A Family Outing: The Griffin Espresso Bar

Fredericksburg is one of my favorite little Northern Virginia towns. The downtown is lined with historic stone buildings containing delightful little shops and cafes. On my last visit, I discovered “The Griffin,” a bookstore and espresso bar.

The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar

 The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar

Here’s the delicious iced raspberry latte I ordered:

 The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar
The staff at The Griffin were great with kids too, both Baby J and my nephews. In fact, they even have a little kids section in the bookstore.

emegburg's Kids Corner album on Photobucket

Besides the main area with the espresso bar and the children’s room, there are three other little rooms filled with bookshelves.

The Griffin Bookstore and Espresso Bar
One of the smallest book rooms

The Griffin also has a large table to sit at inside, patio area out front, and a lovely patio area in the back.

emegburg's Patio album on Photobucket

The cookie and latte at The Griffin were delicious. I loved the atmosphere of the place, as well as the friendliness of the staff. We didn’t try the patio area, because of the heat. Well, that and Baby J would spend the entire time trying to climb up and down the stairs, which is still dangerous for him! The only thing I didn’t love about The Griffin is the books were fairly new, with many of them still being published. When I go to a used bookstore, I hunt for my favorite 20th century, out-of-print, Gothic romance authors:  Victoria Holt, Joan Aiken, Madeleine Brent, Mary Stewart, M.M. Kaye, and so on. I didn’t find any books from these authors there and instead spotted names of current authors.

It was a really fun, quaint, little store. On my next trip to Fredericksburg, I do plan to return to The Griffin for another iced latte and browse some more books!

Are you a reader? Where’s your favorite place to sit and read?

Note: I was not compensated for this post.

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Book Review: “Life First” by RJ Crayton

I received a digital copy of the book Life First to facilitate my review.

Life First


Strong-willed Kelsey Reed must escape tonight or tomorrow her government will take her kidney and give it to someone else.

In this future forged by survivors of pandemics that wiped out 80 percent of the world’s population, life is valued above all else. Those who refuse the obligations of “Life First” are sentenced to death.

 My Thoughts:

This was a  tough book for me to read, although it was riveting and well-crafted. There were a lot of pregnancy-related issues, abortion, etc.,  that characters face. Those were a struggle for me to read as a mother. It was sad. It was also difficult to read as someone who’s adamantly against abortion in all circumstances. However, I don’t want to make it sounds like the book is about abortion, because it’s not. In fact, *spoiler alert* a doctor in the book has successfully performed procedures to remove the womb and baby to live artificially outside of the mother’s body, thereby saving both lives. Primarily, this book is about donating organs, because the government tells you to.

From a moral standpoint, this book made me think. Did you know that in the U.S. more than 118,000 people are on the transplant list? Almost 20 people die each day waiting for an organ. I have always thought it’s terrible that in 2013, in a first-world nation,  so many people wait in vain. I’m a registered organ donor. When I die, my organs, tissue, and eyes will go to people in need, and may save several lives. But would I willing give up a piece of my body for someone else NOW while I’m still alive? If my brother or my son or my husband or a friend needed my kidney or a piece of my liver, sure. But what if it was someone I didn’t even know? What if I was the only one that could save that person’s life? Is it my moral responsibility to do so? Does the government have the right to force me to? Can they equate me to a murderer if I say no? What does the term “Life First” really mean? Does the end justify the means?

To answer those questions: Honestly, I don’t think the government should force me to, but, yes, I would give up an organ if I was someone’s last hope- even if it was someone I didn’t know. But as a follower of Christ, my world philosophy is probably different than most people’s. I’m not scared of dying from surgery. My eternity is secure. But I can see where the character is coming from. If I died from complications, my son would be motherless. What happens to me affects others. See!? This book raises all sorts of questions and internal dilemma.

This story is written in first person, of which I’m not a fan (kind of funny, since most of my blog is written in first person). But as I read, I got used to it. I know it’s a popular way to develop the main character and connect the reader to that character. Although, I am interested in learning more about the others. The story takes place very quickly, and since we only hear the story through Kelsey, I don’t learn that much about the characters, other than what she’s observed or they tell her. I may have missed the exact timeline, if it’s stated, but I think it’s 2-3 weeks from the beginning of the book to the end. There are two more books coming, which I’d like to read. I want to know if Kelsey and Luke settle into Peoria easily. Do they name their child Inga? Were they granted asylum? Does Kelsey’s story shake FoSS up enough that change is in the future?

If you like dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, then Life First will make you think, and it’s a page-turner. It will keep you hooked all the way to the end.


The author, RJ Crayton, has an interesting blog, you may want to check out. I like her sense of humor! Currently, you can find the Kindle version of Life First on (affiliate link>) Amazon for just $0.99.

Note: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. The above post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase through that link, I will receive a small commission. 

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Review: Language Bear bilingual books for children

Although a new language can potentially be learned at any age, experts say children learn more quickly and skillfully. In fact, the earlier you start the better, since studies have shown babies learn two languages as quickly as one. The founder of the Language Bear bilingual bookstore for children sent me a paperback dual-language book in English and Spanish to review.

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Written by Tim Johnson, Bosley Goes to the Beach is a dual-language book in English and Spanish. This book uses several methods to teach a new language to kids, including: word repetition, numbers, simple phrases, highlighted words, contextual vocabulary, and corresponding imagery.

Bosley Goes to the Beach uses colorful imagery, English and Spanish words to tell the story of Bosley, a young bear who packs his toys in his backpack and heads to the beach with his Mama. His first time at the beach, Bosley explores the sand and water, builds a sand castle, and makes some new friends.

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Our Experiences:

Baby J is very active, and I can only get him to sit a couple of minutes at a time, if I’m reading a book to him. But that’s fine. He’s barely a year old. It’ll get better with time, and I’m determined to raise a reader! He loves the colors of Bosley Goes to the Beach, and he does enjoy turning the pages. I’ve started repeating words from the book -in English and Spanish- whether Baby J is sitting still or not. I know repetition is important. As a teacher, I also realize how important it is for children to draw connections. This book talks about the beach, and we live near one. I haven’t done this yet, but I will. I plan to take Bosley Goes to the Beach with us when we go to the beach next week. That way I can point out objects from the book and the objects in real life.

I like that there are several ways to use this book as a teaching tool. Read the English text, and point out the highlighted words in Spanish. Read the Spanish text, and point out the highlighted words in English. Read just the highlighted words. Match the words to the objects in the photos, and so on.

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Some of the pages have less text than the second photo above, so there’s more white space on the page. I think that’s a good thing. It leaves space to write in notes or pronunciations (I’m such a teacher!).

It would be nice if there were a corresponding online audio pronunciation guide on the Language Bear website for parents who are (unfortunately) monolingual like me. I didn’t want to read the highlighted Spanish words with the wrong pronunciation, so I had to do some Google searches to hear them pronounced properly. I have taken a Spanish language course before, but it was years ago. I’m definitely rusty!

I really do want Baby J to learn a second language, and with our upcoming move to Spain, it makes sense that he learn Spanish. Before Tim contacted me about reviewing his book, it hadn’t even occurred to me that bilingual books were a great way for Baby J to learn a second language, as he develops his English vocabulary as well. It makes sense! The Language Bear bookstore has other Bosley Bear books available in Spanish, as well as bilingual books about Curious George, Blue’s Clues, Dr. Seuss, Disney, and tons more.

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For a limited time, you can score a FREE dual language children’s book if you sign up for the Language Bear newsletter! Visit Language Bear and look for the sign up box on the right side of the page. I don’t know when this freebie ends, so I wouldn’t wait, if I were you!

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Note: I was not compensated for this post. I received a free dual language children’s book to facilitate this review. The opinions expressed above are my own and may differ from yours.

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