Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

It’s the 3 Little Things: Magicbox, Chipotle Really Fast, & Blanket Scarf Heaven

Friday, November 21st, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I hope you are having a good week!  I am so excited for tomorrow because I get to dig into my new fashion capsule. I have so many cozy sweaters for this one and, boy, does a girl need a cozy sweater in the Midwest.  I am just finishing up this lovely book (I can’t put it down!!! Have you read it?), listening to this book on audio, and this book with my husband over vino in the evenings. This is the first time I have tried working on three books simultaneously. It’s not confusing at all. Nope.

Here is my happiest of lists this week!

Magicbox Magicbox Speaker

Can you believe I had never purchased a speaker for my iPad/iPhone listening? I can be quite the cheapskate. Since I am getting addicted to audio books while I tidy the house/tackle my laundry piles and my latest obsession with Serial (did you hear episode 9?! Any thoughts on who did it?)  I decided it was time to get a speaker. I bought the Magicbox Speaker after reading all of the reviews and I love this little guy so much. It is Bluetooth-enabled so it can connect with your device and charges with a little USB cable that it comes with. The sound is really good- not Sonos quality, but really perfect for my laundry needs. I am one happy girl now that I don’t have to hold my phone to my ear to keep up with all my stories.

Blanket Scarf

Blanket Scarf Heaven

Since the temperatures have been so brutally cold here, I am really loving my blanket scarfs I made for myself this week. It feels weird to not be knitting scarves this year, but also a little liberating. I started a new poncho and I think that is going to be occupying my knitting time for awhile. I have been wearing these around the house as wraps when I get chilly and am so addicted to making these, I just might have to make a few more. No-sew crafting definitely makes this girl happy.

Chipotle Fast Food

Chipotle FAST & a Runner

I have been really busy here behind-the-scenes working on our bedroom reveal. My project ran into a snafu this week that I don’t want to talk about (this is a happy list, after all!) so it has been a busy week with me and a couple of paint brushes. Since I am gluten-free it is hard to find really good food that I can eat that doesn’t cost a fortune when I can’t make dinner. I have become a big fan of Chipotle for our family for those busy nights and discovering their online ordering process has made my week. We have our whole family set up with each of their orders in our account and it saves it for us. This makes it easy on my husband when I say, “Can you help me tonight and pick up dinner?” DONE.  The best part? SKIPPING THE LINE. Just go right to the front and grab it. If that doesn’t change your life, I don’t know what will.  I also am a proud owner of one tween boy who is a fantastic runner for me and runs in to pick up my order when it is ready. I love this kid to pieces especially when he brings me an orange soda.

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule (last week in my Fall capsule- aren’t you proud of me?).  Did you read what I am learning from this project? You must!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board and minimize that wardrobe!

all black + blanket scarf

Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Plaid Blanket Scarf (make one here!)/Brown Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)/Frames (Coastal)

stripes + chambray + black jeans + black boots

H&M Black & White Striped Top (owned- Goodwill)/Chambray Shirt (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Old Navy Rock Star Skinny Jeans in Black (owned- Old Navy)/Black Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)/Chevron Necklace (Charming Charlie)

LBD styling

Girl’s Night Out: Little Black Dress (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Rosette Belt  (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Black Tights/ Heeled Black Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)/ Red Clutch (Francesca’s)/Gold & Black Bracelet (Forever 21)

LBD Styling 2 Ways

See this? SAME DRESS! I just wanted to show you how far I have come with my first capsule wardrobe. I felt like the woman on this one!

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

9 Ways to Spice Up a Goodwill Lamp

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken

Easy 4-Row Snowflake Scarf

Bonus Happy! Anybody else half as excited as me?!?

*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?

Amy’s Notebook 11.19.14

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Thankful Printable Placemat via Ella Claire

Source: Ella Claire

 

A thankful printable placemat- how perfect.

20 stores that refuse to open on Thanksgiving- do you shop them?

Recipes for a gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free holiday feast.

Have you tried making bread in the slow cooker?

A typeface designed to help dyslexics read- so awesome!

Have you visited any of these 10 intriguing small towns everyone should visit?

I love a good stripe project.

How can you not help when you read these?

Africa without Ebola via Washington Post

Source: Washington Post

 

The Africa without Ebola is eye-opening.

Do you know the 5 life stages of a roast chicken?

11 jobs where an honest day’s work earns you…poverty.

Finding a uniform- could you do it?

5 fun & creative ways to wrap small gifts.

15 quick and easy productivity super-hacks for busy bloggers.

The top 12 weekend habits of highly successful people.

amys_notebook

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 then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Podcast Binge, A Classic, & Friendsgiving

Friday, November 14th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

I’m sorry I am coming out with this a little late today. I was at my real-life book club discussing this amazing book this morning. I hope your weekend is off to a lovely start over there too!

Here is what is making me happy this week!

A Charlie Brown Christmas Record

A Charlie Brown Christmas Album

Yes, I am one THOSE people that listens to Christmas music waayyy too early and I don’t care what you think about it. We purchased  A Charlie Brown Christmas Album at Urban Outfitters in the collector’s edition red for our Christmas vinyl collection. I was preparing a holiday feast this week (more about that in a few) and listened to this while I got ready. I openly admit that I was pretty teary-eyed while listening to it over my coffee. There is something magical about hearing this album and hearing it on vinyl is like the twinkle lights on the whole affair.  I may have listened to it six times over the course of the day and I loved every moment of it.

Serial Podcast

Serial Podcast

Have you heard of Serial? My girlfriend shared it with me and I started listening in and I quickly became a Serial addict. This podcast, from the producers of This American Life (another addiction of mine) is about the murder of Hae Min Lee, who disappeared in 1999 when she was a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland. She was found strangled to death in a city park about a month later. Her ex-boyfriend, a fellow Woodlawn student named Adnan Syed, was convicted of killing her and sentenced to life in prison. He says he didn’t do it and Sarah Koenig is trying to figure out if he did it or not by interviewing the previous witnesses and piecing together all of the clues from the case that was established against Adnan. You can even view all of the evidence online- it is really incredible.

When I was a kid my parents watched Unsolved Mysteries and it reminds me of that except you get to feel like a detective as you analyze the clues on the site and listen to the interviews with a convicted murderer who says that he did not do it. There is a bit of controversy surrounding this podcast, but I hope it doesn’t overshadow the brilliance of this show and the idea behind it. I am hooked and I think you will be too.

Friendsgiving

Friendsgiving

Truth be told, I am a little late to the 3 Little Things game because of all the fun I had last night with my girlfriends. Did you see that I hosted my first Friendsgiving Feast? It was so much fun that I plan to do it every year for my girlfriends. I couldn’t have been happier to open my home to such a great group and writing that check today to provide 187 people a turkey dinner too is the icing on the cake. I feel so blessed to know these women and to share a meal with them, when our lives have become so busy, is a precious gift.

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule.  It’s my last week in my first capsule- I am SO PROUD. Did you catch my next capsule reveal? I hope you can join in on the fun!

pinstripes + big belt + rolled black jeans + driving moccasins

 

White House Black Market Blue Striped Collared Top (purchased second hand on Twice)/Old Navy Rock Star Skinny Jeans in Black (owned- Old Navy)/Belt (FOUND when I cleaned out my closet!)/Leather Driving Moccasins (owned- Target)

maxi skirt + tassel necklace + jean jacket + booties

The Must-Have Maxi in Burgundy (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/Not Afraid of the Dark Denim Jacket (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/Suede Booties (Old Navy)/ Tassel Necklace (owned- Groopdealz)

white shirt + rolled black jeans + camel booties + statement necklace

Converse White Collared Shirt (purchased- Target) (owned- Target)/ Old Navy Rock Star Skinny Jeans in Black (owned- Old Navy)/ Fitbit Cuff (handmade- read here!)/Mustard Beads (owned- Goodwill)/ Camel Suede Booties (Madden Girl- DSW Shoes)

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

Quick & Easy Knitted Boot Cuffs

Homemade Peppermint Mocha Recipe

How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker

*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?

Amy’s Notebook 11.12.14

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Turkey Cupcake Toppers via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day

 

Printable turkey cupcake toppers- so cute!

I love learning more about the tiny house lifestyle.

Winning at pie crusts.

A great guide to craft adhesives.

You can finally edit your captions in IG.

I love anything with a yarn tassel.

Oh, Mr. Rogers, I loved you!

DIY Styled Bookcase via Centsational Girl

Source: Centsational Girl

 

Madly in love with this bookcase for so very many reasons.

Ever wonder how to get huge portions at Chipotle?

Top 10 drugstore beauty products.

How ADHD is radically mistreated- thoughts?

What could happen if you left social media for a week.

A shelter for women that welcomes their pets, too.

This Halloween post made me laugh (because it is true). STRESS.

amys_notebook

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 then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Free eBooks, Netflix Binge, & Audio Books

Friday, November 7th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I hope you are having a wonderful week. I have big plans this weekend to paint my bedroom and bedroom furniture this weekend. I think I have been watching too many home improvement shows, to be honest.

Mattress Shopping

We spent a day yesterday ordering and purchasing new mattresses and bedroom furniture for everyone in the family. My son has outgrown his loft bed, my daughter has had the cast-off furniture that we purchased before we had kids, and we haven’t had a new mattress in almost 15 years. Of course, we have put all of this off for years because the idea of breaking down all of this furniture, finding new homes for it, the expense, and ridding ourselves of old mattresses sounds a bit torturous. The time has come so we are pressing forward. Did I mention I decided to do this the week I host all of my friends for a Friendsgiving dinner? Sure! Why not?

Here is what is making me happy this week!

Overdrive

Instant Reads

I never thought I would be the type of person that could read a book regularly on electronic format, but Overdrive through our library is transforming how I consume books. There is something so lovely about searching and instantaneously enjoying your book without leaving the comforts of your home… all for free. The best part, for me, is how many books are available that I want to read and that I can take them with me on my phone while waiting for my kids to get out of their lessons.

We decided that Santa will be bringing Kindle Fires this year for the kids so that they can take advantage of free books through the library too. It’s a big deal to get an electronic in our house, but the parental controls on it will help us manage how long they are on it for purposes other than reading. Since they each have their own library cards, they can check these books out on their own accounts and will save us some hassle wrangling books each week to drag back to the library.

I will still always love a good old-fashioned book, but electronic books are helping me consume more and saving me some time running back and forth to the library!

I read this book and this book this week through it and absolutely loved them both!

Rehab Addict

Netflix Binge Sessions

I have been binging on Netflix these days thanks to a huge release of Food Network, HGTV shows, TLC, and DIY Network offerings that have found their way on Netflix. If you haven’t been indulging,  you may be missing out on wasting a ton of time like me.

Here is what I am indulging in this week:

Rehab Addict- This is seriously my new favorite show. This woman is amazing and refurbishes old homes back into their former glory. Both my husband & I have learned a ton on restoring your home and furnishings. It’s my new favorite thing and I’m sad that I am almost through all of the offerings on Netflix already.

The American Scream- Fantastic documentary about a neighborhood that decks their houses out for Halloween. They make their own homemade haunts and have such passion for their creations that they spend all year preparing for this one evening of fun for their neighborhood. Not for the kiddos due to a couple of language moments, but I absolutely loved this one.

Restaurant Impossible & Cupcake Wars- Need I say more?

The Caller- One of the best psychological thrillers I have seen in a long time and reminded me of some of my very favorite Hitchcock films. The ending is open to interpretation and sent me on a hunt on IMDB to see what people thought about it. Seriously, it’s a can’t miss if you enjoy a good thriller.

Audio Books

Knitting & Audio Book Sessions

I took a little knitting hiatus because I have been so busy with other projects. Tackling my felted knitted pumpkins has me back in the mood again though. I feel rather ambitious to be tackling my first knitted poncho. I purchased this pattern and am currently working on the front of the poncho right now.

Knitting in silence isn’t my thing and this pattern requires a bit of concentration so I decided to try my first audio book on Overdrive (again- love it!!).  I am listening to this one and enjoying it so much. I always have felt like I have to make a choice between knitting and reading so not choosing is making me very happy. I like that I can crank up the speed on the book too. I’m a fast talker and a speed reader. This helps me to keep my usual pace while tackling a big project at the same time.

In fact, I will probably be doing that while I paint this weekend!

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule.  Did you read what I am learning from this project? You must!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board and minimize that wardrobe!

Winter-2014-Fashion-Capsule-Wardrobe

 I was too busy preparing this for you to snap any selfies this week. I hope you enjoy taking a peek into the next collection!

 

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

Rainbow Cake in a Jar With Cloud Frosting

Knitted Snowflake Scarf Pattern

How to Make a Homeless Care Package

Bonus Happy! This made me laugh until I cried. So true, so true…

 

*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?

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Amy’s Notebook 11.05.14

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Waffle Iron Churros via Serious Eats

Source: Serious Eats

 

A new use for the waffle maker- extra-crispy churros? YES PLEASE!

Did you know you could dye yarn in your slow cooker?

The secret history of Wonder Woman- fascinating!

More inspiration towards a clutter-free life.

American schools are training kids for a world that doesn’t exist.

The Internet Archive has added a collection of 900 video games from the 1970s to 1990s that can be played in your web browser — no coins required.

Can’t wait to read this book and listen to this interview.

iPhone editing via Kelly Purkey

Source: Kelly Purkey

 

Great tutorial for editing photos right in your phone.

How to throw a tortured artist party.

The secret dual lives of people living with mental illness.

iPhone 6 tricks you probably don’t know – but should.

I needed to read this.

Avocado toast with pears, gorgonzola and cinnamon toasted walnuts- yum.

Grow someone past you- such a good reminder for this competitive soul.

amys_notebook

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

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It’s the 3 Little Things: New Coffeemaker, Hot Coffee To Go, & a Perfect Tote

Friday, October 31st, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Halloween, friends. It has been a flurry of parent teacher conferences and Halloween preparations over here. My big plans this weekend only involve indulging in a marathon of Netflix-bingeing with my favorite quilt on our giant couch after our trick-or-treating! What about you?

Let’s talk about what is making me happy this week!

Cuisinart Brew & Grind Coffeemaker

A New Coffeemaker

My coffeemaker died last week. I did everything I could to get that thing to hobble along, lovingly flushing it with vinegar periodically and caring for it. I would have to hit the power button three times to get it to brew, the water never fully went through, but then the coffee just stopped being hot.  You cannot imagine my stress levels. To get up THAT early and have no HOT coffee was a travesty.

I am thankful that I can rectify this so quickly though thanks to our Amazon Prime membership. The next day I had a brand new coffeemaker sitting on my front step and I am happily having the hottest coffee with my favorite Michigan cherry coffee beans. After reading all of the reviews, I settled on this Cuisinart Grind & Brew because my last one held up so well for so long and it was still under $100.

This one is loud when it is grinding so I grind the beans at night and then turn off the grind for my morning when I program it. I no longer have to hit the power button three times to finish a brew and the ratio of beans to water is much smoother thanks to the grinder.  My mornings got oh-so-much better

Diva Vacuum Thermal Cup

HOT Coffee To Go

I started volunteering at school again and I always like to take my coffee with me when I visit there and read with the kiddos.

Confession time.

My husband went to an event for some kind of prize drawing for Lexus because he has a used Lexus and gets the fliers from the dealership. He didn’t win the drawing, but he came home with a thermal mug that he said would be perfect for my coffee. And I hated it. I hate carrying around a mug that advertises a car that we got for less than my Subaru, but seems like we are part of some kind of weird exclusive club.

So I keyed it.

I did.

I know. I have issues.

I scratched the logo off, but I could still see it and I was planning to craft something out of washi tape over it because it bothered me that much.

Instead, when I went to Celestial Seasonings shop I found this amazing carafe and I snagged it for my mornings.  My coffee is brutally hot (just the way I like it- I did admit to keying things!) and it has a lock on the top to doubly insure that your coffee doesn’t escape. Did I mention it vacuum seals? It’s seriously awesome and has made my mornings at school better. And now I don’t have to carry around that awful mug so…winning!

Urban Outfitters Small Vegan Tote

The Perfect Tote for a Petite Girl

I have been eyeing tote bags for awhile now that I could use for travel and for the errand running that I do throughout the day. We popped into Urban Outfitters this weekend because I have been eyeing this bag online forever. When I saw it, we laughed hysterically because it is as big as me. I tried to sling it over my arm, but I could have probably crawled inside it. I love the concept of the reversible vegan leather, but the bag was too big for this petite gal. I was thankful I did not add it to my Christmas list since I was not in the market for a beach tote.

I did spy though this mini tote in the corner and it is just perfect for me. The $49 price tag fits well for me since I am usually a TJ Maxx purse shopper and I plan to use this until the straps fall off.

cape + black leggings + boots + camel purse

It has a crossbody strap too that you can use when you are out running around and it sits upright when rested on a table. I mean, it really is that perfect and a far better price than most bags that look like this.  I am a happy, happy girl! It goes well with my vintage Forever 21 cape I have had since the store opened in our tiny mall. May herringbone capes never go out of style. Amen.

chambray shirt + statement necklace + black skirt + mustard tights + booties

On a personal note, I have been one proud mama this week! My daughter had her first guitar recital and she played her songs beautifully. I have never seen her more scared and then more proud than she was on this day.  We have the best guitar teacher in the world and it was so fun to see all the kids play and sing so beautifully.

I went to conferences this week for both kids who truly rocked their report cards with the best grades a mom could ever hope for.  More than that though, they all remarked on just what good people they are. I want to raise good people. I think the world needs more of those.

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. I will unveil the next capsule on November 3rd to hopefully inspire you on your own fashion capsule journey. Did you read what I am learning from this project? You must!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board and minimize that wardrobe!

black tunic + black leggings + green cardigan + nude booties + long necklace + belt

Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Forest Fairy Cardigan (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Nude Booties (Old Navy)/Black & Gold Necklace (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Fitbit Bracelet (make it here!)/ Black Belt (one of those ones that came attached to something else! ;)

chambray shirt + statement necklace + black skirt + mustard tights + booties

Chambray Shirt (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Gap Black Skirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/Camel Suede Booties (Madden Girl- DSW Shoes)/Lace Slip Skirt Extender (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Pearl Statement Necklace (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Fitbit Bracelet (make it here!)/ Leopard Print Belt (owned- Target)

blanket sweater + gray shirt + black leggings  + belt + brown boots

FINAL WARDROBE STEAL- Angora Blanket Sweater (owned- Flourish Boutique)/The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Long Sleeve Seamless Layering Piece in Gray  (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Brown Boots (6PM- Naturalizer/Brown Belt (owned- Maurices)

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

3 Benefits of Using Household Subscription Services

How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker

7 Easy Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Appetizers

Bonus Happy! How awesome is this? My kids were simply amazed.

Amy’s Notebook 10.29.14

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies via Half Baked Harvest

Source: Half Baked Harvest

 

Are you drooling over these simple oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, too?

Dear world: Let’s stop giving our crap to the poor.

What kids around the world eat for breakfast is making me rethink our breakfasts.

8 ways we often overspend. GUILTY.

It’s time to kill school picture day- agree or disagree?

Next year’s costume- hilarious.

Braided Hair Tips via Cupcakes and Cashmere

Source: Cupcakes & Cashmere

 

I’m hoping these tips will help me become better at braiding hair.

A sibling portrait every year for 40 years? Inspiring and beautiful.

Chicken Caprese pasta recipe- yes, please!

Do you love someone who has ADD? Check out these 20 things to remember to help you.

15 minimalist hacks to maximize your life.

12 words even smart people get wrong. Whew.

amys_notebook

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

Pin It

Sundays With Writers: The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Debut novelists hold a special place in my heart. I particularly love novelists that never give up and those that spend years crafting the most perfect book. When I finished the final pages of The Art of Falling, I knew that I needed to reach out to the author. What sealed the deal though was Kathryn’s Q&A at the end of her book that really gave me pause. She is talking about one of those scary topics that we often dance around. She talks about suicide and how it impacted her personally and how it was reflected in the character of her book.

Robin Williams certainly brought the topic of mental illness to the forefront this year. I can honestly say that reading through my Facebook feed that sad day, I was disturbed by the reactions of people and the things they said about it- I think mental illness is still something so few of us understand.  For me, I just hoped that in these sad moments, people would find courage to seek help and that it might bring to light the struggles of the mentally ill.  I keep my heart pretty guarded on here, but I am no stranger to mental illness or depression. I think that is why this book touched me very deeply.

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

In Craft’s novel, we get to take a glimpse behind the world of dance with new eyes. All Penny has ever wanted to do is dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

 I am completely enraptured with the dance world and this really brought to life the struggle of a dancer and body image. What unfolds is a beautiful story of the unlikely friendships that pull her from her depths of despair, a mother who refuses to let her give up on her dreams, and finding movement again when confidence has been lost. Beautifully told and rich characters make this novel a fast page-turner that I just could not put down. I can’t wait to read more from Kathryn Craft! 

Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for this beautiful and heartfelt interview today with this week’s featured author.

Kathryn Craft

It is such an honor to feature your debut novel, The Art of Falling, on our site. I understand that this novel was eight years in the making. So very few people could dedicate themselves to one project this long- what an incredible feat.  Why did you think it was important to see this work through and did you have any doubts during this process that you would finish it?

Thanks so much for having me, Amy! Even as a teenager I used to say that “perseverance” was my middle name, so I guess I’ve always had that kind of intense focus—and I’ll tell you, as a writer that is a very handy quality! I can think of three ways to answer your question, though, and combining them galvanized my commitment.

The first is the reason I wrote this story to begin with. After my first husband committed suicide seventeen years ago, when our sons were just eight and ten, I got caught overly long in the grief stage of anger. I knew the way to emerge from it was to forgive him, but that required empathy for him I couldn’t conjure. He was 54, depressed, alcoholic, and financially reckless, all attributes unfathomable to a 40-year-old, responsible optimist. I needed to create a female character from my world who might be pushed to the point of such despair—and Penelope Sparrow was born. Penny is a dancer who blames her body for the ruin of her dream dance career, yet who survives what should have been a deadly fall due to the miraculous strength and resilience of that same body. I could relate to her. In the backstory, had I taken away enough of what she loves for her to consider suicide? I wasn’t sure—so I wrote the novel to find out.

But healing from a horrific event takes time. Years and years of time. Early readers could tell you that Penelope, like her author, started out a much angrier character. I knew my anger would be healed when agents started telling me she was now a woman whose arc they admired. A lovely side benefit was that my storytelling skills improved along the way.

Second, once the characters started coming alive to me, I knew I would hang in there with them for the long haul because I loved them. They never stopped sharing their secrets when I pushed them for more. They were troubled and brave—and honestly, I miss them since publication! I wanted to do right by them, and make sure their story was told.

The last reason was ridiculously pragmatic—I wanted something to go in my author’s bio! I was a dancer, choreographer, and dance critic. I was a biology major and I have a master’s in health and phys ed. The world of this book both surrounded me and lived in my body. I was the person to write it, and had credentials to back that up. I really felt this needed to be my debut title.

Penelope’s suicide attempt and your own life had some parallels. Why did you feel suicide was an important topic to explore? Has this process changed your own feelings about suicide and those who struggle with depression? Have you found writing this story to be therapeutic in your own journey towards understanding?

Therapeutic, yes, but I’m not done writing about suicide yet. My second novel, The Far End of Happy, due out in May 2015, is based on the true story of my husband’s day-long standoff against a massive police presence, novelized to feature the points of view of the three women closest to him as they await word and try to sustain hope. Our decision to choose life, every day, is just so elemental that calling it into question presents a fascinating array of story problems. Real world problems with no easy answers, as my next novel will show.

Case in point: I just happened to reveal my cover for this second novel on the day beloved comedian Robin Williams was found dead by his own hand. The outcry on social media was immediate: we need to offer a more sympathetic ear to those who are depressed! Wouldn’t that be nice if mental illness could be so easily solved, and people were that willing to be transparent? What I know now, from life experience and writing two novels, is that neither of these things are true. Like most subjects, once you delve into them deeply, you become more painfully aware of their complexity.

Yet still I strive to write novels that resolve on a note of hope, what I consider to be the most critical component for a joyful life. This is the great calling of the storyteller: to rearrange the chaos of real-seeming events in order to create order, understanding, and change.

Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft dancing- source Barnes & Noble

You are a former dancer, choreographer, and critic so I know you know firsthand how harshly critical and taxing being a dancer can be on the body and mind. Penelope’s struggle with her own body image issues are a big focus in this book. Did you ever struggle with these issues yourself as a dancer? As a critic, did you struggle with reviewing other dancers knowing what it is like to be on the receiving end of criticism?

Despite my academic exploration of its inner workings and movement, our bodies ultimately are a mystery that can be influenced but not controlled. I think all dancers struggle with this to some extent but since I hadn’t experienced Penny’s specific issues I drew on other ways my body disappointed me to find that emotional connection: fair skin back when tan was “it,” fertility struggles and miscarriages when I desperately wanted children; inducement and flagging contractions when I wanted to deliver naturally; graying hair and wrinkles when I still struggled with acne (I mean come on, is that fair?). Yet despite the human body’s betrayals, there is no creation more magnificent. I wanted to write about that conflict.

Early on, as a critic, I had to own the fact that I was not criticizing other dancers; I was expressing one woman’s informed opinion about a work of choreography and its execution in a way that would be evocative for the reader. Otherwise, how could I have had the hubris to set fingers to keyboard for publication? I’m also a developmental editor, so I continue to use my critical mind, sharing my informed yet very personal assessments. This sensibility helps me as an author to establish an even keel as I read what others say about my work.

When Penelope decides that she can’t do dance anymore she takes a job as an aerobics instructor and then later a short-lived position in their family’s candy factory. What is one job you have had in your life that could not have been a worse fit?

Fun question! Had to be secretary. Imagine a dancer, confined to a chair all day. I used to fill in at my neighbor’s manufacturer’s rep firm, taking orders, filing, typing letters, and making coffee. Okay the talking on the phone part I could do (hello, I’m a woman). But I was a creative filer, my lack of touch typing and the resulting syncopation constantly had my boss shutting the door between our offices for his sanity, and since I didn’t drink coffee at the time—let’s just say it typically sat there all day until it burned. I resigned with a misspelled letter typed halfway upside down. My ex-boss has it to this day and will whip it out for another round of laughter when I visit.

The relationship I loved the most was the one you created between Penelope and her mother. There was such a good balance of the real love and strain of mother and daughter relationships. Were the scenes between them difficult to write especially when it comes to Evelyn’s own weight issues and Penelope’s growing insecurity that she is like her mother?

Heck no! The great fun of being a novelist is letting rip confrontations that you would never dare allow in real life. It was fun to let them butt heads, especially surrounding the turning point that many mothers and daughters struggle with: seeing each other as adult women. That said, it wasn’t all giggles, of course. I too find some of their scenes deeply moving.

Since you have been a dancer, choreographer, and critic, which of these characters, in the book, do you relate to the most?

Each of them carries a spark from me, for sure. To reduce inner conflict, can I plead the fifth?

I think it has to be the critic—any creative with a critical bone in her body knows how hard it is to turn off the critic! Plus, she’s the most misunderstood. She is a creative too—her art form is derivative, of course, but it is an art form (something we forget in this world of “everyone who can bestow a star rating is now a critic”). She is an advocate for dance excellence, and this one has a personal cause as well that is as worthy as my reasons for writing the novel.

Plus who am I kidding? I have to say the critic. If I don’t, I’m afraid of what she’ll write about me…

I’m obsessed with dancing and all things dance so I must ask, what is your favorite song to dance to and where is your favorite place to dance?

While on your basic wedding event dance floor, my absolute fave is “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls. That song tickles the hell out of me and it’s such a great beat, with all the building swirl of a storm on top. My favorite non-traditional place to dance? Grocery store aisles! (Yes, you’ll now recognize me…)

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

Ah, the dreaded one book question, asked of a multiple-book lover! Since I know nothing about the reader, including why he or she reads—and given my answers to the question about critical subjectivity—I’ll assume your real question is “What book could someone read that would reveal the most about you?” You said “book,” not “novel,” for which I am grateful, since novels are such delicious slices of life it would be like asking if you could only taste one food what would it be. So I am going to go the nonfiction route and say The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. A brilliant life guide that I’ve read many times, my sensibilities are all over its pages.

You can connect with Kathryn Craft on GoodReads or on 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!

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It’s the 3 Little Things (GIVEAWAY!): New Glasses, Apple Scented Luxuries, & Fitbit Glam

Friday, October 24th, 2014

It's The 3 Little Things

Happiest of Fridays, friends! It is a happy Friday, indeed, because I get to share a giveaway today of one of my favorite things! I have been hearing a lot from people that this is their favorite feature. I am so happy that this is loved by you as much as I love sharing it.

Here is what is making me happy this week!

Method Honeycrisp Apple

Honeycrisp Apple Method Fun

I don’t know how I got on the magical Method mailing list, but I am always so excited when I spy one of their boxes on my front step. This week’s mailing included some items from their new Honeycrisp Apple line of products for the Fall season. I can’t tell you how good these smell and, as always, they look beautiful on my countertops and sink too. You must find this and then spray everything in your home with it. In typical Method fashion, it smells delightful, but isn’t overpowering.

DIY Fitbit Flex Bracelet

My New Fitbit Leather Cuff

Ask anyone that has seen me this week and they will tell you that I have been wearing this cuff every single day. I REALLY did not like the look of the plastic bracelet and had been searching on Pinterest for something that I could use to hide my Fitbit away when I wanted to look a little more polished. On a girl’s trip to Chicago with my friends, we started brainstorming an idea for this and then my friend, Andy, offered to help me create this project and let me photograph her tutorial.

First of all, it was a crafting match made in heaven although such hard work. It is really terrible to go to your friend’s house, drink coffee, take pictures, and craft together. What a DRAG! Secondly, I came home with my bracelet and haven’t taken it off unless I head to the gym and need my utilitarian version.

I told you how crazy I am about my Fitbit, but I am afraid I am taking it to another level. If you haven’t read David Sedaris’ essay on the Fitbit, I am pretty much like that. I even demonstrated to my husband how I can loop around our house three times while I microwave my lunch for a few extra steps. I started walking on the dusty old treadmill to catch up on my shows and get in my steps- no more couch potatoing over here. If I feel like the number should be rounded up, I might pace a bit in front of my bed.

One more thing for me to get obsessed about. Yay!

Coastal Derek Cardigan Glasses

New Glasses (For Me AND You)

I absolutely love Coastal and shared how much I love my frames that I snagged from them earlier this year. You can always spy them in our Sundays With Writers series as my header.  They saw that they were on the happy list and asked if they could send me another pair of my choosing and wanted to give away a pair to one lucky reader. I got to select one pair from their Exclusive Collection (and you can too!) to update my look. I settled on these Derek Cardigan 7039 Glasses in black. I love the bamboo arms on these, that adds a unique modern touch. I have gotten so many compliments on these and they couldn’t have fit my face better.

The company always includes a really nice case and a little eyeglass kit to care for them. I am, most of all, impressed by their affordability.

Scroll down below to enter to win a pair from Coastal’s Exclusive Collection and see for yourself what a treat their glasses are!

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. I will unveil the next capsule on November 3rd to hopefully inspire you on your own fashion capsule journey. After going through my stuff, I am debating on the number of items I will have in this one since it is just one cold season- stay tuned.   Did you read what I am learning from this project? You must!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board.

stripes + moto jacket + scarf + boot socks + brown boots

H&M Black & White Striped Top (owned- Goodwill)/ Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Brown Belt (owned- Maurices)/ Brown Boots (6PM- Naturalizer/ Subtle Chevrons Scarf in Rust (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ Faux Leather Jacket (purchased- Marshall’s)/ Love a Little Lace Boot Socks in Mustard (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

stripes + belt + utility jacket + rolled jeans + booties

H&M Black & White Striped Top (owned- Goodwill)/ Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Brown Belt (owned- Maurices)/ Eyewear (Coastal)/ Black Suede Booties (Madden Girl- DSW Shoes)/ Utility Vest (owned- Groopdealz)/

green loose cardigan + black dress + tassel necklace + burgundy tights + camel colored booties

Forest Fairy Cardigan (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Little Black Dress (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Burgundy Tights (owned- Target)/ Tassel Necklace (owned- Groopdealz)/Leopard Print Belt (owned- Target)/ Camel Suede Booties (Madden Girl- DSW Shoes)

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

Homemade Playdough Recipe

14 Free Home Management Binder Printables

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipe Series

Giveaway

Enter below to win one pair of glasses from Coastal’s Exclusive Collection of frames. One lucky winner will receive a free pair of glasses. This giveaway ends on October 31st! Happy browsing!!

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