Amazon Kindle Unlimited, Get the Most From Your Subscription

ebookskindleaffordable_freeThe hunt for free Amazon Kindle ebooks can be exhilarating, or it can be a path to the rabbit hole of headaches, stress and “WHY did I ever decide to do this?!”.

For me, it’s the latter.

I like “free,” but not at the cost of my sanity. So, I decided to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

I look at it this way. For the cost of one book per month, I have access to an unlimited number of ebooks that I can easily download to my Kindle app. It’s like buy one, get an unlimited amount free every month.

Better yet, I’m not stuck reading mostly summaries or teasers that lead me to books I have to purchase anyway.

I access my account via the Kindle app, and read on my iPad and phone. I love that it syncs so I don’t have to figure out where I stopped, even if I want/need to read the book on a device I didn’t use to start. The app is compatible with most ereaders, iPhones, Android phones, and tablets, including iPad.

Here are three ways I get the most from my unlimited subscription:

  • I think of it as my on-demand library, that’s accessible anywhere. Sure, there are lots of fiction books, but it’s excellent for nonfiction, reference, textbooks and cookbooks, too. I was able to download a Paleo diet cookbook and a “how-to” book one day. The next day I was downloading fiction from a couple of my favorite authors.
  • I am sure to download and read at least two books monthly. Since the fee averages the cost of one ebook, if I read at least two, it’s like I bought one and got one free, :-). . Right now I’m reading The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, with a couple of light-hearted fiction ebooks on the side.
  • I set aside time weekly to read and learn. I read at least 15 minutes every day. This way I know I’m not wasting my money.

Now for my one caveat. Kindle Unlimited will not take the place of purchasing all new releases or some very popular authors. However, you can use the 30-day free trial subscription to test the waters, see what’s available, and try out my tips, :-).

Happy Reading!


Disclaimer: This post may include affiliate links, which tells companies how you found them, and may result in my compensation from the company. This compensation will not effect your final cost for anything and it definitely doesn’t effect my reviews or opinions. I think of it as a finder’s fee for the company, :-). Read more about affiliates and my complete disclosure here.

Super Soul Sunday Takes TV Tabernacle to Another Level

supersoulsundaythankstooprahDear Oprah,

As a bona fide member of TV Tabernacle I must thank you for SuperSoul Sunday.

Yesterday I was only going to watch the 11 a.m. show with Rob and Kristen Bell, but next up was Brene Brown! When you introduced me to her a few years ago, I raved for weeks about her to anyone that would listen.

I can’t tell you how much I love her research, findings and how she shares these things. Now I must watch the reruns every time they are on.
Then Marianne Williamson?! Yes and yes.

Since SuperSoul Sunday has come into my life, my spiritual journey has not been the same. In addition to my favorite pastors, my soul is now fed by people I may have never known otherwise. I love that you share a variety of experiences and perspectives on spirituality. I love the “aha moments” and tweetable quotes.

Again, thank you for using your platform for this. I am so blessed by the conversations and thoughts.


Valentine’s Day, Elementary School Style

valentines day cards gifts elementary schoolValentine’s Day in elementary school means class parties and card exchanges. So today I took the girls shopping for cards, and it brought back all of the stress I felt in elementary school, trying to pick the right card for the right classmate. It was easy enough to make sure my friends got the cards with the best candy, but what if there were rumors of an unreciprocated crush?!

I couldn’t give the unreciprocated crush a card that was too nice. I mean, it would be cruel to offer hope when there was none. But, it was very important to be cordial, because I didn’t want to make them feel bad either.

Or what about the person that I did have a crush on, but didn’t want them to know?! I couldn’t give them a card too nice because I didn’t want them to figure out the crush.

And what would happen if I mistakenly gave the wrong card to a person?

See how confusing that sounds? Imagine how it felt.

There were so many variables and my kid-mind was just not ready for it. So every year I reluctantly filled out cards, passed them out to my classmates, and prayed none of my choices would backfire.

Because in grade school, making a social faux pas could ruin your life, for about a week, and that seemed like forever, :-).

By the time the day was over, I was just happy I survived, with candy and cards as a decent consolation prize.

Luckily, my girls didn’t seem stressed about it. They were excited tonight, happily choosing cards for their classmates and teachers.

On another note, if you’re looking for free Valentine’s Day cards that you can print at home, check these out. Using a printable is a great way to avoid the chaotic row of cards and candy at the store.

If you’re looking for a game for your party, family night or classroom, here’s a Valentine’s Day board game I created over on my other blog.

Enjoy Valentine’s Day!

California Pizza Kitchen’s New Menu

californiapizzakitchenfoodreviewYesterday I tried California Pizza Kitchen’s new menu (and some old favorites) with my #BlogCharlotte crew. I was really looking forward to trying the updated dishes, and thankfully I was not disappointed.

Even better, I was pleasantly surprised. For starters, I expected it to be mostly pizza, but there’s so much to choose from… who knew?!

We started with drinks, and I went with the strawberry mango cooler. It was the perfect non-alcoholic drink, and a good choice if you want to save your calories for food. MyFitnessPal has it listed at 90 calories.

After drinks we were served appetizers and salad. Everything was tasty, but this harvest kale salad spoke to me.

harvest kale salad california pizza kitchen review

Just look at all of the tastiness in it.

Next up was pizza. I tried the barbecue chicken pizza and mushroom pizza.

californiapizzakitchenbarbecuechickenmushroomreviewBoth were great, though I found myself reaching for seconds and thirds of the chicken option, :-). However, when I’m looking for vegetarian options I’d definitely order the mushroom.

After pizza we moved on to the ribeye and halibut dishes.

ribeye and halibut from california pizza kitchen reviewBoth are good options, but the ribeye was my favorite. See that creamy blue cheese butter? How can that not be good?

After the main dish I was full, and expected to pass on dessert.

Until they brought the salted caramel pudding and butter cake to the table.

salted caramel pudding review from california pizza kitchen

Salted Caramel Pudding

Then amazingly, I had room for a little more.

As a proud chocoholic, I totally expected the caramel pudding to win my heart, because there are chocolate cookie crumbs in the bottom. However, the butter cake not only won first place, I asked for one to take home.

butter cake from California Pizza Kitchen review

Yes, it’s THAT. GOOD!

Overall, I really enjoyed everything and I’ll be going back. There’s an asaparagus + spinach spaghettini I want to try, and the butter cake must happen again. It’s only right, :-).


A couple of other notes:

  • If you’re looking for gluten free options, they have a great system in place to make sure the food is not cross-contaminated. My friend ordered the gluten-free barbecue chicken pizza and she said it was “really good and the crust was not like cardboard.” She added pineapple to hers, just in case you’re wondering. Gluten-free options are hand-delivered by the manager and they’re marked with these cute toothpicks.

gluten free pizza california pizza kitchen


  • The kids’ meal options include pizzas, salads and pastas, along with desserts. So, you should be able to find something for them, no matter what they like, :-).

Enjoy your visit!


Disclaimer: Our meal was complimentary, but that has no bearing on my opinions expressed here. I value your readership, and would not jeopardize that for a free meal. It goes against the Towanda code, :-).

Fruit Sangria Tea! Yes, Please…

fruit sangria tea loose leafThis fruit sangria tea by Adagio is officially on my “life’s simple pleasures” list. I picked it up during a stroll through Fresh Market one evening, when all I thought I needed was trail mix, gelato and grapes.

But isn’t that how it works? You walk in with a short list and before you know it your cart is full of needs, wants and stuff that looks just too good to pass up. Fruit sangria tea definitely falls under wants and “stuff too good to pass.”

Just think about this. It’s a loose leaf tea mix with rose hips, apples, hibiscus, orange peels and more. How can that mix not be a happy potion?!

I sweeten mine a little with honey, but if you don’t have a wicked sweet tooth, skip it. Either way, if you love sangria and good tea, try this.

Now, I’m off to enjoy my tea, :-).

Our Opera Date Night – Romeo & Juliet

Opera carolina first timer tips and reviewTonight I spent date night being mesmerized by the beauty of opera. We saw Romeo & Juliet, and everything, from the set, to the lighting, to the costumes and music was gorgeous!

As a first timer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all it’s not in English, so you’re dependent on subtitles and visual clues. And while I have an appreciation for classical music, it’s not in my everyday playlist.

That being said, I really enjoyed it! I will definitely go again, and this time I’ll even be open to an unfamiliar story. It was just that pretty and an awesome choice for date night, :-).

If you’re interested in seeing an opera in the Charlotte area, check out Opera Carolina. A few things to note:

  • Most men wear suits and women dresses/skirts/slacks (in that order). The dresses and skirts range from business attire to cocktail dresses. There were a few evening gowns, but not many. There were also a few people in Saturday night casual wear (jeans, sweaters, etc.) and it was fine. You could wear any of the above.
  • Eat before you get there, because you can get snacks during intermission, but it’s not going to make up for not eating dinner.
  • Opera lengths vary, but plan to be there 2-3 hours. Romeo & Juliet was about three hours.
  • Go with an open mind and enjoy everything! It’s a beautiful experience.

Enjoy, Towanda


Tickets to the show were complimentary, but that has no bearing on my opinions and experiences in this post. I value each of you and will not post something I don’t believe. It’s against the Towanda code, :-).

My Latest Project: Mom of Girls!

Mom of Girls logoI am so excited about my latest site, Mom of Girls!

Here’s a brief excerpt from the about page to give you a glimpse into the awesomeness that will be here, 🙂

“As a mom of three girls my goal is to raise awesome daughters that are smart, confident, happy, socially-conscious, spiritually-aware, healthy and beautiful. I want them to know they are loved, worth the best, and have endless options. They are not defined by a society that will try to stereotype them, limit them and make them feel that they are never enough.

On this site I will share resources that I find to help with this mission. You’ll find helpful tips and, in the near future, interviews with various experts like pediatricians, psychologists, health professionals and other moms. I’ll also share some of the things we do to encourage mommy-daughter bonding, fun projects and more.”

What this means is that towandalong.com will be more about work/life balance, travel and generally things that I enjoy. Most of my parenting-related content will live on Mom of Girls.

Thanks so much for your support so far, and I hope you continue to find value in both sites.


6 Things Working Moms Can Do To Start The School Year Right

workingmomadvicebacktoschoolplanningBack-to-school season is in full swing, and parents are busy buying supplies and clothes, while mentally preparing for the demands of the year.

Here are six things parents can do during back-to-school season to get a good start for the school year.

Meet the teacher and return your parent homework quickly. Open house is an ideal time to meet the teacher. Also, be diligent about checking your child’s backpack each evening and return any forms to school immediately. As a working parent, your availability to volunteer in class may be limited, but responding quickly to teacher’s requests can go a long way, too. Just think, does the teacher really want to follow-up with over 20 parents when things aren’t returned?

Make a friend. One of the best ways to get through the year is to have another parent ally. This parent is a great resource if you forget something, accidentally delete an email, or just need to bounce an idea for a different perspective.

Create your child’s bio for the teacher. Trust me, the teacher will be happy to have a cheat sheet on your child’s personality, needs and more. Yes, you probably have something similar in your parent homework, but creating a bio gives you an opportunity to make a good impression, you can print it on color paper to help it stand out, and you’re not stuck to one format.

Monitor what goes right and wrong the first week, then tweak your system accordingly. The first week is for learning. What time will the bus really come? Are lunches working out?

Spend at least 10 minutes each evening with your child chatting about the day. It’s a great time to start this ritual. You’ll be setting a baseline for behavior and have a better point of reference if things change throughout the year.

Open a line of communication. Emails are great for this. Did your child come home happy the first few days? Tell the teacher. Say something nice about the teacher? Share that, too. Opening a line of pleasant communication can come in handy later in the year.

Happy School Year!