Walk Down Memory Lane: Favorite Childhood Books

When I was a wee one, my Mom really, really wanted my sister and I to love reading. She has always been a huge reader and made it her mission as a parent to instill a love of literature in the two of us. While other kids were watching Spongebob Square Pants and Rugrats on T.V., my Mom had us plopped on the couch watching Reading Rainbow, Between the Lions, or some other educationally approved kids’ show that promoted literacy. Whenever I would tell my Mom about a friend saying that they “hated reading”, my Mom would be all like, “Well that’s to bad for blah, blah, blah [insert imaginary name here], because reading is amaze-balls (okay so maybe she didn’t say that, but something of the equivalency)!!” Besides watching book related television shows, my Mom introduced us to lots of great picture and beginning reader chapter books. She would often read these books to us out loud, which, we would then have passionate discussions about afterwards. I loved these read out louds! They were much better than the majority of my teachers and my Mom could do lots of funny voices :P. The trio of us loved read out louds so much that we did them up through the 8th grade (yes, we are a weird family, don’t judge). I am glad that my Mom put so much time and energy into evoking a love of reading in both my sister and I. Without the great books that I read when I was younger, I would not have the amount of background knowledge that I currently obtain, an extensive vocabulary, and probably would have had a more difficult time getting through some of the dry books I’ve been forced to read in high school (cough, cough…The Scarlet Letter, no offense to those who dig it or anything). However, most importantly, reading has helped me become the open-minded, compassionate, and sometimes skeptical/cynical person I am today. Books have exposed me to the many joys and horrors of life and I’m grateful for that because reading about various issues inspires me to make change in the world. I want to bring the joy that I’ve read about into other people’s lives; especially those who have so little of it. In this blog post, I’m going to share my some of my favorite books that I read as an elementary schooler. Whether you are a parent, educator, or someone who is just curious about and/or simply loves amazing children’s books, you’ve come to the right place (psssstt…I am seventeen years old and still ❤ children’s books)! This will more than likely be a series on my blog, as I don’t want to just give y’all a laundry list of books; I want to explain what I love about each and every one of these stories. Drum roll please………….or you can just scroll down if you wish ;).

                My Favorite Childhood Books

 Book #1: A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannen

I remember my sister and I reading this beautifully illustrated book, with a wonderful message, multiple times. If you are not familiar with the book’s plot, it is about a young girl who is teased by her classmates for loving Lima beans. Therefore, she vows to never eat Lima beans again, but then, she comes down with a case of stripes. Her parents, however, force her to go to school regardless of being decorated with stripes, and is then subjected to even more teasing by her classmates. She eventually learns that the only cure for getting rid of her stripes are good ol’ Lima beans. Through this experience she learns not to care about what other people think. I believe that this is a vital theme for young children to learn that will carry with them through life. I know that the gorgeous pictures and carefully crafted sentences in this book has always served as a reminder to me!

Book #2: The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osbourne

I remember hearing one of these books for the first time as a read out loud in grade school and then becoming obsessed with them shortly there after. I didn’t read all of them, but every single book I did read I thoroughly enjoyed. The premise of these books are that two siblings, Jack and Annie, find a tree house in their backyard and discover that it can make them go back in time. As a result, they go on some pretty immaculate adventures and go to many different places, witnessing famous historical events such as the American Revolution, The Olympics, The First Thanksgiving, and the Titanic sinking. These books really got me excited about history as a kid and made me eager to learn more about the colossal turning points that shaped our nation and world. I’d highly recommend these books to any kid in grade school, especially if they are not big fans of history, because Jack and Annie will for sure make the subject more enjoyable for them.

 Book #3: The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsberg

When I was young, I was so fascinated by summer sleep-away camps and desperately wanted to go for years. I would envision myself at sleep-away camp constantly, even going as far as dreaming up my own. Seriously guys, I would sometimes even open up a word document and make my own overnight camp brochures with snazzy backgrounds, slick fonts, pictures, everything. I would even make fake testimonials from kids with fake last names, such as Corington, Halifaxer, Roshien, Itrabide (for realzies, these were legit names that I made up. I went through my old journals today.) So, as you can imagine, the day my parents told me that I was allowed to go to sleep-away camp, I was uber stoked. However, when I actually attended an overnight camp located in Vermont, I wound up enjoying it a minuscule amount . I suffered from extreme homesickness, crying multiple times a day. I also really loathed the food and was mightily disappointed that the outdoor lunch buffet that was advertised on their website was really indoors and just leftovers from dinner. Damn liars.

Okay, I should probably stop ranting now and talk about how this experience is related to the book. Anyways, after my bad overnight camp experience, I found The Outcast of 19 Schuyler Place at Barnes and Noble and instantly knew that I would be able to relate to it from reading the back cover. The premise of this book is that a twelve-year-old named Margaret Rose attends sleep-away camp during the 70’s while her parents are trying to repair their marriage. However, the plot twist is that her cabin-mates are tormentors who play vicious pranks and therefore, she sends for her uncles to pick her up. After being rescued, Margaret Rose spends the rest of the summer with her uncles, trying to save two towers that are going to be taken down. I absolutely adored this book as a kid and read it multiple times (it is rare that I read a book more than once, even if I really love it). The love I had for this story is shown in its current physical condition, without a cover and pages falling out. I would recommend this book to anybody regardless of age, but especially for pre-teen ladies as I think that they will especially be able to relate to the main character, Margaret Rose, as someone that they could see themselves being friends with and take comfort in. Hopefully they will cherish this book, as I have, and take note of its wonderful messages of perseverance, unexpected friendship, and the fact that life just doesn’t work out all of the time. These themes have stayed with me throughout my teenage years.

Have any of you guys read these books before? What were your favorite books growing up?

Your Reading Buddy,

-Alexandra Spund

P.S. Here are the book links:

http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Case-Stripes-Scholastic-Bookshelf/dp/0439598389

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Tree-House-Boxed-Books/dp/0375813659/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419050834&sr=1-2&keywords=the+magic+tree+house+set&pebp=1419050850610

http://www.amazon.com/The-Outcasts-19-Schuyler-Place/dp/0689866372

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Deceptive Thanksgiving Dessert Advertising – Mary’s Gone Crackers Gone Wrong

Despite the snow, my Thanksgiving was not half bad. My clan was supposed to see extended family down in New York and it was very disenchanting when we learned we couldn’t go because of impossible road conditions. Obviously though, we made the best of the situation. I really can’t complain, heck, I got to see a 4-D version of the Polar Express. Anytime you can go beyond your normal dimensions, it’s a pretty cool experience :P. I mean, dude, I got to actually smell the hot co-co they were serving on Polar Express; if that’s not flipping amazing, I don’t know what is. Although I will say that getting punched in the back of our seats when the train came to a sudden halt wasn’t fun and unnecessary. My Mom was the lucky spared one who’s seat was defective.

While Thanksgiving 2014 was filled with joyful, 4-D memories, it also had its vexations. In particular, I am not very satisfied with the gluten-free company Mary’s Gone Crackers right now. What is Mary’s Gone Crackers, you might ask? They are the ones that make the seeded flax crackers that look wicked disgusting, but actually taste really delicious. Additionally, they also make desserts. Well, right before Turkey Day, my Mom found ginger snap cookies baked by Mary’s Gone Cracker’s that, supposedly, had a dairy-free cream in the middle. I was thrilled! I was so excited to finally have a cookie that had a filling as this is SO HARD to find being both gluten and dairy-free. I also have to limit the amount of soy I eat, which makes this conquest even more arduous. I just could not wait to crack the cookie open and find that ooey-gooey cream in the center as it looked like in the picture on the box. However, when it was time for dessert and the first bite was taken, I could only taste gingerbread. “Hmmm….this is quite peculiar, that cream has got to be in there somewhere“, I thought.  Therefore, I took the largest bite I could and still, …nothing. Could my cookie be the odd one of the bunch? Did they forget to put cream in my cookie? I then asked my Mom to take a bite of her’s to see if she had the same situation which she did. It then occurred to us that Mary the Cracker Lady was a LIAR! That cookie on the cover clearly had cream in it; or so we thought. After investigating the cover more closely, we both realized that what appeared to be cream in the middle were actually sprinklings of ginger. My Mom and I were astounded that both of us had missed this, as the two of us are usually overly observant people. *Sigh*, I guess that I still need to be on the hunt for gf/df cookies with a creamy filling. Or maybe I should try and make my own batter? Who knows?

Would you guys have been deceived by the cover?

Yours in a Current Agitated Spirit,

-Alexandra Spund

P.S. The cookies were absolutely delectable just to let you know. They tasted like actual, glutenous ginger snaps!! I was just mightily disappointed that there was no mouth-watering cream :(.

 

Oneka Elements Shampoo and Conditioner Review in Goldenseal and Citrus (Non-Toxic)

If there is a such thing out there as a miracle shampoo and conditioner out there for oily, flat, and dandruff-prone hair, Oneka Elements would be it!

Not only is this  brand UBER AMAZING but they use incredible, wholesome ingredients and are by far the least toxic company I’ve used for hair care.  This shampoo has literally transformed me from having borderline bad hair to looking like I just came out of the salon every time I washed it. Here is a before and after picture of my hair pre and post Oneka Elements.

BeforeBefore

AfterAfter

Even though I washed my hair almost everyday, it was still looking extremely oily .  I tried a numerous number of shampoos/conditioners out there on the market and kept on feeling discouraged after each one failed me . However, you can never give up hope! After trying Oneka Elements out with low expectations, my hair became voluminous and did not have a speck of oiliness. Besides using a new shampoo and conditioner, I also found that blow drying my hair with my head upside down really helped  as well.

As mentioned above, this company also has extraordinary ingredients in their products such as  burdock root (helps detoxify the body) and nettle leaves (improves durability of hair, gives it a nice glow, helps with allergies, and all in all, just plain good for you). These two ingredients are in all of their shampoos and conditioners. Also, its highlighted ingredients in the specific products I use, such as goldenseal and citrus, help with dandruff, oiliness, and make your hair soft and voluminous.  This company also has other shampoos and conditioners in lavender /angelica, cedar/sage, and unscented. They also have other products that I have not tried yet such as body washes, lotions, styling creams, face creams, and soaps. The only downside of Oneka Elements is that there products are expensive (a whopping $14 a bottle!) but they last a wicked long time so it’s well worth it! I highly recommend giving Oneka Elements a try! Now tell me, what shampoo have you found has helped you the best with your hair problems?

xoxo

Alexandra Spund

Ulta Beauty Mini – Haul (Natural)

Ulta Beauty is basically a playground for women who love makeup/hair styling/skin care products. However, if you mostly shop for natural beauty products, shopping at an Ulta can be somewhat cumbersome. Fortunately for me, Ulta is so large that there is something there for everyone, you just need to be careful at checking ingredients. Recently, I’ve been looking for a natural nail polish brand. Since learning about the harsh chemicals that can be in nail polishes, I’ve tried out about 3-4 different natural nail polish brands and all of them chipped and did not glide on easily. This was very discouraging and I was pretty much ready to give up the ship since I’m  pretty natural in my food and beauty products already. However, I continued to Google search for natural nail polishes and found Zoya. I perused their website and found out that they had an ABUNDANCE of stunning nail polish colors; they even had some that were duo-chromatic which I love. Also, Zoya was one of the first natural nail polish brands to come on the market and is also a 5-free (i.e. camphor, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate), not 3-free lacquer. After reading all of this great information about Zoya,  I knew I had to give it a try! I was going to order it online until I got a coupon book from Ulta where they listed that they had a new line of Zoya nail polishes that came out.  I got so excited (no online shipping charges wooo-hooo!!!!) it was ridiculous! Anddddd….to top it all off, I got a 20% off of my purchase discount in the mail. When I got to the store I picked out two nail polishes which were named Cassedy (metallic silver) and Julie (lavender).

Zoya Nail Polishes and EOS lip balm

I decided to try the  “Julie” first since Valentine’s Day was coming up and I thought lavender would be a good color for the season :). The nail polish glided on fairly easy and although it took a little bit longer to dry it, was fairly quick for a natural nail polish. However, what I got ecstatic about was the end result! The color was sooo pretty and did not look like a kinder-gardener painted my nails, unlike the previous nail polishes I have tried. Although the chipping occurs sooner than with a non-natural nail polish, it has stayed on very nicely and does not come off in big clumps. I highly recommend trying Zoya nail polish!

The Final Result

The Final Result

In addition to the nail polish, I also purchased an EOS lip balm. I have heard many people (even those who do not purchase natural beauty products) rave about this lip balm and I had to see what the hype was all about. This lip balm is very inexpensive (I think it was like 4 dollars or something?!) and is 95% organic. Ulta had a whole array of EOS lip balm flavors, so making a decision was difficult (when you come to know me, you’ll know that I am the absolute worst at making decisions/choosing favorites).  After probably taking like 10-15 minutes to decide, I went  with the “Smooth Sphere Honeysuckle Honeydew Lip Balm”.  I have to say that so far I really like it. The honey dew flavor is quite rich and it also does a good job of moistening my lips,  which is important, because I get really dry lips during the winter time. Anyone who is looking for a great natural lip balm for winter time should give this brand a shot!

Have any of you guys tried zoya nail polish before? If not, have you tried other natural nail polishes and what has your experiences been with them? Also, if you have tried the EOS lip balm, what is your favorite flavor?

xoxo

Alexandra Spund

Rave Review!! Hillary’s Eat Well Gluten-Free Veggie Burgers: Also Dairy-Free/Soy-Free/Nut-Free(not tree nut)/Corn-Free

So let’s get one thing straight – I love veggie burgers. I am not a vegetarian but veggie burgers are my favorite type of burgers. I use to eat them a lot as a kid as I did not like beef burgers at all, the taste of them just disgusted me. While I do like beef burgers now, they  just don’t compare to veggie burgers. While it took some time, my Mom and I found some pretty good veggie burgers over the years that were gf/df. However, recently, we made a discovery that took our taste buds to veggie burger heaven. It’s called Hillary’s Eat Well Gluten-Free Veggie Burgers. The burgers come in four varieties – World’s Best Veggie Burger (your basic veggie burger pretty much), Adzuki Bean Burger, Hemp and Greens Burger, and the Root Veggie Burger. However, I’ve only tried the World’s Best Veggie Burger and the Adzuki Bean Burger as that is all that my local natural food store that carries them has. They are both equally delicious but have two very distinct flavors so I will be reviewing them separately.

World’s Best Veggie Burger:

The best thing about Hillary’s Eat Well Gluten-Free Veggie Burgers is that they are made with the purest ingredients. They’re free of ingredients and/or allergens that are common in gluten-free products such as corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup, soybean oil,  soy protein, or soy flour. Alternatively, the World’s Best Veggie Burger is made of less common gluten-free flours such as millet and quiona. The burger also oozes of fresh flavor from wholesome and nourishing vegetables such as sweet potato and spinach. In addition, since coconut oil is one of the first ingredients on the ingredient list, the burger is full of coconut flavor when coming fresh and warm out of the toaster oven. However, the coconut flavor does not overpower the whole taste of the burger. Oh, and as icing on the cake, this burger uses apple cider vinegar instead of white distilled vinegar which is MUCH better for your system and actually has some beneficial health  properties (would you guys like me to do a post on the health properties of apple cider vinegar?!) to it. I highly recommend this burger!

Adzuki Burger:

The minute you taste the Adzuki burger you will find that it burst of spices that gives it a unique flavor.  The Adzuki burger taste like a combination of chana masala and a Mexican burrito; I’m not exaggerating in the least!  This is probably due to the Adzuki burger being flavored with black beans and spices such as cumin, chili, and chipotle powder. It is also perfect to eat if you have a winter cold in order to clear out your nostrils! Like the “World Best Veggie Burger”, the Adzuki also has an abundance of coconut oil which makes for a delectable taste and has apple cider vinegar instead of white distilled vinegar.

Conclusively, these are both superb veggie burgers and I would not only recommend this burger to those who have food allergies, but to anybody! I hope you guys will try this burger and love it as much as I do.

Have any of you had Hillary’s Eat Well Burgers before? What are some other allergy-free veggie burgers that you guys like?

xoxo

Alexandra Spund

Rave Review!! Udi’s Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free/Soy-Free/Nut-Free Muffin Tops

As a kid I use to love muffin tops. We use to get these amazing chocolate chip muffin tops from Whole Foods Market and whenever we brought them home from the store, they’d be gone within two hours of  purchase. Also, let me add that my Dad will only eat the tops of muffins and not the bottom. He says that the top of the muffin is the tastiest part. So as a little kid, I use to follow suit and only eat the tops of muffins. I guess his eating habits kind of rubbed off on me. When I learned I had to go gluten-free I knew that I would have to give up eating muffin tops.  While my mom was able to find some delicious gf/df muffins, I still missed my muffin tops. However, that problem was solved recently.  A few months ago when my Mom and I were shopping at Hannaford’s, we spotted a new Udi’s product which were the allergy-free muffin tops! I was sooo happy! I got so excited it was ridiculous! Not only were they the first gf/df muffin tops I’d ever seen but tasted delectable as well. They are extremely chewy, moist, flavorful, non-gluten-free tasting, and pretty much anything else you’d ever want in a muffin top. They also do not fall apart and they hold together well, which is important to me in finding good gf/df products.  These muffin tops come in two different flavors; chocolate chia and blueberry oat. Are you salivating yet? I know I am :P.

These are super delicious and I highly recommend that you give them a try! Udi’s did an amazing job with the formulation of these muffin tops and in my opinion, are one of Udi’s best products. If anyone reading this happens to know a chef over at Udi’s,  give my accolades to the chef  ;D.

Have any of you tried these muffin tops before? What are some of your favorite products of Udi’s?

xoxo

Alexandra Spund