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Family Travel: Exploring Columbus, Ohio

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

 

Exploring Columbus, Ohio

Our family just returned from a trip to Columbus, Ohio and we are so excited to share about our family trip with you. We were hosted by TourismOhio to learn more about the fun options for things to do, see, and eat in Columbus, Ohio. They then acted as our own personal concierge and created an amazing itinerary based upon our family’s interests and tastes. We were so thankful for this opportunity to explore Ohio in a really unique way that made us truly feel like locals.

Since they so graciously created an itinerary for us, we want to share with you what we did each day while we were there and what our family thought about it. Thanks to this thoughtful itinerary, we were able to pack a lot into our days and everything was within minutes of each other, making it easy to go from one attraction to another.  Today’s post will be our honest impressions of the experience with two kids who are 8 and (almost!) 12 years-old.

Franklin Park Conservatory
Franklin Park Conservatory
Franklin Park Conservatory

Franklin Park Conservatory
Franklin Park Conservatory

Our first stop on our trip was to visit the Franklin Park Conservatory to check out the butterfly garden. We loved being able to see the display of the butterflies as they grow in the windows in front of the butterfly garden. Once you step inside it is impossible not to be in awe of the hundreds of butterflies that flit and flutter around the gardens. There were so many different varieties of butterflies that we could have stayed there all day just looking at the butterflies. Our goal was to hold still enough that a butterfly might land on us. Hitchhiking is discouraged so they have a mirror where you can check to make sure you haven’t picked up a butterfly hitchhiker on your way out.

We spent so long gazing at the butterflies that we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to walk through the gardens, but there is just so much to do there that I would definitely give yourself at least two hours to really enjoy the magic of the butterflies and the gardens. The gardens are breathtaking and there is plenty to look at both indoors and outdoors.

One of our favorite things at the Franklin Park Conservatory though was the Blue Butterflies: Migration Across America exhibit that is being displayed on May 17–September 21. The Indiana-based artist Tasha Lewis transformed the Cardinal Health Gallery with 4,000 cyanotype butterflies printed on cotton fabric. These butterflies have been installed in public spaces across the country and you can view the photography of where these butterflies have been captured on photos all over the world.

The Topiary Park
The Topiary Park
The Topiary Park

After that, we hopped into the car to head over to The Topiary Park to become a part of a topiary painting. The Topiary Park is a seven-acre park in downtown Columbus, Ohio. It’s big claim to fame is  its topiary interpretation of Georges Seurat’s famous Post-Impressionist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte. Visitors come from around the world to enjoy the unique experience of walking into and through a work of art. The admission on this is free and is a fun place to walk around, take a few pictures, or lounge on the lush grass. You can grab a handout in front of the painting and gaze at it from a park bench. There are lots of hills to roll down, as my kids discovered, and you can sit by the pond and watch the ducks swim by. It’s quite peaceful and a sweet escape from the hustle & bustle of the city.

Milestone 229

Our final stop of the day was dinner at Milestone 229 with the family. This was our most expensive dinner out, but I would say the most delicious and offered a beautiful view of the city that was worth the extra expense. Reservations are strongly encouraged and, due to restaurant size, you definitely want to get right in a seat and enjoy the view.  I would also recommend the $6 valet parking that they offer so that you do not need to worry about finding a spot to park on the busy streets. It was worth the $6 especially since we didn’t know our way around.

The menu was unique, the service was excellent, and the kid’s portions on the food were generous. I ate gluten-free for the entire vacation, which was difficult at times, but the one thing that I did indulge in a bit of was the Pig-Nic appetizer that we all agreed was the best thing we had ever eaten. It was a crispy pork belly served with pickled peaches, house made hot sauce and savory honey appetizer that blew me away with the depth of flavor.  Tweason’ale  was the gluten-free beer on tap and they even had an extensive gluten-free menu.  Our waiter was knowledgeable and offered loads of advice on things not to miss around the city.

We left clutching stuffed bellies and headed out back for what my children deemed, “the world’s best water park ever.” Smarter travelers would have brought the kids in their swimsuits and towels for this, but the kids really thought this was a blast because we told them that they could get soaking wet in their clothes and we would dry off when we got back to the hotel.

The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile

Located in the heart of downtown Columbus, the Scioto Mile is an urban oasis comprised of more than 145 acres of lush parkland. Stretching along the riverfront from the vibrant Arena District to the natural beauty of the Whittier Peninsula, the Scioto Mile reconnects downtown to the Scioto River through an integrated system of parks, boulevards, bikeways and pedestrian paths.

It offered a stunning 15,000 square-foot interactive fountain that my kids played in until well past bedtime. Sadly, we did not get a chance to check out the country’s largest free outdoor climbing wall and the world’s most authentic replica of the Santa Maria because I could not persuade my children from this fountain.

My husband and I loved watching the kids run through the fountain and I loved that this was a free way to spend our evening. I would recommend dressing your children brightly though because it is very easy to lose sight of them since it is so large.

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

The next day we spent the entire day exploring the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Be sure to pack your walking shoes because this zoo is BIG. We had tickets to also head to the Zoombezi Bay, but we did not get through all that we wanted to see at the zoo, even though we were there for seven hours!  There are so many animals to see that it was a treat for my two animal-lovers. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe!  As if that wasn’t enough, they also have a new Heart of Africa exhibit that spans over 43-acres with 150 animals!  In this new exhibit you can come face-to-face with giraffes and feed them a snack, get up-close with lions as you board a grounded airplane, take a camel ride, watch the fastest land animal reach top speeds at the cheetah run, and take in the views of the savanna while the animals gather around the watering hole.

We were in animal-heaven and loved getting a chance to see all of these beautiful animals while we there. To cut down on expenses, we brought in our own snacks and drinks (no straws please!) which helped us keep moving through the different exhibits more quickly. The day we went was humid and hot at almost ninety degrees. Despite the heat, we found spots to take shelter from the sun and had a great visit while we were there. We highly recommend making the zoo & aquarium top on your Columbus priority list. We can see why it is one of the best in the US.

Ray Ray's Hog Pit
Ray Ray's Hog Pit

After such a full day at the zoo, we were feeling unmotivated to head back out for dinner. In lieu of the formalities, we decided to seek out a food truck treasure in Columbus and grab some barbecue for dinner. Have you heard of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit? Well, if you don’t know, now you know. Seriously, the world’s best barbecue and tucked away behind Ace of Cups off of High St. We felt like we were truly locals when we found this truck for our dinner. It’s one of the highest rated barbecue joints in Columbus and offered just the right amount of sweetness, smokiness, and spice. The brisket was killer as was the pulled pork (minus my bun). The sides though almost rivaled the meat with a spicy collard green and some of the best baked beans I have ever eaten.

We recommend picking it up and taking it to go to enjoy at a fun park or at your hotel to get in a swim if you are bringing the kids. If you are going for a date, you can enjoy a drink or two on the adjacent patio with an interesting crowd and, I have no doubt, you would have a few stories to share.

Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
The next day was one of my favorite days of our trip because we got to explore the Columbus Museum of Art. In many art museums we have visited, the museum is not geared towards children or making a visit a family experience. This was, by far, one of the most amazing art museums that you could enjoy with your entire family. Each room had some type of interactive section for kids to jot down what they thought about an exhibit, materials for them to create with, or puzzles of the art itself.  In addition to that, they had a Wonder Room where kids could create and play interactively with art. Whether it was creating their own shadow box display, gathering and creating a nest from various textiles and ribbons, or playing dress up, this area geared towards children could have kept my children busy and happy for hours.

I loved that bags were provided to encourage you to create and take your projects home with you.

For us, the art was a little slice of heaven. Although they offered beautiful pieces from famous artists like Monet, I fell in love with many of the more eclectic and unknown-to-me artists that represent such diversity and technique. My husband and I both agreed that this was one of our favorite things that we did and the kids had just as much fun as us.  I would add this to your travel agenda if you are exploring Columbus.

The Book Loft of German Village

The Book Loft of German Village

The Book Loft of German Village

Our next stop quickly become another family favorite situated in German Village. The Book Loft of German Village is one of the nation’s largest independent book stores and is located at 631 South Third Street in Columbus, Ohio, just a few blocks South of the state capitol building. The pre-Civil War era buildings that once were general stores, a saloon and a nickelodeon cinema, now are home to 32 rooms of Bargain Books.

The books are offered a discounted rate, while the truly discounted reside just outside of the book loft.  Be sure to have a way to get in touch with one another and divide and conquer this maze of a bookstore. Narrow hallways wind into different genres of books, making it easy to fall in love and get lost in this winding 32-room bookstore.

We left the store with big stacks of books that made our bookworm hearts very happy. Once we were done browsing the bookstore, we made our way over to the North Market which was just a short drive away to experience another Columbus treasure.

North Market of Columbus, Ohio

North Market of Columbus, Ohio

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

No less than a million locals encouraged us to make sure that we find a way to make Jeni’s Ice Cream a visit priority. We decided to head to the North Market so each of us could indulge in whatever types of foods we were in the mood for and we could finish our visit with a scoop of ice cream.

Established in 1876, the North Market is Columbus’ only remaining true public market. More than 30 merchants vend a wide variety of fresh, local, authentic food. Offerings include organic produce, grass-fed beef, pork, lamb and goat, pastured poultry, sustainably raised seafood, locally roasted coffee, baked goods, cheeses, flowers and other artisan food items. The Market also provides an international selection of freshly prepared foods, authentic ethnic specialties, distinctive gifts and personable service from its merchant owner operators.

The market was very busy and the crowds were bustling, but we managed to find a table upstairs to enjoy our food. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, as suggested, was a Columbus highlight for us. We sampled the Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Savannah Buttermint, the Buckeye State, Salty Caramel, the Milkiest Chocolate in the World, and Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate…just to name a few.

You know, to tell you all about it. For work. Hard day. Etc.

Every flavor was divine and we all thought we picked the best one. Basically, you can’t go wrong.

COSI

COSI

COSI

COSI

Our next stop was to the COSI , Columbus, Ohio’s dynamic Center of Science and Industry. The COSI was opened in 1964 at Memorial Hall in downtown Columbus, COSI moved in 1999 to a new 320,000-square-foot home designed by internationally-renowned architect Arata Isozaki, creating one of the largest modern-built science centers in the United States.

As a “center of science,” rather than a standalone science center, COSI has established embedded partnerships that enrich the guests’ experiences, including WOSU@COSI, the only working television station in a science center; the Ohio State University (OSU) Labs in Life, working research laboratories created through a partnership with The Ohio State University and staffed by OSU researchers; Battelle’s STEM Innovation Network, in partnership with one of the world’s leading research institutions; the Columbus Historical Society; and the STEM-based Metro High School, among others.

The kids had a blast exploring the COSI and getting to experience lifting a Honda (and they do say HONDA not car- well played, Honda!) visiting the ocean wing with all of the fun waterworks, as well as touring  around the Progress wing, and watching people ride on the high wire unicycle.

There was lots to see and do here, but you should note that we found that with some of the more exciting things on the floors, like the wind tunnel, actually were coin-operated and were additional charges. The movies and other exhibits also were extra on top of the general admission.

If your kids do want to ride the unicycle, note that they cannot be in sandals, which meant that we couldn’t partake that day.  To ride the high wire unicycle, you need closed-toe shoes (sorry, no sandals, high heels, or Crocs), weigh under 250 pounds, and have at least a 25-inch inseam. To avoid disappointment, remember the High Wire Unicycle closes a half-hour before COSI does, and to accommodate guests fairly, the line may close earlier.

All important things that we did not know before we headed over.

The Columbus Crew

Our final evening we had tickets to watch the Columbus Crew play. So…I have never been to a soccer game with more enthusiastic fans than Columbus. You guys take it to another level! Unfortunately, due to weather and circumstances beyond their control, the game was canceled the night we attended. We were so bummed, but had quite the stories to tell about the visit, the fans, and the monsoon that we drove into and out of to attend.

The next day we had hoped to make it over to the Easton Town Center, but since it did not open until noon, we decided to head on back to good ol’ Indiana and make plans to shop another day…perhaps, without the kids.

Hilton Garden Inn

I would also like to say that our accommodations were perfection at the Hilton Garden Inn. Sleep number adjustable beds, a Keurig for coffee, a fridge for drinks and snacks, a fantastic made-to-order breakfast available, and huge coffee carafes and fruit-infused water by the entrance so we always had a drink. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable offering suggestions for a gluten-free pizza joint we could order from and making sure we were comfortable and cared for at all times. The pool was just the right size and a hot tub was just what I wanted to sink into at the end of the day.

The best memories though are the ones that I can’t always capture- curling up with the family watching Food Network together in the evenings and belly-laughing, the pure unadulterated joy of wonder as my kids discovered new things, my husband’s face and jaw-dropping when he saw the art at the museum, the sunset we caught while the kids splashed in the water park, and the squeals of delight over who had the best ice cream (in case you were wondering, it was mine!).

We left with full hearts, bellies, and a whole lot of beautiful memories.

Thank you, Columbus, for your hospitality!

Love this travel piece? Be sure to check out our Family Travel section for more ideas for places to visit! So, Columbus, what did we miss? Feel free to share your favorite Columbus, Ohio travel suggestions here!

Our family received lodging, food, and event tickets in exchange for our honest thoughts and opinions on Columbus sponsored by TourismOhio.  All opinions expressed are our own and we received no additional compensation.

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Amy’s Notebook 07.02.14

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Beach cake toppers via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day

How adorable are these beach cake toppers!?

Love this inexpensive way to modernize old cabinets.

Awesome  list of 12 young adult books for your summer reading!

How to host a color fight- can I set my OCD aside to recreate this fun party idea?

10 TED Talks I need to watch this summer.

Copycat Chipotle honey chicken bowls- get in my belly.

Polka dot hat via Sugar and Cloth

Source: Sugar and Cloth

Madly in love with this DIY polka dot floppy hat.

11 glasses tricks every four-eyes should know- perfect my my 4-eyed self.

This travel memory suitcase for kids is precious!!

Butter in your coffee? The bulletproof craze, explained- I have been wondering about this.

Be still my beating heart- hello, coffee cart!

100 small things that can bring you joy- I’m always looking for little ways to add happiness to my life.

This how to summer list is my fave.

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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Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

With summer in full swing, I thought I would share another yummy frozen treat that you can create with  fresh fruit. If last week’s 3-ingredient Watermelon Granita was just too light for you, you will love the bold and rich flavors of this Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream. Today I am sharing this delicious homemade ice cream that you can create with just a few ingredients and a basic ice cream maker. Of course, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, no worries! Check out this technique for making ice cream without an ice cream maker and use that this summer.

I partnered with Walmart on this project. Each month they give me a produce challenge and it constantly pushes me out of my box to try cooking with produce items that I am less familiar with and to invent new flavor combinations.

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Have you ever cooked with plums? Confession time. I had not. Plums have never been on my radar before, but I thought I might try incorporating them into a fruit ice cream. They remind me a lot of peaches, although a bit more tart, and the flesh reminds a bit of a grape.  When selecting plums at the market,  look for ones that yield to gentle pressure and that are slightly soft at their tip. While you can also purchase plums that are firm and ripen them at home, avoid those that are excessively hard as they will be immature and will probably not develop a good taste and texture profile. When making this ice cream, it is better to go for a fruit that is a bit more ripe to add to the sweetness and also make it easy to remove the pit. Just as a reminder though, if you are unhappy with your purchase for any reason, Walmart does offer a 100% freshness guarantee on all of their produce.

Plums that are not yet ripe can be left at room temperature. As this fruit tends to mature quickly, check on them in the next day or two to ensure that they do not become overripe. Once they are ripe, plums can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

The roasting of the plums is a bit torturous because the house smells heavenly.The worst part is that then you have to scrape all of that heaven into your blender and then wait a whole day before you can churn it into ice cream. To help with these difficulties, be sure to make an extra pan of these and eat them with a pint of vanilla ice cream from the freezer. You will thank me later.

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

The beautiful hue of this ice cream is all naturally made. The skin give this ice cream it’s pinkish-purplish hue that happens to be my daughter’s favorite color. I loved this color so much that I decided to make this post dark and moody like these plums. The richness of the fruit deserved a little of the dark treatment on the shots. I hope you love them as much as I do. I admit that experimenting with light while photographing a frozen treat might have not been my smartest moment. In the end though, I loved how these turned out and am thankful that I have a creative platform where I can practice my techniques.

I hope you can treat yourself to this rich, slightly sweet, slightly tart, and fully roasted flavor of this Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream for a summer treat this year! If you are looking for more ideas to try with fresh produce this summer? Be sure to check out my Baked Strawberry Doughnuts, my Blueberry Sangria Lemonade, my Grilled Tomato Bread With Prosciutto, my Fresh Peach Sorbet, our Slow Cooker Honey Crisp Apple Oatmeal, my 3-ingredient Watermelon Granita,  and my fresh Gluten-Free Orange Chicken for some fun ways to incorporate fresh produce in your family’s diet!

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream

Roasted Plum & Cinnamon Ice Cream
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Plums are roasted in cinnamon & sugar and then blended into cream to make a rich ice cream for the summer months.
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds ripe plums, halved and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (or more, depending on your taste)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the plums in a 9x13" baking dish.
  2. Sprinkle plums with dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and a few pinches of salt.
  3. Roast the plums for 20-25 minutes until they are fork tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 2 cups heavy cream, sugar, honey and vanilla extract to a saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add a ¼ cup of cream mixture ( to the jar of a blender, along with the roasted plums and their juices. Blend until very smooth, about 1 minute. If you have a high-speed blender, your pulp should be fully blended. If not, you can pour the mixture through a sieve to make sure you get rid of any pieces.
  6. Add the remaining milk to the bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours of overnight.
  7. Churn the mixture in the bowl of your ice cream maker, according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Serve immediately for soft serve or alternatively transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze overnight.

Adapted Slightly from A Cozy Kitchen.

walmart_mom_disclaimer

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Apron Full of Giveaways 07.01.14

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Pink flower apron via Eclectasie

Source: Eclectasie,  $35.00

 

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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8 DIY Vintage Suitcase Projects

Monday, June 30th, 2014

DIY-Vintage-Suitcase-Projects-Collage Suitcases are one item that you can always find at Goodwill. With that in mind, today’s post showcases 8 ideas for ways you can use vintage suitcases for your home. Whether you are upcycling the suitcases into new pieces or simply adding them to an empty corner in your home, suitcases can offer both beauty and storage to your home.

When my kids were small, I made a rainy day suitcase that was filled with items from Goodwill, craft supplies, and fun dollar store items that they used to look forward to when we were cooped indoors. I have long been a lover of this sweet item at Goodwill and after you see these ideas, I know you will too!

Check out these 8 DIY Ideas for Vintage Suitcases on the Goodwill Tips Blog!

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Sundays With Writers: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to be featuring a new-to-me author that I discovered this month.  I read her 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 for your summer reading. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing. As soon as I closed the pages, I did what any smart blogger would do. I emailed Susan and begged her to join me for Sundays With Writers so I could share it with you.

 

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

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 summer read that I highly recommend you add to your beach bag this summer.

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with Susan Crandall about this amazing tale of Starla Claudelle in her book, Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Susan Crandall

Writing in the voice of a child is one of those elements of writing that I am always fascinated with. Two books that we have talked about before, Room & The Bear, both used a child narrator and people either loved it or they hated it.

I can’t say I have ever heard a child’s voice captured more perfectly than in this book though. One scene that made me laugh is when Starla has the sex talk with her Dad and she is absolutely traumatized by it.

Do you hang out with a lot of nine-year-old kids or were you thinking about your nine-year-old self when you wrote this?

Thank you for the lovely compliment. Youthful characters are always fun to write, but with Starla as a main narrator, it afforded me many, many hours of reminiscing and amusement. I can’t say I’ve been around more nine-year-olds than most people. I’m the mother of two grown kids. I tapped into many things to give Starla her voice, and one of them was definitely my nine-year-old-self. It was a great trip down memory lane (although let me be clear, I was a rule following child, rarely impulsive, never sassy; for that I tapped into my younger sister).

Also, I have to admit, this character had a very distinct voice from the instant she walked into my mind. Sometimes I felt like I was taking dictation.

In one scene, Starla explains what Whistling Past the Graveyard means. She says, “My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fear, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes. But it’s not weak like hidin’…it’s strong. It means you’re able to go on.”

Have you ever done any whistling past the graveyard in your life?

Who hasn’t? That’s what makes the saying so applicable to many of the characters in this book. As for my version of whistling, I tend to bury myself in projects of various natures, the more brainless and physical the better, yard work, closet cleaning, house painting and the like. (From the looks of my house, I’m going to say that it’s been a while since I’ve needed that kind of distraction.) I can’t say I’ve ever honed in on a singular thing like Eula’s baking.

Plus I think there’s a lot of “whistling” we do as a society as a whole, so we don’t have to face our collective shortcomings.

Reading the scenes of abuse and seeing how broken Eula was were both tough for me. Did you have difficulty writing these scenes, particularly the scenes when Stella is captured?

I definitely had trouble making myself write those parts. But they were necessary to tell the full story, for Starla’s journey of discovery to be complete. When I write a scene, I mentally go to that place and endure it second by second along with my characters. Of course, no scene is completely fleshed out in one pass, so I had to fortify myself to go back there day after day.

One of the most difficult for me to write was when Starla meets her momma. As a mother it went against every instinct I had…that’s how I knew it was right.

Racial tension abounds in this book and there were a few scenes where I had a lump in my throat or had to speed read through to be assured that Eula & Starla would be safe. Did you do a lot of research about the ’60′s and what was happening during this time? What type of preparation did you do to really help us understand how hard it would be for a woman like Eula in the ’60′s?

I did extensive research. I do remember the mid-sixties, but grew up in Indiana, so my experience was much different than if I’d grown up in the South. That’s not to say there weren’t incidences of racism in Indiana that helped me sharpen my view. Fortunately there are plenty of resources from old news footage, documentaries, and I read several first-hand accounts written by African-Americans who lived through segregation in the fifties and sixties.

I think the way to really connect with any era, situation, or setting is through the common thread of our humanity. What would I have felt like in those situations. Of course, Eula’s inner trials were often beyond my imagining. One of the reason’s the entire book is from Starla’s point of view is because I can only say what Eula’s life would have looked like from the outside. I can’t imagine the fear and hardship in enough depth to write it from her perspective.

What do you have in store for us with your next book?

I’m working on a story set in 1923. Three people from very different backgrounds–a teenage orphan of German immigrant farmers, a debutant whose family has lost its fortune and a WW1 veteran pilot–are displaced from their lives and join together to travel the county in a barnstorming act. For those of you unfamiliar, in the early days of aviation after the first world war, many of the pilots took advantage of war surplus trainer planes and made a scrappy living by flying from small town to small town selling rides. They used farm pastures for landing strips, thus the name barnstormer. Flying circuses were formed when several pilots banded together to do daredevil exhibitions. They were quite the rage throughout the early and mid-twenties.

All three of my characters are running from something, each carefully guarding their secrets. They’re bound together by mutual need and yet have conflicting goals. It’s a great ride as we travel throughout the country with them, crossing paths with bootleggers, tycoons, farmers and tent revivalists. But their secrets are always right behind them. When they catch up … well, things get dicey.
It’s tentatively scheduled for release in July 2015

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

When I’m asked this question, I always reach way back, looking for a book that has stuck with me so vividly that I can remember the details of the characters very clearly even after a long time. I try to pick something that isn’t a classic, those already stand out and find audiences. I’m a character writer. Suspenseful plots are enjoyable, but it’s the beauty of the character and his/her journey that touches me. So after all that rambling, I always come back to two books, very different genres: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander (the first book in the series is my favorite).

You can connect with Susan Crandall 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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It’s the 3 Little Things: Cheesy Popcorn, Probiotics, & Fizzy Water

Friday, June 27th, 2014

It's The 3 Little Things

Happy Friday! It’s a good Friday for us, indeed, because we are taking our first family vacation since last Spring. The Ohio Visitor’s Bureau offered to host our family for a weekend visit and show off all of the fabulous things we can do in Ohio to share with you all this coming month. Today we are exploring Columbus and I am so happy that this is a trip that we all get to do together instead of me traveling alone. I can’t wait to share what we discover in Ohio. I have a feeling that our vacation will be on my happy list next week so you have been warned! :)

Let’s chat about what’s making me happy this week!

Bio-Kult Probiotic

Probiotics That Actually Work

I have to tell you that if you aren’t taking a probiotic, it can be such a game-changer especially if you have digestive issues. My dietician recommended this Bio-Kult Probiotic to help heal my gut when I was so sick this past winter. I started feeling so much better after a week, but when I ran out, I headed to the store and got a cheaper brand of probiotics that I thought looked roughly the same. It did not work the same and once again, my stomach was a mess. I learned a lesson that this multi-strain formula works the best for me and, if I am eating what I am supposed to, that I feel like a normal person with a normal digestive system. Having a working digestive system, indeed, makes me happy.

La Croix Berry Water

A Great Substitution For My Soda Cravings

I gave up Diet Coke two years ago and I am so proud of myself for doing that. Other than the occasional one at the movies, I am completely soda-free. In the summer months though, I crave something bubbly, but since I quit soda, even flavored waters can taste artificially sweet to me.  I had seen the La Croix Sodas  pop up in my IG feed one day and when my girlfriend let me try one at her house, I was hooked. These have no artificial flavors, coloring, sodium, or calories. Or as my husband says, “Or taste.” If you like soda, these might not be your favorite.

This has been my midday treat and I prefer a hint of flavor and all the bubbles now that I kicked the soda can to the curb. I would say if you like sparkling water or even prefer drier alcoholic drinks, this might be a great substitution. The Berry and the Cherry-Lime have been my favorites so far! I’m anxious to hit Target and snag some of their exclusive flavors that they are carrying on shelves this summer!

All the bubbles, none of the junk. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Smartfood Popcorn

A Guilt-Free Snack (Unless They Catch You Licking the Bowl)

For Easter, my mother-in-law gave me a bag of this popcorn to enjoy while everyone snacked on her famously delicious and oh-so-amazing sugar cookies. If anyone chooses to eat gluten-free for a fad diet, I pity you. Why in the world would you choose this?  I can’t stand that I have to miss out on the treat table for holidays and this was pure torture… until I started munching on this popcorn. And I proceeded to eat the whole dang bag, licked my fingers, and raided my children’s bags for more popcorn, and may have licked the bottom of those bags too. Don’t judge.

If you like cheesy popcorn, let me introduce you to my little friend called Smartfood Popcorn.  White cheddar is dusted on every heavenly little piece and it goes great with that bottle of Chianti and whatever your latest Netflix binge obsession is this week. Snacks that feel like a guilty-pleasure are definitely a fun addition to any happy list!  Don’t believe me? Serious Eats conducted their own little taste-test and this popcorn won hands-down. So boom! ENJOY!

*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 June 27, 2014

Friday, June 27th, 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 sharing a super easy and refreshing summertime treat, 3-Ingredient Watermelon Granita, a fun way to combine a history lesson with the 4th holiday (and make it a craft, too!) by Celebrating the 4th of July Heroes with Kids, and 3 Fun Dinner Ideas with McCormick FlavorPrint. Oh, and this incredible Raspberry White Chocolate Sorbet recipe from our food contributor, Shaina – seriously drool-worthy! 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 weekly notebook is again filled with inspiring reads, DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas, and you’ll want to check out the ton of 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: June 28 - July 4
28th & 29th - Barnes & Noble: Attend the Imagination’s Destination Hands On Learning Event, times vary
28th - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Summertime Memories Frame, 11 am – 3 pm
28th - Lowe’s: Build a Sheep Drop Game, 10 am
28th - Michael’s: Learn How to Create a Personalized Scrapbook, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
28th - Pottery Barn: Attend the Super Hero Celebration Event
28th - Toys R Us: Attend the Transformers Build & Demo Event, 12 – 2 pm
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Amy’s Notebook 06.25.14

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Here comes the sun house tour via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom

 

This home tour is simply inspiring!

Here’s a great list of 2014 summer books to stash in your beach bag.

Free printable last minute July 4th poster- I just love this print!

Read 9 decorator secrets to more style with less money. Love.

Slow cooker recipe for Greek gyros- what a yummy summer meal.

Wow, I like these “toy jail” printables so much – they will be coming in very handy this summer, I think!

Signing kids up for summer camps? You need this shortcut for filling out camp registrations.

Ice cold coffee gift via Saturday Crafternoons

Source: Saturday Crafternoons

 

A cold brew coffee with fun label makes a perfect birthday, thank you, or “just because” gift for a coffee-loving friend.

Simple wallpaper removing tips- I wish I had these when we got our first house!

You won’t believe this school bus transformation.

11 debunked DIY tricks on Pinterest- apparently 11 things I won’t be trying this week.

This DIY shuttlecock lights garland is absolutely adorable!

Joy the Baker: Baking 101- a handy series to bookmark for the pie-baking season.

 

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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McCormick FlavorPrint + 3 Fun Ideas for Dinner!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

*This post is sponsored by McCormick Spice in partnership with the One2One Network.

One of my late night past times is staying up to take ridiculous quizzes like, “What 80′s Boyfriend Should You Have?,” and “What OITNB Character Would You Be?” and one of my favorites, “What Country Should You Live In,” as though these quizzes will hold the deep meaning to life.

In case you are wondering, I am Piper, Lloyd Dobbler from Say Anything should be my boyfriend, &  I belong in Paris. All completely accurate & true.

Well, if you are a quiz junkie like, me you will love the new FlavorPrint tool from MCcormick Spice that is a lot like those quizzes you love, but actually will be useful because you can plan your family’s meal around the answers you provide. For someone who is stumped for fresh ideas in the summer and who has found herself gravitating towards the same three dishes for ease, I couldn’t wait to take the quiz and figure out what options would fit our family’s needs.

McCormick FlavorPrint

McCormick has found that each person has a unique flavor “fingerprint” that is conveyed through a distinct visual mark, which has 33 “spikes” to represent different flavors in your personal flavor profile. The bigger the spike, the more prominent the flavor. Through this quiz, it can identify your own personal tastes and provide delicious options that fit that unique profile for your dinner hour.

The quiz takes about two minutes of answering questions like, “Do you like mint?” and then “How about onions?” Once you have completed the quiz, it will provide meal options for you that you can try. If you like the options, you can dive in deeper and give them a thumbs up, answer more questions about your personal taste, share what you always have on hand in your pantry, and even tell them what type of equipment you have or don’t have in your kitchen. It will continue to share more and more personalized meal options as you completely more answers. For quiz junkies like me, it was a little slice of heaven.

McCormick FlavorPrint
For families that suffer from food allergies or sensitivities, you can also share what you need to avoid. I love that Wheat was an option on this so that the recipes that were shown for our family were gluten-free meal options, helping us really have useful choices for us. The last thing I want to see is all the wheaty goodness I can’t indulge in. Thanks, FlavorPrint, for making me feel like I actually have food choices.

McCormick FlavorPrint After answering the questions, these were the flavors that rose to the top. Based on this information, FlavorPrint offered some meal ideas for us. After I picked a meal to try, I answered  more questions on the quiz and got more meal ideas.  Here are three meal ideas that FlavorPrint suggested for me.

Edamame and Corn Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette

Edamame and Corn Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette

The first dish it recommended for me was a Edamame and Corn Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette. I can see exactly why it would recommend this for me because I LOVE edamame and I love corn. Since sourness is something I love, the acidic dressing just makes sense for me. This salad had fresh corn, red bell peppers, parsley, and edamame in it. This would be a great dish to take to a cookout and I have been eating the leftovers as a side dish for my lunch.

Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Risotto

Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Risotto

Playing on my love for all things cheesy, the next recommendation that was made was this Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Risotto made from an easy boxed rice mix. Although I wouldn’t say that this would be in our regular rotation, I know that on a busy weeknight of activities, this would be a fun side to add with a little grilled meat and is much easier to create than babysitting a pot of homemade risotto.

Let’s be honest…ain’t nobody got time for that.

My kids really loved this dish and I found it comforting & satisfying. We called this another dinner win!

Grilled Chicken Caprese

Grilled Chicken Caprese

Grilled Chicken Caprese

Grilled Chicken Caprese

The last dish recommended was a Grilled Chicken Caprese which could not have fit our family more perfectly. You may recall, I had just shared a 5-ingredient Caprese Pork Chop recipe that our family loved. This mimicked those same flavors, but did not require marinating the chicken, but utilized Lawry’s Roasted Garlic Salt with Oregano & Basil instead and a grilled tomato that was sprinkled with the same. My family absolutely loved this dinner option and my only regret was not making a double batch of these. It paired well with the risotto and would be a perfect summer meal to entertain with.

McCormick FlavorPrint

As you can see, we got some great dinner ideas using the FlavorPrint tool and we can’t wait to continue quiz-taking to find more meal ideas for our family.  I highly recommend you take the quiz too and get some fresh ideas for your dinner hour. In the meantime, I have created three pinnable images (below) for the meals that we tried, in case your FlavorProfile looks anything like ours!

Edamame and Corn Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette

Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Risotto

Grilled Chicken Caprese

 

 

Cheers to summertime meal ease & quizzes that give us actually useful information for our families… although wouldn’t you be sad if you didn’t know your destiny resides in Paris?  I hope you love it as much as we did!

 

*This post is sponsored by McCormick Spice in partnership with the One2One Network.