Author Archive

It’s the 3 Little Things: Honey, Keeping Up With IG, Parental Sacrifice

Friday, February 5th, 2016

It's the 3 Little Things Happy Fri-yay! I am one happy girl because all my library holds were waiting for me this week. I’m in hibernation mode this winter so these came just in time for coffee sipping and cozy fires.  I also have a ton of advanced readers from authors that are launching books this month so I am trying to get a jump on reading those so I can secure them while the irons are hot for our Sundays With Writers series! It’s going to be another great month of reading.

library-stack

Here’s what’s in my stack this month (follow me on IG to see my monthly library stacks!):

Between the World & Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Tiny Little Thing (that’s our book club book this month!) by Beatriz Williams

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

I have been asked by a reader if I would share how I can consume so many dang books.  I’m looking forward to sharing more about that with you next week since I know we ALL have so many strategies for rapid book consumption! I hope I can bring some new ideas to the table for you and you can teach me a thing or two.

perfect

After a decade of excuses, I joined a Bible Study and we are working our way through For the Love,” by Jen Hatmaker on Friday mornings. I am not exaggerating when I say that it has been this long since I have been a part of a Bible study. My walk with God was a rocky one for awhile and I’m wandering my way back, stumbling over my own feet along the way. I don’t talk a lot about religion on here, but I am sure you have guessed that I’m a Christian by my posts and my passion projects. It’s more to make all people feel welcome here- I’m a neutral ground kind of girl and love people of all walks.

I grew up in a very disciplined church and home where diving into the Bible was a regular occurrence and God was always at the center of it all for my family. Perhaps that is why it feels like coming home to get my Bible back out again and be with women who can teach me so much.  I’m admittedly struggling to open myself fully to that experience, as I tend to guard my heart and privacy, but I’m working on it.

Here is the truth. I have often waited for the perfect time with God. As things would arise I would think, “Maybe next year. Maybe when my kids are older. Maybe after this project. Maybe once we are done renovating our house. Maybe another day…” As I get older I realize that there will never be the perfect time for anything in my life.  So I just took that first step back into the folds this month. I cleared some time in my schedule and just stopped waiting for that perfect timing. No more excuses.  I just want you to know that it’s okay to start right where you are too. And if you want to join me at Bible Study, I will save you a seat!

Here are three other things that are making me unbelievably happy! 

Honey Browser Extension

Honey Browser Extension

I love browser extensions that save our family money and I discovered Honey this month and it is rocking my world! All I did was add the extension to my browser and it saves me money (or at least tries to) on every purchase I make by coupon clipping its little heart out on all my purchases.  The best part is that you don’t have to remember to do anything. As soon as you hit the checkout page on the stores you shop, it starts a pop-up going through all the discount codes for the shops and applies them to your purchases without you doing a single thing! It’s the easiest way I have found to save money on online purchases and I look forward to all the savings I am going to reap around the holidays. You must get it and tell me what you think!

Master-of-None

Master Of None (The Parents Episode)

I’m sure most of you know about Master of None, but we finally started it a couple of weeks ago and have really been enjoying the truly smart writing in this Netflix original series. The show is written like a play in a way that I feel you can watch it out of order if you wanted because each episode is like its own story. It’s funny, sometimes racy, and brilliantly written.

There is one episode that I am still thinking about so if you don’t want to dive into the series, I would just recommend watching the Parents Episode (Episode #2). In it, Dev & Brian thank their immigrant parents by inviting them to a joint dinner and the parents reflect back on their sacrifices.  You know how you don’t appreciate all that your parents have done for you? Well, this episode perfectly illustrates this struggle in such a way that I had tears rolling down my face with laughter. It makes you just want to call your parents and say thank you. I plan to watch it a couple more times, it’s that good!

post-notifications

Keeping Up With the Important Stuff on IG

As a blogger, I follow a lot of people on IG and it’s been a real struggle keeping up with my real-life friends and their happenings. Each day I would have to search (and remember!) all my friend’s IG names and individually find them to see if they had posted updates. I linked to this article and this one little IG hack has saved me so much time. Visit the user profile that you wish to stay up to date on (like, I don’t know, YOUR SISTER??!!), and open up one of their posts. Then, click the three dots in the bottom right-hand corner of the post, and choose “Turn on post notifications” from the menu that appears.

Basically, it sends a ding to my phone when people update and now I can stay on top of the feeds of those I love so very much without scrolling and searching for days. Since my friends/family don’t update a lot, it’s not very intrusive, and I finally looped back in with my people.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend, friends!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

 

DIY Game Day Bar Cart

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

Entertaining is my thing. There’s nothing I love more than getting friends and family together for a great time. And with a certain important game day party coming up, I knew just what I wanted to assemble to show off for my guests — a game day bar cart!

You may remember this project from this summer that I created for our outdoor entertaining needs.  Who would even know that this was just a simple tool cart? I’m so excited to show you how I transformed a tool cart into the bar cart of my dreams and I’m showing you some fun and beautiful ways to stock it for the big game.

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog today to make your own DIY Game Day Bar Cart!

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Amy’s Notebook 02.03.16

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

DIY Snow Paint via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom

 

A great way to put old markers to good use.

Love the colors and vertical storage solutions in this home.

How to read 100 books a year.

The cult of Marie Kondo.

I’m madly in love with this wall hanging made from a mop! Who would have guessed?

Which Oscar-nominated movies were adapted from books? Catch up on all the books and movies before the Academy Awards on Feb. 28th!

The authors of “The Color Purple” and “Brooklyn” compare notes on Hollywood, others adapting their work, and how real life has informed their fiction.

How to Hang a Large Photo via Jones Design Co.

Source: Jones Design Co.

 

How to hang a large photo print without a frame- what a genius hack!

Great tips for winter skin.

I’m reading this book and absolutely loving it!

16 winter novels you’ll want to stay in and read.

An inspiring small space home.

Great advice for running a successful book club!

Oh, my kids will enjoy this interview a lot!

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Virtual Librarian Experience: Great Character-Driven Fiction

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

I am getting such great feedback on our virtual librarian series. What is making me extra happy though is hearing how people are actually digging into these suggestions and truly enjoying them. What a gift to get to share a good book with someone, isn’t it?

Sorta Awesome Ep. 44

Speaking of books, I was so honored to get to join the Sorta Awesome Show this past week and share about books, fashion, and a few of my favorite parenting hacks as a mom of a teen & tween. One of the big questions Megan asked me to share was three life-changing books. I picked three fiction books that changed my perspective on life and I’d love for you to listen in on that.

It meant so much to be a part of one of my favorite podcasts and the generous comments from her listeners after it made it doubly special. If you are new to podcasts, I found the Overcast app has made my listening so much easier. You can read more about it in my favorite things list!

If you would like me to pick some books for you, just fill out this quick questionnaire and submit it. I will send you an email when your post is live to let you know my favorite picks for you! You can also leave comments on books you would recommend for this reader too in our comment section below!

Reader

Reader Profile

Name?

Amy

What is Your Favorite Book Genre?

Fiction

Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Kristin Hannah, Diane Chamberlain, Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes

the-time-travelers-wife-book-cover

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

What Do You Look for In a Book?

It’s all about the characters

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

This is one of those lucky draws for me because I know our reader well and I also have read all of the authors she loves and even have read her favorite book! I also know that Amy is a Christian so I am selecting books based on that as well!

the-life-intended

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

This book was charming from start to finish and a perfect selection for Amy. I am a big fan of books that explore the what-if’s in life and this one does it beautifully. When Kate loses her husband in a tragic accident she finally feels like she can move forward in a new relationship twelve years later. When her husband begins to visit her in her dreams though, she begins to fall into an alternate universe where the lines between reality and imagination are blurred.

One of my  favorite movies is Sliding Doors and this book reminded me so much of that movie. Harmel truly explores what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting your past.

In this story, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

This is the best piece of chick lit I have read this year and would highly recommend for anyone who needs a little reading escape! I have been telling everyone to escape with this one and I keep hearing how much they loved it too. I think Amy will love this one because of her love for magic realism as she has embraced in her favorite book, The Time Traveler’s Wife.

After she finishes it, I recommend diving into our interview with Kristin Harmel to learn more about her story behind the story.  

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

This is one of those books that you think will just be a quick escape, but ends up being a beautiful story with endearing characters that you think about after you close the final pages. Since Amy is a big fan of Kristin Hannah, I think she will love this one as it reminded me of the beautiful friendships crafted in her novels.

This coming-of-age story follows the friendship between two teen girls and then the consequences of them both falling for the same guy, which destroys their friendship. Thankfully, it was just so much more than that and really built around a cast of flawed characters, the bonds & love of our family, first loves, true loves, and how friendships between unlikely people can reshape your destiny. There were some really great themes in this one and it is the kind of book that reminds you of your own coming-of-age story and the friendships that can endure those tumultuous years. The theme seems simple, but the story was not. I highly recommend this one!

I was so lucky to chat with Frances about this book in our Sundays With Writers series and recommend reading that interview when you finish it, particularly for the illustrated series that was created around this book (I still think about it a year later!). Read more here

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

This is the third book on immigration that I have read this year and definitely packed a powerful punch about how hard it would be to come to America. Ward alternates two stories- one of a typical middle-class woman who is struggling with infertility and becomes a mentor to a struggling teen and the other story of a young girl and her brother who face the harshest kind of poverty and are trying to get to America where they can finally be reunited with their mother and safe. The story of her journey to America is harrowing and devastating to read. Ward doesn’t hold back on setting the scene, giving you an eye-opening look at the real struggles of coming to America. Their lives intertwine and provide a satisfying conclusion to this sad story.

I found this book disturbing in some parts and I have been carrying some of the scenes around with me this month. There is poverty and then there is POVERTY. We are talking, eating flour and water for dinner (if you are lucky), addictions to glue to feel full by small children, parents abandoning a child to take care of another child and head to America. It was really heartbreaking.

I am glad I read it, but it was just really heavy.

Ward does a great job of contrasting the struggles of a typical middle-class white suburban mother against the struggles of a child in poverty effectively without being mean about it. It made me think about how my struggles are so minor compared to the struggles of others.

I think Amy will enjoy this one because of the alternating chapters in storytelling, a technique that is used often in Diane Chamberlain’s books to tell her stories. Amanda Eyre Ward joined me to share about this compelling book and I recommend reading that interview when you finish. This is a heavier pick for Amy, but I think it is a book that will really make her think and see immigration in a different way…at least it did for me! 

The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

I selected this book for my local book club this month for our annual mimosa kick-off. Well, it wasn’t an annual mimosa kick-off until now, but I am hoping it sticks! I was looking for something a little lighter that people who were just jumping back into the reading game for the year might enjoy and this one really delivered. I am thinking this also would make a fantastic selection for Amy as a great escape this winter.

Although the premise of the book is light, it still speaks a lot of truth about how we use social media and the image that we put out there for the world to see. So many times what is really happy and what we are sharing are so different and this lead to a good discussion on how we use social media in our own lives and how we filter those images and updates for the public.

Kate is a thirty-five-year-old woman who is obsessed with social media. So when her fiancé, Max, breaks things off at their rehearsal dinner—to be with Kate’s close friend and coworker, no less—she goes straight to Facebook to share it with the world. But something’s changed. Suddenly, Kate’s real life starts to mirror whatever she writes in her Facebook status. With all the power at her fingertips, and heartbroken and confused over why Max left her, Kate goes back in time to rewrite their history.

Kate’s two best friends, Jules and Liam, are the only ones who know the truth. In order to convince them she’s really time traveled, Kate offers to use her Facebook status to help improve their lives. But her attempts to help them don’t go exactly as planned, and every effort to get Max back seems to only backfire, causing Kate to wonder if it’s really possible to change her fate.

I love books with a magical realism theme and the idea that you can rewrite your own history through your Facebook status was such a good one. It also makes you think about how we present ourselves online and how our reality are often so different!

Going back to Amy’s love for magic realism, I think she will love The Status of All Things. I was so happy to have our first writing duo in my Sundays With Writers series and you can check out their interview over HERE! Have a good laugh at their FB status updates they would post if they would come true. Our book club sure did!

What would you pick out for Amy based on her preferences? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love though! Dig into the Virtual Librarian series this year for more great selections! 

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp

Monday, February 1st, 2016

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from MomAdvice.com

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and for many years I have chosen to honor this occasion with a special dish for my man. Battling crowded restaurants is one of the least romantic ways to spend this holiday so instead we choose to eat a special dinner at home.  In years past, I focused my efforts on mastering a restaurant-worthy filet, a skill I never thought I could nail. This year, I wanted to challenge myself to make a great risotto for our feast. Mastering risotto has been on my wish list of cooking skills because it is the dish I always order when dining out. Risotto is pricey for such a humble dish when dining out, but one bite has always made it worth it for me. Risotto is gluten-free comfort food at its finest and a beautiful dish to prepare for your favorite Valentine this year.

Rice Select Arborio Rice

When you head to the grocery store, you are looking for Arborio Rice. This is the exact brand I used and it was perfection. Can I be honest and say it was sitting in my pantry for months because I lost my nerve to make risotto? That is the truth! Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice. It is named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, where it is grown. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy, due to their higher amylopectin starch content. It creates a deliciously starchy and creamy dish that compliments other flavors that are added to it and it is the rice that is most commonly used to create risotto.

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from MomAdvice.com

Have you had risotto before? If you haven’t yet, you are in for a real treat! It has a reputation for being a fussy dish, but really this dish takes just thirty minutes or less. In fact, I remember watching risotto preparation for the first time on a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meal show. What makes risotto so delicious is actually you stirring the dish throughout that thirty minutes to release those starches in the rice that helps to create that creamy comforting flavor. The privilege of being the stirrer is having another hand to do the wine sipping as the dish pulls together. It’s a great reason to volunteer for the job, in my opinion.

For a first risotto these simple flavors are so easy to pull together. The shrimp dressed simply in paprika adds a beautiful smoky flavor on top of these creamy bowls of risotto. I have found that the wine, parmesan cheese, and frozen shrimp are all very affordable at ALDI.  That isn’t sponsored talk, I’m just a true store enthusiast!

For frugal girls like myself, I have even found that the risotto reheats well with the addition of a little stock to bring it back together on the stovetop. If you prefer though you can also transform the leftovers into risotto cakes, which I have found makes a delicious addition on top of a spinach salad!

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from MomAdvice.com

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
Risotto is an elegantly comforting gluten-free dish that is perfect for a slowed down feast or to celebrate any of life's occasions. Be sure to read the tips for ideas on what to do with leftover risotto.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound medium shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, divided
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Rinse the shrimp and pat them very dry. Toss them with olive oil and then the paprika and a generous quantity of salt and pepper. Spread them in a baking dish and return them to the refrigerator.
  2. Warm the broth in a saucepan set over low heat.
  3. In a separate Dutch oven or wide, deep sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until they are soft and beginning to brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir thoroughly to make sure it is coated with the butter and onions. Cook the rice for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring and scraping the pan until the wine has evaporated.
  5. Begin incrementally adding the warm broth one ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of liquid is key to getting the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce. It is important to take your time with this to achieve the creamy texture you are after. If the broth is evaporating very quickly, or the rice is boiling hard, turn the heat down so you just see a gentle simmer. Expect this stage to take about 18 minutes, and to add most of the broth.
  6. Begin tasting the rice after about 13 minutes to gauge how far it has cooked. The risotto is ready when the rice is still a bit chewy, and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge.
  7. In the last 5 minutes of cooking the risotto, put the pan of prepared shrimp in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink.
  8. When the risotto is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and about ½ cup chopped parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Serve immediately, spreading risotto in pasta bowls and topping with shrimp and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

 Recipe Slightly Adapted From The Kitchen.

Do you have a tried and true risotto recipe or technique? Feel free to share it in our comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love- pinky promise! 

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January 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, January 29th, 2016

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Oh, I always love sharing the must-reads of the month and it is so exciting to kick off another new year with books.  This month I have quite an array of great books to choose from thanks to a fresh GoodReads yearly reading goal that I am working towards. This year I’m hoping to read 75 books- fingers crossed!  What’s your goal this year?

Here are six great books I read this month that I think you will really enjoy!

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I feel like I have been emotionally gutted reading this book. I am usually not an emotional reader, but it is impossible to not to have your heart involved in this heartbreaking story of Jude and his inconceivable childhood. What makes these raw moments even slightly bearable is the incredible company that he keeps, a friendship masterfully told, a circle that never gives up on Jude, even when he is most broken.

This book chronicles the journey of four friends from their late teens until their fifties. At the center of it all is Jude St. Francis, their shy and quiet friend. The friends know very little about Jude and his past, but they suspect, just as you begin to, that he may have been abused in his childhood. What they don’t know is the extent to the abuse and how much this abuse has taken from him.

The writing is exquisite- I have never, ever read writing like this in my life. The turn of phrasing that is used, the descriptive language telling stories in a way I have never heard, it is a gorgeously prepared book that had me reading passages aloud over and over again.

That said, I can’t recommend this one for everyone. The brutal and violent passages were so unbearable that I would put the book down and walk away for a bit or find myself holding my breath or weeping uncontrollably for the beautifully broken Jude. They are powerfully written in a way that you feel as though you are in these rooms with these people and you can’t get out. It’s a claustrophobic feeling and it is often stifling.

If you or someone you love has been abused or if you are a highly sensitive person, I don’t think I would recommend this one for you. I am still carrying around some of the abuse scenes and my eyes are still welling up over Jude. In fact, if you ask me about this book, do not be surprised if I just start crying.

Even saying that, it will be, perhaps, one of the best books I will have read in my lifetime and the writing is so brave and so beautifully descriptive that I feel like I will hold these fictional people in my heart forever! I am mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.

10 Out of 5 Stars

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

So many friends have been recommending that I read  The Boston Girl so I added it to my library pile this month!

I really enjoyed this beautiful coming of age story told through Addie Baum’s eyes at the tender age of 80 as she reflects back on her youth through stories she shares with her granddaughter.  In this story, Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and very suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college and it all starts with a book club that she joins.  She wants a career and to find true love.

Bucking many traditional roles and requirements of being a Jewish woman in the early 20th century, Addie challenges these roles with her traditional family, work environment, and in finding love. The chapters were short and sweet and a bit disjointed, just as the stories we hear from our own elders are and I loved the strong focus on friendships that last through the ages.

I have a feeling that if I hadn’t have read Brooklyn the month before (read my review here) that I probably would have enjoyed this one more. The stories felt very similar, but it didn’t take away the beauty in this one as Diamant proves herself again and again to be such a gifted storyteller. I have heard the audiobook is a real treat so it might be a good one to indulge in that way if you enjoy audiobooks.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies (YOU #2)  by Caroline Kepnes

(editor’s note- I received an ARC of this from Netgalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own)

Hidden Bodies is the next installment from Kepnes in the erotic thriller series from the author of, YOU. Joe is one of those characters that just really stands out for me as a reader and Kepnes has done an incredible job fleshing out Joe as he ages and falls in love in this next installment.

In this story, Joe gets duped by a woman that he thinks he has fallen in love with only to discover that she used him to steal from the bookstore he works for. Determined to make her pay, Joe follows her to California and creates a life for himself there until he can kill her. What ends up happening is that Joe finds many hurdles along the way towards the path of revenge and he still is dealing with the skeletons in the closet from the last murder that are still haunting him. What he didn’t bargain for though is finding unconditional love and a family in California and how this changes the entire outlook of a psychopath who has never experienced that.

Once again, a solid read from Kepnes and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series! Read my interview with Caroline as we discuss her first book in our Sundays With Writers series!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

 

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Have you joined our online book club? If you have, you know that this was our first selection. This also happens to be my first novel by Allende. Have you read her? Feel free to make recommendations of other books I should tackle by her.

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at the nursing home she is living in. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

This had a slow start for me, but once I started diving into the love story more of Alma & Ichimei, I could not turn the pages fast enough to see how this story would unfold. Allende crafts some really surprising twists at the end that I did not see coming making this a really solid story for me about love and the sacrifices we make for those we care about.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

I am big on quirky characters and I’m also big on coming-of-age adventures and Mosquitoland now tops my list of incredible YA debuts with this heartfelt story of an oddly charming girl, named Mim,  who runs away from home and takes a Greyhound bus to be reunited with her mother.

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

I really began to fall in love with all of these well-crafted characters that Arnold created in this charming book. Each character that she encounters comes with his own set of quirky oddities as Mim’s bus ends up making an unexpected detour and she ends up on a road trip with two unlikely friends in search of her mom. I really loved this one!

I am recommending this one for fans of Eleanor & Park and All the Bright Places. Be sure to read my interview with David Arnold about the story behind this story (and the surprising spot he crafted it!) in our Sundays With Writers series.

4 Out of 5 Stars

A-Manual-For-Cleaning-Women

A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This is my first book of short stories and I really enjoyed it. Although some of the stories were repetitive and the book could have been edited a bit more, this really showcased what a talent Berlin was and what a knack she had for descriptive writing. She passed away in 2004 and was a well-known short story writer. This book was included on many lists this year as one of the best books fo the year.

Many of the short stories were based upon her own life and some of the heavier ones, particularly regarding her struggle with alcoholism, were very hard to read. She wrote very honestly about the challenges in her life as a mother and in her marriages. That said, many though made me laugh from her childhood antics at Catholic school to her observations about her clients as a cleaning woman. This is rich with storytelling and was a delight to read! It would be a good one to put on the bedside table to indulge in a story or two at the end of your day!

4 Out of 5 Stars

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year

GoodReads 2016 Books

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

 

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Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

I am so very ready for a little capsule switch after being in this capsule since October. I held off until after the holidays to get this one off the ground, waiting to see if any of my holiday gifts might make the cut! I think my family is scared to buy me anything though now, other than accessories, since I have become so choosy about my clothes! There are only a handful of switches though from my fall capsule because I did such a great job planning that one that there is very little that needs to be added or taken away other than my really heavy sweaters!

What is a Fashion Capsule & Why Should You Do One?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing which is designed using only interchangeable items, in order to maximize the number of outfits which can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be “key” or “staple” items in coordinating colors.

The reason I think capsule wardrobes are worth exploring is that you realize when you have LESS in your closet you can do MORE with what you have. My closet used to be bursting at the seams with clothes and, what I like to call, one-trick-pony apparel. I felt put together after tearing up my room and trying to build outfits in the process, but it took me so long to get ready in the mornings and I never felt like I had a truly seamless style. Narrowing my wardrobe down to 33 items as outlined in Project 333 was just what I needed to make mornings less stressful and finding a real rhythm to getting dressed for the day. It’s been a beautiful shift in my life and I don’t think I could ever go back to the old ways of bursting closets and pointless purchases.

I tend to be a pretty colorful person so you will find color mixed in with basics in my wardrobe. Monochromatic isn’t my thing, but can be yours if you are trying to simplify your wardrobe. Many people begin their capsule experience very monochromatic and then find they are comfortable branching out into color after figuring out how to make everything work together.

What Makes My Capsule Wardrobe Unique?

I am committed to purchasing the majority of my wardrobe gently used. You will find that the majority of the items have been purchased this year using my thredUP credit (I get $10 and you get $10 to spend my referral) or I have owned for years. Thanks to pointing out this resource, I was able to get the majority of my gently used wardrobe for free. Be sure to visit my tips this year for purchasing your fashion capsule wardrobe second hand.  It was a prompting really through this film (watched on Netflix) that has solidified my commitment to buying used and investing wisely. Watch it and tell me if it doesn’t make you want to do better with fashion purchases!

My biggest investment is always tailoring my items to fit me. I am a petite girl and pants need hemmed, waistlines nipped, and shoulders shifted. Although this can get a little pricey at times, it is 100% why I love the clothes I wear! I feel really confident in them because of these alterations.

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

Why My Capsule Shouldn’t Be YOUR Capsule

I show you my capsule mainly as some sort of accountability, but not necessarily for you to copy it. My style is probably not your style and that is okay. Your capsule can look nothing like my capsule.  Your body shape could be different from mine and none of these cuts of clothing or ideas will work for you.  When creating your capsule, create it around what you feel most confident in. I suggest peeking in your closet and selecting what makes you feel beautiful and start your planning around those pieces. That’s been the best place to start for me.

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

What Trends Did You Embrace for Your Winter 2016 Wardrobe?

I can’t omit trends altogether so once I have my timeless pieces in place, I try to add a few trends that I love this year.

I am sticking with the plaid trend and added in a little faux leather with a faux leather skirt I had been eyeing. As time goes by, I realize how smart it is just to just stick to the classics for ease and for longevity from capsule to capsule.

I’m adding in just a couple of spring colored clothing items since I will be wearing this until April. I only have 29 items this time so I can switch 3 (as outlined in the rules) and possibly add a couple later, if needed as the weather warms up! Be flexible with yourself- there is no need for it to be miserable! 

I add daily trends to my Fashion Capsule Pinterest Board to help keep me inspired with styling and ways to use the key pieces in my wardrobe.

Do You Count Accessories As Your 33 Items?

One question I get asked is if I count accessories and shoes as my items. I do not, but feel free to do that if you like. For me a scarf, belt, or great jewelry really do add to the enjoyment and experience of my wardrobe. I am, however, more selective about the accessories I am choosing and really making sure that they are worth the space in my drawers and the money that is spent.

A Modified Project 333

This project was inspired by Project 333, but I am making a few of my own rules for my own personal challenge.

33 Piece Wardrobe- The wardrobe can have 33 pieces  in it. This wardrobe does not include pajamas, workout gear, undergarments, or camisoles (something that is a necessity for me).  The capsule is made from items I already own, some purchased to be workhorses in my wardrobe  All of the items I am not wearing and still love are being tucked in storage for the next fashion capsule.  I have created a Fashion Capsule Pinterest Board to help inspire me with the pieces I am using.

Choose 3 More for Rotating- You may choose three additional items and put them aside in your closet. You may rotate these items in during the next three months, but three other items have to be rotated out. Consider donating those items.

No Shoe Shopping- I am not including my shoes for this challenge, but I am challenging myself to not buy any more shoes and use what I already have.

One Steal Per Month- Things and events come up and I am allowing myself one steal per month from items that I already own. I may find I don’t need this, but I think it might help with the shopping bug.

No Shopping For Clothing- I will wear the clothes I have selected and not shop for three months and only shop two weeks prior to the next capsule for items for the next season if needed. This is going to require a lot of discipline for me and I am planning to unsubscribe to shopping newsletters and avoid the shops as much as possible.

This month’s Project 333 Wardrobe is listed below. Feel free to join our MomAdvice Hangout for weekly wardrobe inspiration or give me a follow on Instagram! I piece outfits together on my floor and try not to subject you to too many of my awful selfies unless I can’t figure out how to make it work without me in it!

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

* 1. J. Crew Tan Cardigan (gently used, thredUP)

2. Anthropologie Angels of the North Mustard Yellow Knitted Cardigan Sweater (gently used, thredUP)

3. J. Crew Chambray Shirt (gently used, thredUP)

4. White House Black Market Pinstriped Shirt (gently used, thredUP)

5. Cynthia Rowley Black & White Striped T-Shirt (TJ Maxx)

* 6. J. Crew Factory Flannel Shirt (J. Crew Factory)

7. White House Black Market Polka Dotted Silk Shirt (gently used,thredUP)

8. White House Black Market Black Shirt (gently used,thredUP)

* 9. Anthropologie Black & White Striped Tank (gently used, thredUP)

10. Don’t Pull Me Down Mustard Sweater (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

11. Ivory Cowl Neck Sweatshirt (TJ Maxx)

12. J. Crew Red & Black Buffalo Checked Tunic (gently used thredUP)

13. Anthropologie Peacock Design Knitted Top (gently used, thredUP)

14. J. Crew Gray Wool Sweater (gently used, thredUP)

15. J. Crew Coral Tee (gently used, thredUP)

16. Mystree Peplum Jacket (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

* 17. Faux Leather Midi Skirt (purchased Forever 21)

18. Willi Smith Black Tunic (TJ Maxx)

19. fei Chambray Shirt Dress (gently used, thredUP)

20. Anthropologie Daughters of Liberation Utility Jacket (gently used,thredUP)

21. Madewell Gray Jumper (gently used, thredUP)

22. Anthropologie Maeve Red A-Line Skirt (Anthropologie)

23. Matilda Jane Willow Tree Rider Pants (purchase from Amanda Petit, Matilda Jane Independent Trunk Keeper)

24.  Old Navy Vintage T-Shirt (Old Navy)

25. Anthropologie Sweater Dress Jumper (gently used, thredUP)

26. Black Pants With Faux Leather Track Stripe (Loft)

27. Dark Wash Skinny 7 Jeans (Flourish Boutique)

28. Anthropologie Navy & Red Striped Shirt (gently used, thredUP)

29. Cynthia Rowley White T-Shirt (TJ Maxx)

(items with an asterisk are new to the capsule)

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

Browse My Capsules & Wardrobe Planning Advice

Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Winter 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Summer 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Creating the Perfect Capsule Wardrobe (that really works!)

How to Shop Secondhand For Your Capsule Wardrobe

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

25 Best Wardrobe Planning Printables

Coupons That Might Help If You Are Making a Capsule Too

Get $10 for your first thredUP purchase (this is my favorite online consignment resource)

Stitch Fix can be a fun resource for shopping for smart basic wardrobe pieces if a stylist might benefit you!

eShakti $40 off your first order!- Perfect for petite or tall girls because you can customize all their clothing to your own measurements!

Don’t forget to clean out your closet! Here is a list of resources to help you make money while organizing this corner! Happy wardrobe planning!

*This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love- promise! xo

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Amy’s Notebook 01.27.16

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Kitchen trends via Style by Emily Henderson

Source: Style By Emily Henderson

 

13 kitchen trends that are stronger than ever- noted.

9 most-read books in American prisons- there are some surprising picks on here.

Tips for finishing a basement on a budget.

I love the simple things in life.

How to turn your kid into a reader.

Glazed donuts via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry

 

Colorful doughnut glazes. So pretty!

I never knew about these hidden Instagram features!

I love this honest look at decorating mistakes.

I’m working on this.

I am mom. Hear me roar.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

How to Create Vignettes in Decorating

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

This is a guest post from Mo Breden, a local designer who stages the most fun spaces. I asked if she would share some of her knowledge with us on how to easily create some spaces that make us happy in our own homes.  How lucky are we to peek into some of their beautiful spaces? I hope you love this as much as I do! xo

affordable-vignette-ideas

The holidays are over and your home looks as though the Grinch visited. The tinsel, garland, and lights are tucked away for next winter, and your home has an empty and cold feeling. The pages of home magazines entice you with their perfectly decorated rooms. How can you get your space to look like that on a budget?

The answer is in a fancy word with a simple concept. – vignette.

A vignette (pronounced: /vinˈyet/) is a decorative design which creates a pretty picture by using an arrangement of several objects. In a nutshell, you’ve got to accessorize with the right pieces and in the right ways.

All you need to create a vignette is a flat surface. They come in all shapes and sizes; mantles, entryway tables, nightstands, end tables, desks, ottoman trays etc. Vignettes can be the focal point of a room and make a big statement or they can be as simple as placing a few beautiful pieces together on a side table.

Follow our DO and DON’T tips below and you’ll be vignette-ing your home in no time:

vignette-cocktail table

DO: Add some of your favorite pieces!

A vase you received for your wedding, a hand-me-down lamp or picture frame of you and your girlfriends. You’re the one walking by it every day so use the things you love. Just because the magazine showed a series of accessories that are pretty all together, add some things that have a story and add character to your spaces.

DON’T: Overcrowd your vignette to the point it loses its function.

Remember to leave room for that coffee cup and spot for your book.

vignette-mantle

DO: Create height!

Whether it’s a vase with sticks in it or a slender buffet lamp, add something that is taller than your other accessories to create pretty visual layers. For added balance use 3’s and 5’s. Either use 3 large accessories/objects in your vignette or bump it put to 5 items. Working with these odd numbers helps in creating balance and offsets the height of your tallest pieces.

DON’T: Break the bank on accessories.

Although you may not think you have an eye for pulling it all together without starting from scratch, sometimes all it takes is one inspiring piece! Grab that gold sunburst accessory from Target and place it on top of an old stack of books, a wooden box or a glass vase. Re-invent some things you already have and your wallet will be thanking you too.

vignette- long buffet

DO: Include light!

A lamp is a great thing to add to your vignette but there are ways to use natural light too. Hang a mirror, use a mirrored tray or add in a mercury glass vase to reflect the natural light and add some sparkle.

DON’T: Forget to add in some unexpected color.

Using colorful pieces adds flare to your vignette and grabs your eye as you pass by. Fresh flowers are another way to bring beauty and color in you your space.

vignette- long buffet

DO: Use textures.

One of our favorite things to do is mix textures into our designs! Mixing woods, silvers, golds, blacks and whites adds a really cool look. Find an old tin box and place it on a white washed night stand, then add in a chrome sphere or a glass table lamp.

DON’T: Expect perfection on your first try.

Whenever we create a vignette we bring options to choose from. You may have to try a few different items to find that perfect piece!

Now you have the tools to kick out the Grinch, and make your home the warm, beautiful space
you desire. Happy Vignette-ing!

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

I have tried and tried and tried to create a delicious gluten-free meatloaf, but have failed on countless occasions. We have had hard-as-a-rock meatloaves and runny meatloaves and gummy meatloaves and dense meatloaves, but nothing has ever been delicious…until now.

When all else fails (oatmeal, gluten-free breadcrumbs, no breadcrumbs at all,  fresh gluten-free breadcrumbs, etc..), you just have to go to the experts. To me, there is no better resource than America’s Test Kitchen and The How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook had a meatloaf recipe in it that had a really unusual binding agent that yields a fluffy and delicious meatloaf without the gluten. You know what makes it even better? It is just a standard ingredient you would find at a standard grocery store that you might even have in your pantry.  You mean, no fancy pants gluten-free ingredients that cost an arm and a leg? Well, heck, sign me up!

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

If you don’t have meatloaf pan like this, they offer an affordable alternative to create a loaf that isn’t swimming in grease. Simply place a standard cooling rack on top of your cookie sheet and then tear pieces of foil, roughly the size of a loaf pan) to lay on top of your cooling rack. Spray with cooking spray and then use a skewer to poke holes to drain the grease from the loaf. All the grease then goes to the cooking sheet, helping the loaf to hold its shape.

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

Once you have shaped your meatloaf, you can cover it in half the sauce you have made. This sauce is sweet and I have discovered my family prefers just a can of tomato sauce on top with a little shake of garlic salt for a more Italian flavoring.  You can do either, but I definitely found that this sweet sauce hugged and set well on this meatloaf, even when reheated later for delicious meatloaf sandwiches.

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

This meatloaf is so light and who would ever have guessed that instant mashed potatoes is what keeps it so light and fluffy? It’s an incredible loaf that holds its shape and is full of flavor thanks to the delicious sauce that compliments this fluffy loaf perfectly. We served this dish with a big helping of oven roasted brussels sprouts, a side that has grown to be a family favorite!

I hope you will enjoy this recipe in your house as much as we had and now that I know what a great binder instant mashed potatoes are, this will be a pantry staple for our family! Thank you, America’s Test Kitchen, for making our family so darn happy!

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
A perfectly light meatloaf with the most surprising binding agent! Try substituting the sweet sauce with tomato sauce for an Italian kick!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅓ cup potato flakes
  • ⅓ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound (85 percent lean) ground beef
Instructions
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Fold heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a 9x5-inch rectangle. Center foil on a wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Poke holes in the foil with a skewer (about ½ inch apart). Spray foil with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Stir ketchup, sugar and vinegar together in a bowl and set aside. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk in eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Stir in potato flakes and parsley. Add pork and knead with hands until thoroughly combined. Add beef and continue to knead until uniform.
  4. Transfer meat mixture to foil rectangle and shape into 9x5-inch loaf. Brush half of ketchup mixture over meatloaf. Bake meatloaf in preheated oven 40 minutes.
  5. Brush meatloaf with remaining ketchup mixture and continue to bake until center of loaf registers 160°F, 30 to 35 minutes. Let meatloaf cool 15 minutes before slicing.

 This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love!

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