Author Archive

It’s the 3 Little Things: Holiday Shopping, a Ghostly Tale, & a Tired Eye Cure

Friday, December 12th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I can’t believe that I am taking a real vacation from the blog! I really need to get back to center with my people so I will be out of the office December 13th-28th! I have a date with this book (have you read it? I can’t put it down!!) and an ambitious stack of library books that I checked out for the week. I hope you caught my annual list of the best books of 2014- it was a good year of reading!  I can’t wait to have a little quiet time before we ramp up for the holidays.

Before I check out of the social media world though, here is my happy list for the week!

Flourish Boutique Holiday Shopping

Stocking Stuffers Galore

I love a good statement necklace and last night I got the VIP treatment at Flourish Boutique to take a peek at their holiday offerings this year. Since I have some special ladies in my life, I I got some really pretty statement pieces for them that I can’t wait to give them for Christmas. If you are as big of a fan of costume jewelry as I am, you really should check out their store (online or in-person!) They had a ton of fun new arrivals, but my eye always gravitates towards their cozy leggings and shapewear offerings that I wear so much in my fashion capsule.  You can always use our web code MOMADVICE  to take 25% off of your purchases when doing your own holiday shopping!

Don’t worry- I was good! Although I had hoped to take a few photos this week for you, I am seriously in crazy mode for the holidays so you will have to trust me that I am absolutely loving my capsule wardrobe and continuing to learn so much from it about my purchasing habits. I will get back to sharing from it after the holidays although I am sure you can catch a picture or two on Instagram!

The Dead Files

The Dead Files on Netflix

I am just going to say it. Netflix has really been rocking lately. My husband and I picked up The Blacklist (did you know Netflix paid $2 million per episode just to secure that show? CRAZY!), The Mind of a Chef (craving noodles all day, everyday after watching this), and now The Dead Files which originally aired on the Travel Channel.

My sister-in-law shared this gem with us and I think we have watched ten episodes already because it is so fascinating. They send a private investigator into a home that is haunted and they send a medium in to the same scene, but each of them doesn’t get to meet with each other or share evidence until the end of the show. The detective spends time gathering the real fact about the house (meeting with town historians and local folks) while the medium runs around and talks to ghosts and works with a sketch artist to draw one of the ghosts that she sees that is bothering the family. Then they sit down and share their evidence and it is crazy awesome.

I’m not sure if you are into the ghost-hunting thing or not or believe in it, but just finding the true history of the homes is some seriously fascinating stuff. The show isn’t scary, just super interesting. I find the editing to be a little too tightly perfect and I’m not sure I believe all of it (she is never wrong!?), BUT I LOVE IT.  If you have a marathon of present-wrapping and need a little escape, this is a pretty good one.

If you have any other Netflix recommendations for me, let me know in the comments because I am going to have lots of stuff to wrap this week with a birthday and Christmas in one week!

L'Oreal Visible Lift Eye Concealer

L’Oreal Visible Lift Eye Concealer

I have terrible circles under my eyes that seem to be getting worse as I age. I haven’t been able to find a concealer that really does a good job covering these up until I got this gem at the drugstore. It is like a little deodorant roller that you just roll right under your eye and then pat in. It covers everything and makes you look well-rested when you are exhausted from yarn-bombing your home for the holidays. If you want to look five years younger, this stuff is amazing and super affordable.

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

How to Make a Blanket Scarf

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland

Happy Birthday, Emily!

Bonus Happy

Happy 9th birthday, my beautiful and fabulous daughter! You forever changed our world for the better. I couldn’t be prouder to be your mama! I can’t wait to eat snickerdoodle cake with you-xoxo

Bonus Happy Two- the happiest of the happy!

Happy Holidays from The Clarks

Happy Holidays, friends! Thank you for your love and support this year! See you in two weeks!

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

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?

Freebie Friday December 12, 2014

Friday, December 12th, 2014

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week on MomAdvice I share some DIY Holiday Mantel Decorating Ideas and some sweet holiday fashion for your kids from Crazy8. I’m also excited to share with you two year-end Top Ten posts: my top 10 books of the year (which you know I couldn’t keep to just 10, right?) and the top 10 most popular Mom Advice posts for 2014 (I’m sharing these lists early since I’m going to be taking the next couple of weeks off, yeah!). Today you also get the gift of a new recipe from our food contributor, Shaina – Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Morning Buns…yum! On this week’s edition of  It’s the 3 Little Things I’m sharing what’s making me happy and hope you’ll share yours, too!

Our regular feature,  Amy’s Notebook, is of course filled with lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Food & Drink

Chicken of the Sea Salmon Pouch at Walmart

Health & Beauty

L’Oreal Advanced Hair Care Sample

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Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Tracking Pixel

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Crazy 8.

Each holiday I get my kids new outfits to parade around to our annual family functions.  With an extended family of our size and two sides living in one town, you better believe there is a lot of parading for us.  Since they happen to wear uniforms at their school, it is a royal treat to wear something other than a uniform and especially sweet if it is something new.  Today I am partnering with Crazy 8 to share about their affordable holiday line of clothing that they are offering this holiday season.

We have been longtime lovers and supporters of Crazy 8 because the clothing line fits nicely in our family budget, yet doesn’t skip on style or quality. It was not a stretch at all to partner together since we have been such big fans over the years. There is always a good deal to be had and a coupon code to snag.

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

My daughter has a big personality and her clothes and style match it perfectly. She started ballet this year and playing a pink electric guitar. She’s really amazing.  If I had to describe her in one word it would be, observant.  She has this big personality, yet she takes it all in and never misses a thing. She has an incredible memory and gift for her attention to detail. She’s so incredibly smart.

Her personality happens to be as big as her infectious grin.  Her favorite things are sparkles, tulle, and soft faux furs.  She might just have a little bit of her mother’s style in her.  We happened to find all three of these qualities in the Crazy 8 holiday line. This holiday season they have their usual New Arrivals, but they have also added Party Picks, Rule the Rink, Gear Up for Getaways, and Shine On that you can access on the left-hand side of the Crazy 8 website. This holiday season, Crazy 8 designers were inspired by traveling, ice skating, holiday decorating and snow days.  If you follow the blog, you know all about our holiday decorating and our famous hot cocoa mix we love to indulge in.

The nice thing is that all of these lines also work together for a great mix and match to create your own outfits that fit your child’s personality. This outfit consists of a couple of Party Picks, a Gear Up for Getaways, & Shine On…all mixed together to create the perfect Emily combo.

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

My son, on the other hand, has a more understated style with a heavy reliance upon comfort and classics.  He is pretty tall, five feet already, and I am thankful that Crazy 8 sizing runs all the way up to size 14.  He’s a skinny kid and we love the adjustable tabs on the pants and the slimmer cut pant offerings that they offer for him.

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

His favorite item from the Party Picks line is this Herringbone Cap (priced at a mere $12.88). I haven’t seen him take it off since he got it. This look may have been inspired by his Uncle John who rocks a cap just like this and happens to be an artist (the very field he might like to pursue). At moments I have caught a peek at him out of the corner of my eye and have had to do a double-take because he looks just like my baby brother. Perhaps, that is why I love it so much too.

To describe him in a single word, the first thing that I think of is that he is compassionate. He always asks me how my day is and wants to know how he can help me. This kid still apologizes for making me get up early to help him catch the bus and will do just about anything for his sister. He is an awesome young man.

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On During the Holidays With Crazy 8

Shine On, Crazy 8’s current holiday initiative, celebrates the unique individualities and personalities that make every kid special which this mom absolutely loves.  As you can see, my kids have totally different styles and personalities, but we were able to find a look for each of them.

In honor of this, Crazy 8 has launched a month-long #ShineOnCrazy8 photo contest. To participate you can share photos of your kids, describing their personality in one word and tag the photo #ShineOnCrazy8 on Instagram, Twitter, or you can directly upload it right to the Crazy 8 Facebook fan page tab. Crazy 8 will be awarding $88 gift cards to a winner each week during the month of December.  How fun is that?

I hope you can take a moment to enter the contest and also to browse the new Crazy 8 holiday lines for your own family holiday parade that fits their personality perfectly.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Crazy 8.

 

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Amy’s Notebook 12.10.14

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Inspired Stairways via The Inspired Room

Source: The Inspired Room

I love a Christmas staircase with style.

Reasons to run your slow cooker at night.

14 health & fitness gadgets worth giving.

3 ways to DIY dough ornaments.

Things to do before before the holidays that you’ll thank yourself for later.

How to make cheap wine taste good. Noted.

An inspiring minimalist home.

Moscow Mule Drink via CamilleStyles

Source: Camille Styles

My new favorite drink- The Moscow Mule

Love this twist on an Elf on the Shelf- don’t you?

Buy once, give twice this holiday season.

Completely geeking out over the NPR Book Concierge selections this year.

Frozen-inspired braid tutorial- cute for the holidays!

Best beauty products for 2014.

How living with less can give you more.

Cable Hat via Purl Bee

Source: Purl Bee

Traveling cable hat in soft merino- so beautiful!

Good reasons to clean out the freezer this winter.

15 tips to turn your finances around in 2015- love this advice.

Charts for people obsessed with Serial – I’m OBSESSED.

Sarah Koenig can’t promise a perfect ending to ‘Serial.’ What??

How a school teacher helped create the first black Peanuts character- fascinating!

amys_notebook

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 then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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The MomAdvice Top Ten of 2014 (Some Behind-the-Scenes Hilarity Too)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Amy Allen Clark

Friends, I just want to say a quick thank you for another year of great fun. Next month I celebrate my 11th year in this business and it is still incredible to me that a job I made up (I mean, I really did!) had such staying power. Did I ever think I would still be doing this? No way! Am I thankful every day? Absolutely! I can’t imagine living our life in any other way now.

Thank you for your visits, comments, and support over the years- I am so thankful for each of you!  Each day that I get to be creative and share it with you is a precious gift.

Let’s take a look at what your favorite posts were this year and let me spill the beans on a little behind-the-scenes stuff on these that I usually reserve just for my girlfriends. I love to end the year on a light note so I hope you will appreciate the true stories behind some of these crazy projects.

How to Teach Your Child to Tie

1. A New Way to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes

I feel a little guilty that our #1 post is actually not even really my idea or video. Come on, did you really think I was that smart? A huge thank you to my amazing friend, Nancy Lary, for sharing her amazing shoe tying technique. As soon as she showed me how to work on this with my kids, I knew that it would be an instant hit on the blog. I was right. Everyone is always looking for a new shoelace tying technique and this post being ##1 just proves it.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans

2. How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans

A couple of years ago, I was working on a project for my job with Goodwill and thought it might be fun to purchase some thrift store jeans and restore the color. After I did it and it really worked, I was like…”Nah. I think I will keep it for my own blog.” I told my husband that it was going to be a huge hit and he was like, “Sure,” but shaking his head no at the same time. I’m like, IN YOUR FACE.  This project has been our most pinned project and, thanks to being picked up on some Reddit male fashion board, it is still going strong and holding steady in our #2 most visited spot.

Fashionable men, you can totally dye your jeans. Keep coming here for the scoop!

Easy Sushi Sandwich

3. Easy Lunchbox Solutions

This was one of the craziest and coolest things that happened this year. Walmart hired me to showcase a quick sandwich that moms could do for the back-to-school season. I decided to create a little sushi roll out of a cheese stick, turkey, and rolled out bread.

Fast forward to a month later and our site is getting a weird traffic spike from sites like People.com, TMZ, Perez Hilton, and a bunch of other sites. I brought it up with my husband and he thought it was some type of spam thing. As I sat at the bus stop with my son in the car, I was scrolling through Perez Hilton to catch up on an awards show that I missed on television and see my image there.

At first, I thought it was some weird targeted ad (you know, those strange ones on Facebook that just know you were browsing the Anthropologie site when you have no money at all).

Nope, it was my image EVERYWHERE showing moms how to make this simple little sandwich. Between that and the pin from Walmart, this quick lunch idea sits in our #3 spot.

As an aside, holy relief that I am on Perez for a sandwich and not anything else. Can I get an amen?

How to Make Glow In the Dark JELL-O

 

4. How to Make Glow in the Dark JELL-O

I have had many a dream where I am featured in an amazing food magazine like Bon Appetit. Did I believe it would ever be for a science experiment we did with our kids for Glow in the Dark JELL-O? Um. No. Of course, that is what happened.  This idea didn’t even come to me, but came from my real-life friend Ashley who spied the project in her daughter’s American Girl Doll Magazine. She sent it to me and said, “Hey, I think this would be a good one for your blog.” Boy, was it!  It’s always a hit at Halloween times.

If you read our lengthy review, you know it doesn’t taste awesome at all.

People don’t care.

They love stuff that glows.

Truth be told, half the time this is pinned as a glow in the dark shot.

Hey… I wonder if that tastes better? Watch for that tutorial next year and I will be sure to test the shots for you! I do it for the people.

How to (or how NOT to) Spray Paint Furniture

5. How to Spray Paint Furniture

This table is almost fifteen years old so I knew that if my idea for spray painting this didn’t work, it would be okay. It ended up being one of my favorite pieces I have ever made over in our house and is one of our most searched for projects on the site.  Sadly with the addition of our new fireplace, we donated her this week because of the new spacing of our layout. I hope she gets lots of love in someone else’s home though because she was certainly a favorite of mine.

I continue to embrace spray paint projects almost weekly and I am pretty sure that our bus driver thinks I am huffing because I am covered in spray paint at least two days a week getting my daughter off the bus. You can hang my mom of the year plaque inside my newly spray painted frame.

DIY Minecraft Costume Ideas

6. DIY Minecraft Costume Ideas

Not only did I earn cool mom points for making a Minecraft costume with my son last year, but it also is one of our top ten projects on the site.

My son is still into Minecraft.

I still don’t get it.

6-Stitch Ruffled Scarf Tutorial

 

7.  Knitted Ruffled Scarf with Sashay Yarn

I find it intriguing that this is our top post in the knitting category, but I also found this yarn intriguing too when I worked with it. It makes a beautiful ruffle with just six stitches and people are always trying to figure out how to use it when they buy it at the store.

I ended up giving this scarf to my mom for her birthday. What’s the saying the cobbler’s children have no shoes? Yeah, it’s a lot like that.

How to Make a Care Package for the Homeless

8 How to Make a Homeless Care Package

Seeing this is still in our top ten posts makes me so very happy and is proof that I have such awesome readers. I did so much research on making the perfect bag and pricing out items so that we could serve as many people as possible with these bags and my husband spent so much time creating great resources and a checklist to make it easy for people to replicate this project for others.

I still get feedback from people that they are using it for their Girl Scout troops and even heard from one non-profit that used it as a template for serving people in their community. I’m so happy that this post made a difference and is impacting people in other regions.

There is nothing funny about this post- it’s just awesome.

DIY Knitted Boot Cuffs

9. Quick & Easy Knitted Boot Cuffs

It’s funny how a quick project like this can become so unexplainably popular. I try to submit my craft projects over to Craftgawker (you can view what has made the cut here) and this was one that I had submitted ages ago. People must be on the hunt for these because suddenly it shot to first place in our referral traffic these past couple of months. I headed over to see the views on it and it has already been viewed by 12,300 people (and counting!).

Guess how many pairs of these cuffs I have?

None.

My best friend got them for Christmas and I hear they are keeping her very cozy.

Now what was that saying again…?

How to Make a Blanket Scarf

10. How to Make a Blanket Scarf

Since I made this project just a couple of weeks ago, you can imagine how viral this has gone if it is already in our top ten posts of the year. I originally was going to execute this project for a client, but then I had the same thought as I did with those jeans, “Maybe I should keep the best stuff for me.” I am so glad I did and I have no doubt that this will be in our top ten even next year.

Why?

Who the hay wants to pay $60 for a blanket scarf?

Nobody.

I did find this image pinned in someone’s Mary Kate & Ashley pin board though and I was the only one who wasn’t Mary Kate or Ashley.

#longlostsister

Well, that was fun! What has been your favorite project on MomAdvice? I would love to hear if you have tried anything from the site for your family!

 

Apron Full of Giveaways 12.09.14

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Rudolf Apron via Etsy

Source: Kitsch N Style,  $36.00

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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My Top Ten Books of 2014

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Best Books of 2014 from MomAdvice.com.
I still have one more month of reading to go, but I always like to deliver my top ten reads to you for holiday giving and for you to enjoy reading over your holiday break. I have read 47 books so far this year and I read so many incredible books that it is a difficult task to narrow it down to just ten. Since it is so hard, I will be sharing some honorable mentions as well as my top picks this year from what I have read. One special feature that I added to our site this year has been our Sundays With Writers. Many of the books on this list also include a discussion with the writer where I get to ask them my most pressing questions about their stories. My heart always pitter-patters like crazy when I send out an interview request, but even the most seasoned writers have been gracious and generous to share on our site. I haven’t had a single writer turn me down yet and it adds another element to these stories for me and for you.

As always, if you are looking for a little inspiration this year, be sure to check our MomAdvice fan page for a weekly check-in on what everyone is reading each week on our Facebook Fan Page. I hope you will swing by on Fridays and share about the books you are working on or request recommendations with one another. So far it is a huge success and I have gotten a few new ideas for my own stack!

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of year.  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 too! 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.

In no particular order, here are My Top Ten Books of 2014:

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Do you ever pick up a book completely outside of your normal genre and find yourself completely swept away in a world you never dreamed you would escape to? It happened a couple of times for me with The Hunger Games series and Twilight series, just to name two types of books that I never thought I would love.  If you would have asked me if I would have fallen head over heels in love with a book with a plotline firmly planted in science fiction with a zombie apocalypse theme or even just another dystopian thriller ( a genre I had grown very tired of), I would have probably laughed at you.

No, this is not your typical recommendation on here and I loved it because it was so different and so awesome.

All the descriptions of this book state that Melanie is simply a special girl. You don’t know what makes her special until you dive in and discover the girl and all her gifts.

This book is wildly imaginative, suspenseful, and leaves you wondering who you should be rooting for as the story develops. I really, really loved this book.  Unfortunately, it is just the kind of book that you shouldn’t talk about so that each reader can go on the journey with this child and find out just what makes her so unique. It’s a book that you will want to finish and share with friends. It reads like a movie and is just the type of literary adventure I would recommend if you have been in a reading slump.

After you finish this one, dive deep into our exclusive interview with M.R. Carey about his amazing book. It was one of my favorite interviews I got to do this year!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Two books slipped into my top ten of the year just this week and one of them was Station Eleven. This book was absolutely incredible and finally a new take on a pandemic world captured through the storytelling of a Hollywood actor and a band of traveling actors that risk it all to perform their art during a flu apocalypse. The storytelling jumps and weaves through time making it a treat to read from start to finish about what life was like before and after a fatal flu strikes the country.

Masterfully woven characters, particularly with the use of the three wives in Arthur’s life, the author brings these stories together in a way that makes you feel like you know each character. The ending was abrupt, but perhaps leaves it open for a sequel story.

I really enjoyed this one and can’t wait to read more from this author!

All the Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Although I hate to rank my books, I must say that this was my favorite book of the year.

I can be the first to admit that sometimes the size of a book can be intimidating to me.  All the Light We Cannot See has been in my book stack several times this year, but at over five hundred pages, I just didn’t think I had the time to sit down and really dive in deep with a heavy book.  It had been recommended to me by some of my most respected fellow readers and I knew I would love it, but it being named our local book club selection for the month was finally what pushed me to just sit down and read.

And read.

And read.

And please leave me alone, I AM READING THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD.

I could not flip the pages fast enough. What will happen to these beloved characters? How will my life go on when this book ends?

Most of all, why did I wait so long to read this?

I wish I could give this book ten stars on GoodReads. I was held captive by it and could not put it down. The storytelling is superb, the characters vividly created, and the words read like poetry. My heart was in my throat for much of it and I could not turn the pages quickly enough so I knew what would happen with Marie-Laure & Werner. I loved how their stories weaved together and how the author created such striking details that made you feel as though you were witnessing it all firsthand.

In this story, Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I can’t recommend this one enough- it will be, perhaps, in my top ten books ever read. 

Once you finish this beautiful book, be sure to read my author interview with Anthony Doerr. I was so incredibly honored that he took time out to answer my questions when he has had such a busy year with this endeavor. The interview is just as captivating as the book!

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I read this beautiful book, Whistling Past the Graveyard,  in just a couple of short days and absolutely fell in love with it. It was the kind of book that I thought about for many days after.  I would say that if you are a fan of, “The Help,” or young narrator’s with lots of spunk, you will want to get this book right away. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing.

In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

This book is so  beautiful your heart aches. A coming-of-age story about what it means to be family and how the most unlikely people can be a part of that despite all racial and societal barriers. Set in the ’60′s, the spitfire child narrator captured my heart. This story is a perfectly satisfying read that I believe anyone would love. 

Once you finish the book, grab a cup of coffee and settle in with my interview with Susan Crandall- it is a fun one!

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

In this novel, two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child named Havaa.  Havaa is just eight years old when her neighbor Akhmed finds her hiding in the woods, watching her house burning down. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, but her father is an old friend, and he risks it all deciding to take her to an abandoned hospital where a woman named Sonja Rabina runs a hospital almost single handedly.

Sonja does not love kids…at all. Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will change in ways she never imagined. The reader is taken on a journey through each of these character’s past on an extraordinary journey of love, loss, and ultimately what it means to be human.

I found myself completely swept away into each of these characters and what they had to overcome.  Although the book was about war and suffering, the book was also all about love and what we do for love.

This entire book was so beautiful that I found myself rereading scenes and even saying them out loud because Marra’s words read like poetry to me. The writing is just unreal and it is impossible to not get swept away into the story.

Be sure to read my interview with Anthony Marra once you finish it. I was so honored to get a chance to interview him this year and to learn more about how he developed this storyline.

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Not sure if you can get on board with a non-fiction pick? Just picture me laughing until tears are rolling down my cheeks ever since I picked this book up. Then picture me reading aloud almost the entire book to my husband, while trying to read it to him, still laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks and trying to catch my breath so I can read every word to him. It is that funny and that awesome.

City girl, Torre DeRoche,  isn’t looking for love, but a chance encounter in a San Francisco bar sparks an instant connection with a soulful Argentinean man who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. The problem? He’s just about to cast the dock lines and voyage around the world on his small sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water. However, lovesick Torre determines that to keep the man of her dreams, she must embark on the voyage of her nightmares, so she waves good-bye to dry land and braces for a life-changing journey that’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

It is hilarious, harrowing, and a true story of what it would be like to sail around the world.  I could not put this book down and loved every moment of it. I really think you would love this one too!

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

If there is one thing I love it is a well-written thriller. There is nothing  better  than a book that you can rapidly flip through and sit in suspenseful moments as the story unfolds. Those kinds of books that your eyes can’t read fast enough because you just HAVE to know what is going to happen.   If you have been waiting for the next-big-thing since Gone Girl, then I have the just the book for you!

The book opens with the following words, “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia is unlike her parents in every way, content with her life as an inner-city school teacher. When she finds herself at a bar one night alone, after being stood up by her boyfriend,  she meets a guy. Her plans for a one-night stand turns into the worst mistake of her life.

I don’t want to say anymore because the beauty in this book is those plot twists you never see coming! If you have been looking for something to capture your thriller-lovin’ heart, this is the book for you. Be sure to read my author interview after you are done. It is a particularly moving story of a writer who didn’t give up on her dreams of being published- super inspiring!

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

This book is absolutely stunning from start to finish. It was filled with words that begged to be read again because they felt like poetry to me.  It is a  beautifully woven story with big moral messages about love, forgiveness, and redemption. The plot twists? I never saw them coming, which happens rarely when you are an avid reader like I am. 

Set in the close-knit Portuguese community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, The Orphans of Race Point traces the relationship between Hallie Costa and Gus Silva, who meet as children in the wake of a terrible crime that leaves Gus parentless. Their friendship evolves into an enduring and passionate love that will ask more of them than they ever imagined.

On the night of their high school prom, a terrible tragedy devastates their relationship and profoundly alters the course of their lives. And when, a decade later, Gus—now a priest—becomes entangled with a distraught woman named Ava and her daughter Mila, troubled souls who bring back vivid memories of his own damaged past, the unthinkable happens: he is charged with murder. Can Hallie save the man she’s never stopped loving, by not only freeing him from prison but also—finally—the curse of his past?

Told in alternating voices, The Orphans of Race Point illuminates the transformative power of love and the myriad ways we find meaning in our lives.

The author is just as fabulous as this book so be sure to read my interview with her after you finish it- her story of becoming an author is REALLY inspiring and made me appreciate this beautiful book even more!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This book slipped in at the tail end of the year when I thought that I had chosen my list of ten. It was charming and a book for a true book lover.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore that changes his life forever…

This story is enchanting from start to finish. This book is a must-read for book lovers as it references so many of my favorite books and centers around a little bookshop in a seaside town. I could not put this one down and, truly, did not want the story of these beautiful characters to end. If you need a little winter escape, check this book out. I may just read it again, it was that simply that perfect.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

If you haven’t read The Girl You Left Behind or Me Before You, you must reserve them at your library because they are amazing. I don’t know how she does it, but this book made me laugh, cry, and connect with every character in this book. Moyes weaves an endearing story of a mother who is down on her luck and can barely make ends meet when her daughter is offered the chance of a lifetime to receive a scholarship for her excellence in mathematics that will cover 90% of her daughter’s education. Coming up with the other ten percent seems impossible, but she is determined to make this happen for her daughter. When she hears of a math contest happening in Scotland that offers a cash prize, she must do everything she can to get her there… including hitching a ride with the most unlikely man who could ultimately change their entire world. 

Anyone who has ever struggled financially or who would sacrifice it all to give their kids everything they need will appreciate this extraordinary book that, I hope, will be adapted to movie one day. It is that good! It’s one of those that just reminds me of a really great Hugh Grant romantic comedy film. It’s just perfect.  Amy Allen Clark- Best Books of 2014

If that isn’t enough books for you, here is my lengthy list of Honorable Mentions that you should check out this year!

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (get ideas for a book club around this one here)

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Martian by Andy Weir (read my interview here)

Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (read my interview here)

Life Drawing by Robin Black

We Were Liars  by E. Lockhart

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (read my interview here)

Close Your Eyes Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian (read my interview here)

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable (read my interview here)

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (read my interview here)

Hush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn (read my interview here)

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (read my interview here)

A White Wind Blew by James Markert (read my interview here)

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

The Bear by Claire Cameron (read my interview here)

Best Reads of 2013

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past four years!

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

For more great suggestions, check out the NPR Book Concierge- swoon! It is heavenly stuff!   Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2014 or share your links to your own round-ups! Anything I should 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!

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

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DIY Holiday Mantel Decorating Ideas

Monday, December 8th, 2014

DIY Holiday Mantel Decorating Ideas

 

I can’t believe that the holidays are upon us and, if you are anything like me, the house is just begging you to decorate it for the season. I love beautiful holiday decorations, but I prefer simplicity, affordability, and smart investments that can be used over and over again. In our house, for example, we are decking it out with my favorite burlap wreath and my handmade yarn trees and we are even buying our first REAL Christmas tree this year (which I am awfully excited about).

I love to make handmade items that we can pull out from year to year so that is why I am excited to showcase some DIY Holiday Mantel Decorating Ideas from some of my favorite DIY bloggers.

Check out these amazing DIY Holiday Mantel Decorating Ideas on the Goodwill Tips blog today!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Easy Bun Makers, Perfectly Airbrushed, & Blueberry Happiness

Friday, December 5th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! It was another busy week of crafting and decking the halls at our house. I also stayed up far too late watching Peter Pan Live last night. I thought the cast and the sets were simply phenomenal. What did you think?

We had new furniture delivered for our kids rooms last night so I am in a frenzy of cleaning out their rooms and drawers to make room for furniture that offers a little more small space function. Drawers are tucked underneath beds and bookcases tucked in headboards- the kind of furniture you really need when your bedrooms are shoebox size. I even cleared out an entire closet in my son’s room and have dreams of how I can make that a smart functional space for him.

Just as a heads up, I want to let you know that I am putting the blog on hiatus from December 13th-28th. I am VERY MUCH looking forward to a little peace and quiet after such a busy year with the site.   I am also putting myself on a social media hiatus and try to get back to center for the holidays and be present with my family.  I know you understand.  

I just snagged an ambitious amount of library books that I plan to read over my time off. I am looking forward to being creative just for the sake of being creative and not documenting anything for awhile. I’m so thankful for my job, but I am very run down.  That said, I have a VERY exciting reveal for 2015 that I am hoping you will love as much as me. Stay tuned for that as we take the site in a new direction!

 

Let’s talk about the happy  this week. This one is  a few new beauty tools I discovered!

Perfect Bun Maker

Finally a Perfect Bun Maker

I know everyone is crazy about the sock bun, but I have discovered a bun making tool that has saved us many a headache from bobby pins for my daughter’s ballet class. These foam bun makers are amazing and I actually paid $5 for  a single one at Target, but found this set of four for less than $5 on Amazon. All you do is throw your hair up in a ponytail, open the bun maker and slide it up so the end of your pony tail is sticking out, and roll upwards to the top of your ponytail, and bend into a bun shape. We secure it with just a couple of pins and it holds her heavy glossy hair all day long. It was so easy that I think my daughter could even do it herself.

This little tool came in handy this past weekend as she danced in her first Nutcracker which was so incredibly special to see. Here is a little shot I took of her backstage peeking at herself in the mirror at her dress rehearsal.

Nutcracker

Perfect buns and a perfect mom moment all rolled into one- that definitely is at the top of this week’s happy list!

Revlon Photoready Skinlights

Perfectly Airbrushed Skin

I picked up some Revlon Photoready Skinlights this past week. I have heard so many good things about this product and now I can see what the fuss is all about. You can mix this right into your foundation and it adds that airbrushed quality to your face and a little glimmer and dewiness that you see all the celebrities rocking.  As my skin is aging, I find that it gets more and more dry, and this being mixed into my foundation helps add that dewiness that I have been trying to achieve. You can also just add a touch to places you want to highlight like your cheekbones.   You only need a touch of it so a bottle will last a long time. I am really loving this stuff and highly recommend you pick some up to try it!

Yes to Blueberry Wipes

Yes To Blueberries Brightening Facial Wipes

I am big on washing my face every night, but since we have been running around like crazy, I have gotten out of the habit of a good facial routine. I purchased these Yes to Blueberries Brightening Facial Wipes from ePantry last month and I absolutely love them to get my make-up off before I head to bed. I love the smell of these and they do a great job getting my make-up off without drying out my skin. I am not sure if you saw or not, but we are running a deal with ePantry this week giving you $10 to shop, free shipping, a free Method Soap & they are giving $15 for each sign-up to my local food pantry for Giving Tuesday.  You could try this product out for free this week and help a great cause in the process! I hope you like these as much as I do!

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. Get inspiration and earn money cleaning out your closet with my tips! You must!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board and minimize that wardrobe!

 

camel tunic + burgundy leggings + brown & black accessories

Camel Colored Cowl Tunic Top Sweatshirt (Target)/Burgundy Knit Leggings (Ann Taylor Loft)/Naturalizer Boots- (6PM)/Brown Belt (owned- Maurices)

felt & wool sweater + burgundy tank + skinny jeans + boots

Last minute switch in the capsule because this shipped- pulled my emerald green shirt out. Anthropologie Wool Sweater (purchased second-hand from Thredup)/Burgundy Tank Top (Flourish Boutique)/Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Naturalizer Boots- (6PM)

black dress + gray seamless shirt + black boots & tights + red belt + tassel necklace

Sushi Day Date With My Hubby- swoon! I even borrowed that bun maker from my daughter! Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic in Gray (Flourish Boutique)/ White House Black Market Knit Black Dress  (purchased second-hand on Twice)/ Red Skinny Belt (Target)/ Black Fleece Tights (Walmart)/Naturalizer Boots- (6PM)/Gray Tassel Necklace (Ali Oesch Jewelry)

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

How to Make a Blanket Scarf

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

Yarn Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland

 

Bonus Happy

Christmas Tree

 Our first real Christmas Tree. I’m in love!

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

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?

Freebie Friday December 5, 2014

Friday, December 5th, 2014

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week MomAdvice has been all about Christmas!! If you’re wanting some gift ideas that are unique you’ll want to check out the MA Gift Guide full of things I’ve loved using all year long. I’m also sharing some fun holiday DIY projects: How to Make a Pom-Pom & Ornament Garland AND a Pom-Pom Yarn Wreath (which I’m completely in love with!) and how to make a Christmas Card Holder with Washi Tape. Mary Carver is sharing a wonderful article with us full of ideas to make the holidays more meaningful for our kids. In honor of the Peter Pan TV musical airing this week, I created a fun Watermelon Pirate Ship, too! On this week’s edition of  It’s the 3 Little Things I’m sharing what’s making me happy and hope you’ll share yours, too!

Our regular feature,  Amy’s Notebook, is of course filled with lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways!

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Health & Beauty
Entertainment
This Week’s Freebie Events: December 5 - 12

5th - Barnes & Noble: Join Storytime featuring The Polar Express, 7 pm

6th - Home Depot: Build Holiday Yard Stakes, 9 am – 12 pm

6th - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Chilly Snowman, 11 am – 3 pm

6th - Pottery Barn: Join Storytime featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 11 am

6th - Toys R Us: Join the Disney Princess Party, 12 – 4 pm

6th & 7th - National Museums: Free Entrance for Bank of America Card Holders

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