Home & Food

8 Must Read Books for your Summer Beach Bag

jade-stephens-485345-unsplash.jpg

Blog post originally published for the Spoonful of Comfort blog.

Summer time means spending copious amounts of time at the beach or the pool. It’s the pretty much the perfect way to entertain your kids, but how do you entertain yourself? Easy peasy. Sit back, sip a mojito and grab one of these amazing books!

“Reading a good book is like taking a journey.” - Emma Gulliford

  1. Circe by Madeline Miller

51eaZ1mO9ML._SX321_BO1204203200_.jpg

Epic journeys. Greek gods. Just, yes. If you love Greek mythology, you’ll absolutely love this book. Classic Greek mythology mixed with a fantastic story line and wonderful characters. In this story, you’ll follow Circe, daughter of Titan Helios, as she embarks on an epic journey. Miller does an amazing job showing her human frailties and fears despite being a goddess. Circe tells her story full of perils and romance and grand adventure. Get lost in another world while you soak in some Vitamin D.



2. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

when-life-gives-you-lululemons-9781476778440_hr.jpg

A follow-up to The Devil Wears Prada, this fun, quirky, hilarious novel takes you to the suburbs of Connecticut. Emily is now in her 30’s and finds herself in the midst of rich people behaving badly. Her floundering career as an image consultant is challenged further when the senator’s wife and former Victoria Secret model needs a makeover and her old friend Miriam’s pal is all over the media with a bogus drunk driving charge. This summer read will have you laughing out loud.




3. We Begin Our Ascent by Joe Mungo Reed

41zNE-Q0G9L._SX324_BO1204203200_.jpg

Tragic and funny, this story follows a married couple, Sol and Liz, as they navigate personal and professional struggles. Liz is a geneticist on the brink of a major discovery and Sol is a professional cyclist in the Tour de France. The story begins as they welcome their first child into their home.

As the drama unfolds, the importance of the theme “What are we really striving for?” comes into focus. They will be faced with difficult decisions that could impact their lives and call into question their moral compass and the strength of their relationship.


FYYoDwAAQBAJ.jpeg

4. Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Reminiscent of the dark twists from Gone Girl, Tangerine is a gripping story set in Morocco that unravels as Alice Shipley and her husband settle into their new home. As she struggles to adjust, an old friend comes for a visit and then her husband disappears a short time later. You’ll be wondering along with Alice if their friend is to blame. Trust us, this thriller about girlfriends is a page turner perfect for summer pool time.


9781594488405.jpeg

5. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Explore the importance of female friendship and mentorship as the story of Greer Kadetsky unfolds. An incredible coming of age story that explores how she finds inspiration in a feminist icon, Faith Frank, and discovers how potent female support can be in today’s world. Meanwhile, her high school sweetheart Cory, pursues an Ivy League degree in international finance, a notoriously difficult pursuit for a woman. This story will leave you feeling like you can take on the world and accomplish anything! That’s pretty much the best way to feel.   



51MXjA0MaRL.jpg

6. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

There’s nothing that says summer like teenage angst. Follow four teenage siblings who ask a fortune teller to reveal the dates of their death. Discover how this knowledge, real or imagined, shapes each teenager as they grow into adulthood. Is the fortune teller correct? Only time will tell.




61WGFy3-roL.jpg

7. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This one gets Oprah’s stamp of approval! The drama begins when Roy and Celestial’s lives are torn apart when Roy is suddenly arrested for sexual assault after a short first year of marriage. The future they had been building for themselves collapses after Roy is convicted despite his innocence. This riveting look into marriage, the justice system and racism is a good reminder that no marriage takes place in a vacuum. Roy and Celestial struggle to maintain a relationship through love letters and distance. Will they stay together? Read on and find out.


51JC1V9SVAL.jpg

8. Florida by Lauren Groff

If you’ve never lived in Florida and always wondered what it’s like, you’ll feel like you know every inch of the state after reading this amazing collection of short stories. Perfect for the poolside, you’ll be carried away as you follow one young woman who leaves graduate school to live in her car. Another character flies off to France with her two children. Each story is a work of art crafted brilliantly.

Can’t decide which one to read first? That’s ok, neither could we. Pro tip: Buy them all and have books to read well into the fall!







Tips for Easy Back-to-School Transitions

Article written for and published on FamilyShare.com

Playing until the sun sets, then sleeping late.

Watching a movie in the middle of the day. Time spent by the pool, living in swimsuits for days on end.

There is no question that when the lazy days of summer come to an end, the transition to a new school year can be tough. Going back to a strict schedule and routine can make the first few weeks of school gruelling.

Here are some tips to make that transition go a little smoother.

1. Return to morning and bedtime routines a week before school starts

Helping children return to a normal sleep schedule at least a week before school will help ease that first day of school when they are already used to the routine.

2. Review after school rules

If you have a homework-first rule, make sure the children remember what is expected. Can they have a snack after school, or do they need to get ready for an after school extracurricular activity? Knowing what to expect can ease a great deal of frustration and stress.

3. Review after school schedules

Make sure everyone is on the same page by having a calendar or schedule readily accessible. Children will feel less stressed when they know ahead of time if they are coming home, going to a sitter or other after-school care, or if they have an activity they need to attend.

4. Prepare school supplies

Spend some time making sure their school supplies are in order. Do they need new backpacks or lunch boxes? Do they need a few new clothes? Does mom need some chocolate?

5. Take advantage of back-to-school sales

After assessing your needs, take advantage of the sales. It can be difficult to find supplies at a decent price halfway through the school year. I've had to track down a backpack in January more than once, and I always end up paying too much.

6. Get back in the reading habit

Take a trip to the library and choose a few books to read. Then, have the kids spend a few minutes every day reading. When school starts, they will be ready for all the required reading.

7. Get organized

Create places for backpacks, lunch boxes and school papers to be kept. Mark important dates on the calendar and check that their school information is up to date.

8. Check on transportation

Whether they walk to school, ride the bus or carpool make sure everything is in place. Walk the route to school with them once or twice before school starts if they are feeling uncertain. Take them to the bus stop a few days before and make sure they know where to wait. Check with the carpool and make sure everyone knows what days they drive, so you are able to communicate that information to your children.

9. Talk about any concerns

Sometimes children will feel anxious over seemingly simple issues. If you are able to discover what concerns they may have ahead of time, you will be able to assuage their fears by helping them understand what to expect.

10. Fill out forms online

With all 7 of my children now in school, the more I can do online the better. Spend an afternoon — or even just 5 minutes — and fill out as many forms as you can. It will save you time and writer's cramp.

Making the transition to a new school year can be a positive experience if you spend a little time making some preparations. Before long you will be knee deep in a new school year with everything running smoothly. A little chocolate always helps, too.

9 Freezer Meals

This time of year is always a little crazy for our family. The kids eventually go back to school (in shifts mind you), football starts, preschool is back in session and life as I know it is officially over. The most stressful part of all this fun is dinner time. It is a very rare evening that the kids are all home to sit down together for dinner, and often the boys don’t want to eat a heavy meal before practice. Add in all the driving I am doing and it gets pretty hairy.

What’s a Mom to do?

I have always used my crockpot a lot during the fall, but I have never been brave enough to try freezer meals. You know, do all the crazy prep one day and then have food for a couple of weeks. But I did it. And it has been wonderful.

1. Put all liquid ingredients in the ziploc bag first and squish together. Yes. I said squish.

2. Make sure you label your bags FIRST!

3. Freeze them flat. My son put a few in the freezer and they are frozen in some pretty strange shapes.

4. Use crockpot liners.

5. Hire help, or just make your kids pitch in. It goes much faster with a helper.

 made 18 meals. I chose 9 meals and just doubled everything.

My kids are somewhat picky, so I scoured the internet and came up with the 9 meals I thought would work best.

Hearty Beef Stew

Chicken and dumplings minus the dumplings *I left out the dumplings because I forgot, but it was still yummy!*

Orange chicken

Colorado Beef Burritos *You do have to have some prep time to finish this one, so I always do it on a night we have fewer activities.*

Creamy Italian chicken *scroll down the page for this one*

Crockpot Fajitas *The fajita recipe is second from the bottom*

French chicken

BBQ chicken sandwiches *I can NOT figure out where I got this recipe. I know it was online…somewhere. It is one of our absolute favorites.*

6 boneless chicken breasts
1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce
1/2 Cup Italian dressing
1/4 Cup brown sugar
2 T. Worchestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients in ziploc. If frozen, crockpot on low all day. If thawed, you can do 4-6 hours on high. I usually end up forgetting, pulling it out around lunch time, defrosting in the microwave a bit and then crockpot on high for 4-6 hours. Shred chicken, then serve on buns. It’s so yummy. I’m not even kidding.

My Mama’s Chili

1 lb. ground beef
3/4 medium onion diced
1 can kidney beans
1 8 oz. can tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2-4 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp paprika

*I double this recipe to feed my large family.* Brown and drain meat. Rinse and drain kidney beans. I always puree the tomatoes because my kids are picky like that. Then just combine all ingredients in a ziploc. Defrost a little, then 6 hours on low in the crockpot will do the trick!

Make sure you have a kid who will photo bomb your blogging efforts.

Freezer meals have been a life saver during our busy fall season! It was definitely worth the effort!

You can find the original post here.