Friday, April 20, 2018

Kindness to Yourself, Kindness to Others Guest Post By Annelise Dixon

As a former Head Start teacher, special education assistant and substitute teacher, I have a great respect for educators. Shaping the minds and hearts of youngsters is truly a labor of love and an awesome responsibility. 

I recently reached out to teacher Annelise Dixon on Instagram. I LOVE her enthusiasm and outlook. I knew I wanted to invite her to the DIY Mom Blog to share a bit of her contagious enthusiasm. Annelise was a doll and wrote this lovely piece on kindness. Who doesn't need more kindness in their life? Take it away, Annelise...

“Give me knowledge so that I may have kindness for all.” – Native American Proverb

Kindness is Crucial to Our Wellbeing and to the Wellbeing of Others

When was the last time you showed kindness? What about generosity, tolerance, compassion, support, friendliness and warmth? How often do you do a good deed without expecting anything in return?  These are all traits of kindness that are crucial to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.
We live in a world that is constantly being bombarded by the latest social media websites and technological advances. It is important, now more than ever, that we cultivate kindness to bring our community together rather than driving everyone apart.

Kindness – It Starts with You

The first step to increasing your kindness involves being kind to yourself. Develop your inner voice to be nurturing and forgiving rather than harsh and critical. Looking after yourself, valuing your unique personal traits, being proud of your achievements, and forgiving yourself if you make a mistake are all ways of being kind to yourself. Implementing these suggestions will build your self-esteem and a sense of satisfaction in your life.

Celebrate Others

Celebrate the successes of others as well as your own. Remember that we have all had different experiences in our lives that shape who we are. We need to show empathy and respect to others because we don’t know what they have gone through in life. Avoid comparing yourself to others, as this will only lead to competitiveness, jealousy and spite.
Kindness is Action

Some suggestions to increase your kindness are using good manners, avoiding making unnecessary complaints, and listening to someone with your full attention. Write a note to a student, friend, family member, colleague or employee expressing your gratitude to them. Jot down what you love about yourself and others. Smile and laugh more to build relationships of trust and respect.
Start practicing kindness today. It is possible to become a kinder person but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Start small with some of the suggestions in this post and build up from there!

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible” - Dalia Lama


Annelise is a beginning teacher, working in Newcastle, Australia. She has a Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) and is currently studying the Master of Special and Inclusive Education at the University of Newcastle. Annelise is passionate about teaching music and reading. She also has a passion for learning as much as she can about topics and blogging about them! Annelise is inspired by the work of Nelson Mandela, Sir Ken Robinson and Paulo Freire. She hopes to inspire wellness and happiness in all people. Readers can connect with Annelise on her website.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Book Review of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn in Anticipation of the Upcoming HBO Series

Camille Preaker is a reporter at a low-budget newspaper in Chicago. When the editor wants to send Camille to investigate the vicious killings of two pre-teen girls in her hometown of Wind Gap, MO, she’s reluctant to go. Recently released from a mental health facility, Camille is still fragile. She knows going back will only dredge up memories of her dysfunctional childhood. Against her better judgment, Camille agrees to cover the story, but it just might end up being the death of her.

I read and loved Gone Girl and had Sharp Objects on my TBR for ages. HBO’s upcoming series, starring Amy Adams, made me move the book up on my list. 

Unfortunately, HBO has not yet released the trailer for the series, which is slated to air in "Summer of 2018" according to the HBO website. I guess we'll have to wait it out.

This one was definitely dark and twisted. There’s a lot of dysfunction going on here. I had a love, hate relationship with Camille. I hated the way she seemed strong and capable one minute, and needy and pathetic the next. Many of the other characters were highly unlikable and downright strange. It just goes to show that you do not need to create likable characters to have a likable book. And liked it, I did.

Gillian Flynn certainly has a dark imagination. She’s also a fabulous writer. The character detail, story descriptions, plot twists…basically everything…is so detailed, fleshed out and intricate that  I found myself in awe that this was her debut novel.

By now, most readers know what’s behind Camille’s hospital stay. However, I’d have to say that Sharp Objects should most definitely come with a trigger warning. Knowing ahead of time that the topic of cutting is prevalent here is important for some readers.

I enjoyed this book, as creepy as it was. It was interesting and extremely compelling. I finished it in less than a day. I’m now looking forward to watching the series.

5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Faery Sight by Patricia Bossano is an EXCELLENT Way to Introduce Readers to the Fantasy World of Faeries!

When evil sorceress Arantxa follows through on her scheme to do away with King Bautista and Queen Paloma, she assumes rule over the kingdom and no one is the wiser. That is until Celeste becomes aware of Arantxa’s spell, nearly eighteen years later. With the help of the faery court and her faery birth sister Nahia, Celeste puts a dangerous plan into action – a plan that just might have disastrous consequences for her and her faithful faery friends.

What a lovely story this is. Faery Sight is a wonderful way to introduce readers to a magical faery world. If you’re new to the fantasy world of faeries, this is a great book to try out. You’ll be quickly hooked on the genre.

The author’s writing is intelligent, descriptive and compelling. I found the major protagonist characters to be likable from the start. It was easy for me to sympathize and root for Celeste and her circle of friends. Arantxa was evil and awful. I wanted to see her get what she had coming to her.

The book slowed ever so slightly here and there. The book is poetically descriptive and dialogue was somewhat light. But this didn’t take away from the plot, in my opinion. I love books that have depth to them and this one certainly did.

I LOVED that, although the author has written a three-book faery series, Faery Sight is most definitely not a cliffhanger. Readers can be assured that the story is tied up nicely at the end. Excellent! Thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy!

5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

Monday, April 16, 2018

Using Your Imagination to Ground Yourself and Focus on What Really Matters in Life Guest Post By Children's Book Author Daniel Linsteadt

I'm all about finding holistic ways to calm and ground ourselves. I'm also a HUGE fan of children's books. When I reached out to children's book author Daniel Linsteadt to request an author guest post, he really nailed it. He managed to give us a post that addresses both of these topics and more. Take it away, Daniel!

The other day, my coworker said in an excited tone, “Come check this out!” There was a colorful image on the computer screen that I was to relax and stare at. As I looked, the colors on the screen faded away. Unable to hold my gaze, I blinked or readjusted my eyes and the color would reappear. The physical world around us is truly a miracle. This is the playground for my stories.

In my new Nila series (Water, Air, Fire), I toy with all our senses. Our first scent of the ocean is exquisite, but quickly fades with each exhale. Taking in your first breath of pine scented air in the mountains is strong and vibrant, but this too dissipates with time. Why does this happen? What other sights or smells am I missing that are right before me? I believe love for another person is the same, which requires us to readjust and refocus on that person to rekindle that sensation back into a flame.

I adore nature and all the wondrous sights, smells and textures she provides…life-giving properties that are just as important as water, air and food. Nature grounds me from all the static I absorb throughout a busy day. Our bodies and mind need that calming energy to stay vital, like the first day we opened our eyes to this world and our life.

© 2018, Susan Barton

You only need to watch a child place his fingers in running water for the first time—wow! First, there’s a slight frown from not being able to possess it, then a smile at how it flows over his skin. Water reflects color and light from the world around it, as well as the temperature…another sensation that is acute at first and then dulls—we call it getting used to. The young child then begins to laugh and talk to the water as they splash themselves and others with their newfound water friend. But as we age, water becomes, well, just water.

© 2018, Susan Barton
To bring that child back into me, I only need to step out into the sunshine with bare feet and breathe in the fragrant air. My imagination runs rampant with stories as I gaze at colorful flowers, multi-shaped leaves and fluorescent dragonflies darting through the air. Isn’t this what we did when we first arrived on planet Earth?

My second Oaf story, Oaf in Bear River, was born in this way. As I watched dragonflies bouncing off the glinting water’s surface and I rested my back against a log in the middle of the river, an idea began taking shape. A rainbow of light fluttered just beyond my arm’s reach on the streambed, and boom! My mind was off to the races, and the story was practically written before I came ashore.

I have a folder on my computer called “Stories” that contains many Word documents. Each saved with a title, and its contents a budding tale discovered when out in play. If I only had enough time write and give attention to each fantasy that has popped into my head. Going to work is important, but it does get in the way….


Daniel Linsteadt is the author of the Nila children’s book series and the Oaf children’s book series. He has a BA degree in Environmental Studies (emphasis Geology) and a BA degree in Geography (emphasis Remote Sensing) from UC Santa Barbara.

Daniel has spent most of his career as an IT programmer and administrator. His joy has always been creating tales, so now he shares his passion for life with inspiring and uplifting stories.

Daniel can often be found sipping coffee in the foothills of Auburn, California where nature is still wild ... if you know where to look.

Readers are invited to connect with Daniel on his author website.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Review of Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City begins immediately where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Book 1 in the series) leaves off. The children are adrift in rowboats on the ocean after rescuing Miss Peregrine from the Wights and Hollows. The only problem is Miss Peregrine is stuck in her current bird form. When the children finally reach land, they discover that Miss Peregrine only has three days to change back to human form or she’ll be a helpless bird forever. Thus begins the long, arduous journey of finding the only other surviving Ymbryne, Miss Wren, who can help.

This book is long and, in many places, it drags on quite a lot. It’s definitely a plot-driven novel, in that the seemingly never ending series of events drag the children along and things simply happen to them while they react. Therefore, we still see the same character traits that we saw in Book 1. Nothing much new is happening with character development.

Basically, this book, from start to finish, is a very long quest to find Ms. Wren. Like I said…long.

I didn’t like that, as with the first book, this installment also ends abruptly with no real resolution. Whenever an author does this, I get the distinct impression this is simply a ploy to get readers to purchase the next book. Therefore, neither Book 1 nor Book 2 is a standalone read.

I doubt I’ll go on to read Book 3. I’m suspicious that it’ll be just more of the same drawn out storyline. The movie, based on Book 1, was TONS better than either book. I’d see Book 2 in movie version if it ever becomes available. Otherwise, I’m pretty much done with this series.

3 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Return to Bella Terra by MaryAnn Diorio is a Sweet, Faith-Based Read!

It’s 1905 and Maria Landro Tonetta has been living with her husband and three children in America for the previous eight years. She and her family left Italy to make a better life for themselves in the States, but it hasn’t been easy. When Maria receives a telegram from Italy, saying that her mother is terminally ill, Maria heads back to her homeland with her adult son Nico. When Maria begins questioning her return to America, she finds herself facing some very difficult challenges.

This is a lovely story of love, redemption and forgiveness. The author’s writing is charming, descriptive and compelling. I enjoyed how the characters were portrayed realistically, with faults they needed to overcome.

From the blurb description, I didn’t know the story takes place so long ago. The beginning goes into the poor treatment of Italians in New York at the turn of century. As the great granddaughter of Irish immigrants I know all too well what this was like for our ancestors. But I did find that the author was just a little too heavy handed when talking about America in those days. Just my personal observation.

I can recommend this sweet faith-based book to readers. Thanks to Book Crash and the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Guilt-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan SUPER SIMPLE Almond Meal Cookies to Make in a Flash!

I was in the mood for something slightly sweet. I LOVE chocolate chip cookies, but I don't love the high sugar, high fat, and high carbs they contain - and I can't have the gluten, so where did that leave me?

I'd been playing around with the idea of making my own almond flour. Buying almond flour at the store is so expensive. I always have almonds on hand, because they make great healthy snacks. But did I really want to take the time to soak and blanch them? I wanted my cookies then and there, and, truth be told, I had no idea if this would even work. I was about to make almond cookies with almond meal and not almond flour. There's a difference here - meal is almonds in their rawest form, flour is blanched raw almonds with the outer skins removed. *I did find out afterwards that there are some things to consider when grinding almonds and I'll mention them at the end of this post.

I set to work experimenting - hence the lack of an actual recipe.

This was SO SUPER SIMPLE and really very delicious. It satisfied my craving and even the hubs liked them (not the most healthy guy I know, but, hey, there's still hope). Here's what I did:

I literally grabbed about a handful and a half of almonds and threw them into my Ninja. It took mere seconds to grind the almonds down into a very fine meal. I'm thinking you could probably use a blender if you don't have a Ninja or Vitamix. It'll just take a bit longer.

I threw the meal into a bowl and started adding ingredients. I can't say exact amounts, because I didn't measure a thing. Remember, this was an experiment :) My goal was to wet the almond meal into a cookie dough consistency, while adding some of my favorite cookie ingredients.

Peanut butter, a mashed banana, a few broken slivers of very dark chocolate (86% cocoa - the higher the cocoa percentage, the better), coconut oil, a tiny dash of baking powder, and a teeny tiny bit of coconut sugar went into the mix. No egg, no butter...just good for you vegan, gluten free stuff!

I preheated the oven to the usual 350 degree cookie temp. Using two teaspoons, I dropped small balls of cookie dough onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet (flattening ever so slightly) and baked for about 12 - 15 minutes. The result was a deliciously moist, nutty, yummy, guilt-free cookie. I'm definitely going to do this one again soon and I'll probably add some coconut flakes this time.

Some things to consider...

There are differing schools of thought when it comes to eating almond skins. Since this cookie DOES NOT call for removing the skin, be aware that, while almond skins are packed with additional nutrients, some people have trouble digesting raw almonds if they haven't been soaked beforehand.

I have IBS (the main reason for my gluten free diet) and I can say that these cookies did not upset my tummy at all. Obviously, I didn't eat all nine cookies (I had to share them with the hubby), so maybe, as in most things, moderation is key.

If you have digestion problems you may wish to soak the almonds first, but be aware this means you'll have to soak them for about 8 hours and then let them dry completely before pulverizing them.