Author Archive

Sundays With Writers: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Sundays_With_Writers-1_Final

 

I have been a huge fan of Heather Gudenkauf since her first book,  The Weight of Silence and had been looking forward to her next book so very much.  When her publicist reached out to me about reviewing her new book, Little Mercies,  I jumped at the chance…and also begged for an interview with Heather for our Sundays With Writers feature. If you can believe it, Heather agreed and I quickly devoured her book on our family trip to Columbus.

I was expecting another suspense-filled thriller that would leave me guessing whodunit- a quick escape from my daily life. From the opening pages though, I began to realize that this book was a swift departure from that , although it was equally thrilling and gripping.

I was unprepared.

Unprepared for the waves of emotion I was to experience and unprepared to go on this journey with this mother in this book.  Yet, I had to see it through, and I felt like I could breathe again once I closed the pages. I also hugged my kids tightly that weekend and was reminded how easily these gifts can be taken from us.  It’s that kind of book.

It’s the perfect type of book for a robust book club discussion and you can print out this handy book club kit for your club that offers some great thought-starters for your group’s discussion. You can also sink your teeth into the prequel to this book, Little Liesalthough Little Mercies can be read on its own too.

Little Mercies

Little Mercies builds on a well-developed premise- what if you were suddenly put in the shoes of someone that you once judged? The difference in this plot is that it is a social worker, who once was the judge of other parents, who makes an honest and life-altering mistake, and is now the one who must be judged as a parent.

Told in alternating points of view from an abandoned child who is quite familiar with the social worker setting and the viewpoint of a mother who is about to lose it all in the system that she has worked so hard to uphold.

It is heart-wrenching and very real, illustrating some of my worst nightmares as a parent, weaving the two stories of these people together beautifully.

Heather Gudenkauf

Photo Credit: Morgan Hawthorne

Little Mercies seems to be a bit of a departure from your past books that I felt were more in the thriller genre of reading. That is not to say that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat the entire book, but just that this seemed like a situation that I could find myself in as a mother. How did you decide upon this idea of placing a social worker in a setting where she, herself, might be accused of child endangerment?

I got the idea for Little Mercies after hearing about a social worker who found herself on the other side of the legal system due to an overextended caseload. From there I began to ask what if? What if the social worker was a mother? What if the social worker mistakenly places her own child in harm’s way? I think the fact that anyone of us could find ourselves in Ellen’s shoes is one of the aspects of Little Mercies that makes it so compelling. As an author I am intrigued by exploring these difficult circumstances and the raw emotions that accompany them.

I also made sure to carefully research the novel by visiting with experts in their various fields. I spent quite a bit of time with a very dedicated social worker who shared the challenging task of separating home and work lives. I talked to doctors and EMTs regarding the medical complications that arose from the severe heat stroke that Avery endured. I met with an attorney who was able to describe the possible legal implications for Ellen and even took a tour of a local police station and learned about the booking process. This helped inform the novel.

When Ellen’s mother tries to comfort her by illustrating an example of something she did wrong as a mom, she says “I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have our moments. We all have those times when we turn our backs, close our eyes, become unguarded. I don’t know why (my situation) ended up being okay and other children don’t….”

As a mom it made me reflect on a time when my son was small, had just learned to roll, and managed to roll right down the basement steps. He was fine, but I was completely a wreck, and I worried what the doctor thought of me when I took him in. Did you have any moments when you let down your guard like this as a mom, that you were able to reflect on while writing and shaping this story?

Most definitely! When my oldest child was a year old I buckled him into his high chair and gave him a handful of Cheerios to munch on. I thought I’d just dash out to grab the newspaper and ended up locking myself out the house. I could see my son chomping away happily on his breakfast through the large kitchen window but had visions of him choking on a Cheerio or slipping from the safety strap and falling to the ground. I stood there helplessly for a few minutes and then broke a window so I could let myself into the house. I felt like a horrible mother. I think as parents we all have had those close calls that make us question our own parenting abilities and agonize over what others will think of us. Fortunately, most often, when these accidents occur, all ends well.

There were many times that I had to step away from the book because the situation with Avery being left in the hot car is one of my worst nightmares as a mom. Did you struggle writing these scenes? Is there a detachment process when you write or do you dive in and experience it all?

These scenes were incredibly difficult for me to write. I’m first and foremost a mother and there is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain and suffering. As I wrote, I experienced every single excruciating moment right along with Ellen. I think that in order to write such dramatic events in an authentic, genuine manner, it was important to become fully immersed in what Ellen was going through. I often had to take breaks while writing these scenes. I would step away from the computer, go check on my own three teenagers, count my blessings and then return to work.

 Little Mercies refers to the “small kindnesses and good that comes from terrible.” Have there been any “little mercies” in your own life that have been good in spite of the terrible that they came from?

More than I can count. Just over five years ago my son was diagnosed with bone cancer. So many emotions flood over you when the doctor utters that small six-letter word. We were shocked, terrified, devastated. Never have I felt so helpless. But something amazing began to emerge from all the heartbreak—our family, friends, community and complete strangers inundated us with simple, loving gestures that carried us through a very difficult, dark time.

It was the phone calls, the emails and the handwritten notes of support that let us know we weren’t alone during a very lonely time. It was the homemade meals delivered to our home when we didn’t have the energy to cook for ourselves. It was those individuals who took my daughters under their wings and paid extra attention to them when so much focus was on their brother. It was the group of seventh-grade boys and their teachers who shaved their heads in solidarity with one young boy facing an uncertain future. All of this allowed us to witness firsthand the selflessness of others.

So often we look for the big miracles, and we don’t always realize that the small ones are just as life changing. I’m thankful that my son is healthy, happy, doing great and looking forward to everything that life has to offer him. We carry all the kindnesses people have shown with us and try to do the same for others.

Can you describe your writing process? Where do you write and how do you begin shaping your books?

I don’t have a specific place in my home where I write. I tend to take my laptop and move to a room in the house where I can be alone. Not that I need complete silence to work; I actually like background noise. I’ll listen to music, a podcast, or even a TV show as I write.

I think through a writing idea for a very long time before putting pen to paper. I always begin my writing projects by buying a brand new journal or notebook and writing the first fifty pages or so in longhand. By beginning my novels this way I find that I’m able to find the unique voices of each of my characters. I will jot down my characters’ physical descriptions, histories, likes, dislikes, hopes and fears. I live with the characters for so long that sometimes my hands hover over the keyboard and I have to decide which direction to take them—and it’s not necessarily the journey I envisioned for them. Though I must say, it’s always an adventure!

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

My favorite book of all time is My Antonia by Willa Cather. My parents always had hundreds of books on shelves and in neat stacks around the house and for a long time I passed right over the thick novel with the illustration of a woman standing in a field of tall yellow grass and holding freshly picked wildflowers. I finally pulled it from the shelf when I was eighteen and immediately fell in love with Cather’s beautiful description of turn-of-the-century Nebraska and the lifelong friendship between a farm boy and a young Czech immigrant. I reread My Antonia every single year, each time with new eyes, always finding something new within the pages. Whenever I visit a bookstore I’m always on the search for a different edition of My Antonia to add to my collection.

You can connect with Heather Gudenkauf  on Facebook or on her website or even on GoodReads!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

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It’s the 3 Little Things: World’s Best Toast, No Boys Allowed, & Crimes Against Words

Friday, July 18th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! It has been a happy week, indeed. It has been unseasonably cool here, but just perfect weather for flinging open windows and enjoying good books outside. Speaking of good books, I hope you have been following our Sundays With Writers series because you are in for a treat this Sunday with a very special book & interview! You can catch up on all of the interviews over here, if you haven’t been following along with the author series.

Here are the 3 things that are making me happy this week!

Three Bakers Whole Grain White

A Better Morning Toast

Move over Udi’s Whole Grain White there is a new bread in my freezer. Three Bakers Whole Grain White Bread was on sale at our local supermarket for $4.99 a loaf so I thought I would give it a try.  It wasn’t just the price that lured me in, but the packaging that stated there was 58% MORE in my loaf which means I could get through a whole week of morning toasts for $4.99. The real question is, would I be disappointed? Would it taste terrible? Would I be sad that I saved money this week and be forced to eat a month of terrible toasts (because I bought four loaves…hello, they were on sale!)?

I am happy to say, that this bread is AMAZING. It tastes just like homemade bread. It’s airy and light, flavorful, and sturdy enough for your toppings. If you haven’t tried this one, I highly recommend it. They also have a 7-grain that I am hoping to try soon, although my store was out of loaves.

Gluten-free bread that tastes like homemade real bread? BE STILL MY BEATING HEART.

Amy's Treehouse

My New Treehouse

I am telling you right now, that finishing our shed into a bonus room has made me a much more happy and adjusted mom.  I now have somewhere to escape in the evenings and during the day that is away from the chaos of our home.

I had been grabbing my iPad and reading and watching shows in there, but with the a/c unit kicking on, the volume was minimal on the iPad and I was struggling to hear anything when I wanted to indulge in an episode of Parenthood.

Crosley Record Player

Record Player

You may recall that my amazing girlfriends had gifted me (on the most amazing night of my entire life) a beautiful record player. This Crosley Turntable  was in my office and now is out in my “treehouse” (AKA as my shed). My husband peeked at the back of it and figured out that there was an auxiliary in so he grabbed a cord like this and now I have the sound coming out of my record player through my iPad movie theater which works perfectly for this little space.

I had my best friend over this week and we watched A Little Bit of Heaven on Netflix, with big glasses of wine, and a load of tissues. As we are sitting there crying and sipping, my husband walked in to grab a glass of wine, looked at us, shook his head, and backed out quick…

As I shrieked at him that the sign was flipped to CLOSED!

No boys allowed. Hit the road, Jack!

Every mom needs a space like this where she can play her Dirty Dancing record on repeat without any eye rolling. I wish this for each of you.

 

Crimes Against Words

This video really made me, LITERALLY, laugh out loud. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Freebie Friday July 18, 2014

Friday, July 18th, 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’m beyond excited to share the transformation of our little shed into a super cool hangout (where you’ll probably find me over the weekend!) and a terrific Sundays With Writers interview with Michelle Gabel, author of A Paris Apartment. We’ve got two fabulous contributor articles – one from Mary Carver about creating memories to make the most of your marriage and the other from Kelly Whalen on different ways to get around for less! 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
Food & Drink
Entertainment
This Week’s Freebie Events: July 19 - 25
19th - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Wiggly-Eyed Glitter Fish, 11 am – 3 pm
19th - Michael’s: Make a Paracord Bracelet, 1 – 4 pm

 

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Amy’s Notebook 07.16.14

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Gumball drink stirrers via Studio DIY

Source: Studio DIY

 

DIY gumball drink stirrers- fast & cute.

Make this fun patterned floor with…linoleum!

So inspired by this beautiful, colorful, modern work space.

This chocolate chip cookie recipe intrigues me.

Keep the kids occupied on road trips with a printable bingo game.

Penny In Yo Pants. Smartest hack ever.

S'mores dip via Hungry Brownie

Source: Hungry Brownie

 

S’mores dip: A camping treat without the campfire pit.

Love this simple painted stump with thumb tacks for a side table.

One safe way to curb a phone addiction: Lock it up. Really.

I feel differently about vinyl floors.

Loving this coffee table made into an upholstered bench.

Just bookmarking this list of genius travel hacks so I never forget them.

amys_notebook

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

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Apron Full of Giveaways 07.15.14

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Blue chevron apron via Etsy

Source: Belle by Jessi,  $25.00

 

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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Sundays With Writers: A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am always looking for a sweet escape in the summer and this month I read a beautiful book called,  “A Paris Apartment,” by Michelle Gable.  I call books that send me hours afterward looking up images and more information on the “true” stories,  my narnia-books.  This is one of those books because after I finished the last pages, I was dying to look up what was real and what had been fictionalized for this book.  I spent hours flipping through photos and reading the backstory on these characters which made my bookworm heart oh-so-happy.

When I finished it and shared the story with my husband, he remarked that we had heard this same story of this apartment in the car one day while listening to NPR.  Of course, I immediately ran to my computer to look up the images of the real Paris apartment and it brought even more depth and life to the story that I had read.
A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

A Paris Apartment is a  fun summer historical fiction escape to Paris alternating between present day and the past.  It centers around, April, a furniture specialist with Sothebys,  & diary entries from the late 1800′s & 1900′s of Marthe de Florian. It weaves a beautiful story around a Paris apartment that had been shuttered for 70 years and the what lies behind the treasures in her apartment, including the relationship between her & the famous painter Giovanni Boldini, told through these diary entries.

As April becomes more & more fascinated with this woman through her diary, she increasingly becomes unsure if she wants to return to her own life back in the states or to continue living her own life in Paris, caught in the beauty of Paris and the escape from her own difficult marriage.

I would say that it is just enough fluff to pack in your beach bag and enough meat to enjoy reading the backstory on Marthe after closing those final pages.  I believe it to be a solid debut novel and I could not wait to talk with Michelle about this book and share it with you all!

I sent off a message to Michelle to see if she might like to join me for Sundays With Writers. She sweetly said that she knew my website and been on it before. I messaged her back and told her that if she was trying to sweet talk me, she succeeded and I was now her number one fan. She honestly replied that she had read my interview with Maggie Shipstead and would be honored to be featured on MomAdvice too.

And then I died and and fainted from the happiness..

I knew though that I must come back to life to share this interview.

I mean, really?!

How can we not love Michelle and race out to get her book right now?

Let’s chat with Michelle about her exciting first novel!

Michelle Gable

Wow, after reading your book I truly felt like I got to visit Paris, which has been a dream of mine! Since this is the setting for your book, did you spend a lot of time there before or while you wrote this novel?

I’m so glad the book felt like an escape! That’s fantastic to hear…thank you!

I’ve been to Paris several times and am headed there this summer, but I did not go specifically to research this book. However, I was in Paris when my agent called to say my editor was interested in acquiring it!

The most impressive part of this book is, what I imagine, the extensive research that went into both April’s profession (as a furniture expert) as well as the intricately woven story of Marthe de Florian & Giovanni Boldini that you have created for your reader. How did you gather this information and how much time does this take as a writer working in the historical fiction genre?

I spent a good four to six months researching, almost as much time as the actual writing of the novel. The shuttered-for-seventy-years apartment in the book really existed, however not much is known about the home or its former residents. So researching the apartment itself was not very time-consuming but I spent months researching the time period, the people who might’ve known the courtesan who once lived there, and the events and issues they would’ve been concerned with.

As you point out, April’s profession also required a ton of research. “Sotheby’s Continental Furniture Expert” is just about as far away from my daily life as you can get! I spent a lot of time looking through Sotheby’s catalogues (an area I became totally lost in) and interviewing people who worked there. It was very gratifying to read a review from an industry insider who said the book “felt like a memoir.”

For the historical sections, I used pretty much everything! The internet, interviews, old newspaper articles, books, including several that were over fifty years out of print. I had great fun reading the gossip columns of the day—most of the performers and incidents in the historical parts of the book really existed. Yes, there was a famous farter!

I’ve always loved research and often have force myself to get started on the book already. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of information because you can always uncover one more fact, learn the history of one more person. Probably only about five percent of what I learn makes it into a book, but I have fun with one hundred percent of it. And often little tidbits I pick up are stored in my “future novel” file.

Marthe is a character that I think people would either love or hate, especially as you learn more and more about her through the book. Could you relate to Marthe in any way especially as she struggles to climb up the social ladder?

Funnily enough, people have responded well to Marthe. It’s Sotheby’s expert April who seems to draw the strongest love/hate reactions! She is a controversial character by design.
As for Marthe, she certainly makes questionable decisions and though I can’t relate to most of her struggles I did find her sections the easiest to write…by far! Her pages almost came out of me fully-formed so I joke that perhaps I was a courtesan in a past life.

I do think her feelings of wanting love and belonging are universal. And as someone approaching 40, I can understand her fear of getting older, even if I don’t need to trade on my looks for my job!

Preserved Paris Apartment

Preserved Paris Apartment

Preserved Paris Apartment

Source: Getty Images

When leafing through the actual photos of the apartment, was there anything that you wish that you could take home with you, like the fictional April (who was gifted the Mickey Mouse) did? I know for me, I would want that stuffed ostrich for a statement piece in our home!

I love this question and have to agree…the ostrich for sure! I adore the Mickey Mouse doll too because he makes for such an interesting juxtaposition against the rest of it. This was the home of someone with considerable wealth. It was filled with antiques that, although quite valuable, are not recognizable to most people. But the Mickey Mouse is identifiable to all, no matter your background.

One of my biggest struggles as a blogger is coming up with an idea before all my friends begin pinning it from someone else on Pinterest. I understand that you had actually come up with the concept of this book before the photos of the real Paris apartment went viral. Were you worried that this might affect sales (positively or negatively) since people were starting to discover the story on their own?

It was so crazy how that happened! My sister emailed me on New Year’s Day with a link to some of the photos. She said “this reminds me of the apartment from your book.” And of course it was the apartment from my book!

By then A Paris Apartment was mostly done, the cover finalized, and the Advanced Reader Copies had already gone to print. I have no idea why it suddenly went viral this year in a way it did not in 2010, which is when I first read about it. Maybe because social media is so much bigger now? Amy Poehler was tweeting about it!

It felt very fortuitous. The only thing that would’ve been better was if it happened closer to my publication date! The news definitely increased attention for my book. I went from getting ones of hits on my website per day to thousands. It also resulted in a flurry of blog posts and stories and self-published books, all a positive for A Paris Apartment. People seem fascinated by the topic, just as I was, and generally when you’re really into something you’re going to read more than one piece on the subject.

So, if anything, the widespread interest helps. In my opinion, a debut author’s biggest threat is obscurity, not other people writing about the same topic!

As a first time novelist, what has surprised you most about the process of publishing your first book? Any words of advice for someone who is on this path towards publishing?

The time requirement for the marketing has been the most unexpected. Blog tours, physical tours…it all chews up so much more time than I ever contemplated. The touring (online and physical) is my favorite because I love connecting real-time with readers, but—wow—I really underestimated that piece of it. It’s been two months since my book came out and I only recently started writing again.

In terms of advice, it’s all about persistence, patience, and faith. You have to be willing to finish this novel, then write the next one, and then the one after that. I swore to myself I’d keep writing and writing until one finally took. The waiting and rejection can be brutal, but it is worth it.

Since your first novel is a historical fiction novel, do you plan to stay within this genre for your next book?

The novel I’m working on is similar in that it has a modern storyline as well as several historical ones. The current book was actually inspired by research I did on the Boldini paintings while writing A Paris Apartment. I’m very excited about it.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

I recommend Father of the Rain by Lily King to everyone. It is the perfect book. She has a historical novel that came out recently called Euophoria and I can’t wait to read it. That’s another thing that’s fallen to the wayside lately… I’ve gone from reading 2-3 books per week to reading one if I’m lucky!

You can connect with Michelle Gable  on Facebook or on her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

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How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room (Tour Our Shed!)

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Today I wanted to share with you how we transformed our outdoor shed into a bonus room. Shed makeovers are one of my favorite things to look at, but I had never considered our own shed a bonus room until this summer.  This transformation from a shed that housed our chaos and clutter into a multi-purpose retreat is one of my proudest makeovers we have ever done on our home.

I partnered with Walmart on this project to showcase a unique idea for outdoor living. Since they partnered with me, I did my best to utilize items from their store while weaving in handmade items from some of my favorite Etsy sellers.

Before I get ahead of myself though, let’s take a tour of our shed before the makeover. As an FYI,  I did not gloss this up for you one bit. This is exactly as awful and as embarrassing as it looked. It took me twelve hours to organize our garage, six donation runs, and a whole day to empty this shed. I am ashamed how bad it had gotten, but I wanted to be honest about all of that with you. This took a lot of preparation for me to empty this and rid my life of a lot of junk to execute this space. It was worth every moment of effort.

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Our home is a late-sixties tri-level that had an attached shed on the home.  Although the shed is attached to our home, you do have to step outside to access it, but it is close enough that easy access is possible. This might be unlike  other sheds that might be residing further out from your property. After talking with our neighbor who has been a longtime resident here,  I understand that this wasn’t originally part of the home, but was an addition that had been made later to our house. Over the years, as other homeowner’s owned it things like insulation and electrical were added. The space had good bones to be a room, but no one had gotten any further than that. We have resided in this home 12 years and it only occured to me this summer that maybe we were missing out on a golden opportunity to have a unique bonus room.  After getting estimates and ideas from a few contractors, we hired All Pro Renovations to assist in transforming this dumping crowd of chaos into the room of my dreams.  They were able to address getting our space up to code and also got my vision for what I wanted to accomplish with this room.

My idea for the space was that it could be a retreat for my children during the day and a fun entertaining spot in the evenings. The most important aspect for this project was that we utilize every single inch of this 8×12 space in a thoughtful way. I wanted a bar that could fold down, flush to the wall when it was not in use. I wanted to utilize all the space that we could behind the door to house storage. I wanted furniture that could be stacked or wall mounted for entertaining.  Most of all, I wanted it to feel very modern and light-filled with a glass door and a window.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

We painted the door with a bright coat of teal paint that I loved so much that we decided to paint the front door too.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

We quickly figured out that when the kids were in this room that I couldn’t necessarily see that they were in there and would be hunting in the backyard for them. I added a plastic Open/Closed Sign from Walmart that I attached to the trim of the door with a 3M hook so the kids could let me know if they were in there. If they are inside it is open if they go back out to play in the yard, they flip it to closed. My daughter loves to also leave a time on the clock to let me know when she will be back.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Since our home had aluminum siding, All Pro recommended adding light with a skylight (which cost the same as adding a window), because if we damaged our siding, we would not be able to find matching aluminum siding for this home. They found a glass door that we could use for the space. They recommended doing an epoxy-paint floor with neutral tones that would be durable and ideal for this outdoor space. To warm up the floor, I added this outdoor rug in a 5’3×7’7 (an absolute steal at $77.58)   The room was drywalled, painted, and trimmed to finish out the bones of this room.  My color choice for this space was Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl for the walls (which I now what to paint my entire house in) and Benjamin Moore’s glossy White Dove for all of the trim.  Although the original intent was to add canned lighting, our ceilings were too low for the space so track lighting was installed which adds to that modern retro feel that I was going for.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

A built-in was added behind the door to make sure that every inch was used. Wine glasses, a rack, and opener are on the top shelves for evening entertaining. On the lower shelves, we have coloring books, crayons, and books. I also added a few of my favorites from our record collection and they fit perfectly on the bottom so we can use our turntable out there.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

The focal point of the room is this beautiful Providence Outdoor Day Bed (priced at $399) from Walmart for the back wall.  This canopy bed is so beautifully made that I almost fall asleep every night on it while I am out there. It is generously deep and the canopy element really adds an eye-catching detail to the room. I switched out the pillows with a more modern printed pillow covers that I scored on Groopdealz as one of their deals-of-the-day. I also added this Too Legit To Quit pillow from Michelle Dwight Designs to add a splash of fun to the bed. I found inexpensive pillow forms from Walmart to create cushions with style for the back of this bed.  The pillow forms are two for $5.15 and feel like expensive cushions.   This bed not only is the perfect spot for a reading nook, but it also can double as a guest room year-round for our guests. I kind of want to stay here as a guest myself.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

 

The bar can comfortably seat four people and I found retro Amelia Metal Cafe Bar Stools in red (2 for $159) from Walmart to complete the look.  I actually placed an additional order for two more now that I could see how many I can fit here.  All Pro Renovations created a bar that could be folded down and added a stripe of teal on the edge of my bar to add a little splash of color.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

 

We added these modern floating shelves (only $19.95) and I filled them with a few fake succulents and wove in a few of my favorite books and a fake orchid.  It creates a soothing and maintenance-free splash of color over there.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

The turntable I was gifted from my amazing girlfriends was placed on this pedestal table from Home Decorators and it was just the right size for this small space. I added this beautiful 30″ handmade arrow from Junk Art Gypsyz to the wall. We also added a beautiful typography piece that has the lyrics from Elton John’s, “Tiny Dancer,” to that wall.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Your question might be how we are keeping the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter? I have a great solution for you. We discovered that Walmart offers a Newair NewAir AC-10000H Portable Air Conditioner & Heater unit that not only act as an air conditioner, but a one piece solution for air conditioning, heating, and dehumidifying. The best part is that it can be set on a timer so you can set it for the day and it will automatically shut itself off.  All-Pro got the unit to drain outside of our home and installed a flap for the hose so that the unit is maintenance-free. This was the priciest of the purchases at $471.81, but eliminated the need for multiple units in such a small room.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Shed Makeover Shopping List

1. 30″ Marquee Arrow {Junk Art Gypsyz}

2. Too Legit To Quit Pillow {Michelle Dwight Designs}

3. Arrow Apache Blue  & Fynn Cool Grey Pillows {Groopdealz}

4. Tiny Dancer Typography {Concepcion Studios}

5. Safavieh Courtyard Outdoor Rug {Walmart}

6. Chloe Side Table {Home Decorators}

7. Amelia Metal Cafe Bar Stools {Walmart}

8. Newair NewAir AC-10000H Portable Air Conditioner & Heater unit {Walmart}

9. Providence Outdoor Day Bed {Walmart}

10. Danya Floating Shelves {Walmart}

11. Pellon Homegoods Decorative Pillow Inserts {Walmart}

12. Open/Closed Sign {Walmart}

Benjamin Moore Paint Choices

 

Paint Colors Used In Our Shed

1. Benjamin Moore White Dove (Glossy, Trim)

2. Benjamin Moore Blue Spa (Exterior, Door & Edge of Bar)

3. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl (Semi-Glossy, Walls)

 

I hope you enjoyed touring our shed.  I have found this room to be so good for my soul. It is so quiet and peaceful in there and is my new favorite place to unwind. Since the room is designed so differently from our home, it truly feels like I am going somewhere else in the evenings. The absence of clutter and our busy everyday life has been very calming to me.  I have been counting down the hours until my kids go to bed so I can escape. I also look forward to entertaining in here with my girlfriends, hosting book clubs, sharing a cup of coffee with good friends, writing alone,  and having a retreat for our kids on rainy days.

I’m thankful to All Pro Renovations for making all my dreams come true and exceeding my expectations for our former junky shed. Professional, courteous, on time (or early) every day, and quick to create smart solutions for this design challenge.  In ten short days, they created a space that I am so proud of and were as equally excited seeing it all come to life. They even came to my rescue when my daughter had a meltdown that her chalkboard door was disappearing and cut it to size for our garage door to surprise her while we were on vacation.  How amazing is that?

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

I could not have asked for more! I am already working on vision boards for other rooms in our home I would like to tackle with them again.

I hope this space inspires you and I’m thankful that Walmart gave me the chance to share about their beautiful outdoor options with you!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Lining Those Eyes, Making it Sleek, & Tea That’s Just Right

Friday, July 11th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I missed sharing this post last week with you, but it was nice to take a break over the 4th of July weekend. There has been so much happening over here that I can’t wait to share with you. If you are following me on Instagram, you might have caught a few sneak peeks- this whole ’60′s home is going through some major transforming this year.   We are putting the finishing touches on some home projects that will completely blow your mind. I can’t believe this is my house.   I can’t wait to reveal all of that to you soon! In the meantime, here are some things that are making me happy this week!

L'Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray

I Finally Have Frizz-Free Locks

I have the coarsest hair and in the summer months, it frizzes up in the heat and humidity.

Monica in Jamaica

I don’t want you to be wondering what that might look like. It looks just like this.  I bought this awesome L’Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray and I finally have frizz-free locks. It was one of those things that I picked up on a whim and decided to give it a try, but had no expectations that it would work well because it was only around $5.  The first day I used it, my girlfriend asked if I had done something different with my hair. It works that good.  Although I have never been able to go three days without washing my hair, it holds for that long and does a great job straightening your hair with just a blow dryer or can be used dry with your hair straightener. I highly, highly recommend this for your arsenal of hair tools.

Love,

Monica in Jamaica

Liner That Stays

Revlon Colorstay Eye Liner

Ever since I first started wearing make-up, I have always worn Cover Girl Eye Liner.  I have found though that in the summer, within hours it had faded or had moved under my eyes in other places.  I decided to try to find a new eyeliner to help remedy that and discovered Revlon ColorStay Eye Liner. It is the first eyeliner that I have tried that stays on until I go to bed. It goes on creamy, stays on all day, and is easy to remove with a little eye make-up remover.  I can’t recommend it enough. Perfectly lined eyes in the summer months are definitely making this girl happy!

Honest Tea

Tea That’s Just Right

Have you ever had Honest Tea before? This has been one of my favorite treats since I gave up my soda. It’s the perfect summer drink and has just the right amount of sweetness in it. I have been a longtime fan and the company emailed and asked if they could send me a box of tea to enjoy this summer- no obligations or anything (which is pretty rare when you are a blogger.) I absolutely love it and I have had so much fun trying all the different varieties. The Pomegranate Blue has been a big family favorite and I have enjoyed the Peach White Tea and Honey Green Tea at the pool this week. I like that these aren’t overly sweet and that the real flavors pull through in these drinks.  If you love tea, you will love these. Honest.

Bonus Happy!

And for a bonus happy this week, you can check out this fun dance routine that I got to do with my dance teacher Abbi, from Tu Sei Bella, that was so much fun to do for her YouTube channel. What says summer more than Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It? I mean, seriously. Who wants to go to dance class with me? You can learn all the moves on her channel!  They also happen to be running a Groupon this week for the classes so you don’t have to spend very much to try it! Just type in “Tu Sei Bella,” and the current Groupon should appear.  And saving money always makes this girl get jiggy wit’ it!

If you saw me in dance class, you would witness one of the happiest moments of my week every week.  It has been a life-changer for my spirit and confidence not to mention my favorite things to do with my girlfriends.

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Freebie Friday July 11, 2014

Friday, July 11th, 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!

We started off the week on MomAdvice with a fantastic interview with Chris Bohjalian, author of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, which is probably one of my favorite interviews, ever. And our food contributor, Shaina, shared a perfect summertime recipe, Watermelon Coconut Lime Ice Smoothies, that will have you recalling the Icees of your youth but made with real ingredients. You’ll also find a fun handmade gift, DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles that comes with a cute free printable making it perfect for the hostess of your next party!

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

Zarbee’s Seasonal Relief Sample

Finish Dishwasher Detergent Tabs Sample

Suave Professional Natural Infusion Sample

Emergen-C Sample

Food & Drink

Slurpee at 7-Eleven Stores Today (7/11)

Lipton Iced Tea K-Cup Sample

Entertainment

Beautiful on the Mountain: An Inspiring True Story

Old MacDonald Had a Farm Sing ‘n Learn eBook

The Wheels on the Bus Sing ‘n Move eBook

5 Little Monkeys Jumpin’ on the Bed Sing ‘n Count eBook

Digital Download of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Lion of Babylon Audiobook

Quart of Kelly-Moore Paint

This Week’s Freebie Events: July 12 - 18

12th - Barnes & Noble: Join Storytime featuring The Numberleys, 11 am

12th - Lakeshore Learning: Make a Count and Decorate Octopus, 11 am – 3 pm

12th - Lowe’s: Build Turbo with a Pullback Motor, 10 am

 

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Amy’s Notebook 07.09.14

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Spicy garlic shrimp via The Wicked Noodle

Source: The Wicked Noodle

Four-minute spicy garlic shrimp- less than 5 minutes? I have nothing to lose!

I love this modern take on how to do a gallery wall.

Wonderful tips on thrift shopping for your home.

Ever thought of spicing up your shelves with washi tape? Small time/money output, big impact!

DIY photo frames- love how budget-friendly these are!

How adorable are these crocheted baby flip flop sandals?

It seems the summer always results in a refrigerator full of condiments, so I know these 10 ways to use up kitchen condiments will come in handy!

Ombre bar cart via Paper N Stitch Blog

Source: Paper n Stitch Blog

Ombre bar cart makeover made from a 70′s television stand. I’m in love!

These iron-on veggie bags are adorable!

Your mega summer reading list: 70+ picks from the TED community.

Love this DIY chic TV tray!

Buffalo chicken pasta salad? Yes please!

Aren’t these Pottery Barn inspired Hyannis lanterns fantastic?

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

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