rest of the crew are also present in this diary.  Greg's ego gets him into trouble, Rowley continues to get on his nerves and Rodrick keeps on being that typical teenage boy.  Not to mention that Dad is trying to make Greg more of a man (like his boss' kids) and Mom keeps trying to be cool.  And girls are a bit more on the radar this time- Holly Hills ihas an active role in this diary... as Greg attempts to persue her!  Oh the moments of adolescent adoration.
Another great addition in the line of Wimpy Kids!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2

Rodrick Rules (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #2)
Jeff Kinney's second Wimpy Kid book is Rodrick Rules, and boy does he.  This time around, Greg writes about home and school but with a particular emphasis on his brother and embarrassing moments.  This diary holds everything from avoiding embarrassing moments to keeping them from Rodrick to trying to avoid being blackmailed by Rodrick when he does find out. Greg's little brother Manny also seems to be getting in on things more- and by "things" we mean anything of Greg's and anything that can be a disaster.  But don't let his mom & dad know- Manny can still do no wrong.   Greg also continues to struggle with the ups and downs of middle school- girls, talent shows and best friends.
Rowley and Greg continue to have their own ups and downs- mainly because Rowley is a little bit of a big baby and Greg takes advantage where he sees fit.  This seems to be an emerging theme which I am sure will continue throughout the Diary series.  Another theme that continues to show up is Greg and his ability to rationalize every little thing he does- good or bad.  Being a bully, lying or struggling with his academics... well, Greg has a great excuse.  It is interesting because the excuses are totally middle school boy- and sometimes make sense and seem quite convincing.
Another excellent read as Greg continues his journey through middle school...

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
This weekend I spent some quality time with Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.  Pegged "a novel in cartoons", this kid-friendly young adult novel s excellent!  Filled with the ups and downs of middle school, this easy to read and highly entertaining "novel in cartoons" is a crowd pleaser.
The main character, Greg has received a diary from his mom.  Quick to claim it is NOT a diary, but a journal of his life, in case he makes it famous, Greg details his first year in middle school.  With a rock-star wannabe older brother always out to get him and a tattle tale wo can do no wrong for a younger brother, Greg has his share of comical stories that revolve around his time at home.  Greg is also pretty scrawny and isn't exactly high on the popular list, so he also has plenty of stories to share about floating in the grey area of middle school.  His best friend Rowley is a nerd and a baby, but they get along great... until things turn sour.  Greg is anice kid, but his "jokes" aren't always taken as such.  Sometimes Greg is a bully (even though he HATES bullies who dare to bully and humiliate him).  The reader follows Greg as he learns lessons the hard way, realizes his mom isn't always so out of touch, messes up, fights with his brothers and tries to climb his way to the top- not without casulaties.
With plently of lessons and teachable moments, Diary of a Wimpy Kid chronicles the tough stuff that is middle school, fitting in and finding your way.  Told is true adolescent boy fashion (I should know- I read journal entries every day!) with comical cartoons to go along, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a great novel for young readers.  Whether read alone, with a parent or sibling, friend or teacher, this novel runs along quick and leaves the reader waiting to hear what happens next year in Greg's life.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


The Lightning Thief

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel (Percy Jackson & the Olympians)
A couple of months ago I purchased The Lightning Thief {graphic novel} by Rick Riordan for my classroom.  The kids have thumbed through it and a few read it and really enjoyed it.  I figured it was about time I pick it up as well, so I brought it home and read it the night before last.  It was okay... not bad, but not overwhelmingly amazing.
I didn't know much about the novel {or the fact that it was a series} so I asked the kids who gave me a little run down and told me it was only book 1.  In this book, Percy begins to uncover the truth of who he is and embarks on a mission to save his family.
The books concept is interesting... the idea that the Greek Gods we learn about in mythology class are very much real and living among us is pretty cool.  The Lightning Thief seems to be the very beginning, so I will need to go get the rest to figure out how the story plays out.  I also want to add that the illustrations were cool too- nothing spectacular, but definitely worthy of artistic credibility.
I wouldn't suggest getting this unless you plan on purchasing a few at a time.  It was a real quick read and isn't a novel that holds the reader enough to want to run out an grab the next in line... I fear that I may forget what happens before I finally get around to getting the next in the series.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow