Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Perfect Fool by Bethany Herbert: A Book Review

The Perfect Fool is a new YA book that your teen will enjoy. There's a little bit of romance, a lot of comedy, and plenty of intrigue.

Farrago is happy in his life as the kingdom's fool. He gets to make other people laugh, he juggles all day, and he can eat as many pastries as he wants. But just when he thinks he's found true love in Thea the scullery maid, everything falls apart. Farrago is forced on an improbable quest to win back the love of his life--a quest filled with twists and turns and villains and spiders.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Meaningful Gifts for Graduates

There are quite a few people in my life who are graduating from high school and college soon. I've been thinking about ideas for gifts for them that are more meaningful than just a check. I know money is always appreciated, and maybe I'm just sentimental, but I'd love to be able to choose a gift that really means something.

When I graduated from high school, I received luggage as a gift. It was a lovely set of pink and grey flowered tapestry luggage--so very 1992! If I saw it today I would think it was the ugliest luggage ever, but I did love it 20 years ago. I don't know if that luggage really meant anything meaningful to me, though. It was a practical gift, and I got a lot of use out of it, but I wasn't sentimental about it at all (which is why it is no longer with me!).

So this post is not about practical grad gifts--you'll have to look elsewhere for those. This post is about the meaningful, sentimental, personalized graduation gifts that will last a lifetime (or at least a bit longer than my luggage did)! (Be sure to read the whole post and enter the giveaway at the end!)

Some ideas for personalized graduation gifts that will last forever and that the graduate will always remember.

Meaningful Gifts for Graduates


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mother's Day, Weekend Getaway, and a Violin Recital

This past Christmas I gave The Maestro a weekend getaway trip to Minneapolis, complete with tickets to the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Opera. Of course, this getaway was to include me, so it was kind of a gift to myself, too.

That weekend finally came to fruition Mother's Day weekend. I hadn't really thought about the fact that it was going to be Mother's Day back in December when I was planning it. I was just thinking about the fact that it was the only weekend between the end of the spring semester and the beginning of summer term, so it wouldn't be a big deal for The Maestro to leave.

No matter, though, I had a fabulous time with my husband, and that was a pretty great Mother's Day in my book!

 I was thankful to my friend for being willing to take on three more children for her own Mother's Day! My girls sent me this photo on Sunday morning. We spent most of Sunday driving back from Minneapolis, so I did get to see them on Mother's Day for a little while.

While in Minneapolis The Maestro and I saw Carmen (staged 1970s style, complete with roller skates, go-go boots, and disco) at the Minnesota Opera and some Eric Whitacre orchestra world premieres at the Minnesota Orchestra.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Celebrating Good Parents: Creating Meaningful Traditions for Mother's Day and Father's Day

Ideas to help you create meaningful traditions for Mother's Day and Father's Day--make these holidays super special and something you are excited to celebrate! #overstuffedlife

At our house, traditions are the rule of every holiday. Actually, traditions are just plain the rule. You have to be careful of doing something once, because the kids might deem it a tradition, and you better darn well do it again the next year, exactly the same or you'll have some outraged children on your hands!

I love how traditions are like that, though. They really keep our families connected to one another, especially as our children grow older. It seems like the majority of our holiday traditions are in conjunction with the big holidays: Christmas, Easter, and even Valentine's Day. What about some of the holidays where we actually celebrate each other?

Our parents do so much for us throughout our entire lives. I'm 40 years old and my parents are at my house right now helping me out with things we wouldn't be able to do without them. And it isn't just home projects, they help me figure out how to discipline my children (they have many more years of experience than I do), they help me make difficult decisions (they are full of great advice), and they help me get through the overwhelming feelings I so often experience as a busy wife and mother. But most of all, they love me. And they always have.

I am so grateful for my parents and we do have a few traditions that celebrate them each year on Mother's Day and Father's Day. My parents--my mom especially--mostly just love to receive letters on these holidays. My mom wants to hear how much we love her and why. She saves every single letter and I assume she reads them often. Phone calls are a big tradition, too. With my parents living a couple thousand miles away, we can't have a nice dinner together and so we have to rely on the telephone (or Skype or Facetime).

Even though I talk to my parents often, it's important that I recognize them on the holiday that was created to honor them. And it's my pleasure to do so. However, as I think about the traditions my family has for other holidays, I feel like these calls and letters--wonderful as they are--aren't enough.

I think about how much we look forward to watching certain movies on specific days during the Christmas holidays. I think about how excited we get about eating foods that we only get on Thanksgiving Day or at Easter dinner. How about creating some traditions we can really get excited about? Traditions that will be meaningful to parents, but also something kids will have fun doing, and that will teach them thoughtfulness in the process.

1. Keep your recipient in mind

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Parmesan Meatballs and Rice with Mushroom Sauce

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Two questions govern the making of dinner in the Overstuffed household. 1) Is it gluten-free? and 2) Can it be made quickly? Minute® Rice has both of those things covered for us, which is why I agreed to do a sponsored post for them. It's a great pantry staple and perfect for the crazy nights where dinner has to magically appear on the table in 20 minutes.

Right now is quite possibly the busiest time of year for the kids. In just the past week we've been to a band concert, a choir concert, an awards night, and a fine arts night. That doesn't even count all of the normal extra-curricular activities and homework! I don't know how it is at your house, but sometimes dinner is an afterthought over here!

Luckily, we have a few great recipes that help us get a gluten-free dinner on the table quickly. Today I'm going to share with you one of our favorites: Parmesan meatballs and rice with mushroom sauce. The whole family loves it, and it's incredibly quick to make. (Be sure to also scroll all the way down to the end of this post to enter a giveaway for a KitchenAid!)

What you'll need (I am noting which ingredients you must be careful to purchase gluten-free, if this is not an issue for you, just use your favorite brands):

My 2015 Summer Reading List

Want to know what my very favorite part of summer is?

It's reading--preferably while sitting on the beach soaking up the sunshine.

Even though the kids still have about a month of school left, my summer has arrived. I finished grading finals last week, just in time for my parents to come to town. We spent five glorious days together getting projects done around the house that my health and frenetic schedule have not allowed me to do this past school year. Sadly, they left on Tuesday, and while I miss them terribly, now I have more time for reading!

I am not teaching at all this summer, and though I do have one singing gig in July, it isn't as demanding rehearsal-wise as other summers have been. So I hope to knock out lots of the books that have been hanging out on my to-read list.

Looking for some great summer reading? Here are 8 books that are perfect for reading on the beach or  out in your hammock on long summer days!
I keep my to-read list on Goodreads, and every time I go to that website the list somehow gets longer. I love having access to the list all the time via my phone. When I am at the library book sale or a yard sale or Goodwill, I can consult my list for the books I want to read and purchase them for great deals. I do the same thing when I see the sales lists for Kindle books.

My name is Lara, and I am a book hoarder. Basically, my summer lists are almost always a bunch of books I already own but haven't gotten to yet, with a couple of "I just really want to read this" books thrown in for good measure.

So here goes--8 books I will definitely be reading this summer (affiliate links):

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Ten Years and Tenure

My four-year-old niece is visiting us this week. The girls have only ever met her once before and are in cousin heaven!

Last week, my blog turned ten years old. TEN YEARS OLD. My first post was nothing interesting, but I enjoyed going back and reading my second post ever. When I started this blog I was the 30-year-old mother to two little girls, The Maestro was finishing his last year of his doctorate in orchestral conducting, and I thought I would start a blog because I was too busy to open my journal to write in it.

I'm so glad I did.

I mean, if I never wrote a blog, I wouldn't remember any of the hilarious things my children said when they were little. Seriously, go read about the rants that Bria used to have while in time-out (I kind of miss those--now I just get 14-year-old sullenness). Or deep thoughts from Chloe and wheeling and dealing by a tiny Sophia.

It's been fun to watch my family grow up on my blog in the last ten years--Sophia's entire life has been documented on this blog! To watch our family move from Arizona to Utah to Michigan.  To have a record of little epiphanies I've had, how I run my household, lots of photos, and the wonderful traditions we share as a family.

But my blog became much more than a journal. I am thankful every day for the relationships I have made from blogging, for the creative outlet it has been for me, and for saving me from a deep depression while living in Cedar City. I'm thankful for every person who ever reads it--the girl who started a blog on a whim ten years ago would be completely shocked to know just how many of you there are.

So thank you.

In other news--much bigger news than a blogiversary--The Maestro was officially granted tenure on Friday morning.