Must Read Monday: The Bars That Hold Us

The Bars That Hold Us by Shelly Pratt is the story of Saxon a prisoner in prison for manslaughter and Mercy a heartbroken police officer who is grieving the death of her fiance. Mercy completely cuts herself off from life for a year after her fiance's death when her father finally convinces her to take a job at the local prison. There she meets Saxon Miles.

Saxon saves Mercy from being raped and they end up thrown together in the prison library for hours on end by the warden. Slowly Mercy begins to let go of her fiance Daniel's ghost and begins to have feelings for Saxon. I enjoyed this book at least until the end and then I ended up very ticked off. The ending was completely unexpected and I never even saw it coming. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I will definitely be looking for more books from this author.


Anniversary Gift Ideas - 22 years

Today hubby and I have been married for 22 years. Were on earth has the time gone?! It seems like yesterday that we were just starting our life together. Every year I have the same problem of not knowing what to get for hubby because he will never give me any ideas when I ask and I can never think of anything  in that moment when he asks me. Any other day I would come up with a million ideas until he actually asks me. Are we the only ones who suffer with brain freeze trying to come up with ideas?

According to Hallmark the theme for the 22nd year anniversary is water. This is a fitting theme for us since we met on Yorktown beach 24 years ago.

If you are on a budget:

  • An afternoon date with your spouse to the aquarium. You can search for aquariums and zoos near you at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  • Tabletop fountain if they have a big enough office space. There are so many different sizes, styles, and price points that the options are endless

Tabletop Fountains

If you are in a position to splurge:

  • a trip to a favorite beach or lake
  • a dinner date and cruise on a riverboat
  • a cruise

If you are shopping for another couple:

  • drinking glasses or water bottles if they are active
  • tabletop fountain would work for this too

His and Hers Pilsner glasses
Mr. and Mrs. Cocktail glasses
Pyrex Glass Beakers


Must Read Monday: Shattered Series

My thoughts & review of the Shaken Series by Julie Bailes. Allie's heart is completely shattered after the death of her father from cancer, the love of her life leaves her without a warning, and her brother is killed in Iraq. Allie meets Blake at college and they become friends. After waiting for her to be ready to accept his love Blake finally begins to break down the walls that Allie has built around her. Just as she finally starts to open up and trust Blake's love; her first love Wyatt suddenly reappears in her life and is determined to claim her heart again.

Things begin to spiral out of control quickly. This series has so much happening in the lives of the characters. There is love and betrayal, heartbreak and reawakening, and unexpected loss. I read this series over just 3 days time because I HAD to know what was happening next for the characters. Book 2 (Shattered and Mended) takes an unexpected turn and I have to say that I ended up so pissed off & frustrated at the end that I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room. It took at least a 1/2 hour for me to calm down enough to go to sleep, but it has definitely made me want to read book 3 when it becomes available.

In my opinion...I think book 1.5 (All for Allie) should have just been part of book one because it felt a bit redundant but don't let that stop you from reading this series. It absolutely gets 5 stars from me and from my friend Janice who told me about this series.


Holy...Hot Flash... Batman!!!

It appears that I am definitely in menopause at least according to my recent blood test. I've been going through perimenopause for the last several years. You know hot flashes, night sweats and crazy cycles, etc. In the past twelve months I've only had 2 periods and the hot flashes have been worse than ever!

Symptoms of Menopause:

  • Irregular periods...check
  • Hot Flashes...double check
  • Night sweats...check
  • Loss of libido...unfortunately
  • Vaginal dryness...some times
  • Mood swings, anxiety...check much to my hubby & kids chagrin
  • Fatigue...yep
  • Sleep disturbances...every night
  • Memory lapses...not as much as hubby would hope for ;-)
  • Headaches...no
  • Weight gain...eh
  • Joint pain...no more than usual
Don't get me wrong...I.do.not.miss.having periods in any way shape or form. I've told the hubby for years that we were going to throw a big ol' menopause party when the time comes. The only problem with that is I'm too tired to make the arrangements...LOL. The hot flashes waking me up multiple times a night leaves me feeling exhausted during the day.

I know there has got to be a better way than trying to ignore it to deal with the incredible heat my body seems to produce. The feeling can only be described as starting in the center of my body and slowly emanating out to the rest. Hubby can tell when I'm having a "moment" by the sheen of sweat that appears on my forehead. There has got to be something besides hormone replacement therapy that helps. Hormone therapy seems to be the standard recommendation from the medical field but we are not ones to take more medication than is absolutely necessary and avoid the doctors as much as possible.  I once had a doctor jokingly say to me "that we were bad for business".

Internet research gives a million different suggestions for how to get through the worst symptoms with grace. How is someone suppose to decide which ones to use?

Tips for Surviving this Change:

Exercise - at least 3-4 days a week
Sleep - 7-9 hours, keep your bedroom cool
Nutrition - make healthy food choices, avoid: alcohol, caffeine & spicy foods, stay hydrated
Stress relief - Yoga, deep breathing, meditation, massage
Attitude - humor, positive thinking
Clothing - layer lightweight layers
Herbal - maca root, black cohash, passionflower, chasteberry, wild yam, ashwagandha, evening primrose, vitamin E, vitamin B complex, dong quai, flaxseed, soy, sage leaf extract

I've tried the Maca Root and it seemed to work for a little while so now I'm on the hunt for something to help without having to go the hormone replacement therapy way. Do you have any experience with any of these tips working? Let me know.


6 Tips when Starting to House Hunt

Last year we spent 4 months in house hunting hell!! It was an absolutely miserable experience. This was the fourth house that we have purchased in the 23 years we have been together. So it was definitely not our first rodeo but it was the most miserable one in all our house buying experience.

We ran our real estate agent ragged and we were all frustrated beyond belief. After physically viewing more than 40, yes I said more than 4-0, we finally made an offer on a house only to have it fall through at the last minute. It took another 15 or 20 house viewings before we finally found the one we purchased. I figured that it was a good time to share some things about house hunting that we have learned over the years so that maybe it will help someone who is new to the game. Of course I can say that this time was definitely a learning experience. I have to add that I am not a real estate expert and every experience has been different in one way or another.

1. Check your credit report before you even think about applying for a loan. You can obtain a free credit report from each of the reporting agencies once a year by going to Annual Credit Reports. I say this because you never know when something will show up that could throw a wrench in the works and delay or stop you from getting a mortgage loan. This will give you the opportunity to get any problems corrected ahead of time.

When we purchased our first house we ran into this issue with hubby's credit and had to spend some time getting corrections made to his credit report. You do not need to pay anyone to help fix credit errors this is something that you can do yourself. Check this site for help on how to dispute errors and get corrections made.

2. If you are a veteran I would also suggest going ahead and applying for your Certificate of Eligibility at eBenefits. That way if there is an issue with it you can get it corrected before you get started and hold everything up. We ran into this recently and while we were lucky they were able to research the problem and correct it quickly that may not always be the case. The VA showed that we had not paid off a previous loan which I fortunately had proof was paid in full.

3. Get pre-approved through whichever lender you want to use. Especially if you live in an area where the market moves quickly. With our first two purchases we did not do this but neither house was in an area that moved quickly. The last 2 purchases were made in places where houses where being sold within a day or two of being on the market. We actually lost out on a couple of houses because we didn't see them fast enough. If you have a pre-approval then you can move quickly when you find the house.

4. See if you are eligible for the Homes for Heroes program. This is a discount program for military, firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement and several others to help with the purchase of a new home. Not all real estate agents or other companies are signed up with this program so checking with them first will help you find your local agents that work with the program. We learned about this program right before we started looking for house number 4 and were able to get discounted fees with our lender and with our real estate agent as well. It ended up saving us about $2500 in closing costs.

5. Before you start working with a realtor, sit down and make a list of your must haves and decide on the area where you want to live. Also know ahead of time what you are willing to compromise on before you get started.

We ran into a problem with not finding a house with our must haves in the 10-mile radius we wanted and let the realtor talk us into looking outside of that area instead of saying no. We knew better than to let that happen and it ended up causing things to take more time and be more stressful. I finally put my foot down with our realtor and told her "this was our must have list and the only area we would look at houses" period. I'm sure when we hung up her first thoughts about me that day was not a nice one but I didn't really care by that time.

6. Don't look at more than 3 or 4 properties a day if at all possible. When you look at too many houses in a day it is tiring and frustrating for everyone trying to rush from one house to the next on a time schedule. And it can limit the time you have to walk around each one during the viewing.

We were in a time crunch with house #1, 2 and 3 because we only had a week of house hunting time available during our military transfers. I can say that with #1 and 3 I wish we had just rented something and taking more time looking for something. With #2 we only looked at maybe 4 or 5 houses when we walked into this one and knew without a doubt it was ours. House #4 we decided to rent for 6 months while we looked and still broke this rule because of the limited time hubby could be away from work.

BONUS TIP: I forgot to add this one originally. Even if you have filed bankruptcy it is still possible to purchase a home. Check with your attorney and see if there is a time frame before you can try. I believe that you may have to be at least a certain number of years into the process before the court will approve the purchase but I cannot tell you for sure. You will have to have the approval from the court if you have not reached discharge and this could take a little time so get it early.

I hope that something here will help someone who is just starting out on the journey to home ownership.


Must Read Monday: The Chase Brothers series

The Chase brothers are every girls dream. This series by Lauren Dane is about four brothers raised in Petal, Georgia by a larger than life Southern momma and quietly, strong Southern daddy. They are wanted by every woman and have been determined to remain the skirt chasing bachelors they have always enjoyed being. But when these boys finally find the right woman they fall hard, love completely and will do whatever it takes to have her.

Book 1: Giving Chase is Kyle and Maggie's story. Maggie has sworn off men after always finding the wrong guy when she runs into Shane Chase while out with her friends. Shane suffering from a past heartbreak runs when he feels that Maggie is getting too close leaving the door open for his brother Kyle. Kyle decides he will have Maggie and works hard to win her heart.

Book 2: Taking Chase is Shane and Cassie's story. Cassie is scarred from her past life and scared of every man. She ends up in Petal trying to escape from what has happened to her. Shane the giant of a man who is also the local sheriff takes one look at Cassie and immediately feels drawn to her. It takes all of Shane's self control and lots of hard work to win Cassie's heart and free her from the terror of an ex-husband who wants her dead as well as freeing himself from the heartbreak leftover from his cheating fiancee Sandra.

Book 3: Chased is Marc and Liv's story. Liv has decided that at 34 she is ready for forever and sets out with a plan to find it. Marc is the quintessential bachelor that every woman wants. Marc and Liv are friends but Marc wants so much more and sets out to convince Liv that they are meant to be together. Liv uses every excuse there is for why it won't work. While reading this one I thought it was my absolute favorite of the series leaving me wanting a Marc Chase in my life!

Book 4: Making Chase is Matt and Tate's story. Matt and Tate grow up on opposite sides of the tracks. When Tate gets hit by a car Matt is the first one on the scene. Tate sends him cookies as a thank you fulfilling the dream his daddy had about him and an unknown woman with cookies. It takes a lot of work and convincing for Matt to make Tate see that they belong together. I know I said that book 3 was my absolute favorite but I was so wrong!!! This one made me smile and tear up and some times both at the same time.

No cliffhangers with these and I don't think they have to be read in order but the characters do carryover from book to book. This is another series full of alpha males, stalkers, abusive ex-husbands, broken hearts, sex and love, fear of loving someone who will leave, and even abusive parents. I loved this series so much that I read it all in less than one weeks time. Thanks goodness no one else had checked them out at the library because having to wait between would have driven me crazy. I could see myself reading these again and enjoying them just as much the second time around.


Must Read Monday: Reapers Motorcycle Club series

A friend turned me on to the Reapers Motorcycle Club series by Joanna Wylde and I loved it!! I was so engrossed in the stories that, not only did I pull all night read-a-thons, I actually dreamed about the characters. Definitely cannot remember being able to say that about any other books I've read. The dreams even included my hubby being a Reaper and me as his old lady which surprising seemed like a perfect fit for us. I will add that if you have a problem with rough sex or women being called "property" then these books will not be for you. 

Book 1: Reaper's Property tells the story of Horse and Marie. Marie's brother steals money from the MC and after Horse takes one look at Marie decides to kidnap her as motivation for her brother to repay the money. Even though I loved the series by the end I will say that this one was not my favorite book or couple and honestly I almost did not go on except for the reassurance from my enabling friend Janice that they got better to just keep reading.

Book 2: Reaper's Legacy tells Ruger and Sophie's story. Ruger first sees Sophie when she is dating his brother in high school. Sophie ends up pregnant and has to call Ruger to help her get to the hospital. Over the years he continues to watch out for her and his nephew but being a single parent comes with it's own special problems. When Ruger gets a call from his terrified nephew he rides all night to him and demands that Sophie and Noah move into his house.

Book 3: Reaper's Stand is about Hunter and Em. Em is the Reaper MC president's daughter . Em meets Liam online and ends up being tricked into meeting him where she is kidnapped by Liam/Hunter who is a member of the Devil's Jacks MC which is a rival of the Reapers. Through all of their online contact Hunter falls for Em and decides that he wants her for his old lady. This was my favorite couple of all! I cannot explain it but there was just something about these two that made you want everything to work out for them.

Book 4: Devil's Game tells Picnic and London's story. Picnic is the Reapers' president and London is the owner of a cleaning company the club hires to clean their businesses. Picnic is immediately drawn to London even though she is so far outside of understanding the club's lifestyle. London's niece who she has raised as her own winds up kidnapped by a drug cartel and London and the Reapers must try to save her. This one was an all-nighter and kept me up til 4 am because I could not put it down. Those damn Reapers get under your skin.

There are no cliffhangers and you do not have to read them in order. The characters do carryover through each of the books and each book just gets better and better. This series involves lots of alpha males, some criminal activity, new friendships, brotherhood, some rough sex & hard loving, kidnapping and even a drug cartel. I'm so glad I did not stop with the first one!