Bookroo Review: Children's Book Subscription Box

      We're a book-loving family. Always have been. It started with Tim reading Sandra Boynton's "The Belly Button Book" to my stomach when I was pregnant with Owen. We started reading to them early and both of our boys love books. It is not uncommon to find them sitting in their playroom surrounded by books instead of toys (well, to be honest, there are toys all over the place too, but they're mostly flipping through books). Yesterday, I walked upstairs from doing laundry to find Owen reading "Secret Pizza Party" from memory to his younger brother. Our bedtime routine is not complete without a few stories. The library is our favorite place to go. So suffice it to say, when I had the option of trying out a new subscription box for children's books, I jumped at the chance.

       Bookroo is a monthly book subscription box for kids. There are two subscription plan options: board books (best for ages 0-3) and picture books (for ages 2 to 6 and older). The board book plan contains three books per month and the picture book plan includes two books per month. A month-to-month subscription on either plan is $19.99 with free shipping, though subscriptions are discounted if you go ahead and pay for a longer subscription. Three months is $55.99 and a six month subscription is $104.99. The company promises that retail value of the books will always exceed the subscription price. Stick around and receive a $4 discount on your first box just for readers of my blog. 
      As you can see, the branding and packaging for the subscription is very cute and personalized with a hand-written note on the inside of the box. The books come neatly wrapped in coordinating wrapping paper and tied with string. This subscription would make a great gift as well because you could add a birthday card and you're also set to go to a kid's birthday party. 

      I subbed to both subscription plans so I could check out the board books and picture books. Graham's box was the first to arrive. 

Graham immediately began flipping through his board books. 

We received these books: 
"The Crayon Box that Talked" by Shane DeRoll ($5.89): Yellow hates Red, so does Green, and no one likes Orange! Can these crayons quit arguing and learn to cooperate? Shane DeRolf's deceptively simple poem celebrates the creation of harmony through diversity. In combination with Michael Letzig's vibrant illustrations, young readers will understand that when we all work together, the results are much more colorful and interesting.
"Let's Count! A First Book of Numbers" from Sassy ($6.15): Babies 3 months or older can practice counting to 10 with this adorable board book featuring bright illustrations, simple text, and a flap to lift on each page. "Hernando Fandango The Great Dancing Dog!" by Rachel Swirles ($4.95): It's time for the Big Ballroom Dance Competition-but who will win? Join Hernando Fandango and his very best friend, a shy little girl called Adelaide, as they waltz, jive, and rumba their way through this toe-tappingly terrific ballroom dancing extravaganza! A beautiful board book about following your dreams, with help from your best friend, and a little bit of rhythm.
       All together, the board books have a retail price of $20.97 so they are worth more than the cost of the subscription. As with most things, you can find these three books for cheaper than that on Amazon. At the time of this review, all three would cost $16.99. But then you miss out on the specially curated surprise of receiving new books in the mail each month. 

     Owen's picture book subscription plan arrived a few days later. Again, his box was personalized with a message and his books were wrapped beautifully in coordinating paper. 

We received these two books:
"Pirate Nap: A Book of Colors" by Danna Smith ($12.33): What better place for naptime than a grand pirate ship on the high seas? Two boys use their imaginations to turn everyday objects, from a white bandanna to yellow coins to a red blanket, into colorful pirate treasure as they prepare for naptime. With a bouncy rhymed text and fun illustrations, this charming book teaches little ones their colors while making a great read-aloud. Even the youngest readers and listeners will want to be a part of the fun as they get ready to sail off to sleep!

"Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleepover" by David Melling ($10.24): Douglas is excited to go to Rabbit's sleepover. On his way he runs into Little Sheep and invites him along too. But Douglas brings along more guests than he realizes! With too many animals and not enough space, how will anyone ever get to sleep?

         Together, the retail value of the books from the picture book subscription were $27.94. The subscription plan price of $19.99 is cheaper even than Amazon, where they could be purchased for $22.57 at the time of this review. The picture book plan is definitely a great value since picture books can get very pricey. I think the last one we bought ("The Day the Crayons Came Home") was close to $18. 
        Overall, I was impressed with this subscription service. We have received books for two months now and I am completely shocked that in receiving 10 books at this point, we have not received a single book that we already own. I also loved the variety in reading difficulty, illustrations, messages, and styles of all the books. Some focused on story-telling to encourage inner qualities and good behaviors like getting along with others and bravery while others taught colors, numbers and letters. And best of all, my kids loved them and have read them over and over. You can always tell when Owen loves a book because we read it enough that he then memorizes it and can "read" it to himself.
        In addition to providing great books each month, Bookroo is also offering a coupon code for readers of this blog. Click HERE to receive $4 off your first box! Your first box will be $15.99 (coupon code shows up on the last page of checkout). Let me know if you have any issues!  

These boxes were received at a discounted price in exchange for an honest review. 

What I'm Loving Now

Last week's post about my favorite things was pretty fun to write, so I decided to do another. Here's what I'm loving this week:

1. Adult coloring books. 

Coloring. It's not just for kids anymore. And it's swiftly becoming all the rage by helping adults unplug from technology and relieve stress. Books by one of the genre's most popular illustrators, Johanna Basford, are frequently out of stock on Amazon because the publishers can't print them fast enough to keep up with demand. I recently bought her coloring book "Enchanted Forest" from Amazon and had to wait a week for them to get in a new shipment. I am so excited to use it as a way to unwind and relax at the end of the day without the use of electronics. Also, just as an FYI, I had to turn off Safesearch to be able to search the term "adult coloring books." Also, there are also adult adult coloring books, so watch your search terms, folks.  

2. Periscope.

Periscope is a new app for iPhone and Android that features live video streaming. You follow people on the app like you would Instagram or Youtube or whatever and when they go live, your phone will alert you. You can also watch the videos afterwards for up to 24 hours. I love the app. It's super fun to listen to talks from people I admire, get tips from a favorite author, get business advice from a mentor, or whatever people want to broadcast. I literally watched John Mayer play guitar live on my phone a couple weeks ago. It was pretty cool. 

3. Bible journaling.

I started Bible journaling back in Kentucky, but got out of the habit during the move. I have since dug out all my supplies and started back up again. It's so much fun to be creative while studying the Bible and the Bible journaling community is huge and vibrant and fun. You can check out to find out more about it. My favorite supplies to use while Bible journaling are alphabet stickers, stamps, and watercolor paints! Illustrated Faith also has an Etsy shop where they sell supplies and monthly devotional sets that come with really cute stamps. The link is here.

4. My new bedding.

We've had the same bedding since we got married and I recently decided to update our bedroom a bit since the move. I wanted something pretty neutral that would make our bedroom really relaxing and pretty. I found this duvet from Pottery Barn on sale and bought it and the shams for less than $50! It looks great on the bed and is really light and soft. And with white sheets it seems like we're sleeping in a hotel. And if you know me, you know I am obsessed with nice, clean hotel bedding. In case you are interested, it's the Lucianna Medallion Duvet cover in blue. I think the price may have gone up again though. 

5. Book-inspired candles. 

I am a big fan of essential oils, obviously, but I still love a nice candle every now and then for the scent and ambiance. My new favorites are made by Frostbeard on Etsy. They are handcrafted soy candles that have book-inspired scents. I typically burn candles while I am reading in bed, so book candles are appropriate I think. They are pretty pricey, but Frostbeard frequently has coupon codes on their Instagram so I wait for those before ordering. The last one I used was a 25% off code. My favorite scents are The Shire (Oakmoss, clover, aloe and a hint of sweet cherry pipe tobacco scent), Winterfell (Scotch pine and firewood scent), and the Harry Potter-inspired wizard candle set. They also have other fun little tea light sampler sets so you can try a bunch of scents before buying a larger candle. 

6. Handmade Artwork 

We are currently decorating our new house and I am finding that I am loving more personalized and handmade artwork for decorating. I'm not super crafty myself so I have been scouring Etsy for stuff and I also follow several people on Instagram that have sales on there as well and yesterday I snagged this super cute sign! It's from Just Add Sunshine, Inc., and I love all the colorful and cute signs that she carries. She has a few left in her Etsy shop as well, though they sell out fast every time she lists something. 

Anyway, that's it for this week. What are you loving lately?

Thrive Market review: Healthy Foods at Wholesale Prices

So we moved into our new house last month and the thought of stocking my pantry again was making me kind of nervous. You see, recently Tim and I have been making some big changes in regards to our health by exercising almost daily and eating more healthfully. We are trying to eat more organic and less processed foods and cutting out most dairy, grains, and prepackaged foods with hydrogenated oils. As you can probably guess, our grocery bills are enough to give me heart palpitations at the register. 

Our new house is nearby both a Whole Foods and a Costco, which is great, but the prices at Whole Foods are just so expensive and while Costco offers great prices and bulk items, it doesn't really have the variety of healthy foods that we are buying now. 

Enter Thrive Market

Thrive Market is a membership-based online store with the mission of making healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. I heard about it from a friend and learned that my first order would be 15% off and I would get my first 30 days free to check it out before paying the $59.95 yearly membership fee. Plus free shipping with purchases over $49.

So because we needed to stock the pantry and because my first order got 15% off, I ordered 49 items, including  things like spices, ketchup, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado mayo, almond flour and coconut flour, and even cleaning products. I got my entire enormous order for $202. I shudder to think what the same order would have cost me at Whole Foods. 

My order arrived about a week after I placed it. The company ships from California and I am on the complete other side of the country so I didn't expect it would get to me too quickly. Everything was wrapped carefully so that nothing was broken or leaked. This creates a lot of trash once you've unwrapped everything, but seems necessary for keeping things safe during shipping. 

I am quite pleased with their selection. They have tons of products including food, bath and body, beauty, health, home goods, and baby and kids. Most products are at least a dollar cheaper than at stores and a lot of products were cheaper than on Amazon as well. 
I have since ordered three more times from Thrive Market and have continued to be pleased with their selection and service. Most recently I was able to purchase a Diva Cup (look it up if you don't know what it is...or don't if you happen to be a dude) for $15 less than what it was priced at Whole Foods. Because I am good at planning my meals ahead and am keeping up a well-stocked pantry of non-perishables from Thrive Market, I am able to basically keep my weekly grocery list to just produce, meat, and things like milk, yogurt and cheese sticks for the boys. 
Another plus about Thrive Market is that for every paid membership purchased, they provide a free membership to a low-income family. They are also committed to making sure all their products are free of GMOs and they stock USDA certified organic foods as best they can. 
If you are interested in trying out Thrive for yourself, you can click my link HERE. Try using the code DOCTORSVIP to receive a percentage off your order and free shipping. You may also be given a coupon code for your first order when you sign up for the trial anyway (that's how I got my original 15% off.) 

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

I haven't done a blog post like this in a long time, so let's just get to it! Here are some things I am loving right now.

1. 21 Day Fix

Tim and I have both been doing the 21 Day Fix eating/workout program from Beachbody and we are loving it! Tim hasn't lost a bunch of weight, but I can tell his body is definitely changing and getting more muscular. I on the other hand, have lost 9 pounds and my clothes are fitting better. We recently started another round of the program. The 21 Day Fix program is really easy to follow. You have a 30 minute workout each day and then you follow their eating program, which focuses on portion control and meal planning. I also love the Shakeology shakes and have been drinking those as part of my regimen as well. I can definitely tell a difference in my sugar cravings and appetite when I have one for breakfast. I am loving chocolate Shakeology with half a banana, spinach, water and ice. 

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2. Young Living Essential Oils

Did you think I would forget to mention these? No, no, me either. Now that we are moved and officially settled in, I have gotten all my oils organized and unpacked all my diffusers so I am back to using them daily. Currently I am loving oils for helping me relax and fall asleep at the end of the day when my mind is racing and I also used them on some ant bites Graham got the other day when he decided to lop the top off of an ant hill. If you haven't jumped on board the essential oil train yet, I don't know what you're waiting for... they are awesome. Cross my heart.  

3. An Ember in the Ashes.

I have been doing a lot more reading lately as I am making time for myself more of a priority. And this is the best new release I have read this year. "An Ember in the Ashes" is the first book written by Sabaa Tahir and it takes place in a brutal Roman-esque empire where society is characterized by slavery and oppression. The book is told through dual narration between Laia, a woman who goes undercover at a military school as a slave in order to try to free her brother from prison, and Elias, son of the school's commander who plans to run away from the school. The world-building is amazing. The characters are well-developed. And with action-packed chapters that typically end in cliff hangers, this book will keep you devouring this book late into the night. The best books are the ones that can evoke strong emotions when you're reading and this one had me in tears many times. I highly highly recommend it. Are you ordering it on Amazon yet? What are you waiting for? Sweet sassy molassey! Just order it already! Do it! Do it now! 
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4. LUSH bath products. 

I first made the mistake of going into a Lush store back when we lived in Kentucky. Before then, I had no idea what it was. And now I'm addicted. It's ridiculously expensive, but you get what you pay for and many of the items I like to order like the bath bombs and bubble bars can be split in half to make them go further. My sweet sweet husband and sweet sweet oldie bestie from third grade both got me Lush for my birthday so I am all set for dozens of sweet-smelling, colorful, bubbly baths. As part of operation time for me, I have been taking several baths a week lately and Lush just enhances that by adding softening moisturizers and yummy-smelling essential oils to the bath. Never tried Lush before? I recommend the Avobath bath bomb and the Floating Island bath melt.  
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5. Thrive Market.

Healthy foods cheaper than at Whole Foods and shipped straight to my house? Sign me up! Oh wait, I already did. I am loving Thrive Market right now. I have placed four orders since I signed up at the beginning of June and I love them for nonperishable healthy non-GMO and (many times) organic foods plus natural beauty/hygiene/home items and tons of items for babies and kids. I just got a bucket and an assortment of shovels, rakes, and sifters for the boys to play with at the beach for less than they were listed on Amazon. Thrive Market is a online membership-based health store whose mission is to make healthy living accessible and easy for everyone. The yearly membership is less than $60 and products are cheaper than at conventional stores and oftentimes on Amazon as well. Thrive Market allows you to test out their service for a month or more before you are locked in to a membership and you get a discount code for your first order upon signing up for your trial. Shipping is free over $49. If you are in the market for coconut oil/flour/aminos, ghee, organic kid snacks, organic condiments, and other things like that, then check it out! 

6. Against All Grain. 

I bought this cookbook months ago when it caught my eye at Barnes and Noble, but I hadn't tried anything from it until two weeks ago. We have been dieting and because I can't stand to just eat plain grilled chicken, veggies and brown rice every single night, I finally cracked open this book to find some healthy recipes. Since then I have made Peruvian style chicken, crockpot chipolte barbacoa, pineapple beef kabobs, Mexican burgers, chicken curry, enchilada-stuffed peppers, gluten-free blueberry muffins, and southwestern frittata. The recipes are simple and uncomplicated. There are some specialty ingredients, but since I have stocked our pantry with healthy staples from Thrive Market, it's been no big deal to make pretty much any recipe in here. And everything I've made has been really yummy.
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7. Target Dollar Section

The Dollar Spot has really been on point lately. The last time I went I bought a ton of beginner workbooks for Owen for all sorts of subjects from math and early reading skills to dinosaurs and the United States of America. They had loads of flash cards and other classroom/back to school related items as well. I also stocked up on a lot of cute stationary and planner supplies. I bought a few packs of thank you cards, three magnetized notepads for to do lists and notes, two packs of sticky notes and birthday cards. 
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Moving On

So clearly I have been too busy to blog lately. But let's face it, some days I'm too busy to fix a cup of coffee before 11 a.m. 

A couple months ago we left our sweet little first home in Kentucky where we brought home our second son from the hospital and where our oldest turned from chubby-faced baby to legitimate little boy. Now we are all settled in our new home in western South Carolina. So far we love it here. It's just two hours away from our families. There are tons of fun restaurants and bbq joints (plus an awesome cupcake bakery). We're not far from Target (hallelujah!) and Costco. We've already found a church that we are enjoying attending. It's been great. 

The boys are doing well. Next month Graham will turn two. He is the happiest boy 99.9% of the time and his little personality is just the cutest. He has super long shaggy hair that curls in the back and behind his ears. We know we should cut it, but feel like it just fits his personality so well. He loves playing anything that his older brother is playing with and follows him around and copies him. It's very sweet. Except for when he follows big brother into trouble, of course. He is still a great eater. His favorite new food is quinoa. He loves swimming in the pool and playing in the new playhouse Tim put together in the backyard. He also really loves being read to and will sit happily forever and let you read to him. He is talking more now, though he is hard to understand sometimes. He has a few multi-word phrases that he says, like "Here you go" and "I want to get down."

Owen has become a big boy lately. He has been growing like crazy since his surgery in February to remove his tonsils and adenoids. He is both eating and sleeping better. He is quite the early riser and frequently wakes me before my alarm in the mornings. He still loves playing with cars and coloring best of most anything. He also likes to play pretend restaurant and make food for me. Normally, it's some form of pancakes. Especially marshmallow pancakes. His favorite TV show at the moment is Miles from Tomorrowland on Disney. He's very into space right now because of it and runs around singing the theme song a lot. He has been learning to write and read some. He can write his name and mom and has written dog and cat a time or two. His favorite thing to write is Owen loves Mom or Mom loves Owen. He can recognize several words, but is still a little impatient to be able to completely sit and concentrate on sounding out words when we work on teaching him to read. Otherwise, I think he is close to be ready. 

On Memorial Day we went swimming in a pool and I will conclude this post with some pictures from that day just to update you on what the boys look like now. I will try to post more frequently now that we're settled into the new house. 

Snow Day!

We got several inches of snow last Saturday so I took the boys outside to let them play. They had a great time. Graham just trudged around the entire yard the whole time and Owen ran around pretending he was one of the Wild Kratt brothers looking for polar bears and walruses. It was adorable. Here are the photos I was able to get with my real camera (one of my goals this year is to remember to use my digital SLR camera instead of my iPhone all the time). 

This face says, "I fell in the snow and it was COLD!" and also "Why won't you let me cross the street and go find the neighbor's dog?"

Menu Planning Monday

Tons of new recipes this week! Wheee! 

Monday: Skinny Taste Aztec chicken, quinoa, and avocado soup. This is one of favorite soup recipes from the Skinny Taste cookbook. We've made it many times since I got the cookbook and even though the kids are weird about quinoa, I make it anyhow. Because it's delicious. 

Tuesday: Bangin' Good Chicken Salad. This is a newer Skinny Taste recipe from the blog that combines two of her previous recipes: baked chicken nuggets and bangin good shrimp. I plan to feed the kids (and probably Tim) the chicken nuggets and make the salad for myself. 
Wednesday: Lasagna Soup. Yay for another new Skinny Taste recipe. I just checked her blog for the first time in a while and found several recipes that looked good. This one looks really interesting. It's either going to be really awesome or just kind-of so-so. We'll see. 
Thursday: Picadillo quesadillas. I have made Skinny Taste's crock pot picadillo before and it's super easy. This recipe basically takes that and puts it inside a quesadilla. It seems like it will be really tasty and I'm fairly certain I can get the boys to eat it without too much fuss. 
Friday: Slow cooker French dip sandwiches. I am trying hard to use all of the beef we have in the freezer so I found this recipe from Skinny Taste. I have never made it before, but it seems easy and tasty. Tim is really excited about it. 
Saturday: Steak with garlic parmesan fries and roasted broccoli. Again, I'm trying to use up the beef in the freezer and we have a ton of steak in there. Tim is our resident griller so I planned for Saturday since I'm fairly certain he'll be home in time to grill it (not something I can plan for during the work week). These garlic parmesan fries are really yummy so we'll be having my take on steak frites and some broccoli too.
Sunday: I haven't planned anything for Sunday yet. It's the Super Bowl so I kind-of want to make something really unhealthy and fun, but we also have a class at our church in the afternoon so I don't know what time we'll get home from that so we can feed the kids before the game starts. Maybe something in the crock pot? Eating out? We'll see. 

What are you cooking this week?