Monday, May 30, 2016

Giving Back to Those Who Serve

This Memorial Day, the Really Real Housewives are going to take a break from BBQs and pinics to offer our sincerest appreciation to our fallen heroes. Their sacrifice assures our rights and our freedoms. As Thomas Jefferson said, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

And while we lounge in the shade of freedom on this holiday, let us remember our fallen heroes in a way they would appreciate...helping their fellow brothers.

Operation Homefront is a charity established to assist US military personnel and their families. Operation Homefront has a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator, is accredited through BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and has an A rating from CharityWatch.
Operation Homefront offers a variety of ways to help. 

You can a specific soldier in a particular situation to donate to. For example, there is a military family seeking donations for their newborn. You can scroll through the list of needs and choose for yourself. You can see that list here.

Or you can make a one-time online donation here, or through traditional mail to this address: 

Operation Homefront
45975 Nokes Blvd Ste 140
Sterling, VA 20166-6555

Any amount is appreciated. There is no minimum donation.
Operation Homefront also offers ways for people to get involved by volunteering. You can help organize fundraisers or participate in the yearly marathon. Check that out here.
No money? No time to organize a fundraiser or inclination to run a marathon? They have outside-the- box donation opportunities. An old gift card you have no need for? They will take it. Have a service you can offer? Contact Ebony Strange at and see how you can help.

And there is one more way to help, that is as easy as clicking a link when you shop. 

Shop Amazon via this link and Operation Homefront gets a donation

Operation Homefront also has an Amazon Wish List. You can purchase items that will be used to help military families.

That's just a few ways to help. To find out more, check out their website. To stay informed of other opportunities, follow the group on Facebook



Ever wonder why the Veteran's of Foreign Wars give you a poppy as a thanks when you make a donation? The sentiment is taken from this poem by John McCrae. Disabled vets were hired to make the poppies that their fellow vets hand out as a token of thanks during their fundraising efforts.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Don't put your finger in that!

As some of you may know, my geekery extends beyond the fantasy novels I write and goes all the way into my day job. By day I don my cape and work at NASA and try to keep things from falling apart. *Note - please call your senators and beg them to fund us. Space is cool!*

One very notable attribute of the government is that they are somewhat safety-obsessed. Every month we have to enjoy safety presentations in which frequently one of our red-faced co-workers has made an "anonymous" appearance on the safety slide - detailing embarrassingly in what sometimes humorous ways they managed to hurt themselves and how we might avoid that same fate. It's not meant to be humorous, but, well, I have kind of an evil mind.

Queue the flashback to one of the most embarrassing moments of my working career when I almost ended up on one of those slides myself....

It started, as most disasters do, with chocolate. And in this I can blame one of my office mates who for this purpose I will refer to as LAM. LAM has a habit of stocking on her desk the most wonderful dark chocolate stash known to mankind. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but when you’ve had a week as bad as mine, all chocolate develops a touch of mystical enchantment. In fact, had it not been for the ethereal glow above the bowl and the angel chorus singing Barry White, I might have walked right past her door and my day, and finger, would have ended without misery.

But I didn’t, and it did.

I grabbed that delicious piece of dark chocolate from LAM’s bowl and by the time I got back to my desk I realized that I’d smeared a big brown streak of it right across my front pant leg. And this is especially aggravating considering I only had the one pair of khakis left that fit me (also partially because of LAM’s delicious bowl of chocolate). So for the next several minutes my other officemate, we'll call her Mama J, got to hear a variety of cursing from me that I wouldn’t normally use in the office while fighting with the chocolate napalm stain. The dear heart had a plastic tub of sanitizing hand wipes which we were both hoping might work without leaving my leg a wet, soppy, chocolaty mess... which it almost did. Now my stain looked less like a chocolate smear and more like I dropped a used diaper on my leg. #improvement?
baby wipes
Yes, baby wipes are evil.

Now onto the hand wipes. *this would be a good place to cue the evil music*

This container was similar to most any tub of baby wipes that you might have seen – the cylinder with a cap and a star shaped slit in the top from which you pull the sheets individually. Well, not wanting to be unkind and leave one of the wipes half hanging out to get dried out, I did what anyone would do and what I have done probably a dozen times with baby wipes. I took my finger and shoved the sheet back into the canister.

But, as I learned, this was not your average canister and it certainly wasn’t for babies. Whereas the star slit in baby wipes is a weak, flimsy sheet of plastic, this one was an industrial strength sheet that I’m surprised my finger went through in the first place. And when I realized how insanely tight it was and tried to pull my finger back out, those star shaped wedges of thick plastic became barbs holding my finger in and giving me the choice of continue to let the circulation be cut off and endure that pain, or pull at my finger and say Adios, skin.

By now Mama J is listening to an ever more inventive string of cussing from me as the pain is getting worse and my finger is turning a not unattractive shade of purple in this lilac-scented Chinese finger trap. On one hand I’m angry because I never dreamed that something that simple could hurt so badly, but second to the pain is the thought that there is NO WAY in hell that I’m going to have to go to the medical center on site to have them cut this monster off my finger and end up on a slide in one of our safety presentations.

And this is where my own personal safety lesson comes into play. As I sat there trying to wedge pens, bottle caps, paper clips, ANYTHING that would get the teeth of that star slit to let go of my poor tormented finger, I was struck with the thought of how I wished that I hadn’t left my pocket knife at home. It wasn’t until later that I realized how LUCKY I was that I’d left my knife at home because, in my blinded-by-pain state, I actually thought that it would have been a GOOD idea to take a knife to wedge between my finger and the plastic using I don’t know what as leverage. A vein, maybe?

Since all stories should have a happy ending, yes, I did finally get the evil hand wipe lid off my finger before the actual rot set in but yes, it did still actually hurt for days. So my safety lesson to share for this day is a combination lesson. On the high road, be aware of how pain clouds your judgment – you might be in trouble, but getting out of it quickly can get you into MORE trouble. On the low road, your mother was right. If you stick your finger into puckered holes, you really might not get it back...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Putting the Devil in Deviled Eggs

Happy Wellness Wednesday, kids!

I'm going to preface this post by emphasizing that I am NOT a health nut, but I do get crazy excited when I find deliciously healthy alternatives to prepping my favorite foods. And I finally found a great and healthy way to make one of the things I love and will overeat at every opportunity:

Deviled Eggs.

Around our house these tend to be the things I hide from my husband (lest we suffer the Thanksgiving gas flashbacks), but if you're a fan of the taste and not the fat, give this quick recipe switch out a try. Everything is a one-for-one swap from the usual mayo/mustard/relish combo that adds so many holiday inches to our hips. Ready for it?

1. Boil your eggs, half, and mash yolks as per usual.
2. All that mayo and mustard you usually use? Use that much red pepper hummus instead.
3. Use relish? Mix in a spicy unsweetened cole slaw mix instead.

YEP. It's that easy to turn the typical unhealthy deviled egg into a nutrient-packed delight, albeit still fairly high calorie. But if you know me, I worry less about calorie quantity than I do calorie quality. This is definitely still not a fat-burning diet food, but I feel loads better eating this than I do fattening condiments.

I'm also a TOTAL hummus fan. Have you guys found any other tricks using it that you'd like to share?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Why You Should Sell Your House Right Now

Ahhh, the crisp smell of paint, lemon Pledge, Windex, and Lavender Fields Glade Plug-ins. Harken to the dust mop ever-swishing and the dishes ever washing. The gleam and sheen of counter and cabinet are rivaled only by the sparkling clean stove top. The refrigerator, you ask, blinded by the glow, can that possibly be real? But where the milk dripping down the back of the shelves, where the puddle of petrified BBQ sauce? You might even wonder if a fridge is still a fridge without the veggie drawer of death.

But don't stop there - have you seen my closets? Arranged by season and color, not a thing in the hamper, nary a sock on the floor. And with its empty counters and cabinets with nail polish lined like tin soldiers, my bathroom sometimes wonders if I even still live here.

Fret not, though, my friends! You, too, can have a house as sparkling clean as ours. And it's so easy to do...

All you have to do is sell it. 

Then spend weeks packing, painting, finishing projects like flagstone patios, patching walls, updating fixtures, scouring baseboards, cleaning like a mad-woman. And, of course, you have to live there like you don't live there at all. If you get something out, it goes up immediately. If you see a speck of dust, panic, then grab the dust mop. Forget your favorite china; your place settings now all say "Solo" and come in red or blue. Make your bed every day and carry a Clorox wipe with you everywhere you go in the house... just in case. And definitely forget having a social life while it's on the market. Because you have to go home and clean the few hours worth of dust that settled while you were working.

Simple, right? On one hand, when we listed our house on 5/11, our house had never been cleaner and felt more soothing to live in (albeit living in very carefully). On the other hand, when we accepted an offer on the 19th, we breathed a HUGE sigh of relief and beer cans, junk mail, and socks magically started appearing all over the house again. The sparkling fridge? Well, it was nice for the week or two it lasted, but face it; that's basically going against nature.

So there you have it: If you want a perfect house you should absolutely put it on the market right now. You just have to give up all sense of comfort, privacy, free time, and sanity, but it's totally worth it, right? Right.

Friday, May 20, 2016

#crafts and #hobbies

Fri: Crafts/hobbies
All week I’ve been focusing on essential oils. I use them for just about everything. They help focus me in my writing, they make my cooking yummy, and they give me activities to keep my kiddos busy. We like to make our own lip balm and lotions using essential oils. They are a bazillion times better for your skin since many conventional lotions contain chemicals and things I can’t pronounce.

I get my shea butter and beeswax on Amazon, along with cocoa butter, which is occasionally called for in these homemade recipes. The coconut oil, both solid and liquid, I find at the grocery story in the olive oil section. You can even play with the liquid oils until you find one that’s perfect for you. Almond oil, Jojoba oil, and grapeseed oil are some great alternatives.

My ten year old and four year old love to help me with these simple essential oil recipes:


1 c solid coconut oil
1-2 T Shea Butter

Melt Shea butter in microwave
Pour into coconut oil 
Whip with hand mixer

Add 10 drops or a mix of 10 drops of essential oils. Pour into small tubs. Makes 4 jelly jar sized tubs.

Lip Balm

1 oz beeswax (About 3 T)
1 oz solid coconut oil (About 2 T)
½ oz shea butter (About 1 T)
½ oz cocoa butter (About 1 T)
30 drops of essential oils—your choice (peppermint/orange)

Melt all but EOs in double boiler. Let cool 2-3 minutes. Add Eo’s.  Mix. Pour into lip balm containers. Makes about 18.

So, I talked this week a little more about my oil business than I did about my writing, so I’ll give you that part of my life condensed: I write books for teens.

There’s not much to do growing up in a small town in Western, NY, so J. Andersen wrote stories and won high school writing contests. But in college her writing was limited to term papers. While teaching middle school she began to read young adult books and got serious about writing. J now writes full time, volunteers at the town library, helps to run a School of the Arts at her church, and sings in the church band. She enjoys good coffee—read: home roasted by her husband—crafts, baking, running a small essential oil business, and chasing after her children. You’ll rarely see J without a book in her hands, and that’s the way she’d like to keep it.

Website -- Facebook -- Twitter -- Goodreads -- Instagram -- Pinterest

It was a refreshing week having J. Andersen here and learning about essential oils. So glad we had her over! It sounds wonderful to make money doing something you enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lemon Chicken Orzo soup #recipe

When you’re a stay-at-home-mom, life is busier than you ever thought possible. This is why I prefer to do cook ahead meals. I can throw them together during the day, and they’ll be ready and waiting at dinner time. One of my favorites is soup, specifically Lemon Chicken Orzo soup. Last summer, I had a bowl of this awesome soup at Panera Bread. I immediately went home and looked for a knock off. Here’s my favorite recipe, which I have tweaked a bit from the original I found online.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

8 ounces orzo pasta
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 carrots, chopped, or more to taste
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and ground black pepper to taste
3 chicken boulion cubes
3 (32 ounce) cartons fat-free, low-sodium chicken stock
1 lemon, zested
3 drops Doterra Lemon Oil
8 ounces cooked chicken breast, chopped (Optional—I found I like this recipe better without the chicken)
1 (8 ounce) package baby spinach leaves—Chopped lightly
1 lemon, sliced for garnish (optional)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir carrots, celery, and onion in hot oil until the vegetables begin to soften and the onion becomes translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season mixture with thyme, oregano, salt, & black pepper; continue cooking another 30 seconds before pouring chicken broth into the pot. Bring the broth to a boil. Partially cover the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir orzo, lemon juice, lemon oil, and lemon zest into the broth; add chicken. Cook until the chicken is heated and orzo is soft. Add baby spinach; cook until the spinach wilts into the broth, 2 to 3 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with lemon slices and Parmesan cheese.

Yum, yum. This also makes a great summer soup.

There’s not much to do growing up in a small town in Western, NY, so J. Andersen wrote stories and won high school writing contests. But in college her writing was limited to term papers. While teaching middle school she began to read young adult books and got serious about writing. J now writes full time, volunteers at the town library, helps to run a School of the Arts at her church, and sings in the church band. She enjoys good coffee—read: home roasted by her husband—crafts, baking, running a small essential oil business, and chasing after her children. You’ll rarely see J without a book in her hands, and that’s the way she’d like to keep it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Essential Oils for soothing start to your week!

This week we have a fabulous guest. Jessie Andersen is a fellow housewife with a special talent for sniffing out the right essential oil for whatever ails you! Take it away, Jessie!

I’m so excited to be a part of the REALLY Real Housewives blog this week. My life is filled with being a mom, writing, and a small essential oil business. I thought I’d mix them up this week and share some of my favorite activities to do with oils.

If you have never heard of essential oils, they are plant oils used for all sorts of health purposes. Today I’m going to highlight a few oils that are essential for any mom’s “awesome mommy” repertoire. Keeping my family healthy is one of my main focuses. I do this with essential oils.

Let’s start with Peppermint:
This is one of my all-time favorites. I use this to ease the occasional headache or stomach upset. *

Lavender is another must have especially for kids. We use it for its calming benefits and to promote a restful night’s sleep.

We also use it for skin health, including soothing skin irritations. And when I’ve sat in front of the computer too long and my muscles are all tense… lavender does the trick to ease that tension. *

If I had to choose one oil above all else, it would be Melaleuca. Known for its antiviral properties, it’s a must-have to promote healthy immune function. I also use it for healthy skin.

Since I’m a writer, I have one more favorite: The focus blend. It enhances and sustains focus, which is a must when writing with a two-legged distraction constantly chattering in my ear.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Federal Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

I could go on and on about oils and what they’ve done for my family, but that would take way too long! So, I’ll leave you with this: If you have never tried a form of alternative medicine, step out of the box and give it a shot. I never thought I’d be an “Oil freak” but now, they are our first go-to. You might find they work well for you too. You can find them at

There’s not much to do growing up in a small town in Western, NY, so J. Andersen wrote stories and won high school writing contests. But in college her writing was limited to term papers. While teaching middle school she began to read young adult books and got serious about writing. J now writes full time, volunteers at the town library, helps to run a School of the Arts at her church, and sings in the church band. She enjoys good coffee—read: home roasted by her husband—crafts, baking, running a small essential oil business, and chasing after her children. You’ll rarely see J without a book in her hands, and that’s the way she’d like to keep it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Setting Boundaries: 4 Ways to Stay Sane Being a Mom

  Being a real housewife is something I’m extremely proud of. Growing up as a teenager people would ask me what I wanted to be. I’d say I wanted to be a mom. It wasn’t glamourous, it wasn’t exciting, and it wasn’t what most people wanted to hear, but it was the truth …and it still is. 
I think the biggest thing I can stress to any mom is to find time for yourself. If you have to work, (which I did for countless years in retail management) there’s one thing you MUST remember. It’s okay to say, “No!” For your own sanity you have to. You can’t be everything to everyone and stretching yourself so thin that you go insane is not any way to live. I know because I tried. 
For many years I had this false sense that I could do it all. I could have the perfect house, make the greatest food, have a career, have adorable kids who were spotless, and all the while driving the perfect car. Let me tell you how miserable I was. I was a horrible mess—I was mean and my marriage was heading in the wrong direction. On the outside everything looked perfect, but on the inside I was exploding. I had to set some boundaries. I had to prioritize for my own health and this is how I did it.

Here are 4 things that helped me stay sane bringing up four kids.
I think they might help you too.
1. Have a set bedtime for your kids.
It helps you spend time with them and they have a healthy sleep schedule. For us it was 8:00pm until the kids were in middle school. At that point it raised to 9:00pm. This gives you alone time with your spouse and lets you start to relax to end the day. 

2. Every day do something for yourself.
I take a bath every night. Nobody bothers me during this time. For you it could be read a book, watch your favorite show… whatever it is, take time to gather your thoughts and regroup.
3. Don’t over schedule yourself or your kids.
It’s tempting to get involved in everything. Church, baseball, football, dance, gymnastics… You name it, it can take over everything in your life. It’s good to get your kids involved, but know yourself and your limits. We allow each kid one activitity. That way our kids can try and learn new things, but we aren’t lost in the insanity of over scheduling our life. 
4. Learn to be happy with less.
Having everything isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We downsized the Expedition to a Town and Country minivan. We got rid of the Accord and bought a Chevy Sonic. Just by doing this we have saved over $400 a month. Look for ways to cut costs. Everyone can look at their budget and find ways to get by with less so life isn’t so stressful. Cook more at home. Eat out only when you have to. Shop only when you need something. These are small things that add up to dollars back in your pocket. 
Guest post by Jennifer J. Bennett. 

Jennifer Bennett is a mother of four, writer, Bigfoot hunter, and moonstone wearer. She enjoys film, travel, reading, and spending time with her family. She is the founder of The Authors’ Think Tank and is in the middle of rewrites on her YA novel “The Path.” She currently is a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in content management and social media trends. She can be found on Instagram (@jenniferjbennett) and on Twitter (@jenniferjbennet) periodically.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Healthy Glow: Makeup Contouring Tricks

I'm no expert by any means, but I LOVE to dabble in the makeup world! And by doing so, have tried many makeup tricks, or invented some of my own.  This is one I learned from some tutorials, and my own trial and error. I call it:

(no tanning beds required!) (takes 5mins)
What you'll need:
1) matching skin tone concealer
2) concealer stick (comes in 1 color)
3) bronzer & brush
4) matching skin tone powder & brush
(I have one for winter/summer skin colors)
5) blush of choice & brush
6) photo bombing naked foot
(comes in most colors...)
FIRST - let's start off with concealers. I use my clean washed hands rather than sponges. I find sponges don't blend as well. There's nothing better than "Magic Hands"
(make sure to rub in skin toned concealer like it's lotion, going everywhere! no lines!
concealer stick areas: down nose, under eyes and burst lines, above eyebrows, spot on forehead, spot on chin, don't make thick lines or it comes out cakey)
SECOND - finesse it with powders
(bronzer creates slimming lines on your face, but don't over do the amount!
powder is the essence of blending so be sure to blend well!)

BEFORE                             AFTER

Funny thing, I did some video tutorials, but man, I couldn't stop being silly! I even came up with a weird song for our "magical faces", too, in some weird jingle-dance. Well, I hope everyone learned something new, and gives it a try! If you do, I would love to see it! You can send it to me via email if you don't want others to see it @ tammybr12(at)gmail(dot)com or come to our Housewives FB page and post it there! Click the FB link on the right sidebar to find us!
P.S Thanks for stopping by. I you and stuff <3 

**Friday I have the lovely Jennifer J. Bennett stopping by to give us 4 ways to set boundaries to be a more sane Mom! Can't wait!!

Monday, May 9, 2016

the Sassy Houswife is HERE!

Hey, everyone!!
*waves like a frantic person losing their crap*
Guess what?! This is my FIRST official post to the Housewives blog!
Roll out the red carpet!!
Whoa, wait...hold on. Let me take the filter off.
Holy crap!
How about I introduce myself through words instead! Plus, I'd LOVE to hear from you as well! Ok, so a few things about me:

LOVES: popcorn (!!), fresh air, my family (obviously), beaches, anything outdoorsy, walks, pretending to run, pretending to eat healthy, God, food, ice cream, Asian buffets, sushi, makeup, hair, books, shoes, Jesus, clothes, cooking, sex, music, writing...(to name a few, and no, I didn't sneak anything in there)

HATES: super high heels, unflattering clothes, bad hair days, calories, feeling bloated, flats that scuff my heel, Satan, scales that are wrong (!), whiny kids, stress, not being a millionaire, running up hills, waking up early (!!!!!!!!!!) ...(I should stop...)

Now I'm turning the tables around on you! Tell me a few "loves" and "hates", and then answer my question: What things or tips do you want to learn from me??

My lovely partners in crime brought up me doing some makeup tutorials. I'm ALL for that! Some of you may know me already, and have something in mind I could share. There's always things to learn or little cheat tips on anything out there. If you don't have anything specific you'd like to learn from me, that's okay! I'm just happy you're here.

***Come back Wednesday where I'll show how to appear "healthy" through makeup contouring tricks!

Friday, May 6, 2016


Here on  Free-for-all Friday, we like to offer surprises! So, here's a surprise guest post from the incomparable Libby Heily! Life is full of responsibilities, and Libby has a great idea on how to keep up...


Life is stressful, you don’t need me to tell you that. Work, errands, kids, groceries, work outs, bills, etc. It all adds up. Some days, you spend the entire day running around with absolutely no down time. It happens to us all.

Wouldn’t a nice three hour snooze on the couch be great? Of course it would, but we rarely have time for that. What we can usually sneak in, however, is a micro-break.

I started using this technique when I attended Longwood University as a theater major. Theater is an interesting field of study because not only do you spend your days attending classes and doing homework like a normal student, but you also spend your evenings working for free for the university (building sets, attending rehearsals, directing, what have you). Mix all that time in the theater with a hectic social life and some attempt at remaining in shape, and your day quickly fills up. I’m a person who stresses out, a lot. So, in order to avoid a melt-down, I took micro-breaks.

In concept, micro-breaks are simple. In practice, they’re easy to forget about. Every day, two to four times a day, I would take 1-5 minutes to myself. I would try to find some space to be alone, and I would breathe – long inhales and powerful exhales. If I was up for it, I would picture a yellow light entering my body with each inhale and spreading throughout my body. Why yellow? Because it reminds me of sunshine. Yellow helps me feel relaxed and calm but also energized. Visualization is a powerful and personal thing and if you choose to use it as at tool, it might take you a while to find the perfect image for you.

After each break, I felt relaxed and ready. During those minutes alone, the day slipped away and awareness slipped in. The hardest part – remembering to do it.

Are micro-breaks a fix for everything? No, but they do help. Sometimes, just giving your mind and body a break for a few minutes can help you re-center and re-focus. Go ahead, give it a try. At the most, you’ll lose five minutes. But you could possibly regain a margin of sanity.

Libby Heily began writing after spending years as an obsessive reader.  She's written plays, screenplays, flash fiction, short stories, and novels.  When not spending time in made up places with invisible friends, she enjoys reading, running, hiking and performing improv in Raleigh, NC.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mockdonald's Cheeseburger Meatballs

I wanted to try this before I even saw the recipe! And just from the name, I know my kids would like it. Let's see what our resident chef Jessica has cooked up for us this week!

They sure look good, don't they? And I'm glad they're healthier than the fast food - gives me more of an excuse to make them!

Our resident creative chef!
Thanks again to our lovely in-house chef, Jessica!

Monday, May 2, 2016

A to Z Reflections

I know there will be a special date to post this (5/9?) but we have to get back to our normal schedule around here at the HOUSE!

I appreciate my partners in domestic crime for participating in this time-consuming venture, but I feel we all gained and enriched our blog for doing it! And here's our Really Real Housewives - Around the House from A to Z wrap up:

Liz - The list was huge this year. I'm not sure how many I visited, but at least a hundred or more. I'd say I was most impressed with the number of participants. There were so many, I had a hard time keeping them all straight. I most liked Alex's modified mini-A2Z approach. Proves that we can think outside the box while participating.

Do I have to have a negative? If so, it's that I read too slowly and couldn't visit more blogs.

Tammy - Loved integrating...that's sums it up for me. Meeting new peeps

Ashley - Our newly-wed housewife is in crazy scramble mode - she's moving! Trying to get the house packed and listed with a laundry list of stuff to do from the Realtor. (She did a great job putting together her posts in the midst of such a busy time!)

Tara - I visited about sixty-five blogs and feel like we had a good response. We got about ten new followers, which doesn't seem as big a thing to do as it used to, especially with a lot of blogs using Wordpress which doesn't have the "followers" option. I found several new blogs I enjoyed enough to try them after the challenge and give them a shout out!

That's What Anxious Mom Said - text speak and funny, witty acronyms!
S.T.U.F.F. - and exactly that, in vivid, entrancing, surprising images and photos - check out her X day!
Kissing Authors and Astronauts - blog of Amy Rivers, her voice is spunky, heartfelt, and full of life!
The Optimistic Antelope - Dakota spouts about life from her perspective as a young Christian - a very positive posy of posts!
And if you didn't get to see Heather M Gardner's saga of Stormy the Weather Gnome, you missed a special story! Worth a visit!

Top visitors I plan to visit back this week (month):
Mommy, RN - Cassie is a mom and a registered nurse (duh) and commented on several posts - I think we could learn a few things from her!
Burggraf's Blog - sounds intimidating, but Nicola Burggraf left us lovely comments all month! A real sweetie!
The Multicolored Diary - Zalka had interesting takes on some of our letters!
Getting Schooled - Charly Marlowe stopped by several times and gave us a chuckle!

Plus a big thanks to our loyal regulars:
MJ Fifield, Christine Rains, Jo on Food, Life & Chocolate, Yolanda Renee and C Lee McKenzie!

As an experienced A to Z-er, I know many participate expecting people to flock to their blogs without venturing out themselves. Blogging is a giving thing - you have to give without expecting anything in return, then be pleasantly surprised when you do! I always struggle choosing from the huge list of who to visit. It's impossible to visit them all. I'm always pining about wanting more time...then I just do what I can in the time I'm given.

I'm looking forward to reading what others took from the challenge this year. I believe the Reflections Hop will be a much shorter list of those who put the most effort into it.

Here at the HOUSE, we are getting back on track. And we have a lot of guests lined up in the coming months! Should be a wonderful variety of tips, advice, recipes, and overall fun! I hope you'll join us! Have a great week!

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