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!
This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.
With the holidays just around the corner, now is a great time to begin preparing your home for guests. Since we live in a smaller home, we have never had the luxury of having a guest room in our house since every inch of our home is just filled with…well, us. Recently though we finished our shed into a bonus room and realized that this is actually the perfect space to share with our guests when they come to visit. It makes for the perfect guest room because you can come and go as you please with your very own space to escape from our wild and crazy family, since it is separate from our living space.
As part of the BHG Live Better Network, I am partnering with them this month to showcase an idea for welcoming guests in your home that you can create with products from BHG that are available at Walmart. Since we don’t have a dedicated guest room for just this purpose, I thought it would be fun to create a guest room welcome basket that you could tuck away in your basement storage or a linen closet to share with your guests when they arrive. There is no need to make an addition to that house when you have a basket prepared of guest essentials that you can bring out when the unexpected house guest arrives.
One of my favorite things about staying at a hotel is the plush sheets, fresh linens, the do not disturb sign I can hang on my door knob for privacy, and the welcoming touches and amenities that hotels offer. You can create that same experience for your very own guests at home with a few of the thoughtful touches that I have pulled together for our welcome basket. Fresh white linens, a welcome sign you can display on a nightstand or table, a do not disturb sign for your door, plush white sheets, and a delicious smelling candle complete the touches in this lined chicken wire basket for a guest to enjoy when they come to visit.
You can find all of these special touches from the BHG product line at Walmart stores. A simple gathering of these items creates a sweet & thoughtful guest room basket instantly. Other sweet offerings could include chocolates, bedtime teas, a favorite good read or the morning paper, and a note to let them know how excited you are to have them as a guest. Think of all of the things you appreciate when you are a guest somewhere and include them in your basket to let your guests know how much you appreciate them.
Add our, “Be our Guest,” printable to a BHG 8×10 frame (priced at less than $10) and it really adds that special warm welcome that I hope we can achieve when hosting friends and family in our home.
To help your guest feel warmly welcomed, my amazing designer & contributor, Sarah Milne with sarah m style, has created these amazing printables that you can print and share in your basket for your guests! Aren’t these BEAUTIFUL and such a sweet touch for a welcome basket for guests?
What are some special touches you love to offer you guests? Any tips for families that don’t have a dedicated guest room? Feel free to share your tips below!
In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.
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).”
Happy Sunday, friends! I hope your day is filled with great books and good coffee today. This week I have the pleasure of interviewing debut novelist Rebecca Rotert about her first novel Last Night at the Blue Angel. I will say that this one is racier than some of the books I have featured here in the past so if that isn’t your cup of coffee, so-to-speak, I understand. The storytelling was so good in this one though and I had so many questions for the author after I finished that I wanted to share it with you in our Sundays With Writers series. I am not shying away from this book- I think it a beautifully told coming-of-age story and the characters are rich and vivid even if I didn’t always like their choices.
Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a highly ambitious and stylish literary debut that combines the atmosphere and period detail of Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility with the emotional depth and drama of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, about a talented but troubled singer, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship.
It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is a city of uneasy tensions—segregation, sexual experimentation, free love, the Cold War—but it is also home to one of the country’s most vibrant jazz scenes. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. Finally, her big break arrives—the cover of Look magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her clever ten-year-old daughter.
For Sophia, Naomi is the center of her universe. As the only child of a single, unconventional mother, growing up in an adult world, Sophia has seen things beyond her years and her understanding. Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment, and compulsively keeps a running list of practical objects she will need to reinvent once nuclear catastrophe strikes. Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi—a situation that adds to Sophia’s anxiety.
Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, their powerful and wrenching story unfolds in layers, revealing Sophia’s struggle for her mother’s love with Naomi’s desperate journey to stardom and the colorful cadre of close friends who shaped her along the way.
I loved this book so much more than I had expected. This is a coming-of-age story placed in the sixties focused on the story of a daughter who constantly lives in the shadow of her mother’s stardom and her need to be the center of attention. We are able, as readers, to read how she evolved into this self-absorbed woman, while witnessing the heartache of her daughter lurking in the shadows of her life. There are beautiful plot twists in this one and I never saw the ending coming.
After writing the author and reading her answers, my only regret is that this coffee with her is done virtually and not in person. I hope you will enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed reading and sharing it with you today!
You chose the turbulent sixties era and the city of Chicago for the setting of your debut novel. What was it about this time period and city that captured your attention for the setting of your book?
I seem to be thinking about race, class, sexuality and gender all of the time. ALL of the time. Whatever problem or issue I’m trying to sort out in my head…I go back in time to examine turning points or cultural shifts in an attempt to identify what was at play, what happened, what changed. In this vein, I find myself in the 50’s and 60’s a lot. In some ways it’s very personal. I’m often asking myself, What did the territory look like before I landed on it (I was born in ’71)? I want to understand the culture that created my parents and their generation, and the boom generation, and us. What wounds did we inherit? What unfinished business? So many questions…
Richard Nickel (Source:Out of Chicago where you can see his amazing architectural photography)
Jim, a struggling photographer, was one of my favorite characters in the book. You based him upon a photographer named Richard Nickel who captured architectural photos. How did you happen upon his story and photography? Was he the first character you really started fleshing out or did you develop him later as you wrote it?
Jim was there from the very beginning but he was, like, Jim 2.0. I did a lot of research in Chicago, kept running into these very interesting photographs, discovered the photographer was Nickel, researched him, fell in love with him, then came back to the drawing board and grafted him into Jim 2.0.
As a mom, I could not relate to Naomi’s choices and putting her own needs and desires before her child. Was it difficult to write some of these scenes particularly adult moments that Sophia witnesses when she is so small? How did you feel about Naomi?
Oof. It was tough. I swear there were scenes that were just…viscerally painful to write. I sometimes asked myself, What would I do here? And then had Naomi do the opposite. My feelings about her are complicated. My reasoning behind allowing you to see some of her backstory was in order to cultivate some compassion for her. I don’t think Naomi has any idea what she’s doing. She never learned. She sort of operates on desire and compulsion without taking into account consequences. She doesn’t feel comfortable being a mother but she tries. In the end, she chooses her art and her artist’s life over motherhood because she knows what she’s doing there. We all have Naomis in our lives…women we judge because WE would do it so much better. They bring out our self-righteousness, which is of course a bar to all connection. I wanted her to be galvanizing in this way and she is.
I understand that you are also a singer and songwriter, illustrating that you are a woman of many talents. How much of that background were you able to draw from to create Naomi? Have you also felt that hunger and struggle being a singer? Did this make Naomi more relatable to you?
In part, it was sheer laziness. I know the vocabulary of performing well so I chose that as her art. And certainly I understand the hunger to make art; I’ve always had that in me. And I share with Naomi the feeling that art is often one of the few things that makes sense to me and that I’m good at. But in terms of fame, I just have no ambition whatsoever. I know Box Turtles more ambitious than I.
My husband & I are obsessed with the jazz music from the ‘60’s and have quite the record collection going. What is your favorite song or artist from that era? Any in particular that you have Naomi sing that we should be hunting down for our record collection?
A group I discovered during research, though not jazz, is The Boswell Sisters. You’ve really got to listen to them if you’re not familiar. Three harmonizing sisters in the 1930’s. Go ahead and YouTube “Crazy People” to be delighted (see above!!). Especially if you have, I don’t know, crazy people in your life.
Naomi’s love affair with Laura was brief, but ultimately shaped Naomi’s life journey. Is there any reason you didn’t have Naomi fall in love again with Laura later in the book and bring these two back together?
Ah, you are a savvy/intuitive reader, Amy. I DID bring them back together at the end but the more I worked on the end of the book, the more convinced I became that Naomi had to be alone at the end. That she would get what she wanted but the price would be loneliness. And Laura is strong. Naomi needs to…deserve her I feel. And she doesn’t. Not yet.
Naomi has quite the parade of lovers and also learns her skills of being a lady from a very unlikely source. You did not seem to shy away from any topic- would you say that this book is provocative?
Um, I’ve been told it is. It doesn’t feel at all provocative to me. The next book, however…
You make a choice to do all dialogue in italics- why did you make this choice as a writer?
I’ve not yet described this well but today might be my lucky day….You know, when you put quotes around a line of text, you tell the reader, This is EXACTLY what was said….but so much of this book is about impression/memory/tone/perception/performance…I wanted there to be: Here’s what was said, yes, but also, Here’s what I heard/what I remember/what I tried to say…all those grey areas that color our sad efforts at human communication. And everyone is performing in this book so a line of dialogue may represent an actual authentic feeling or thought but it may also be someone’s performance of a feeling/thought that may or may not be true. So you see, all these sticky layers. I guess I said to myself, Let’s put it in italics.
I will not say anything about the ending because I don’t want to spoil the book for our readers. Would you say you were pleased though with how this story wrapped up? Did you always envision this to be the ending for your book?
The exact ending, ie: last lines, came late in the process but the general ending I knew. I would also say I could handle the end of this book because although the book ends, the story is to be continued.
If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?
IMPOSSIBLE. I NEED TWO AT LEAST AMY! However, a book I have to read over and over is Anthony de Mello’s Awareness. It’s not fiction. It might even be called self-help (choke). It reminds me of the troublesome human pitfalls that can really muck up our short little jaunt on earth. I also return to Duras’ The Lover over and over because it reminds me of longing and waking up to life. These are a few of my favorite things, as the song says.
Oh, I want to bring the happy today, but I am feeling a bit like Charlie Brown. Things just didn’t go my way this week. I got the world’s most rotten cold, I haven’t slept in days thanks to a really annoying cough all night, and I felt overwhelmed this week with projects I had overpromised on. Since my attitude was so poor I felt underappreciated by everyone. They didn’t even see that just simple things like toasting bagels physically were hard for me. Running kids to activities when I can’t even hear because my head is so clogged and still asking about their day. Slogging my sad self to the grocery store to pull together a meal for unthankful people when I couldn’t turn my neck to even look down the aisle and see what was available. The list goes on.
I felt so bad that I didn’t even want to read a book, I just wanted to lay in bed, eyes barely open, alternating episodes of Parenthood and Hoarding: Buried Alive so I could feel better about my personal clutter and life situation. I am sure you wanted to come over here to listen to my griping about my first world problems, but it was just one of those weeks. Sigh.
So this super edition is delivered Charlie Brown style (sad jazz hands!)
My Only Source of Comfort
You would have never guessed I did theatre, would you? In all seriousness, if you haven’t experienced a big bowl of pho then you are missing one of the world’s best gluten-free comfort foods. Imagine the best bowl of chicken noodle soup you have ever eaten and then times it by two. That is what pho is. It is satisfying, you can dress it up however you like it, and it is the ultimate healing agent when I am feeling bad. In our town, THE place to be is Bowl of Pho. One regular sized bowl of chicken noodle soup will heal anything that troubles you. I replaced my once a week coffee habit with a once a week soup habit. When I travel, I call and pick this up on the way home to help settle my stomach on the way back from the airport. When I am sick, I call sometimes twice to make sure I can flush out whatever is ailing me. This was a two bowl week and I don’t even have to leave my name anymore.
If there is one problem area in our budget it is probably my pho habit.
The first time I used this Neti Pot it scared me almost as much as my epilator and you know that was terrifying. When you can’t breathe out of your miserable red nose, you will do anything especially at night when you want to sleep. I am a zombie on cold medication so I decided to give this a try and see if it could help me and it is the best thing in the world. Yes, I have read the horror stories, so use at your own risk. And I do. It is the most disgusting, while simultaneously satisfying, gift you can give yourself when you have a cold. You don’t have to buy any extra solutions after you get one because you can make your own neti pot solution with salt & baking soda. If you suffer from allergies or colds, I can’t recommend this enough and it costs less than $20.
My Only Exciting Activity- Moving a Microwave
I keep debating if we should go all out and redo our kitchen. Everything requires so much effort (and you know I am low on that this week). I decided to do some rearranging when I spotted this kitchen makeover and noticed the appliances in a built-in next to the refrigerator. I decided I would try and see if I could achieve that with my thrift store hutch and wouldn’t you know…it fits PERFECTLY. This is my new coffee corner and spot for my microwave which freed up a huge corner of my limited kitchen counter space and cost me zero dollars.
That was my only exciting activity this week. That and cleaning out two closets.
This should be short and sweet- pajamas and workout gear where I pathetically tried to workout while sick (which was stupid). Here were three things I wore the week before to inspire me to do better next week.
I am so excited that my book club was chosen to participate in a This Is Where I Leave You book club before the film hits the big screen on September 19th. When I was asked to participate, I had heard of Jonathan Tropper, but had never read one of his books before. I can honestly say that if you are wanting to add a little sparkle and hilarity to your book club discussion, This Is Where I Leave You is the book for you.
I read this book in a record two days and my husband kept finding me with it in some state of crying-laughing almost every moment I read it. Although he isn’t much of a reader, I handed it to him and said, “You must read it.” Each night when I crawl into bed, I hear random laughing and snorting on his side of the bed. It is that kind of book that you finish and hand off to someone else so you can laugh about it together.
When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.
In this story, each of the siblings are told that it is their father’s dying wish for them to sit shiva together as a family. The irony is that their father is an atheist who made it known he didn’t believe in religion, but with their mother’s persuasion, she manages to get their family together under one roof for one week. With no escaping each other and a lot of time to reflect on life and the choices they have made, it really makes for some hilarious moments of family dysfunction at its best. What I loved about this story more than anything is the message that even when they drive us crazy, we will always love our family.
I love it in the way that I loved the movie Bridesmaids- so wrong and so right. Raunchy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and so perfectly pitched. I would highly recommend this one for fans of Arrested Development as it reads just like my favorite episodes of the early seasons of the Bluth family. The crazy family dramas are always my favorites and this family does not disappoint in the craziness department. For better or worse, they are family, with all that history and messiness and love.
Love stories told from male authors sometimes fall short for me, but that was not the case in this one. Tropper does such a fantastic job of sharing what a failing marriage looks like, what it would feel like to lose the love of your life (interweaving old stories of the couple and new), and how one can find love again. Even in the darkest of moments of this marriage, Tropper finds a way to bring the hilarity into even the depressing situations of losing your life partner.
Since the movie will be hitting the big screen on September 19th, I hosted our book club to read the book and then we plan to make an outing to see the book on the big screen. Sometimes it is difficult to find a book that we all like, but this one fit the bill perfectly for our group and we used the time to have a delicious brunch together and celebrate the kids heading back-to-school.
After seeing the trailer, I already know that this is going to be one of my favorite movies this year. I have to say that after reading the book, the film could not have been more perfectly cast and I kept seeing these actors in these roles even as I read the book. Many times the movies just don’t live up to the books, but I can already tell that this one won’t be the case.
TIWILY Boozy Brunch Ideas
Here are some delicious brunch options for a fun morning with your girlfriends that are some of my favorite when I am entertaining. I am selecting these because they can be made before everyone arrives so that you can really enjoy book club with your friends. You will also find a fun drink I have created just for your book club that you can sip while chatting about the book.
In the theme of the book and all the food that is brought to the family as they sit shiva, you could also make your friends bring you brunch dishes potluck style in excessive abundance, taking the pressure off of you as the hostess.
Perhaps you could even pass some of these recipes on to them and ask them to make them for you.
It just seems like something awkward that the Foxman family might try in the book.
What is a book club without a good discussion? LAME. Here are some of my favorite book club questions that I gathered for our discussion together!
TIWILY Book Club Questions
1. What was your first impression of Judd’s wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd’s perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?
2. Discuss Judd’s mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?
3. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?
4. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?
5. Clearly, Judd is an adult, yet this book can also be seen as a delayed coming-of-age story. What does Judd learn in the end about himself and his role in helping to create the world in which he finds himself?
6. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel’s protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife’s infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?
7. What comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife’s infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?
Be sure to head to the theaters to see This Is Where I Leave You on September 19th!
Share your own book club and hashtag it with #TIWILY #TIWILYbookclub
In honor of the movie, I am hosting a giveaway today for one (1) $50 Visa gift card and a copy of the book so you can enjoy reading the book and then catch the film in theaters September 19th! Please follow instructions in the Rafflecopter below to enter to win by September 12th! One winner will be chosen at random! a Rafflecopter giveaway
Back-to-school season means back to the daily grind of controlling paperwork, keeping track of schedules, checking homework, figuring out meals, and corralling the backpack clutter in the home. Thankfully, it is easy to create a DIY Command Center for your family on a budget and even in a small home. Today I want to showcase eight ideas for command centers that would work in small spaces, or in a larger home, and how you can utilize Goodwill for some of the supplies for your project.
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!
I have been so excited to show off this incredibly cute DIY Family-Friendly Bar Cart that I created for Kenmore this month. This DIY bar cart is my new favorite thing in our house and I love that I can wheel it out for all of our entertaining needs.
Have you ever seen the pricing on beverage carts? It is quite astounding! I love to have a cheap chic home, especially when it comes to entertaining needs, and I just can’t picture spending $500 or more on a cart that houses our drinks. I decided to wow my friends with a budget-friendly and family-friendly drink cart that would sit perfectly in my budget. You know what fits right in my budget? A tool cart.
Today we are making over a Sears Hardware Cart into a beautiful bar cart. Say what? I know! This cart retails for a mere $82.87 and has just the type of clean and modern lines I was looking for in a more expensive cart. The best part is that you can personalize it to your own taste and color scheme.