Summer Reading: 9 Great Books that Don’t Require a Thinking Cap

Best Summer Reads that Don't Require a Thinking Cap: ‎

Last year, I made the mistake of trying to get through The Goldfinch during summer vacation. As Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer prize for this novel, I figured toting it around the pool would make me look sophisticated it would be worth the read. It took literally four months to get through all 784 pages of this bad boy, which could have been shortened 500 pages if Ms. Tartt wouldn’t have been trying so hard to impress readers with her verbosity.

C’mon… get to the point!

While the book had a great story (or three great stories combined into one book), I don’t want to have to put on my thinking cap when I’m doused in sunscreen, drinking a pina colada, and trying to prevent my kids from drowning.

I got together with some of my favorite bloggers and entrepreneurs to come up with the best summer reading that doesn’t require you to think too hard.

Casey of Fly Away with Me recommends The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. “I couldn’t put this book down one summer. It took me back in time immediately! It’s a historical fiction novel about the building of a cathedral in the town of Kingsbridge. It’s a long but heart-wrenching story about family, love, loss, strength, and the human spirit. It’s also a beautiful story about medieval architecture.”

Kristin of Better Together recommends To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. “This classic is an oldie-but-goodie. It is probably my favorite book of all time, a spot it’s held since it was forced summer reading between eighth and ninth grades. I re-read it every few years, and I feel like I glean a little more from the book each time. The theme that resonates most with me is the main character’s innocence and naivety in the face of racial injustice. If only we could all look at certain parts of life through the eyes of a child. In anticipation of the July release of Harper Lee’s long-lost (and unknown until recently) second novel, dust off your old, highlighted copy from high school and dive right in!”

Julie of The Bedford Wife chose Little Bitty Lies by Mary Kay Andrews. “I’m only halfway through this one, but like all of her novels. It’s easy to read and hilarious (just don’t be surprised if beachgoers look at you funny if you laugh out loud). The book is written around the life of Mary Bliss McGowan, a southern woman whose husband leaves her and her daughter, without warning- taking all of her wealth with him. To reclaim what’s left, she tells one little lie… that leads to another and another.” Julie’s favorite excerpt is “Mama always said the sign of a lady’s breeding was in her chicken salad. White meat, finely ground or hand shredded, and some good Hellman’s mayonnaise, and I don’t know what all. She used to talk about some woman, from up north, who married into one of the Coca-Cola families. She uses dark meat in her chicken salad. Trailer trash.”

Morgan of Pampers and Pearls picked The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. “Set in South Carolina in 1964, the book centers around Lily Melissa Owens, a 14 year old whose life has been shaped around the faint memory of her mother’s death. She lives with her abusive father, and they have an African-American maid, Rosaleen, who is Lily’s best friend and “surrogate mother.” After Rosaleen is arrested for pouring a jar of dip on three white men, Lily breaks Rosaleen out of jail (really a hospital) and they decide to leave town. While hitch-hiking toward Tiburon, South Carolina, Lily begins a journey of learning both about the world and her mother. The Secret Life of Bees is a literary triumph about the search for love and belonging, and is a novel that possesses rare wisdom about life and the power of divinity and the female spirit.”

Tracie of Tracie Domino Events recommends When to Rob a Bank… and 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. “This books celebrates the 10th anniversary of their landmark book Freakanomics as a curated collection of their best blog posts over the years. The writing is more casual, more personal, even more outlandish than in their books. They ask and examine a host of typically off-center questions: Why don’t flight attendants get tipped? If you were a terrorist, how would you attack? And why does KFC always run out of fried chicken? I like it because they examine every day life and provide fascinating insights about the surprising ways our world fits together. Each chapter is just a few pages, so you can easily stop reading between pool days.”

Carlee of Crown and Ginger chose Tell All by Chuck Palahniuk. “Think Old Hollywood ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ mixed with the comical detail comparable to that of Chelsea Handler. It’s a story about a “seasoned” actress who is taken by a young, preppy buck who may be planning her demise, at least that is what her maid thinks. She narrates the entire story and believes this Gaston has planned many ways for her to fall and then sell her Tell All as his own. I love this book because, with my ADD, I need to read something that will hold my attention and not spend a lot of time in a scene or dragging out a setting. The author sucks you in, and you never have to wait for something to happen. Not to mention the amount of humor is enough to keep you bursting out loud on the beach this summer.”

Julie of Everyday Happiness picked two books: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The Husband’s Secret by Laine Moriarty. “The Nightingale is a heavy beach read, but full of romance and family drama with World War II history and it truly takes you to the place of these characters. I finished the book in two days, tears streaming down my face once it was over. It’s rare you find characters and a story with such depth.” Once you’re finished with The Nightingale and need something lighter, turn to The Husband’s Secret. “It’s a fascinating, engrossing story about Cecilia Fitzpatrick, who thinks she has the perfect life and family until she uncovers a haunting secret. I found myself wanting to be friends with Cecilia and also wanting to yell at her at the same time.”

My choice: When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. This collection of the best selling humorist’s [short-ish] essays are purely hilarious. The stories are based on the nuances of everyday life and are Seinfeld-esque. They include anecdotes about trying to make coffee when the water is turned off, having a lozenge fall from your mouth and into the lap of a fellow plane passenger, lancing a boil from someone’s derriere, and moving to Japan to quit smoking cigarettes. When you feel like you are engulfed in flames from basking in hot vacation sunshine, this book goes right along perfectly.


Disclaimer: some of the links in this post contain clickable affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a product from one of these links, TCS receives a commission. I believe in all of the products featured on this site and would never recommend them if I didn’t believe they were awesome.

    To Ask or Not to Ask: When Your Friends are Trying to Get Pregnant

    To Ask or Not to Ask: When Your Friends Are Trying to Get Pregnant;

    I am an open book.

    Someone: How are you?
    Me: Ohmygod, Arden woke up four times in the middle of the night last night, Elle threw up in her car seat on the way to school, when I got to work, my heel got stuck between the elevator and the ground floor, causing my foot to fly out of my shoe in front of a bunch of people, I had a strawberry seed stuck between two teeth all day and I couldn’t find any floss, some lady in a white Volkswagen Jetta cussed me out at the gas station because she thought I stole her pump, and so I got stressed and binge ate a Baby Ruth. How’ve you been?

    Someone is sorry they asked.

    While the dialogue above is generally light hearted, I’m equally revealing about life’s catastrophes. Little is left to the imagination.

    It took me 30 years to realize that not everybody thinks, acts, or processes life the same way I do. Some people don’t want to talk about obstacles.

    As my friends and colleagues have started settling down, getting married, and thinking about starting a family- or about extending an existing family- something I’ve struggled with is whether to inquire about their efforts to have a baby.

    I know an unsettling number of women who have dealt with infertility. Some of these women have had miscarriages, from very early in their pregnancies before the child had a heartbeat, to very late in their pregnancies when the baby had a name, a nursery, and the parents anticipated a future that would never happen.

    It’s heartbreaking.

    I’m also aware that it’s not just women who struggle with infertility issues, but men also. It hurts for everyone involved. The woman might have her own issues to deal as does the man. What women go through has been mentioned above, but obviously for a man it is a bit different. Advanced Urology is something that has specialised trained doctors who can help diagnose and treat any problems that a man might have with his fertility issues. It’s never something that a man wants to admit to, but when you’re trying for a baby you just have to deal with it. That might sound harsh, but there’s no point beating around the bush about it now. Better to find out what the problem is straight away then pretend like it doesn’t exist.

    From a social [and perhaps moral] standpoint, it’s necessary to be interested in- and show an interest about- important things that are happening in other peoples’ lives.

    Mama always said that it’s better to be interested than it is to be interesting.

    Notwithstanding, if I suspect, or specifically know, that someone is trying to have a baby, I’m often at a crossroads about whether to ask how it’s going. On one hand, I don’t want to not ask and seem like I’m uninterested in something huge that’s happening [or not happening] in that person’s life. On the other hand, I don’t want to ask and pour salt in the proverbial wound if the person’s childbearing efforts aren’t progressing the way they hoped. Overall, I don’t want to project an inaccurate feeling that I don’t care.

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, infertility is common and defined as unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for 12 months or longer. Approximately 10% of women between the ages of 14 and 44 have difficulty getting pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Before writing this post, I undertook a completely non-scientific survey of a bunch of girlfriends, all of whom come from different geographic, age, and educational ranges, to get their views on whether they want their friends to inquire about their attempts to have a baby. Here’s what I learned:

    Don’t assume that a woman who already has children is immune from infertility. Anna* [not her real name] has two children with her husband, and has been trying for a third for a year and a half. “What I hate is when acquaintances nonchalantly ask if we are having more children or make comments like ‘so and so has three kids… she must be CRAZY!'” Anna believes people assume she’s finished having children because she already has two, or that if she wanted to have more, getting pregnant wouldn’t be an issue. There are people out there that have trouble getting pregnant. Fortunately, there are a number of fertility pills for women that can increase the chances of getting pregnant faster.

    Most people aren’t eager to talk about their pregnancy efforts. After suffering a miscarriage, followed by months of not being able to conceive, Casey finally had her first child a year ago. “We got pregnant so easily the first time that ‘struggling to get pregnant,’ wasn’t a consideration. After I had the miscarriage, I thought I would get pregnant quickly like I did the first time. When it didn’t happen, it was stressful and disappointing. I’ve always been a perfectionist and a workaholic, and discovered quickly that this wasn’t a ‘problem’ I could control or micromanage. That was the hardest pill to swallow. Given how much pressure I was putting on myself and on my marriage, it wasn’t something I was readily willing to talk about with other people. However, when a close friend did ask about it, I did see those chats as more of an escape than dwelling on something I couldn’t fix.”

    Know your audience. Elizabeth is currently pregnant with her first child, who was conceived with fertility treatment. She has many friends and colleagues who also experienced infertility and underwent treatment, some unsuccessfully. “Just like our chronically single friends don’t always want to hear about how in love we are, or all the details of the amazing wedding we are planning, our friends who are experiencing infertility may not want to hear about our pregnancy or baby all the time. Hearing about a friend’s baby can be a painful reminder of a life they want but can’t achieve. Now that I’m finally pregnant, I let my friends who are experiencing infertility bring up my pregnancy to me, but I don’t bring it up to them.”

    If you’re close friends, then it’s always ok to ask. With regard to specifically asking about childbearing efforts, 100% of the women I spoke with agreed: if you are close enough to the person to know they are trying to have a baby, then you are also close enough to either ask them how they are doing or let them know you are thinking about them. On the same token, all of these women agreed they wouldn’t be offended if a close friend didn’t ask. “I know it’s an awkward subject that most people don’t want to broach, mainly out of fear of a potentially bad reaction from the person they’re asking,” said Amanda, who has been trying to get pregnant for two years. If one of your close friends has been struggling to get pregnant for some time, it might be worth reading some details on being a surrogate for a friend. Whilst most women would never expect their friend to do this for them, it might be a nice way to help a close friend out, especially if you know they’ve been trying for a long time.

    They also provided valuable information on things people should definitely not say to a person going through infertility:

    Be patient and it will happen. “I knew I would eventually get pregnant, but living in the moment, you feel like it won’t,” said Kate (who now has a two year old daughter). “I hated when people told me to be patient.”

    Just have a lot of sex. “This is probably the most infuriating thing to hear,” said Lauren, who has been trying to get pregnant for almost a year, who added, “it’s not that easy.”

    You’re probably not getting pregnant because you took birth control for so long. “Well thank you for that outstanding observation… please let me jump in my time machine and rewind the clock,” added Lauren.

    How old are you? Oh yeah, you’re getting up there! “Thank you Captain Obvious,” said Lauren.

    I had such an easy time getting pregnant, I didn’t even have to try. “People who make comments like these look like socially inept jerks,” said Ashley, who has been trying to get pregnant for four years and three failed attempts at IVF.

    I wish I could experience “trying” to get pregnant. See the comment to the statement above.

    Would you consider adopting? “People who are trying to get pregnant want to have a biological child. If and when adoption becomes their path, they will let you know,” said Elizabeth.

    If you’re at a loss for the right approach, sometimes the easiest way to show someone you care is by sending a text or an email that says, “Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you and am here if you want to talk or need anything.” This lets the person know you care without the potential difficulty of a face to face reaction.

    Special thanks to all the women who candidly shared their stories with me.


      6 Things I Don’t Understand: It’s Not Just You

      FUNNY- People are Jerks!

      Life can be confusing. The following are, in my opinion, the top 6 doozies.

      Acrylic Toenails. Apparently this is a thing. I didn’t know about it until I was at a “salon” around a year ago and witnessed one of the employees hacking away at an old acrylic nail so he could glue a new one to some lady’s big toe.

      It was like Tampa Chainsaw Massacre. Toenail style.

      I was really confused.

      Failed, Awkward Sarcasm. Sarcasm is an art. If not executed properly, it’s completely awkward and, at a minimum, rude. Example:

      Me: Excuse me, sir, will you please tell me where I can find a restroom?
      Sir: No.
      Me: Standing there, confused, not sure what to say, unaware of whether this dude is trying to be funny or if he’s just a jerk. 
      Sir: Laughing. It’s across the hall.

      I hate when this happens. Then I have to let out some insincere, fake laugh and I just want to ask the person why he can’t answer the flipping question like a normal human being in the first place.

      I was confused.

      Social Media Love Sonnets. “To [my husband]: I love you so much and am thrilled to have spent the last [x] years with you. I can’t wait to have our baby tomorrow, you’re the best person, I love sharing this journey with you, and I thank God for you daily.” 


      Isn’t this lady’s husband sitting next to her, watching reruns of The Family Guy, while they ignore each other because they are both on their phones? Doesn’t she live with him? Why can’t she text, email, call, or better yet, tell her husband these things? Face to face. Why’s it gotta be all over the internet?

      I’m so confused. While we’re on the topic of social media…

      Twitter. It doesn’t make sense. I can’t figure out how to make my “tweets” include a picture or how to tweet something in the first place and then make a lot of people discover my tweet so they can “re-tweet” it. [How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck…]

      This must be how my grandma feels when she tries to use an iPhone. Or send a text message.

      I’m so confused.

      Extreme Couponers. You know, those people who spend fifty hours locating and cutting coupons, only to end up with seven hundred rolls of toilet paper and nineteen jars of peanut butter after saving $15. Do the math. That was slave labor.

      The only way they will benefit from this is if North Korea drops a bomb and all the peanut butter comes in handy.

      You want to murder these people if you get stuck behind them in the grocery line.

      I’m so confused.

      People Who Spend Tons of Money on Weight Loss Pills/Shakes/Magic Ingredients and are Still Overweight. Get ready for it ‘cuz I’m about to save you some money. Pills, shakes, and magic ingredients won’t make you skinny. They will just make you angry and give you a feeling like you’re “riding in a Chevy and you feel something heavy.”

      They only way you will lose weight and keep it off is by eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. Shortcuts won’t work. Weight loss products and pyramid schemes are a gimmick unless they help you lose weight the old fashioned way [e.g.- by doing the three things I referenced above].

      Please don’t try to sell me a product by showing me a “before” picture that was taken with you pushing your gut out, and then another “after” picture that is essentially identical to your “before” picture, except you got spray tanned, sucked in your gut, and stood up straight.

      I’m so confused.


        Liebster Award: Oh Goody, I Get to Talk About Myself!

        I started this little ole’ blog in January of 2015 after finding a suitable web hosting provider at I can’t believe how much my writing has improved since then. I laugh when I read some of the first few posts because of how formal and crap-ola they sound. I’ve grown as a blogger, mainly because I stopped caring what people would think and, instead, started caring solely about what I think. Working full time and being married with young kids has its own challenges, and I wish I had more time for blogging. One of my blogging buddies, Michelle of Grammie Time, recently nominated me for a Liebster Award and I was stoked! Thank you Michelle! And then I thought “Huh? What is a Liebster award?” You can find out more about it here.


        First, 11 random facts about me: I went to law school (and hated it); studied abroad in the Netherlands at the same university where Einstein used to teach; recently went to Italy with my Dad (oh just wait… there will be a post about it!); have run three marathons; can do a goat impression; am an amateur photographer (read: wannabe professional); have a Barbie collection of nearly 100 dolls that I started collecting when I was 7 or 8 years old, all of them are still in their original boxes; speak-a a little-a bitt-a of Espanola; enjoy taking over juke boxes anywhere there is a juke box (I will injure anyone who puts their quarter in ahead of mine); grew up wanting to be a plastic surgeon until I realized that I suck at math; and sneakily hand my infant off to my husband every time I catch wind of a dirty diaper (because the last person who touches the child, cleans the child!)

        Michelle’s questions for me to answer:

        How long have you been blogging and what made you start? I launched my blog five months ago and started because I didn’t have any meaningful hobbies and wanted a creative outlet to fulfill my passion for writing, connecting with others, and laughing. For a lot of people, they get put off starting a blog as they think they need to have lot of followers of social media or they’re embarrassed at the idea of people seeing their blog. As long as you’re proud of it, what should it matter? And also, you can always use the services of companies such as socialfollow if you feel like the number of followers is holding you back when it comes to starting a blog.

        What is the best and worst thing about blogging? Best: Making new contacts and meeting awesome people from all over the world. Worst: Finding time to do it, battling writer’s block, and trying to create posts on topics that haven’t already been written about ad nauseam.

        How long have you been married and where did you go on your honeymoon? Six years next month. We went to Kauai, the smallest, northernmost Hawaiian island. There was wine. Lots of wine.

        What was your career before you became a parent? A full time litigator. And now, aside from being a baby booty wiper, snot wiper-upper, and drowner-preventer, I’m still a full time litigator. Shoot me.

        If you could only wear one makeup item, what would it be? Fuchsia lipstick.

        Would you go out to dinner or a movie on your date night? Dinner. And I’d order a steak and drink lots of wine (see Answer to Number 3).

        Advice you would give to your younger self? Do what you authentically want to be doing, hang out only with people who will make you better, don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t take any crap along the way.

        What is one household chore you dislike doing? ALL of them. The absolute worst: folding laundry and putting it away. Second worst: unloading the dishwasher. Third worst: cleaning up the floor after my geriatric labrador has an accident.

        Your best Disney movie? The Little Mermaid. When I was a kid, I wanted to marry prince Eric and live in his family’s castle with Sebastian and Flounder.

        Coffee, tea, or cola drinker? Coffee. It’s liquid personality for me.

        Describe “YOU” in one word. Spitfire.

        This was fun! I list the following nominees for the Liebster award:

        Julie Borm of Everyday Happiness

        Casey McMillan of Fly Away with Me

        Julie Bedford of The Bedford Wife

        Julie Tingley of A New Happy Hour

        My questions for my nominees are (in addition to providing 11 random facts about yourselves):

        1. If you could take three people (dead or alive, famous or normal) on a trip around the world for a month, who would you choose?
        2. Would you rather have a leg growing out of your forehead or still be connected to your mother via umbilical cord?
        3. What are the things you love and dislike most about yourself?
        4. What is your biggest pet peeve in others?
        5. What do you think is the difference between serving others with an attitude of selflessness and love verses having people take advantage of you? (oh man, that’s a deep one!).
        6. Who is your favorite Disney villain?
        7. What song epitomizes your childhood?
        8. If your first name wasn’t already ______, what would you choose for it to be?
        9. What is the best and worst part about blogging?
        10. Have you received any negative blogging feedback and how have you dealt with it?
        11. What was your first car?

        Cheers to all the Liebsters out there!

          The First Birthday Party for a Second Child: How to Not Go Insane

          Arden's birthday from the Champagne Supernova

          Arden’s First Birthday Party

          Let me be up front and say I’m not Martha Stewart. I don’t cook. I don’t clean. I don’t make cutesy crafts. I don’t plan parties. I don’t enjoy planning parties. If it were up to me I would put popular kids entertainment near me call them up and that would be it. Don’t get me wrong… I love attending parties and admire anyone who loves managing big events, it’s the planning and effort that make me crazy. Even if I didn’t have a full time job or kids, I wouldn’t like putting these things together.

          I’m not criticizing anyone who chooses to throw massive birthday parties for their toddlers, I’m just saying that I won’t do it again until my children are old enough to remember and appreciate it. That’s all. When they’re teenagers, they can have whatever they want – a DJ, a huge neon sign from Neon Mama, heck they can even have the house to themselves as long as I don’t have to organise it!

          Case in point: my own wedding. I don’t like the stress associated with planning an event and feeling responsible for things running smoothly or guests having fun. So when I got married almost 6 years ago with all the proverbial bells and whistles, I spent the majority of the morning of my wedding day crying in the bathroom from anxiety. We should have just eloped.

          I get it. My husband, Jason, told me so.

          When Arden turned one a couple years ago, we threw her a Pinterest-worthy soiree that was the toddler equivalent of a Quincinera. It had a circus theme and we rented carnival games from an events company. We spent ages searching online for bouncy castle hires perth and hired the biggest one we could find. We got fancy online invitations from Paperless Post, tables and chairs from an outside vendor, and had matching invitations, cupcake toppers, napkins, and food labels to boot. It was over-the-top, expensive, unnecessary, and to be honest, the party was more about entertaining our family, friends, and friends’ children than it was about celebrating Arden. She was too young to enjoy any of the games and the bouncy castle, and obviously had no interest in the rest of it. Let’s be real: a one year old is clueless about their surroundings and has no memory about what happened yesterday, let alone at their own birthday party when they are only one.

          Yes, people, these are CIRCUS GAMES. At a first birthday party. Doh!

          The Pinterest-inspired snack table. Read: I am an idiot.

          The area where Arden had her first morsel of cake. Where frosting ended up on the wall.

          A Snapfish photo album and some Facebook shots are the only way she’ll ever know the party truly happened. And the three dozen leftover lollipops that are sitting in my storage closet (if my dog or husband don’t get to them).

          For her first birthday party, Arden would have been just as content if we ordered bar-be-que, a gallon of chocolate ice cream, and called it a day.

          I certainly would have had more fun.

          What the Facebook world didn’t get to see was how the day ended up:

          It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

          Lesson learned.

          Enter the second child: Elle. She turned one this past weekend and, instead of throwing a party, we opted for a three-day weekend at the beach with our families. The invitations were sent via text message. The decorative napkins and plates were from the local grocery store. The birthday hat was a hand-me-down from her sister.

          It was a blast.

          Jason, Elle, my Mother in Law, and Me celebrating the beginning of a great year.

          That’s not to say Elle won’t get any sort of party – we are still planning on a very small group of family and friends round and, after the success of the bouncy castle from Arden’s party, we have found a reliable water slide hire company in Perth. But this is more for everyone else in the family to enjoy, so we can get together as a group and celebrate whilst still keeping things low key.

          Being a second-time parent has made me wiser than I was the first time around. With my first child, if a person would have told me to hold off on a huge party for my one-year-old, I would have been annoyed at their unsolicited advice, have mentally slapped them, and would have thrown the party anyway. Now, I am that person.

          I ran into a mother of one of Arden’s classmates in the school parking lot yesterday. You missed the best birthday party on Saturday, Jen. It was at a park and the mom ordered pizza and a bounce house. It was the perfect party for a three-year-old and everyone had so much fun. I give a big, fat, “Cheers” to that mama.

          In the end, what the birthday person remembers (if they are old enough to remember) is whether they had a good time and if they were surrounded by people they love. And if a mom wants to throw in a life-size piñata at the party, power to her. It just ain’t gonna be me.


          Note, while my family and I were at the beach celebrating Elle, one of my girlfriends, Julie Borm of the Everyday Happiness blog, was busy throwing a birthday party for her one-year old that would put ole’ Martha to shame. Read about her hilarious experience (and confession) here.

            Stuff My Three Year Old Says: From the Mouths of Babes


            The Honey Badger herself, when she was almost 2.

            Arden turned three in March of 2015, but has run the roost since she was just a couple months old. We knew that she’d be a spitfire but, given the choice, I still would have preferred a spitfire over a wallflower.

            I’ll likely be eating those words when she’s a teenager.

            As parents, part of our jobs is embarrassing our kids, usually not on purpose, when they get older. This entails showing up at school drop-off in our pajamas, answering the phone when their friends call, and generally just breathing and being alive.

            On the other hand, when our kids are young, we pray they won’t say anything in public that is mortifying or likely to get us shot. Like loudly commenting about the overweight lady eating a hot dog in her bikini at the beach. Or the stinky European guy at Disney with the long armpit hair. The list goes on.

            So far, in her first three years, Arden’s managed so say some hilarious things. Luckily, none have gotten us shot. Here are some of the gems:

            Arden: Mommy, what’s that mole doing on your chin?

            Me: It’s not a mole. It’s a beauty mark.

            Arden: No. Pretty sure it’s a mole.

            Arden: Mommy, can I wear this princess dress to school?

            Me: No. It’s a 5t and you wear a 3t. You can wear it when you get bigger.

            Arden: Okay. And when I get bigger, I can drink beer and wine and coffee.

            Arden: Mommy, put Elle’s hand on the stove.

            Eat Clean $30.00 Off

            Background: Arden and her girlfriend, Emerson, are each enjoying their own brownie sundaes.

            Husband: Arden, can I have some of your brownie?

            Arden: Hey Emerson, wanna give my Daddy a bite of your brownie?

            Arden [pointing at food that dropped on the floor]: Don’t eat that- it’s a casualty.

            Me, trying to diffuse a temper tantrum: Arden, stop the drama.

            Arden [dramatically]: This isn’t drama. It’s real life.

            My sister: Arden, what noise does a pig make?

            Arden: Oink, oink.

            My sister: What noise does a cow make?

            Arden: Moo.

            My sister: What noise does Kuma [our geriatric labrador, who practically has one paw on the plank of the rainbow bridge] make?

            Arden: pants heavily with tongue out.

            Background: Arden is in the car seat returning home from a trip to the grocery store with my mom.

            Arden: Grammy, I have to go potty.

            Grammy: You need to hold it for a little while.

            Arden [confused]: Do I hold it in my hands?

            Man, I can’t get enough of this kid.

            What are some of your favorite things your kids have said?


              The Spanker Man: Lies We Tell Our Kids to Make them Behave

              Disclaimer: Do not read this post if you are politically correct, become easily offended, are a child psychologist, a parenting know-it-all, or have no sense of humor. You’ve been warned.

              Read about the mythical creature of the spanking man on The Champagne Supernova blog.

              This is who I envisioned The Spanker Man to look like.

              Before there was Elf on a Shelf, there was The Spanker Man.

              Before there was Mensch on a Bench, there was The Spanker Man.

              The Spanker Man is a fictional character my mother created to deter my younger sister and me from misbehaving in public. She told us public places, particularly restaurants, had hidden cameras where The Spanker Man was watching in a back room to ensure that children acted appropriately. If The Spanker Man observed kids who were bratty, sassing their parents, or having tantrums, he would remove them from the premises and give them an apocalyptic whoopin’.

              You better believe my sister and I never received a visit from The Spanker Man. As children, we didn’t have an opportunity to discover he didn’t exist because we were on our behavioral A-Game in public.

              While joining us for dinner, my parents’ friends usually sat in awe of our good behavior. They couldn’t believe that two young children could be so well behaved in public. When receiving compliments on our behavior, my parents just smirked at each other. I think even in the mid-1980s when spanking was accepted, and sometimes expected, The Spanker Man concept would have been too taboo for my folks to advertise.

              Nowadays, if parents told their children about The Spanker Man, someone would call the Department of Children and Family Services, the kids would be thrown into foster care, and the parents would be featured on 60 Minutes.

              Having kids can make parents do desperate things.

              I get it.

              I’ve told my three-year-old some mighty tales when, during extreme acts of desperation, I’m trying to get her to do something she doesn’t want to do. I’m susceptible to doing this on weekday mornings when she’s fighting with me about putting her shoes on for school, I’m trying frantically to get both girls in the car because I’m late for a hearing, my infant spits up on my work clothes, and I’m furiously scrubbing a Clorox Bleach Pen against my suit so I can pretend I’m professional. For instance, I’ve told her that if she didn’t brush her teeth, bugs would crawl into her mouth when she was sleeping and would eat the gunk. [For the record, that doesn’t work]. When it comes to ensuring your children keep on top of your oral hygiene, starting them off at a young age with a routine can be very important, as they are more likely to keep this up as they get older. With that being said, if you’re a little worried about your kid’s oral hygiene habits, it may be time for a visit to a Pediatric Dentist in Vineland (or a dental clinic close to where you live). This way, your kids might take brushing their teeth a lot more seriously, especially if a dentist tells them to.

              If you’ve told your children creative stories to control their actions, you’re not alone. A study from the University of California, published by the International Journal of Psychology, suggests the vast majority of parents lie to their children to get them to behave.

              I’ve polled my girlfriends regarding childhood whoppers their parents told them, or even lies they’ve told their own kids. Here are some of the gems:

              – “My parents told me [and my sibling] they would call the adoption agency and have them come get us and take us away if we didn’t listen.”

              – “My mom told me that if I didn’t eat everything on my plate, the number of crumbs left is how many pimples my husband would have. I was a devoted member of the clean plate club, and my husband has really good skin.”

              – “I told [my five year old daughter] that if she didn’t stop picking her nose and eating it, she would actually turn green and look like a witch. When that didn’t work, I Googled “stretched out nostrils” and showed her images that her nose would look like if she kept putting her fingers up there. Seems to work.”

              – “We tell our son that we’ll call the police if he doesn’t listen. We usually end up hearing sirens in our neighborhood so he believes it.”

              – “My parents told me [and my brother] that our cookie dough eating habit would give us worms. As our Dad was a veterinarian and we were no strangers to the world of parasitic infections in critters, we took it as gospel.”

              – “My mom said that if I ever hit my brother or sister, then when I was dead and buried, the hand I hit them with would stick out of the grave and I’d never truly Rest in Peace.”


              Fortunately, my sister and I didn’t need therapy because of The Spanker Man. My mom didn’t want us acting like jerks in public, so she did what she had to do to keep us under control. Ultimately, there was no harm and no foul. If anything, it’s been a hilarious topic of conversation among my friends and the concept catapults my mom into genius status.

              If only she would have been the one to create Elf on a Shelf. We’d be rich.


                Easy, Healthy Salsa: I’m Not Martha Stewart


                Easy, Healthy Salsa (I Promise!)- The Champagne Supernova

                I stink at cooking. Ok, I don’t stink at it because it’s not rocket science to be able to follow a recipe. “I avoid cooking” is more accurate. While I love sampling delicious food, making it myself is too much of a hassle and too much of a time suck. Not only do I have to find recipes that I’m interested in making, but then it becomes a process of figuring out which ingredients I already have at my house (usually zero), running to the store to buy the ingredients I don’t have, and then finding the time to execute everything.

                I stumbled across a variation of this recipe inside a mini Clean-Eating style magazine that was included as an insert in my recent Better Homes and Gardens subscription, and decided to improvise by adding a little bit of this and removing a little bit of that. What caught my eye about the recipe is 1) it involved only a few ingredients, 2) it is healthy (and would cancel out the Chic-Fil-A fries and chicken sandwich I ate the day before), and 3) can be eaten with chips… anything that requires dipping is good for me. Most importantly, it is easy. We had a family cookout at my house over Easter weekend and this was so good that we made it two nights in a row, and then my mom made it as a dish for a recent pool party at one of her girlfriends’ houses.

                Once you have all the ingredients, the recipe takes less than five minutes of preparation.

                This is what you need:

                1. One package of frozen corn
                2. One pint of cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
                3. One container of pre-cut feta cheese
                4. 1 cup- Fresh parsley
                5. 1 cup- Fresh cilantro
                6. 2 tsp lime juice
                7. Salt and pepper to taste.

                Combine everything together and keep adding salt and pepper until it tastes the way you like it. If you are feeling extra healthy and adventurous, you could add small cubes of avocado (but be careful not to mush them). Cheers to an easy hit.

                Easy, Healthy Salsa (I Promise!)- The Champagne Supernova

                Salsa1Easy, delicious, clean salsa from The Champagne Supernova; Easy, Healthy Salsa (I Promise!)- The Champagne Supernova

                  The 10 Best Songs of All Freaking Time

                  Larry Busacca; Getty Images

                  “When you hear a great song, you can think of where you were when you first heard it, the sounds, the smells. It takes the emotions of a moment and holds it for years to come. It transcends time. A great song has all the key elements- melody; emotion; a strong statement that becomes part of the lexicon; and great production.” -Jay Z

                  I don’t care how old I am or where I am in my life. There are certain songs that make me want to go euphorically insane when I hear them. Here are the top ten:

                  10. More than a Feeling: Boston. This is the ultimate dive bar jukebox song. Reminds me of my freshman year of college when my girlfriends and I would listen to this while getting ready to go out, “pre-gaming” (do they still call it that?), and hitting the town wearing the official college uniform of the early 2000s: black pants, a solid colored spaghetti-strapped top, and Reef flip flops.

                  9. Fortunate Son: Creedence Clearwater Revival. I was old enough to appreciate this song and the meaning behind it when it was featured on the Forrest Gump soundtrack. I feel sorry for anyone who gets stuck in a car next to me when this song is on the radio. Free entertainment.

                  8. Free Fallin: Tom Petty. When I was in elementary school, my parents allowed my middle-school aged neighbor, Brandy, to babysit me and my sister. Brandy was a “bad girl,” but she would sweet talk my parents a-la-Eddie Haskell, and at $2 per day, she was cheap labor. She would sometimes babysit us at her house next door, and I remember watching the music video of this song in her upstairs bedroom with the pink canopy bed and Barbie Dream House. The video stood out to me because my parents would have flipped if they knew Brandy was letting us watch MTV (this was when watching MTV would buy you a first class ticket to the epicenter of Hell) and I recall Tom Petty riding escalators in the video. Brandy probably ended up in prison, but I ended up a lifelong Petty fan.

                  7. Summer of 69: Bryan Adams. If this song doesn’t make you want to dance, then we can’t be friends.

                  6. The Train: Quad City DJ’s. Shamefully, I love this song. LOVE IT. I’ve always wondered who Michelle, Tamika, and Tonya were to receive such an amazing shout-out.

                  I think I can, I think I can. 

                  5. Livin’ on a Prayer: Bon Jovi. Tommy and Gina, I want to know you. I want to be your friends.

                  4. Shawty Swing My Way: KP and Envyi. This song puts me in the parking lot of high school in tenth grade when my best girlfriend, Nicole, was kind enough to drive me to and from school every day, before I had a car. She bought this song as a cassette single and we blasted it in the morning prior to rolling into 7-Eleven for a Frappuccino before heading into the school parking lot, where we sat in the car pretending we were cool until the bell rang. This has been the theme song for bachelorette parties, weddings, and girls’ nights. Man, I love this song.

                  3. Tiny Dancer: Elton John. Elton is the greatest performer who ever lived. Not many “artists” write their own music, play an instrument, and perform their own songs. Sorry Beyonce. My parents took me to my first Elton concert in middle school, and I’ve seen four more after that. It never gets old.

                  More Styles On Sale Now at Tea Collection

                  2. Don’t Stop Believin’: Journey. If college had a theme song, this would be it. So many memories are associated with just one song.

                  1. Sweet Child O’ Mine: Guns N’ Roses. I know Slash’s solo at the beginning of this song like the back of my hand and just hearing it gives me heart palpitations. The world stands still. This song has sentimental value. Childhood babysitter Brandy (see Number 8) was obsessed with GNR and introduced my sister and me to the band when we were kids. I remember watching the videos of Axl Rose (before the freaky plastic surgery) wearing biker shorts, a red bandana, and dancing in front of a microphone.

                  What are your favorite songs? Which ones conjure the best memories and why?


                    Candy-less Easter Basket Ideas

                    The Champagne Supernova- Easter Baskets Sans Candy

                    Easter Baskets

                    My kids need Easter candy like they need more clothes or “junque” to accumulate around the house: not at all. Like Valentine’s Day, it’s hard to figure out what to put in their Easter baskets when the stores are packed with candy: Puffs, Cadbury Creme Eggs, Robin’s Eggs, Lindt Chocolate Bunnies, and jelly beans. My three year old, Arden, loves sweets, but they have a tendency to set her off. She celebrated her birthday a couple weeks ago, and there’s nothing else she needs after she received tons of birthday presents (that she didn’t really need in the first place).

                    I decided to go Easter basket shopping on Saturday with my 10-month old while my husband was at Home Depot with Arden buying mulch and renting a chainsaw and pressure washer (we are considering putting our home on the market and these are necessary evils before sticking the ole sign in the front yard- whew, exciting little weekend we had over here!) Anyway, my wildest dreams came true because the baby fell asleep- and stayed asleep- and my shopping endeavor turned into a shopping spree. I don’t know the last time I had free reign at Target but, man, it was nice. (I also moseyed over to some stores to shop for myself just because I could. It was a matter of principle.) When I’m at Target, it’s usually with both kids in tow, so I make a little list… formula, check… wipes, check… detergent, check… hightail it outta there. This time was different.

                    Candles? Target sells candles? I probably sniffed every candle on the display wall.

                    Cards? Who do I know who needs a greeting card? Did anybody die? Who had a baby? Whose birthday is coming up? I’m going to sit here and read every greeting card. Because I can.

                    Scented lotions? Target carries scented lotions? I never get to go into any of the “fun” aisles with my kids. I rubbed so much lotion on my hands and arms that I became the human equivalent of the Exxon Valdez.

                    My point, and I do have one, is that I went home poor, but with a bunch of cool things for the girls’ Easter baskets:

                    Easter basket ideas from

                    These adorable, Easter baskets were around $12.00 each and are lined in cute fabrics. Eat your heart out, Pottery Barn Kids!

                    Easter basket ideas from www.thechampagnesupernova.comFor our three year old, I purchased a cute Circo romper (that matches the one I purchased for her sister- twinning!), an Eos Lip Gloss set, The Story of Easter book, Annies organic Animal Cookies, a swirly straw cup, a Play-Doh Sparkle set (yes, I’m nuts), and I payed homage to my 1990s childhood with a Lisa Frank sticker set.

                    IMG_4264For our ten month old, I purchased a romper to match her sister, some sippy cups, the same Easter book (thought I could use an extra for Grammy’s house), a stuffed lamb toy, some Easter bunny socks, and a beach hatEaster basket ideas from

                    Easter basket ideas from

                    Easter basket ideas from

                    Easter basket ideas from

                    One thing this experience reminded me is that shopping can be exhausting.

                    What are your favorite Easter basket additions that do not involve candy? I’m always looking for good ideas for next year, so keep me posted.

                    Cheers everyone, and have a wonderful Easter.

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