Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

October 2015 Must-Reads

Friday, October 30th, 2015

October2015MUST READS

I can’t believe another month is behind us and hope you guys have a fun & safe Halloween weekend. This month I have eight new books to share about for this month of reading, but more importantly than that, I have a big ol’ braggy announcement.


It looks like I met my reading goal for 2015! I’m feeling SO proud that I have got sixty books under my belt and I certainly have YOU to thank for that!

If I didn’t have this space to share in, I certainly would have more time to read more books..

Wait a minute…

Now that I think about it YOU hold me back from dream of accomplishing 100 books.

Just kidding!

In reality, I love having lots to share with you each month and these monthly round-ups serve as motivation to read a lot and to read a diverse amount of books. Thank you for motivating me and I can’t wait to see how many more books I can share with you before the year is over.

Let’s dig into a fresh stack, shall we?

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

I have been working my way through the list of must-reads by the authors featured in our Sundays With Writers series and this book was recommended by Elisabeth Egan as a must-read. I picked it up from the library and the way the book was set up was so different than anything I had read before. I was having a hard time digging into it and kept putting it aside, but I just didn’t want to give up on this one because it had come so highly recommended.

That is why I want to say that there are cases where an audiobook can bring an entirely different reader experience and that was the case with Dept. of Speculation. The narration by Jenny Offill is pitch perfect as you dive almost into one’s stream of thoughts about marriage and parenting. It’s not the pretty stuff, but the meat of marriage and the difficult moments of parenting that are so raw and real. It was, in fact, the kind of book where sentences made the hairs on my arms stand up from their beauty.

Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes – a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions – the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.


Although I muddled through it in book format, the audio version really helped me navigate the story in a really beautiful way. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time!  This would be a really great one for a first-time audiobook user too since the audiobook is just over three hours of listening time, a quick & satisfying listen! 

5 Out of 5 Stars


This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison

There is so much beautiful layering in this book that I just couldn’t put it down! 78-year-old Harriet discovers that her husband had won an Alaskan cruise before his passing and, with an expiration date looming on the prize, she decides to take that cruise with her best friend. When her best friend unexpectedly bails on her, Harriet finds herself on a boat out to sea, but she isn’t alone thanks to her husband’s visits.

We grow to know Harriet in a unique way as chapters alternate with a,“This is Your Life,” game show theme and we jump along the timeline of Harriet learning more about all of the life experiences that have shaped her, the people who have betrayed her, how she was treated when she was a child, how she felt as her marriage and parenting were failing, and what it was like for her to care for a husband who mentally was no longer there.

The book twists and turns, secrets are revealed and an unexpected guest joins Harriet on the cruise. It was a beautiful story that makes you consider what your own, “This Is Your Life,” show might look like- with all the good and the bad moments in it.

Jonathan Evison joined me on Sundays With Writers so when you are done with the book, be sure to read his interview to learn more behind this incredible book! This book has been optioned for screenplay so be sure to read it before catching it in the theaters! 

5 Out of 5 Stars

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This book was another must-read author recommendation, this one was recommended by Liz Fenton in her Sundays With Writers interview. Somehow I had missed this one in between her other two incredible books Forever Interrupted and Maybe In Another Life.

I can now say that I’ve read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books and this is, by far, her best work.  After I Do is a brutally honest portrayal of a failing marriage that gives us glimpses into our own marriage struggles that we deal with daily and how, what once was endearing, can be the things that we can’t stand about our spouse.

Lauren & Ryan take a year off of their marriage in a temporary split to see if they really are meant to be together. As they navigate the world without one another, they discover a lot about themselves and each other.

A hopeful book filled with a family of characters that feel like your own, Reid’s book makes you feel like part of the family as you root for Lauren & Ryan to find each other again. Highly recommending this one!

Taylor Jenkins Reid will be joining us this month in an upcoming Sundays With Writers- stay tuned!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Once again, I hit the must-read list and Vanessa Diffenbaugh had recommended this one saying, It is an incredibly intense book about racial inequality in our criminal justice system, but it is beautifully written and powerful, with just enough hopefulness to help you sit with the discomfort of the truth and think hard about how you can help contribute to a solution.  I recommend it to everyone I know.”

It is true. It is impossible to read this book and not think differently about our broken court system and those on death row. Bryan Stevenson founded an organization called the Equal Justice Initiative whose sole purpose was to defend those who were most desperately in need. His cases include people suffering from mental illness, addiction, poor, the wrongly condemned, and women & children and his stories illustrate case by case how these people wound up on death row and how they worked to defend them.

At the center of it all is Walter McMillian who was wrongfully accused of murder and Bryan’s efforts to redeem this incredible man before he is executed. I flipped the pages as quickly as I would a legal thriller hoping for redemption for Walter and his family.

Bryan is a masterful storyteller, offering heart and humanity to the wounded, and is a true American hero. Everyone should read this book.

5 Out of 5 Stars


7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

With her signature wit, Jen Hatmaker takes a year-long fast for Jesus, tackling one excess after another in the average American life. From whittling down her closet to seven items, to eating only seven foods, to reducing her waste, to trimming her spending; she documents her daily struggles and triumphs through the lessons learned.

What really pulled through for me most was how much we take for granted and how, with a bit of trimming, we have the ability to transform the lives of the poor. If we are to love Jesus, we are to love the poor like He did. Not only are we reminded about our own individual choices, but she really sheds light on the excessive spending of churches, money spent only on themselves when it could be better served for the greater needs of the world. This comes up often in the book as Jen’s church has chosen to spend on those in need rather than their own building and selves.

It would be impossible to read this book and not feel moved to give more. Although I would consider myself a minimalist, there is ALWAYS room for improvement and this gave me a lot of food for thought. I shed many tears through this one for those in need and unwanted. While expecting a light read, Jen delivered a life-changing practice that we could all be challenged to try.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One will be hitting the theatres in movie form thanks to the direction of Spielberg (no biggie!). I selected this book to work for my local book club and planned an outing to the Secret Door Games store to pick up some holiday gifts for our kids. I thought this book would be just perfect for the event.

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Ernest Cline wasted a lot of ’80’s references on this poor girl who apparently knows nothing about the era, but it didn’t take away from the unique concept that he developed in this story. Following Wade Watts as he works to discover the ultimate lottery ticket in a virtual world was such a treat as a reader and felt as though, you too, were in the world with him. The twists at the end really brought it all together beautifully!

Although this was out of my typical genre, I really loved the unique concept and think it just might be a bit of the foreshadowing of what might be to come in 2044.

4 Out of 5 Stars


The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

No one can ever believe that I have never read a Kate Morton book, but I think the covers to her books have always kept me away. I decided to not judge a book by its cover and to dig into my first book this month by her. I guess you guys were right, she really IS good! 

During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

All I can say is, holy plot twists, Batman! This book was a SLOW build for me and I wasn’t sure at all where the story was going. Since this was my first Kate Morton novel, I had no expectations of where the story was heading or how her writing works, but in the last hundred pages there were about three plot twists that completely shocked me. It ended up making the whole slow build thing a little more worth it.

Overall, really happy I added this one to my book stacks this month! If you are a Kate Morton fan, please let me know which of her books is your favorite so I can be sure to add it to my next stack!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Life & Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

The Life & Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

This book is dark and unusual as the reader dives into the life of Sophie Stark, an eccentric and unusual filmmaker, beginning from her very first college documentary and on.

“It’s hard for me to talk about love. I think movies are the way I do that,” says Sophie Stark, a visionary and unapologetic filmmaker. She uses stories from the lives of those around her—her obsession, her girlfriend, and her husband—to create movies that bring her critical recognition and acclaim. But as her career explodes, Sophie’s unwavering dedication to her art leads to the shattering betrayal of the people she loves most.

Told through a chorus of voices of people who know her, the reader discovers more about the creative genius that she was and the lengths that she will use people to achieve the films she wants. The reader never really understands Sophie Starks, neither do these sea of voices, but the intrigue about her holds you until the final page.

Disturbing and raw, this reads more like a documentary than a piece of fiction.

4 Out of 5 Stars



Read With Me This Year:

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

April 2015 Must-Reads

May 2015 Must-Reads

June 2015 Must-Reads

July 2015 Must-Reads

August 2015 Must-Reads

September 2015 Must-Reads

October2015MUST READS

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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

Amy’s Notebook 10.28.15: Transforming Your Space M Challenge Syllabus

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Transforming Your Space M Challenge

As a wrap-up of each month’s M Challenge theme, we will be using the last Notebook of the month as a sort of “Cliffs Notes” edition of the challenge – a place where you can find a list of all the articles we’ve published for the challenge, as well as more inspiration and links from the web around the challenge theme. Our hope is that this will be something that you can refer to in the future as well as catch up on in case you’ve missed anything!

October M Challenge: Focus on Transforming Your Space

Other Links: Easy Ideas to Transform Your Space

Wood Tile Look via Little Green Notebook

Source: Little Green Notebook


8 tips for nailing wood tile.

27 easy remodeling ideas that will completely transform your home (on a budget!).

Makeover a bathroom on a budget.

Update a brick fireplace in a day.

How to paint a faucet.

DIY vanity makeover using concrete overlay.

How to decorate any room starting now.

Staircase Makeover via In My Own Style

Source: In My Own Style


Update a carpeted staircase to stained steps and white painted risers for only $50.

40 temporary ways to transform your rental.

How to transform a closet into a mudroom nook.

How to frame a bathroom mirror.

Update your tile countertops with paint.

Turn a closet into a home office.

Upgrade your windows with DIY trim (the best tutorials).


I hope you enjoyed our M Challenge syllabus notebook, a collection of the Mom Advice articles and gathered links all around the month’s challenge focus. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

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Sundays With Writers: This is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison

Sunday, October 25th, 2015


Hello, friends! Today I am so excited to share about a new-to-me author that I have discovered this month. Jonathan Evison’s book, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, is a book that I listened to while tackling my meal prep for the week and it was absolutely charming in every way. If you are into audiobooks, the narrator did such an incredible job on this one!  As soon as I finished it, I emailed Jonathan to see if he could share more about it with me. He graciously is joining us today and after researching more about him and his books, I am just so anxious to read another one, in particular, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, which he told me would really resonate with my mom readers!

This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

Our must-reads list for the month will be out on Friday, but I couldn’t wait until then to tell you about this incredible book.

There is so much beautiful layering in this book that I just couldn’t put it down! 78-year-old Harriet discovers that her husband had won an Alaskan cruise before his passing and, with an expiration date looming on the prize, she decides to take that cruise with her best friend. When her best friend unexpectedly bails on her, Harriet finds herself on a boat out to sea, but she isn’t alone thanks to her husband’s visits.

We grow to know Harriet in a unique way as chapters alternate with a, “This is Your Life,” game show theme and we jump along the timeline of Harriet learning more about all of the life experiences that have shaped her, the people who have betrayed her, how she was treated when she was a child, how she felt as her marriage and parenting were failing, and what it was like for her to care for a husband who mentally was no longer there.

The book twists and turns, secrets are revealed and an unexpected guest joins Harriet on the cruise. It was a beautiful story that makes you consider what your own, “This Is Your Life,” show might look like- with all the good and the bad moments in it.

I am giving this book 5 out of 5 stars and am so excited to hear that it will be coming to the big screen!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Jonathan Evison today as we chat about his incredible new book!

jonathan evison

In your interview with NPR in September, you stated that you originally had written the story with Harriet having these flashbacks looking back on her life while brewing tea or gazing out the window, but then came up with the concept to mimic, “This is Your Life,” to bring these flashback moments to life. How did the idea of making these flashbacks to resemble the show, “This is Your Life,” come to you?

Really, it just arrived out of thin air, born of necessity. The narrative was too linear. Harriet needed a counterpoint. Since this was a novel about memory, and reflection, and association, all non-linear processes, this was a perfect opportunity to jump around in Harriet’s life. I liked the idea of Harriet being presented with her life at some distance.

As a male in his forties, the way that you capture the voice of a 78 year-old Harriet is so beautifully done and never feels forced, which is a true showcase of your incredible writing talent. How did you develop that voice for Harriet? Did you channel someone you knew or was it a collective voice of women this age that shaped Harriet’s perspective?

I wanted Harriet to be an everywoman of her generation, but yes, she was informed by a number of women in my life. I was raised almost exclusively by women. As I acknowledge at the end of the book, I wanted to honor the courageous women who  nurtured me, educated me, disciplined me, sacrificed for me, suffered for me, and never forsaken me; my mom, my grandma, my sisters, my wife, and my third grade teacher, to name a few. The women who have often settled for less, the women who’ve never quite gotten their fair share, who have soldiered on in the face of inequity, frustration and despair, who have forgiven beyond reasonable measure, absorbed beyond reasonable expectation, and given, given, given with no promise of recompense. I wanted to thank them with this portrait of one woman, inspired by all of them, from the moment of her conception, to her last breath. In terms of getting inside Harriet’s head, it’s mostly a matter of getting out of my own way.

The mother and daughter dynamic that you shape between Harriet & Caroline eerily resembles so many mother & daughter relationships I know. The strain that they each feel towards one another, the competition, and that ability to just take everything the wrong way was really well developed. Why do you think this dynamic was so important to Harriet’s story?

In my first novel, All About Lulu, I explored the father/son dynamic, which in my experience dealt with the implacable distance between father and son, and trying to bridge that distance. Conversely, when I consider the mother/daughter relationships that have informed my life, there seems to be an uncomfortable proximity between both parties, as if they both understand each other all too well. Where the father/son dynamic sometimes seems awkward, the mother/daughter dynamic seems tense. Really, I have no idea what accounts for this, it’s just something I’ve observed.

There are some truly dark moments for Harriet as Bernard’s health begins to decline. You really pull back the curtains on what it would be like to care for someone with Alzheimer’s and the physical & mental drains on their caregiver especially when they haven’t been an incredible spouse before their mind fails them. There are moments where Harriet really wants to inflict pain on Bernard for the pain he is putting her through. When Harriet realizes the secrets Bernard keeps, she really is angry that she had to bear it all alone even more. Were these scenes difficult for you to write? Do you think Bernard deserved Harriet?

It’s always difficult for me to make my characters suffer, but it’s what I do. I love them dearly, and I’ll do everything within my power not to forsake them, but my job is to report on the human experience, and that means pulling the curtains back and laying them bare. I’ve been a caregiver my whole life one way or another, so I know firsthand about the burnout, along with the rewards. As to whether Harriet deserved Bernard, I’d say very few of our relationships are predicated on what we deserve. Generally, they’re more about what we’re willing to accept. That said, nobody deserves Alzheimer’s.

I have a sweet spot for the elderly and I truly mean that!  I am finding that the appreciation for them grows as I grow older and realize the beauty in their stories. You have said that your characters are usually marginalized by society in some way. You even share through this story how Harriet feels invisible as she gets older. How do you think we can work to not marginalize the elderly as people and help them feel visible?

I think it’s already happening. The Baby Boomers are getting old, and they’ve got disposable income. It’s impossible for advertisers and marketers to ignore them, like they ignored the elderly of the Greatest Generation, whom they viewed as too “brand loyal,” and set in their ways. The best way not to be marginalized in America is to be attractive to advertisers.

You have attributed a lot of your success to independent bookstores and their embrace of your talents. Why do you think their support has helped so much with the sales of your books? For other writers out there, were there any particular strategies involved to get them to back you for successful sales?

Nothing moves books like word of mouth. When you figure in the exponentials, personal recommendations go further than big newspaper reviews or advertisements. And at the end of the day, nobody connects writers to readers like an independent bookseller, who is likely not selling books in an effort to accumulate wealth.

I understand that you enjoy a little booze with your book readings which I love since many can feel so stiff and formal. What’s your favorite drink to sip while sharing your books?

Whatever you got, twice.

This Is Your Life

Although I knew of, “This is Your Life,” I have actually never seen an episode of it. Do you have a favorite episode of the show, “This is Your Life,” that you could recommend that we check out?

I generally remember the show and its concept from seeing it a few times in syndication when I was a kid. They call it the original reality show, but it was pretty schmaltzy, really. I intentionally skewed Harriet’s “host” much darker and more penetrating than Ralph Edwards, the host of This is Your Life, which was all pretty orchestrated toward a warm and fuzzy ending.


(Selena Gomez shares a photo on set on Instagram for The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving)

I understand that your novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” is coming out in 2016 starring Selena Gomez, Jennifer, Ehle, & Paul Rudd. Are you involved with writing the screenplay for this and how excited are you to see this book come to life?

I was not involved in the writing or production, though I consulted a little bit on set, and appeared in a scene, which was a lot of fun. Everybody involved was extremely gracious. And yes, I’m very excited for the story to reach a new audience. Harriet Chance is also in the early stages of development at Focus Features. I’m tickled pink that film people want to share my stories, and pay me for them.   

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

One book, seriously? This question could keep me up all night! My recommendation is that you not be afraid to read outside of your comfort zone, because you never know what’s going to change your life.


You can connect with Jonathan Evison on Facebook or through his website!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!
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It’s the 3 Little Things: Card Games for Teens, Nighttime Snacks, & iPhone Projection

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Jem & the Holograms

Well, hellloooo, LONG weekend! My kids are off of school for five whole days and sleeping in and not meeting a bus today really tops the happy list. We don’t have a ton planned, but my daughter & I are taking a road trip all the way to Valpo to see the Jem & The Holograms movie. I promised her the outing and I just want to NOT thank you Mishawaka/Niles for making us drive so far to see this. When a mom makes a promise though, she follows through. We are also squeezing in a pumpkin patch visit and I bribed my neighbors to let me set my tripod up on their beautiful property to take our family Christmas photo today. We are going to save a bundle and my family knows the quicker they cooperate, the quicker they can take this painful endeavor off our list of holiday to-do’s!

Here are some other joy givers this week!


Jif Whips on Rice Cakes #winning

I’ve been hitting the gym hard which means I deserve every moment of my nighttime binge. I make no apologies for the balanced life I lead! I wanted to switch up my Nutella + Sea Salt + Rice Cake game and found these Jif Whips in all sorts of different flavors at our store. This Whipped Peanut Butter & Chocolate is a heavenly topper for apples, strawberries, or rice cakes.  It reminds me of a Reese’s Cup, but lighter with a good balance of both flavors. It’s airy like a whipped cream so it is easy for dipping and spreading.  It’s also little lighter on the fat grams than Nutella, but just as satisfying. I’m looking forward to trying some more flavors to switch up my snack game.



Boss Monster- A Game Teen Boys Will LOVE!

If you are local, I just want to share how proud we are of our friend’s Dan & Lydia who have opened a new game store in Elkhart called Secret Door Games. It is a DREAM for parents because unlike ordering online, you can actually have someone who is passionate about games teach you how to play them and introduce you to new games that your whole family will love. If you are holiday shopping locally, this is a MUST-VISIT for fresh Christmas gift ideas.

Secret Door Games

It is through Secret Door Games that my son found his new favorite game Boss Monster. Do you see teen boys getting excited about anything that isn’t a video game? I mean ever? This kid LOVES this game and he loved it so much that my husband treated him to an expansion pack for it.  If you aren’t local and don’t have Dan to help explain it to you, Boss Monster is a standalone card game that challenges 2-4 players to become videogame-style villains and build deadly side-scrolling dungeons. Players compete to see who can lure and destroy the most adventurers. But beware! You must make your dungeon as deadly as it is attractive, or the puny heroes might kill you first! It’s pixel-illustrations are so awesome and this one is recommended for kids 13 and up.

Hearing my husband & Ethan play it together brings me immeasurable joy. I love the break from the screens and I love seeing them bonding over this game. They also got the Boss Monster Tools of Hero-Kind to build upon it.

Have a teenager gamer on your hands? Be sure to get this for them!


iPhone Projection

Netflix has REALLY been rocking this month so if you haven’t dug into Netflix in a long time, may I suggest making a Netflix binge a part of your weekend? My new obsessions include The Great British Baking Show, Fixer Upper, Jane the Virgin, &, most importantly, The Time In Between (almost like a Spanish version of Downton Abbey!!).  Many moons ago I got a 3M Projector to review for the site and it has served us so well over the years. Not only have we used it for outdoor movie nights at home, but it is so compact that we travel with it and take on trips to our vacation homes to create a little at-home theater.  I have discovered that it pairs well with my favorite inexpensive speaker and it plugs right into your phone for Netflix or Amazon Instant Movies.

This is a pricier happy than usual, but it makes any blank home in your wall a theater. The other night we enjoyed a bottle of the ALDI’s wine-of-the-month paired with a flick when we discovered shifting a painting off our little mantle made for the perfect projection spot.

If that wasn’t enough… ADELE is BACK!!!! Check out her new video!

Happy weekend, friends! xoxo

*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 10.21.15

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Painted Pumpkins via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry


Fun abstract painted pumpkins.

I want to dig into some stir-fry meals this week!

Apple pie breakfast cookies- #winning!

Can you decorate as beautifully as a high schooler? Stunning.

Soup for a friend.

Pom-Pom Solar System? Be still my beating heart.

7 inspiring TED Talks that’ll help you get through difficult times.

How to get away with no make-up. An incredibly moving piece.

Boozy-Pumpkin-Milkshake-Broma Bakery

Source: Broma Bakery


A ridiculously easy boozy pumpkin milkshake.

Adorable DIY mini granite pots.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.

Nate Berkus & Jeremiah Brent Home Tour- I die. Perfection!

Easy homemade caramel corn.

Murder on the Orient Express Book Club inspiration. I still need to dig into Agatha Christie and this looks fun!

Slow cooker soup recipes – yep, it’s time for all things warm & wonderful.

For my fellow Dirty Dancing fans. Who knew?

5 books that can turn you into a different person.

This is disturbing.

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

Sundays With Writers: You by Caroline Kepnes

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

Some interviews take longer to wait for than others and I have been pursuing poor Caroline Kepnes since July to have her be my guest on the site. I was obsessed with talking with her, kind of like her obsessive character she has created… I wasn’t going to let this one go.  Why? Well, heck, if you have read You, you know why I had to talk to her.

As a rule, I hesitate to take on any series books. I am one of those fickle people that can’t seem to follow through on a series and since I try to read such a diverse amount of books for our reviews each month, I like to offer you a plethora of choices. After reading it though, I knew that Caroline had more of a story to tell about her character Joe, and I knew I wanted to hear that story.

You by Caroline Kepens

For my friends that don’t like to read racy literature, this is one you can skip, but for my friends looking for a little excitement in their lives…well, this book is for you. Bring on the excitement (JAZZ HANDS)!! Every friend I have recommended this one to has gotten swept away in the crazy. It’s impossible not to.

This book is dark, disturbing, twisted, erotic, psychotic…just try to put it down. Fans of Chelsea Cain & Gillian Flynn will love this book.

This is a twisted love story told from Joe, our obsessed narrator, who finds love in his bookshop after cyber-stalking a girl who used her credit card at his store. We watch as Joe becomes more and more unhinged as he discovers love is nothing like the books he’s read and the movies he’s watched- a fact that he is most displeased with. Twisted humor makes for laugh-out-loud moments and cleverly woven pop culture themes add a little lightness to the dark. This is an author to watch.  To read my full review, head on over to my July Must-Reads list!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Caroline to chat about this year’s new guilty pleasure book, You!


The way that Joe utilizes social media to stalk Guinevere, in an attempt to create her ideal boyfriend, was chilling for someone who uses social media so much. How did you come up with the concept of creating this cat-and-mouse game through tweets and Facebook?

Writing a book full of status updates and tweets is one way to rationalize your time on Facebook, isn’t it? Looking back to that time before I started writing, I realize that I was on Facebook a lot, in a negative sense. I had spent a lot of time in hospitals, waiting around, too anxious to read, too fried. My phone was always there, the ever-changing fake-true story of sometimes interconnecting narratives that is your Facebook feed. I was fascinated by the dissonance between how we present ourselves and how we live. I was so aware of how interactive Facebook is, emotionally, how you can use it to drag yourself down if you want, how to lift yourself up, get attention, give it, such a strange new tool in our pockets. And it’s intriguing to me, what people choose to project, why they make that choice. I’m a psychologist at heart in a lot of ways and I loved the idea of this misguided, lonely soul who uses this tool in all the worst possible ways. But you feel for him sometimes of course, because he wants love. I liked the idea of technology as a weapon for both Beck and Joe. She is using it to get attention. He’s using it to pay attention. It’s all too extreme. Also, I had been a heavy smoker and I quit cold turkey, which was traumatic, and this book was like a replacement for cigarettes in some way.

As a former journalist for Tiger Beat & Entertainment Weekly, we can really see your pop culture personality pull through with all of your references to current songs, movies, and the media during this time. Did you ever worry that this would date your book in any way by using so much pop culture within it?

I was watching The Honeydrippers video for “Sea of Love so much while writing that I put the video in the book. That’s how it worked with a lot of the references. I would write in a coffee shop, then get in my car and listen to a mix CD of Hannah and Her Sisters instrumentals and Elton John. And I would end up stopping at a coffee shop on the way home to write more. I was so full of drive and inspiration and my God, what a joyous time. I genuinely didn’t care if the book was good or bad. It felt like its own thing, a beast that I was nurturing, and as I type that I’m like, eew, pretentious, but at the same time, it’s true. So that was the fun, the flow part.

Then of course, there’s so much more to writing than the high of the first draft, with or without the musical inspiration. You snap out of it and review your work, find that you have quoted e.e. Cummings and Prince repeatedly and become self-conscious and bite your lip and question all of it. It’s extreme to point toward a moment in history in a work of fiction, like when Benji finds out about Lou Reed’s death. But I love reading books and looking at the publication date and thinking, ok, so this is what it was like at this moment. And in this case it felt right. With lyrics, it’s also extreme to quote so many songs and seek legal permissions. But similarly, the references felt right for this particular narrative. Joe’s mind was absolutely clogged with quotes and songs and images. That was endemic. His interpersonal relationships have not been rewarding. I thought of that scene in Good Will Hunting when Will says his friends are Shakespeare, et al, the guys who wrote the books and the good doctor is basically like, No, kid. They’re dead. That scene stayed with me. And it’s interesting, in Hidden Bodies, I started quoting songs again and rewrote seventy pages over and over and it felt wrong. And it was like, that’s because it is wrong. He has a relationship now and this story isn’t about him swooning, being alone, seeking. It’s about him trying to preserve what he has. He’s not in his head so much, he’s in the world, socializing more. The references are there, but they’re different.

Frank Langella

While we are on the subject of pop culture, can you share your favorite story or celebrity that you covered and why it was so special to you?

I have always been obsessed with film press junkets. I used to write the Reel Girl column for E! Online and I got to go to junkets a lot. They are trippy and interesting, with journalists who know so much about movies, tense publicists, uncomfortable celebrities, Fiji water flowing, the air of formality of The Four Seasons that I swear makes everyone awkward. I. Love. Junkets. Anyway, I was sitting at a roundtable with journalists and Frank Langella. He was in this intimate movie called Starting Out in the Evening. I asked him what it was like to slap a woman on camera. And he slapped me. Gently, but you know, it was a slap. And it was just amazing. Best junket ever. Here’s a link to the play by play!

I censor myself in my writing that I put out into the world because I’m always worried what other people might think. I really need to work on that! Your book really pushes all the envelopes. Did you ever worry about what anyone would think about any of these scenes that you wrote or do you write without worry about it? Do you have any advice about stepping out of your comfort zone when writing?

Oh, God, that’s such an important topic that I think about so much. The main thing, forget about the end result. Remember that a bomb could go off and that would be the end of that. Stop editing. Stop wincing. Stop rereading. (You get to do all that after and torture yourself for as long as you want.) Seek flow. Follow your instincts. Don’t put writing on a pedestal. I like to think of it as a combination of playing and thinking. You can’t undermine the importance of the play part, the need to create a time and space to play. The way you do when you’re a kid. Be a hedonistic child. Do what you want. A few weeks ago, my friend’s kids had me read B.J. Novak’s book to them over and over again. This is what I love about kids, they’re not like oh I should read something else, broaden my horizons, seek balance. They indulge. I think it helps to have that spirit as an adult. Worry later. And then yes, worry and think a lot about what’s wrong with what you did. But separate those two tasks, the play and the edit. And everyone is different. Some people want to breathe, regroup and edit after a chapter. Some people want to push out the whole thing and then look after. And some people change with each project. It’s just about figuring out what works for you.

I think, if you’re having this issue with what other people think, go sit in a coffee shop and write. You’re exposing yourself. Anyone who walks by can see that you’re not just futzing around on Facebook (not all the time) but that you are attempting to create something. So already, you’re facing the opponent, letting strangers know that you are trying to write. It’s a great starting point because these people don’t get to review your work. It’s more about you becoming comfortable creating something out of your imagination on your own, near other humans, rising above the din and letting the work take over.

Of course, if an hour later you are miserable and have a blank screen, that’s okay too. You learned something about yourself. You hated being in that coffee shop and trying to create something. Ask yourself why. Go home and draw the curtains and tell the computer about your day. Maybe that ranting will spark an idea and before you know it, your bad writing day rant has mutated into a scene. Let this exercise be a priority. Same way you have a skin routine, this is no different. Your imagination deserves to be treated with tenderness. And if you fall off the wagon and freeze up and go into that, oh shit I don’t think I can write ever again mode, let it rip. Indulge the anxiety. Binge on TV and let yourself slowly realize that the only cure for writing anxiety is writing. Your brain is resilient. Just like your skin.

I really, really adored that you thanked two of your former teachers in your acknowledgements.  What was it about these two teachers that made them so special and have you heard from them on their reaction to your book?

Teachers are so important. Their contribution is incalculable. Both the teachers I thanked are legends in my hometown school system. I saw one recently and it was such a joy. He’s an author as well as a teacher (Girl Singer by Mick Carlon is out November 10!). He loved the part in the book where Joe arrives in Little Compton, and that meant so much to me, particularly that’s a descriptive scene and Mick was my journalism teacher, which is to say, he helped countless students hone into their environments, notice surroundings. He’s a phenomenal person. They were both so encouraging and thoughtful and above all, my God, they both love books. That’s contagious.


Stephen King with The Thing of Evil (read all about her- so cute!)

Joe makes fun of Stephen King an awful lot in your story and the actual Stephen King happens to endorse your book on the cover. Did he love all of the references to himself and how do you get such a legend to write a blurb for the cover of your book?

I see his name on the cover and I feel overjoyed. Stephen King dazzles me. To think of him creating so many rich stories and then sharing photos of Molly, The Thing of Evil, I mean, he’s such a wholly admirable person. Joe’s take on him was so much fun to work out. There’s Joe’s basic deranged sense of authority. He’s miffed at people claiming to love Stephen King. Joe, of course, feels superior to his customers. He suspects they haven’t read the bulk of King’s work. He thinks most of the people buying the book about Danny Torrance never even read The Shining, only saw the movie version. And then, Joe is flat out mad at Stephen King because the man publishes a novel when Joe has a date?! He makes Joe late! And Joe has control issues. He resents the reliability of our culture, the guarantee that a Stephen King book will attract readers, the resultant inconvenience that this creates for Joe. Ah, narcissism!

Stephen King is just amazing. I have turned to On Writing many times in my life. He gets it. And his understanding of us, strengths and weaknesses, I am grateful for his work. I don’t know how the blurb on my book happened. I just know that last December I was roaming around Kitson in the Beverly Center with a low-grade fever in holiday shopping panic when my phone started buzzing. He was tweeting about me. It blew my mind. Always will. It means so much to me that he read my red and white book and felt compelled to tell people about it.

I understand you are preparing the sequel to You now! Where are you in the stages of development of the next book and are there any talks yet of turning your first book into a screenplay?

Hidden Bodies comes out in February! It’s the sequel and the waiting is killing me. But it’s the good kind of pain, like waiting for Christmas as a child. I finished writing it a few months ago. I knew I wanted to spend more time with this character while I was writing the first one. There was never any doubt that there are at least three books. The first one for me was primarily about being in your twenties, Joe being about thirty, feeling he missed out on having normal twenties, always a little late. Hidden Bodies has Joe in his thirties, a little weary, driven and violent as ever, but you know, he wants love, home, stability, the American dream. But it’s the same thing, nothing is quite what he wants it to be. I have plans for another one and I hope to tell his story for years to come. And yes, Showtime optioned You. Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble are working on the script. It’s all tremendously exciting. And I’m working on two new books right now.

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

The Street by Anne Petry is brilliant and searing. One of my all time favorites.

You can connect with Caroline Kepnes on Facebook or through Twitter! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!



It’s the 3 Little Things: Wrinkles Be Gone, Inspiring Documentaries, & a Great Blowout

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Fall in Indiana

Our yard is filled with God’s beauty and I couldn’t enjoy the pretty hues more- it’s been quite the leaf show this season! I mixed up a batch of our favorite cocoa mix and I have spent a couple of cozy mornings by my little fireplace I painted last winter. I am loving the crisp weather and thankful I scored this blanket cape at TJ Maxx for these cool mornings (a steal at $20!). Picture me cozying up in that with this book that I am tackling for book club this weekend. It’s so out of my typical genre, but I am really loving it! Have you read it yet?

Here are a few other things that are making me wildly happy!

Purador Argan Oil

I Feel 5 Years Younger in a Single Week

As I near 40, I am seeing more fine lines on my face, despite my best efforts at moisturizing and caring for my skin. I have used Argan Oil on my hair occasionally (a freebie that came with my hair straightener, but I never knew the benefits of putting it on your skin). Friends, within one week the majority of these lines on my face are smooth and my skin feels unbelievable- it is almost like getting a mini facelift.

You want to rinse your face and pat it dry, leaving it slightly damp to apply the oil on.  I put two drops on my face in the morning, allow it to settle in (it’s a dry oil so not greasy!) and then use my favorite Aveeno BB Cream and my normal make-up routines.  In the evening, I wash my face with Cetaphil cleanser (or my St. Ives Apricot scrub if I need to exfoliate).  Again, keep your face slightly damp and then I put two drops on my skin and top it with a generous layer of  Ponds Cream and I am telling you, I feel like a whole new woman.

I can’t brag enough about how awesome this stuff is and I have heard it is particularly helpful for people suffering from acne, eczema, psoriasis,  or cracked/dry skin. It can reduce scarring as well. It’s basically a miracle in a bottle.

I plan to make this a part of my regular beauty routine forever and I am hopeful I will have the face of a newborn child after a year of using it. Not only that, but it has even reduced the circles under my eyes. MIRACLE STUFF, people.

Have you ever used argan oil? What do you use it for? I’d love to hear!



Batkid Begins

I Was Inspired By Documentaries

I can’t get enough of documentaries these days and try to watch a minimum of one a week. This week I squeezed in three (two over our weekend and one over my marathon cooking day!). If you are looking for inspiration this week, here are three that I recommend trying!

BatKid Begins- I followed the story of Batkid, a child granted a wish by the Make a Wish Foundation to become Batman for a day, but I never knew how they managed to pull it off. This movie is about the incredible volunteers who made a little boy’s wish come true and it was incredibly inspiring to see how excited the entire town was about granting this special kid’s wish. This is a feel-good movie that the whole family can watch together. I can’t recommend it enough!

Dior And I

Dior & I- You don’t really even have to love fashion to appreciate this incredible documentary about Raf Simmon’s first haute couture collection that he debuts as their new artistic director. You really get a feel for the level of detail of each of the pieces, there are incredible interviews with the seamstresses who execute the designs, and the overwhelm of it all is captured beautifully as Raf pulls it all together with his team. From a business standpoint, you will be in awe at how they work together, and if you are in a leadership role it’s a lot to aspire to in team-leading. This one was rated R so not for the kiddos!

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

A Brave Heart: A Lizzie Velasquez Story- My girlfriend shared about a story she read in People about Lizzie and told me about this documentary. I couldn’t wait to watch it and now will be rewatching it with my kids this weekend. This is the story of a brave girl who was cyberbullied in a very heartbreaking way and what she did in response to that bullying that is inspiring congress to change their laws on bullying. It would be impossible to watch this and not be inspired, but it also is a great lesson for your entire family about choosing your words and how those words impact people (even when those words are just said online). Lizzie’s family support was probably one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. I highly recommend it for a Docu-Pizza night with your family.

Conair 3Q

I Was Forced to Get a New Hair Dryer (And I Love it)

I am terrible about spending money on myself, but when my hair blower went out, I was at the mercy of my husband’s purchasing decision to run out and snag me one from Target before we headed out for an evening. I buy the $20 blow dryers and replace them every couple of years so I was nervous sending him out for me. He came upstairs and handed me the bag and said, “Don’t melt your face off.” Um, okay. Well, now I know why. This Infiniti Pro by Conair blow dryer is incredible and, for the first time ever, I have completely dry hair in no time flat.  They claim it reduces drying time, is quiet, and reduces frizz. It really does all of that stuff. They also claim it will last longer than other blow dryers. Fingers crossed that is really true.  I’m not happy about how much he spent on this, but it has decreased my blow drying time by half. For that, I’m pretty darn happy!


Happy weekend, friends! xoxo

*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 10.14.15

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Spiral Pumpkin Twists via A Cozy Kitchen

Source: A Cozy Kitchen


Spiral pumpkin twists with maple cream- so beautiful!

Check out this Halloween trick-or-treat app that you can use to navigate your neighborhood this year.

A list of the Kirkus Prize finalists. Have you read any of these?

Maple molasses donuts – yes, please!

They will not remember. (I needed that)

13 mysterious & scary October reads.

A well-researched guide to consignment shopping.

You make me brave.

Trade shopping for self-care: a lovely reminder!

1940s Bungalow via Design Sponge

Source: Design Sponge


A wonderful 1940s bungalow centered around art.

14 surprising things about parenting in Sweden.

An easy hack for getting longer strands of spaghetti squash.

Looking forward to the next season of Serial.

Scary Netflix movies for weekend binge-watching.

Make rotisserie-style chicken at home with a Bundt pan – who knew?

Harry Potter’s new illustrator Jim Kay explains how he came up with his versions of the world famous magical characters.

Need a new audiobook recommendation? Try one of these 10 engaging titles, read by their authors.

The reality of owning a cat.

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


Sundays With Writers: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

Do you love quirky books like Eleanor & Park? I am such a fan of quirky literature and Kitchens of the Great Midwest combines good old-fashioned Midwest humor with loads of charm in this adorable fictional debut by J. Ryan Stradal. After I finished it, I immediately emailed J. Ryan to see if he might like to join me in our Sundays With Writers series and was so thrilled when he said he would. Today I am sharing a little behind his unique story and, since this story follows the culinary career of Eva, a peek at his own love affair with food.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity.

This book is perfectly quirky in every way. The reader gets to go on a journey chapter by chapter with different narrators who are all somehow connected to an incredible little girl named Eva, that grows into a woman of major culinary talent. As with any book with changing narrators, some chapters you are more drawn into than others, but it does not take away from the quirky hilarity written in each chapter.

Being a Midwest girl, there were many references that made me feel nostalgic about my own Midwest roots as Eva’s coming-of-age story unfolds. I had a hard time putting this one down!

FYI- There are some graphic scenes and language in this one.

I included this book in our September Must-Reads list this month and am excited to have J. Ryan join me this morning. Grab your coffee and settle in with another incredible writer!


The structure of your book is so unique because Eva and her life story are told through other characters and that is how we get to know her. Why did you think it was important to structure your book in this way?

When I decided to set a book in the Midwest at large, I knew I would never please everyone; it’s too large and varied for one book. Still, there are a range of Midwestern types I attempted that I don’t always see represented in fiction; I wanted as many points of view on the Midwesterner’s relationship to region and food as possible. I also wanted Eva’s adult career to be cloaked in mystery and hearsay, and I felt that telling the story from multiple points of view would both allow me to introduce a variety of Midwestern characters – while keeping Eva at a bit of a distance. It’s intentional that the reader will find Eva increasingly remote.

Eva even from infancy is passionate about food, but is raised by her aunt and uncle who don’t really understand her passions for the culinary world. Have you ever felt misunderstood by your parents or community for a passion you had and did you channel this in the character of Eva?

Absolutely. When I was Eva’s age, I sometimes felt alienated from the hockey and football-obsessed town I grew up in, and I didn’t share my family’s interest in hunting or motorcycles. I affirmed that there was a place for me in this world largely through books and music. While I had supportive teachers and good friends, I also attached myself to interests that were pretty far outside the realm of what was available in my corner of southern Minnesota, and that’s reflected in Eva’s passion for extremely hot peppers – which, obviously, aren’t commonly identified with Iowa.

As a foodie, I appreciated the humor and lightness you add to our obsessions with food. There is one line that I highlighted because it really gave me a moment’s pause. When your character Pat is made fun of by other foodies for a simple cookie bar instead of a vegan and locally sourced dish, the line says, “She suddenly felt sorry for these people for perverting the food of their childhood, the food of their mothers and grandmothers, and rejecting its unconditional love in favor of what?” Do you think there is some truth in Pat’s feelings when it comes to our obsessions with healthier living and misunderstanding the food of our parents & grandparents?

I think Pat would feel that way. She doesn’t see a place in the ecology of that setting for what defines her as a cook, so she views their values as not merely an abnegation of her bars or her ingredients, but of her as a person. She’s been devoted to doing one thing one way for a long time, and in her emotional reaction to these foodies, I also perceive a bit of a generation gap – a little bit of that LP enthusiast who decries CDs and MP3s as inferior. She’s not wrong, but given what she knows and what she doesn’t know, you can see why she takes rejection of her food personally.

The way you write about food and, in particular, describing dishes that Eva creates is so beautifully descriptive that it made my mouth water. “The venison, firm enough to meet your teeth, and soft enough to yield agreeably in your mouth, revealed subtle, steely new flavors with each bite, while the tomatoes were so full of richness and warm blood, it was like eating a sleeping animal.” I mean, REALLY! How do you develop this richness to your words and were there any people or books that aided in your inspiration for developing such incredible descriptiveness in these dishes?

Wow, thank you. I don’t really know if I can point to one book. I’m always reading something, and I’m also always looking for books that challenge my expectations and comfort level as a reader; seeing marvelous sentences makes me want to write them. Like most writers, I try my best to explain things in a way that I haven’t seen them explained before, but also in a way that’s visceral and descriptive, to the best of my ability, and relevant to the voice of the character. The sentence you just quoted came from a character who is a sommelier with restaurant experience. Had the character been a nurse or a President, it would’ve come out somewhat differently. This is probably a boring answer, and I feel bad because the question was so generous.

Have you ever eaten or been a part of any dining experience like Eva offers and were there any restaurants that served as inspiration for creating this pop-up dining experience you develop?

Sure, a few times. Some years ago I attended a pop-up in downtown Los Angeles that gave me some ideas in terms of how the principals behind the operation used the ephemeral location to their advantage. I’ve also read about a few (that I have yet to attend) that seem to demonstrate the chef’s passion for both fresh ingredients and a bespoke experience. Collectively, they made Eva’s operation seem somewhat plausible, though I admit at the time I wrote the book I thought Eva’s dinner seemed slightly far-fetched. I no longer think that’s the case.

Since I am a Midwesterner, I truly could appreciate so many of the references you made in this book. I understand that you live out in California now. Can you share what you miss the most about the Midwest?

The people, first and foremost. The environment – the air, the water, the trees, and their evolutions during the fiercely stark seasons. I think about Minnesota a lot; I still consider it home even though I’ve lived in California for seventeen years.

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

This is monstrously tough. How can I choose just one? Debbie Graber’s short story collection Kevin Kramer Starts On Monday isn’t out yet – it comes out next spring – but it’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a very long time. Debbie is just brilliant; her humor, which often sends up the contemporary American workplace, is infused with plenty of heart, pathos, and intelligence. I read it in manuscript form and I can’t wait for it to exist in the world. Please pre-order it the moment it becomes available.

You can connect with J. Ryan Stradal  on Facebook or through his website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!


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It’s the 3 Little Things: Curling Wands, Harry Potter Illustrated, & The Martian

Friday, October 9th, 2015


I hope you guys are having a lovely week!  It was such a fantastic week for our family and we enjoyed a happy occasion this past weekend celebrating our Granny getting married.

Emily got to be a flower girl so I scored this cute little flower girl dress from thredUP for the occasion (I hate spending a fortune on one occasion dresses!) and we got all dolled up for the event. I still stuck to my capsule and am thankful I added a little black dress to my wardrobe for occasions like these. This was Emily’s flower girl debut and she rocked it and walked her Granny down the aisle like a true professional flower girl!


I am no wedding photographer, but my grandma asked me to take some pictures of their big day. I don’t know how wedding photographers handle the pressure of capturing those big moments and I’m thankful my grandma wasn’t expecting anything too professional because THE PRESSURE!!   This is one of my favorite pictures that I snapped of them though! Isn’t it precious?  I combined a million coupon codes and got some photo albums printed from Shutterfly and made sure to blow this one up in an 8×10.  I can’t wait to give them their pictures.

This image, in particular,  just makes me really happy!

I’m looking forward to a quieter weekend with my family and just scored another big stack of books from the library to dig into!  Let me know if you’ve read any of these- I always love your opinions on books.

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

Conair Curling Wand

I Finally Mastered My Curling Wand

Years and years ago I purchased this Conair Infiniti Curling Wand (just a little over $20!!), tried to use it, promptly failed,  and put it back in the box to never be used again. It may have been the length of my hair, but I really think it was the fact that I couldn’t figure out how in the heck to use it. Curling wands require a bit of a learning curve. If you saw me, you would have died laughing- it was awful.

My sweet friend, Abby from Twist Me Pretty, had this incredible tutorial on how to use a curling wand and I started using that and finally got the hang of it. Her curls are much looser thanks to the larger barrel on the iron, but I am happy with what can acheive with my $22 curling wand that had been gathering dust in storage. Since my hair is coarse and thick, it takes a long time for me to curl it all, but once I have it curled it actually holds until I wash it a few days later!

Conair Curling Wand

Here is a close up of what my hair looks like with using it and that picture from my grandma’s wedding (above)  also gives you an idea of what the waves look like. I always wondered how people achieved (and held) their waves like this and now I know the secret. If you have wanted to experiment with a curling wand, I can’t recommend that tutorial and this inexpensive wand enough!

Harry Potter Illustrated

The New Harry Potter Illustrated

We got to take part in an Instagram campaign to share about the new Harry Potter Illustrated which was so exciting.  Today this is not sponsored in any way, our family is just madly in love with this new book.  For those that haven’t heard about it yet, Jim Kay is going to be illustrating the entire Harry Potter series in this colorful book and this is the first book in the series. This first one had over a hundred illustrations, but each illustration is like a million illustrations because of his incredible detail. Watch this piece on BBC to get a peek at his technique and artistry- it is jaw-droppingly beautiful! What is more impressive is that he is putting his own interpretation on each of these characters which I would think is one of the biggest challenges since the movie versions are so beloved.

My daughter asked to take this book to school yesterday which upset my son who also wanted to take it into his art class to show them. When we picked up my holds at the library, guess what was sitting there…yup, this Harry Potter Book. My son checked it out so they would each have their own copies and they both have been rereading it with these illustrations nonstop.

We were almost late for our bus this morning for this very reason. I’m not kidding.

If you have a Harry Potter fan, I would definitely add this to your Christmas or birthday wish lists. It’s simply stunning!

The Martian

The Martian (With My Dad)

I have been impatiently waiting for The Martian to come out ever since I read the book. You may recall that Andy Weir joined me in our Sundays With Writers series to talk about his book and the upcoming film. I had my husband help me craft the questions because the science behind so much of this story was so astounding that only a genius mind could have ever come up with such an incredible survival story for an astronaut stuck on Mars in this book.

I encouraged my Dad to read the book and he absolutely loved it as much as I did. We planned to see the movie together when it came out and I got my movie date with my Dad yesterday which was AWESOME! The movie was just as incredible as the book which, in my opinion, rarely happens. We didn’t get to see it in 3D, although I have heard that the elements are really amazing if you can see it that way, but the visuals were still really incredible.

My Dad read the book more recently so he remarked a couple of times on a few things that were missing, but we both thought it was a really good interpretation and kept that humor that we loved.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend it enough. For those that have asked me if they can take their space-loving kids to it, there are several F-Bombs (although fewer than the book) so I guess it depends on how comfortable you feel with that. If that element wasn’t in there, it would have probably been a PG film! I hope that helps!

PS- Can you believe how affordable a movie before noon is in our town? Such a steal!!

Happy weekend, friends! xoxo

*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?