Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

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!

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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!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

 

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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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Amy’s Notebook 10.22.14

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

DIY Mona Lisa Halloween Costume via The House That Lars Built

Source: The House That Lars Built

 

Isn’t this Mona Lisa Halloween costume brilliant?

Sound of Music costume that makes me wish I could still make my daughter wear what I wanted her to wear for Halloween.

Free spooky Halloween art decor – quick and easy.

Netflix fright flicks you probably haven’t seen.

Wonderful DIY idea for a folding screen using bifold doors – especially love the graphic floral print!

Pumpkin Spice tea latte – can you have too much pumpkin spice? I think not.

The 60 second bouquet.

Best Cuts for Pot Roasts via The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

 

The best cuts of beef for pot roast.

Smart ideas for making money while decluttering your home.

10 best pumpkin goods at Trader Joe’s – must.get.to.TJs.

50 of the best DIY gifts.

Could you go one year without buying anything new?

How to easily make an antiqued wood photo backdrop.

Loot Bag for Girls via 5 Minutes for Mom

Source: 5 Minutes for Mom

 

Love this candy-free loot bag idea for girls.

With our future kitchen remodel on the brain, this all-white kitchen reveal is inspiring.

I love the pops of color in this white and grey kitchen makeover, too, with fun before and after shots.

I survived a weekend with the cult of Oprah- hilarious.

Learn a new knitting technique: purling the Eastern way.

Down Syndrome & sibling relationships- so beautiful.

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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Sundays With Writers: The Martian by Andy Weir

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

This year one of my reading goals was to branch out into different genres than I typically reach for.

I blame you.

I want our Sundays With Writers to be a well-rounded selection of great books and authors and I want to challenge you to read something you might not normally pick up.  My first leap into science fiction this year was The Girl With All the Gifts and I wasn’t going to stop there. After reading about The Martian, I knew that this would be my next science fiction book for the year.  Can I be honest and say that after starting it, I started to wonder if my tiny brain could process all of this science?  This book, my friends, is heavy on the science in the science fiction. And it was geekily good. So geekily good, in fact, that this is the next book my husband wants to read.

Did I mention it is being adapted into a film starring Matt Damon?

I finished this amazing book and emailed Andy Weir to see if he might like to do an interview. He graciously agreed.

And then I wondered what in the world I could ask this genius that wouldn’t sound completely stupid?

Hello, anxiety attack.

I hope this interview does this great mind justice and I hope you will want to snag his book too. Let me tell you a little about it!

The Martian by Andy Weir

 

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

This is a suspenseful survival story of an astronaut who finds himself stranded on Mars and what he must do to survive. Science geeks will love this story of survival from the astronaut, Mark, from his ingenious ideas of how to grow food for himself to how he keeps his limited equipment running to stay alive until he can be rescued. Loads of unexpected humor in his logs, even in the most challenging situations, and a character you want to root for. I really enjoyed this one immensely and can’t wait to see it on the big screen!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in for a chat with Andy Weir about his debut novel The Martian!

Andy Weir

When your short story The Egg hit the front page of Reddit, you said that you were a little sad that The Martian wasn’t as popular as the short story you wrote in an evening. Now that The Martian is finally getting the attention it deserves are you finding this project to be more rewarding than you expected?

Oh definitely. That was before The Martian really took off. Since then, it’s become more well-known than The Egg. It’s been a very exciting ride.

Some of my favorite scenes in your book are when Watney discovers what fills his crewmates USB drives. I love that they brought disco music and fabulous shows like Three’s Company. What would you put on your USB drive to take with you to Mars?

Probably a bunch of 1980’s music. And I’d bring the entire archive of Doctor Who. You may not have noticed, but I’m a nerd.

 Any thoughts on commercial space flight? Any plans to purchase a ticket?

It feels like it’s just around the corner. The trick is getting the price down. Most people can’t pay $200,000 for a trip to space. But if that were brought down to $10,000 it would probably have millions of customers. As for myself, I’m afraid to fly in ordinary planes; I certainly wouldn’t be able to go to space.

Do you see us putting a man on Mars in your lifetime?

That’s a tough one to predict. With our modern technology, we can make extremely effective rovers. It makes people ask why we should risk human life. There are lots of solid reasons to send people instead of robots, but that fundamental concern, and the tremendous cost increases associated with manned spaceflight, will always be a factor. Considering we haven’t gone back to the moon yet, I’m honestly not sure if we’ll see anyone on Mars soon.

Which do you think is a more technical challenge- the first time we put a man on the moon or putting a man on Mars?

Putting a man on Mars is definitely the larger challenge. Even when you account for the technology level of the Apollo era compared to now. The Moon is just so much closer and easier to work with.

I know that not many of our readers have explored as much science fiction and that is why I wanted to share about your book. Do you have any other great suggestions for readers just jumping into the science fiction genre?

Yes, I recommend “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. It’s my favorite book of the decade so far, and it has excellent crossover appeal. You don’t have to be a “sci-fi person” to enjoy it.

Do you think you would survive if you were stranded on Mars?

I doubt it. It would require great bravery and fortitude, and exceptional strength of character. I’m just a normal guy.

John Young

If you could dine with one astronaut, living or dead, who would you invite to dinner?

John Young. He’s the consummate astronaut. He was on numerous spaceflights including Apollo 16, when he walked on the Moon. Fun fact: Apollo astronauts wore bio-monitoring equipment, so their heart rate was recorded throughout their missions. As you can imagine, during launch, their heart rates tended to spike. Usually to around 140 or 150 beats per minute. John Young’s heart rate never got above 70 during the Apollo 16 launch. Nerves of steel.

I understand that you started your computer programming career at the age of 15. What came first, your love of computers or your love for space?

Definitely my love of space. I grew up with it. I can’t remember any time when I wasn’t interested in space travel.

I am trying to build a passion for science in my children. Do you have any suggestions for how to foster that passion in them whether it’s books, places to visit, or shows/movie recommendations?

First, find their passion. Whatever it is. Art? Music? Fast Cars? Doesn’t matter. Then show them how science makes those things possible. Because in the modern era, everything is a science. If they like art, show them the science of computer modeling. If they like Music, show them how musical instruments are made with modern machinery and precision. If they like cars, well you get the idea.

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

I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov. In my opinion, it’s one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time.

You can connect with Andy Weir 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!

*This post contains affiliate links!
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It’s the 3 Little Things: How You Doin’, My People, & an Ice Cream Fix

Friday, October 17th, 2014

It's the Three Little Things

Happy Friday, friends. It was one of those weeks that I am just thankful we got through it. Each day was overflowing with commitments and activities. It was one of those, “I can’t believe I did all of that,” kind of weeks. I’m ready to collapse on my couch and have a me day this weekend. Let’s see if I can get my kids to go along with that. Ahem. Without further adieu, here is my happy fix!

Friends

Friends Is Coming to Netflix

There is no greater show on television than Friends.  I will delete any comments that challenges this statement.  When I read that the entire series is coming to Netflix in January I was all like, “How you doin’?” Since we got rid of our cable, some of those shows that are on television all the time don’t make it to our home so I couldn’t be more thrilled. I had considered asking for the DVD set for Christmas, but now I am just going to hold out and watch a marathon of Friends anytime I want to through my Netflix membership. Between that, my new Gilmore Girls addiction, and diving into Season 2 of The Following, I am one happy little television addict.

Just in case you missed it, HBO is finally letting us stream their shows too without a subscription to their channel later this year.  This is a big year, TV addicts, a big year, indeed!

Feel free to reminisce and cry like I did. Best. Show. Ever.

Family Photo 2014

My People

We attended my nephew’s thirteenth birthday party (say it ain’t so!) and my people looked so good and unknowingly coordinated that I grabbed a patio table, a big stack of library books, and my camera to set up a sad little tripod in the backyard that yielded one of the best pictures of our family that we have taken in a long time.  If you haven’t had a family picture in a long time, hire someone to capture your beautiful family or read your camera manual and get the scoop on how to set up that timer on the back of it and make a sad little tripod for yourself so that you can have a family picture too.  I can’t wait to print this one out.

Pumpkin Patch Corn Maze

Pumpkin Patch Apple Cider Doughnuts

I took my people to the pumpkin patch and the weather was just perfect for it.  Since every step counts now that I have a Fitbit Flex (wait until you see what I have for you next week with that!), we took the really long corn maze with the kids and then immediately consumed all the calories we burned right back into our bodies with piping-hot apple cider doughnuts.  It was one of those days that I wonder how many more we will have like that with the four of us together. They are getting so big so very fast that I had a couple of teary-eyed moments while we were there as I saw they were too big for certain things and reminiscing on what captured their little hearts in the years before that held no interest this year.

 

Pumpkin Patch

You guys have seen this boy grow up and I just want to stand eye-to-eye to him and say-

“JUST STOP IT. This is not acceptable.”

I treasured our day at the pumpkin patch even more this year than I realized I would.  I love my people and I love these precious, precious moments with them.

Extra Dessert Delights Gum

Gum That Tastes Like Ice Cream

What more can I tell you? I buy a package weekly.  This Extra Dessert Delights in Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream is, seriously,  the best gum ever invented.

 

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.

sweater dress + petticoat slip + tights + boots + statement necklace

Anthropologie Gray Print Dress (purchased second hand on Twice)/ Lace Slip Extender (owned- Flourish Boutique)/  Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ Black Tights (owned- Target)/Necklace (owned- Charming Charlie)/ Black Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)/ Glasses (Coastal)

owl sweater + tunic + leggings + boot socks + camel boots

STEAL OF THE MONTH!!  Wool Gray Owl Sweater (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/  The Essential Leggings in Black (owned-Flourish Boutique)/ Gray Boot Socks  (owned-Flourish Boutique)/ Camel Sorel Boots (so very vintage and loved- Sorel)

utility vest + statement necklace + black tunic + black leggings + booties

Went out that evening- same exact stuff as the owl sweater, just a quick switch-up! Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/  The Essential Leggings in Black (owned-Flourish Boutique)/ Utility Vest (owned- Groopdealz)/Old Navy Booties (owned- Old Navy)

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

Easy 4-Row Snowflake Scarf

Seven Easy Scarves & Cowls to Knit This Fall

Homemade Salted Caramel Mocha

*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 10.15.14

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Hard Cider Pumpkin Float via Dine and Dish

Source: Dine and Dish

 

Hard cider ale and a pumpkin pie gelato float? Genius.

David Fincher’s thriller ‘Gone Girl’ as a solid case as to why nobody should ever get married.

14 absolutely free ways to improve your cooking.

5 unmissable, easy to implement tips on how to finally say no.

Pick the brains of intellectual giants – here is a list of 31 best TED talks that will transform your life.

These hipster costumes make me laugh.

DIY Halloween Glassware via Sugar and Cloth

Source: Sugar and Cloth

 

Use cute non-permanent DIY Halloween glassware decals for quick and easy budget friendly party decor on cups you already own.

How to keep your toddler busy for an entire hour with free items.

50 cultural icons on their favorite books.

Looking for a new mascara? Check out these new mascaras for fall.

73 answers from Reese Witherspoon- I love her more.

11 hard ciders that are better than beer.

Parenting as a Gen Xer in a world of iEverything.

Abundance Quote via Be More with Less

Source: Be More With Less

 

Redefining abundance.

A good list of the best shows to watch as a family.

8 things you haven’t tried to make using cauliflower as a substitute – or have you?

Do you hate Facebook, or do you hate your life?

Easy leather bracelet DIY – 3 different ways.

Ebola is more than a news story to me – such a perfect reminder.

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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Sundays With Writers: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I can be the first to admit that sometimes the size of a book can be intimidating to me.  All the Light We Cannot See has been in my book stack several times this year, but at over five hundred pages, I just didn’t think I had the time to sit down and really dive in deep with a heavy book.  It had been recommended to me by some of my most respected fellow readers and I knew I would love it, but it being named our book club selection for the month was finally what pushed me to just sit down and read.

And read.

And read.

And please leave me alone, I AM READING THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD.

I could not flip the pages fast enough. What will happen to these beloved characters? How will my life go on when this book ends?

Most of all, why did I wait so long to read this?

I wish I could give this book ten stars on GoodReads. I was held captive by it and could not put it down. The storytelling is superb, the characters vividly created, and the words read like poetry. My heart was in my throat for much of it and I could not turn the pages quickly enough so I knew what would happen with Marie-Laure & Werner. I loved how their stories weaved together and how the author created such striking details that made you feel as though you were witnessing it all firsthand.

All the Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

In this story, Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

I can’t recommend this one enough- it will be, perhaps, in my top ten books ever read. I want you to set aside the size of it and just dive in like I did. 

I sent an email to Anthony, firmly believing that I would not get a response. At that time, he had been on the New York Times best seller list for twenty weeks. He certainly doesn’t need to do an interview with me to spread the word about his book.  I was shocked when I received the kindest response and so honored that Doerr would take time out of his busy schedule to answer his new #1 fan and her silly questions.

I hope you will love this interview and book as much as I love sharing about it. I already know this one is in my top ten for the year and, perhaps, forever.

Grab your coffee and let’s share a virtual cup with Anthony Doerr and his literary tour de force.

 

Anthony Doerr

I understand that this beautiful book took a decade for you to write which really speaks to your commitment to this novel. Tell me what it is like to devote ten years to a book like this and did you ever find yourself discouraged during the process of fleshing out this story? Did you ever dream that it would take that long to complete it?

Oh, I was crazy with doubt almost of the time. You invest so many months into a single project—shelves stuffed with WWII books, three separate trips to Europe, dozens of notebooks full of scribbled notes—and the terror that you won’t be able to pull it all together keeps you up at nights. I worried that if I abandoned the project I’d let down my wife, my kids, my editor, myself. And I never dreamed it would take so long—a quarter of my life!

At the heart of this story is the communication via radio that brings unlikely people together in beautiful ways. As an NPR junkie, I absolutely loved picturing Werner & his sister huddled beside the radio (as I may or may not do that myself while tuning in to my favorite shows) and others who were enchanted by radio broadcasting through this story. Why did you decide to explore radio and did you have to do a lot of research on the older models and how they worked in order to develop this plotline?

I adored radios as a boy and would often stay up late listening to baseball games under my covers while my parents thought I was sleeping. But that passion had waned a bit, until ten years ago, when I took a train from Princeton, New Jersey into New York City. I had just completed a novel and was searching around for a new idea, and had a notebook in my lap. The man in the seat in front of me was talking to someone on his cell phone about the sequel to The Matrix, I remember that very clearly, and as we approached Manhattan, and sixty feet of steel and concrete started flowing above the train, his call dropped.

And he got angry! He started swearing, and rapping his phone with his knuckles, and after briefly worrying for my safety, I said to myself: What he’s forgetting, what we’re all forgetting, is that what he was just doing is a miracle. He’s using two little radios — a receiver and a transmitter — crammed into something no bigger than a deck of cards, to send and receive little packets of light between hundreds of radio towers, one after the next, miles apart, each connecting to the next at the speed of light, and he’s using this magic to have a conversation about Keanu Reeves.

Because we’re habitualized to it, we’ve stopped seeing the grandeur of this breathtaking act. So I decided to try to write something that would help me and my reader feel that power again, to feel the strangeness and sorcery of hearing the voice of a stranger, or a distant loved one, in our heads.

That very afternoon, ten years ago, I wrote a title into my notebook: All the Light We Cannot See—a reference to all the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (like radio waves) that are invisible. And that night, I started a piece of fiction in which a girl reads a story to a boy over the radio. I conceived of her as blind, and him as trapped in darkness, and the sound of her voice, carried by radio waves – light we cannot see — through walls, as his salvation.

 My heart ached for Werner so much especially his time in the Hitler Youth and what he must do to survive. Death, war, sadness, poverty…it is all there in this book, despite the hope that so much of your story brings in the end. I imagine that this was a very difficult time period in history to write about as an author. What scene was the hardest for you to write?

Yes, lots of the research for this novel was excruciating. The destruction of human beings during WWII, especially on the Eastern Front, occurred on a scale that is almost too large for the human brain to comprehend. So sometimes the source material would send me to dark places, and I’d have to take breaks by working on other projects.

As for scenes that were hard to write, there are many kinds of difficulty a writer faces: technical difficulty, emotional difficulty, syntactic difficulty. In terms of emotions, probably all the scenes involving Frederick were the most difficult, because he reminds me of one of my sons.

It is hard to say who my favorite character is because I found each one so endearing. The relationship between Marie-Laure and her father brought tears to my eyes though because it was so special. The books that he gives her for her birthday are so treasured and one in particular, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, turns out to be a very special one. Was this a childhood favorite of your own? What was it about this book that made you want to use it in such a unique way in your story?

Thank you, Amy. Yes, 20,000 Leagues was indeed a childhood favorite. The book is about wonder and technology, and it uses narrative to excite a reader’s interest in the natural world. This is so similar to the kind of projects I try to make with my own fiction, that – one day, when I started re-reading it — I decided Verne’s text might serve as an effective book-within-a-book.

The intricate puzzles that Marie-Laure’s father creates add so much beauty to your story. It made me wish I could find a puzzle for my kids to solve.  How did you come up with this concept?

A friend of our family’s once gave me a Japanese puzzle box as a present. It was a wooden cube that looked like an ornate, solid block of wood. No visible doors, no knobs, no handles, no buttons. But, as our family friend showed me, if you knew what side to push in on, then various panels would start to slide down, and by manipulating all the panels in clever ways, you could eventually slide open the top and discover a hidden compartment inside.

I played with that thing for hours, showing it off to friends, examining its construction, etc., then eventually put it on a shelf and forgot about it. A couple of decades later, working on this novel, the puzzle box came back to me, along with my fascination with it, and I decided to try writing a couple of scenes in which Marie-Laure’s father fashions puzzle boxes.

Which character do you identify the most with in your book?

I do my best to identify with all my characters, even the bad actors—I think that’s probably part of the job description for any novelist, isn’t it?

This novel has 187 chapters, but they are beautifully segmented and sectioned for the reader in small doses, which created a lot of suspense for me, as a reader, and kept me pushing through your story so I could find out what would happen in the next chapter. Why did you decide to structure your story this way?

Obviously, there are an infinity of ways to write a novel, but for me “plotting it out” has always sounded scary and programmatic. I have to compose, revise, and re-revise scenes just to understand what should happen in them.So my process involves a lot of trial and error. I write hundreds of paragraphs trying to figure out where the story is going, and I usually end up cutting most of them. I knew early on that I wanted the two narratives to feel like two almost parallel lines that inclined toward each other very gently.

The structure was a big mess for a long time. It probably had 250 or 300 chapters at some points. All I knew early on — and wanted a reader to intuit – was that Marie’s and Werner’s lives would intersect. But it took me a long time to figure out exactly how that would happen.

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

Oh, gosh, my answer to this question changes all the time, but a novel I’m absolutely in love with right now is Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It’s about family, siblinghood, memory, storytelling, and particularly about our society’s treatment of animals. It’s also structured in this beautiful, organic, perfect way—I hope a few of your readers will give it a look!

You can connect with Anthony Doerr 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!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

 

 

 

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It’s the 3 Little Things: FitBit, Workout Gear, & Gilmore Girls

Friday, October 10th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends!  I hope you are having a wonderful week this week. I am happy to have a quiet weekend ahead since that has been such a rarity these days.  I can’t wait to share the happy with you this week!!

Fitbit Flex

I Joined the Fitbit Club

I am one of those people that is slow to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to technology and gadgets. Before the Fitbit Flex even launched, my husband knew about it and wanted to buy it for me. Now that it has been enough time for the trend to pass, I figured I would look into getting one. I scored one for $70 off of eBay and this thing has changed my life.  One reason is related to fitness and the other is just related to my mornings as a whole .

Several of my girlfriends have these and I tend to have an annoyingly competitive streak so being in a competition for the most steps has been pushing me to hit the gym and go on an evening walk so I can compete against my athletic friends.  Two evenings I have walked with my daughter, just us two, and one night I challenged both kids to a Just Dance dance-off to try to increase my steps.  I scored bonus points for looking like a fun mom (which I typically am not!) and have been trying to aim for 10,000 steps a day.  I am sure the newness will eventually wear off, but I really love having a step goal each day.

The other thing that I am loving, not fitness related, is the silent alarm feature on the Fitbit Flex. I have to be the first one up in our house and when my alarm goes off, it triggers my husband to wake up and our cat to start the annoying meowing baby cry reserved for the morning alarm. You can set a silent alarm on the app and the bracelet vibrates to wake you in the morning.  I wake up happier,  my husband continues to sleep, and the cat doesn’t start her annoying meowing baby cry until she realizes I am up. Winning all around!

Danskin Performance Jacket

New Workout Apparel for Cheap

Since I am at the gym every day so I can get my steps in (OBSESSED!), I needed to get a few workout jackets for my morning workouts. I am madly in love with these Danskin Now Women’s Performance Jackets that I found for less than $15 at Walmart! Since I write for Walmart, I have gotten to see behind the scenes on how they create some of their workout gear, and I can attest to the quality of the items now that I have heard first-hand about some of their reverse engineering that they do to replicate that expensive athletic apparel right down to the thread counts.  Since hearing more about that, I have abandoned fancy workout gear and embrace my frugal side which is really not hard for a girl like me to do. Since I am a wee woman, I was thrilled to see that they are making X-Small apparel (something I haven’t been able to find before at the store) and am heading back to my store since I got so many compliments on these pullovers I scored.

They also have the coziest Danskin fleece jacket displayed right by these (I can’t find them online, but they look a lot like this) and I highly recommend them for Midwest winters. Again, $15! What do you have to lose?

Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls- #winning

Usually my work trips have me on and running from the time I arrive until the time I get on my plane. I hope you caught the Celestial Seasonings post I shared (I’m giving away over $100 in fun tea prizes!) where I talked about my trip last week. One of the best parts about this trip was they said we could arrive any time and to just “enjoy our day in Boulder.” Say what?! I should have been running all over the city to see everything, but I have been feeling so tapped out that I spent an entire day and evening laying around in my hotel room and it was GLORIOUS.

I happened to see that Kelly, from The Centsible Life,  had posted that Gilmore Girls was available on Netflix starting that day so I soaked in the deepest tub I have ever been in and watched episodes of Gilmore Girls on my iPad in the tub. And it was perfect. I mean, PERFECT.  Don’t judge me, but I had never watched Gilmore Girls before. I wish my daughter was a little older so we could watch it together, but until then..I am really enjoying having a new show to watch. Between that and Big Little Lies (downloaded for FREE on Overdrive through my library), I was one happy little traveler this past week!  Thank you, Celestial Seasonings! What a treat!

Three Things I Wore From My Fashion Capsule. Did I mention I traveled? I didn’t even make a steal- so proud!  Grab more inspiration on my Fashion Capsule Pin Board.

tunic + lace slip + tights + boots + large belt

Down With Damask Tunic (similar & owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Lace Slip Extender (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Brown Belt (owned- Maurices)/ Black Tights (owned- Target)/ Black Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)

bow shirt + long sleeve seamless shirt + track pants + boots + skinny belt

Ann Taylor Loft Pink Print Collared Shirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/ Mint Belt (owned- Target)/ Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ Black Boots (6PM- Naturalizer)/Mossimo Black Track Pants (purchased- Target)

black leggings + black dress + jean jacket + large belt + oxfords + large scarf

 Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Not Afraid of the Dark Denim Jacket (purchased- Flourish Boutique)/ Wine Scarf (owned- Forever 21)/ Tan Belt (owned- boutique)/ Oxford Shoes (Owned-Naturalizer)

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

Slow Cooker Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

How to Spray Paint Furniture

Knitted Sweater Coffee Cozies

*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?