The Dollhouse Murders: BCPL Challenge

Thanks to Snowzilla, I finished another book for the Baltimore County Library Challenge.

I wanted to pick The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright as my favorite book from childhood, but believe it or not, it was also published the year I was born. Since it harder to find interesting books by the year they are published, this one is going to count for that category. Stay tuned for my review on a favorite book from my childhood.

In the meantime, stop what you are doing and go read The Dollhouse Murders. I was a little worried it wouldn’t be as good now that 20 some years have passed, but I was pleasantly surprised.

This books has all the makings of the perfect YA thriller – a new girl in town, a temporary stay in a dusty old house, a family secret and dolls that move. Amy is a typical thirteen year old girl in a new town with a special needs sister. Her Aunt moves into Amy’s great-grandparent’s house to prepare it to sell and asks Amy to come keep her company. Amy discovers a dollhouse in the attic in the likeness of the house they are stay in. However, the dolls begin positioning themselves into the same places where Amy’s great-grandparents were murdered. A family secret she didn’t know about, but now the dolls are trying to tell her something – but what?

Dolls can’t move by themselves, she told herself, and felt goosebumps pop up on her arms.

I can see why my middle school self loved this book. It was creepy enough to keep me up for a few nights worrying about my Barbies coming alive, but not scary enough to make me sleep with the light on. Wright brings the characters to life and makes dolls sending messages completely plausible. My only regret is I didn’t get the original cover art work. Which was AWESOME.


Also, in my research for this book I just discovered there is a video. A VIDEO version of this book. Seems like a worthy investment to me.

Girls in White Dresses: BCPL Challenge

My goal for this year is to read 16 books so when someone shared the Baltimore County Public Library 2016 Reading Challenge I thought it would add a twist my reading goal and help me branch out a bit.  I tend to read what would be classified as ‘literary fiction’ and shy away from ‘science fiction’ or ‘fantasy’. And no. I have not read Harry Potter. I just can’t.

Here’s what the BCPL Challenge looks like:


I am a huge fan of BookBub so I have a lot of really random books in my Kindle collection. I decided to start there and tackle ‘a book with a color in the title’ which led me to Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. I decided not to read the summary and had no idea what I was in store for. I finished it yesterday and if you ask me if I liked it, I would probably take a long pause and say ‘I’m not real sure’. Which seems to be pretty common based on the reviews.


Girls in White Dresses follows a group of girls navigate life post college. Each ‘chapter’ is its own little mini-story from a different girls point of view. They suffer through bridal showers, drunken nights, boyfriends who are weird, boyfriends who are not weird, job loss and the general post college ‘what the hell is going on with my life’ moments.

I felt like I was watching an episode of Girls (which I gave up on after the first season). The characters were so … dramatic and immature most the time. I didn’t find them relatable because once I graduated college, I met S. a few months later and didn’t have the ‘never find a husband’ thoughts. And I lived in the suburbs in a world before Tinder. I didn’t keep in touch with many people from college, so perhaps I was missing that ‘everyone is progressing and I am still figuring it out’ mentality.

And the boys! In this book they were all so different, and I hated all but one of them. It was almost like the girls were trying to live this Sex and the City lifestyle and it came across as desperate and high school-esque.  If the guy is strange (like eating a box of macaroni and cheese out of a pot strange), just break up with him. Everything didn’t have to be so damn dramatic and difficult.  Of course, my parents might say otherwise. 

“Breakups are tough,” Isabella said. “But you got through it!” “I’m glad you’re over him,” Shannon said. “Now you need to go find another asshole to fuck with your head.”

There were some funny stories about family dynamics – Moms that used funny expressions and sisters who meddled. And my favorite story was about a boyfriend who was obsessed with politics and left his job to go on the campaign trail with ‘The Candidate’ (who was obviously Obama).

So all in all, it wasn’t a horrible book – but it’s the kind of book I will see in a few months, buy it because it looks good and forget I already read it until chapter 3. Borrow it from the library friends. Don’t buy it.

Suuchi Custom Clothes

I am not stranger to the idea of custom clothing. Growing up I remember going to Joanne Fabric and flipping through those huge books of patterns and then watching Mom sewing on our coffee table.

Matching Easter outfits, circa 1992
Matching Easter outfits, circa 1992

Then I was lucky enough to visit China 3 times and each time I was advised to get a custom suit. You couldn’t walk ten feet without someone handing you a business card for a dirt cheap piece of custom clothing.

I have to admit, as someone built like a soft refrigerator, the idea appealed to me. No more button down shirts that didn’t allow my arms to move and pants that didn’t require hemming. But it seemed getting clothing fit to my exact measurements seems pretty costly, something a Kardashian would do. I doubt Kim could fit that booty in Old Navy jeans off the rack.

Well friends, let me introduce you to Suuchi. Based in New Jersey, this is truly a ‘made in the USA’ company. And get this. Your affordable pieces are delivered to your door in about 5 days. They have everything from shirts to pants to scarves.

Once you pick your product, you take your measurements and chose your fabric. They have basic colors and then some unique, fun patterns as well.  I was so excited to be asked to work with Suuchi as a Style Advisor because they are truly a small business with small business values. I was given a scarf so I could go through the process and they responded to my questions quickly and personally. I really felt like I was their ONLY customer, which is so not true, but critical to win my over in the customer service category.

I really wanted a fun scarf to add some of my personality to my work unofficial work uniform (dress pants, tank and cardigan) so I picked the stretchy scarf with stars. I was so impressed with the quality of the fabric, it was thick and, duh, stretchy. It was the perfect length and there are quite a few ways to wear it.

Guess what! You can win a custom scarf! The winner will be announced on Friday, 1/15/2016 after 5PM EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You guessed it, this is a sponsored post. Suuchi sent me the scarf in return for my honest review. My thoughts are my own – trust me, they can’t afford to buy a positive review. 

Dear Mike: December 2015

Hello Love!

Happy 2016, you rang it in fast asleep in your crib, but it was exciting none the less. December was a big month for us with celebrating the holidays and building new traditions. You handled it like a pro, just going with the flow. The weather has also been super crazy, so we’ve taken advantage of the warmer days outside playing Hide and Seek. You are pretty good at finding us, but not so much at hiding. Thankfully!


{Hanukkah} You, my love, are a fan of candles. Each candle we lit for the 8 nights you wanted to sing Happy Birthday and blow them out. You were also very excited with the gelt Bubbe brought you.


{Christmas} Christmas was so much fun this year because you are really starting to understand things. You prayed each night (and still do) for ‘Seen-tah’ and presents. Your favorite gift wasn’t the balance bike like we thoughts, but the Melissa & Doug Latch Board Daddy picked out! You enjoyed taking ornaments off the tree and eating ‘can cans’ (candy canes). We did go see Lights on the Bay and you weren’t impressed – maybe next year!


{Talking} I can’t believe we thought you were having speech problems. You are a talking fool now! Daddy and I were just marveling over how we are having actual conversations now. Turns out you are quite opinionated – you like to tell us to ‘stop it’, ask for ‘ah ah juice’, have a ‘Minion bath’, and watch ‘Cat Boy’.

{Visiting Santa} We weren’t sure you were going to take to visiting Santa this year, but we headed out to Homestead Gardens anyway. We got in the LONG line and you spent your time watching the cool train set. As we got closer you got more and more excited. You tried to cut the line a few times too! When it was our turn you walked right up to Santa like he was your long lost Uncle.


{PJ Masks} You are a HUGE fan of ‘Cat Boy’, or as Disney calls it, PJ Masks. You sing parts of the theme song and can watch it over and over … and over. Daddy and I are a little disappointed there are only 5 episodes on demand – we are learning the dialog too. But your excitement is infectious and you call Daddy Cat Boy and me Gecko – leaving you to be Owlette.

{Halloween} That’s right – Halloween. You are obsessed with YouTube videos with Halloween themed, kid friendly songs. You walk around the house making ghosts noises and referring to yourself as a zombie or monster.

Well Bug, you are changing, literally, daily and it couldn’t be more fun. I love seeing your little personality become HUGE.  You fill my heart.

I’ll eat you up, I love you so,

Momma xoxo


Merry Merry Everything!

A few weeks ago I realized we hadn’t done a family photo shoot and we managed to miss all the mini-sessions. I think it’s so important to have a pro do pictures at least once a year, so I reached out to my Facebook friends and found Dana Lorentz Photography.

She got the best photo with Charlie EVER. And despite it being SO windy (we were basically in a wind tunnel) and Mike NOT being happy, we got a few good shots. I mean, let’s not sugar coat it – this is our life with a toddler.

Here’s our 2015 family pictures and our card.

image1 IMG_0894 IMG_0895 IMG_0898 IMG_0899 IMG_0904 IMG_0914 IMG_0918 IMG_0923 IMG_0924

And finally ….card

Friday Five: Holiday Movies

I am not really one for choosing to listen to Christmas music, but when it comes to Christmas movies, that is another story. Sunday afternoons in December (and now November) when Mike and S. take their naps it is my time to snuggle under a blanket and turn on Hallmark or Lifetime to find a holiday movie. The lower the budget the better. And they all follow the same recipe – a rich person becomes poor and learns the true meaning of Christmas, an adorable child asks Santa for a mom for Christmas, a scrooge is met by three ghosts and their life changes. As long as there is love, a life altering event, eye candy and a kid – I eat these movies up.

So for Five on Friday, here are my five favorite ‘made for TV’ Christmas movies. And don’t you dare judge me!

PicMonkey Collage

{Comfort and JoyJane is a self absorbed executive who gets into a car accident on Christmas Eve and is saved by her husband … but when she left the office she didn’t have a husband! She finds out she also has two kids and lives a modest lifestyle. Will she ever wake up to her real life, and does she really want to? 

{Snow GlobeOkay, so not really a Lifetime or Hallmark movie, but it’s ABCFamily so it is close enough. I actually own this on DVD! A lover of Christmas with a crazy family finds a snow globe and, surprise, she ends up being able to travel between her life and the snow globe world. Turns out one of the citizens of the snow globe world travels to her world and chaos ensues. It’s pretty entertaining.

{Will You Merry Me?Ah, a tale as old as time – a Jewish girl from LA falls in love with a Christian guy from the mid west and now they are introducing their families. And his family is REALLY into Christmas. Like, their last name is Kringle. Some say the jokes are offensive, but coming from the same (sort of) situation, where in laws are learning new traditions, it is pretty lighthearted.

{Ebbie’s ChristmasQuite possibly my Momma’s favorite non-traditional Christmas movie. It’s the classic Christmas Carol with a modern (for 1995) twist. Ebbie owns a department store and, of course, hates Christmas. Three spirits visit her and try to change her.

{A Diva’s Christmas Carol I may, or may not, have this on DVD. It’s another take on A Christmas Carol, but is based around Ebony (get it?), a pop singer. Frankly, you had me when I saw the cast – Vanessa Williams, Chilli from TLC and Kathy Griffin.

October and November 2015

Love Bug –

What a busy fall you had! Our family ‘busy season’ usually starts with Daddy’s birthday at the end of September and this year it has been much of the same.

The biggest family news is my new job. I’ve had a few weeks to settle in and the best part is working so much closer to home and having a shorter commute. This has given me some extra time with you in the evenings which means a more relaxed, happy Momma. It’s also a job I really enjoy so that makes the whole family happy.  You came to visit shortly after I started and my coworkers (all 5 of them) thought you were sweet and adorable – I would have to agree.


{Talk} Everyone told us that when you started talking you wouldn’t stop and they were right. We have been working with Miss Lisa from the Infant and Toddler Program every few weeks and it was like a switch was flipped overnight. I love hearing your crackly little boy voice and your big eyes side glance when you are looking for the right word. It’s fun to have ‘conversations’ with you and hear your opinion on things like ‘Daddy’s bed’ and ‘Minion baff’.

{Urgent Care} You had your first urgent care trip! You went to the ER when you were much younger for dehydration, but this time was much scarier because it was a fall. You were FaceTiming with Grandpa and while showing him your fancy dance you got tangled up and fell into the corner of the bookshelf. Thankfully Dad and I were standing nearby and when I picked you up the bruise was already HUGE. Daddy was a quick thinker and off we went to urgent care. By the time we got there things were fine and you were fine, but we had concussion watch for 24 hours. You were not a fan of being woken up every hour that night!

{Halloween} Our new neighborhood goes all out for Halloween and after a few houses you were all in. I made you a dinosaur costume and you loved it! Daddy picked out your dino slippers and you still request to wear them around the house so you can ‘rawr’ at everyone, even Charlie.  Miss Rachel took you to the Halloween parade at the elementary school and reported that you loved seeing the costumes and the kids.
{Feeding Ducks} We took a walk the other day to the pond so you could feed the ducks.  They clearly are used to being fed and swam right up to the shoreline. You kept asking for ‘mo’ bread and throwing it at them instructing them loudly to ‘EAT IT’. It made Dad and me laugh so hard.
{Tent Naps} We put up your tent in the basement and you find such  great joy in running in and running out. You also are pretty insistent on Daddy and me coming in to go ‘nigh nigh’. You cover us up, pat your shoulders, then quickly wake us up by yelling ‘e-boo e-boo‘ (which we are still confused about).
{Favorite Books} You’ve become quite a little bookworm to my delight. Each night you get 2 books and sometimes you can talk us into more. You are able to identify letters (like M, I, K, E, O) and help read some of the words. Your current favorites are Everybody Poops (Ah, Ah Poop), Good Night Maryland (Nigh Nigh Mahlan), 10 Timid Ghosts (Ghosts), Tickle Monster and anything involving ABCs.
{Pumpkin Picking} We headed over to Queen Anne Farm and you had a blast running through the muddy pumpkin patch and watching the farm equipment. You picked out 3 HUGE pumpkins (since you pay by the pound of course) and were pretty obsessed with carrying one everywhere. Halloween was weeks ago and there is still a pumpkin in my car.

{Thanksgiving} Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa’s house is always a busy, fun, filling day and this year was no different. You had a blast running around with Pop-Pop and playing with Mollie. You were a trooper without a nap.

December is going to be even more fun my love!

I’ll eat you up I love you so,

Momma xoxo

Dear Mike: Be Kind

My Dear Mikey –

Last year I posted a letter to you about September 11th and how Daddy and I hope that you grow up to be kind and see the good in the world. As an adult some days that is hard to do.

So many things are happening in the world right now that make my heart hurt. Some of these things are happening thousands of miles away but they are having a ripple effect and impacting our country. I hope you learn to realize that when people feel scared or threatened they don’t always make the best decisions, like remembering to be kind.

The one thing I am thankful for right now is that you are too young to ask the hard questions because I have no idea how I would answer you. I am actually asking a lot of hard questions myself and searching for the answer.

It’s times like these that Daddy and I want to remind you about the Principles of Unitarian Universalism. These are the ‘rules’ we are striving to raise you with. These principles represent what we believe and act as our moral compass.

I hope that when you are older and lose faith in the world or when everything seems confusing and chaotic, you find comfort in these principles and the strength to live these.


uu we believe kids


I’ll eat you up I love you so,

Momma xoxo

BTDT: Watkins Regional Park, Maryland

Am I the last person in the state of Maryland who has never taken the kid to Watkins Regional Park? Holy moly, what a hidden gem.

We had Veteran’s Day off and the weather was perfect – chilly and cloudy, but warm enough for just a sweatshirt. Perfect playground weather! I’ve heard good things about Watkins Park, or the Wizard of Oz Park, but I was blown away.


It’s tucked away in Upper Marlboro off of Central Avenue and the park has camping, a carousel and even a train – but the playground is worth the trip alone.  It was closed from January to June 2015 for multi-million dollar renovations and reopened with a cool Wizard of Oz theme.  Think the ruby slippers, yellow brick road, Emerald City and Aunt Em’s farm.

I was a little worried when we pulled up and saw tons of cars, but once we go into the playground it hardly felt crowded. There were lots of parents chatting while the kids ran around being kids.  Mike was beyond excited. I recommend if you have a toddler team up with a partner and wear your jogging shoes.It can be pretty overwhelming!

A few things I liked: 

Well, it is no secret I love a theme. They even had stand alone posts with excerpts from the book at each play structure.

The bouncy, cushy ‘floor‘. What IS that material? When I was a kid we had nothing to cushion our landing or wood chips which was equally painful.

The bathroom is RIGHT THERE. I didn’t have a chance to go inside, but it is good to note for potty training ages how convenient it is.

The bells! Mike loved the huge bells. What a cool, unique activity.

The details. From the ‘faces’ on the trees to the small interactive activities to the tadpole steps. There was something cool around every corner.


Quick and Dirty:
Cost: Nada!
Age Group? Fun for all ages
Parking? I would say on a busy day it would be a tight fit, but it’s a parking lot.
Food Options? None near the playground, but fast food options nearby. There are picnic shelters to reserve. There are lots of benches for a quick snack.
Stroller Friendly? 100%
Changing Tables? I didn’t go into the bathroom, but I am going to assume so.
Safety: As safe as a playground can be.
See you there? You bet!


The Lunch Struggle

The lunch struggle is real ya’ll. How many days in a row can I eat yogurt, a banana, turkey and cheese (sans bread) and a random ‘healthy’ snack?

The other challenge is my new job. I’ve been here a month and so far I really really love it. And I am BUSY. Most of the time I am running around so much, so I am so focused, I forget lunch. Next thing I know I am in a meeting where I realize I am hangrey or someone brings their own lunch and eats it DURING the meeting (FYI – this is never okay).

What’s a girl to do? Progresso Soup Bistro Cups!

I’ll be honest, I am not a soup person, but when Progresso asked me to check out their new Soup Bistro Cups, I was game. I wasn’t expecting much, but I went in with an open mind. Guess what? I’m all in. They are convenient, easy to make and filling. Plus, you can make them in a mug and drink them during a meeting and no one has to know it is something other than coffee.

All you have to do is open the packet into a mug, drop the K-Cup into a Keurig brewer (even those annoying 2.0 ones take these Bistro Cups), stir it up and in mere minutes, your lunch is ready.


I tried the Tomato Parmesan, but they also have Broccoli & Cheese and Creamy Southwestern which are both ready for my lunchbox next week.

If you are in the Northeast USA and want to try them don’t forget to download a $2 off coupon.