Author Archive

It’s the 3 Little Things: Food Doc, Shiny and New, & Touch-Ups

Friday, March 25th, 2016

color

I hope you have some wonderful things planned for this Easter weekend. The kids & I are spending our Good Friday helping package meals for Pack Away Hunger  with our church today. We are really looking forward to doing this together. Although the weather got cold, I’m making preparations for spring with fresh linens on the bed and tulips from ALDI (just$4.99 for a little bouquet).  I’m moving forward with spring, Indiana, maybe you should too!

Here are a few other things that are making me happy this week!

Just Eat It Documentary

A Documentary To Watch With Your Family

I ran across Just Eat It when browsing through the documentary offerings on Prime and our family watched this together one evening. This is a truly eye-opening look at how much food we are wasting in an effort to only provide the most beautiful and appealing foods at our grocery store. In efforts to illustrate how much perfectly good food we are wasting, they take on a challenge to eat only discarded food with some surprising results.

REALLY thought-provoking and it made me more aware of my purchasing habits and how our family could do better to waste less food. It’s a must-see and something you definitely should watch with your kids. It lead to some great discussions in our home.

TouchBack Root Touch-Up Kit

Root Touch-Ups

I sure talk a lot about my gray hair around here, don’t I? Sometimes pesky gray hairs show up randomly between colorings and I found this TouchBack Instant Root Touch-Up tool to conceal the grays until I color my hair again works wonders on my grays. They have one that looks more like a mascara and then this one (pictured above)  that looks more like a marker. I have only used the one that looks like mascara, but it works REALLY well hiding the occasional gray that I get between my hair coloring. It just rinses out when you wash your hair and is super easy to put on and can prolong your time between getting your hair colored. I highly recommend this to save money! You can find it at ULTA or at CVS!

Baptism

Baptism

A Baptism

This happy was just for me. This past Sunday our daughter was baptized and it made my heart so happy that she has decided to follow Jesus. I can’t wait to see her journey unfold and it was so special to have both sides of our family there for this special day!

This week I’m…

Reading: Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan (I was blindingly unaware of what was happening in the world during this time. It’s been really eye-opening).

Eating: Linguine With White Clam Sauce (I used these gluten-free noodles)

Laughing: Over this article. Each time I read it, I laugh harder!

Happy Easter, everyone! xo

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

 

 

 

Community Reads for March

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Community (2)

I love getting book recommendations from our readers and the new Community Reads section of the site is quickly becoming my go-to for new books to pick up from our local library. I hope you are loving it too!

If you are a part of our MomAdvice Hangout Group, each month I will ask about what you are reading and ask for a short blurb on a book.  You can also email books you are loving to me to amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I can also add them to our monthly lists. By joining this group, you can also take part in a REALLY awesome online book club- I wouldn’t want you to miss this fun discussion and exploration of a new book each month.

My hope is to inspire you to connect with at least one incredible book this year and I hope you will enjoy this new feature with even more reads each month!

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Read It: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by: Enid

This book is magical- a word I don’t often use. I picked it up because I so enjoyed A Man Called Ove, and this second book by the author is even better. I loved the precocious 7 year old main character and her exploits, and I don’t feel that she acted “too old”, considering she spent so much time with her eccentric grandmother. I was almost sorry to finish the book as I enjoyed spending time with these characters. It is one of those books where if I try to explain the plot at all, I am afraid I will ruin the story for you, and I don’t want to take that risk. If this author writes more books, I will even be willing to pre-order them- something I rarely do.

One caveat- if you have recently lost someone dear to you, then you might want to consider postponing picking this book up for a bit- it can hit you hard in a couple of places.

Second Life by S.J. Watson

Read It: Second Life by S.J. Watson

Recommended by: Tanya

I read this psychological thriller in less than a day and kept telling myself just one more chapter. A sister is murdered. The other sister stops at nothing to find the killer. Lots of secrets and twists and turns.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Read It: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Recommended by: Enid

I really liked this- good mystery, great characters. The clues were there, along with lots of red herrings- I like it when the reader actually has a chance to figure out the case along with the detective. I will read the second book in the series in the near future.

Find the Good by Heather Lende

Read It: Find the Good by Heather Lende

Recommended by: Angie from Just Like The Number

Lende is an obituary writer for a the paper in her small Alaskan town. The book is a compilation of essays about family, friends and the people who have crossed her path in life and death. Some are sad, some are sweet, and all of them brought a smile to my face.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Read It: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Recommended by: Monica

This is a story about a girl with distorted views about her body image and what constitutes a successful life. But as the flashbacks to her high school life unfold, the unfortunate series of traumas endured begins to explain her present day self.

In the beginning I was disgusted with the main character. I thought about how she embodied all that we want young girls not to see. By the end you are rooting so hard for her that when the story ends you are left wanting more.

Editor’s Note- Be sure to check out our interview with Jessica Knoll in our Sundays With Writers series

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski

Read It: An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski

Recommended by: Bridgett

This is a true inspirational story about a relationship between an 11-year old pan handler and a NYC advertising executive. It is inspiring the difference she was able to make in his life by just noticing him on the street one day as he is begging for change. She turns back and asks to take him to McDonalds which begins a weekly meeting and a lasting relationship/mentoring that spans decades.

An amazing look at how one person can make an impact if we just take the time to notice. Get the tissues, this one is a tearjerker and a great read. I could not put it down and had it read in two days.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Read It: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Recommended by: Enid

This was a re-read for me for a book club. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, although this time the character of Hannah annoyed me a bit. I love the forensic detective work of discovering what the different bits of things and stains are that have gotten into the book over 500 years.

Since I knew what was coming this time, I didn’t find some of the historical bits as disturbing as I did the first time- but torture during the Spanish Inquisition is still not my idea of good bedtime reading.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Read It: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Recommended by: Laura

I just read Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (author of The Glass Castle), a “true-life novel” that tells the incredible story of her grandmother’s life. It was fantastic, full of grit and spunk and set in the wild southwest. It made me want to be a bolder woman.

Community Picks for March

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get these books and read them myself! What did you read this month that you loved? Feel free to recommend your favorite reads below or join us in the group to chat about your favorites! We love new friends!

This post contains affiliate links. I fully trust and back my community of readers and their opinions on their favorite books!

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Do you remember when outdoor furniture looked like…  well, outdoor furniture. Now outdoor furnishings rival those inside my home and I have started looking at these pieces differently than I used to. I now see the true potential for outdoor pieces in indoor spaces and I wanted to chat a bit with you about that today!   I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network this month to show you the fantastic offerings they have this year for your outdoor (or indoor) needs.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

A couple of years ago, we created the cutest spot in our house that isn’t in our house. My dreamy she shed makeover is one of the best ideas I have had to utilize a hidden space in our home. I wanted something that we could really lounge on and originally thought a daybed would be a great idea. The truth was though, I really needed something that could stand up to a lot of abuse and the idea of changing linens in a shed did not appeal to me at all.

Let’s be honest, I can barely change the sheets on my own bed.

Outdoor Bed Ideas

I did a lot of research on smart bedding solutions and discovered this Better Homes and Gardens Providence Outdoor Day Bed while browsing and just knew it would be so perfect for our space. This piece was coated in durable outdoor fabric since it was intended for outdoor use, making it perfect for a mom with two busy kids.

When I saw that it was available again this summer (YAY!), I just had to share it with you because it makes me so happy!

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

This outdoor daybed has become THE spot in the house for anyone who needs a little retreat. The generous size of this piece really is as deep and as long as a true bed would be, making it a fantastic place to take a nap.  I have been known to take many a blissful Sunday siesta on this bed. Curled up with a throw and and a good book, it’s the perfect retreat right on our very own property. When the kids and my husband can’t find me, they know that I am out here taking a little time for myself.

Although I loved the bed itself, I wanted to add a fresh accent color to this piece so I switched out the pillows with a few cute options I scored on Groopdealz as one of their deals-of-the-day and added a Too Legit To Quit pillow from Michelle Dwight Designs to add a splash of fun to the bed.

Even if you source your pillow covers somewhere else by supporting a fellow crafter, I have found inexpensive pillow forms from Walmart to create cushions with style for the back of this bed.  The pillow forms are two for $5.15 and feel like expensive cushions and line the back of our bed. I love that we can switch pillow covers on this piece to bring in a new accent color or simply to freshen things up.

outdoor-bed-ideas-2

We were lucky enough to have a very mild fall and winter so we were able to use this shed more than we usually do, as you can see by this cozy picture of my daughter nestled in blankets. I found a string of outdoor lights and hung them from the canopy to create a beautiful glow in the evenings.

Twinkle lights make any space magical, don’t you think?

I am so happy my kids have this spot to read in.

Bringing Outdoor Furniture Indoors

As a child, I only dreamed of places like this to curl up with books and I try to never take for granted such a special retreat!

I hope this inspires you to look at outdoor furniture a little differently. Whether you have a spot in your basement for a little nook for your kids, if you are looking for an alternative to couches for a patio space, or if you are making your shed into a dreamy bonus room, this bed is for you.

Live-Better-Network-Badge

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.

Amy’s Notebook 03.23.16

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Orange Soy Glazed Ribs via Shutterbean

Source: Shutterbean

 

Orange soy glazed ribs- these look fantastic!

Can’t wait to see this film!!

Great tips for making the most of your Netflix account.

Kate Middleton’s style formula- I really love her style.

Great advice on creating smarter to-do lists. I can’t wait to read this book!

This tap dance routine to Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ is amazing.

Small Entry Makeover via The Inspired Room

Source: The Inspired Room

 

Gorgeous small entry transformation!

As a big Mo Willems fan, I loved reading more about him and his techniques.

Simplify childhood and protect your child.

How different people spend $100 at the grocery store.

A good reminder during this political season.

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!

Sundays With Writers: The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I have been SO looking forward to this interview with Sharon Guskin this month so I could share more behind her debut novel, The Forgetting Time.  It has been a very long time since I have finished a book in a mere 24 hours, but I could not put this book down and it grabbed me from the first lines until I finished the final page. I think what grabbed me the most is that the premise was something I had not read about before or really had given much thought to. Don’t you love when a book really makes you think or when you begin to question a previous held viewpoint? This book did that for me and I think it might do the same for you!  I can guarantee you will find this book on my top ten list this year- it’s that good!

Honestly, it is difficult to do this interview without any spoilers so if you want to read this one and come back, please do! I really enjoyed piecing this together so I don’t want to take that from you if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet! 

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

What would you do if your four-year-old son claimed he had lived another life and that he wants to go back to it? That he wants his other mother?

Single mom Janie is trying to figure out what is going on with her beloved son Noah. Noah has never been ordinary. He loves to make up stories, and he is constantly surprising her with random trivia someone his age has no right knowing. She always chalked it up to the fact that Noah was precocious―mature beyond his years. But Noah’s eccentricities are starting to become worrisome. One afternoon, Noah’s preschool teacher calls Janie: Noah has been talking about shooting guns and being held under water until he can’t breathe. Suddenly, Janie can’t pretend anymore. The school orders him to get a psychiatric evaluation. And life as she knows it stops for herself and her darling boy.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has already stopped. Diagnosed with aphasia, his first thought as he approaches the end of his life is, I’m not finished yet. Once an academic star, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw everything away to pursue an obsession: the stories of children who remembered past lives. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he never stopped believing that there was something beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for a case that would finally prove it. And with Noah, he thinks he may have found it.

Soon, Noah, Janie, and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for eight years. When that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

This book reads a bit like a mystery as you try to solve the puzzle of a child’s unusual first years of life. The story intertwines with a doctor nearing the end of his career due to a deadly diagnosis and could be the only one who could make Noah and his mother’s life better. What Noah is suffering from is beyond what any parent could comprehend. Gripping, thought provoking, and and an excellent pick for any book club! 

Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Sharon Guskin today to hear more behind this incredible novel!

sharon-guskin

Your debut novel is absolutely incredible and the way that you write has an assuredness that can be unusual for a first book. I read in a past interview that you have described The Forgetting Time as “my third first novel,” following two earlier novels “that almost sold but didn’t.” You also have been a writer for twenty years which may explain how beautifully you captured this story.  How did you have the perseverance to continue after those books were rejected and what do you think finally clicked with this book that the first two novels seemed to be lacking?

It wasn’t always easy to keep going. There were plenty of days when I thought, “Maybe I should quit.” But I had a lot of support from friends and family.  And as time went on, the process became easier, because my intentions became clearer; I wasn’t writing a book to impress anyone with my sentences, or because I wanted to claim the identity of a “successful writer” or validate my life in some way. That’s the upside of all that disappointment: I became able to extricate my sense of my life’s value from any external success or failure.  So I became free to write what I wanted to write.  I started to work on a story based on a subject that I thought might be interesting to other people, and even eye-opening for them to think about. I think that’s why this book works, and the others didn’t:  my intentions were sound, so I was able to focus simply on telling the story.  My debut novel finally came out this February, a month after my fiftieth birthday, and it has been an entirely wonderful experience.

Dr. Ian Stevenson

Dr. Ian Stevenson

Dr. Jim Tucker

Dr. Jim Tucker

Your book was inspired by the work of the late Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jim Tucker at the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the research they did on children who remember previous lifetimes. How did you stumble upon their research and why did you think adding these real-life cases before the chapters adds so much to your story?

I’ve always wondered about what happens when we die (who doesn’t?), but the question became more urgent for me about eight years ago, when I was volunteering at a hospice. My children were still quite young then, and I’d go from diapers and playdates to spending time with people who faced imminent death. And the experience really woke me up, and I started thinking: this can’t be all there is…why aren’t we talking more about this? Around this time, a friend was cleaning out her garage and handed me this book, “Old Souls,” which was by a reporter from the Washington Post who followed Dr. Ian Stevenson as he went about investigating his cases — and these cases really blew me away. Children who made distinct statements (with names, locations, etc.) about being another person in a previous lifetime — statements which were later confirmed after locating the dead individual. Amazing cases, in which children seem to identify relatives from a different life.

And I started to think, why are my children the way they are, with their particular attractions and dislikes? It happens all the time: two siblings come out entirely different. But why? Could it be related to a past life? Then I read “Life Before Life” by Dr. Jim Tucker, and I knew I had to tell a story inspired by these cases. I was very happy we were able to include parts of that nonfiction book in the novel; I think it grounds the book in a way, so the reader can see that I may have made up my story, but I did not make up this phenomenon. It’s real, and I think people might want to know about the real cases…But you don’t have to believe in any of this to enjoy the book!

The fictional Dr. Anderson is diagnosed with aphasia which affects his ability to understand written and spoken language. I understand that you have a family member who has this and it helped you craft the struggles of Dr. Anderson?

Yes, it’s been hard to watch his language deteriorate, and I hope some of my compassion for him came through in the writing of the character. But my relative is also astoundingly positive and present, despite the fact that he can no longer be understood very much by anyone except his wife. So I tried to keep a bit of that aspect, as well.

Return to Life by Dr. Jim Tucker

Almost all of the cases (real and fictional) of children experiencing past lives have happened in other countries and not in the US. In fact, when Noah shares his experience with the officers they are able to believe he has ESP, but dismiss reincarnation. Why do you think Americans have such a hard time believing in children experiencing a past life?

It’s true that most of the cases have been in Asia or in cultures that believe in reincarnation (for instance, the Druze in Lebanon). I think in large part this is because Americans simply don’t take their children seriously when they make comments that seem to indicate a previous lifetime, and the culture itself wouldn’t really encourage children to make that kind of connection even if they have strong feelings and specific memories from a previous existence.

But I think things are changing; everywhere I go, people tell me stories about statements their children have made (“Remember when we lived in China and took care of the babies?” “Remember when I was old and lived in the black house?”) that suddenly seem to make sense to them. And Dr. Tucker’s last book, Return to Life,” is entirely based on extraordinary American cases.

After researching this book, did you find that your own viewpoint changed on reincarnation? What was the most surprising thing you discovered while preparing for this novel?

When I began the book, I was mostly curious and fascinated…but after steeping my mind in these cases for all those years, and becoming familiar with the meticulous, extremely thorough methods of Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Tucker — and getting to know Dr. Tucker, who is one of the most rational and conscientious people you’ll ever meet — I started to think, what do I believe? Do I believe this is true? Actually, I think…. I do.  And that has led me further, to my own spiritual path.  But I think my job as a novelist isn’t to tell anyone what I think happens after you die, but rather to ask the question: What if it’s true? What does that mean for you, and for how you live your life?

One surprising thing: I didn’t have any past-life memories of my own, or at least I didn’t think so. But as I went about writing the novel, images arose on the page that are identical to certain Buddhist images and meditations. Very specific things. I wasn’t familiar with Buddhism while I was writing most of the book — I starting learning more at the end of the process — but by the time I finished I became convinced that I probably had practiced in a previous lifetime. (I guess that’s not so surprising, given my attraction to the material!)

If we are interested in exploring the topic of children experiencing past lives more, what are some of your favorite books or films that we could dive into?

Soul Survivor by Bruce & Andrea Leininger

BOOKS:

Life Before Life” and “Return to Life,” by Dr. Jim Tucker, give a very clear and engaging presentation of this work and of his methodology. “Return to Life” consists of American cases.

Old Souls” by Tom Shroder (a former Washington Post reporter) provides a wonderful portrait of Dr. Stevenson and his work.

Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation” and “Children Who Remember Previous Lives,” are slightly more academic books by Dr. Ian Stevenson about this phenomenon.

Children’s Past Lives” by Carol Bowman gives a different, more therapeutically- oriented approach to this topic; she does past-life regression therapy as well.

Soul Survivor” By Bruce and Andrea Leininger tells the gripping story of their young son, who remembered a life as a World War II fighter pilot.

unmistaken-child

Unmistaken Child

FILMS:

Not surprisingly, perhaps, most of the serious films on reincarnation concern spiritual subjects.

My Reincarnation,” is a documentary about Yeshi, the western-born son of a Tibetan Buddhist master. Yeshi is apparently the reincarnation of a Buddhist master himself, but struggles with integrating his father’s tradition into his modern Western world.

Unmistaken Child” is a moving documentary about a Buddhist monk’s search for the reincarnation of his beloved teacher.

Little Buddha” is a narrative, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, about a little boy in Seattle who may be the rebirth of a great Buddhist teacher, Lama Dorje.

I Origins, Birth, and Cloud Atlas are interesting, entertaining (if not really serious) takes on this topic. And on the completely silly front, I always enjoy watching the Albert Brooks movie, “Defending Your Life.”

Since the publication of the novel, you have begun gathering stories of readers who have reached out to you with their own extraordinary stories of children living past lives. What has the response been to this and, if we have a story like this, how can we share it with you?

I’ve been shocked at how many stories are out there. I’d say about a quarter of the people I’ve talked to about the book have shared something with me, usually a statement a child made or a strange or remarkable event that happened to them and changed the way they look at reality. I just started collecting them recently and will post on my website and my Facebook page. If you have a story you’d like to share, please email me at sharon@sharonguskin.com or submit your story here.

And let me know if you’d like to remain anonymous!

Stolen_poster

Our readers might be unaware that you are also a very successful writer and producer of award-winning documentaries! Do you have a favorite project that you worked on? As a documentary junkie, do you also have a few recommendations of your own personal favorites that you think we should binge on?

I worked on a documentary called STOLEN about the art heist at the Isabella Gardner museum that I think is a wonderful, rich, compelling account of Vermeer, Isabella Gardner, and the biggest art theft in America. And the film ON MEDITATION consists of lovely portraits of people who meditate, from my old writing teacher and Zen Buddhist Peter Matthiessen to Giancarlo Esposito and Congressman Tim Ryan.  I’m proud of both films.

Personal favorites? Any film by Albert Maysles (a humane, wonderful filmmaker). ARMOUR OF LIGHT, about an evangelical minister and the mother of a teenage shooting victim who join forces to oppose gun violence in the United States. THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT, an utterly charming and fascinating film about birders in Central Park. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOPTWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

One book that really inspired me recently was Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, a novel about Cambodia. It is both dark and radiant at the same time. She finds meaning and beauty within the horror, which makes the book truly transformative.

You can connect with Sharon Guskin on her website or through Facebook!  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!

 

It’s the 3 Little Things: Podcast Loving, Dangerous Baths, and a Snarl-Free Existence

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Happy birthday!!

Happy Friday! We had a wonderful weekend last weekend was celebrating the love of my life’s birthday. He deserved every bit of it and more. I’m a lucky lady!

This week has been full of new experiences for me.  I tried my first Pilates class and I loved it although all of the machinery in the room was a little intimidating the first time, plus remembering which leg was supposed to be doing what while working said machinery. I kind of looked like a nervous mess in there. Although I was no star pupil, I made it through and am proud that I’m finding some fun new classes to try this year that are a little gentler on my body.

I also gave acupuncture a spin for my elbow pain. Again, kind of a scary thing if you haven’t done it before, but between that, the exercises she showed me, helping me with better posture, and telling me which tools will help me moving forward, I felt really good after I left there.

Note to self, do not drink coffee right before so you can attempt to take a nap while side is filled with needles…

Or maybe not.

I am hoping a few of these sessions will help me to feel like my old self again. I miss her.

Here are a few other things that are making me happy this week!

World's Best Bath Tray

The World’s Best Bath Tray

I can’t remember if I have given my bath tray a shout out on the happy list, but even if I did, it deserves a second round of applause. It has a place to slide your wine stem (unless you buy giant wine glasses like me that *may* hold half a bottle) and it has a spot for your book to rest on it. I have been soaking a lot in this bubble bath for a treat at the end of the day and this bath tray makes holding a book quite easy.

This tray is worth every dollar and then some for a book lover like me!

bath-tray

I do think I scared a few people on Instagram hovering  a library book over a body of water.

I like to live a little dangerously.

treatyoself_main01

Since my hubby & I are on a Parks & Rec kick, we recently watched the Treat Yo Self episode and now anything we want to do that’s fun we use this line for whatever we might feel entitled to.

Like going to bed at 8PM (TREAT YO SELF!)

Putting your pajamas on at 1PM (TREAT YO SELF!)

Watching junk television on Netflix for an hour (TREAT YO SELF).

That night it was a bottle of ALDI Chianti ($4.99), a fresh new library book, and some bubbles…

I treat myself well, yo! You treat yourself well too!

modern-love-podcast

Modern Love Podcast

I binged on eight episodes of the Modern Love podcast while I was tidying the house this week and I can’t rave enough about how beautiful this is and how many emotions it stirred in me. Articles that were submitted to The New York Times over the years are selected by a celebrity to read on the podcast. Although I went into it thinking it would be about dating or finding a mate, it is so much more than that. It’s an exploration of familial love, love for a pet, love for a condition that brings a family together, bad first dates, and love for unlikely people. All kinds of love.

After the reading, they talk to the editor to see why the article was selected for The New York Times and they do a follow-up with the people to see what has happened since they wrote the article and what the response was to their piece.

If you want all the feels, this one was my favorite. I hope it moves you as much as it did me!

 

The Wet Brush

The Wet Brush

Between my daily green smoothie and my new vitamin regimen this year, my hair has been growing crazy fast. I haven’t had long hair since I got married so I forgot about all those tangles and snarls that happen with it. I have been battling this for awhile so I decided to get The Wet Brush and it works AMAZINGLY well on my tangled hair. If you are struggling with tangled hair with your little ones, this is the brush to buy. My daughter & I both finally have snarl-free and tangle-free hair. I didn’t think a brush could make a difference, but it really does.  The reviews prove it too- I’m not the only one in love with it.

This week I’m…

Reading: Be Frank With Me (it was PERFECTION!)

Eating: Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken & Veggies (double batched to share with my sister for our library date)

Watching: I want to tackle this documentary this weekend- it looks like it will be very eye-opening on food waste in our country. Have you seen it?

Have a wonderful weekend! xo

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

 

 

 

Amy’s Notebook 03.16.15

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Spring Cleaning Tips via A Thoughtful Place

Source: A Thoughtful Place

 

5 ways to jump start spring cleaning.

Loved reading about this ballerina’s beauty routines.

For pen addicts.

Fun Allegiant party ideas perfect for Divergent movie fans!

I love this burlap bow.

I love peeking at this bracket. Waaayy more interesting than basketball.

This brought tears to my eyes, especially after reading Paul’s book.

101 places your clutter can do good.

This app will come in handy as we pick out plants for spring.

Crochet Hair Clips via Yarn Twist

Source: Yarn Twist

 

Adorn a hair clip with crochet. So cute!

A small kitchen with big personality for comedian Seth Meyers.

I need to work on being kinder to myself. This was a good reminder.

7 tips to help people with ADD/ADHD read more and read better.

Very good reminder on fitness. Stick to the basics!

An introvert’s guide to having people over.

Sometimes the latest gadgets aren’t a good thing.

Have you cut the cord yet? This is a great breakdown on pricing if you are considering it!

Working on my plurals or is it plural? Hmmm!

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!

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer from MomAdvice.com.

There are a few great gifts I give myself in the morning. The first, is to rise an hour earlier than necessary to get in an uninterrupted hour of reading (BLISS!). The second is to always program my coffeemaker the night before so I wake up to a fresh brew (HEAVEN!). The third? Packing my freezer with smoothie packets that make creating a morning smoothie filled with greens and fruits incredibly easy and practically effortless (WINNING AT LIFE).

I posted about my make-ahead smoothie packets on Instagram and got a lot of questions about it. Something I have come to think of as a weekly routine really sparked a lot of questions about my recipe, what the smoothie looked like, and what to do for fruit substitutions.  I thought it deserved its own little post because it has become a very vital part of my morning routines and sets a good foundation for healthy eating the rest of the day.

Not only does this strategy save you time in the morning, but it also puts ripe fruit to work and is a great way to utilize spinach before it goes bad making the most of every grocery dollar. I never waste a banana in our house or any greens anymore because they always have a home. If I have run out of frozen berries, I just add the rest of these ingredients into a packet and get them ready for my next grocery day when I can get the frozen fruit to add to it. As someone trying to reduce their food waste, this has been an awesome use for those often tossed items.

Also, if you buy smoothies regularly, you know they are not cheap. A typical smoothie around these parts (said in my best Midwest accent) is around $4-6. Even if bought weekly, that can add up fast!

Here were a few of your questions for me! 

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer from MomAdvice.com.

Do you store these packets in the freezer and for how long?

Yup, I recommend freezing in quart-sized freezer storage bags and making sure to push out any air in the bags to keep these ingredients as fresh as possible. I would recommend using these in one month for optimum flavor.

How many smoothies do these packets make?

I drink an enormous smoothie in the morning (24 ounces)  and my daughter has the size I am showing you in the cup below and this packet with my recipe I have listed makes enough for that. For “normal” people, maybe it might make three, but this is my breakfast, people, and I’m a big eater.  I got one of these for me to help make toting these in the car a little easier since I drink these on the way to the gym in the morning. I also have this giant water bottle from the same company and it has improved how much water I intake as well as my healthy smoothie habit for breakfast. I have been happy how they have held up (over a year now!) compared to some other insulated cups I have tried.

Do you blend these with milk or use a milk substitution?

My stomach can’t process a lot of dairy so I use unsweetened almond milk in mine. I do use Greek yogurt though (either vanilla or unsweetened) and that doesn’t seem to bother me. You can definitely use milk, soy milk, or coconut milk if you would prefer. I’m a big fan of the flavor of the almond milk!

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer from MomAdvice.com.

Can I make these without spinach? I don’t think my kids will drink these if they are green!

I just want to show you how very slightly these are tinged with green when you only add a cup or so of spinach to them. Additionally, if I am really concerned an extra handful of frozen blueberries cancels out all other colors so sometimes if I am really generous with the blueberries, these look more blue.

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer from MomAdvice.com.

Are you using frozen spinach? Frozen berries? What does the spinach look like when it is frozen?

Here is a packet that has been frozen for three weeks and this is what it looks like. The spinach is fresh spinach (I don’t want to hassle with the frozen stuff- personal preference), the berries are frozen, and the bananas are fresh. I like to cut the bananas in half to help them break down a little easier in the blender. As you can see, the spinach looks almost the same as it did when I threw it in there.

The bananas may brown over time, but they will still taste the same. As rapidly as we go through these though, I have rarely even seen that happen.

By freezing these fruits and veggies, you eliminate the need for ice in your smoothie which creates a much creamier consistency and a smoothie that holds together longer. Sometimes I will make these in the morning and pop one in the fridge for my daughter for her afternoon snack. It always looks just like I had just made it. When I add water or ice, it tends to separate and grosses her out.

Should I flash freeze any of the ingredients?

If you aren’t familiar with flash freezing, I do this a lot with foods for our freezer. Typically, I fan whatever I am freezing out on an open parchment paper lined cookie sheet, freeze just until frozen, and then toss in a bag.

I experimented with this and here is what I will say about that. You can cut the bananas in half and flash freeze and they will stay separated, making it easier to pour into your blender and it is really great. It’s an extra step though. My lazy freezer routine is to cut them in half right in the bag, freeze (where they tend to fuse back together) and then smack the bag as hard as I can on the counter until they loosen from each other while I listen to the political crap insight on NPR. It’s kind of like a therapy session. You can do it whichever way fits your lifestyle best.

What kind of protein powder do you use? What can I use if I am vegan or dairy-free?

When I was dairy-free, I experimented with a lot of terrible protein powders so I can honestly tell you this is the only brand that I really liked that was plant-based. Now that I’m not dairy-free, I just purchase the store brand protein powder at our local grocery store in a vanilla flavor. Like I said, we had to try a few before we found the ones we liked best and I always try to keep my eyes peeled for a sale to maximize the savings. The goal is to keep this as a frugal routine for us.

What kind of blender do you have?

I have had the same blender for probably eight years or so and, unfortunately, they don’t make mine anymore. When mine bites the bullet, I will probably invest in this one because I have heard they last forever. In order to blend up these fruits, you really need to have a high powered blender though. If you have a $20 blender, it will burn out your motor. I say this because I did it. Twice. Invest in a good blender and it will more than pay for itself, I promise you!

I can’t eat bananas. Do you have any recommendations for substitutions for my smoothie?

I really liked this advice!

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer from MomAdvice.com.

Do your kids really like these? My kids are really picky!

They really do and so do I.  My daughter was a terrible breakfast eater, like her mother, and I worried a lot that she wasn’t eating enough to be fueled for her day at school. This is what she “eats” and she stays full until lunchtime. If she is running late, it is something that can be finished while she waits for her bus. Fun straws are always a great addition to this morning treat especially when first pitching this idea to your kids. She says it tastes like a milkshake.

For me, it’s been an incredible way to get fueled before I workout. Working out on an empty stomach isn’t a good idea for someone with low blood sugar. Eating something too heavy made me feel like I was going to be sick. These smoothies are a great option to be fueled without a lot of heaviness in my stomach. Sometimes I drink half and pop it in the fridge until I get done exercising and finish the other half when I’m done.

I hope these tips are helpful and I hope you love these as much as our family does!

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer from MomAdvice.com.

Make-Ahead Smoothie Packets For Your Freezer
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 large servings
 
Freeze a packet of fruit and veggies to save time in the mornings making your smoothies. Feel free to experiment with your own flavor combinations with fruits (especially anything that might be ripe!)
Ingredients
  • 1 banana (cut in half- see freezing tips above)
  • 5 frozen strawberries
  • 1 handful of frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • ½ cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1½ cup unsweetened almond milk (or your favorite milk)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (see recommendation above)
Instructions
  1. In a quart-sized bag prepare 1 banana, strawberries, blueberries, and spinach in a freezer bag. Repeat this process for a week's worth of smoothies. Freeze for up to 30 days.
  2. When making your morning smoothie, remove packet from the freezer and place in blender. Add almond milk, yogurt, and protein powder.
  3. Blend well. Serve.

 Do you have a favorite smoothie routine or recipe? Feel free to leave it in our comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love though- pinky promise!

Pin It

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (FREE Printables and Red Velvet Popcorn)

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). I know we have so many Divergent fans out there and I am so excited to be partnering with Lionsgate today to share about the third film, The Divergent Series: Allegiant. I am new to the Divergent fan club and dove into the books this week and I am absolutely loving the storyline and can’t wait to see the first two films next week before Allegiant hits theaters on March 18! 

Allegiant Movie (The Divergent Series)

After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four and go beyond the wall enclosing Chicago. For the first time ever, they will leave the only city and family they have ever known. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Tris and Four must quickly decide who they can trust as a ruthless battle ignites beyond the walls of Chicago which threatens all of humanity. In order to survive, Tris will be forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

I wanted to utilize the landscape of  The Fringe (the unknown land they explore beyond the wall in this new film) and it’s beautiful red hues to create a Red Velvet Popcorn treat you can share in honor of the film. We also have adorable free printable Allegiant popcorn containers for your treat.

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

Popcorn is one of my favorite weakness and popcorn coated in white chocolate and red velvet cake… be still my beating heart. I was so excited to invent this fun treat and, of course, a Google search yielded that not only am I not the inventor, but one of my favorite blogging friends, Michael from Inspired by Charm, also had created this treat in his kitchen.

Of course, I am gluten-free so you can hunt for a gluten-free red velvet cake mix at your store or you can find many great options online. If you are short on time, not only can you save yourself from making a cake from scratch, but you can also utilize something like Skinny Pop as your popcorn base.  And, let’s say, if you are a mom who is required to make a bake sale treat for your daughter’s class, you can kill two birds with one stone and utilize the extra cupcakes that aren’t used in the popcorn for her treat. WINNING!

Don’t you love the vibrant red that captures the landscape of The Fringe so well? Gorgeous!

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series). Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

To assemble your Allegiant popcorn boxes, simply print and cut them out with scissors. Begin by folding the sides of the box and then fold up the bottom and side flaps. Once all the folds have been made, stand it up to assemble and secure with a little clear tape inside! Done!

Grab the FREE Printable Popcorn Box  HERE!!

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

If you are looking for me this week, you will find me curled up with the books, binging on these fantastic films, and filling my tummy with this delicious popcorn treat. Be sure to check out the movie trailer below and hit your local theater on March 18th to catch Allegiant on the big screen! Learn more about The Divergent Series on their official website. I can’t wait to hear what you think about this one!

Red Velvet Popcorn Recipe With Free Allegiant Movie Popcorn Box Printables (from The Divergent Series).

Red Velvet Popcorn
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
Red Velvet Popcorn is a fun treat to share that can even be made gluten-free, inspired by the movie Allegiant!
Ingredients
  • 8 cups popped popcorn (I purchased some Skinny Pop for this or you can pop microwavable popcorn for your base)
  • 3 red velvet cupcakes (prepare a boxed cake mix and reserve three cupcakes for crumbs to add to your popcorn)
  • 22 oz. (2 bags) white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
Instructions
  1. Prepare your red velvet cupcakes as directed on the cake mix box. Reserve three cupcakes and crumble these in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour eight cups of popcorn in a large bowl.
  3. Melt the white chocolate chips with a tablespoon of vegetable shortening in a double boiler on your stove. Be sure to stir it often to avoid burning your chocolate.
  4. Pour the white chocolate over your bowl of popcorn and stir to coat each piece completely. Pour the popcorn mixture on a large sheet of parchment paper.
  5. Sprinkle the reserved red velvet cake crumbs on the popcorn. Using a spatula, gently flip the popcorn to coat the other side of it with the crumbs as well.
  6. Leave on the parchment paper until it has completely hardened. Break apart and serve in our popcorn boxes.

Recipe Adapted from Inspired By Charm!

This post is in partnership with Lionsgate. Thank you for supporting the companies that help support our site! 

Pin It

Sundays With Writers: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I am so honored to be interviewing Gilly Macmillan today to talk about her debut novel, What She Knew. I am always game for a good thriller, but can we be honest and say that many rarely deliver? It is tough to surprise seasoned readers, isn’t it? Well,  I am so happy to say that this one really delivers in the thriller category and kept me guessing until the final page. I am not the only one that fell in love with this book. What She Knew is an IndieBound Pick, a Target Book Club Pick, A LibraryReads List Pick, and a Featured Book for Book-Of-The-Month Club for December 2015.

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

Macmillan delivers a solid thriller that left me guessing right up until the final pages. Narration is done well through the eyes of the detective, the mother, and social media outlets who tell the story of an eight year-old boy who goes missing on a walk with his mother in the woods.

The author weaves enough loose ends to create a well curated variety of suspects that lead you down the wrong trails in the woods yourself and creates great tension as the stability of the child’s own mother comes into question.

I included this book in our February Must-Reads list!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Gilly for the scoop behind her spellbinding thriller, What She Knew.

Gilly Macmillan

As a mom, your book really illustrates some of my worst fears, losing and not knowing where your child is has to be one of the scariest feelings in the world. As a mom of three, which scene was one of the hardest for you to write and do you think you would have responded in the same ways that the fictional mother, Rachel, did?

So many scenes in What She Knew were difficult to write from an emotional point of view, but the press conference was definitely one of the hardest.  It’s the moment when Rachel’s private nightmare goes public, and I found it heart-wrenching to put her in that situation.  She has to gather herself, at one of the most raw and difficult moments that she’ll ever have to live through in her life, and face the media, and the wider world and also remain composed enough to address somebody who may have taken her child.  I lived every moment of that scene with her as I wrote it, and it was painful.

It’s interesting that you should ask whether I would have responded in the same way as Rachel, because that’s something my husband and I discussed!  I think I would certainly share many of her feelings, and I channeled much of myself into her emotional reaction to her son’s disappearance.  However, I do have a very practical side and I might have been more careful than Rachel to try to keep my feelings under control when I needed to, and I might also have felt driven to try to do something practical, as Rachel’s sister does in the novel.   Having said that, however, I suspect that when we’ve only ever been on the outside of an extreme situation like the one Rachel finds herself in, we can never really know for sure what it feels like to be on the inside, and how we would behave.  We can only hope we would do the right things.

You attacked research for your book in such a unique way, starting by not researching the topic at all when writing the first draft of this book and then building that out in later drafts. Was this intentional and do you think this created a better layering to have a more uninformed stance with your first draft?

The decision to do no research for the first draft of What She Knew was intentional, and came about because I was time-short.  My three kids were all settled into school, so I had a bit of time on my hands for the first time in years as I’d been caring for them more or less full-time, but money was getting tight, so I knew I only had a small window to have a go at writing a book before I needed to get a ‘proper’ job.  This meant that I couldn’t afford to spend lots of that time researching, so I decided to write about something that I knew (motherhood), locate it in the city I live in (Bristol, UK), and write 1,000 words a day until I had a completed book (every day I recorded how many words I’d written on a sheet of paper that became increasingly dog-eared over the months as the total increased).

What resulted from that effort was a draft of the book that told the story entirely from Rachel’s point of view.  It was a messy draft, and I had inevitably made lots of the mistakes you might expect from a rookie writer, but I sent off the first three chapters and they were just enough to get me an agent.

Being signed up by an agent who had confidence in my work – even though she also had a lot of issues with it! – was the thing that finally made me take myself a bit more seriously as a writer.  With my agent’s help, and realizing that this might be my one shot at being a writer, I really got down to work on the manuscript.  I began to research the subject in earnest, and work on layering up the novel, and I decided to create the detective’s character, as I felt that Rachel’s voice needed a counterpoint, somebody who would take a more professional view of the case and let the reader see into the investigation.

In retrospect, although some might say that it was a very disorganised way to write a book, I do believe that the way I worked helped me to get Rachel’s voice down in a really direct way right from the outset.  I hope that means that, in spite of all the changes and edits that have taken place since the first draft, Rachel’s narrative hasn’t lost its power as the honest, unfiltered words of a mother whose child has disappeared and whose story forms the spine of the novel.

When Rachel has to make a statement before the press about her child going missing, she goes off script and attracts the media in a negative way, ultimately branding her as a bad mom. There was something about this press scene that mimicked that moment in Gone Girl where Nick’s body language and motives are pulled into question after his hearing. Media and the way they villainize this mom not only come into play here, but also are a big part of this book with a blog and social media commentary throughout. Why do you think we are so intent on victimizing people and why did you think building a social media outlet was such an important addition to this book?

Part of my process of developing the book after the first draft was to comb over all of the fine details that I wanted to be as accurate as possible. I spoke to police officers and researched child abduction and I also paid careful attention to real life cases.  There were two of these, both high profile, that took place in the UK while I was writing the novel.  In the first instance I experienced these cases as I always had done, ie via traditional media reporting, but as I dug a little deeper I discovered that the cases were also being discussed by individuals all over social media and in the comments sections attached to online newspaper reports.  I’d never really paid attention to that stuff before but it struck me straight away that if I included this kind of thing in the book, it could be a very interesting to let the reader experience the case of Ben’s abduction in the way that they might in real life, alongside the versions of events that they learn from my two narrators.

What made my decision easy in the end, was that the comments and social media pages that I read were alive with opinion, fizzing with it, and I was surprised at the strength of people’s feelings and how polarized opinion was, and how much they judged the people involved even though they only had access to a tiny amount of verified information. It was too powerful to ignore.   I knew that if I was Rachel I would have found it tremendously difficult to know that it was going on out there, in addition to the very private pain I was feeling and so social media had to almost become a character in its own right.

I’ve thought a lot about why people victimize others in this way.  I think it’s often a combination of factors, but there are a few which stand out to me.  First and foremost, the internet offers little or no accountability for what we say online, so people behave more badly than they might otherwise.  Chat forums where people state their opinions very bluntly, combined with sensationalist headlines, can heighten emotions and feelings in a large group of people very quickly.   Combine that with the speed at which things can travel on the internet and the fear and misunderstanding that can spring from emotional, unreasoned debate and an aggressive pack mentality can develop swiftly.  I also think that our ability to comment freely online, and engage with others easily and anonymously if we wish, makes us more susceptible to feeling emotionally involved in events that are really nothing to do with us, and that in other circumstances we might keep a respectful distance from.  These factors all combine to make Rachel a victim of the internet, as well as of a crime, in What She Knew.

I understand that you actually crafted three endings for this book. What was it about the ending that you struggled with and why do you think the one you chose for this novel was the most satisfying conclusion for your story?

The ending posed a challenge in many ways. As a mom, in my very first draft, I veered away from a realistic ending, because I wanted to make everything nice for everybody, because that’s what we do, right?  We tuck everybody up at the end of the day and tell them to have sweet dreams.  However, I was advised that the too-nice ending didn’t sit well with the rest of the story, and readers might feel dissatisfied, so I took advice from my agent and experimented with other options.  The final choice of ending came down to the fact that What She Knew is at its heart a story about a terrible crime, but also about a mother, and a child, and a detective who cares, and my desire to get as much veracity into the novel as possible.  For me, the ending we finally settled on seemed to do justice to both the story, and the characters, and also felt truthful, which was so important to me.  I’m a big reader myself and I like to feel that an author hasn’t cheated me in the end, but has stayed true to the story.  It’s been really interesting since publication to hear reader’s views on the ending.

I know that a lot of research went into this book from police investigations to missing children cases. What was the most surprising fact you discovered while preparing this book and has any of the research shaped any new viewpoints for you on this topic?

When I first sat down for a cup of coffee with some real (retired) detectives I described the set-up at the beginning of the book when Ben goes missing, as I had written it in an early draft. Ben goes missing late on a Sunday afternoon in the woods, as darkness is about to fall, and I told the detectives that in response to his disappearance I had fictionally mobilized air support, search teams with dogs, and on horses, and had a vast amount of manpower combing the area within an hour or two of the call being made to police.  They were aghast!  I still remember their faces across the table now.  No, they told me, at dusk on a Sunday evening in the woods, the police would certainly attend, but you would probably only get a couple of uniformed officers and if you were lucky you might get one extra officer with a dog, but that would be it!  This was mostly because of the darkness, but also because of budgets and available manpower at that time.

Their advice was a reality check for me and I had to rewrite all of the scenes at the start of the book.  I realized I had assumed too much, and I actually knew almost nothing about police procedure or about many of the challenges of detective work.   Needless to say, we didn’t just have one cup of coffee.  A few hours, and a few rounds of sandwiches and many more pots of coffee, and some follow-up emails later, I had learned so much from them about the police and how they operate and I found all of it fascinating.  They gave me a great deal of practical advice but what I also took from them is how much they cared about their jobs and how every case is complicated and challenging and sometimes very frustrating for even the most dedicated detective, and I wanted to be sure to do the demands of the profession justice, and to bring some of that realism into the story.  It added a whole new dimension to the book, and in particular to my detective’s story.

What She Knew

Follow Gilly on Twitter!

Many moms feel like they have a book in them, but few of us feel we have the time to work on our own dreams while juggling a busy life with our family. What prompted you to move forward on this dream and could you share a time management strategy that helped you finally to get moving on your first book?

As I said above, it was a sense that I had a one-off window of opportunity to try to do this that really spurred me on, because I knew that I wouldn’t dare to quit a paying job to write a book, so it was now or never. My time management took a lot of work, but the thing that really got me writing was to make a rule that I couldn’t do anything else – no tidying, laundry, dog-walking, surface-wiping, etc. – until I’d written 1,000 words each day.  I’m not good at working in the evening when I’m tired (I wish I was!) so that meant I would sit down and start to write the minute I got back from dropping the kids off at school in the morning, when my head was clear, and I had a big incentive to get on with my word count so that I could leave my desk with enough time to get everything else done.  My social life suffered a bit, as did household organization, and I had to pull away from being involved in school associations and that sort of thing, but it was worth it. 

My advice to anybody else would be to try to carve out an amount of time, however small, where you can write each day and guard it fiercely.  That way, even if you can only find time to write a few hundred words each day, you are progressing, and you will be able to make it to the end.  Keep track of that word count too, because it’s encouraging to see it rising.  Also – don’t beat yourself up if your first draft isn’t a polished work, or even close to one.  Once, it’s done, it gives you something to improve and work on.  Often, the whole process felt like an exercise in holding my nerve as much as anything else so that would be my advice too: hold your nerve, and don’t assume that it can’t be you.

I understand that you are writing another book that will include another case with DI Jim Clemo. Will you be referencing the case from this book at all? Can we expect Jim to be a bit damaged from how he felt he handled this case?

Yes, I am! I’m currently working on my third novel and this will be a sequel to What She Knew and I’m delighted to say that Jim will be back.  It’s really wonderful to revisit Jim’s character, as I’ll admit that I’m very fond of him, and starting to write him again was like visiting an old friend.  It’s still early days for that novel, but I will certainly be referencing the Ben Finch case from What She Knew and exploring the impact that it’s had on Jim as he tries to move forward with his life, and his career. 

Before that book hits the shelves, though, my second novel will be out in Fall 2016.  It’s a standalone book called The Perfect Girl and is about a girl called Zoe, who is a 17-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ and a secret in her past that she and her mother will go to extraordinary lengths to protect.  The book is about one night, where Zoe is giving a performance that her mother, Maria, has been planning for months, but by midnight, Maria is dead.  Like What She Knew, it’s a book with family and parenting themes, and asks questions about how far we push our children and ourselves in pursuit of that perfect family ideal, and how often life offers us second chances if we get things wrong.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The true crime genre is something that many of our readers are into right now as we read lots of books, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries on true crime. Do you read this genre or utilize any true crime cases to write your books? Any recommendations for true crime fans?

The first true crime book that I ever read was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I loved it, and was absolutely gripped by it.  I’m not sure I’ve read much true crime since then, though I read a lot of crime fiction as you might expect, and I’m always up for a good recommendation!  Recently, I’ve found myself addicted to the Serial podcasts and also the Making of a Murderer documentary and I recommend those very highly if you’re into true crime, though I expect many of your readers will know them already.  The intricacies of the cases, and the way you get to know something about the personalities involved is what hooks me, and I’m struck by just how often truth can be stranger than fiction.

I am always curious when a book first is published in another country and then is published here if any changes have to be made. Did anything have to be changed in the US publication that maybe Americans might not get?

We changed very little, as the US publishers wanted to keep an English feel to the novel. There were the usual obvious swaps of words like ‘pavement’ for ‘sidewalk’ and that sort of thing, but that was extent of it within the novel.  The biggest change was the title.  In the UK the book is called Burnt Paper Sky, which is a reference to a description in the book of the moment when Ben goes missing and his mother realizes that the sky above is darkening at the edges like burning paper.  The US publisher felt that they would prefer something less opaque so they came up with What She Knew and I was very happy to approve that as I thought it was a terrific title.

Max Macmillan

I read in your bio that not only are you juggling the usual mom schedule while writing a book, but your son is also a cast remember on the BBC TV show, Call the Midwife. How did your family stumble into this opportunity and what has that been like for you as a mom?

‘Stumbled into’ is the right description for our involvement in Call the Midwife, though it has been and remains an amazing experience for my son. A few years ago we were facing a long summer at home and I was looking out for things for my kids to do when a friend emailed with an opportunity for boys to audition for a part in the choir in a local theatre production of the play Coram Boy.  It looked like fun, and my son is musical, so we went along one day, and he took his violin as they said they also wanted to see young violinists. The outcome was that after two auditions, and in spite of almost no drama experience, he was offered one of the main roles!  It was a wonderful surprise and a wonderful experience: months of rehearsal that culminated in a huge Christmas production with performances over a few days in front of thousands.  It was at one of those performances where the director of the first series of Call the Midwife spotted Max, and asked us if he’d like to audition for the role of the doctor’s son, Timothy Turner, in Call the Midwife, as he had a good resemblance to the actor who played the doctor.  Originally, it was just supposed to be a single day of work filming just one scene in the Season Two Christmas Special, so we agreed, as we thought it would be a fantastic experience.  Since then however, Max’s role has grown as the show has, and shooting for the sixth series begins soon, which will be Max’s fifth year of involvement.  He’s in fewer episodes now that he’s older, as we have to limit his availability for shooting to make sure it doesn’t have a negative impact on schoolwork or musical interests, but he still loves every minute of it.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

This is such a hard question!  There are so many books I could list, but I’m going to go with Paula by Isabel Allende.  The book tells the true-life story of the author’s daughter’s sudden and unexpected illness, which befalls her when she’s a young adult.  That story is interspersed with the history of their family and the story of Isabel Allende’s own extraordinary life.  It’s a powerful, heart-wrenching account of a mother’s love for her daughter, and one woman’s path through all of the big moments in life: love, motherhood, work, grief, joy and family.  It’s raw and honest, powerful and heart-wrenching, and beautifully told.

You can connect with Gilly Macmillan on her website or through Facebook!  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!