Thursday, 31 October 2013

Adventures with a Toddler: Our Halloween Costume Saga

Happy Halloween everyone!

So this one was really an adventure- trying to find a Halloween costume for my not-quite-two-year-old.

As you can see, things started off pretty well with the elephant costume Mama wanted to attempt to use for the second year in a row.
It was looking like we had an early win!
...and then this happened...
...and this...

So we tried something a little different.
Neither Mama nor munchkin were impressed.
In the end we went with what just felt "right" for all of us! A happy little Habs fan! 

Trick or treat! 

Have a safe and fun Halloween!


The Kujos

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Keeping Busy Keeps Me at My Best

Ahhh the wisdom and insight of the amazingly fabulous Lucille Ball. While this quote doesn't necessarily represent my life mantra, it certainly defines one of my life's truths. I have always found that I am at my social and personal best and most productive when I am busiest. Any time I have ever found myself in a slump, on the couch, wanting to cry and hide in my pjs all day long, chances are I was low on a list of things to do and responsibilities to be met.

While these days I cannot look to the pressures of school work, legal research or paper writing any more, recently I have found a way to make the busy life work with mommy life. A few days ago, a friend asked me how I have the time to work a full-time job, keep house, cook, be a wife, mother, blog, read books, captain and play on a sports team (or 2), study my lines and attend rehersals for a play, make it to weekly pilates sessions, get a toddler to her own activities, keep in touch with friends and family spanning the entire North American continent without crashing or imploding. Well, when you put it like that... I HAVE NO IDEA! Seriously! Am I insane?! (My actual response was something along the lines of... I'd rather not think about it because I might break down!)

It seems to me that I'm just one of those crazy people who functions best under constant movement and activity. I just seem to work best when I'm needed (or something like that). [And maybe, just maybe it has a little something to do with my amazing and supportive husband who recognizes the need to keep me swimming in the deep end.]

When I returned to work after my maternity leave last fall, I found the prospect of balancing a full-time career and being a wife and mother an impossibly daunting task. How the heck is it even possible? Should it even be a goal? What do I do when one or the other begins to suffer because of the attention required for the other? Let me tell you, I still haven't found the secret formula. I am not sure I ever will (or if there even is one). I can tell you that I've discovered that the less I think about it and stress about it, the easier it seems to be. 

Obviously I know the risks of burn out, but I've got some good people in my corner to rein me back in when I swim too far from the shore. 

It makes me wonder though, is there anyone else out there who feels the same way? Am I just crazy? When do you find you're at your best? How do you manage the balancing act? How many licks does it take to get to the centre of a Tootsie Roll Pop? I would love to hear your answers and comments below!

Happy Multi-Tasking!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway: My Handy Little Health Journal

My Handy Little Health Journal
Authors: Mary Anne Alton & Tania Craan
Publication: 2013 ECW Press


A structured tool for busy women, My Handy Little Health Journal by Tania Craan and Mary Anne Alton guides women in their process to track their health and wellness information, all in one place.

The average woman visits a healthcare professional six to ten times a year, but her responsibilities extend far beyong that with regular regimens for nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and stress management. With space to record healthcare providers, appointments, medications, tests, expenses, and procedures, this journal is as useful before a routine appointment as it is in an emergency. Plus, the journal highlights helpful tips about medication, smart recipes, fitness, and travel- and even includes brainteasers for the waiting room.

My Healthy Little Health Journal is the result of extensive consultation with women in the medical, communications, and marketing fields and inspires women to change their healthcare habits with a broad approach to wellness.


I was sent a copy of My Handy Little Health Journal (MHLHJ) from ECW Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This journal is so well thought out, so adorable, and very smart. It's the perfect size to slip into your computer case, diaper bag, or purse, so you can take it with you wherever you go. It's the perfect way to keep track of everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) related to your health and wellness while keeping organized. 

I was so impressed by this journal that I wanted to know more. The lovely creators, Tania Craan and Mary Anne Alton, obliged by answering some questions that I thought would be fun to share with all of you!

MamaKujo (MK):       I would love to know more about each of you. What can you tell me about your respective backgrounds that might give a little more insight into the creation of MHLHJ?
Tania Craan (TC):       I have been an art director and book designer for over 30 years. I started my graphic design career working as a designer at Penguin Books Canada and then went on to become the art director at McClelland & Stewart. For the past 20 years, I have run my own graphic design studio while managing to keep up with a hectic family life- being a wife, mother of two teenage girls, daughter of aging parents and official daily dog-walker of Koko, our dog. 
Mary Anne Alton (MA):       I'm a mom to two teenage boys, a wife, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and best friend to Abby, our dog. I'm also a documentary filmmaker who has written, directed and produced award- winning documentaries for over 20 years. My docs have aired in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. Many of my docs have been about health, specifically women's health. I've worked the past 20 years as a freelancer, but prior to that, I worked for CBC television and radio.I was an early local food advocate, having grown up on a farm where we ate what we grew. I love to cook, bake and eat good meals with my family and friends. I've always respected traditional medicine but have approached my own health from a holistic perspective. I'm also an active member of my church, organizing a cooking series and an author's series to feed the body, mind and soul. 

MK:     How did the two of you meet and how and when did you decide to collaborate on this project? 
TC:      Mary Anne and I have been friends for over ten years. We have shared a great deal together. We're both freelancers in very demanding creative fields. We met through our husbands who are good friends working in the advertising world. One day, over coffee, we decided we needed to do something to protect our most important asset- our health. We felt that id we could develop a tool to help us take control of our health other women might to want to use it too.
MA:       Tania and I decided after that cup of coffee that we'd try to put something together even if just for ourselves. I'm a writer and researcher and Tania is a graphic designer who works on a lot of books. With our complimentary skills, we started mapping out the book in coffee shops, meeting once a month, then weekly, eventually working out of our homes to start researching, writing, and designing the layout. It's been a labour of love!

MK:      What inspired you to write and prepare this journal? What's the story behind the story that actually got you to sit down and start putting it all together?
TC:       The idea of creating a health journal was always in the back of my mind. I have always been responsible for keeping track of my health history (as well as my family's), but it was always scattered all over the house. Telephone numbers were in one place, tests and documents in another, and bits of paper in folders and drawers. Every time I had to fill out a medical form, I spent too much time looking for information. It was never at my fingertips.
I also noticed I could not always remember when I was due for a check up or a follow-up test. I'm a relatively healthy person, but I have 6-10 medical-related appointments per year (family doctor, specialists, dentist, tests and more tests, etc.). It was becoming too hard to keep track of everything. 
Being a book designer, it only made sense to have all of my information all in one place. Why not in an attractive book form? The options on the market were pretty ordinary journal books. I wanted something more inviting and fun to use.
MA:       I've talked with too many women over the years who didn't stay on top of their health and wellness and ended up having to deal with a life-threatening condition. I've always been interested in my own health and wellness, but I've found it harder to manage with all the demands of work, family and my own routine medical appointments. I had started a file folder which had bits of paper in it, but it wasn't very organized. What if I ever got sick and needed to know important information about past medications, treatments, appointments? I wouldn't be able to tell my health care team what they would need to know to help me.

While in the process of writing this journal, I found myself in the emergency room one day with my son. He had had a minor bike accident. The nurse asked me when he'd had his last tetanus shot. I couldn't tell her. It made me realize I didn't know when I'd had my last tetanus shot either- or any of my vaccinations for that matter. 
It was confirmation that we were on the right track, and that this project could be really helpful to other women. One place to have all of their health and wellness information, easily accessible whenever it might be needed.

MK:      What kind of research went into the preparation of the journal?
MA:      We made our way through books, periodicals, online sources, and consulted with medical professionals. We also asked our friends and potential users what they might like to see in the book and what they thought of the information we were gathering. I also took a 13-week mindful meditation course which really gave me some great insight into the mind-body connection and how it affects our overall health and well-being. 
TC:      Mary Anne and I spent over eight months developing, researching and designing the first draft of the health journal. We felt it was important to get the right feel and tone-- we did not want it to be a chore for women to use it. It had to be guilt-free and filled with inspiration and humour.  

MK:      What is the most important message you have for working moms?
MA:      Take care of yourself... because if you don't, you won't be able to care for those you love.
TC:      There are always health issues we want to improve-- eat better, exercise more, reduce stress-- but we don't always know how to begin. I believe the key is just taking that first step. Just start. Take small, achievable steps, and before you know it a new habit will have taken root.


I am also thrilled to be giving away a copy of My Little Handy Healthy Journal to one of my lucky readers!

Contest ends November 8th.
Open to Canadian residents only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you would like to learn more about the authors, ask your questions, or learn more about My Handy Little Health Journal:

Facebook: My Handy Little
Twitter: @myhandylittle
LinkedIn: My Handy Little
Goodreads Author Pages: Mary Anne Alton & Tania Craan

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Book Review: This House is Haunted

This House is Haunted
Author: John Boyne
Publication: October 8, 2013 by Other Press


Written in Dickensian prose, This House Is Haunted is a striking homage to the classic nineteenth-century ghost story. Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall. When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is greeted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.
From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past. Clever, captivating, and witty, This House Is Haunted is pure entertainment with a catch.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I fell in love with this book in the first 2 chapters. I loved the writing style- harkening back to Dickens and the classic gothic ghost story. I loved that we got to meet Dickens, that Boyne took the reader to a time and place where he was real, alive, and influential.

Then Eliza's journey as governess at Gaudlin Hall began and my affections began to wane. I have always loved a good scary story. I was really hoping (especially after the disappointment of reading Bellman & Black) to find a good creepy ghost tale to set the mood for the Halloween season. This one was definitely a ghost story- haunted old house, dreary English setting, angry spectres, unexplained deaths of young women, creepy children in starched and formal clothing.

Some other readers and reviewers have suggested that the author intended his story to be a tongue-in-cheek love letter to the greats of the genre. I am not so convinced. If that were the case, then I would have expected the motifs to be more over-the-top, making me chuckle a little here and there. Instead, I felt more like I was reading a ghost story in which the writer is telling me 'this is scary' and 'you should be spooked now'.

I can see how this story might work really well as a film- things that happen might be more scary if I were watching them happen rather than being told about them. Maybe it's because whenever the "scary" ghost stuff happened, it was always sudden and abrupt violence rather than the slow, spine-tingling torment that has you holding your breath which might be more effective with the written word.

I will admit that there was a point where I decided to give up on this book. I was bored. Then guilt took over and I decided to give it one more chance to hook me. It redeemed itself. I finished the second half of the book in a single sitting. At no point was I shocked or scared, but I was definitely curious enough that I lost myself in the story and needed to know how it would end.

Wordless Wednesday: My First Estate Sale Treasure! {linky}

Hubby and I discovered the magic of an estate sale this weekend. We brought home a few really amazing pieces, but this tea trolley is my biggest prize.

It only cost us $25 and it needs a little bit of love, but it is an absolutely PERFECT addition to our new home!

Leave your WW Post down below! Would love to check out all of the fun photos of the day! :)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Book Review: Teatime for the Firefly

Teatime for the Firefly
Author: Shona Patel
Publication: Harlequin MIRA, September 24, 2013


My name is Layla and I was born under an unlucky star. For a young girl growing up in India, this is bad news. But everything began to change for me one spring day in 1943, when three unconnected incidents, like tiny droplets on a lily leaf, tipped and rolled into one. It was that tiny shift in the cosmos, I believe, that tipped us together-me and Manik Deb.
Layla Roy has defied the fates. Despite being born under an inauspicious horoscope, she is raised to be educated and independent minded by her eccentric Anglophile grandfather, Dadamoshai. And, by cleverly manipulating the hand fortune has dealt her, she has even found love with Manik Deb-a man betrothed to another. All were minor miracles in India that spring of 1943, when young women's lives were predetermined-if not by the stars, then by centuries of family tradition and social order.
Layla's life as a newly married woman takes her away from home and into the jungles of Assam, where the world's finest tea thrives on plantations run by native labor and British efficiency. Fascinated by this curious culture of whiskey-soaked expat adventurers who seem fazed by neither earthquakes nor man-eating leopards, she struggles to find her place among the prickly English wives with whom she is expected to socialize, and the peculiar servants she now finds under her charge.
But navigating the hazards of tea-garden society will hardly be her biggest challenge. For even Layla's remote home is not safe from the incendiary change sweeping India on the heels of the Second World War. Their colonial world is at a tipping point as tectonic political shifts rock the tea industry, and Layla and Manik find themselves caught in a perilous racial divide that threatens their very lives.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Yet another review I am feeling conflicted about writing... So I will keep this one short and sweet.

I wish I had all the time in the world to REALLY sit down and enjoy taking the journey through reading this novel. It is beautifully written, transporting the reader to another time and place: the tea-gardens of Imperial India. Layla is a heroine I could truly feel and empathize with. I was rooting for her despite her "luck". She is smart, intuitive, kind, and wise beyond her years and social status.

My love affair with this book was quickly overshadowed, however, by my frustration at its sudden slow pace at about 1/4 of the way through. Having to read it within a reasonable amount of time for preparing a review (as opposed to over the course of a month's leisure), and as a busy working mom I just could not give this lovely novel the time and nurturing that it truly needed.

Despite all that, I do recommend taking the time to read this book if its premise interests you. It is a charming and whimsical treat if you have the time to give it the attention it deserves. Hopefully one day I will have the opportunity to revisit this story and really enjoy it at its own pace.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Morning Giggles for Another Manic Monday

This morning was a bit of a rush in the Kujo household. Mondays generally are- waking up to an alarm for the first time in a few days, getting everything ready for daycare for the week, general sluggishness. I was up and out with the dog by the time Hubby was waking Miss R. I came back inside with just enough time for bye-bye hugs and kisses all around.

I sat down at my desk in my office, and I get a notification that I have a new email from Hubby:

After telling her several minutes earlier that Mommy went to work, munchkin and I had the following chat:

R: "Where did Mommy go?"
Daddy: "You know where Mommy went, you tell Daddy where Mommy went."

R: "A Mommy home."
Daddy: "No, Mommy's not home, do you you remember where Daddy told you Mommy went this morning?"

R: "A Mommy home?!"
Daddy: "No Rosie.....Mommy went somewhere this morning, do you remember where?"

R: "Danna!!!"
Daddy: "???"

R: "Jordana!!!"
Daddy: "Rosie, who is Jordana?"

R: "A Mommy Jordana!!!"

Ahhhh life with a toddler. 

I got a good smile and giggle out of this one, so I thought I'd share.

Anyone else out there have a Munckin Monday Morning today? Would love to hear yours! Feel free to share in a comment below!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Book Review: Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publication: Atria Books, November 5, 2013



Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget . . .

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Let me start by saying that I was so excited when I received an email asking me to read this book for review. Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale is one of those books I've been hanging on to forever, meaning to read, but for whatever reason never getting around to. I heard only wonderful things about it and have had it recommended to me over and over again by various people. The prospect of reading her very latest, in advance of publication got me very excited.

I was even more excited about the dark and mysterious synopsis that reminded me of something we might see from Carlos Ruiz Zafon, especially with Halloween coming up. Sadly, I was disappointed.

It started off hopeful... a tale of boys being boys... a little bit of a Poe vibe...

Then it just got weird-descriptions of birds that just felt out of place. And boring- loooooong periods of nothing at all happening other than a lot of sudden deaths and a hard-working main character who was completely unsympathetic.

There was a point about 1/3 of the way where I was ready to give up on this one. I wasn't even curious. In the end, guilt of abandoning a book that miiiiiiight potentially redeem itself won over. Fear of missing out? I pushed through and finished it, but it just wasn't worth it.

Above all- this is NOT a ghost story. Not by any definition I understand, anyway.

I'm not really sure what the author was trying to get across. If anything, I ended up confused, furrowing my brow, shaking my head and not looking forward to writing this review. I finished reading this 2 or 3 weeks ago now, and I've been putting off writing anything about it because I just don't know how to put into words what I read or experienced.

I suppose the best I can do is say that I just hope that one day I will get around to picking up The Thirteenth Tale, and I will be able to tell you how wonderful and glorious it is. As for Bellman & Black, the best I can say is, "meh" and shrug my shoulders.

As always, feel free to leave comments or questions down below- I would love to hear from you if you had a different experience with this one, have a recommendation, want more info, or just want to say "hi"!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Books Are Our Friends {linky}

That moment when your child cuddles up with your favourite storytime books and "reads" the words out loud for the first time...

Leave your WW Post down below! Would love to check out all of the fun photos of the day! :)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Book Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Publication: HarperCollins Canada, May 2013 


A first-date dud, socially awkward and overly fond of quick-dry clothes, genetics professor Don Tillman has given up on love, until a chance encounter gives him an idea.
He will design a questionnaire-a sixteen-page, scientifically researched questionnaire-to uncover the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver. Rosie is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent, strangely beguiling, and looking for her biological father a search that a DNA expert might just be able to help her with.
The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy like no other. It is arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, and it will make you want to drink cocktails.


Drop whatever else you're reading right now, and read this book! 

It's as simple as that. I will not make any attempt to be witty or clever in this review because it will be an insult to the smart, insightful, and deliciously giggle-worthy writing found in Graeme Simsion's novel.

I really did not know what to expect when I FINALLY got my hands on this book. (I say "finally" because I've been itching to read this one since I first heard about it back in May.) All I knew was that the buzz was great, the description sounded fun, and the title was screaming my name (my daughter's nickname is Rosie). What I got was absolutely better than what I could have imagined, and I am glad that I jumped right in without knowing more than I did.

We are introduced to Professor Don Tillman when he is asked to step in for a friend at a presentation about Aspergers to a room full of kids diagnosed with the condition and their loved ones. What becomes clear as the book progresses, if not immediately, is that Don has much more in common with his beloved "Aspies" than he recognizes when he presents his cold, clinical, academic assessment. While Don never puts a name to his own "condition", he recognizes that he is "not wired" like most people.  This makes for an honest, clever, chuckle-infused, and sometimes bittersweet read.

I want to go on and on and on about how fabulous this book was, but I need to restrain myself. I believe that part of what made this book so enjoyable for me (as with so many great reads) was all of the little surprises along the way. So go out and scoop up your copy now, get in touch with me in the comments below, via Twitter, Goodreads- however- and let's gush!

Added bonuses:

- Professor Don Tillman has his own Twitter handle. I mean, COME ON- amazing!

- The book has just been optioned for film by Sony Pictures!

- It's the October 2013 Savvy Reader Book Club pick, so there are lots of people out there reading and excited to chat everything Rosie!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Wordless Wednesday: We Love Fall {linky}

That face AND juicy apples fresh from the tree? Who could ask for more?!

Ok- maybe some homemade apple pie, too!

Leave your WW Post down below! Would love to check out all of the fun photos of the day! :)

Monday, 7 October 2013

I am Thankful

Happy Monday everyone! Welcome to the new week.

Today's post is a short post of gratitude.

A few days ago I had a medical emergency that had me in the hospital emergency room for nearly 20 hours. [Yes, I am okay. Thank goodness it was a passing thing that has resolved itself.] It's sad to admit, but sometimes it takes something scary and unpredictable to give me the kick in the head I deserve and realize just how blessed I am to be surrounded by the love and support I have in my life.

Parents who are far away but always available for their grown-up little girl to cry to when she's scared...

In-laws who drop everything to take care of my precious family...

Siblings ready to help in whatever way they can (without complaint)...

My husband who is my rock and my anchor in any chaotic storm...

Friends who "just know" and are always there to let me know they love me in unexpected ways and at just the right moment...

My daughter who needs no words...

I am so grateful.

Thank you.

Thanksgiving is a week away (for us Canucks, anyway).  I would love to hear about those (often forgotten) people or things that you are grateful for. Spread the love in the comments below.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Book Review: The Mourning Hours

The Mourning Hours
Author: Paula Treick DeBoard
Published: June 25, 2013 by Harlequin MIRA


Kirsten Hammarstrom hasn't been home to her tiny corner of rural Wisconsin in years-not since the mysterious disappearance of a local teenage girl rocked the town and shattered her family. Kirsten was just nine years old when Stacy Lemke went missing, and the last person to see her alive was her boyfriend, Johnny-the high school wrestling star and Kirsten's older brother. No one knows what to believe-not even those closest to Johnny-but the event unhinges the quiet farming community and pins Kirsten's family beneath the crushing weight of suspicion. 

Now, years later, a new tragedy forces Kirsten and her siblings to return home, where they must confront the devastating event that shifted the trajectory of their lives. Tautly written and beautifully evocative, The Mourning Hours is a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. (Thank you Harlequin!)

The story of Kristen and her family kept me wanting more. I gobbled this book down in almost record time if for no other reason than I just couldn't see where the author was headed. -- Is she dead? Is she alive? Does it matter? Was it him? Was it her?-- It's a pretty big feat lately for a book to keep me guessing. DeBoard took advantage of my natural (over)curiosity and RAN with it. 

There was nothing shocking or really "deep" about the treatment of the material, but it definitely made for a good read. I keep wanting to call it a good, light read, but there isn't much about this book that qualifies it as "light". Regardless, the author's writing is clean, clear and makes it easy to keep turning the pages.

DeBoard did an excellent job of painting the picture of the pain and suffering of the Hammarstrom family. Interesting, considering it is not their daughter who has gone missing. What's even more interesting is that she chose to tell the story from the perspective of nine-year old Kristen- a character who should really just be an observer of the action. Instead, DeBoard manages to tell the story from the perspective of those on the periphery of the action and, in doing so, does an excellent job of showing the reader how our actions are never just our own.  

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


October leaves

I can't say exactly why, but October has always been my favourite month of the year.

Nature's paintbrush...
Cooler air...
Picnics in the leaves...
Sweaters and boots...
Pumpkin EVERYTHING!...
Apple picking...

What do you love about October?