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The Allison Show: November 2010

The Allison Show

All things Allison

Tuesday, November 30

Book Review: Hidden Passages by Villa SpiderHawk

Title: Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones
Author: Villa SpiderHawk

 Summary: "Brimming with hope and beautifully written, these eight stories of women helping women and girls through the challenges and transitions of life will surprise you with every turn of the page.

In Passages, a girl moves through a rites of passage into womanhood, both symbolic and literal, among her tribe of watching women, bonding with the other women as well as with the feminine in nature, bonding with the divine, and erasing boundaries between all.

  These are women as women should be: unafraid of living, unafraid of expressing their femininity, unafraid of aging, unafraid of facing up to their own fears and weaknesses and transforming them into strengths, unafraid to confront those who would deny them their place, simply - unafraid. We should all wish to be such terrific crones."

This is a great book that girls and women alike should read!!!  There are 8 stories that encompass different cultures and different women.  They are beautifully written and are the kind of stories we want our daughters to read and embrace.  The women in these stories are strong, brave, and unafraid to follow their hearts.  I don't want to spoil any of the endings but some stories will make you laugh, while others make you cry.  

My favorite story is the first one "Mima Po."  Jody like all of her friends is afraid of the old lady who lives down the block.  She is dark skinned and different from the other women on the block.  Kids and adults alike steer clear of her while calling her a witch behind her back.  But with a small act of kindness, Jody forges a bond with the old woman and becomes friends with her.  Mima Po teaches her things that other adults would laugh at.

This book is the perfect Christmas gift for your mother, grandmother, or any other strong woman you may know!!  A must read!!!!

Guest Post by Villa SpiderHawk

When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? Did you want to always be an author?

I have been a writer since I could hold a crayon.  Even before I could print the standard characters of the English language, I created my own alphabet so I could “write”.  When I finally learned the English letters, I was absolutely thrilled that other people could actually read and understand the words I wrote.  I cannot actually remember a time when I longed to write.  I have simply always written.

Publishing, however, is a different thing.  People have told me all my life that I should write for publication.  And for decades I refused.  I wanted no part of the “business of writing”.  Oh, I published poems in periodicals and so forth, but I had no desire to write a book. 

Even when I began Hidden Passages, I had no plans to publish the stories.  I simply wrote them for a course I was following.  My teacher, of course, nagged me to publish, and I, of course, refused.  She was one determined lady, however.  She actually put me in touch with another of her students who had published.  She and I became friends, and I allowed her to read a few of my stories.  She immediately notified her publisher that she had made a wonderful find, and her publisher contacted me.  Thus Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones was born.  I was fifty-nine years old when I sent my first manuscript to a publisher, sixty when my first book came out.  I haven’t looked back since.

 About Vila Spider Hawk

Vila SpiderHawk is taking a different view on the aging of womankind. Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones is a collection of tales, some of which are interconnected, others which stand alone, all of which deal with women who are finding or already using the wisdom acquired from years of life experience.

Vila SpiderHawk and her husband share a log home of their design in the woods of Pennsylvania where they live with their five cats and enjoy frequent visits with their many woodland friends.  SpiderHawk is an avid gardener and a gourmet vegan cook. 

You can find Vila at

Follow Vila’s Virtual Book Tour at Pump Up Your Book

Watch the book video

Vila reads from Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones

Monday, November 29

PetCakes Review and Givaway

Are those the cutest toys you have ever seen?? These are Series 1: The Puppies!! And as proud new owners of a puppy my kids are kind of obsessed.  PetCakes are a new collectible plush pet line that will be a sweet treat for children ages 3 & up. Each PetCakes animal features a “frosting” hat, comes nestled in its own cupcake wrapper and has its own whimsical backstory. At first look, children will see a delicious cupcake but will then be surprised by the pet they find snuggled inside! Combining sweet faces and cuddly plush with a clever cupcake theme, PetCakes are collectible and provide hours of open-ended imaginative play. PetCakes make perfect gifts for a special friend and for pet lovers.  These would make awesome Christmas presents!!

Meet the Pups of Series 1:

*Randy Candy™ is a lovable mutt, scampering around playfully and taking long naps in his cupcake wrapper. Randy Candy is topped with tasty frosting and a cherry.

*Blueberry Buddy™ is a Shar Pei who acts tough for his size but is a loving push over who’s as sweet as the blueberry frosting on his head. When sleepy, Blueberry Buddy cozies up in his own cupcake wrapper.
~~ By far all of the kids' favorite puppy!!~~~

*Twinkle Sprinkles™ is a playful, loving, and mischievous Beagle, whose colorful pink sprinkled frosting top looks good enough to eat! Twinkle Sprinkles likes to yelp when happy and sleep in her cupcake wrapper where her nose stays nice and toasty.

*Coco-Coconut™ is a fluffy poodle with a loving side that is as sweet as a frosted cupcake. Cuddle Coco-Coconut and keep her cozy in her cupcake wrapper. 

Would you like to win 2 of these sweet pets?? Well... 1 lucky reader will!!!

How To Enter:

Mandatory Entry:
* Go to PetCakes and leave me a comment with your favorite Pet.  Make sure to leave your email address so I can notify you if you win.

Extra Entries:
*Follow me on Networked Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or GFC (Leave a separate comment for each follow)
* Put my button on your blog (Leave 3 comments Button #1, Button #2 etc)
* Blog about the giveaway (Leave 5 comments)
* Tweet about the giveaway (Leave a comment with link once a day)

Hurry and enter!!  Giveaway ends 12/9 at midnight eastern time.  Good Luck!!!

***Disclaimer: I received this product free in exchange for my honest opinion and review.***

Cupcake Cuties Review and Giveaway!!!

As most of you know, we are opening our own Cupcake Bakery and I have been on the look out for cute ways to decorate our cupcakes.  I was thrilled to be able to try these cute Cupcake Kits from Cupcake Cuties.

We received the Ice Cream Kit.  This kit came with a jar of sprinkles, a disposable pipping bag, and the ice cream cup wrappers.  the kits are so easy to use.  Bake cupcakes in liners, let them cool and then frost them.  Then you wrap the wrapper around the bottom and it has a strip of sticky on the end to stick it together.  Then you add the sprinkles and you are done.  We made Chocolate Caramel swirled cake and frosted them with Chocolate Caramel frosting.  I love the color the sprinkles add to the cupcakes.   The kids love them!!  Somehow the wrappers make the cupcakes just a bit more fun!! 

Cupcake Cuties have tons of cute kits for every holiday and event.  I really like the baby ones!!  That would make the cutest cupcakes for a Baby Shower!!  I think I love them so much because I have bald babies- well except for Cody, he had tons of hair!

The greatest thing is that anyone can make these cupcakes!!  You don't have to have lots of baking skills (use a box mix) and you can make professional looking cupcakes at home!!

Want to try them yourself??  One lucky reader will win a kit so they can make Cupcake Cuties at home!!

How To Enter:

Mandatory Entry:
* Go to Cupcake Cuties and leave me a comment with your favorite kit.  Make sure to leave your email address so I can notify you if you win.

Extra Entries:
*Follow me on Networked Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or GFC (Leave a separate comment for each follow)
* Follow Cupcake Cuties on Facebook.
* Follow Cupcake Cuties on Twitter

* Put my button on your blog (Leave 3 comments Button #1, Button #2 etc)
* Blog about the giveaway (Leave 5 comments)
* Tweet about the giveaway (Leave a comment with link once a day)

Hurry and enter!!  Giveaway ends 12/8 at midnight eastern time.  Good Luck!!!

***Disclaimer: I received this product free in exchange for my honest opinion and review.***

Head Chefs Review and Giveaway!!

As most of you know, we are opening a bakery in January so we do a ton of baking (on top of cooking dinner 90% of the time).  My kids are always in the kitchen and always want to help but I don't want them using my utensils and breakable glass measuring cups.  So when I received the opportunity to review the Kid Friendly line of cooking utensils by Head Chefs, I was SOOO excited!!!

We received a bowl with feet, measuring spoon, frosting spreader, stirring spoon, and spatula.  All of the utensils are made out of silicon and have suction cup feet so they stand up!  The measuring spoon is 1 teaspoon and then when you flip it over it is 1 tablespoon.  The kids love these kitchen tools.  If they didn't already love to help in the kitchen, they definitely would now!!

Want to win your own Head Chef cooking utensils?  Thanks to Head Chef one lucky reader will!!! 

How to Enter:

Mandatory Entry:  
*Go to Head Chefs and pick your favorite utensil.  Leave a comment here and make sure to include your email so I can contact the winner.

Extra Entries:
*Follow me on GFC, Networked Blogs, Facebook, or Twitter (Leave a separate comment for each follow).
* Like Head Chefs on Facebook
* Follow Head Chefs on Twitter
* Put my button on your blog (Leave 3 comments Button #1, Button #2 etc)
* Blog about the giveaway (Leave 5 comments)
* Tweet about the giveaway (Leave a comment with link once a day)

Hurry and enter!!  Giveaway ends 12/7 at midnight eastern time.  Good Luck!!!

***Disclaimer: I received this product free in exchange for my honest opinion and review.***

Sunday, November 28

Winner, Winner. Sorry for the delay!!!

The winner of my Coobie Bra Giveaway is #56, Ksceviour.  She said "I follow with networked blogs
"The winner of my Spoonful of Comfort Care package Giveaway is #26, Ashley!!  She said, "Follow you on GFC! (Ashley R)."
Both of them have been emailed and have 48 hours to respond or will pick new winners.

Saturday, November 27

Book Review: Changing the Conversation by Gary Klaben

Title: Changing the Conversation: Transformational Steps to Financial & Family Well-Being
Author: Gary Klaban
Publisher:  Navigator Press
Published: Oct 1, 2010
ISBN: 978-0982800904

Summary: "Against the backdrop of todays many political and fiscal system dysfunctions, author and financial advisor Gary Klaben declares that Americas future is still exceptionally bright. Figuring out how to unlock the needs of today's individuals and families defines the challenge of achieving a better future. Done right, the next great wave of business innovation, wealth creation and family well-being can soon be unleashed. Changing the Conversation -- taking note of today's anxieties in the workplace, in communities and in homes -- argues that a new kind of conversation is urgently needed.

People require a new and profound support system involving mutual trust, long-term relationships, interdependence, intimate knowledge and practical consolidation to reduce complexity and live simpler, happier lives. Changing the Conversation outlines the journey from dependency to mastery, from self-discovery to multigenerational financial and family realization. It is filled with insightful, even startling, conversations about what really matters and how to think, prioritize and act. But before you can start to decide the optimal structuring of assets, cash flow, taxes and estates for a family, you must first appreciate the emotional steps necessary to truly transform financial and family well-being. All of us must anticipate change, prepare to manage it, and seek to lead it whenever possible"

So when I received the opportunity to review this book at first I was hesitant.  I wasn't sure I would be able to "get" into a book about finances with all the crazy things that are going on right now (for example school semester ends in 3 weeks, we got keys to our new shop, trying to get everything ready to open the Cafe & Bakery, Holidays...etc) But this book is so much more than just about finances.  It is about planning and taking control of your life. 

My favorite chapter is "Getting Started to Getting Started."  It is about planning and setting goals.  Klaben talks about a study that asked 100 high school seniors about to graduate to picture their lives in 30 years.  Where did they see themselves?  What job or profession were they doing? 30 years later they asked those same 100 people how life had turned out.  Out of the 100 people, only 2had made or succeeded their 30 goals.  What made those 2 so special?  They had written down their goals. This BLEW my mind.  Is writing goals down really that beneficial?   I think so. 

Back in October, a fellow blogger (actually it was 3 or 4 different bloggers doing it together) started the Jump Out of Your Box Giveaway.  The point was to try to do something completely out of your comfort zone.  Then after a month and some voting the winner would win a big prize pack.  Well my husband and I had been talking about opening a cafe and bakery for the previous couple of months.  But I had the feeling that it might remain talk and never actually turn into a business.  So I decided to take part in the giveaway and that opening a cafe and bakery would be my goal.  I started a blog for my new business and the rest is history.  I wrote that I wanted to open in Jan 2011 and that looks to be very attainable right now.  I truly feel that if it wasn't for me starting the blog and talking about opening the shop, we probably wouldn't be doing it now.

This book has chapter that discuss teaching children about money and finance.  They have some really good ideas that I think I will start implementing with my kids.  They seem to think money is endless and that every time we are at Walmart, they should be allowed to buy something.

This book is so much more than a finance book.  It is for the financial and overall well being of your life and business.  This is a must read for everyone!!!

Thursday, November 25

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and get to spend it with friends and family!!! Remember all the things you have to be thankful for and don't forget  to tell those you love how much they mean to you.

This year especially, I am pleased to realize just how much I have to be thankful for.  My family is healthy, always has enough to eat, has tons of friends and family who love us, are blessed that even in this hard economic time, we are able to be opening a business. 

I have 617 readers who read my blog and countless more who follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  When I made my blog public in March, I never thought it would get this big or that I would have so many get followers and so many great blogs that I follow.  Thanks to all of you!!!  I haven't been blogging about personal stuff so mch lately so in the next week or two I am going to post updates about all of us.  Also on Cyber Monday I am posting a bunch of great giveaways from HeadChefs, Pink Princess, Cupcake Cuties, and a book giveaway.  And I may throw in a surprise or 2!!  Make sure to check in all day because those giveaways are scheduled to post throughout the day.

Wednesday, November 24

Pecan Pie

I found this recipe on Food Network and made a few changes.  I added the salt, vanilla. more pecans, and added maple syrup and halved the corn syrup.  Hubby said this was a great pie!! (I don't eat pie.)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Karo syrup 
  • 1/2 maple syrup
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a saucepan, melt the butter but don't let it brown. Mix in the sugar and corn syrup and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Let cool.  Stir in the eggs and the pecans. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 40 minutes or until firm when shaken.

Tuesday, November 23

Green Bean Casserole

This is a delicious twist on an old favorite!!

  • 2 pounds Fresh Green Beans, Ends Cut Off
  • 4 slices Bacon, Cut Into 1/4 Inch Pieces
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • ½ whole Large Onion, Chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 4 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • 2-½ cups 1% Milk
  • ½ cups Heavy Cream
  • 1-½ teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • ⅛ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper Roasted and seeded and skinned
  • 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs

Preparation Instructions

Cut green beans in half if you like pieces to be a little smaller.
Blanch the green beans: drop them into lightly salted boiling water and allow green beans to cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain beans once they’re cool and set aside.
Add bacon pieces to a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon for two minutes, then add diced onion and garlic and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bacon is done (but not crisp) and onions are golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a separate skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle flour into the pan and whisk immediately to evenly mix it into the butter. Cook for a minute or two, then pour in milk and heavy cream. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, while sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne then add the grated cheddar. Stir while cheese melts. Turn off heat.
Add red peppers to pan, then add bacon/onion mixture. Stir to combine. Pour over green beans and stir gently to combine. Pour into a baking dish and top with panko crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and panko crumbs are golden.

Monday, November 22

Cornbread Stuffing (Dressing)

I decided to share some of the recipes I am using for Thanksgiving sides.  This recipe is from Food Network and it is a Tyler Florence recipe.  I changed it a bit.  I added some extra onion and the celery.  And cut the cooking time by 5 minutes.  Enjoy!!

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 6 large cornmeal muffins, cubed
  • A handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, or until soft and caramelized. Scrape into a large mixing bowl, add the cornbread pieces and the sage, season well with salt and pepper, and give it a good toss until it's well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, cream, and stock, and pour that over the cornbread. Stir the stuffing together, spoon it into a buttered baking dish. Bake until hot and crusty on top, about 25 minutes.

Sunday, November 21

Roasted Butternut Squash

This soup is amazing and would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving dinner table.  This recipe is by Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa).

For the Soup:

  • 3 to 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon good curry powder

For the Condiments:

  • Scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced diagonally
  • Roasted salted cashews, toasted and chopped


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash, onions and apples in 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Divide the squash mixture between 2 sheet pans and spread it in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.) When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings to be sure there's enough salt and pepper to bring out the curry flavor. Reheat and serve hot with condiments either on the side or on top of each serving.

Thursday, November 18

Pillow Pet Winner...

is #23, SableLexi.  she said, "I'm a GFC follower!" She has been emailed and has 48 hours to respond or will choose another winner.  Thanks to everyone who entered!!  We always have an amazing turnout for Pillow Pets Giveaways!!!

Book Review: The Mermaid's Pendant by LeAnne Neal Reilly

Title: The Mermaid's Pendant
Author: LeAnne Neal Reilly
Publisher: Zephon Books
Published: March 8, 2010
ISBN: 978-0982687505

Summary: "Inspired by the beloved classic The Little Mermaid, THE MERMAID'S PENDANT is a modern fairy tale about growing up and discovering who you are -- and what you believe in. At times lyrical, this novel is a fantastic journey filled with magic, myth, romance, and adventure. Four years after John Wilkerson claims the mermaid Tamarind for his wife, they have an idyllic marriage that depends on a talisman that she crafted on their island paradise. But Tamarind learns a painful truth: it takes more than legs to live on land and more than magic to sustain a bond. When the talisman breaks, she and John are forced to rely on themselves instead of magic. Three wise women play key roles in the young lovers' journey to mature love. Ana, Tamarind's aging mentor, casts spells and performs seductions to keep the lovers apart. Valerie, an ex-pat jewelry maker cum fairy godmother, works her own magic to bring them together. Lucy, their widowed neighbor, grounds the couple in the realities of marriage, parenting, and family. THE MERMAID'S PENDANT is a story for anyone who has ever believed in the transforming power of love."

When I read the summary, I was really excited.  The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite movies and I had really high hopes and expectations for the book to live up to.  Thankfully it did!!

John is on an island to do research so one day he decides to go snorkeling.  But John isn't so bright and he decides to go alone.  After a mishap, he panics and would have drowned if not for a mysterious stranger.  After waking on the beach, John has a vague recollection of a woman with reddish hair that was swimming topless.

After coming to the realization that he was rescued by a mermaid, he marries her.  Thanks to a magical pendant, And they lived happily ever after...Well actually not.  This is more like real life than a Disney movie; and in real life all relationships take work and sometimes a little help from our friends.

I really love as life wears down on Tamarind's magic pendant, she realizes that in order for her marriage to continue to flourish and thrive, the magic must now come from her and John.  Anyone who is, has been, or will be in a relationship should read this book.  When we get so caught up in the daily grind of life we stop realizing that we possess magic in all of us.

Sunday, November 14

Spoonful of Comfort Review and Giveaway

So like every year about this time, I got a really nasty stomach bug from the kids a couple of weeks ago.  Right when I was not throwing up but still kind of sick I got the best surprise in the mail!!!!!!  I received a Spoonful of Comfort care package.  I got a HUGE jar of chicken soup, oatmeal raisin cookies and rolls.

This could not have arrived at a more perfect time.  I was about to drag my sick butt into the kitchen to make dinner when the FedEx guy rang the bell.  I carried the box upstairs and said, "Dinner is served."

Everything in the box was beautifully packaged and wrapped.  Everything has a pretty yellow ribbon on it and the top of the box and a pretty sheet of paper.

The soup was amazing.  You can tell it was homemade with all natural, fresh ingredients.  Hubby who doesn't like soup had to admit that this was the best soup ever.  From their site, "Our old-fashion chicken soup recipe is handmade the traditional way using all natural ingredients, no additives or preservatives. With great care, it is prepared in small batches to draw out the best flavors and ensure a superior taste that can not be matched by large scale processing. Spoonful of Comfort Chicken soup is made and sent with love to warm your heart."

The rolls are soft and yummy and perfect for sopping up the leftover broth after you eat all the chicken and veggies.  The cookies are chewy and delicious and as my Dad said (not a joke), "Just like my mom used to make."  Awwww.  Can you imagine having a horrible day or being super sick and having one of these packages arriving in the mail?    

Well one of my readers will receive their own Care Package!!

How to Enter:

Mandatory Entry:
*Leave me a comment why you need a Spoonful of Comfort Care Package or who you would send one to.  Make sure to leave your email address so I can email the winner.

Extra Entries:
* Follow me on GFC, Facebook, Twitter, or Networked Blog.  Leave a comment for each with your user name.
* Follow Spoonful of Comfort on Facebook
* Put my button on your blog.  Leave 2 comments with link
* Blog about the giveaway.  Leave 5 comments with a link to your post
* Tweet about the giveaway.  1 comment per day.  Make sure to tag me {@how_many_kids}  Here is a sample tweet you can use if you don't want to make up your own.

Do you need a Spoonful of Comfort?  Enter to win a care package of soup, rolls, and cookies.  @how_many_kids

Good Luck.  Giveaway ends 11/23 at midnight eastern time!!

***I received this product free in exchange for my honest opinion and review.***

Saturday, November 13

Winner of the MiracleBody Jeans....

is #102 Jeannine!!! She said, "Like you on FB (jd drenchek-scavo)."
Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway!!

Friday, November 12

Coobie Bra Review and Giveaway

Have you heard of the Coobie Bra??  I hadn't until recently and I must admit I was skeptical that it would be THE MOST comfortable bra ever.  Until I got 2!!  I received the white scoopneck and the hot pink V-neck bras.  They really are super comfortable. 

They is 3 different styles of Coobie bras.  The scoopneck, the V-neck, and the bandeau (strapless).  They are seamless and come in tons of great colors and neutrals.  One size fits almost everybody. Comfortably fits sizes 32A to 36D. No Kidding – they really do fit that size range perfectly!  Many larger customers find it comfortable as well.  Each one comes with an extra set of clear straps and each has removeable pads. Straps are adjustable.

I love that if you have a low cut shirt on that you would normally wear a tank top under, you can leave off the tank and just let your Coobie bra show.  Great for wearing in summer when you don't want to have to wear 2 (or more) shirts.  The V-neck is a little more low cut than the scoopneck and has a pretty lace detail.  They are comfortable enough to sleep in or even just wear around the house.  While they don't have underwires, they are still very supportive.

**They have an awesome sale going on right now.  If you buy 3 bras you get $10 off with the code 10bucks.**

Who wants to win a Hot Pink Scoopneck Bra to try for themselves??  Here's how to enter:

Mandatory Entry:
*Go to Coobie bras and leave me a comment with your favorite style/color and your email address so that I can notify the winner.

Extra Entries:
* Follow me on GFC, Twitter, Facebook, or Networked Blogs from the links in the right sidebar.  Leave me a comment for each one that you do.  Make sure to include your user name (Like @how_many_kids)
* Sign up for the Coobie Bra newsletter.  The link is in the top right of their page (Join Our Newsletter).  Leave me 3 comments (Newsletter 1, Newsletter 2 etc)
* Put my button on your blog.  Leave 2 comments with a link.
*Blog about the giveaway.  Leave 5 comments with a link to your post
* Tweet about the giveaway.  Use my sample tweet or make up one of your own.  But be sure to tag me @how_many_kids  Leave one comment per day. 
Want to #win the most comfortable bra from Coobie Bras? Giveaway ends 11/21  @how_many_kids 

Good Luck.  This giveaway ends Sunday 11/21 at midnight eastern time.

***Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review.***

Thursday, November 11

Winner, Winner, Winner!!!

So without further ado, the 3 winners of my $20 Isle of Eden giveaway are:

#29 Karla who said, "I follow IoE on twitter - karlatrx!"
#74 Susan who said, "I'm following you on facebook Susan B."
#68 Louis who said, "I like Isle of Eden on facebook (Louis Here)"

They have been emailed and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.  Thanks to everyone who entered and to everyone who reads my blog!!!

Wednesday, November 10

Helen of Pasadena Book Review

Title: Helen of Pasadena
Author: Lian Dole
Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Published: November 1, 2010
ISBN: 978-0984410224

Summary: "Helen Fairchild is leading a privileged Pasadena existence: married to a pillar of the community; raising a water polo-playing son destined for the most select high school; volunteering her time on the most fashionable committees. It only bothers Helen a tiny bit the she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd, never finished that graduate degree in Classics, and never had that second baby. But the rigid rules of society in Pasadena appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon "fiber artists," even if she'll never be on the inside. And then along comes a Rose Parade float, killing her philandering husband and leaving Helen broke, out of her "forever' house and scrambling to salvage her once-rarefied existence. Enter Dr. Patrick O'Neill, noted archaeologist, excavator of Troy and wearer of nubby sweaters. A job as Dr. O'Neill's research assistant is the lifeline Helen needs to reinvent herself, both personally and professionally. Ancient mysteries to solve! Charity events to plan! School admissions advisors to charm! If Helen wasn't so distracted by her incredibly attractive boss, she might be able to pull off this new life. Helen's world widens to include a Hollywood star, a local gossip columnist, an old college nemesis, a high-powered Neutron Mom, an unforgiving school headmistress , the best Armenian real state agent in the biz, and, of course, the intriguing Patrick O'Neill. While uncovering secrets about ancient Troy alongside her archaeologist boss, Helen discovers something much more: a new sense of self and a new love."

This book was very good!!  It starts with Helen at her husband's funeral.  He died only hours after telling her that not only had he been cheating on her with a younger woman but that the new woman was his soul mate.  To compound his transgression, Helen finds out that he spent all their money and she is now deeply in debt.  She has to sell her house in order to pay off the bills and pay for her son's private school tuition.  As she works her way through these problems, she discovers the woman she really is.

Anyone who has been affected by the economic downturn can relate to her struggles  as she attempts to sell her house and find a job after being a stay at home mom for 10+ years.  Dolan does a great job of bringing her characters to life and we can't help love Helen.

Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend,  daughter, novelist, writer, and talk show host.  She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles.  Lian has always used her voice to take on all aspects of motherhood, from common-sense parenting to all-consuming school volunteering to overcoming handbag envy.  She is known for her humorous take on the day-to-day issues that face women everywhere. The Chaos Chronicles is currently being developed by Nickelodeon as a half-hour comedy.
Prior to The Chaos Chronicles, Lian spent a decade hosting Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show that she created with her four real sisters. Satellite Sisters has won 11 Gracie Allen Awards for Excellence in Women’s Media, including Talk Show of the Year in 2006. On air, Lian has interviewed everybody from Bill Clinton to Nora Roberts to Maya Angelou. Lian is the Executive Editor of the Satellite Sisters website.

Tuesday, November 9

Chapter 1 of Helen of Pasadens by Lian Dolan

Helen of Pasadena
By Lian Dolan

Chapter 1

Now I knew: I’d get a full church at my funeral. What a relief. It was the kind of thing I lost sleep over at night, being a planner and all. How many times had I sat at funerals, counting the hundreds (or, more depressingly, dozens) of mourners in the pews and thought, Who would show for me? Do people like me more or less than Jane’s mother? Do I know a hundred people who would care? Two hundred? Who should cater? Now I had my answer: full church. Because if this many people could show up for my husband, my late husband, then I’d get almost this many, right?
One thing I’d never planned on was my husband dropping a bombshell on me and then dropping dead.
That would have been good to know.
At least Merritt would have been pleased at the standing-room-only situation in the church. Merritt was a big deal in his world, and to prove that, there were the partners from the firm and the fraternity brothers, town officials, boards of schools and organizations, a Pasadena who’s who. Merritt’s people, many of whom he had known his whole, short life.
But there were lots of my people, too: the thin, young mothers from Millington School turned out in their best black suits, Prada purses and Tory Burch flats despite the economic downturn; the formerly thin team moms from a decade on the sidelines of every sport from basketball to soccer; the lovely sustaining members of the Symphony Guild, whispering together in the back rows about losing such a big donor in such a tough time; the handsome dads from water polo contemplating if they’ll be next. Half of them longing for a drink; the other half wondering who did the flowers. Their presence meant the world to me.
I was shocked by Merritt’s death, maybe even in shock. But I was not devastated. I was relieved.
Very, very relieved.
“It’s a tragedy when a husband is taken from his wife, when a father is taken from his son, when a son is taken from his mother, when a citizen is taken from his community, as Merritt Fairchild was taken from his lovely wife, Helen, his brave son, Aiden, his adoring mother, Mitsy, and his beloved hometown of Pasadena,” sang out Monsignor Flaherty, working his Irish brogue and his gift of oration from the altar of St. Perpetua’s, the most socially progressive and socially acceptable Catholic church in town.
Merritt had donated the altar. That’s the kind of big, public gesture he liked to make. It was a simple, hand-carved mahogany altar influenced by the Mission at San Luis Obispo. Merritt had asked me to do the research and make the recommendation to the Church Restoration Committee. It was all a little contrived for me, but I’d risen to the occasion, loving history and architecture as I do. I still preferred to slip an anonymous $25 in the envelope at collection. Merritt never understood that. “Why give a little every week when we could just write one big check at the annual auction?” he’d say.
The Monsignor was a cult figure, inspiring the kind of following that most Catholic priests could only dream of these days. Maybe it’s because he understood the power of myth, because he was certainly spinning one now.
“Merritt Fairchild will be missed,” continued the Monsignor. “His sense of generosity, his sense of humor, his sense of dignity. This is a man who will be missed.”
Thank you, Monsignor, on behalf of my son, who will miss him, even though he never knew him that well. Or maybe precisely because he did not know him well. I squeezed Aiden’s hand. How did he get so big? Not 20th percentile anymore, so I guess all that worrying paid off. Thirteen years old and now he has no father.  After two days of alternating between sobbing and silence, Aiden looked surprisingly strong, sitting there in his itchy Nordstrom suit that I barely even remember buying, even though it was only two days ago. My God, what a two days it had been! I thought you were supposed to get five stages of grief; I got about 36 hours.
Hold it together and get through this performance.
“He was a man who honored his commitments deeply.”
Until he didn’t. I used to be in love with my husband—really, really in love. When I first moved to Pasadena to become Mrs. Merritt Fairchild, I thought I was the luckiest girl in town. Marriage to Merritt meant stability and social status, something I never had growing up. Central Oregon wasn’t too big on cotillions and country clubs. Who needed to socialize in formalized groups when there was plenty of pot and bootleg Grateful Dead tapes to share? My parents meant no harm, but, really, a life selling macramé and scented oils out of a VW camper van was not for me. I read everything I could get my hands on, from Walker Percy to The Preppy Handbook, made good grades and got out of Jerry Garciaville as soon as I could.
Enter Merritt Fairchild, a straight-arrow Berkeley law student in a blue blazer and khakis. I was an archaeology grad student who was working at the food co-op when Merritt strolled down my aisle, solid, graceful and slightly sweaty after a game of Ultimate Frisbee. Merritt feigned interest in the eternal question: quinoa vs. bulgur. After he asked me out, I actually looked over my shoulder to see if there was a sorority girl behind me. I loved it when he introduced me to his law school buddies as his “yurt-raised hippie chick” or his “genius Greek-speaking goddess.” Like he appreciated my past but believed in a future free of weekend craft fairs. When he asked me to marry him six months later, despite his mother’s objections to my unorthodox upbringing and my parents’ objection to his conventional upbringing, Merritt was my hero.
I sailed through the early years, thinking how very clever I was to have found Merritt and given him a healthy, strapping baby boy. Merritt was a solid citizen in the solid, suburban town of Pasadena, home of the Rose Parade, the Norton Simon Museum, Caltech, Greene and Greene homes and old money. Old, old money. The kind of credentials that could only be sexy if you grew up in a town like Sisters, Oregon, which had more bead stores than banks and featured “art” galleries full of tree trunks shaped into beavers by chain saws.
Merritt was busy building up a law firm and then making the switch into capital investments; I was busy building friendships and navigating the social waters with complete naiveté. I happily traded in my grad-student status for membership in the young mothers’ club of Pasadena. I think it was the car. Not admirable, but I loved that Volvo. It was new and shiny and not at all like the rusty relics I’d seen at the Oregon textile symposiums of my youth. That car was the most beautiful shade of blue. Hello, keyless remote entry. Goodbye, archetypes of the feminine in classical mythology.
I’ll just take a few years off, I thought once I was pregnant. I’m only 26, I’ll finish that thesis someday. But for now I had money to raise for the new children’s museum. Merritt used to laugh, amazed that I was asked to be on the board at Kidseum with my natural-fiber past and subscription to Biblical Archaeology magazine. He’d tease me in front of his clients, but all in good fun, I’d thought. But in the last few years, the teasing had stopped being funny. It had started to feel real.
 Still, that was no reason to feel relief at his death.
“Merritt Fairchild was the kind of man who inspired others to be their best, raise their game, achieve more. He brought out the best in those around him.”
Or their insecurities. Should I have I paid more attention to social obligations? Or my grooming? Or any of the other minutiae the mattered to Merritt? I’ll never know now.
“It is fitting that a man who gave so much to his community should die in service to the organization that he loved so much.” Monsignor let it go at that, but I thought I heard snickers. A manicured hand squeezed my shoulder warmly, then my friend Candy McKenna, scented by Michael Kors and coiffed by Stephen of Stephen Stephens Salon, whispered in my ear, “Jackie Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy.” My Candy-recommended mantra for the next few days. Be the stoic widow, Candy directed. I conceded to Candy in matters like this.
Candy had a profound sense of the appropriate, being a former Rose Queen, the pinnacle of teenage social success in Pasadena. Out of thousands, literally thousands, of fresh-faced candidates, Candy was chosen to reign. Rising to the top of the Rose Court through excessive grooming, academic achievement and community service is usually a prelude to a charmed life in TV news or charitable works. Candy had been a spectacular Rose Queen, squeezing every ounce of extra camera time and connections out of her moment in the sun.
Then came the fall.
She called it “an unfortunate case of misjudgment,” her Vanessa Williams incident in the late ‘80s. Candy had taken her 1987 reign as Rose Queen right to the Ivy League, only to discover that no one at Brown cared that she’d worn a diamond crown and waved to millions on New Year’s morning. Being Pasadena’s Rose Queen meant nothing to the jaded East Coast undergrads of Providence, Rhode Island, especially to her roommate, a women’s studies major with a minor in comparative feminist lit. By her sophomore year, long after her official reign ended, Candy was desperate to reclaim her status. So, in “an unfortunate case of misjudgment,” Candy posed for Playboy’s Women of the Ivy Leagues issue. Back then, a naked photo was shocking, not like today, where every beauty queen has some X-rated video posted on the Internet. Once the Tournament of Roses caught wind of her, umm, exposure, she was shunned. Not officially tossed out of the Tournament family, but not welcomed back for reunions either. Candy reeled, transferred back to UCLA to plead her case and wound up the black sheep of the Rose Queens.
Now, twice divorced with two kids, the same killer body she had in high school and a midcentury modern house on Linda Vista, she made her living as a digital media maven, running the hugely popular gossip and entertainment site, She covered events and news stories from all over Los Angeles, including Hollywood. But she paid the rent with her local stories. Candy spilled about everything that matter to Pasadenans, from proper black tie events to preschool blackballing. She was respected, fawned over and feared. On the inside, but not quite.
Candy, true to her Rose Court training, had rushed to my side when she heard the news about Merritt. God, everyone in town had heard the news before the Rose Parade was even over. How could you not read the headlines? Rose Parade Volunteer Killed by Float. And underneath, the details unfolded: Police Investigate Collision of Scooter and Giant Panda Float Sponsored by the Chinese Tourism Board.
In the 112-year history of the parade, no Tournament of Roses volunteer, or White Suiter, as they are known to locals because of the white suits and red ties they wear on New Year’s Day, had ever been killed during the actual parade. The White Suiters were CEOs and lawyers and bankers with deep social connections and a sense of civic duty, hand-chosen to oversee the parade, the football game and the myriad of events associated with the Tournament of Roses. They knew how to handle rain, cold, flower shortages, war protesters, crowds of millions—but a Death by Float? New territory for these pillars of society.
 “Making Lasting Memories” was this year’s Rose Parade theme, and Merritt certainly did, as he plowed his official Honda scooter into the oncoming panda. He was texting at the time, but only I knew that.
And only I knew to whom.