Author Archive

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!)

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from

When I say that my life has felt a little disorganized, I mean it! One sore spot in my house has been my spice cabinet and pantry. Thanks to the gentle shove (ahem) of The Magic Art of Tidying Up, I am trying to transform those sad corners and joy-robbers into more thoughtful spaces. I figured that I can’t be the only one with a disorganized spice rack so I wanted to offer free printable spice labels and pantry labels that you can use to spruce up your own space too, designed by our own MJ from Pars Caeli!

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from

Here is my cabinet before I tackled it. There were several spices that had empty jars (why? who helped me on clean-up? WHO?), several duplicates (who does the grocery shopping? who? oh wait…), and there were some that had labels as far as back as 2008 (THE SHAME!). There were also spices lurking in a few other corners in the pantry that were, of course, duplicates. Hunting for spices in a million spots and then trying to not get a black eye from knocking myself out with one as I dig around was a nightly occurrence.

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from

I absolutely love the clean design of these labels and they couldn’t be easier to print. You will need to purchase a package of this style of label to print on. We kept the design simple and light to keep the ink waste to a minimum.

If you have spice jars you can reuse, by all means do it! About five years ago, I asked my in-law’s for two sets of these jars since I intended to redo my spice cabinet. I found them when I organized my scary storage side of my basement this weekend while binging on podcasts. It felt like Christmas all over again. This decluttering has really been paying off!

I used a small funnel to funnel the spices that still had life in them into these new fresh jars and then attached the new labels. How easy is that?

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from

For pantry items with a larger volume, I used some mason jars that I already owned that had been gathering dust on a shelf. These are the perfect holders for these items and the labels work really well on this size jar too!

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from


This corner is making me so much happier and it made prepping for our dinner hour so much easier this week! I didn’t realize how much frustration I was having and how much time I was wasting hunting for these spices each night!

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from

Organize Your Spice Rack (FREE PRINTABLES!!) from

Get the Labels!

If you are interested in receiving 14 free home management printables and these beautiful pantry labels (see the small sampling above), just input your email below or in the sidebar and we will send you the link to your packet as our thank you for being a subscriber (look for it in the final welcome email). Subscribers will have access to our additional printables as they become available.

Note: if you already subscribe to the Mom Advice Newsletter, be sure to look in your inbox for a special email that contains the link for your set of these printables! If you can’t seem to get the form to work with your browser, just look over to your right in the sidebar on the site. You will see a handy form there too that works with all browsers! We appreciate you so much! Thank you! 



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Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1)

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

I am sure if you have been a reader here, you know how fiercely I guard the privacy of my children. Over the years I have struggled a lot as a mom and one of my biggest struggles was my son’s diagnosis with ADD. Through his diagnosis and treatment, we have had the opportunity to help so many parents locally who have been going through the same difficulties and  point them to doctors and resources that have helped improve their lives.

It is with his blessing and permission that I share our story today, in hopes we can help someone else going through the same struggles.

I am so proud of our boy for sharing his story to help other families! I hope you will leave him a little note to tell him that! 

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

When Your Kid Doesn’t Fit in the Box

Ethan was the kind of kid that never fit into the box and this is just one of many reasons why I love him. From his shocking entry into the world (early and complete with a placental abruption that could have killed us both), I should have known he was going to challenge everything I thought about parenting.  Ethan hit most milestones normally with the exception of one… speech.  He was a silent baby and did not make any noises at all.  He rarely made eye contact with us and never turned to us when we said his name. Since he was my first baby, I had no expectations of what he should be doing, but others in our family and our pediatrician were concerned about his lack of speech. At ten months he qualified for early intervention speech therapy in Massachusetts. When my husband lost his job, we relocated around that time to Indiana, and I decided to hold off on the speech therapy and see if Ethan might blossom in his new location.

At eighteen months, he still made hardly any audible sounds and still would not turn to me when I called his name. We were placed into the First Steps program where he benefited from an incredible therapist who helped us both with Ethan’s speech delay and sensory issues. I remember thinking how ridiculous this all seemed as she played with playdough and blew bubbles with him on my kitchen floor. Clearly I knew nothing because not only did he start speaking, we couldn’t get this kid to shut up! The ability to speak helped curb some of his frustrated outbursts and baby signing helped us until he could communicate fully.

Instead of speaking like a baby though, he went full-out sentences and would fixate on one particular thing and talk about it nonstop. It began with trains and then later it was dinosaurs. This child who could not even say mom now said Ankylosaurus and had memorized an entire dinosaur dictionary. It was so wild to me!

Parenting a Child With ADD: The Diagnosis (Part 1) from

Everything is Fine Until You Have to Go to School

Since Ethan was an only child, our therapist thought he might benefit from being around other kids his age more, so we looked into a school program for him when he turned two. He loved school so much and I loved seeing his vocabulary growing. I remember that he was so busy and I couldn’t believe all this big energy that could be in such a little body!  Socially, we were struggling. Ethan would only do things he wanted to do, preferring to not interact with other kids at all unless they played his games. He never listened to anyone else- and only talked excessively about what he was into. In circle times, he did not sit like he was supposed to, preferring to get up and do laps instead of sitting.

To help improve our circle time at school, I took him to storytime at the library. As the kids sat in their mama’s laps and sang songs and listened to the librarian, my son refused to sit with me and spent the entire time lapping the room, ripping open the cabinets behind the librarian, and screaming if I tried to hold him in my lap. I sobbed in the parking lot and vowed I would NEVER do that to myself again.

We held Ethan back a year to see if he might benefit from an extra year of preschool before we put him in elementary school, thinking he had some social issues to work through. That year of Pre-K was one of the worst years of my parenting life. Ethan was bored in school and every morning to take him there was a battle and not the kind of battles I had ever seen any of my friends deal with. He kicked and screamed. He hit me. He would stretch his arms and legs as wide as they would go and refuse to get in the car. Many days, I took this five year-old kid and left him outside of his classroom, kicking and screaming. I would walk away and be glad I didn’t have to deal with him for a few hours.

It wasn’t my proudest moment as a mom.

I screamed at him.

I was embarrassed by his outbursts.

These moments of frustration were peppered throughout the years until he turned nine. He would have toddler-like tantrums about doing homework.

One night he barricaded his door with all of his belongings just to keep us out of his room.

He was always disorganized.

He would not bring home papers for me to sign, he would do work at school and just fizzle out at the end of worksheets for no reason, and he was always angry and frustrated with us.

Harder than that though, were the apologies after the outbursts and the crocodile tears down his face as he told us he was sorry and didn’t know why he was doing this.

I became a broken nagging record every single day, begging him to just, FOR THE LOVE, do your homework and bring your stuff home. HOW HARD IS IT? IT’S SO SIMPLE.

In fourth grade (for lack of better words), the shit hit the fan. As his teacher was preparing him for middle school, our frustrations got bigger and the homework got longer and the outbursts were out of control. He was so mean and so angry.

I was so mean and so angry.

As I shared my frustrations with a family member, she said, “That reminds me of so-and-so in our family.”

That so-and-so in our family had ADD.


ADD- Is that Even a Real Thing?

I didn’t think ADD was a real thing, but was an excuse for disorganization and lack of discipline. Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes at me! I tend to believe that good exercise, a healthy diet, and vitamins are the cure for anything that ails you. The idea that my son had something that might require a doctor’s care and treatment baffled me.

I also felt ashamed that it made me feel relieved too to know there was something wrong and I wasn’t just a terrible mom.

If there is something wrong and we can figure it out, I can help us all.

As I clicked through website after website, these things that I thought were problems that only Ethan had, were actually characteristics of someone who had ADD.

  • Constantly fidgets and squirms
  • Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
  • Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
  • Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”
  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items

It was as though someone knew our family personally and the struggles we were experiencing. Not only that, but when I flipped through his report cards, the teachers had even said some of these same exact phrases on his report card. Were they trying to clue me in?

Now that I thought I might know what the issue was, I was more determined than ever to get a proper diagnosis and not a quickie questionnaire in the doctor’s office. I wanted a true capture of what we were dealing with and how we could help our child.

We reached out to a psychologist in town for an evaluation and waited an excruciating two weeks until he could come in for testing.

That test changed our lives and our interactions with our child forever!

Come back next Tuesday for the continuation of our story!


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How to Make DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

How to Make DIY Dishwasher Detergent from

“Would you like something to drink?” I ask my guest … and then cringe. Any hostess plagued with hard water knows the difficulties of keeping glassware tidy and dishes spot-free. It is a battle that has plagued me in every home that we have been in and twelve years after gutting and renovating our home, I know that it is a problem we will probably always struggle with since we are here to stay.

The problem is that I desire green cleaning solutions for our home and the green dish detergents I have used have not only been unsuccessful in helping me have spot-free dishes, but they have made it even worse, adding a film to everything that goes through the dishwasher. It’s not my dishwasher’s fault…it’s the products I use to try to get my dishes clean.

How to Make DIY Dishwasher Detergent from

In the past, I have tried mixing up my own dish detergent and it has only been mildly successful in our house. At first it works great and then over time, our problems seem to resume. The one product that I did discover this year that has helped us is called Lemi Shine and I have used it with great success over the years. I started thinking about how great it would be if I could combine the power of Lemi Shine with the dish detergent recipe that I knew and loved from years ago. How would these two perform together? The results may surprise you!

Head on over to the Kenmore blog today to snag this recipe for DIY Dish Detergent and hear how this one performed in our kitchen!

*This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend what I love! 

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5 Quick Fix Dinner Ideas with Jessica Fisher

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Jessica Fisher is the force behind both Life As Mom and Good Cheap Eats, where she shares budget-friendly, family-centered recipes and ideas. She has been a friend of mine for many years and I so admire all the work she does to create family meals on a budget! I’m so excited to have her contribute to our Meal Planning M Challenge with some great dinner ideas straight from her new cookbook!

5 Quick Fix Dinner Ideas from Jessica Fisher on

What to Do When You Don’t Know What’s for Dinner?

It’s happened to all of us: 5 pm rolls around, tummies start to rumble, and you find yourself staring into the vast cavern of your refrigerator, wondering what’s for dinner. Your impulse might be to say, “There’s nothing to eat. Let’s go out.”

For most of us, this isn’t entirely true. There’s nothing easy to make to eat, but there’s probably actual food in the house. So, what do you do? Do you give in to the impulse and pay for overpriced burgers and fries? Or do you exert yourself, as Jane Austen would say, and cook something up?

I’m going to make the case for the latter and go so far as to say, “Suck it up, Buttercup. You can do this in 30 minutes or less.”

Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated — or longer than your favorite TV show. If Agent Coulson and his team can catch the bad guys and acquire major super powers in 60 minutes, you can make dinner in half that time.

Consider these 5 quick fix dinner ideas that taste great and won’t break the bank:

Beans and rice – A rice cooker can produce perfect rice in 20 minutes. Opening a couple cans of beans, shredding cheese, and mixing up some salsa might take you another ten. Between the two of you, you’ve got the makings for a great supper that’s filling as well as economical. This Chicken-Cilantro mixture will be the piece de resistance.

Lotsa pasta – Pasta is the go-to choice at my house. My kids can smell boiling noodles from a mile away. They’d be satisfied with butter and parmesan, but in just a few minutes, I can whip up a broccoli cream sauce that they gobble down with gusto.

French Bread Pizza from Good Cheap Eats

Piece’a pizza – It might take an hour or two to proof traditional pizza dough, but we can have a great pizza dinner without the wait. Using French bread, pita bread, lavash, or tortillas for the base, I can create custom pies in just a few minutes.

Wrap it up – Keep tortillas on hand for quick sandwiches and burritos. Frozen chicken tenders cook quickly; just pull as many as you need from the bag. Throw on some shredded cheese and vegetables, and drizzle with your favorite sauces. Or go meatless with something like these Green Chile Burritos.

Cobb Salad from Good Cheap Eats

Salad’s on – I’ve got an 11-year old boy who will eat Caesar Salad until the cows come home. If I keep those ingredients on hand, I’ve always got a dinner he loves. Explore the world of salads and find those that really make your heart happy. Cobb? Tostada? Pasta? Cole slaw? Use those as your go-to’s, stocking those ingredients as pantry staples. Add a cooked meat for the carnivores in your midst. You’ll eat fresh in no time at all.

Need more inspiration for a quick fix?

Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher

I spent a year researching how to make dinner quick, easy, and healthy. My findings are stuffed into Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!).

My new cookbook provides over 200 recipes that feature real food, real quick. With over 100 time-saving tips, you’ll eat for a day (or a month), as well as learn how to adapt your own kitchen skills to economizing time and money.

Dinner time doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or stressful. You’ve got the skills; you just need to know how to use them to your advantage. You can totally do this!

What’s YOUR favorite quick fix?


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

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Sundays With Writers: A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Sunday, August 30th, 2015


I am so excited to be interviewing Elisabeth Egan today about her debut novel, A Window Opens, today! This book is just so relatable and so honest about the struggles of a working mom that I found myself laughing and crying (even simultaneously) at the adventures Elisabeth has created for Alice in the working world. This book is making my top ten reads list and after I finished it, I just wanted to read it again. Since I have to move on to share more great books with you, I’m begging you to read this one so we can talk about it!

Elisabeth makes for an interesting topic on her own, as explored in this beautiful piece from The New York Times  (spoiler alert, don’t read that until you are done with the book!)

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan


I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts & opinions.

In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine, Elisabeth Egan, brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age.

Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

This was such a deeply satisfying read that tackles the struggles of every working mother who is trying to balance it all. Egan creates the perfect balance of humor and heartbreak as Alice tries to navigate the tricky terrain of being an employee, wife, mother, and daughter to her ill father.

This book got me in the all the feels. I highlighted many a passage in this sweet story of Alice and found her to be one of the most relatable characters I have read this year. I also teared up at many of the moments in this story because the struggles of being in the trenches as a working parent were ones that I have experienced myself. Alice tries hard, but it’s an impossible juggle and you feel like you are spiraling a bit with her as the story unfolds.

Fans of Where’d You Go Bernadette & Wife 22 (thanks to the hilarious correspondence between colleagues & family) will really love this one!

Elisabeth Egan


You are the books editor for Glamour writing about a books editor transitioning into a job in the e-book industry. What inspired you to throw your character, Alice, into this environment and do you think you would struggle as much as she did in this new way of reading books that her client offered?

I threw Alice into this environment because I’d experienced a version of it myself, and the challenge of trying to figure it all out really stuck with me. In real life, I’ve never struggled with reading e-books—depending on the type of book, I don’t mind reading on a screen and you certainly can’t beat the efficiency and certainty of a fully-loaded e-reader if you happen to find yourself stranded on a desert island. What I struggled with really fell under the umbrella of “it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.”

Your book has been compared to I Don’t Know How She Does It, although I must say that I found Alice’s story so much more relatable to my own. I just want to share with our readers one passage, in particular, that I really loved.

As Alice writes a letter to her nanny she says, “Please don’t waste time wondering whether it is possible to “have it all.” Banish the expression from your vocabulary; make sure your friends to do to.” I just love reading that as a mom.

When have you personally struggled with “having it all” and were any of Alice’s moments channeled from your own struggles with the balancing act of your own job & motherhood?

Many of those moments were drawn from my life or from stories I borrowed from friends. (Thankfully, I hang with a crowd of women who are very open and funny about trying to be everything to everyone and still find time to have coffee together. My personal low moment, as seen in the book: the time I went to read to my daughter’s pre-school class and found myself standing under a clothesline strung with depictions of “How My Family Stays Healthy During The Winter”—or some such. My daughter’s contribution: a charming drawing accompanied by the teacher’s handwriting: “My mom uses everybody’s toothbrush.” I guess we were one toothbrush short, so I was sharing. And maybe I passed this off as a health initiative—in any case, how embarrassing!

You read books for a living which has to be the coolest job ever for a reader…or it was, until you came up with the idea for the Book Lady. I am trying to figure out how I can be the Mary Kay equivalent of a book distributor in my town. How did you come up with this concept and how can I sign under you?

I came up with this idea on my own! My husband is always threatening to host a Tupperware party, so I thought, why not books? I have no idea why I haven’t made this happen. Maybe we can be partners?

You create the idea of a No Guilt Book Club in your story, but I understand that this is really something that exists! Can you explain more and for those of us living in small towns, how can we create our own No Guilt Book Club?

I live in a small(ish) town, and that’s where I created the NGBC. Here’s what you need: one bookstore, several cases of wine. For a small fee, your friends can come to the store, hang out with their friends, get a discount on books—and, of course, drink the wine. I also pass out a list of my favorite books from that season, but this isn’t a requirement. The idea is to have a party in the most fun venue around, and also to talk about books without the pressure and guilt that comes from having to read a set title by a set date. That can be stressful!

One of the perks of being an employee at Scroll is that Alice gets her very own first edition copy of a classic. If you were hired at Scroll, what book would you request from management?

I’d request Mrs. Dalloway and give it to my husband for his birthday. Still, there’s no way the first edition could stack up to the beloved, dog-eared Penguin edition he gave me for our first-ever Valentine’s Day back in college.

There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in your story. My favorite (I am still laughing!), is this one- “I yelled so loudly, the tendons in my neck ached for days. (Name a parent who hasn’t’ suffered from this affliction and I will show you someone who is not my friend.)”

Oh, have I felt this pain in my neck!

What is your favorite funny Alice moment in this story?

I love when Alice tries to flush her colleague’s homemade brownie down the toilet. It might not be her most sophisticated moment, but it really captures the way she paints herself into a corner. Or multiple corners, really.

Although this book is very funny, there were many moments that pulled at my heartstrings, particularly the relationship between Alice & her father as he is ill. What scene was the hardest for you to write and did you have to do any research on this particular type of illness when writing your book?

My dad died of throat cancer twelve years ago so no—very little research required. Actually, I was surprised by the little details of his illness that stuck with me. Words like “subglottal” were right on the tip of my tongue, even though (thankfully) I never have to use them anymore. The scenes with Alice’s dad were the easiest ones to write, actually. Ed Pearse isn’t an exact replica of my dad—nobody could be—but spending time with him was the next best thing to having one more day with my dad. I’d forgotten how good it felt to be with someone who knows everything!

 If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be (we list it with all the recommendations over the year HERE)?

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

You can connect with Elisabeth Egan on GoodReadson Facebook, or through 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: Blenders, Grinders, & Doorstep Deliveries

Friday, August 28th, 2015


I hope you guys had a wonderful week this week! We are looking forward to a quiet weekend finally. My daughter and I just started this television series and we can’t wait to curl up in our little shed and have a girl’s day together watching it. Did you know that there was a pilot movie that was over an hour and a half long? I don’t know if I ever saw this before so that was surprising to both of us! This picture clearly shows just how happy this is making me!

Here are a few other things that I am thankful for this week!

KRUPS blender

A Blender Built Like a Tank

Five years ago I stopped buying crappy blenders that stopped working annually and did a little research trying to find a blender that would work well for our family’s needs. After a ton of research,  settled on this KRUPS blender (to the tune of almost $300) and it is still making smoothies for me today. My morning smoothie routine is back on now that I am getting the kids on the bus and need some portable protein and this baby grinds up my oranges, ice, frozen berries, and spinach like a champ!  I loaded up my cart with this green smoothie recipe and am loving it all over again!


Doorstep Deliveries

I have a mad love affair with doorstep deliveries and ePantry has been such a blessing for our family! With trying to get back on track with school, I had completely forgotten to pick up a few toiletry items and cleaning items we needed that week. It was a happy surprise to get a delivery on our step this week of our standard shipment of goodies that keep our house running smooth. They are offering a free Grove Candle and $10 to give their service a spin this month and I can’t recommend it enough. I love to keep a few of the Mrs. Meyers hand soaps and candles stockpiled for hostess gifts or last-minute birthday gifts!  If you haven’t tried them, I share my experience with it over here. Have you tried ePantry? I’d love to hear if you love it as much as I do!

I have been also stockpiling a few items from thredUP for my Fall capsule that I can share with you in a couple of weeks. Once again, this capsule will be almost 100% secondhand! I had been using Twice as my main source, but now I am discovering the joys of thredUP. They currently are offering customers $20 to spend on their first order!


Don’t think about this place just for you though, you can use that $20 to put towards your kiddos too! My grandma is getting married and Emily has been crowned the flower girl for the festivities. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a dress she would wear just once and I found this beautiful number that would be perfect for the autumn occasion. I’m planning to buy our Christmas frocks through thredUP this year to save on the festivities. Between now and Christmas, there should be plenty of beautiful options to choose from. I also really love that we are helping the environment in the process by purchasing our items gently used. My thinking has been forever changed after seeing this documentary. Please watch it!

Hamilton Beach Coffee Grinder

Freshly Ground Goodness

My coffeemaker died (RIP) a few months ago and then IT DIED AGAIN. I brought back the stupid coffeemaker and replaced it with the same stupid one hoping it was a fluke (and keeping my receipt this time- thank you, Target, for honoring the first purchase without proof). This new coffeemaker did not offer a grinder built in like my old one, but I kind of blame the grinder for my coffeemaker giving out because there was no good way to clean it and I think some of the grounds got trapped inside. That’s just a long story to tell you that I got this Hamilton Beach coffee grinder for less than $15 and it works like a dream.  I just fill it up to the correct measuring line, pulse it a bit, and then take the cup out and dump it in my coffee filter. The cord wraps and stores inside of it so it takes up very little room and I am loving having freshly ground coffee again for my mornings. There is a BIG difference in taste that is worth the moment of effort!  This is a pretty affordable way to have freshly ground coffee back in your life!

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

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


7 Easy Upcycle Projects for Fall

Thursday, August 27th, 2015


Do you love decorating for Fall as much as I do? Of all the seasons, this one is my favorite and I love that you don’t have to spend a lot to make a beautiful impact on your home during this season. Nature brings so many free and fun elements to your home decorating. Pairing these with a few simple upcycle DIY’s, you don’t have to spend a lot to make your space cozy and beautiful.

Today I want to share with you seven easy upcycle projects you can try to make yourself and your home cozy for Fall. These projects were selected with your Goodwill shopping in mind and should be easy to execute with some commonly found items at their store!

Head on over to the Goodwill Tips blog to check out these fun Fall upcycle projects that I have gathered for you today!


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Amy’s Notebook 08.26.15

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Lunch Box Labels via Lia Griffith

Source: Lia Griffith


Adorable lunch labels.

A complete checklist for KonMari method.

So much home inspiration here!

10 little upgrades for your whipped cream.

How to talk to little girls.

I can’t wait to see this book turned into a film!

15 inspiring career books.

How beautiful is this? It sure made my bookworm heart happy!

8 misguided ideas to give up to be happier at home.

DIY Yard Yahtzee via Whipper Berry

Source: Whipperberry


Yard Yahtzee? I love it!

How to craft a wildly successful newsletter.

A showstopping backsplash.

World’s most adorable playhouse!!

Imagine how many we could feed.

Unicorn Pinata- yes!

There is always room for you.

Career advice from the $9 billion woman.


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!


Slow Cooker Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Slow Cooker Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

I believe that the slow cooker can be every mother’s best friend. What could be easier than throwing in a few ingredients, plugging it in, and then going about your day, without the worries of needing to figure out what everyone is going to eat for dinner?

A few years ago I discovered the beauty of slow cooking for breakfast and lunches as well as dinners. Setting a slow cooker to cook overnight and waking up to breakfast is a glorious thing on busy weekday mornings and having meat, soup, or a filling that’s been cooked and ready to go into a sandwich or thermos takes the “what’s for lunch?” out of the busy morning equation.

With this in mind, I’ve rounded up some of the best slow cooker recipes to boost your menu ideas and to be a resource for our M Challenge focus on meal planning. Plug these recipes into your menu planner and you will be able to take advantage of the cooker’s “set it & forget it” function and help make your meals go smoother. Some of these are Mom Advice recipes that weren’t featured in our 21 Easy Slow Cooker Meals and the rest are from around the web that I chose to show the variety of foods that can be cooked in your slow cooker. I hope you enjoy them and that they make your meal planning a breeze!



Slow Cooker Creamy Coconut Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole @ Spend With Pennies

Crock Pot Cinnamon Roll Casserole @ Recipes That Crock

Slow Cooker Nutella French Toast with Carmelized Bananas @ I Can Cook That

Slow cooker Egg, Spinach & Ham Breakfast Casserole @ 365 Days of Crock Pot

Slow Cooker Breakfast Quinoa @ My Whole Food Life

Slow Cooker Black Bread @ Kleinworth Co.

Slow Cooker Bread Pudding @ Nourishing Joy



Slow Cooker Mexican Black Beans

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches @ The Recipe Critic

Lentil Sweet Potato Chili @ Delightful Adventures

Sausage-Bean Soup with Spinach & Tomatoes @ An Oregon Cottage

Slow Cooker Chicken Philly Sandwhiches @ Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Skinny Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken @ Skinny Mom

Garbanzo Bean-Veggie Pitas with Creamy Avocado Dressing @ BHG



Slow Cooker Carnitas

Slow Cooker Meatloaf @ The Magical Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken & Veggies @ Damn Delicious

Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta @ The Cooking Jar

Slow Cooker Dinner Rolls @ Growing Up Gabel

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas @ Cooking Classy

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken & Rice @ The Southern Plate

Slow cooker BBQ Ribs @ Number 2 Pencil

Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese @ The Food Network

Crockpot Sweet & Sour Chicken @ The Frugal Girls

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Sundays With Writers: Where All Light Tends to go by David Joy

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015


Where All Light Tends to Go kept popping up in my list of recommendations on Amazon, like those Suggested Friends on Facebook. After seeing it there so many times, I knew I needed to give in and read it. Within just a couple of short days, I had shut the pages and knew that I had to talk to David Joy about this book. Not only is this guy a gifted storyteller, but his passion for other writers and their stories is contagious.

I particularly love how he admits to immersing himself into his storytelling. I think that showcases how much this book means to him and how much it should mean to us!

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Where All Light Tends to Go is Southern Grit at its finest in this dark debut novel! Joy creates a compelling coming-of-age story about a teen boy growing up in the Appalachian Mountains whose father deals meth in their small town.

The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually. The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town.

Jacob has always been resigned to play the cards that were dealt him, but when he botches a murder and sets off a trail of escalating violence, he’s faced with a choice: stay and appease his kingpin father, or leave the mountains with the girl he loves. In a place where blood is thicker than water and hope takes a back seat to fate, Jacob wonders if he can muster the strength to rise above the only life he’s ever known.

If only life were that simple. This story is beautifully told and the ending was a strong one, despite the feeling of hopelessness for these people.

Grab your morning cup of coffee and let’s settle in with David Joy, a truly incredible storyteller!


Congratulations on your incredible debut novel! I was so excited to see that it was selected as one of the best books of 2015 by Indigo.  How long did it take you to write this beautiful book and what has it been like to have it so well received by so many once it has been released into the world?

The novel started with an image. I was at a friend’s hog lot and I had this image of a young boy standing over a pig he’d killed suddenly realizing how much power he had over life and death. I wrote that scene and I knew that the boy had a story to tell. I kept trying to write that story and I kept getting it wrong, at one point burning about half a novel and starting over. After about a year or so of living with that image I woke up in the middle of the night and I could hear Jacob speaking to me clear as day. At that point it was just a matter of trying to keep up, and I wound up writing the first draft of Where All Light Tends To Go over the course of a few months. That’s kind of a roundabout way of answering your question, but I think I tend to live with images and stories for a long time before I ever actually get it right on the page. Once I’m writing, though, things tend to happen quickly.

The response to the novel has been wonderful. I think the highlight for me has been meeting writers I’ve admired for so long—writers like Daniel Woodrell and Tom Franklin and Donald Ray Pollock and Frank Bill—and actually becoming a part of the conversation.

You refer to your genre of storytelling as Appalachian Noir. What can a reader expect from this genre and if they love this style do you have any other recommendations on books to check out that will fill the void while we await your next novel?

I started using that term, “Appalachian noir,” as a sort of adaptation of something Daniel Woodrell originally used as a subtitle for his novel Give Us A Kiss, his term being “country noir.” He’s sort of the godfather of what I’m trying to do in a lot of ways, along with writers like Larry Brown and William Gay and Ron Rash and Barry Hannah and Harry Crews. As far as what I think folks can expect, these are typically stories about hardscrabble lives, working class people making the best of circumstance. There’s often a criminal element to the story, but I don’t know that that’s a necessity. I think more than that these stories are a balancing act between hope and fate, a sort of tightrope walk above brutality on the one hand and the sentimental on the other. Other writers I admire who write within a similar vein are folks like Mark Powell (The Dark Corner) and Charles Dodd White (A Shelter of Others) and Jamie Kornegay (Soil) and Brian Panowich (Bull Mountain) and Rusty Barnes (Reckoning), or even a novel like Robert Gipe’s Trampoline. Then there are some incredible female writers like Steph Post, who wrote a novel called A Tree Born Crooked, or writers like Bonnie Jo Campbell (American Salvage) and Tawni O’Dell (Back Roads). Some of these writers might not consider what they’re doing noir, but it’s that same type of emotional weight being created and for me that’s the key to what I’m trying to do on the page.

I am going to quote one of my favorite passages from your book. “On the pew where I sat though, there wasn’t a damn bit of light to be had. Light never shined on a man like me and that was certain. In a lot of ways, that made men like Daddy the lucky ones to have only ever known the darkness. Knowing only darkness, a man doesn’t have to get his heart broken in search of the light. I envied him for that.”

The light plays such a big part in this book and we see references to it throughout the story and the title. Why do you think the light (or lack of it) is such an important element in your story and how did you come to create this concept for your readers?

With this novel I knew the title before I wrote the first word. That’s not to say that I knew what it meant, and I certainly didn’t try to write toward that meaning, but rather it just sort of matured with the story. I think that idea of light and dark works really well as a metaphor for what Jacob’s facing. We’ve got an eighteen-year-old kid born into very harsh circumstances that he’s not really equipped to handle. There’s a similar line to the one you’ve quoted where Jacob is talking about the idea of light at the end of the tunnel, that sort of hope that one has when they’re coming out of the darkness. But for Jacob, he can’t understand an idea like that because he’s not coming out, he’s walking into the darkness, and, “for those who move further into darkness the light becomes a thing onto which we can only look back. Looking back slows you down. Looking back destroys focus. Looking back can get you killed.” So Jacob can’t look back. This conflict between light and dark is ultimately about hope. When you’re facing the types of things that Jacob is facing, it’s much easier to just accept the way things are than to hope for anything better. Hope leads to heartbreak and that’s why Jacob’s so conflicted. That’s really the key issue in the book, and so I think that metaphor, the idea of light and dark, helps to stitch that seam.

You have a bit of a Breaking Bad opener with a botched murder situation which was rather gruesome to read and kept me on the edge of my seat. Do you think Jacob’s life would have worked out differently if they had successfully killed the guy?

This is probably the toughest question I’ve ever been asked because what happens to Robbie Douglas is the catalyst for things falling apart. Without that trigger, the pin doesn’t hit the shell. In other words, none of what takes place in the novel would have happened. At the same time, the fatalism that we witness is something that I think was inevitable. If Robbie Douglas had died, Jacob might’ve prolonged that unraveling, but things would have still fallen apart. Lives like Jacob’s typically end one way.

Crime, poverty, and meth addiction create a rather hopeless environment for these characters. Do you think your novel has hope in it? Was it difficult to write in such a sad space or do you feel like you are the type of writer where this dynamic really thrives?

I think there are elements of hope, and I think it’s that balance between hope and fate that, with any luck, keeps the reader invested. As for writing within that space, I can remember after finishing the novel I was talking to my sister and I told her, “It’s going to take a long time to find my way out of the darkness I’ve created.” I’d spent months inside of that space, immersing myself to the point that I was walking into walls, to the point that when I had to go somewhere like the grocery store it felt as if I was moving within a dream. The world I’d created was more real to me at that moment than anything else around me. I think for an artist to create anything meaningful it takes that type of immersion. There’s a sort of sacrifice that has to be made, and, for me, the end justifies the means. I tend to tell stories of heartbreak and circumstance and desperation as I think those types of elements allow you to immediately get to the heart of a character. When things fall apart a person can’t be anything aside from exactly what they are. That’s what interests me most.

Jacob says in one scene, “I’d always hoped she’d become a real mother. But with time, I realized that someone can’t give what they don’t have. She was what she was, an addict, and there was nothing that could be said or done to change her. Death was her only savior.”

I don’t know what to say about that except that it was difficult to watch this dynamic between Jacob and his mother and it made me feel sorry for him to have two parents like this. Is addiction something that you have experienced with anyone close that you channeled in this character?

I really like that you pulled that quote as I think that line, that idea that, “someone can’t give what they don’t have,” is the heart of why she can’t be a mother to Jacob. There are some readers who seem incapable of empathizing with Jacob’s mother and father, but, for me, there are tiny pieces, tiny statements that elude to why these people are the way that they are. That’s really important to me: humanization. Without that I’d just be creating caricatures. There are moments where I think we see what she could have been had she not been addicted to drugs. That’s the reality of addiction. That’s a reality that I’ve seen time and time again where I live and where I grew up. I think the easy thing to do is to dismiss those people, to say, “I’m nothing like that.” The harder thing to do is to look at it with empathy. And empathy doesn’t mean coming to justify those actions as acceptable, but what it does mean is coming to recognize and hopefully understand why.

If there was a sequel, how do you see life working out for Maggie?

I have a really great friend, a mentor and an incredible novelist, Pamela Duncan who ran up to me after finishing the novel and said, “Is Maggie pregnant? She’s pregnant, isn’t she?” I just laughed, but I love this idea of wanting to know what happens to her as I think that’s a good sign that I’ve created a character that resonates. As for what I envision, I think Maggie goes to Wilmington. I think a lot of what Jacob holds as truth as an eighteen-year-old is naïve, but I think what he sees in Maggie, that strength and that certainty that she’ll leave, is real. So, for me, I always saw her getting out.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be (we list it with all the recommendations over the year HERE)?

I’m going to stay true to my neck of the woods and give you three recommendations—a novel, a memoir, and a book of poetry—from Appalachia because I think a lot of what comes out of this region is tragically overlooked. As far as a novel, everyone needs to read Robert Gipe’s Trampoline. It’s bar none the best debut released this year and it’s arguably the best debut we’ve seen from this region in decades. With memoir, I was really impressed with Leigh Ann Henion’s book, Phenomenal. I think her storytelling is brave and her insight into our relationship with the natural world is matured and beautiful. Last but certainly not least, everyone needs to be reading Rebecca Gayle Howell, especially the poems in Render: An Apocalypse, which are just gritty and raw and lovely. She’s writing scripture. So there’re three for you to get your hands on!

 You can connect with David Joy on GoodReadson Facebook, or through his 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!

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