Monday, October 24, 2016

Review of Journaling Power by Mari L. McCarthy and a Giveaway!

Please join me in welcoming Mari L. McCarthy, Chief Inspiration Officer for the journaling community, Create Write Now. Journaling can be a powerful tool, and if you are on the fence about trying it, I encourage you to check out Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live, a great self-help memoir by Mari L. McCarthy. I promise you'll be inspired by her story of how journaling helped her physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Mari is currently on tour with WOW! Blog Tours, and I'm offering a giveaway of one print copy of this book to a U.S resident so see below for details!

About the Book: 
Journaling Power teaches you how to put the ultimate self-healing tool right at your fingertips--journaling. Through Mari L. McCarthy's moving personal story, you'll discover how pen-to-paper journaling leads to self-growth and life-changing transformation. You'll also learn that numerous medical studies prove journaling literally unleashes a healing agent that empowers your life in ways you've never imagined. 

About Mari:
Mari L. McCarthy is The Journaling Power Guide and founder of Her blog provides journaling for transformation and healthy living ideas, information and inspiration for keeping a daily pen-to-page Journaling for the Health of It™ Practice. You can also download the FREE e-book (, How to use Your Journal to Cure Writer's Block Now. More life-changing e-books can be found in Mari's Personal Transformation Journaling Library and in CreateWriteNow’s store ( )  
Find out more about the author by visiting her online: 





My Review: 
I’ve journaled on and off over the years, but have only recently realized that the powers of therapeutic journaling can extend to many different areas of our lives. While I knew a little bit of Mari’s background with multiple sclerosis before reading Journaling Power, the whole picture of how she tackled her symptoms through journaling is fascinating.

She writes: "Pen-to-paper journaling solidifies the link between mind and body in many ways. It enables us to discover that we really live in our whole bodies, including our physical and figurative hearts, as well as in our heads."

Mari’s story of writing to help heal her body (she eventually was able to stop taking a plethora of prescription and over-the-counter medications) is inspirational. On her journey, she also reconnected with her creative side and began pursuing dreams she never thought before possible, even starting up a business that enables her to be prosperous and fulfilled in many different walks of life. I found Journaling Power to be the perfect mix of memoir, testimonials on the benefits of therapeutic writing from journalers Mari has worked with in the Create Write Now community, and medical studies that examine the use of journaling with patients.

By combining all these elements into one book, Mari skillfully weaves a convincing argument on how anyone struggling with time management, unresolved emotions, health issues, blocked creativity and more should give this type of writing a try. She also sprinkles different journaling prompts throughout each chapter to help get you started. I finished the book eager to get my journal and pen back out and work on my own productivity issues in the hopes of getting my creative writing career back on track. I highly recommend this book to anyone searching for more answers in their lives. It doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself a writer—according to Mari, we are ALL writers!

Paperback: 146 Pages
Genre: Self-Help/Memoir
Publisher: Hasmark Publishing; 1 edition (September 12, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1988071216 ISBN-13: 978-1988071213

Book Trailer:

Other Thoughts:
I've tried Morning Pages (where you write three pages longhand each day to start out your day) but haven't myself consistently sticking with them. I got excited when I read about an alternative to Morning Pages, what Mari McCarthy calls Night Notes. Experts have found that people who struggle with insomnia often do so because they their brains haven't finished processing their emotions and worries of the day. She recommends using Night Notes (writing three or more pages in the hour before bedtime) as a way to unwind. While I typically sleep pretty well, I find myself having one or two nights a month where I lie awake in bed at night worrying about work deadlines, things going on in our family's lives, or household finances. I decided to start trying Night Notes to see if I could settle into a more relaxed sleep at night. Mari provides some journaling prompts in case you are having trouble getting started, but I found my pen taking off across the page pretty quickly on its own. I write about the stresses of juggling work with being a taxi service to my kids, appointments I need to schedule, movies I've seen, creative projects I'm working on, and bills that have been hanging over my head. I've found that I haven't had one of those "insomnia" nights ever since I started, so while it may seem like I'm writing about whiny, petty issues in these nighttime journaling sessions, I do believe they are helping.

Want the chance to win your own copy of Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live? Enter the Rafflecopter form below. I'll choose a winner on Friday, Oct. 28. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: Sugarland by Martha Conway

If you're in the mood for a good historical fiction novel full of intrigue, mystery, and a bit of romance, you've come to the right place. Today I'm hosting award-winning author Martha Conway as she tours with WOW! Women on Writing in support of her latest novel, Sugarland. Below is a synopsis of the book:

Follow in the steps of talented young pianist Eve Riser who is caught in a drive-by shooting that kills the bootlegger standing next to her, she forms an unlikely friendship with the bootlegger’s sister, Lena. Eve is looking for her missing stepsister, a popular night club singer who has been missing since the shoot-out, and Lena wants to find out who killed her brother. Together these two women navigate the back alleys and jazz clubs of the Roaring Twenties, encountering charismatic managers, handsome musicians, and a mysterious gangster called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all. 

Hardcover: 314 pages (also available as paperback and e-book)
Publisher: Noontime Books (May 7, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0991618556
ISBN-13: 978-0991618552

Sugarland is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

About the Author: 
Martha Conway’s debut novel 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur) was nominated for an Edgar Award while Thieving Forest won an Independent Publishers Book Award, the Laramie Award, a Reader’s Choice Award and the 2014 North American Book Award in Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Mississippi ReviewThe Quarterly, Folio, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, and other publications. She graduated from Vassar College and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She has reviewed fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Review of Books, and The Iowa Review. The recipient of a California Arts Council fellowship in Creative Writing, she has taught at UC Berkeley Extension and Stanford University’s Online Writers’ Studio.

Martha Conway's website:
Martha Conway's blog:

My Review:

Historical fiction is not a genre I normally pick to read, but I do enjoy a good look back into a snapshot of history from time to time. Sugarland was an action-packed novel from the very first page and I quickly found myself turning the pages to see where the story would lead. Simply put, I would best describe it as being an engaging story first with snippets of a fascinating era in our history woven throughout.

I loved the strong female characters in the story—Eve, Chickie, and Lena, and how they each chose to navigate the hands they had been dealt in a male-dominated era. Lena was probably my favorite, with her generous nature, determination to find out who murdered her brother Rudy, and her willingness to help Eve and Chickie even though most people they passed on the street didn’t think white and black women should be speaking to one another.

You can tell Martha Conway spent a great deal of time on research for this novel, but it doesn’t overwhelm the reader. I have read historical fiction novels that spent so many pages describing all the items found in an antebellum kitchen that I found myself bored and losing interest. Sugarland does the opposite of that. The unlikely friendship between Lena and Eve makes for a great storyline, as does the music and the backdrop of the Chicago jazz clubs. Never before have I heard music described in such a way as this:

The music became furious. Lena leaned forward. The sax asked a question, the piano answered, but apparently not to the sax’s liking because it asked the same question again. The two battled it out.

The main characters found themselves in many perilous situations that left me gnawing on my fingernails and wondering how they would get themselves out of danger safely. The only issue I had with the book (besides an ending that I did not see coming!) was that I found it hard at first to keep track of all the club owners, musicians, and bootleggers, as most of them were intertwined with one another in some way. Once I clarified who Nathan Cobb, The Walnut, Travis, Moaner, and Pin were, it was a little easier to figure out who was double crossing whom. I highly recommend Sugarland to anyone looking for a good historical fiction mystery with strong female characters and an appreciation for the healing power of music.

Want to win your own copy of Sugarland? Visit this link to read an interview with Martha and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at WOW! Women on Writing.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: My Name is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure by Ronald Chapman

Today I'm excited to feature Ronald Chapman back on my blog in support of his tour for My Name is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure through WOW! Blog Tours.  Here's a little more about this very unique book:

 My Name is Wonder is a tale of adventure that will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wisecracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach.


“…a book for the ages, with profound truths simply stated. First there was Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Yoda—Now there isWonder…” -Beverly Molander, Minister and Radio Host of Activating the Power of Yes

 “…an exploration of human nature and into the allegorical realm that shows us how to be wise teachers and guides…” -Paula Renaye, Author of Living the Life You Love 

Paperback: 202 Pages Genre: Fiction/Spirituality
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (September 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1938288785 ISBN-13: 978-1938288784

 My Name is Wonder is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

About the Author: 
 Ronald Chapman is owner of an international speaking and consulting company, Magnetic North LLC. In addition to international accreditation as a speaker and national awards for radio commentary, he is the author of two novels, My Name is Wonder (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016) and A Killer's Grace (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016 and 2012), two works of non-fiction, Seeing True: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2008) and What a Wonderful World: Seeing Through New Eyes (Page Free Publishing, 2004) and the producer of three audio sets, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2016, 2005), Breathing, Releasing and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2015), and Seeing True – The Way of Success in Leadership (Magnetic North Audio, 2005). Ron provides a wide array of social media content at, content for people in substance abuse recovery at, and other content from his master site, He holds a Masters in Social Welfare from The University at Albany (New York.) Prior to his relocation to Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, he was a long-time resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Ronald can also be found online at: 

Facebook Page: 

Michelle DelPonte was gracious enough to review the book and share a thoughtful review with us below. Thank you, Michelle!

 “My name is Wonder, but I am not that.” My Name is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure is full of life lessons that we seem to forget in our everyday busy lives. This book is one that will truly get you to evaluate your life. Does your name define you? Do you live life by the box that others put you in? While Wonder the goat is full of curiosity, he never lets others’ expectations of him, hold him back. Wonder lives life on his terms.

Wonder takes every opportunity to learn from others. He has two prominent teachers throughout the book, Mac Crack and Oren. Like any great teacher, Oren teaches Wonder by letting him figure things out on his own. So many times in our lives we fail to listen to ourselves or trust our gut. Sadly, it is often to our own detriment that we fail. Perhaps our inner knowledge is one of greatest gifts we were blessed with, but we fail to understand it.

We tend to look at our positions in life, set goals, make plans, and reach for the stars. However, what happens when life slams those doors shut? Are we able to turn around and make lemonade form the lemons? Wonder’s plan to see the world was rendered impossible. Yet in times that most would give up, Wonder chose to see the positive. He chose to reevaluate his life and make the best of the situation. He didn’t ever take no for an answer. Wonder never let what was expected of him get in the way of what he wanted out of life. He was always in the driver’s seat of his life, despite all expectations.

Wonder also decided that if he was present in a situation, that he truly needed to be present. Wonder needed to soak up every bit of knowledge and experience that life had to offer. Wonder made his own way, despite all the odds. I think more often than not, we get caught up in work, marriage, and life, that we fail to see the wonder. We are present in situations, but yet not really present at all. When is the last time you made a point of seeing all the wonder life has to offer?

About today’s guest reviewer:
Michelle DelPonte is a busy mom and health care worker. Her two sons are the focus of her life and she works diligently to raise awareness about autism in the community. She loves reading, anything to do with history and geocaching just to name a few of her many hobbies. Michelle, her husband Ben and their two sons Sebastian and Asher live in Manitowoc, WI on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan where they enjoy walking and biking on the Mariner’s Trail and spending time at the Library.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review: A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman

Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone close to you was murdered and the killer imprisoned and possibly put on death row? Would you feel justice had been served or would you extend the killer a grace he did not give to the victim?

Today I'm hosting a review of the riveting novel, A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman, as part of his blog tour with WOW! Women on Writing. You can read an interview with Ronald Chapman here.

Special thanks to Crystal Otto at WOW! Women on Writing for organizing this tour and for Tange Dudt for providing the review below.

About the Book:
From the high desert of New Mexico comes a tale of mystery, murder and redemption. When journalist Kevin Pitcairn receives a disturbing letter from a serial killer, he is drawn into a compelling journey with profound psychological and spiritual implications, not just for the murderer, but for himself and society as a whole. As he tries to investigate and then tell the story, he finds himself battling his own inner demons and sordid history. Events conspire to propel an isolated matter to a national stage and audiences that are increasingly hostile. Forced to explore the roots of human psychology and sanity, Pitcairn must navigate moral and philosophical realms. What is the nature of evil? What powers of choice do humans actually possess? How may we be redeemed? And in the end, how do we reconcile with ourselves?

Paperback: 240 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Spirituality
Publisher: Terra Nova Books; 2 edition (September 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1938288750
ISBN-13: 978-1938288753

A Killer's Grace is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

About the Author: Ronald Chapman is owner of an international speaking and consulting company, Magnetic North LLC. In addition to international accreditation as a speaker and national awards for radio commentary, he is the author of two novels, My Name is Wonder (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016) and A Killer's Grace (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016 and 2012), two works of non-fiction, Seeing True: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2008) and What a Wonderful World: Seeing Through New Eyes (Page Free Publishing, 2004) and the producer of three audio sets, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2016, 2005), Breathing, Releasing and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2015), and Seeing True – The Way of Success in Leadership (Magnetic North Audio, 2005). Ron provides a wide array of social media content at, content for people in substance abuse recovery at, and other content from his master site, He holds a Masters in Social Welfare from The University at Albany (New York.) Prior to his relocation to Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, he was a long-time resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ronald can also be found online at: 

Facebook Page:

Tange's Review: The protagonist, journalist Kevin Pitcairn, receives a letter from a serial killer claiming to have a mental disorder which caused him to kill. As Kevin starts to dig deeper, it takes him on a journey he least expected. At first glance, I thought this novel was just going to be about a journalist trying to get a serial killer off death row claiming to having a mental disorder, discussing the topic of nature vs. nurture, asking if the serial killer was made this way due to external influences or was he born this way.

I was wrong. The book is so much more than this! It does discuss that topic asking if it's okay for society to 'kill the killer' or should we try to find another way to break the cycle of violence. This book also examines the act of forgiveness, not only of others who may have inflicted pain, emotional or physical, but of oneself which tends to be the hardest. The author has you looking at the word innocence in a different way asking if we as a society can regard the most hateful person as being innocent of their actions. Honestly, I do not know how I would feel or what I would do if I was put in a situation where I lost a loved to a heinous crime, but this book has definitely given me something to mull over.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Review of Eat to Beat Alzheimer's by Francie Healey

 Today I'm happy to host author Francie Healey as she promotes her cookbook, Eat to Beat Alzheimer's: Delicious Recipes and New Research to Prevent and Slow Dementia, through WOW! Women on Writing. You can learn more about Francie's inspiration for the book,  (and find a list of blogs giving copies on the tour!) here.

About the Book: 

Eat to Beat Alzheimer's offers a practical guide and an empowering tool to bring nourishing, healthful, and delicious food into the lives of people concerned about Alzheimer's and other cognitive problems. Almost 9 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, and the toll is rapidly increasing. This book will appeal to everyone concerned about dementia and memory loss in either themselves or a loved one.

Recent research makes clear that the impact of aging on the brain can be reduced by simple diet and lifestyle modifications. The delicious food choices and easy-to-prepare recipes in this book are based on the latest findings showing that they can help slow the progression of Alzheimer's and other conditions like it, or prevent them entirely.

Readers will gain the knowledge and tools to take charge of their health by incorporating tasty, healing foods into their diet. The information in this cookbook will be as relevant and useful 20 years from now as it is today. And the recipes will still be just as delicious.

Eat to Beat Alzheimer's is available on Amazon & Barnes and Noble.

Paperback: 200 pages
Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (June 30, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1938288610
ISBN-13: 978-1938288616

About the Author:
Francie Healey is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice in Santa Fe, N.M. She specializes in the psychology of eating, helping people with health conditions to develop conscious eating habits and understand how food contributes to healing. Using her expertise to help clients manage cognitive decline through nutrition, Francie educates them on meal planning; the creation of simple, nutritious meals; and other keys to achieving a healthy relationship with food. She holds a Master's Degree in Counseling, and is a Certified Health Counselor and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

Find Francie Healey Online:



Twitter: @FrancieHealey


Roughly 5.4 million people suffer from A.D. (Alzeheimer's disease) in the U.S. alone. Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is estimated to be spent on people with A.D. and other forms of dementia. --From Eat to Beat Alzheimer's: Delicious Recipes and New Research to Prevent and Slow Dementia

First off, I quickly realized Eat to Beat Alzheimer's is much more than a cookbook. Francie's background in mental health and nutrition shines through as she shares information and research on Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and what researchers believe is tied to both conditions. I learned about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet, and how it is up to each individual to listen to his or her body when it comes to dietary choices. In other words, there's a reason highly processed and preserved food leaves us feeling less than stellar. While I try my best to eat a whole foods diet, I often fall prey to the "busyness" that leaves us eating out more often than we should. Flipping through the recipes in Eat to Beat Alzheimer's made me immediately want to head out to the nearest health food store and stock up on the many of the spices and herbs found in the recipes. As a woman approaching my early 40s, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about neurogenerative diseases and know I need to step up my game in the kitchen, for both me and my family. 

The recipes in this book are plentiful, and provide a good variety for even the pickiest of eaters. As huge fan of eggs for breakfast, I was thrilled to see offerings like Spinach and Egg Bites and Mozzarella and Zucchini Frittata. There are also several soups and stews, crisp and inviting salads, healthy snacks to help curb the sweet tooth (such as Quinoa Pumpkin Muffins), and more savory fare (Garlic Shrimp with Kale, Salmon with Lemon Relish,  Smothered Chicken and Sweet Potatoes).

I recommend this book to anyone stuck in cooking rut or who wants to focus on more whole-body nutrition. There's even a one-week sample menu to get you started. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Finding Love in Unimaginable Places

Today I'm participating in a group blogging event. WOW! Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about finding love in unimaginable places. Why this topic? We're celebrating the release of Michael French's twenty-fourth novel. Once Upon a Lie (Terra Nova Books) is an exploration of the secrets families keep, and the ways those secrets can tear a family apart, Visit The Muffin to read what Michael has to say on finding love in unexpected places and view the list of all my fellow blogging buddies.

As a bonus, I will pick one commenter from this thread to be entered into a group drawing for the chance to win your own copy of Once Upon a Lie

Twelve-year-old Jaleel Robeson is on the run after the police in his tiny Texas town try to frame him for the death of his father. A world away, Alexandra “Alex” Baten is growing up amid all the material comforts a wealthy Los Angeles lawyer can provide. One day, a simple cup of lemonade unites their lives, leading to a maze of adultery and murder that shatters Alex’s youthful innocence and Jaleel’s struggle to reshape his life.

While the forces of the law try to unravel the mysterious death―or at least find a scapegoat―the two youths see the trajectories of their lives entwine, unravel, and come together again. Justice, Alex learns, can be a strange and nebulous thing, easily enmeshed in webs of loyalty and betrayal. Justice, Jaleel finds, can be a powerful―but dangerous―rock on which to build a life of honor and courage. As their stories play out over the years in cities far apart, best-selling author Michael French fills the world of Alex and Jaleel with a cast of vivid characters both supporting and threatening their efforts to build a life that “works” amid the expectancies of others and their own conflicting drives.

My Story: 

At the end of my sophomore year of college, I found myself in a place I truly never thought I would be. I was fighting for my life, but the war was internal. I had decided I was tired of living, tired of fighting, tired of trying to figure out who my friends really were, tired of working 35+ hours a week and taking a full course load, and tired of worrying about how I was going to pay off the credit card debt I had racked up. I was 19 years old, but the heavy blanket of sadness had followed me around for a long time, as my parents packed up and changed homes and the towns we lived in often multiple times a year. I had no sense of what a home really was.

I tried to talk to people about how I was feeling before it all snowballed. I really did. Maybe I chose to talk to the wrong people—because mostly what I got was blank stares and comments like “Seriously? What is wrong with you?” Or, “This is too heavy. I can’t handle this right now.” (This was from a guy I was involved in a romantic relationship with). I stopped eating. I slept way too much. I skipped classes, I floated through my job as a restaurant server like a ghost. I started turning in my reporting assignments for my campus newspaper half finished. I was embarrassed, because I had always been a studious and responsible writer.

One night, I finally collapsed under the weight of it all and through my tears, asked my roommate to drive me to the local mental health hospital. My first night there was terrifying. I was put in a locked ward in a bed that was situated in the middle of the room covered only by a very thin blanket. There was no door, and I could hear screams coming from down the hall. I was afraid to close my eyes. I started therapy sessions and medication the next day, and was eventually moved to a room that I shared with a woman who had OCD. She was very motherly and warm to me. My parents came to bring me clothes, but they didn't know what to say to me. They promised though, that they would help me get better any way they could.

I learned something very quickly during my time there. I discovered there were people who were MUCH worse off than me. There were people who were horribly addicted to drugs and alcohol, whose spouses beat them to a pulp, whose parents sexually abused them. There were people who were so catatonic and over-medicated that they couldn’t be with their families. I felt weak. I felt like I should have been able to handle my problems a little better. But I also felt a weight lifted off me by having other people to talk to who understood my sadness, and counselors who lifted my spirits and gently coaxed me to eat. In a moment of clarity, I found love in the unimaginable setting of a mental health hospital. I found love again for myself, for what my mind and body were capable of, and what I still had left to accomplish. I wanted to go back to college, reclaim what friendships I still had, and work through my problems, no matter how difficult they were. And you know what? It wasn’t easy, and I did have to return to the hospital briefly once more under stress during my senior year of college, but I graduated. Today I am the proud mother of two, I’ve been married for 15 years, and I help pay the bills (and have won a few awards) with my writing. I’ve often wanted to write about my experience, but have been afraid to because of what people might say about me. I would be lying if I said I still didn’t worry about that. But now I think that if I could learn to love myself in such a dark and desperate place, nothing is impossible.

About the Author:
A graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and of Northwestern University with a master’s in journalism, Michael French is the author of twenty-four books: adult and young adult fiction, art criticism, biographies, adaptations, and gender studies. A native of Los Angeles, he also is a successful businessman, an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, a world traveler to developing countries, an activist, and, with his wife, Patricia, a philanthropist raising money for programs aiding teachers in Santa Fe, N.M., public schools, which are some of the most challenged in the country.







Purchase a copy of the book here.

I'd love to hear about your own stories of finding love where you least expected it. Share in the comments below!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Summer Travels = Article Ideas

Summer is in full swing at our house as I've tried to get into a writing groove during the months that my kids are out of school. I love summer because I get to vacation with my family, spend quality time with my kids, and get a welcome break from the daily commute of driving my kids to school. It is harder, though, because my normal schedule is thrown off with the kids sleeping later and having to juggle the driving/carpooling to camps and other activities.

June flew by. The kids got out of school at the beginning of June and we had a trip planned to visit family in Central Texas. I scrambled a bit before we left because I have a full list of contract work right now (yay!) but as I wrote in this post for WOW! Women on Writing, being a freelance writer/editor means you never really get a break from deadlines. I scheduled some things to post ahead of time, and I'm lucky no real emergencies popped up because I had limited access to Wi-Fi n the airports and at the places I was visiting in Texas.

We did plenty of fun things on our trip and it was great to see family again. I got to check one thing off my "bucket list" of places to visit. As a big fan of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper,"  we were in close proximity to Waco, so we made a visit to Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Market Silos complex.

A photo posted by Elizabeth (@lizb063) on

I loved the layout of the place, with it's mix of a bakery (not opened yet, but we got to sample some cupcakes!), retail space, plenty of places for photos ops, feed and seed store, and a large, centrally-located green space with lawn games and swings for children to take a break on. There was a big crowd of people but because the property is so spread out, you never felt cramped.

A variety of food trucks border the property, with a shaded picnic area, which was welcome, because Texas is extremely hot and humid and there aren't any trees to provide natural shade. (However, we didn't need to pick up lunch because we stumbled upon an In-and-Out Burger at the exit for Magnolia Market.) Score!

A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

I picked up a few t-shirts and a tote bag and was impressed by the number of friendly employees on the property, all who were happy to snap photos of the visitors upon request.

A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

Two blocks away from Magnolia Market is the Dr. Pepper Museum, which is housed in the first building built to manufacture Dr. Pepper. Not only was the architecture of the old building beautiful, but the items curated in the museum were well worth the admission price, with the history of the company, collectibles, videos, memorabilia, and more. There's even more to find in an adjacent building, along with a gift shop and soda fountain for treats.

A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

Like any good freelancer, I've put this list of places on my "to-do" list of article ideas and submissions. Summer isn't over yet, and on top of juggling assignments, we've also got a few more trips planned before school starts back up. I'm especially looking forward to touring Washington, DC with the kids at the end of July. Stay tuned!