Author Archive

Look For The Helpers (Miracles From Heaven)

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Miracles-From-Heaven-Review

This post is sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Mr. Rogers said it best when he said,“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

It is a quote that has stuck with me for a very long time although I had not realized how much we would need our helpers until we had to call upon them this year. This year’s diagnosis has been tough on our family, but we have gotten through it because of the people that have been our helpers in our lives. Being one who refuses to ask for help (even when I really need it), my friends took it upon themselves to assist our family in the most generous of ways…through a random acts of kindness that would show up on our doorstep.

flowers

I was in crippling pain and extremely depressed.  I have been angry at God and frustrated by my body’s new limitations. One of my girlfriends saw what was happening and organized my friends to do a doorstep delivery each day. One day I came out to a pretty candle from a favorite shop, a gift card to Amazon to buy a book, beautiful stationery, flowers and a meal, a basket of gluten-free treats, a pail of sunshine (with items all in yellow), wine tucked in our mailbox, and fun snacks to enjoy with my wine. Each day, my spirits felt lifted. I felt really and truly loved.

sunshine

Not only did they make these gestures, but they kept me busy to help take my mind of the pain. I went for walks, I had friends to join me for yoga classes, coffee invitations, movie dates…It is amazing how much a social outing can pull one out of their slump. There was no time to fixate on my circumstances.

Luckily for me, these past two weeks have been magical thanks to a pill that we have finally found that is finally controlling my pain.

To me, that pill feels like a miracle.

My miracle pales in comparison to the incredible miracle featured in the movie, Miracles from Heaven though. The film, which was just released on DVD,  is based on the true story of the Beam family and their special little girl named Anna who is diagnosed with a very rare and incurable disease.  As if that family had not been through enough, Anna is involved in a terrible accident that should have killed her, but brought an unexpected miracle into their lives that helped to restore their faith.

My daughter & I had a movie day together to watch this one and it lead to a great discussion on our feelings about miracles and about turning away from God when you feel so angry. Although my situation has been mild in comparison, I still can acknowledge that there is anger when you don’t understand why God will let things like this happen.

What stood out to me more about this story though is that there were SO MANY helpers in that family’s life that got them through those difficult moments. Those helpers got their family through some of their most difficult moments from caring for their children to assisting with travel when they needed to be together to working Anna in with the top specialist to make sure she was cared for. Just like me, these helpers are what made many unbearable moments bearable and broke up that desperation that they were feeling.

Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner delivers a truly incredible performance as Anna’s mother. The emotion she is able to deliver is powerful, as is the mother’s determination to try to get the best care for her daughter. I don’t know how anyone could watch this and not be moved.

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If you haven’t checked out the film yet, you can pick up a copy of the DVD at Walmart for a family movie night together. If it is anything like our experience watching it, I am sure your kids will have lots of questions and it will give you a chance to talk about this family’s miracle.

For more information about, Miracles from Heaven, visit the Official Website, give them a Like on Facebook, & follow them on Twitter!

This post is sponsored by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Amy’s Notebook 07.13.16

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

2-ingredient cocktails via My Domaine

Source: My Domaine

 

2-ingredient cocktails for summer sipping.

How to build a beach bonfire.

This painted floor is gorgeous (and thrifty!).

These no-bake breakfast cookies look delicious.

Bookmarking this list of books to read when I need a good cry.

A smart way to pack- the 5-4-3-2-1 rule.

A dozen diy wall art projects to try.

DIY lawn dice via The Merry Thought

Source: The Merry Thought

 

DIY lawn dice looks like a fun outdoor activity!

The movement for racial justice needs more White Americans to get involved.

DIY summer tote- so cute & simple!

Did you know there is a KonMari conference?

Zero pot dinners sound perfect for the summer!

9 ways to decorate above a bed.

Chasing after more when you already have enough.

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

 

Easy Hostess Gift: How to Make Paint-Dipped Spoon Sets

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

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With summer comes many fun parties and opportunities to share these warm days with friends. This tutorial for a paint-dipped spoon set – and the packaging – makes a colorful and useful hostess gift that you can easily create to show your appreciation for those hosting your family at their next party.

Paint-dipped anything is quite a trend and so are these vibrant shades of neon I used. It was with those color trends in mind that I created this easy paint-dipped spoon set that embraces those fun colors and I also have found a unique way to package it that any hostess would flip for.

Neon_Paint_Dipped_Spoon_Set_supplies

Supplies

(affiliate links*)

Making Neon Paint Dipped Spoon Set

Directions

1) Mark off the ends of your wooden spoons with tape. I choose to do them at different levels, instead of all matching, to give it more of that “paint-dipped” look I was going for.

2) Pour small dots of paint into a disposable bowl or plate. Using a slightly damp paint brush, brush on a layer of neon paint around the top of your spoon. Remember to go with the grain of your wood when painting these.

3) Prop the painted spoons on a surface where they can dry. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

4) Next, add a layer of the Triple Thick Glaze to the ends of your spoons, to protect the surface as well as to add a layer of gloss. Allow this to dry for one hour or until hardened before moving your spoons.

*Note that directions state that these paint-dipped spoons will not be fully cured for 21 days before you want to wash them.

Wrapping Neon Paint Dipped Spoon Set

5) While your spoons are drying, you can create the dishtowel bow for your oven mitt. Fold your towel until you get the desired narrowness on it.

6) Fold each side in to create your bow shape and then tie it securely with a strip of grosgrain ribbon. Tie the ribbon into a bow as well.

7) Finish by securing your dishtowel bow to your oven mitt with a paper clip or clothespin. Stuff the end of your mitt with a piece of tissue paper and then rest your spoons inside the mitt. Add a note of thanks and tie or clip it to your gift as well.

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How easy was that? What hostess wouldn’t love a gift as cute and as useful as this? I hope this inspires you to share the love with your favorite hostess this summer and keep this cute gift in mind for your next housewarming party or bridal shower too!

What kind of host or hostess gift would you like to make or receive?

*this post contains affiliate links- thank you for your support!

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June 2016 Must-Reads

Friday, July 8th, 2016

June 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

There is nothing better than a good book…except when that good book is read poolside! Am I right? I’m so excited to share with you this month’s reading list which includes everything from a mystery to science fiction to an epic love story. I can’t wait to hear what books you were enjoying this past month.

Want the inside scoop on what I’m reading each week? Join our online book club where we talk about books all day every day. This is not an exaggeration! Join me!

8 Must-Read Books I Read In June

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

The first adult book from Robin Wasserman and it is ADULT so, readers, be warned! Follow down the path of Dex & Lacey, two social outcasts who find comfort and friendship in one another through a mutual dislike for the high school queen bee. When one of the popular kids commits suicide in their small town, we are quick to see that things are often not as they seem as Lacey’s dangerous interactions start coming to light. Set in the ‘90’s with plenty of nostalgic flashbacks, it also laces in the beginning of the twilight of the satanic panic that plagued this era.

Due to the language, sex, and violence in this one, this will be a pretty polarizing book that you will either really love or really hate. I found it to be a great summer escape and a well-woven plot although, as a reader, I often wondered if some of the scenes were set up to shock you rather than to move the story forward.

Catch my interview with Robin Wasserman as she discusses why she made the leap to writing for adults and reminisce a bit about the ’90’s with us!

4 Out of 5 Stars

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of a reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She lets go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taken on plot twists that will leave you gasping. This is, truly, the next Gone Girl, friends, don’t miss it!

Check out my interview with Clare Mackintosh and hear about the case that inspired her book and the life experience that shaped the raw grief of the mother in her story!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Ona is 104 and develops a fast friendship with a Scout who is obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records. He believes Ona has a chance of winning, thanks to her age. Unfortunately, the boy tragically dies and his father is left to fulfill his son’s duties. Quinn has never been much of a father though, but it is through Ona that he discovers just how special his boy is.

The book flashes back to the special conversations the boy had with Ona around her kitchen table, is laced with true Guinness Book of World record holders, and a road trip adventure that brings the boy’s parents closer to Ona as she tries to seal the deal on her very own world record. This story is touching, heartfelt, and beautifully told. My only complaint would be that it could have been trimmed down a bit to create a tighter storyline.

Stay tuned, Monica will be joining my Sundays With Writers series this month to share more about her story behind the story!

4 Out of 5 Stars

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

I find Reid’s writing to be just the right amount of heart with just the right amount of reality and her storytelling truly shines in this beautiful story of loves found and lost. When Emma’s husband dies in a helicopter crash, she is left to rebuild her life without her high school sweetheart and you feel that devastation through Reid’s words. After years of sadness though, she finds love again with an old high school friend and begins to find that happiness she has been missing. Just before her wedding though she receives a call that her husband, Jesse, is still alive and coming home to be with her again.

A heart aching love triangle is formed and Emma must choose between the man she loved and lost or the new love of her life. I couldn’t put this one down and read it in less than a day. Reid’s latest book does not disappoint and would be the perfect addition to any beach bag this summer!

Check out an interview I did with Taylor in our Sundays With Writers series as she discusses her ability to write such believable and beautiful love stories!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (available for preorder!)

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

I am not much of a science fiction reader, but there are those exceptions that have lead me to embrace a little sci-fi in my life. If you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts, Ready Player One, or The Martian, do NOT miss Dark Matter.

It’s very hard to review this book without giving away some of the reader surprises. Crouch creates a fictional exploration that allows his character, Jason Desson, to explore different paths that his life could have taken if he had made different choices. When he is abducted on his way to the grocery store, he awakens and discovers that his wife is not his wife, his house is not his house, and nothing in his life is the way it seems. You are then lead through adventure after adventure as Jason tries to find his old life again in a rather unique way.

Equal parts science fiction adventure and equal parts a beautiful love story, there is SO MUCH to love in this book. The reader can’t help but root for Jason to be reunited with his family and there is never a dull moment with a hefty duty delivery of smart plot twists. The screenplay is already in the works so read this one before you catch it on the big screen!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

The Two-Family House is a sweet literary escape telling the story of brothers living in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the ‘40’s. While the men are away to work, in the midst of a winter storm, both of their wives go into labor and end up delivering their babies at home, thanks to one determined midwife. It’s the birth of these two babies that begins to threaten and unravel the two families, particularly their mothers, as they carry around a family secret that begins to impact them all.

A strong debut novel rich with characters and the raw emotional impact of family secrets, it is one that you will be unable to put down, and a storyline rich with lots to chat about for book clubs. If you prefer character-driven stories, this book is for you!

4 Out of 5 Stars

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.

Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a home together and formed a fast friendship that they thought would have forever. When Bea, one of their most faithful friends, passes away, her dying wish is to see them reunited once again twenty years later, on the eve of what would have been her 40th birthday. Of course, each of these friends is carrying their own demons and as time passes, secrets are revealed and the true nature of each of them is uncovered.

I have always been a big fan of Scotch’s books (Time of My Life still remains one of my all-time favorites) and have appreciated her storylines, particularly with love stories. Perhaps, that is why I struggled a bit because there wasn’t a strong love story for me in this one.  The book could have benefited from a bit of trimming to carve out a tighter storyline, but I still think this is a fun addition to your beach bag this summer if you are looking for a fun escape.

3 Out of 5 Stars

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

I am not big into series books, but I have heard from many of that you really love to sink your teeth into a new series. A Murder in Time is the first in the Kendra Donovan mysteries series and is a promising start for time travel and historical fiction lovers. It was this month’s selection for the Global Book Club (check to see if your library is participating in the Global Read to snag a free download of it).

The story follows an FBI agent, Kendra Donovan, that is involved in a case that goes horribly wrong and claims the life of her colleagues. When she finds out that they are using the murderer as an informant, she decides to take revenge at a period piece party he is attending at a castle. Hiding from him when her revenge takes an unexpected turn, she goes into a corridor and then comes out in the same castle, but in an entirely different era- the 1800’s. Her ability to sleuth out cases comes in handy though when a serial killer is on the loose and no one else can solve it. Without her modern day tools though, this case isn’t an easy one.

Oh, and she’s a woman and a low level employee at the castle so she’s not respected either.

Although far-fetched, as most time travel books are, this is a fun escape. I actually learned a lot about that era that I had never been before. Twist in a fun love story, and you have a great escape that fans of the Outlander series will enjoy with this fun modern spin!

5 Out of 5 Stars

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Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June-2016-Must-Read-Books

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

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

Picnic in a Jar: Easy Quinoa Salad With Spinach and Tomatoes

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Quinoa-Salad-In-A-Jar

Summertime means a lot of eating on-the-go for our family. It isn’t the running to and from activities like the school year, but the good stuff like picnics with my people, poolside lounging and road trips to the neighboring Michigan beaches.

Thankfully, the fresh produce and deliciously grown convenience food that we all love is in season. A container of cherries shared by the pool, bunches of grapes on our car trips, and strawberries by the fistful in the sunshine until we think we might turn into berries ourselves. It’s all such good stuff, isn’t it?

Salads are my go-to in the summer thanks to their amazing portability factor. Not only do I love fresh green salads made with romaine or spinach, but I adore a healthy topping of quinoa on top for that protein punch.

Quinoa-Salad-In-A-Jar-1

Quinoa is one of my favorite summertime ingredients because it is filling and gluten-free. Have you had quinoa before? It couldn’t be easier to prepare or more delicious!

Quinoa, pronounced (KEEN-wah) is a very nutritious gluten-free seed that originates from the Andean region of South America. It’s a fantastic source of protein, contains all eight amino acids, is a good source of dietary fiber, and it contains B Vitamins and iron.

Though it is smaller than rice, barley, farro and bulgur, quinoa looks like a grain, thanks to its neutral coloring and hard exterior. In reality, it is actually a seed that originates from the cousin of the spinach plant. When cooked, these seeds expand rapidly and significantly, becoming tender but chewy, and expelling spirals that boast the slightest crunch.

To add more flavor to my quinoa I love to cook it in veggie or chicken broth.

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To make these salads portable, I layer the salads in jars. You want to layer the salads in a way that everything stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

For these salads, I start with a scoop of cooked quinoa and add a drizzle of olive oil and squirt of lemon. I then allow that all to cool completely and then start the layer of veggies. The tomatoes go in first and then I fill the jar up to the tippy top with as much spinach as possible. I learned a lot from all those episodes of Popeye as a kid!

quinoa-salads-in-a-jar-tutorial

Picnic in a Jar: Easy Quinoa Salad With Spinach and Tomatoes
Recipe type: Salads
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Take these along on your next family outing for a filling, easy meal!
Ingredients
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (follow the instructions for preparation on the packaging)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Prepare quinoa as directed on package (it’s just like rice with a 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups liquid ratio- veggie broth, chicken broth, or water all work in this one). Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Halve grape or cherry tomatoes with a paring knife and add them to the mixing bowl.
  3. Once the quinoa is done, scoop it into equal amounts into four jars. Squirt the juice of your lemons on top of the quinoa and add a light drizzle of olive oil to each one. Allow these to cool fully before adding the rest of your ingredients.
  4. Next layer on your tomatoes and then add your layer of spinach.
  5. Lid your jar and store in your fridge for up to five days. Eat directly out of the jar or pour into a bowl for an easy picnic feast!

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For a sweet little picnic touch, use a little twine to tie on forks or tape a plastic fork with washi tape on your lids. You now have the makings for the perfect summertime lunch wherever your summer adventures might take you!

 

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Amy’s Notebook 07.06.16

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

DIY Embroidered Sun Hat via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

My new poolside hat – what words would you use?

Cauliflower burrito bowls for easy summer meals.

Love this colorful, yet calming decor.

Adorable braided bun.

Orange Frappe? Oh yes!

I want to be like Princess Diana.

Yarn Bombing via Crixeo

Source: Crixeo

 

Grab your needles and hooks and enter the yarn bombing movement.

Perfect Spanish tortilla.

Small kitchen solutions.

5-ingredient slow cooker apricot chicken.

Let’s remember to rest this summer.

Toy room organization tips & ideas.

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

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

Making a fabric wreath has been on my crafting bucket list for a long time and I finally had the perfect excuse to execute it. I joined the Waverly Inspirations Network this month and am showcasing all the fun craft goodies you can find now at your local Walmart stores- YAY!

Each month I am challenged to make a project out of a surprise box of materials and the team gives me a theme to work with. This month’s theme was BEACH so I went with a nautical spin to show you how to make a fabric wreath and rope garland for your home.

Best of all, no sewing skills required!

Let’s get crafting.

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed To Make a Fabric Wreath

12″ or 20″ wire wreath frame

2 1/2 yards Waverly Inspirations Fabric (for 12″) or 3 yards Waverly Inspirations Fabric (for 20″). Be sure to select two or more patterns or solids that compliment each other. Have fun with this!

6 yards Waverly Inspirations Grosgrain or Satin Ribbon (select 2 3-yard packages in complementary colors)

Fabric Rotary Cutter

Rotary Cutting Mat

(Note- if making matching garland, be sure to pick up some rope (like this) over in the home improvement section of the store)

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

Directions for Making a Fabric Wreath

1. Taking your fabric lengthwise, cut at the 1″ mark on your rotary cutter.

2. From this starting point, begin tearing down until you get to the bottom of your fabric to create strips. There will be loose threads. Pull any that are particularly bothersome, but this project is meant to have rough edges to it.

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

3. Begin cutting this torn fabric into 6″ strips. Repeat these same 3 steps over and over again with your two fabrics.

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

4. The same length strips will need to be cut out of your two ribbon options so begin cutting those, utilizing all of the ribbon that you have purchased..

5. Starting from the outer edge of the wire wreath frame, begin tying the fabric, making sure to keep your printed side turned out, and then slide the tied fabric down to the nearest crossbar. Repeat until you have filled the section, alternating fabrics and sprinkling a tie of ribbon in throughout. In the picture above, you can see that ALL of these have a fabric loop- this is to demonstrate your starting point for each row.  Continue doing this until you get all the way around the outside edge. Then repeat this same process on the remaining 3 wires until you have filled your entire wreath.

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

I added a little pom-pom trim that I had in my crafting cart and clipped it with two tiny clothespins to finish this.  I had so much fun making this that I wanted to add a garland to match.

How to Make a Fabric Rope Garland from MomAdvice.com

Utilizing the same technique for ripping your fabrics, cut 2″ strips this time and then cut these into 8″ pieces. Repeat this step with both fabric selections (or more if you have them!). Tie them onto your rope, making sure to have that printed side facing out. I love that you can make this as long or as short as you need for your space!

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

My little painted laminate fireplace, in our basement, gets so much love and I love decorating it for the different seasons. I finished our beachy look with two rope handled lanterns. I, honestly, loved making this so much that I now have plans to make another smaller one for my fancy little she shed in yellows and polka dots.

I hope this tutorial inspires you to get out there and craft today!

Making brings me so much joy and I love sharing that with you!

 

How to Make a Fabric Wreath And Garland from MomAdvice.com

 

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

 

Sundays With Writers: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

sundays-with-writers-1

It is rare to surprise me as a reader and it has probably only happened a handful of times over the past few years. Since I read so much, it is like I now know the lay of the land and where we are heading. When an author makes a plot twist that leaves my jaw on the ground…well, it’s a rare and amazing reader experience for me.

I Let You Go is a well-woven thriller that you will be unable to put down and when those twists come, I know you will be as blown away as I am. I am so excited to share an interview with Clare Mackintosh today. Not only is her thriller incredible, but she has a background as a detective that allows her to make more plausible crime stories with an attention to detail that few can possess without this background.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of a reading slump. The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She let’s go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taking on plot twists that will leave you gasping.

The tired saying that, “this book is the next Gone Girl,” has been said about many thrillers since Flynn’s incredible book.

This book?

Well, I think it really is the one and once you start reading it, you will see why!

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with Clare Mackintosh about her story!

Clare Mackintosh

You worked as a police officer for 12 years and then came out with a wildly successful psychological thriller, I Let You Go, that I can’t stop talking about or recommending to all my friends. Did you always want to be a writer and how do you think your time on the force helped benefit your story?

I spent 12 years in the police and loved every minute of it, but it became increasingly hard to balance a busy career with life as a mother of three young children. I took a career break and reinvented myself as a freelance feature writer, and at the same time I wrote I Let You Go. I signed a two-book publishing deal the month before I was due back at work, so I handed in my notice and never went back. The thread that links all three types of work is storytelling: as a detective I told victim’s stories on their behalf; collected witnesses’ stories to support allegations of crime. My job was to pull together all the threads of a story and present it to a court in such a way that they could decide on a verdict. In that way it wasn’t dissimilar to the work I now present to readers.

The book opens with a mother letting go of her child’s hand on a dark street and witnessing her child being hit by a car. I understand that this plot came from a real-life incident that happened in Oxford? What was it about this story, in particular, that made it stick with you so much that you would want to fictionally explore this?

In 2000, just after I started my career in the police, there was a tragic hit and run in Oxford, England. It killed a nine year old boy and sent shockwaves through the city. I didn’t work directly on the case, but I was profoundly affected by it. I couldn’t understand how anyone could drive away from such a terrible act, and I couldn’t see how the child’s mother could ever survive such a tragedy. Many years later I lost my own son – in very different circumstances – and I began to understand the impact grief has on one’s life. The more I considered this, the more a story took shape.

Jenna’s grief is so raw that, at times, I found it difficult to read what she was going through. I was so sad to read that you also have lost a child yourself. Were you able to channel some of that into shaping Jenna’s grief and loss?

My son died when he was five weeks old. It was, and still is, the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. I found some of the scenes in I Let You Go exceptionally difficult to write, and extremely emotional. There would be times when I would be sitting at my keyboard, tears streaming down my cheeks, wanting that particular scene to be over. It was just too raw, too real. But overall I think I did find it cathartic, just as I have always found it therapeutic to blog about the way I feel.

I Let You Go at the British Book Industry Awards

follow Clare on Facebook!!

I am a very seasoned reader so it is very difficult to take me by surprise, but your plot twists absolutely floored me. I truly mean that! Did you always have these twists in mind when you started writing your story and did you try to replicate that experience in your second book for the reader or were you worried it would be too formulaic?

The twist was the first element to arrive. I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve, and why I wanted to do it, and I knew that if I could pull it off, it would provoke an extraordinary reaction among readers. From there it was a question of letting the story take shape around it. I actively avoided adopting a similar structure for my second book, to avoid being predictable. I See You comes out in July 2016 in the UK, and spring 2017 for US readers; it’s very dark, and very twist, but in a very different way to I Let You Go.

I understand with your background, as a police officer, that you have found a lot of errors when it comes to writing of scenes in crime fiction. Is there anyone out there that is getting it right that we should check out?

When I’m reading crime fiction and thrillers I’m always impressed when the author writes authentic police characters. For me I’m less concerned about procedure being a hundred percent accurate – it is fiction, after all – but more sensitive to the realism of a situation. Police officers calling each other ‘Detective’, for example, is something I see a lot in British crime fiction, but never happens in real life! I always find it hard to swallow when UK police brandish guns about, or keep their police cars at home, or charge people they haven’t even interviewed yet. It suggests a lack of research that takes me out of the story. Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome is a great authentic contemporary detective – it’s a series worth following.

chiplitfest

I read that you have started your very own literary festival! Is there anything you can’t do? What compelled you to start one?

When I left the police in 2011 I was worried I’d be bored without a department to run. I set up ChipLitFest with some like-minded local people, with the aim of creating a community project that had national reach. We’ve had some fantastic authors – Lionel Shriver, Peter James, Brian Blessed, Joanne Harris – and last year we became the first literary festival to divide its profits equally between all the authors involved in the event. I’m hugely proud of it, and honoured to remain a trustee, although the hard graft is all done by other people nowadays. It’s been interesting being on both sides of the fence. It’s made me keen to support smaller festivals, and very understanding of the budget constraints they experience. I love doing events and enjoy small audiences just as much as big ones – often more.

 I know you must get asked this a lot, but is there any possibility of a sequel with this book?

Definitely not. I’m aware that some people feel the ending is ambiguous, and it’s impossible to discuss here without spoilers, but I’m always happy to talk about it at book groups or via private messages. Suffice to say, the story – as far as we’re concerned – has been told, and I have no plans to return to these characters.

I Let You Go translated in many languages

I Let You Go translated into many languages!

 Even after you have sold your books, I understand that you spend a lot of time rewriting them. Why do you think these rewrites are so important to the success of a novel?

The first draft of I Let You Go took about nine months, then I spent the same time again editing it before I found a publisher, and another year doing more rewrites with the help of my editor. It was a long process! I wrote eight drafts in total, and each one made the book stronger. They brought out nuances, made characters more three-dimensional, and tightened the twists. Every draft was necessary, but that didn’t stop it being a fairly painful process at the time!

I-See-You

preorder I See You

 I understand you took an entirely different writing process with your second book and are using visuals of your characters to help craft your story and their backstories. Did you find writing the second book to be easier than the first or do you feel a lot of pressure after all of the accolades with your first book?

With I Let You Go there was absolutely no pressure. My deal had been relatively small, which meant I didn’t feel the weight of expectation from my publishers, and there was no pre-publication hype from the UK media. The book’s success crept up gradually; there was an online buzz first of all, on Twitter and Facebook, and it just got bigger and bigger. With my next book (I See You) I felt under enormous pressure to deliver something just as good, and it was hard not to let that get to me. In the end I just focused on simply writing the best book I possibly could; I couldn’t do any more than that. As for the approach, I’m still learning what works best for me. It’s been different each time, and I fully anticipate it being different for book three, too!

You can connect with Clare Mackintosh on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter! 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: Today We Sit

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Happiness Challenge: SITTING

When we bought the furniture for our home, all I wanted were comfortable places to sit.  Years of uncomfortable furniture had created a wanting in my heart for the biggest and comfiest couch we could fit in our space. Although the aesthetics were important, it was far more the depth and the sinking-in-of-it all that was the most important to me.

We recently had some new (and old) friends to our home and took them on our little renovation tour of our very own fixer upper. The remarks often were regarding the comfortability of our spaces that I had worked so lovingly to create to help our guests feel welcome. Often the remarks were, “How do you get any work done when you have this cozy place to sit?” 

These were the places they said they couldn’t resist.

Yet, I resist them.

What might look, at times, like a cushy job (and believe me, cushy moments do exist), is a lot of sweat and hustle to create. I am not complaining, but sometimes that glamour shot you see is nothing like my life.  Many moments are spent hunched over the computer and in some state of frantic panic over a post that, honestly,  I’m lucky if people might scan briefly through with their morning coffee.

What there isn’t a lot of, for me,  is… well, SITTING. The corners that people might envy are rarely enjoyed by me so I challenged myself to SIT in every one of those corners this week because I deserve to rest.

I am worthy of that.

I soaked in a good book on my giant leather chair, I snuggled up with my cat and watched a television show, I knitted in my shed sanctuary, and I curled on my bed in the evening to browse my blog reader. It sounds so silly, but for the first time in probably a few years, I just enjoyed sitting in the places I had made for myself.

All the places.

If you don’t do a lot of sitting at your house either, consider this a challenge to sit in those beautiful and cozy corners you created. They aren’t just for company, they are for YOU. 

I thought it might be fun to creatively explore a bit on this post so today might seem different than usual.

I’m glad.

I want you to enjoy the REAL over in blogland and that can never be cultivated if I’m not honest with you. I want to explore how I’m working towards the happy in my life. As always, I am a big work in progress.  

Tell me, do you struggle with being still too?  

Here are 3 other things that make me happy.

Hania Sandals from Naturalizer

Amazingly Comfortable Gladiator Sandals

Oh, I am loving this year’s sandal trends, BUT I have stupidly wide feet so I am not always able to embrace the trends. I had to break my rule of not buying shoes during my capsule challenge because a joint fell out of the side of one of my feet (I kid you not) and it hung off the side of my sandal in a really uncomfortable way. I totally demoed it for my husband to justify said shoe purchase.

Come on. You would too.

I found these gorgeous, gorgeous sandals from Naturalizer (the Hania Sandals in Gingersnap)  and they are PERFECT in every way.  This has a comfortable wedge on the bottom that gives a petite girl some height without compromising her balance. If you are looking for a gladiator shoe that you won’t have to break in, these fit the bill perfectly!

Although you may not have a joint falling out, my sister remarked that only I would find a way to make bracing this travesty fashionably. What can I say? I’m an EDS warrior these days.

PS- if you have NARROW feet, they make this one in a narrow too, lucky ladies!

SYTYCD Next Generation

Kids Dancing Gives Me ALL THE FEELS

This seasons SYTYCD is all about the kiddos and it is absolutely epic this year.  If you want a great show to watch with your kids that will inspire them (especially if you have a tiny dancer on your hands too!), you MUST watch the show this year, SYTYCD Next Generation

Not only are the kids amazing dancers, but they have some compelling stories. Not to mention how hard their parents worked (ahem!).

The only UN-happy about this happy is that when a kid gets cut, I start weeping.

EVERY. TIME.

I mean, you can’t cut kids. Seriously. It’s awful.

That said, my whole family is just loving this season. Since we don’t have cable (you should cut it, you guys!!) we watch this through Hulu! Use this link (if you like) to sign up. Yay! That is one subscription we get our money’s worth out of.

a-murder-in-time

Participating in My First Big Library Read

My book club site is growing every day and I tell you, these ladies know their stuff. It’s totally free so join us and participate!  They told me about the Big Library Read and I jumped on the bandwagon this week to participate.

The Big Library Read is an opportunity for those with a valid library card to read the same digital title at the same time without any wait lists or holds. Participating in this event allows your library to offer a new simultaneous use title for community-wide access from your library at no cost. It’s a worldwide digital version of a local book club! 

Big Library Read

It’s not too late to join in so check and see if your library is participating and take advantage of another fun (and free!) book club opportunity. So cool!

I’m not going to tell you a ton about it because I want you to discover this one yourself. The book is called,  A Murder in Time and it is about a gal from the FBI that ends up time traveling into the 1800’s and helps work on a case of a serial killer on the loose. Unfortunately, she can’t use any modern day anything to solve the case so you can imagine it’s a tough case to crack.

Oh, and did I mention she’s a woman who is a servant in a castle?

Yeah, you can imagine how receptive people are. (wink, wink!)

Now go snag this book and join in over the weekend!

Happy Friday, friends!

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

 

How to Make a DIY Terrarium

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

How to Make a DIY Terrarium from MomAdvice.com.

You know people that are amazing at gardening and planting?

I’m not one of those people.

I am the girl that goes to the greenhouse and requests plants that can take care of themselves. My plants must be able to survive without water or nourishment of any kind.

Despite my black thumb, I spent many of my summers working in a greenhouse as a kid and I do know a few things about caring for plants. Thanks to my greenhouse knowledge, I know that terrariums are the perfect project for a girl with my skill set and they are also the perfect project  for any gardener-in-the-making.

How_To_Make_Terrariums

For those of you itching to play in the dirt, this project is a fun one that adds a bit of green to your house while you await planting season.  If you are looking for a fun project to tackle with the kids, this can transform into a little fairy garden with a few novelty items.

The possibilities of terrariums are endless because they are made in any type of glass container or jar.  A good place to hunt for unique jars is your local thrift shop. You can also get inventive and use other types of glass containers like cake stands, fish bowls, hurricanes, or even a light bulb!

How to Make a DIY Terrarium

Terrarium Supplies

Supplies Needed

Drop cloth or Newspaper (I use a dollar store shower curtain to cover my tables for messy crafts)
Glass container or jar
Small Plants or Herbs (Look for plants of varying heights, leaf shapes, & colors)
Pebbles
Moss
Charcoal
Potting Soil
Hand Trowel

 

Creating a terrarium is a lot like creating a layered cake. You need all the different layers in your terrarium in order for your plants to thrive. Since we are using such small amounts of materials, like pebbles or moss, ask your local greenhouse if you can buy small quantities instead of investing in large bags. At our greenhouse,  I was able to snag both the moss and pebbles for my project for just $.50!

How_To_Make_Terrariums

1. Begin by adding your pebbles to the bottom of your container. This is to create a false drainage layer so water can settle and not flood the plants. You will want to add 1 inch to two inches of stone, depending on the size of your container.

2. Next, we will layer our charcoal. The charcoal can come in granules or shards (the type I am using is shards). We will spread a layer of this over the rock to help reduce bacteria, fungus, and odors in our terrarium.

How_To_Make_Terrariums

3. Prepare your plants for planting. Remove them from their pots and loosen up the root ball, exposing the roots. If the roots are particularly long, you can trim them down a bit.

How to Make a DIY Terrarium from MomAdvice.com.

4.  Add a layer of dirt to your terrarium. Gently place your plants inside and then top them off with a bit more dirt, using your hands to gather the dirt firmly into place around each of the plants. Be mindful where you are planting them, mixing up your plants of varying heights and foliage, to fill your jar.

5.  Finish your terrarium with a layer of moss to keep the soil moist and add a decorative finish. If your kids are making their own little garden, this is a great time to finish them with fun little trinkets.

How_To_Make_Terrariums_Collage

6. Clean the container. Wipe down the outside and inside of your container, to remove any excess dirt that may have gathered on the sides.

7. Finish by watering your terrarium, being mindful not to overwater it. Caring for your terrarium is easy, especially if you are a terrible gardener like me. Check every couple of weeks to see if your terrarium needs water. Feel the soil to see if it is dry and add water if it is. If your terrarium is closed, be sure to take off the top at least once a month to air it out. If you see lots of condensation or have added too much water, leave the top off until it has had a chance to dry out.

How to Make a DIY Terrarium from MomAdvice.com.

How_To_Make_Terrariums-17

Here is a visual of what we want our container to look like. I love that this looks beautiful from the side as well as the top. I had so much fun making this that I can’t wait to make another one for other rooms in our home!

Have you ever made a terrarium? What advice would you give on these?

 

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