Recycled Tails with Heidi Evans

I LOVE dogs. My whole family loves dogs. We actually just love animals in general. We are definitely “zoo” people. We like to visit the zoo and like to think we have one at our house. One thing that we have always been passionate about is rescuing dogs. For years I watched Animal Planet, loving every moment an animal was rescued by the Animal Cops and adopted out to a new and loving home. You can imagine our excitement to start working with a local rescue, Recycled Tails, between our school and work schedules. Father’s Day weekend 2013 we adopted our third dog, Mikey, from Recycled Tails.
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He’s definitely more thrilled to be snuggled than he looks here. We had also previously rescue Molly and May from other rescues.

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I am required to do an interview as a project for school, and thought that if I was going to interview somebody and have to put it on a public platform, it might as well be about something I love, be beneficial and do some good! Somehow in the midst of crazy schedules, Heidi and I found a time that worked for both of us for me to go to the dog lady’s house and interview her!

AS- ME, Anna Swenda HE- Heidi Evans

AS: When did you start RT?
HE: I started Recycled Tails in 2011 after having worked with another rescue since 2005. I’ve been rescuing forever though.

AS: How/why did you start RT?
HE: I’ve rescued animals since I was on my own at 18. If there was an animal somebody didn’t want, I took it in. I was rescuing cats, but cats are a lot harder to adopt out, which is why I kinda switched over to dogs. I had tons of free time and decided to go all out and start my own rescue.

AS: How do you find/receive animals that you get, and where do they come from?
HE: They find me. I get emails everyday all day long. Today I just got an email with 30 dogs from South Carolina that need to go or they get put down. It was literally 30 pictures of dogs with their name, whether they are heart worm positive/negative, do they like other dogs or not and what the cost of rescuing them is. Sometimes people sponsor them which is when people pay the $35 dollars or what ever to get them out of the shelter. So a lot of our dogs come from the south but recently we have been pulling from Camden, New Jersey because they need a lot of help. Or turn ins, people who just can’t keep their dogs anymore.

AS: What kinds of animals do you rescue?
HE: Everything and anything. Everything from exotic birds to horses to pot belly pigs to lizards to rabbits, chinchillas if we have the ability to house them and care for them appropriately we rescue them.

AS: What is the craziest kind of animal you have been asked to rescue/help?
HE: An emu. I got called because if her owner didn’t find a home by Thanksgiving her husband was going to eat her. She had raised this emu from an egg in her house. It was like an ostrich in my barn, I was going to keep her but she didn’t like other farm animals. I found her a place that already had emus and she was terrified of the other emus! She finally went to a family with no other pets. She loved getting sprayed with water, you could pet her- it was one of the neatest experiences of my life. She was that friendly from being hand raised.

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In case you don’t know what an emu looks like…

AS: Do they go through a process once they come to you?
HE: We don’t have a black and white process. I like to keep them for at least a week so that I know if they’re ok with other dogs, if they’re crate trained- kinda test the waters and try to place them in foster homes. I take every animal based on whether or not I personally have space for them. I don’t ever take dogs and go “Oh crap, we have no place to put this dog.” I will never take a dog that I don’t personally have the space to house. From there, after they’ve kind of been evaluated, I try to get them into foster homes.

AS: About how many foster homes/volunteers do you have?
HE: I’d say we have a good 10 regular volunteers who help do stuff. I have a woman who processes applications for me which is a huge help and another woman who does all of the technical stuff for us. She does PetFinder, Facebook, all of that stuff. She can’t foster so that is her contribution, she loves doing it and I am very grateful that she does. Those two woman are my most constant volunteers. Everyone else helps foster, comes to events that kind of thing.

AS:What does being a foster home entail?
HE: You do an application like you are going to adopt a dog. We check with your vet to make sure your other animals are up to date on shots and everything and then they can foster. During foster care all they need to do is take care of the dog. We can even provide food if they want food. They don’t have to pay for vet care, food, anything- just love, care and shelter. That is one of our biggest advertisements because people are afraid it’s going to cost money. It doesn’t have to cost you anything, we appreciate the help, flea and tick medicine, what ever you need we will provide it for you.

AS: What is the average length of time you have an animal before they are adopted?
HE: We get dogs that are adopted in 3 days and others that take a year. 2-3 months would probably be the average. When we get puppies in they fly off the shelves. Older dogs take a bit longer. A white pit bull will minimally take one year. A lot of rescues look at the adoptability of a dog, I don’t. Sometimes I have too, but I will take in older dogs. The longest I had a dog was a year and a half, and it was a pit bull.

AS: What is the average cost per animal for medical/boarding while they are with you?
HE: If they come from the South, it is about $75 to vet them- spay/neuter, vaccinate, and then $75-$100 for professional transport. There are volunteer transports, but it’s drive a bit, switch cars, drive a bit switch cars and dogs can escape. That method tends to be a bit more traumatizing for the dogs. It takes two days versus an overnight trip with the professional transporters. If they come up and they have been honest, it’s about $175-$200 a dog in total. I recently had a dog come up that needed groomed, extensive dental work, neutered, heart worm positive, by the time he’s all said and done he will cost us about $1,000 because they lied about him. The average is $200-$300, but if I get dogs from Camden they are completely vetted and they are volunteer transport so they don’t cost us anything. That’s how we balance out the money, the dogs that cost a lot verse the dogs that are low-cost.

AS: How many animals have you been able to relocate to new homes?
HE: I couldn’t even fathom. I can tell you that my goal now is 5-10 dogs a month because we are such a small operation. Some months are better, some are worse. When I worked at the bigger rescue, we could have 15+ adoptions a week. I wish I had kept track, because I’m sure it’s insane. By the time they go through the process it’s relatively time-consuming. There are places that bring dogs up from the south and have them pre-adopted for when they get here, how many returns do you think they get? I don’t get returns. I don’t want dogs to come back, so I make sure that they are with the right people.

AS: What is your favorite part of the job?
HE: The dogs. And that’s why I’m so glad that I have someone to do the internet part for me, and the paper part for me because I don’t enjoy that. It’s the dogs. It’s caring for the dogs, getting to know the dogs, seeing them fattened after they come in as skeletons, and watching them go to their new homes after being saved from death row. So many of the dogs I get I rescue from a post that says “this dog needs rescued tonight or has until 4pm today,” and all I have to say is “yes” and that dog gets spared. I may not see that dog for two weeks, but it’s alive because, I said yes. So I love meeting new dogs, and making them healthy because we get dogs that have been hit by cars, that are skeletons, that are old, and getting to help them.

AS: What are your biggest challenges facilitating RT?
HE: Finding foster homes. That is my absolute biggest challenge. Finding homes that are committed. People say “I can watch a dog for two weeks” which helps, short-term, but it doesn’t open up a space for me to get a new dog. It’s definitely finding foster homes, and finding people you can trust.

AS: Do you have a favorite adoption story?
HE: My most recent one would probably be Poppy. He was a white pit bull that I had for about a year. He ran free here, no leash, no fence. He was just going to live here forever if he didn’t get adopted. I couldn’t bring him in because he hated cats, but he is definitely one of my most recent favorites. He went to a home where they are willing to put up with anything and take care of him. He definitely fell into the right place.

Poppy!

Poppy!

AS: What fundraising/events do you do for RT?
HE: We just did, what’s become a yearly fundraiser at PJ Ryan’s [in Phoenixville]. They’re great, they let us keep the door entry fee, they don’t charge us to be there or use the space. We’re going to do another one at the Great American Pub in Phoenixville. They are turning their parking lot into a bar, they are letting us close it off, charge a fee, have bands, same type of thing as PJ’s but it’s all going to be outside. We don’t do a ton of fundraising. We live off of our adoption fees and personal donations. Basically, we charge adoption fees and hope that it balances out with the dogs that cost us a whole lot verse the dogs that cost us little to nothing. We try to stay at zero. We never have any extra, but we try to not owe anybody money.

AS: What are some other ways people can help/get involved?
HE: We always have our adoptions nights like down at First Fridays [in Phoenixville], we always need extra hands for that. We also need a fundraising coordinator. I would love that. To have someone just figuring out ways to raise money whether it’s selling pizzas or spaghetti night or what ever. It’s just too much for me to do by myself. So that would be a huge help. But there’s always ways to help. There are events, there’s a girl that comes on Sundays just to walk the dogs. I don’t always have time for that, and she can tell me how they do on the leash and that kind of thing. People are more than welcome to come and just do something like that.

AS: What are some of the most common mistakes people make after they adopt a new animal?
HE: Haha. Over-whelming the animal. Inviting everyone in the neighborhood over and being surprised when it acts out. I always tell people to treat your new animal like a new baby from the hospital. Don’t take it to PetSmart, or all over the place- you don’t know them and they don’t know you. If you get in the shower, put it in the crate, you can’t watch it. Don’t leave it with your children. A dog might be great with my kid, but interpret your child differently and act differently. You have to build trust and assess their behavior for a while. I once had people adopt a black lab, take it right to their friend’s house, the friend reached in to pet him and the dog snapped at him. They tried to put their hand near/in his food bowl the first day and he wasn’t too friendly about it. They wanted to try to bring him back, and I explained that I could not adopt him again since he had “bitten someone,” when they were the ones who had made the poor decision. And they still have him. I check in once in a while and he’s doing great, after they adjusted and realized that they needed to let him settle and get used to everyone and everything first. I always tell people to contact me if they have any issues, I’m a resource. I’m here for you.

AS: Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about adoption or have recently adopted a new pet?
HE: I would say about 98% of our adoptions are foster to adopt. I always push for that, I want to make sure this dog is a good fit for you. It’s like a lease to buy. So many rescues shove their dogs out, and I don’t want to do that. Before you are going to sign an adoption agreement and pay to take a dog for the rest of its life, I want you to make sure that it’s a good fit, before you commit and realize it’s not what you want it to be. I want to make sure the dog is a perfect fit for your home, and if it’s not a perfect dog, that you’re willing to work with it. Just like I said above, make sure it’s a good fit and you are willing to put in the time and effort. And again, I always tell people to contact me if they have any issues, I’m a resource. I’m here for you.

*Foster to adopt is EXACTLY how we ended up with Mikey!!!*

AS: What is the adoption process and about how long does it take?
HE: Super quick because I have somebody else processing applications! We process applications same day. We had one come in today, they’ve already been processed. The first thing we do is call your vet. If your vet gives you an excellent review it’s like you’re already pre-approved. Then we have a meeting, we interview you, you meet the dog. Generally it goes very quickly and it gets done in a couple of days. There is a $250 adoption fee that covers the cost of transport, any vet treatments they need while they are with us, and any general costs for things like food. Some times people are a little farther away so it takes longer. Sometimes they’ll come and meet a dog earlier in the week and then pick them up on Friday so that they are home for the weekend with them. As soon as a dog is adopted and taken home, I am looking to fill that spot already. If I have an inkling, I’ll wait a bit. Even when a dog goes to foster, I wait a bit to make sure that it works out before I fill that spot.

AS: Where can current adoptable animals be found/viewed?
HE: PetFinder.com, RecycledTails.org and we post many of them on our Facebook Page.

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Here are some quick links for the adoption/foster application, RT Swag, and a place to give monetary/supply donations! Be sure to like Recycled Tails on Facebook to learn about upcoming events and keep up with new critters coming in and to celebrate those that find their furever homes! For any questions, you can contact RT at recycledtails@hotmail.com

Thank you so much to Heidi for taking the time to sit down to chat with me and share her heart for rescue! Another HUGE thank you to all of her volunteers and those that make time to participate in RT events, foster, or just give their time to help give the animals that come through a second chance for a fulfilling and happy furever home!

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Edgar Allan Poe Mysteries

Disclaimer *This post is not about Poe theories like how he died, his mental state etc. It is about his mystery short stories.*

SAY WHAT!? Yeah, that’s right. Poe wrote mystery stories. Ya know what else? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his infamous mystery short stories off of Poe’s. :O Yes, for you literary nerds out there, you recognize Sir ACD as the creator and author of Sherlock Holmes. When it comes down to it, Poe was the creator of the mystery short story. It is here he also beautifully executes two of the main short story requirements:

1-2 Main characters that are static. There’s no time for them to change in a short story.

1-2 Locations, usually just one. Again, no time to run around the world in 1-10 pages.

I will admit, until I took my detective literature class in college, I had no idea Poe wrote mysteries. Everyone knows The Tell Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pendulum….all of his morbid horror works. Of course there’s the occasional poem. I was fortunate enough to find a Poe Anthology that includes all 3 genres of writing. Though we only read two or three of his mystery shorts in class, I have continued to read them.

Better than any CSI, Bones, Sherlock or any other mystery series on TV nowadays. The Murders in the Rue Morgue- DID NOT SEE THAT COMING! How in the world he came up with that kind of crazy twist is beyond me. The Murder of Marie Roget is actually based on the real murder of Mary Cecillia Rogers in 1841. Do some research, it’s quite an interesting story and was HUGE in the news when Poe wrote it.

Even if you don’t necessarily like Edgar Allan Poe, it’s ok. Thankfully, he had multiple skill sets and talents. If you like a good mystery, sit down with a Poe and a good cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed!

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Homemade Pizza

This may be a throw back for some of you. This pizza dough recipe comes from none other than the The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith. This is an easy homemade Focaccia dough with lots of fresh toppings! This recipe also makes two pizzas

Sauce Ingredients: 24oz of tomato sauce (I used our canned stuff)

3 minced garlic cloves

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/3 teaspoon oregano

1. Combine all sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Leave on low heat to mellow and allow the flavors to release and develop while you are making the dough and such.

Dough Ingredients:

5 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 packets of dry yeast

2 cups tepid (warm) water

1 tablespoon of white granulated sugar

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a bowl combine the yeast, warm water and sugar. Stir a little and allow the yeast to react. It will get kind of bubbly and rise to the top of the water when this happens.

2. Add in the olive oil, vegetable oil, and salt.

3. Slowly add in the flour until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. If you are using a Kitchen Aid, slowly add in all 5 1/2 cups of flour, using the dough/knead attachment, knead on medium/low for 10 minutes. If you are hand kneading, add in 4 1/2 cups and knead the remaining cup in as you go.

4. After kneading, separate into two balls, stretch/roll out over two greased baking sheets/pizza stones. Let rise for at least 30 minutes in a relatively warm environment. I turn my oven on “warm” at 170 while I am making the dough and turn it off the last few minutes. It’s just warm enough to help with rising without baking the crust!

Toppings: This is the easy part. You can do what you want. I went to our local deli and got 4 medium, fresh, mozzarella balls instead of pre-shredded cheese. We had frozen peppers from our garden this summer. We had a ham steak, onion and ground beef. I fried up the onions with some butter, browned the ground beef, diced the ham, and sliced-ish the cheese and went to town! While you are decorating your pizza, preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy! Because our two baking sheets don’t fit on the same rack, we did 10 minutes, switched them around and finished them with another 10. Here is the before and after pics! YUM!

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Before baking- Mozz, ground beef, fried onion, diced honey ham! Mhmm

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Before baking- half cheese, half peppers with fried onions! 🙂

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Easy Bake French Toast

I am fortunate to live by an AWESOME bakery/deli. When I decided I was going to make this I KNEW I was going to have to find some kick butt bread! I was right! This recipe is easy, yummy, and definitely a crowd pleaser!

Ingredients:

I used 1 large and 1 small farm loaf. Texas toast works as well.

6 large eggs

3 cups of milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)

1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1. Slice/cube your bread to desired size. I allowed mine to sit out with the bag open for a few hours to stale up a bit. They absorb the liquid better this way!

2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and heavy whipping cream if you are using it.

3. Grease a 13×9 baking dish and pour a little of the liquid mixture on the bottom.

4. Because I used bigger pieces, I first dipped them in the liquid before tossing them into the baking dish. When I was done I pours the rest of the liquid on top.

5. Cover with suran wrap and let sit in the fridge, over night is best, but at least an hour minimum.

6. The next morning, preheat the oven to 350. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the top pieces are golden brown and a bit crunchy.

7. Serve hot with syrup, mixed berries, powdered sugar- what ever you love to top your French toast with! YUM!

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Pictured with mixed berries and powdered sugar!

Station Stickers Planner Decor

Now that I am not working at a location with a Starbucks right next door, I do believe I have replaced my Starbucks spending with planner goodies spending. These stickers and washi are from Christy Dee, owner of Etsy shop, Station Stickers. She is also on Instagram @stationstickers, where she posts shop news, new additions and even what she buys from other shops!

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These tea-cup stickers are adorable! I am going to use some of them to denote special wedding planning time with my best friend Faith. Others I am going to use to schedule in tea time with friends at school. I might be a college student, and yes I love coffee, but just about anything can be helped with a good cuppa.

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TV stickers are so fun. I love the colors. I have so many shows to keep track of, or minimally, I need to schedule time to catch up on my shows on DVR and OnDemand! I have a tendency to turn a show on and do my school work with it going in the back ground. Yeah, I’m one of those people. I can’t wait to use these guys!

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I am slowly but surly building my washi collection. Though my full rolls are great, I don’t necessarily need full rolls. This set of washi is fun, fresh, and classic. Who doesn’t like some good old classic gingham!? I will probably use most of these later in the spring to the early summer, but I couldn’t wait to get them. There are two sheets of each pattern, 7 pre-cut pieces on each, giving me a total of 70 pre-cut washis!

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The pill stickers are for my mother and me. I take fish oil, iron, and cranberry pills in the mornings. My mother suffers from migraines and takes preventative medication as well as medicine when she actually has one. She is going to use hers to denote when she actually has a migraine and takes her super meds!

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Being the AWESOME lady that she is, Christy also threw in two little goodies for me! The coffee cups are my favorite color and so stinking cute! I can’t wait to use them. I am in LOVE with the heart check-list and will need to get MORE!

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On top of this wonderful package, Christy has come up with a discount code for all of my readers/followers to use at her shop! WOO HOO! Use the code BWB15off for 15% off of your purchase at her store on Etsy. She has a TON of new stickers!!! The link is in the beginning. Make sure to follow Christy on Instagram @stationstickers for more of her stickers and planner goodies! Follow me @brunetteswithbrains for more shop reviews, upcoming discount codes, book reviews, recipes, gardening and planner things!

Where can you find a planner to use all of these adorable additions!? Here is a referral link for $10 off of a purchase of an Erin Condren planner for yourself! After you create an account you will receive an email with the code. HAPPY PLANNING!

Spellbound Trilogy- Nikki Jefford

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A friend of mine posted this on Facebook the other day. It’s funny because it is so true. I spent high school, and most of middle school reading Shakespeare and classics- ya know, the stuff adults read. It’s like I somehow went from reading children’s books to adult books and missed young adult somewhere in my rush to grow up. Now that I’m going to school to be an English teacher with a 7th-12th grade certification, I’m going backwards. I want to be able to competently converse and suggest books to my students. This series is part of that attempt.

The Spellbound trilogy is, obviously, a set of three books. Rarely do I get through a series if it has more than this. I lose interest, lose track of when books are coming out, I find something better….really it’s just a thing.

Thankfully, the Spellbound series has no vampires. Or werewolves. Or goblins. Or dragons. Just witches and warlocks. I can deal with that. Graylee Perez is your average everyday junior in high school, except, she has an evil twin- Charlene. They, along with their mother and deceased father, are all magical. Kind of in a Harry Potter, general way. They can levitate, some can heal, go invisible, telepathy-ya know, generic magic stuff.

Until Graylee dies. Suddenly. And nobody knows why. But then she comes back to life. In her sisters body. She, along with her mother, sister, and a few different members of their coven must figure out how to bring her back, to her own body, or uh, at least a body that isn’t in the ground decomposing.

Follow Graylee Perez and the rest of her magical world through these three, entertaining easy reads! I would definitely recommend these to my high school students who like a twist of the magical, a wee bit of romance, a dash of mystery, and some serious problem solving. Oh, and the book covers are STUNNING!

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Planning Made Easy Stickers

Now that I have both my life planner and my teacher planner, I am seriously getting into the world of planning. It doesn’t help that my mother’s planner is on the way and my friends are aiding my hobby. I am super excited to have my goodies from Ashley Odenweller, owner of Etsy shop, Planning Made Easy! I am never bored following her Instagram account @planning_made_easy. She posts new additions to the shop, discount codes and general awesome planner things!

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I am an English Ed major, taking all online classes including a World Literature class. These book stickers are going to be PERFECT to help motivate me to do my reading! They will also be used to help keep track of when I do book reviews right here on the blog!

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I am in LOVE with these Bible verse stickers! As a student at a Christian university, dating a licensed pastor, being able to post a verse for myself every week is so cool! I love the backgrounds, the verses are applicable and just awesome! She also has inspirational quotes, success quotes and fitness quotes available!

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MIXER STICKERS! I have a total love affair with our Kitchen Aid mixer. It has faithfully helped me make chocolate chip cookies, brownie, whipped cream, shredded chicken and so much more! Like the books, I will use these guys to help me denote when I post a recipe on my blog, or to show when I need to bake something…which happens at least once a week!

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My one planner buddy collects elephants! As soon as I saw these elephant stickers, I knew that I HAD to get them for her! They are the perfect size and have just the right burst of color to add a bit of pizzaz to her week!

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HAPPY MAIL Stickers! Envelopes and mailboxes, these guys will be great to use as a reminder to send my stuff out to my planner buddies as well as when I have shipments expected to come in…ya know….cuz I keep buy people planners!

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These little heart guys are super cute! I will be using them for anniversaries! With so many colors, it will be easy to match the tag to the month!

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Hop Hop Hop! This Easter washi sticker set is going to be so fun to use and to share! The pastel colors match the April colors in the ECLP perfectly!

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Camera stickers, planner flags, and cheveron stickers are perfect little additions to my collection!

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It took about 2 weeks from the time I ordered to the time I received my package- this included New Years. It helps that she’s in New York and I am just down in Pennsylvania, it makes mailing time a wee bit faster I think.

Make sure to follow Ashley on Instagram @planning_made_easy  or her FB page for more of her stickers and planner ideas. Follow me @brunetteswithbrains for more shop reviews, upcoming discount codes, book reviews, recipes, gardening and how I use my stickers in my own planner!

Me Before You- Jojo Moyes

Having found a treasure of iTunes gift cards, I instantly got on and looked for books. I have book commitment issues so I downloaded a bunch of “samples” before I really committed to spending money on a book. I read a few samples and created a word document to jot down some notes so that when I went back to make my purchases I could look back at my notes and decide what was worth the money. I know, ridiculous but I’m obnoxious that way.

I’m new to Jojo Moyes. I saw her 3 NYT Best Seller books, One Plus One, The Girl You Left Behind and Me Before You, pop up on Pinterest. I decided to add it to my list of potentials.  Me Before You has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. Me Before You has since gone on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide. After reading it, I can see why. I got through the sample for Me Before You and I instantly bought the book.

Before doing some research on her, I instantly knew she was English- the whole lingo and setting of the story gave her away. Having just been to Northern Ireland this summer, it was easy to imagine the landscapes she described and for me to keep up with the words. BUT, for the book.

I had no idea what I was getting into. I read the book preview iTunes provided and read the sample. Nothing really prepared me for what I was reading. It was tough to read sometimes. Louisa Clark was a relate-able character for me. Through a series of events, she becomes the caretaker of a once viral, active 35 year old quadriplegic, Will. My great-grandmother has vascular dementia. She essentially has tons of mini strokes, slowly but surly destroying her synapses and her memory. She hasn’t known who I am for over a year now. We have found, that when dealing with a situation, particularly a person who is in such a predicament like my great-grandmother, that sometimes, the best way to get through them is to laugh. If you don’t laugh and you stop and think about what is really happening, all you can do is cry. Somehow, whether she knew it or not, Moyes got me through this book by doing just that. The snarky, sarcastic, snapping between Will and Lou is what kept me from sobbing. By the time I got to the end, literally, I cried just a few tears.

This is a relatively controversial book. Anytime assisted suicide is brought up, people freak out. It’s not a euthanasia story like Of Mice and Men, but a story of choice. A story of struggle. A story of quality of life. A story of love, sacrifice, growth, acceptance, and living fully. Somehow, the lessons brought forward far outweighed the shock of what the pages contain.

This would be a great book club book. There is enough to talk about for at least a solid week. There is character development, the struggle and discussion of assisted suicide, consequences, choices, love- the list goes on. Thankfully, though the idea of love and romance was in the book, it was not gross or over done. It was just enough to fulfill my girlie side without destroying and imposing what the book was about. If you want a book that makes you think, makes you assess life and makes you thankful for the life that you have- read this.

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For more on Jojo Moyes and her books, check out her super pretty and easily navigated website http://www.jojomoyes.com/.

GI Brides- Duncan Barrett & Nuala Calvi

They’re exciting. They’re new. They’re attractive. They are different. They’re smooth. They’re exotic. They are American GI’s passing through England in the midst of World War II.

GI Brides follows the stories of four English women, Sylvia Bradley, Rae Brewer, Margaret Boyle and Gwendolyn Rowe, the parts they played in the war effort, their romances and moves across the pond to American with their new GI grooms. The best part- all four women did exist. These are true stories, complete with a mid-book insert containing picture of the women, their families and their hunky GI men. The book probably falls into the category of historical fiction. But it’s one of those, historical, realistic, biographical, romantic fiction books. It could be smooshed into a few different places.

I will say, brides coming from the UK to America after World War II was something that I had never thought about. It’s something that the history textbooks don’t even mention briefly- I checked my old high school textbook to make sure I hadn’t just missed that day or something. There were actually meetings at the YMCA and mini support groups of European women! The best part- they STILL have meetings for those that are still alive! It’s just another element to the war that had a relative impact on society but is quietly passed over throughout history and education.

Margaret Boyle was actually great-grandmother of author Nuala Calvi! How cool is that!? Sadly, Margaret had passed away before she saw the completion of the book.

This book was kind of a drag. I mean, thankfully the women all end up finding happiness, but it was hard getting through some of them. I feel like following 4 different women was a bit much, especially in the beginning when they were all dating multiple men and you had to keep track of everyone. I felt like I needed a chart to keep them all straight. They rotated through the four women. I think the book would have been much easier to read,  and much easier to follow and connect with the characters had they just written four separate sections for each one.

It was a cute little book, I read the majority of it on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was romantic without being anywhere near trashy. It was a nice little read before the hustle and bustle of being in school and back to work in the next week!

GI Brides

Homemade French Onion Soup

It’s cold out-EW! Dad doesn’t feel well- double ew. I am home on break and in between jobs right now- YAY! This combination means killer dinners. I was going to make French Onion soup last night but decided on the Tortellini instead. When my dad found out that French onion had been an option, he was quite upset, hence making it tonight. It also happens to be one of my favorites! Between last nights dinner and tonights, we are going to have a killer left over night tomorrow night!

Ingredients:

1 pack beef stew meat/cubes- I know, FOS doesn’t usually have meat in it, well, mine does.

2-3 onions, we used yell

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tablespoon gravy master

5 beef bullion cubes or 6 cups of beef stock

6 cups of water *if using beef stock you will not need the water!*

Shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese

1. Cut stew meat into smaller bite sized pieces- halves or quarters. In a pan on medium heat, brown the cubes.

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2. While the cubes are browning, slice up your onion! We used 2 1/2. You can choose how you’d like to cut them. We quartered them and sliced them length wise so we had onion strips about an inch to 2 inches long.

3. After the cubes have browned, add the onions, stir and put a lid on them. You want the onions to sweat, soften and mix in with the cubes. This took about 10-15 minutes.

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4. Once the onions and cubes are done, put them in the crock pot. Add 3 cups of water or stock, depending on which you are using. Put the pan back on the stove and turn the heat up to high.

5. Add the remaining 3 cups of liquid to the pan, using a spoon, make sure there’s no good stuff stuck to the bottom. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, gravy master, and if you are using water, the bullion cubes. Bring to a boil and stir until the bullion cubes are pretty much dissolved.

6. Pour the yummy mixture into the crock pot with the onions, beef, and other liquids. Set on low and let simmer for the day.

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As with most of my crock pot recipes, this can be “sped up” by just doing this all in a big pot on the stove. This could technically all be done in the crock pot as well by just throwing everything in and turning it on high, but I feel like the flavors would not be as developed. It would be great to throw in the night before to have for lunch the following day as well!IMG_4718

If you’re like us and don’t have the cute little crocks, have mozzarella cheese shredded/sliced to put on top of the soup with a good, hearty crust of bread. Best if served nice and HOT. Nothing beats that stringy mozzarella with that bread dipped in the beefy, onion broth!