Author Archive

March: No Spend Challenge Results (Week 2)

Friday, March 16th, 2018

march no spend challenge

I can’t believe I have already breezed through the second week of this No-Spend Challenge and things have been going so well.  I am really recognizing my spending impulses and a lot of it seems to have to do with the power of suggestion (helloooo, Instagram)  and when I have pockets of free time that have me heading over to my computer to do a little online shopping.

no-spend challenge

no-spend challenge (the birthday boy’s favorite cake- snickerdoodle cake!)

It was my husband’s birthday week and I had disclosed at the beginning of the challenge that I wouldn’t be skipping his celebration dinner just because I wanted to save a little money. We went to his favorite fancy spot and had a wonderful meal that we savored together. I never take for granted what a good life it is when you get to spend your life with your best friend.

When I began really getting the hang of cooking, we have found that we really don’t enjoy dining out anymore, unless it is somewhere really spectacular. I wouldn’t say our dining out budget has been cut down necessarily, but that we now would rather pay for one really incredible meal rather than four disappointing inexpensive meals.

It was a fabulous night and there was no need to buy anything special to wear thanks to that well-equipped capsule wardrobe.

red sparrow

I have a MoviePass, but I always am trying to coordinate with other people to go and see a movie. I have never gone to the movies by myself, but I was dying to see Red Sparrow (my husband was not) so I decided to have an impromptu movie date by myself.

You know what? It was awesome!

My INFJ heart was very happy AND I absolutely loved the film.

I packed a snack in my car to enjoy on the way home and avoided the concessions stand to hold to my challenge.

Boy, that popcorn smell almost had me caving!

no-spend challenge

Dining at home is never a biggie, but I have gotten in a bad habit of just buying groceries impulsively and not really looking in our pantry and freezer. These chicken breasts became this delicious dish and a forgotten bag of potatoes made the perfect side dish.

We enjoyed this with some belly-laughs over this new Netflix series. It made me thankful to see other people #nailingit like me when it comes to baking.


Do you follow bloggers because you love seeing all the new things they have gotten? I know that there are certain accounts that I follow because it seems like they always have the latest thing.

I realized this week that creatively, it is MUCH more challenging to inspire people WITHOUT buying things.

I have to think a little harder about what I have been putting out in the world and how to inspire people without spending money. I have always been committed to good living on a small budget, but am I always sharing in these ways?

I needed a little Spring for our mantle, for example, and shopped the house to create a cute little rainbow of books for the mantle.

My hubby declared this the MOST Pinterest-y thing I have ever done and I am not ashamed.

We have so much here- why do I feel I need to buy things to inspire other people?

no-spend challenge

This week I have been more busy than usual and haven’t been sitting at my computer and instead found myself with three wonderful dates (at my house- #nospendchallenge, you know!) with three amazing women that inspire me so much.

I love entertaining, but sometimes it feels more convenient to just go out rather than clean up our messes (or, heck, let people witness our messes) and open our home up…warts and all. We remodeled our home with the intention of sharing our home with others and we should be doing just that.

What a blessing to have the space to do it in and to share it with others.

One friend brought me this book (I can’t wait to dig in), another brought me this beautiful plant, and another brought all the appetizers and wine for a fun night in my little shed. Hostess gifts were savored so much more this month!

California Typewriter

We ended the week with a pajama-date today and watched this phenomenal documentary on typewriters (available on Hulu).

If you have a free afternoon this weekend, it is such a good one. I will admit, it had me feeling a little melancholy about my love/hate relationship with technology. I love sharing here, but I struggle with too much technology in my life.

I am sure I will have lots to learn when I detach from social media a bit next month!

Next week I am traveling for business so I will have some expenditures with business travel, but I’m hoping to continue the mindful approach to spending, just as I have been doing these past two weeks.

Follow My No-Spend Journey

No-Spend Month Intention
Week 1

Money Spent- $299 (groceries) $140 (birthday dinner for my hubby- an approved expenditure)

Memberships Used During Week 1-

Scribd- 0

Gym- 2 classes

CycleCast- 1 session

MoviePass- 1 movie

March: No Spend Challenge Results (Week 1)

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

march no spend challenge

Haven’t you always wanted to read someone’s diary?

Oh, wait…is that just me? In all seriousness, I’d love to share with you my weekly reflections from my month of intentions.

Since March was designated as my no-spend challenge month, I thought it would be a great one to share with you as I embrace this month of getting my spending habits back on track. Truth be told, the savings will be used for our Spring Break trip and I’m hoping that we won’t feel the pinch at all from taking a vacation.

The first week is no big deal because, honestly, how hard is it to do for one week?

Here is what I learned from week 1:

No-Spend Challenge Results

Week 1 of the No-Spend Challenge

Day 1- I’m going to be honest and tell you that I had expected the launch of this challenge to start with an expense. I had planned to take my neighbor out for her birthday dinner (after she had taken me for a fantastic birthday meal where I claimed I had coupons, but actually did not) and I was going to add this feast to my monthly expenses since it had been planned.

I received a text though that said she would prefer just meeting for a glass of wine and had been eating out a lot lately.

She suggested that it might be better to just hang out in my She Shed.

I offered to make her a birthday dinner though and discovered three sweet potatoes, a bag of Brussels Sprouts, a bag of spinach, and just enough arborio rice to make a risotto dish. Balsamic roasted veggies, risotto cooked in white wine and vegetable broth, and a cranberry & almond salad were all birthed from the pantry that had nothing.

It was delicious and, upon a generous amount of wine, she did confess that she saw I had planned this challenge and refused to sabotage my first day out of the gate.

What a great friend, right?

Surprise, surprise, I made it through day 1 without an expense after all.

Day 2- I am at the gym and get a peek at my girlfriend’s amazing boots she is wearing.

“Where did you get those?”

“TJ Maxx! Can you believe they are water resistant and everything?”

“Oh, I need those.”

I begin to contemplate how I can swing by TJ Maxx on the way home from the gym and then remember my no-spend commitment.

I arrive home and glance at the dusty basket filled with oodles of boots…

Three pairs, just for me, that are water resistant.

No Spend Challenge

Day 4- I know a lot of people get buried in weekend spending, but my homebody nature really pulls through on the weekend.  I have been discovering I had quite the stockpile in our freezer so a night of mussels was on our agenda for our usual pizza night.

It’s been ages since I made spaghetti sauce, relying upon the jar for convenience, and I was reminded the beauty in a homemade sauce for a spaghetti side.

It really is the little things.

A couple of months ago, I had splurged on this expandable coffee table and it is now our favorite weekend spot to have dinner and watch a show together.


When We First Met

Date nights were spent catching up on Netflix- yes, we are that fun!

The original programming from Netflix has really been delivering so it was easy to do a movie night at home together and this one was adorable. Many times I find myself running over to Redbox or the library for movies when we have PLENTY to watch already at home.

Seriously, you should see how long my list is.

No Spend Challenge

Day 5- Since we were eating our way through our pantry, I thought I’d give gluten-free pizza dough a try to see if I can’t replace that take-out pizza moving forward. I wasn’t willing to chance it on two pizzas because gluten-free flour is expensive.

Surprise, surprise, I NAILED IT! I was so proud of myself that I made several more, just to make sure I could share a really good recipe with you.

It must be elastic pants weekend.

Day 6-7- It was really fortunate timing that I figured out a supplement that could help with my pain management just as this challenge was beginning. (P.S.- I promise to share more tomorrow!) so I was able to keep to a consistent gym routine which gave me the opportunity to socialize and to get in some good endorphins.

I dusted off my stationary bike and got back to using my CycleCast app so even in moments I was working out a lot, I still felt like I was a part of something.

Overall, week one was AWESOME and I can’t wait to what else I learn in the next three weeks!

Money Spent- $0

Memberships Used During Week 1-

Scribd- 1 audiobook

Gym- 3 classes

CycleCast- 1 session

MoviePass- 0 movies

Amy’s Notebook 03.08.18

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Creamy Chicken Marsala Soup source

Sign me up for a big bowl of this creamy chicken marsala soup!

If literature’s complicated men were on Tinder- I die, I die!

Instagram observations (comments are gold). This comes up a lot with my IRL friends and it is fascinating to me how others view IG when it isn’t their work.

How to fall asleep amazingly fast by worrying on purpose. I never thought of this before, but it makes sense!

I think this is a great conversation to read about guns.

I want to make these for our next movie night- yum!

I loved this article on what an out gay Olympian could mean to another child. It’s a beautiful piece!

Meet the designers behind your favorite book covers.

I’m loving this book this week. I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age story.

I’m a bit of a Home Goods junkie so I loved these strategies for saving at the store.

sweet potato wraps source

Oh, I definitely want to try these sweet potato wraps!

This piece was just incredible and now, as a grown-up and mom, I think about this all in such a different way.

People chime in on how to overcome SAD. My three favorite remedies? I got one of these, one of these (I’m in heaven!), & I take this. Oh, and LOTS of exercise #bringontheendorphins.

Do you get tech neck too? These stretches might help reduce the strain.

Wow, this is kind of crazy! Uber is certainly changing the auto landscape!

pom pom rainbow source

This pom-pom rainbow is so cute and would be a fun craft to do with my daughter!

I can’t wait to see this movie today- I had no idea how rigorously she had to prepare for this part.

16 brilliant bed hacks- loving these tips.

Here’s what’s going in my earbuds (I can’t believe the Kindle version is just $1.99 since it is a new release!!).  So good and I am loving the Irish accent from the narrator too.

Can’t afford the pricey balsamic vinegar? I love these smart hacks for your grocery store vinegars.

Want to try making your own dairy-free yogurt? This looks like a simple recipe.

Did you see this exciting news?

This week’s album share below- enjoy!

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! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

5-Ingredient Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Recipe

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust recipe from

I have been gluten-free for years, but I have only really jumped into gluten-free baking this year. The one recipe that I just couldn’t seem to master was a delicious gluten-free pizza crust. This week I decided to try to crack the code on a simple, one-bowl dough that could be made from a gluten-free mix and that had simple ingredients that I always keep in my pantry. Does this seem like too steep of a request to make from myself? You bet!

You could say this no-spend month has been quite motivating!

I am SO excited to share with you a foolproof gluten-free pizza crust recipe that is as easy to put together as your standard crust. The thing that I need to stress though is that you MUST, MUST, MUST follow my advice on which flour to purchase and the steps that I have outlined to create it. If you use another flour mix I can’t guarantee these results for the perfect airy crust that will rival any pizzeria you have been to.

It’s worth it to take the time to buy the right product, amiright?

Are you ready for this EASY recipe?

Let’s get baking!

5-ingredient Gluten-Free Pizza Crust from

A Few Quick Suggestions for the Perfect Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

The Best Flour Blend for This Recipe

To nail this perfect crust, you MUST use this gluten-free flour mix.


I’m linking to the best price on this that I’ve found (at least in our area). The cost (currently) is $3.97 and this will yield two large pizza crusts for your family.  It has to be the cup-for-cup so make sure that the label says that since other gluten-free blends exist. Although I am telling you it yields TWO crusts, this recipe below is for ONE crust. Double it if you are wanting to make two pizzas.

And you will want to make two pizzas. I just know it!

Anyone who eats gluten-free knows what a steal this on two large crusts. I can’t tell you how much money I have spent on tiny terrible pizzas that left me hungry.

A little over two bucks per large pizza crust is unreal awesome.

The Yeast Must Be Active

Do you know the best way to check if your yeast is active? Sprinkle your yeast and a pinch of sugar over the top, give it a stir, and let it stand for a few minutes. If the yeast is still active, it will dissolve completely into the water and the liquid will start bubbling. If your yeast isn’t active, it will yield a dense and heavy crust.

I buy a large jar of yeast because it is cheaper than buying the yeast packets. This is the jar that I purchase for our family.

You want to make sure you don’t grab the bread machine yeast, just the regular ol’ active yeast.

Parchment Paper Makes Everything Easier

This crust shouldn’t be too sticky (if it is, add a little additional flour until it comes together without the stickiness factor), but I prefer to press out my crust on a parchment paper lined pizza stone. I buy these squares (awesome stuff for easy clean-up on sheet pan meals) and place it on a diagonal across my stone.

Speaking of pizza stones, they are such a wonderful family investment. I bought mine about twelve years ago and it has paid for itself over and over and over again. This size stone is perfect for all your pizza needs.

5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust recipe from 5-ingredient gluten-free pizza crust recipe from

I have a feeling you are going to love this recipe because of its ease.  Mix it up, let it rise, and then pat it out on parchment paper.

Yup, that’s pretty much it.

I like to brush the crust edges with olive oil because it helps the edge to crisp up a bit more.

Once you press the crust out, bake it for a bit, add your toppings, and then finish your baking.

That’s it!

The best part is that you can make a few crusts at the same time and place them in the freezer for your future pizza nights. Simply allow the crust to rise and then place the dough ball in a freezer-safe plastic bag. Once you are ready to use it, let it thaw overnight in the fridge, and then prepare as usual. These crusts can be kept frozen for up to four weeks.

Another make-ahead option is to to mix all the dry ingredients and store them in a bag or jar to make preparation a little easier.

Or, heck, just wing it!

You got this!

5-ingredient-gluten-free-pizza-crust-recipe (7 of 8)

5-Ingredient Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Recipe
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 large pizza
An easy 5-ingredient one-bowl gluten-free pizza crust recipe. I dare you to say that three times fast.
  • 2¼ cups Bobs Mill Cup-For-Cup Baking Flour NO SUBSTITUTIONS
  • 2.25 teaspoons active yeast (if purchasing in packet form, it will be one packet)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  1. Please Note- This yields enough for ONE crust for ONE large pizza.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix together flour, yeast, and salt.
  3. Add honey, olive oil, and warm water (you want this warm, but not SO hot that it kills your yeast).
  4. Mix well until the dough pulls away from the bowl. If your dough feels too sticky, you can add a little additional flour to it until it pulls into a ball.
  5. Knead the ball of dough a few times and then cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  8. On a parchment paper lined pizza stone, turn out the dough and shape into a pizza.
  9. Once it is patted out, brush with olive oil on the edge of the crust.
  10. Bake for 12 minutes.
  11. Remove and add sauce and toppings. Place back into the oven and finish baking (approximately 7-9 minutes). If you like your cheese bubbly on top, you can finish the process by broiling for a couple of minutes. Be sure to keep your eye on it so your crust doesn't burn.
  12. Slice and enjoy!


Not gluten-free? I’ve got you covered with this easy Bread Machine Pizza Dough! You can also use my pizza sauce recipe (all the way at the bottom of the post!) for both types of pizzas.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of this recipe and hope it is as big of a hit at your house as it has been at our home!

This post contains affiliate links.




Pin It

How Podcasts Saved My Marriage

Monday, March 5th, 2018

How Podcasts Saved Our Marriage from

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

For weeks I had the article open in one of the many tabs on my internet browser. “How to Increase Intimacy in Your Marriage,” it read – and it wasn’t about sex. The article addressed the same old, same old feeling we can get in a long-term relationship, the lack of connection that creeps in while you’re shuttling kids to soccer practice and piano lessons, taking turns buying groceries or changing laundry or making sure someone is home to sign for that FedEx package.

The article seemed to hold the secret to fixing what felt off in my own marriage, a cure in five simple steps – if only we could find the time to read it.

I’d originally kept the article open with intentions to print it out and take it to our next counseling session. Our counselor had been kind and helpful over many months of healing and growth, but when I mentioned a lack of connection he leaned back on his old faithful, the date night. As we’ve discussed before, date nights are great but not always possible. So though I was grateful to leave crisis and emotional chaos behind, I was worried that we’d overcorrect into apathy and boredom. And this article had more practical solutions than the tired advice of going on more date nights.

However, before we returned to counseling, life got increasingly crazy with a move, an overseas trip, and a job change – so counseling, steps for creating connection, and date nights got lost in the shuffle for a while. Eventually I bookmarked that article and closed out, intending to come back to it soon.

I never did.

And, sure enough, as life settled down again and we adjusted to a new home, a new town, and a new schedule, I began feeling disconnected from my husband again. With his long hours and our family’s full calendar, we were ships passing in the night, sharing little more than instructions, urgent questions, complaints, or solutions for the day-to-day management of a family and home.

In the midst of feeling frustrated over the struggle to connect, I mentioned in passing that I thought my husband might enjoy a podcast I listened to regularly. He’s a truckdriver who’s on the road for hours at a time, so over the years I’ve suggested audiobooks and podcasts frequently. He’d never been interested (which annoyed me to no end and baffled me as well!) – but this time he was.

Before he could change his mind and revert to his stance that listening to the radio was just fine, I downloaded a podcast-listening app to his phone and then subscribed him to a dozen podcasts I thought he might like.

Then, I waited. Would he like the same podcasts I did? What about the others I found for him? Would he give them a chance? Would he be bored or fascinated? Would he even tell me what he thought about all of this?

I shouldn’t have worried. It didn’t take long before every other sentence out of his mouth seemed to be, “So I was listening to this podcast, and they said…”

How Podcasts Saved My Marriage from

He began sharing stories and fun facts and interesting news he thought I might like to hear. He told me about books he’d learned about that sounded like something I might want to read – and even a book that he wanted to read, too. (Though I’m a big reader he is not, so that one was a big deal!) Before long, we had lists of things to talk about, things that weren’t basic household decisions or weekend plans, things that didn’t revolve around our kids or the daily frustrations of our jobs.

I know couples who have weekly date nights, daily downloads, frequent coffee dates. Though our schedule prevents any of that for now, I admit that any time those practices came up, I felt a little nervous. If we had the chance for more quality time together, would we even have anything to say? Last year, we might not have, to be honest. If you take kids and jobs off the table, we don’t always have a lot of conversation starters left.

But now that we’ve started sharing things we’re hearing on podcasts (and, for me, on blogs and online magazines), running out of things to say is the last thing on my mind.

Perhaps it’s an exaggeration to say that podcasts saved my marriage. After all, wasn’t it the counseling and work we’d done prior to this connection crisis what did that?

Yes, that’s true. We weren’t in danger of divorce when I first read the article about increasing intimacy, but we were getting awfully close to boredom and becoming strangers. And that’s a risk I don’t want to take. Therefore, I stand by my declaration: podcasts saved my marriage (from becoming boring and stale and completely without connection).

If you’d like to know which podcasts my husband subscribed to, I’d be happy to share. Click here to receive 15 Podcasts Perfect for the Man in Your Life for free!

Do you listen to podcasts? How do you stay connected with your husband?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to and Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Pin It

February 2018 Must-Reads

Friday, March 2nd, 2018


Who is ready for some fresh reads for their book stacks? I’ve been a reading machine this month and I’m so excited to share some fresh picks with you that I’d love to recommend for your reading this month. In fact,  I have eight great books that I tackled and several 5-star reads that I am hoping will be winners with you too.

Did I mention how much I love sharing books with you guys?

It’s true!

February Book Stack

I haven’t done this before, but I thought it would be fun to see an actual visual of how many pages that I read this month. Sometimes I’m frustrated that I’m not reading faster than I am, but seeing this stack reminds me that sometimes it isn’t the volume of books I’m sharing, but the volume of pages that I’ve flipped for this monthly feature.

Check out that leaning tower of books, people!

My Usual Reminders

If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there!

In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

Looking to add some variety to your stack? Feel free to join our book club! I can’t believe we have over 1,500 bookworms in this group. Our discussion this month was AMAZING and it is so much fun to have so many participating (and enjoying) the books that I selected to share. I announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in February) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. These will be added in a blog entry for January, but book club participants get the list a little earlier. It’s just one more perk to enjoy with this free club!

Need another challenge to push you out of your reading comfort zone? Be sure to download this year’s Reading Challenge Worksheet.

Before we chat about books, this month’s Book of the Month selections are AWESOME this month and I have to share about them with you!

March BOTM

The Book of Month Club Selections Are Out!!

This month’s special: Use code YESPLZ to get your first month free! (new members only!)

March Selections:

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Here are 8 must-read books I tackled in February:

Self-Portrait With Boy

Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon

Looking for a thriller with a plot that you probably have never considered? Self-Portrait With Boy is one of the most inventive plot concepts that I’ve read in a long time and absolutely captivated me. This novel is about a struggling photographer who lives in an artist loft where she has been working on a personal photography project taking a daily self-portrait.

A little boy, in the apartment above her’s, tragically falls to his death and Lu happens to be taking an image of herself when the tragedy occurs. Upon development, she sees that it is one of the most beautiful images she has ever taken and has to grapple with the decision to let this work be seen.

As the tenants grow closer together following the tragedy, she finds herself entangled in a friendship with the mother and must decide if she is going to share the image of her son with the world.

Adding to the deep moral dilemma, she is barely making ends meet and her father has to undergo a pricey surgery. It isn’t just about the fame, it’s about survival.  This image could help her become known in her field, but at what cost?

I listened to this one on audiobook in a single day, and had to know what was going to happen with this photo. I don’t want to say more- it’s really awesome.  This book would lend itself well to a book club discussion.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Lucky Boy

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaram

I also have to lead with this month’s MomAdvice Book Club pick because it was so darn good. What I heard frequently from our book club members was that this was a book that they would have not picked up on their own and that it ended up being a favorite this month. The best part, for me, was also hearing that it changed people’s viewpoints and made them more empathetic to refugees and immigrants that have come to America.

This story is about two women- one who is in her teens and coming to the states illegally and the other who is living the American dream version of the immigrant story in Berkley. When Soli, our teen narrator, becomes pregnant on her perilous journey to the states, she decides to keep her son and do her best to juggle her job as a housekeeper and care for her child.

The other woman is struggling with infertility and would do anything to have a child.

When Soli’s little boy enters her life, she must do everything she can to keep him in it.

Our “lucky” boy is loved fiercely by two women and both will stop at nothing to keep him in their lives.

I honestly couldn’t turn the pages fast enough on this one. It made for a FANTASTIC and timely book club discussion from fertility to the immigrant struggle to the unstoppable love of motherhood. I can’t recommend this read enough!

5 Out Of 5 Stars

Are You Sleeping?

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Serial fans will LOVE this fantastic debut novel that explores a fictional murder and a podcast that decides to reopen a thirteen-year-old murder case. If you are looking for a fun book to enjoy on audiobook, I HIGHLY recommend it since it reads as part novel and part podcast.

Josie has started a new life in New York and hasn’t even shared her real past with her partner. It is only when her mother dies that she has to confront her demons and one person is determined to leave no stone unturned.  An investigative reporter has decided Josie’s father’s murder is worth exploring in her podcast and her family’s old secrets are exposed, forcing Josie to deal with her past and her estranged twin sister.

I really enjoyed this one and thought the pacing was so great. It also gives you food for thought on our own obsessions with true crime and what that might be like for a family who has become the topic of exploration.

True crime, a podcast, and a twisty thriller are all rolled into one satisfying read.

4 Out Of 5 Stars


Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Looking for a book that is unlike any other you’ve read? Spoonbenders was a highly imaginative exploration of a family that all have special powers that have been celebrated publicly.

Known as the Amazing Telemachus Family, each family member has a special skill from moving objects with their mind, the ability to predict the future, a human lie detector…and a con man who has the sleight of hand ability being used by the CIA.

Decades later this family is not so amazing. In fact, if you are an Arrested Development fan, you just might recognize some of the quirks of these family members. When one family member owes a large sum of money to the mob, this magical family must come together to save their family member and they discover more about each other in the process.

I love magical realism and really enjoyed this read. It had a bit of a lag towards the end and might have benefited from a bit of trimming, but overall it was one that I looked forward to reading. Several laugh-out-loud moments happen in this one that made it a welcome escape.

If magical realism or dysfunctional family stories are your thing, this might be a winner in your book stack too.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

The Wife Between Us

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Looking for a twisty thriller for your book stack? I have a feeling that you will really enjoy, The Wife Between Us. This is the type of book that keeps you on your toes as the plot takes you down many different rabbit trails only to realize it isn’t what you had thought all along.

Nellie thought she had the perfect marriage with Richard until she didn’t. Down on her luck and struggling financially to keep up, she discovers that Richard is engaged to be married again, really shortly after the end of her own marriage. Nellie becomes obsessed with this woman and talking with her and the reader is left guessing from start to finish just why it is so important that Nellie connect with his new wife.

Everything is not as it is seems, as all good thrillers should be, and this one had surprise after surprise. This dynamic writing duo really pulled together a fantastic 24-hour escape that you won’t be able to put down.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage was selected as Oprah’s Book Club Pick and has been THE buzz book this month. I snagged it through Book of the Month, but I ended up listening to this one instead.

This book tells the story of a man who is wrongfully incarcerated and how this couple does their best to continue to keep their marriage alive. A love triangle ensues, between the husband, wife and her childhood friend. It all comes to a shattering halt when Roy, the husband, gets out early from his twelve year sentence and their marriage is completely in question.

You do sympathize with the characters and wonder what you would do if put in this place. Roy feels like he has to pay for something he didn’t do and then pay for it again. Celestial, the wife, also grows up and evolves into a different person. It’s a difficult circumstance that would be a great one to discuss in your book club.

I will say, I was looking for a bit more depth on this one, particularly with the wrongful arrest and I can’t say that I actually had a deep connection with any of the characters.

I would say if you plan to read this one, the narration was beautifully done through the audiobook and it helped me to connect more with the letters that are written back and forth from the prison.

As with all buzz books, I’m not sure I embraced the hype, but I certainly enjoyed the story.

4 Out Of 5 Stars

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Fans of Hitchcock are sure to love this amazing thriller that had me on a whodunit guessing spree up until the final pages. The main character is an alcoholic pill-popper who used to be a psychologist and now is estranged from her family. Since she is unable to leave her home, she makes a habit of spying on her neighbors and happens to witness the good ol’ neighbor lady being stabbed.

When the cops show up, after her frantic 9-1-1 call, they say that she is alive. To prove it, she walks in to show herself…and she is not herself at all. In fact, she is an entirely different woman. Now this unreliable narrator must figure out where the real Mrs. Russell is.

I don’t want to say too much about this one because half the fun is all the twists that the author has woven in.

Despite the long length, I was able to polish this one off in a couple of days and found it to be a satisfying and surprising ending.

If you prefer your thrillers with a great mystery woven in, you are sure to love this one! Finn also weaves in a lot of old movies that just might have you planning a movie night at home.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I really loved The Nightingale and had really been hoping Kristin Hannah would tackle another historical fiction book, but this contemporary coming-of-age story ended up being sweetly satisfying for a winter escape.

This story is set in the seventies and is about a former POW father who comes home from the Vietnam War completely changed. His behavior and decision-making is wildly erratic and when a property becomes available in rural Alaska, he decides that they should seize the opportunity to live off the grid and make a different life for themselves.

Braving harrowing and life-threatening conditions is what is all about and thirteen-year-old Leni is caught in the middle of it all as they attempt to carve a new life in the wild frontier.

Living off the grid is not all it is cracked up to be and neither is surviving the difficult Alaska winters.

I really loved this read until the ending which took on a Lifetime movie quality. I tried to not let that overshadow my enjoyment of the rest of the story because braving the wilderness is tough and Hannah writes so eloquently about this impossible marriage and the honest struggle of a Vietnam veteran.

4 Out Of 5 Stars


What did you read this month? 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.


March Intention: No-Spend Challenge

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

march no spend challenge

I feel like it is January 1st instead of March 1st with all this excitement about setting monthly intentions. For March, I have challenged myself to a no-spend challenge. I had shared about no-spend challenges in my book and in an article on our site,  but was inspired again when I read (again) this transformation article from my dear friend, Shanna. I happened to be on Facebook when she shared that she was planning to tackle another challenge recently and I love hearing that this had become a part of her yearly routines.

You know how your spending habits increase as your salary increases? Our expenses have definitely expanded, since we worry less about money, and I know that we could be saving so much more.

As soon as I shared my no-spend challenge with my family, the first thing my daughter said was, “Does that mean you won’t buy us any groceries?”

Yeah, I should probably review what a “no-spend” month looks like.

no spend challenge

What Spending is Allowed?


Groceries (I am also going to be looking with a critical eye at how much we have been spending in this category because I, honestly, haven’t been very good about paying attention)

Normal Bills & Memberships (including normal business expenses)

My hubby’s birthday meal (I am not going to be a Scrooge if he wants to go out)

What Do I Plan to Do Differently This Month?

No dining out (OUCH- that should save A LOT)

Use up what is in our freezer and pantry- we have a lot of ingredients that I haven’t been putting to work

Be MORE thoughtful about my grocery purchases and get back to ALDI

Go over our current spending and see where we can cut corners

Get back to using Mint to track what’s happening in our accounts

Use the memberships I have (gym, Netflix, Hulu, CycleCast, Spotify, Scribd, & MoviePass) and REALLY analyze if these are being used enough to justify the monthly expenses

Work on my taxes- we can’t leave for Spring Break until this is in order

NOT make frivolous purchases for Spring Break & Easter

NO Kindle deal buying- I do love a cheap book purchase

I am really looking forward to sharing my results from this financial fast and and I’m excited to see how much we can save this month. It will be a great way to reset this year for our family. If you want to follow our adventures, you can catch me on Instagram documenting through their Instagram Story feature and a little on my feed too.

I am also journaling my experience to share with you at the end of the month. Stay tuned for my reflections on this one.

Would you like to join me this month? Leave a comment below (because I can’t pay for a link list subscription- hahaha!)

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo



My Year of Living Intentionally

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

a year filled with intention from

I got a few messages wondering how I am doing over here. You guys never cease to amaze me in how intuitive you are when I’m going through a rough patch. It’s been such a frustrating process of working really hard to feel better, but hitting depressing hurdles that send me back to square one.

Honestly, my body hasn’t been cooperating with my 2018 plans.

Last night, in the wee hours of the morning, I started thinking about what drives me and how to get control of that drive in my life. Typically, this reflection happens in January, but if I waited until next year than I would be missing out on improving my life in the next upcoming months.

I started jotting down things that I struggle with and what I’d love to see myself do better at. I love seeing long lists of monthly intentions from others, but I’m going to be really proud to put one intention out in the world each month and accomplish it. Setting intentions helps give my days more purpose and I love seeing what good things can come from intentional living.

Blogging has a way of holding me accountable and I thought I could journal what I learn each month as I’m working my way through these intentions. If they are things you struggle with too, maybe you might want to join me?

Here are the monthly intentions that I want to work through this year and why.

Living With Intention Monthly Challenges

march no spend challenge

March- No-Spend Challenge

It’s been awhile since my last no-spend challenge and March is the perfect month for it. I’d love to spend some time evaluating my spending habits, resist the urge to buy a bunch of stuff for our Spring Break trip, and to get our tax paperwork in order. I feel like we have been hemorrhaging money and I’m hoping this challenge will remind me how to do better with our family finances.

April Stop the Scrolling Challenge April- Stop the Scrolling Challenge

April is THE WORST for me because I start the comparison game with the Spring Break trips and often get so consumed with that, I fail to enjoy our own break. While I can’t completely detach from social media, there is no reason to spend my days endlessly scrolling. I’m going to try to reel this one in, especially since this tends to be an unhealthy habit for me in April.

I’d also love to go social media free for the first week of April to get the most out of our family trip.

may get moving challenge from May- Get Moving

I can use my illness as an excuse all I want, but I can still be moving in some way, even if I’m not doing a full-out workout. May is when I tend to start the summer slack so I thought this would be a perfect time to remind myself to get moving.

Ideally, 3-5 days a week, I’m going to be intentionally moving…even if it is just a walk around the block.

june declutter like a boss

June- Declutter Like a Boss

Despite all appearances, there is a lot of clutter in our house and I’d love to reign it in. Closets, pantry, dumping spots (for us it is the laundry room & garage) all could use some organizing.

I also am queen of abandoned projects so I’d love to get a few of those done during this month of organization.

new year in july challenge from July- New Year in July

I love to make New Year’s resolutions…and then abandon them.

This month will be the perfect time to revisit what I put out in the world and try to actually check a resolution (or two) off my list.

august be creative challenge

August- Be Creative (For Myself)

I would love to get back to being creative and I have plenty of tools to do it. There are a few items on my crafting bucket list and I’d love to set the intention to actually do something creative for myself each week.

put down the wine challenge from

September- Put Down the Wine

I love sharing drinks with friends and with my husband over the summer, but it quickly becomes a nightly habit after enjoying it so often in the warmer months.  I’d love to do a dry month and see what I can learn from a month without my wine.

october better start better sleep from

October- Better Start Better Sleep

I know how much better I feel with good sleep and a great morning routine. I’d love to focus on that by getting my sleeping habits back on track. I have the tendency to sabotage myself by hopping on my phone at night or staying up too late with a good book. I’d like to see if I can feel better by being intentional with better sleep habits.

november connect with people challenge November- Connect With People

I’m an INFJ and I have the tendency to REALLY introvert when the months get colder and my body isn’t feeling as good. I’d love to set the intention that I will work harder to connect with people in my life during this challenging time.

december self-care month from December- Month of Self-Care

The holidays run me down (as I am sure they do you too!) and I would love to be more intentional about self-care during this challenging season. It won’t be extravagant luxuries like spa days, but setting intentions AT HOME to take care of myself.

I’m really excited to share with you what I learn from these challenges, starting with a discussion tomorrow about my No-Spend March. I think it is the perfect month to reset before our spring vacation, don’t you?

I’m hoping with a goal each month that I can start feeling like the old me again!

a year filled with intention from

Pin It

Amy’s Notebook 02.28.18

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

DIY-Macrame-Chandelier source

I am wowed by this diy macrame chandelier made from a simple lampshade.

How to develop a mind that clings to nothing- wow, wow, wow! I need to work on this.

Tell her first.

Also, I see you less-than-perfect kid. It echoes so much of what is on my heart.

Self-care obsessed? Add these eight self-care books to your book stack!

How about applying the KonMari principles to your digital world too? Love it!

Trying to get organized? Add these eleven Instagram accounts to your follow list.

I need to mix up some of this DIY cleaner for my kiddos and their glasses.

New erotica for feminists- hahahaha. YASSS!!

The best ways to manage stress based on your Myer-Briggs personality.

Struggling with a narcissist in your life? This post sheds light on the best way to become their worst nightmare.

I love sharing music with you so here is your weekly Amy’s Notebook album to enjoy- I promise to share more each week. We went & saw them in a show & they were phenomenal.

I thought this piece was so very brave.

I can’t rave enough about these jeggings. Crops on tall girls, perfect full-length for my fellow shorties without any hemming.

Oh, how I love this collection of parenting advice.

diy high chair mat source

I love this super cute diy high chair mat to keep your floors clean (and stylish!)

I’m queen of the best cheap sheets set club (this is my FAVORITE set) and I love these tips to make cheap sheets feel like expensive luxuries.

Here are a few smart morning habits to boost your creativity throughout the day.

50 contemporary reads every woman has to read. I spy several of my favorites on this list.

The top 100 movies on Netflix for your next movie night.

Oh, how I can relate to this. Maybe you can too?

pop up bookstore source 

Now this is a pop-up bookstore that I can get behind!

Struggling to keep your book club discussions on track? Here are a few tips to facilitate better book club discussions. I also loved this idea for a romance book swap book club. How fun would that be?

I’ve really been enjoying this compelling read this week. See you tomorrow for my book reviews for the month!

Gun reform and speaking truth to bullshit. This was a very power excerpt from her book that is quite timely.

Easy to execute tips to style your rooms.

What a great way to help your houseplants out with drainage (and I have quite a few of these in my cupboard!)

Trying to incorporate better sleep habits? I found this post to be really helpful.

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! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo


Small-Budget Crushes 02.26.18

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

february small-budget crushes This week’s faves! xoxo

printable wisdom

let’s stay in

swim romper swim romper (BOGO 50% off deal this week!!)

moto jacket moto jacket (several colors)

never stop growing mug never stop growing mug

beach cart beach cart

button-up tops  2 for Tuesday – 2/27/18 – 2 Spring Button-Ups for $22 + FREE Shipping w/code 2FORBUTTON 

ruffle ribbed sweater ruffle ribbed sweater

yarn-dyed napkin set yarn-dyed napkin set (take an extra 25% off the sale price!)

rima tassel necklace rima tassel necklace

iphone planter iphone planter

gingham skinny pants gingham skinny pants (use coupon code SOGOOD for 40% off)

handmade tassel earrings handmade tassel earrings

sea angel one piece sea angel one piece (BOGO 50% off deal this week!!)

striped bell sleeve top striped bell sleeve (additional 40% off- no code needed)

tie-hem jeggings tie-hem jeggings (use coupon code SOGOOD for 40% off)

patterned beach towels patterned beach towels (30% off!!)

iphone speaker handmade iphone speaker

killin it plants mug killin’ it (the plants that is) mug

monogrammed bikini bag monogrammed bikini bag

patina feather earrings patina feather earrings

skirted peplum apron skirted peplum apron (take an extra 25% off sale price)

black smock waist dress smock waist dress (so figure flattering!!)

i'd rather be reading mug i’d rather be reading mug

madewell v-neck tee


striped tee
watercolor scratch off map watercolor scratch-off map

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo