5 Creative Building Projects for Your Backyard

Once you’ve been settled in your own Sweet Southern Home for a while, the conversation on remodeling will probably present itself. Of course, whatever changes you make to the house, you’ll want to keep it as cheap as you can, but you can also take on building projects to freshen up your property that make less drastic changes. That, of course, would be projects for the backyard. It’s a space separate from the actual home so there’s no need to knock down any walls, but you’ll still get the satisfaction of building on and changing the place you call home.

 

Fire Pit

Everyone loves sitting around fires. It’s a classic camping activity that many bring to their backyard. It’s a social place and something everyone can be entertained and kept warm by. While many homeowners will just stick a metal fire pit in the backyard, if you want to turn heads, you can go the full nine years and build one into the land.

 

This is a good project because there’s a lot of ways you can take it. You could just make a circle of bricks sticking out of a hole in the ground, or you could get way more creative. Either way, as long as you’ve sealed it off from being catch fire to anything around it, then the hard work is done, making this one of the easier projects, while also being very creative.

 

Horseshoe Pit

 

For every backyard gathering, there’s always a great outdoor game. Horseshoes can be fun for anyone no matter how old you are so this is a great feature of any backyard. There’s a few different approaches, but whatever you decide it’ll be fun for everyone.

Most people just go with the simple two stakes in the ground, but this outdoor game building guide will show you the ropes to making one that takes the game to a new level. The backboards make finding the horseshoes easier and the whole setup is very pleasing to the eye. There’s plenty of other ideas for game areas you can build in that guide too, so you don’t have to stop at horseshoes.

Barn

If you have horses, or plan on owning them, then you want a barn. But, even if you have no interest in them, a barn is a great addition to a backyard that provides a ton of space and a great work area in general. Think of it as your huge shed, a barn is gives you a great amount of covered space to store whatever you want, and everyone can use some more storage.

You can take the traditional route and build a wooden barn. You could also go for the more durable route and build a  horse barn. Building a barn in general is a huge task to take on, but luckily if you’re trying to build a metal barn you can get some help in that process. Elephant Structures is a company that will give you everything you need to build a metal barn. They’ll work with you to get all the features you want, and create a solid blueprint for it. They work with solid materials, and if you want they’ll install it for you, but since this is about building projects, they’ve got custom kits that can be delivered right to your home.

Treehouse

If you’ve got kids, then treehouses are great gifts for them. It gives them a place space and a sense of adventure. It’s also a great aesthetic feature to have a suspended structure like that. While everyone is socializing during your backyard gatherings, it would hard for that not to be a talking point.

This is also a great collaborative project, because not everyone can get up in a tree and start building a little house by themselves. Get a crew together, make your blueprint, and have a blast on this project.

A Deck

For number 5, it’s a pretty classic no-brainer. Building a deck gives a very level sitting area for any outdoor furniture you want. You can put stick the grill on there, table and chairs, whatever you want, it’s basically another open-air room.

This is great for any house that has the space because it sections off your backyard, making it a more complex space. That’s especially great for entertaining because you’ve got many areas that people can wander through that are all used for different purposes. It turns your backyard into the hot spot for the neighborhood parties automatically.

 

 

 

 

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Winter Children’s Book Round Up

We’re well into the holiday season and the winter weather is also here!  Believe it or not, it snowed in Louisiana last week!

Today I’d like to share some quick reviews of winter books we are loving in our house lately.

Snow Beast Comes to Play

by Phil Gosier

Very sweet story about a young snow creature who only wants to make friends, but everyone is scared of him! Cute, snowy illustrations, and full of fun sound effects for reading out loud.  Preschoolers will love this one for bedtime, if they are OK with the mention of the word “beast.”

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter

by Kenard Pak

Gorgeous watercolor pictures show a brother and sister walking through nature and having a conversation with leaves, animals, and even the sun! The children learn what happens to each thing as autumn turns into winter.  Very informative and great for kids who ask a lot of questions 😀

Snow Scene

by Richard Jackson, Illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Simple book with few words and a quick rhyme scheme.  Short enough for my toddler to sit still and listen to.  This is an interactive reading activity for parents and kids to do together! I would recommend for 2-3 year olds.

Ninja Claus!

by Arree Chung

Cute and clever book about a young ninja named Maxwell who tries to catch Santa one Christmas Eve night, but his plan doesn’t quite turn out the way he expects it to! Kids in Kindergarten and first grade will giggle at the letters Max writes to Santa.

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas

by Pamela Ehrenberg, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar

Unique story about a multicultural family’s holiday celebrations, and one boy’s adventure with his mischievous little sister!  I liked reading this with my older son because he loves learning about other cultures, and we could research unfamiliar terms that we came across together.  Jewish children will be familiar with the terms and love seeing themselves in the characters.  I know my son could relate to having a younger sibling that drives him crazy!

 

I would recommend any of these books as gifts for the child in your life this holiday season!

 

Tech Talk: Buying a Smart Home Device

If you keep up with tech and electronic news or have even picked up a sales ad for major stores in the past year and a half, it’s plain to see that smart home devices are gaining in popularity.  For almost every device or machine that is in your home, there is a “smart” way to control it; from washing machines, to your thermostat, to your television and much more, it’s becoming more common to see smart devices in people’s homes.  With the plethora of products and brands out there, it can be a little overwhelming to find the right item to purchase to suit your needs.  In this post, I’ll share some points to think about when you’re looking to buy smart.

What do you want to control?

Smart devices often have settings that let you put timers on the thing you are controlling, or turn them on and off while you are not even home, or schedule a function from the touch of your phone.  Once you think about what you want to do with your appliance or household item, then you know what you can shop for.  Want to turn your central air on before you come back home from a long trip? You would benefit from a smart thermostat such as Nest.  Devices like Philips Hue let you control your home’s lighting.

How much do you want to be involved?

If you are interested in a device that can get to know you and help you in many ways on an every day basis, you want something like the Amazon Echo or Google Home.  These are essentially “smart speakers” that can answer questions, set timers, look up information, add calendar events, and much more.  Not only that, these products often can tell the difference between users’ voices and respond in kind.  They are highly customizable and can make life easier in a lot of ways.

Are you comfortable with the integration of tech into your personal life?

As specialists such as Andrew Charlton have noted, technological automation has been highly unavoidable as the world relies more and more on machinery and computers.  Some people are happy to embrace change and advancement, and others hesitate at the thought of machines knowing so much about them and their lives.  Smart home devices WILL learn about your habits and use them to perfect the way they work for you.  You must make sure you are comfortable with what is essentially computer chips knowing so much about your day to day life.  There are some people who believe that these devices can be hacked into and the information they hold used in some unsavory way; I am not of this mindset.  Authors such as Andrew Charlton have written multiple articles about the future of automation in the world.  It’s up to you to make the decision as to whether smart home devices are right for your life.

Tips to Make Sure your Guests Enjoy your Wedding

Weddings are joyous occasions that everyone looks forward to attending. It is a time to make merry, celebrate the couple, link up with old friends and get to know new people as well. Fashion statements are also made in the wedding from the dress code of the guests, to the bridal party and ultimately the bride’s gown along with the groom’s attire. As the couple, as much as the day is in your honor, it is essential to prioritize the guests who have made the time and effort to be there on your special day. In this post we discuss the best ways to ensure that the guests are pleased and enjoying themselves.

 

  1. Try to stick to timelines.

There is nothing as frustrating to guests as when the program is not followed. It makes them feel like their time and presence is taken for granted. Do your best to adhere to the timelines your party planner has set, and this will go a long way to keeping the mood light and festive.

 

  1. Choose thoughtful wedding favors.

Wedding favors show your guests that you acknowledge and appreciate their presence. There is no formula as to what should be chosen as a wedding favor. You can gift anything you feel your guests can relate to; personalized wedding favors for your guests are getting popular these days.

Wedding favors are an essential part of the wedding because you will not have the time to acknowledge each person at your wedding personally. A wedding favour is a wonderful way to show them your appreciation. You can also explore these wedding favor ideas.

 

  1. Provide refreshments as they wait.

The refreshments come in to play when the guests are waiting for your bridal team to arrive and the ceremony to begin. Your invites can get to mingle while munching away on drinks and snacks and this helps to pass the time and also keep the atmosphere pleasant.

 

  1. Issue transportation.

If the venue of the wedding ceremony and the venue of the reception are far apart, you can provide transport to the guests so that they do not feel inconvenienced to get to the reception. The aim is for the guests to enjoy both the ceremony and the reception, not to remember how much of a hustle it was to move around.

 

  1. Place thank you notes on the tables.

The notes are an excellent surprise for the guests and give a personal touch to the occasion. They also contribute to the deco of the wedding, making it look classy as well as elegant. The note can contain a short message from you thanking the guests for their presence.

 

  1. Give realistic accommodation recommendations.

If the wedding is in a remote area where the guests will be required to stay in hotels, it is vital to provide good suggestions on where to stay. You should plan on where they can be comfortably accommodated and if it is in motels or hotels, make sure that the prices are pocket-friendly and convenient for the guests.

All these tips are guaranteed to enrich the experience of all the people who will attend your wedding!

 

REVIEW: All my Friends are Fast Asleep by David Weinstone

All my Friends are Fast Asleep

by David Weinstone

Illustrated by Magali Le Huche

Children’s Fiction/Bedtime Stories

Book Description

After tossing and turning in his bed, a little boy embarks on a nighttime quest to find a cozy place to rest. He visits one animal friend after another, from a lark in its nest to a mole in its hole. But while all the animals he meets are happily dozing off, this tuckered-out wanderer remains wide-awake–until he finally finds the perfect spot to lay his head.

From David Weinstone, the popular children’s musician and creator of the Music for Aardvarks program, comes All My Friends Are Fast Asleep, a rhythmic, cheerily illustrated bedtime story sure to smooth the way to sleep for young insomniacs everywhere.

MY THOUGHTS:

4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS


All My Friends Are Fast Asleep
by David Weinstone

With such a light, lyrical story as this your child is sure to be on his way to dream land when this story is finished!

A boy lies in bed in his room but no matter what he does, he can’t fall asleep! He decides to go off adventuring and trying to imitate his animal friends to see if their methods of falling asleep can help him.

The illustrations in this book are cute, and done in a brilliant, non bright color scheme that won’t excite little readers’ eyes right before bed. Blues, greens, and purples set the tone.

My first thoughts were that a kid can definitely relate to this little boy. His bedroom is a mess with toys scattered everywhere, he has a pillow and stuffed animal he drags all around, and he imagines all kinds of things before he finally goes off to sleep.

I think kids will find it fun to see how different animals such as whales, frogs, and horses fall asleep. I also love that this story can be read or sung!

View all my reviews

 

About the Author

DAVID WEINSTONE is a classically trained former punk rocker who lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and three children. He founded Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals, an interactive music class for preschoolers, in 1997. Today, the classes are taught all over the country, and there are sixteen original albums that feature Weinstone’s beloved songs. His books include Music Class Today! and All My Friends Are Fast Asleep.

PURCHASE:

Amazon

Must Have Apps for the Holiday Season

Even though the Holidays are upon us, that doesn’t mean that we as tech savvy humans will be spending less time on our smart phones.  Whether you’re looking for new recipes or trying to avoid talking to your nosy cousin, you will need some helpful, attention getting apps on your phone.  Here are my favorites!

If you don’t have Pinterest by now, where have you been for the last five years? 😀 Pinterest is a hub where anyone can create and share ideas.  From unique recipes, to how-tos on how to roast a turkey, to step by step guides on making slime for kids, Pinterest is an app so many of us can get lost in.  It’s also filled with gift ideas, so it’s one to keep on your phone year round!

You can get Pinterest HERE for iOS, and HERE for Android.

 

If you’ve stayed too long at your host’s house because you’re having so much fun, or you’ve decided that you just can’t bear to hear any more of your uncle’s grossly over exaggerated stories, Hotel Tonight is the app you need.  This app is designed specifically for finding you a hotel room on short notice.  It aggregates nearby hotels at the best prices, and has a simple to use interface.  I have used this app myself and I had no issues at all upon checking in to the hotel.  You can look at amenities and hotel ratings before you book, and there are often coupon codes available.

You can get Hotel Tonight HERE for iOS, and HERE for Android.

 

Speaking of coupon codes; you know you need to shop this next few weeks, so why not make the most of your money?  Retail Me Not is amazing for finding coupons and deals for your favorite stores and restaurants.  You can find coupon codes to use online, or those for in store use.  Users can also vote on whether or not a certain coupon code worked for them, so you won’t have to waste your time trying codes and seeing if one works.  Black Friday sales can be found here too.

You can get Retail Me Not HERE for iOS, and HERE for Android.

 

I haven’t yet met a person young or old who wasn’t fascinated with this app! Think of a character from anything–movie, book, television show.  Akinator the Genie will ask you questions until he figures out who or what you are thinking about.  This app is playable by even younger children, because most can answer yes or no questions about their favorite characters.  Once you try it, you will try more and more because you realllly want to stump him 🙂

You can get Akinator HERE for iOS and HERE for Android.

**Note–another fun game you can ask questions is Ask Bongo.  The game has two versions but it’s better if you pay to Ask Bongo!

I hope this guide will help you get through the season with minimal stress and maximum enjoyment! Let me know some of your must have apps in the comments.

BOOK TOUR SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Six Little Secrets by Katlyn Duncan

Six Little Secrets

by Katlyn Duncan

YA Contemporary Suspense

Pub. Date: November 24, 2017

Book Description

Some secrets can never stay hidden for long…

Six teenagers meet in Saturday detention: a brain, a beauty, a cheerleader, a rebel, a recluse and the new girl.

But someone is watching. Someone has made sure that they are all in the same room at the same time. Someone knows that each of them is hiding a terrible secret…

…and by the end of detention, everyone will know the truth.

 

About the Author

Katlyn Duncan was born and raised in a small town in New England. Her overactive imagination involved invisible friends, wanting to be a Disney Princess and making up her own stories. Her bibliophile mom always encouraged her love of reading and that stayed with her ever since. Even though she works full time in the medical field Katlyn has always made time for books, whether she is reading or writing them.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

PURCHASE THE BOOK:

 Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads

1 winner will receive a $25 B&N Gift Card, US Only.

5 winners will receive one of Katlyn’s Backlist Titles in eBook Format, International.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER! 

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/13/2017- Cindy’s Love of Books– Review

11/13/2017- Books,Dreams,Life– Excerpt

 

11/14/2017- Smada’s Book Smack– Review

11/14/2017- Stuffed Shelves– Review

 

11/15/2017- Sweet Southern Home– Spotlight

11/15/2017- Books at Dawn– Review

 

11/16/2017- Twinning for Books– Interview

11/16/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

 

11/17/2017- Hooked To Books– Excerpt

11/17/2017- Mama Reads Blog– Review

 

Week Two:

11/20/2017- Owl always be reading– Review

11/20/2017- Daily Waffle– Interview

 

11/21/2017- Kendra Loves Books– Review

11/21/2017- Never Too Many To Read– Review

 

11/22/2017- Jo’s Book Blog– Guest Post

11/22/2017- Queen of Books– Review

 

11/23/2017- Literary Meanderings– Excerpt

11/23/2017- Taylor Fenner’s Bookish World– Review

 

11/24/2017- BookHounds YA– Guest Post

11/24/2017- Texan Girl Reads– Review

 

HOLIDAY MOVIE GIVEAWAY! Family Fave Holiday Films

When the Thanksgiving dinner has been eaten, the tree is up, and the halls have been decked, many families like to spend Holiday nights together watching some of their favorite films of the season!

In our house, my husband can’t let a Christmas pass without watching his two picks: A Charlie Brown Christmas, and The Grinch who Stole Christmas.

One film that is a must for this momma is Elf.  I also HAVE TO watch The Nutcracker some time during December.

We so love cuddling up on the sofa with our boys and having popcorn and cocoa while making these traditions they will surely remember as they get older.

Coming out right in time for your family to enjoy during the Thanksgiving break is a new take on Dickens’ perennial tale, A Christmas Carol!

The Man Who Invented Christmas tells of the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.

Directed by Bharat Nalluri
Written by Susan Coyne
Starring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Pryce
Bleecker Street will release THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS in theaters on November 22, 2017.

The stars of The Man who Invented Christmas have been in other amazing films, and I have partnered with Grace Hill Media to offer this AWESOME giveaway!

The giveaway includes a DVD combo-pack of the following movies:

               The Sound of Music

                Beauty and the Beast

               A Christmas Carol

 

One reader will win ALL THREE of these films to share with those you love!

All you need to do to enter is TELL ME WHAT YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY FILM IS!

This giveaway will end on November 24, 2017.

Thanks for stopping by! Please check out this behind the scenes featurette about The Man who Invented Christmas.

BOOK TOUR REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Monsterland by Michael Okon

Monsterland

by Michael Okon

YA Horror

Book Description

Welcome to Monsterland, the scariest place on earth.

When world markets are decimated by a crippling plague, philanthropist, and billionaire businessman, Vincent Konrad decides to place monsters in a theme park setting to promote education and tolerance. Copper Valley is chosen as the primary site for the park in the United States.

Wyatt Baldwin, a high school senior is dying to go to the opening and when he lands special passes to the park, he and his friends are expecting the experience of a lifetime.
After all, in a theme park where real zombies, werewolves, and vampires are the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?

About the Author

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling in his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.

 Find Michael:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Snapchat

Purchase Monsterland: 

AmazonB&NiBooks, TBD, Goodreads

 

2 winners will receive a signed finished copy of MONSTERLAND, US Only.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/30/2017- Owl Always Be Reading– Excerpt

10/30/2017- Abooktropolis– Review

10/31/2017- Books,Dreams,Life– Spotlight

10/31/2017- Texan Girl Reads– Review

11/1/2017- Reese’s Reviews– Guest Post

11/1/2017- Under the Book Cover– Review

11/2/2017- Dazzled by Books– Excerpt

11/2/2017- A Gingerly Review– Review

11/3/2017- Twirling Book Princess– Excerpt

11/3/2017- Birdie Bookworm– Review

Week Two:

11/6/2017- Books at Dawn– Guest Post

11/6/2017- Don’t Judge, Read– Review

11/7/2017- BookHounds YA– Interview

11/7/2017- Adventures Thru Wonderland– Review

11/8/2017- Savings in Seconds– Spotlight

11/8/2017- Novelties– Review

11/9/2017- Sweet Southern HomeSpotlight

11/9/2017- Twisted Book Junkie– Review

11/10/2017- Parajunkee– Interview

11/10/2017- The Midnight Society– Review

REVIEW: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

by Neil Gaiman

Fantasy/Fiction

Book Description

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.

But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies…and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.

MY THOUGHTS:

4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS


American Gods
by Neil Gaiman
This is another one of those novels that I read because it has been adapted into a TV show, and I wanted to experience the source material first. If the Starz series is at all faithful to this book, it will be dazzling to watch.

Shadow, upon being released from prison, learns that his wife has died. With nothing else to lose, he takes a job as a bodyguard of sorts for a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday. Shadow soon finds himself in a dreamscape world of gods, monsters, mythological beasts and much more. A battle between old gods and new seems to be on the horizon, and though he doesn’t know it yet, Shadow will be an integral part of the shaping of the future world.

At around 700 pages, this is the largest novel I have read in quite some time. Still, I read it rather quickly. Shadow is not particularly smart, or charismatic, or interesting, but something about him makes you root for him anyway. He is an open book with almost everyone he meets, and I suppose that is endearing.

I did enjoy the weaving in of all the the different major and minor gods throughout the story. A lot of them I could figure out, but some I did have to look up. A fantastic thing about American Gods is that, like America, there is a melting pot of deities in this book; gods from India, ancient Egypt, Norse mythology, Ireland, and lots of places in between are included.

There is far too much to mention to explain why I liked this book so much. Suffice to say that when it was done, I was sad that I had to leave Shadow’s world. The author does a superb job of making sure there are no loose ends left behind, and that is a feat with the sheer number of characters and subplots going on in the story.

That’s not to say American Gods is perfect–there are a number of stories told which seem to have no point in relation to the main plot, but are entertaining to read regardless. There are characters that shows up once, briefly, then never again. At times the author seems to be including gods and their background stories just because he knows them, an info dump of sorts.

I never lost interest even though the pace moved slowly, because there is a tone throughout the novel that something big will be happening just around the next corner. And that’s for sure–Shadow’s ride is anything but boring. This is a book you have to experience to learn what others are talking about.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and MirrorsFragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on FacebooktumblrTwitterInstagram, and his blog.