Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Sundays With Writers: The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Happy Sunday, friends! As always, I am so excited to share about great books with you and interviews with fantastic authors. I picked up today’s featured book The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley at my local library and absolutely loved it. I am always a lover of books with big moral issues and this book is one of those books that shares a dilemma of something a mother could face and then begs the question, “Would I do that if I was in her shoes?”

It’s one of those books you want to read with your book club and then dive in a discussion about this mother’s choices. It is one where it is unclear what the right or wrong answers are.

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

In this story, Eve Lattimore’s family is like every other on their suburban street, with one exception. Her son Tyler has a rare medical condition that makes him fatally sensitive to light, which means heavy curtains and deadlocked doors protect him during the day and he can never leave the house except at night. For Eve, only constant vigilance stands between an increasingly restless teenage son and the dangers of the outside world.

Until the night the unthinkable happens. When tragedy strikes, it becomes clear that this family is not the only one on the quiet cul-de-sac that is more complicated than it appears. And as Eve is forced to shield her family from harm, there are some crises she cannot control—and some secrets that not even love can conceal.

This book is deeply moving and suspenseful. I sat down with it and I could not put it down until I shut it two days later.  I would recommend this book for fans of Defending JacobThe Husband’s Secret, or My Sister’s Keeper.

Now hurry up and grab that cup of coffee and enjoy this beautiful interview with Carla Buckley!

Carla Buckley

 Fourteen-year-old Tyler suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum, a genetic condition that means he must avoid any exposure to the sun or any UV light. How did you first hear about this condition and what prompted the idea for creating a story around this condition? What type of research did you do to prepare for what it would be like to live with this condition or be a family member who lives with someone who has XP?

When my son was sixteen and had just gotten his driver’s license, I had mixed feelings as I watched him drive away that very first time. He’d worked hard and proven himself to be responsible and I was proud as I watched him carefully back the car out of our driveway. But I also felt sad. He wasn’t just driving himself to his guitar lesson. He was taking a critical first step to becoming a man and leaving home forever. I began to wonder what it would be like to mother a child who could never reach this sort of milestone. It occurred to me that this normal, turbulent, and always challenging period of a boy’s growing up would be complicated immeasurably if he had a medical condition. But which one? My sister, an ER physician, suggested Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) and as soon as she said the words, I saw my story start to unfold.

XP’s an extraordinarily rare disease passed on by both parents in which a person’s skin and eye cells cannot repair the deadly damage done by ultraviolet radiation. Most parents don’t realize they’re carriers until their child is diagnosed, usually by the time their child is two years old. But by then, the damage has already been done. The average life expectancy for someone born with XP is twenty years.

In order to understand the disease itself, I scoured online resources (there are two parent-run organizations, one in the US and the other in the UK that offer general information to caregivers), read numerous medical research papers, and interviewed dermatologists and dentists. Combined, this gave me a basic foundation upon which to build. Then I began to put myself in Eve’s place to imagine what I would do if I had to keep my child safe from sunlight.

Eve struggles with the moral decision of coming forward with information when her best friend’s child goes missing because she thinks keeping it secret can protect her family. Do you think you would have kept the deepest secret, personally, or would you have taken different actions than Eve?

If only there were a users’ manual for raising children. Failing that, we all write our own, cobbled together from experiences that range from “Okay, remember that the next time this happens” to “Boy, I wish I hadn’t done that.” If we’re lucky, our children survive our mistakes with just a few scars. Sometimes I think parenting is like throwing darts and praying they hit the wall and not a few innocent bystanders.

That’s what I wanted to show in THE DEEPEST SECRET. Most of us are just doing the best we can, and we’re not perfect. Eve’s circumstances are difficult, if not impossible, and she’s going to make mistakes. But she’s also going to do some things incredibly right. My hope is that readers will recognize something of themselves in her, whether or not they agree with her choices.

I’m not sure what I would have done if I had been Eve. I hope I never face that kind of dilemma.

There are a lot of secrets throughout the book and many of them focus on the neighbors and Tyler capturing some of those secret lives through photography when they are unaware in their windows. The book also builds to a big scene were the neighbors are disagreeing and then spilling those secrets out onto the pavement to each other.  It made me think how little we know our own neighbors, especially today. What made building this neighborhood such a big part of the Lattimore’s story and was it difficult to develop so many plotlines for so many people?

I’ve always thought there was something magical about a neighborhood at night, all the house windows glowing brightly in the darkness. When I’m out walking my dogs, I sometimes catch a glimpse of a family eating dinner or watching television. From a distance, it all looks so cozy and cheerful.

My children had a piano teacher whose house we visited for lessons. Her home was tidy and filled with photographs of her smiling children. She had something delicious-smelling simmering on the stove, and she laughed easily. One sunny afternoon, her oldest son wandered down the street with a knife in his hand, headed for her house. She didn’t survive the assault and neither did another child home at the time. I had been in her kitchen just the day before and had chatted with her son, and I’d had absolutely no inkling that anything was wrong.

It’s haunted me for a long time. What do we really know about the people in our life, about the houses we visit during the day and pass at night?

Coming up with so many secrets was a challenge. I had to ask myself over and over why someone would hide a part of their life. I searched for the kinds of quiet secrets I believe every neighborhood contains.

I admit to being an overly-protective mother and I could relate so much to Eve’s desire to protect Tyler with his medical circumstance. Did you relate to Eve in this way or did you find her overprotectiveness to be extreme?

The first time I heard the term “helicopter parenting,” I thought it meant a parent who dropped in every so often as needed, like a Medevac. I think that’s the real challenge parents face today—knowing when to be present and when to step back. I don’t think the world is any more dangerous today than it was a generation ago, but the dangers are different and we’re more aware of them. A parent can become almost paralyzed by too much knowledge.

Personally, I do tend toward being an overprotective mother. I’d love to lock my children in a room until they were twenty-five but even if I could, I know it would backfire. Kids are smart—they can fool you into thinking you know what they’re up to. The trick is to give them just enough freedom so they can make a few mistakes and learn a few life lessons that will keep them safe. There’s a lot of trust involved—on both sides.

 I will not say anything about the ending because I don’t want to spoil the book for our readers. Would you say you were pleased though with how this story wrapped up? Did you always envision this to be the ending for this family?

Actually, coming up with the ending was the single greatest challenge I faced in writing this novel. The ending I initially envisioned turned out to be far too melodramatic and I was forced to pull and consider what I was really trying to say in THE DEEPEST SECRET. It’s this: I wanted to write about love in all its guises and show how love prevails, regardless of the obstacles it faces. That’s the note I decided to end this story on and I admit to getting a little teary every time I think of it.

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

Oh, I love talking about books! There are three novels that inspired me as I wrote THE DEEPEST SECRET: Emma Donaghue’s ROOM, Anna Quindlen’s EVERY LAST ONE, and Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE. Just a few days ago, I finished Laline Paull’s fabulous debut, THE BEES; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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

*This post contains affiliate links!

It’s The 3 Little Things: Fashion Capsules, Taking Care of a Hairy Situation, & Laugh-Out-Loud Books

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends. It is a happy Friday, indeed, because BACK TO SCHOOL.  I treated myself to an entire day of things I dreamed I would get to do when I was a stay-at-home mom, but in fact, do not do. I hit the gym for a dance class, I got my nails done, I got coffee, I went shopping for my Fall wardrobe, and I read my book in sweet silence. It was the perfect day!  I rewarded myself handsomely for a summer filled with children. I highly recommend finding a way to reward yourself too.  We had a great summer and I enjoyed every minute with them, but I am happily back to a normal routine and schedule now that we have started school. It was nice to treat myself to a me day, but I am back in the office and hard at work again.

Today’s things that are making me happy all surprised me wildly. Here is to some unexpected happiness for your week!

Unfancy Fashion Challenge

Making My First Capsule Wardrobe

Ever since I was a little girl I have been nuts about pretty dresses and clothes.  I was always the girl that they talked about at church who was decked from head-to-toe in a lovely dress, shoes, tights, purse, hair bow…you name it. And it all matched.  Thanks, mom!

I have carried on this extravagant luxury over the years with a pretty rocking wardrobe and take great pride in all of the things  I wear. This year though I am challenging myself to embrace a minimalist wardrobe which is absolutely INSANE for this fashionista.  I discovered this post on How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe by unfancy and it inspired me in so many ways to start thinking about my purchases.  It reminded me that I have a closet overflowing with pieces I am not wearing, it reminded me that I can still be fashionable with less, and it also reminded me how smart I used to be when we were broke and I would make the most of every piece in my closet.

For this challenge, you can select 37 pieces and that is it for three whole months. 37 pieces sounds like a lot, but this is counting your shoes too which is another area that my husband thinks I have too much of. This is totally a first world problem that I am stressed about this and that I have been counting over and over and over again in my closet the items, shuffling them, and recounting. I think it is bringing out my OCD tendencies. That said,  I already love my stuff so much that I have already started wearing them and have put all my clothes that I can’t wear in storage for now. Maybe this will inspire me once and for all to pare down my wardrobe.

This week I have been researching and purchasing for my first fashion capsule and I am so excited to share it with you. It is a mixture of items purchased on sale, secondhand goodness, and items from my own closet.

I am in no way a fashion blogger, but I would love to share this with you. I purchased some photo lights and a white backdrop so I can show you some different ways  I am wearing the items to hopefully inspire you to find a new way to wear something in your closet or to embrace a minimalist wardrobe of your own.  I know this challenge is going to be so good for me.

My husband doesn’t think I can do it. That, in itself, is a powerful motivator.

Braun Silk Epilator

Taking Care of a Hairy Situation

Have you ever tried a new beauty routine that absolutely terrified you? Let me tell you, friends, using an epilator for the first time was the scariest thing I have ever done.  I may have lead you astray in my post about a hairy friend who needed wax strips. This is probably going to shock you, but I am the person who needed them. I know.  This happiness project goes out to all my brunette friends. The ladies who struggle with an armpit shadow even after they have shaved, the ones with the coarse unmanageable leg hair, the ones who have stray chin hairs that have suddenly cropped up since they hit their 30′s, the ones who get razor burn 24/7, whose skin becomes rashy from just seeing a razor, and the girl’s whose lily-white skin tells tales of painful hair removal routines.

I am fist bumping you right now.

I bought this Braun Silk Epilator on Amazon and am saying goodbye to waxing. It removes hair from your legs, your underarms, and your face. It has a million attachments which you can use to remedy whatever your hair situation. It rips the hair out by the roots. It feels as good as it sounds. It has forty tweezers that do it at the same time and can lift hair that is as small as a grain of sand. It really can because I felt every last pull.

The first time was really excruciating because I didn’t do a lot of research beforehand. Here’s what I advise- drink a gallon of wine,  soak in the shower for five minutes, exfoliate well with a loofah, shave so you aren’t grabbing long hairs out, hold it at a ninety degree angle right up close in the shower under the water,  and go all out with the highest setting. The legs are not terrible and the bikini line was a piece of cake since I wax.

The underarms…I almost passed out.  Probably the worst beauty pain of my life.

Now that I am over the first three times of doing it, I love it and am addicted.

Probably the same way people are addicted to tattoos.

It’s kind of sick, really.

I absolutely love how my legs and underarms look. My face is fuzz free.

I am living the blonde girl dream life!

 

This-Is-Where-I-Leave-You

Laugh-Out-Loud Books

I’m hosting my book club this month and I selected This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper as our book so that we can go out and see the movie together that is coming out soon. I love it in the way that I loved the movie Bridesmaids- so wrong and so right. Raunchy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and so perfectly pitched. I would highly recommend this one for fans of Arrested Development as it reads just like my favorite episodes of the early seasons of the Bluth family. The crazy family dramas are always my favorites and this family does not disappoint in the craziness department. For better or worse, they are family, with all that history and messiness and love. 

This was a fantastic little end-of-summer escape and I can’t wait to read more of Jonathan Tropper’s novels. I only hope they are as hilarious as this. I’m looking forward to seeing this one on the big screen. I hope it measures up to the hilarity of this book.

If you can’t handle adult language and scenarios, skip on over this recommendation.  I am planning a fun feast and book club around this one so keep your eyes peeled for those recipes and the discussion we share before catching the movie!

The bonus happy this week, of course, is getting those kids off to school! Enjoy this video that sums up perfectly our first week back!

*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 08.20.14

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Pineapple crochet washcloth via Persia Lou

Source: Persia Lou

 

I am crazy about pineapples, and this washcloth is too adorable.

Bookmarking these 25+ gluten and dairy free recipes.

Easy and cute plastic spoon garden markers.

Snack placemats free printable – who wouldn’t want a bearded man placemat?

Adding to my reading list- Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2014 Book Preview.

Got bugs in your garden? This all natural, diy garden spray really works.

Summer journaling pages from Simple As That via Thirty Handmade Days

Source: Simple As That

 

Finish up the summer in style with printable summer journaling pages.

What teacher wouldn’t want a bouquet of Sharpie flowers?

This organizing project is for my Project Lifers!

Six subtle things highly productive people do every day.

Give me gratitude or give me debt- the head check that I needed this month.

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 Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

If there is one thing I love it is a summer thriller. There is nothing  better to tuck in a beach bag then a book that you can rapidly flip through and sit in suspenseful moments as the story unfolds. Those kinds of books that your eyes can’t read fast enough because you just HAVE to know what is going to happen.   If you have been waiting for the next-big-thing since Gone Girl, then I have the just the book for you!

The Good Girl

Today I am excited to feature a fantastic debut novelist, Mary Kubica, and share a little about her first book, The Good Girl. I snagged an advanced reader of this book from NetGalley, but it is now out on the bookshelves just begging for you to pick it up.  Debut novelists hold a special place in my heart and I’m excited to share her incredible journey into seeing her first book come to life with you.

The book opens with the following words, “I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia is unlike her parents in every way, content with her life as an inner-city school teacher. When she finds herself at a bar one night alone, after being stood up by her boyfriend,  she meets a guy. Her plans for a one-night stand turns into the worst mistake of her life.

I don’t want to say anymore because the beauty in this book is those plot twists you never see coming!

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with Mary Kubica about her debut novel The Good Girl!

Mary Kubica

I am a big reader and it is so difficult to find a book that actually has plot twists I didn’t see coming, but The Good Girl absolutely surprised me. As the writer of these twists, did you always see these twists coming or were they as equally surprising to you?

This is a great question! The plot twists are often equally as surprising to me as they are to the reader. In the case of The Good Girl, I had written a significant chunk of the novel before the ending came to me. This is one of the most exciting parts of writing for me – when I get that clear picture of how the story will end. I don’t typically outline or do much note taking before starting a new manuscript, and so all I have is a starting point; the rest of the details remain obscure. I make it a point not to overthink my plot too much, and to have faith that the details, plot twists, etc. will come in due time. It’s very exciting when it all comes together in my mind, and I get to go through the manuscript and insert clues to help the reader along, or in some cases, throw them off course. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing this genre!

Mia’s mother is the character that I relate to the most in your story because she is always questioning if she did enough or if she was a good enough mother. Is this something you really identified with too?

Absolutely. Mia’s mother, Eve Dennett, is the character I relate the most to. She is a woman, for one, but more importantly a mother, and as a mother myself, I was able to put myself in her shoes and ask myself how I would respond to the situation. How would I feel, and what would I do or say if it was my child that was missing? I really felt for Eve in the pages of the book. Even the very best mother makes choices that they may second guess, and not only is Eve longing for her missing child, but she’s desperate for a chance to make things up to Mia and amend for the poor decisions she made in Mia’s childhood. I think that as mothers, no matter how hard we try there is always the fear we will fall short and not do anything and everything we can for our children. I believe many mothers out there will relate to Eve on some level.

I found myself sympathizing with Colin so much that I did not see him as the bad guy in this story at all, even though I felt very differently at the beginning. Did you sympathize with him?

Without giving anything away, I think that The Good Girl is a novel that makes you rethink much of what you know, and teaches the reader not to take things at face value. What you see if not always what you get, a fact which holds true with many of the characters in the book. I sympathize with nearly every character in The Good Girl for various reasons. They are imperfect and flawed, as most of us are, something that will hopefully make them relatable to the reader.

Your journey of becoming a debut novelist is such a good one and showcases why writers should never give up on their dreams. How long did you have to wait to see your book on bookshelves? Does it still feel surreal to you?

Yes, it feels absolutely surreal. It was 2006 when I first began working on The Good Girl, and 2014 when it was published. That’s 8 years of hard work, hopes, dreams and fears – all of it. There were many ups and downs all along the way, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. After finishing the novel, I submitted it to many literary agencies, and, as you may know by now, it was rejected by every single one of them. I thought that was it; any hope of a writing career was through. Two years later I received an out-of-the-blue email from one of the agencies that had previously declined to represent my novel. The Good Girl had stuck with them all that time and they wanted to represent it – proof that writers, or anyone for that matter, should never give up on their dreams. It still shocks me to see my name on a book at the bookstore. I wonder if this will ever feel real to me and no longer surreal? Probably not.

Your book is being compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. What do you think of the comparison? Do you think this comparison has helped in the selling of your novel?

I definitely think the comparisons to Gone Girl did nothing but help The Good Girl. There are so many Gillian Flynn fans out there (including me!), and so I’m thrilled with the comparison. That said, it can be a bit unnerving, trying to live up to such a masterpiece, but early feedback for The Good Girl has been phenomenal. I couldn’t be more pleased.

We featured Heather Gudenkauf and her book Little Mercies this past month (which was also so fabulous!) How did you end up partnering with her for your book promotion?

First, let me say that Heather Gudenkauf is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, and her latest novel Little Mercies is by far one of my favorites of 2014. Heather and I share not only the same publisher – Harlequin MIRA – but the same editor as well, and seeing as our novels came out just a month apart, and we write in the same genre, it’s a perfect match. We’ve been able to travel together many times to promote our books, and have connected at many conferences throughout the year. Heather has been a wonderful mentor to me, and I feel so fortunate for our time together. It’s so great to be able to connect with other authors. Writing can be an isolated profession, and so the more people – authors, readers, etc. – we’re able to connect with, the better!

Can you give us a sneak peek on what you have in store for us next?

Yes, I’d love to! I just finished up my second novel Pretty Baby, which will be released by Harlequin MIRA in 2015. This is another psychological suspense set in the Midwest, about a Chicago mother who encounters a young homeless girl with a baby. She becomes quite taken with the two of them, and as she does, we learn more about these women and what effect this chance encounter will have on both of their lives. Be sure to check my website or follow me on Facebook or Twitter for updates on Pretty Baby as they arrive!

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

My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. This is one that I tell everyone to read. It’s a Vietnam War memoir, but is much more than that. You don’t need to be a history guru to fall in love with this book. When it comes to my own genre though, psychological suspense, Before I Go To Sleep is one I often recommend. I just loved this S.J. Watson novel.

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: Steak Dinners at Home, Spinning Plates, & Fall Boots for Less

Friday, August 15th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

I hope everyone is having a great Friday and looking forward to the weekend! We start school next week so we are savoring this last bit of free time before life as we know it ends. You know the routine- living in your car and running your children from activity to activity, homework battles, and trying to keep up with all those papers. I am hoping to offer some solutions for the back-to-school craziness in the next couple of weeks since it is something we have been working on over here and I plan to share some of this year’s solutions with you!

In the meantime, here is what is making me happy this week!

Discounted Naturalizer Boots

Boots That Don’t Break the Bank

Fall is just around the corner and that means boot season is around the corner. I have had the same pair of chocolate colored boots from SEARS that I got for $29.99 for the last six years. On my last trip, the zipper just finally gave out.  I loved these boots so much and remember being in New York and people asking me where I got them and me saying,  “SEARS,”  but kind of trying to pull that French accent that people do with Target. It sounded all kinds of wrong- I don’t know how I can make that name sound fashionable (even though my boots were!).

I decided I could go boot shopping this year and needed a pair of chocolate and black riding boots. Can I just say that boot prices are outrageous? $200 on up to $1K for a pair of boots? Nope. I refuse.  Now that I am an old lady, I rely on Naturalizer for my shoe needs and discovered 6pm.

Have you heard of 6pm before? It’s like the world’s best shoe warehouse and they carry my Naturalizer brand for my wide foot & old lady back issues. Last season’s $200 boots that I wanted so bad (but refuse to pay for) were marked down to $89.99.  That’s still an awful lot for boots for me, but if I can rock my fancy Sears boots for six years, I can surely get that many out of a really good boot. From now on, I’m doing my shoe shopping on that site- I can’t recommend it enough for savings.

I’m pretty excited for my boots being delivered this week and I know I will be having happy feet all Fall long!

Restaurant-Style Steak Recipe

Mastering the Steak

We decided to have a little celebration dinner for the end-of-summer with our kids.  I took my kids the Gucci grocery store in town and asked them what they would like to eat. We settled on steaks and they loved a fun appetizer of mozzarella balls, salami, and kalamata olives that they had on skewers for us to sample while we were shopping. We bought beautiful filet mignons, fresh berries, heavy cream, and baby asparagus to go along with our steaks.

I forget that all of the fancy dinners we eat typically are on date nights and out with my husband. My kids don’t get to enjoy foods like that very often and they were so excited to help prepare it with me and to experience some of the foods that are our special occasion foods.

I’m proud of how far I have come in my cooking abilities, but my proudest moment this summer is finally mastering the technique for a beautiful steak.  It has taken a bit of the fun out of dining out and getting a steak because now that I have it down, I think I do a better job than most of the places we have been to.

We threw Carole King on the record player and ate the best food ever together, as a family, and it was pretty much perfect.

Then we said in fancy voices that we should have Filet Fridays instead of Pizza Fridays.

Then we remembered we have to live on a budget.

And we aren’t that fancy.

 

I wear Sears boots for six years, for goodness sakes.

It was a beautiful thing to share together.

Spinning Plates Documentary

Spinning Plates

I know that last week I shared about our love for the documentary, “Tiny,” on what was making me happy. I am in a bit of a documentary mood in the evenings and we watched Spinning Plates together as a family. As a disclaimer, there were two swear words (which my children pointed out), but overall, I felt this one is very family-friendly and so worth a viewing if you have a Netflix account like we do.

Here is why I think you should watch this one.  This movie is about people who are passionate about food and what sacrifices they make when running a restaurant. It is about the most successful restaurant, a failing restaurant, and the most intriguing community-driven restaurant I have ever seen.  It is heartwarming and beautiful. The passion for food is contagious and discovering the why behind their cooking is a beautiful journey.

I would say this is a good one for fans of Jiro Dreams of Sushi (and if you haven’t seen that yet, you haven’t lived!)

I was teary-eyed a bit through this one, but seeing people’s passion for food makes me so happy. I hope you can catch it if you haven’t already!

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

 

Amy’s Notebook 08.13.14

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Apricot Jam via The Idea Room

Source: The Idea Room

Oh, this apricot jam recipe sounds divine!

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this kitchen reveal.

Loved this piece on first novels and social media.

This DIY fire pit table top is so awesome!

Perfect tips to hang a gallery wall without nails.

Diy movie theater seats via Not Just a Housewife

Source: Not Just a Housewife

DIY backyard movie theater seats- yes, please.

I think we need to make a teepee for our cat, ha!

Chipotle honey bbq ribs- fist pump!

This Outlander viewing party is too cute.

Four words: grilled chicken pesto sliders. You’re welcome.

amys_notebook

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

 

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It’s The Three Little Things: Tiny Homes, Messy Buns, & the Best School Uniforms

Friday, August 8th, 2014

3_little_things

Happy Friday, friends!  I had a whirlwind of a trip in Austin with Savings.com (where I ate my fair share of BBQ and even line danced)  and am leaving again, if you can believe it, for a quick trip to the Better Homes & Gardens headquarters for their BHG Style Showcase to learn about their beautiful line-up of products they are going to be carrying this year. I will be sharing those finds with you all this upcoming year as a BHG Live Better Blogger which I am so excited about.  You may recall, that I participated in a cook-off with Better Homes & Gardens. You will be happy to know that the pots that they gifted me are still being used by my dear buddy, Ed, which still makes my heart happy.

Continuing with our happiness theme…

Tiny-A-Story-About-Living-Small

Small Space Living Inspiration

I caught this documentary Tiny on Netflix this past week and it was absolute perfection. I have talked before about our commitment to stay in our home despite the pressure to go bigger around us.  I was so proud of our tiny shed renovation and how we made it into a livable and functional space for our family. We continue to try to improve upon our existing space and not take on more than what we really need.  I have to say that regardless of the size of the home you live in, there is so much to learn in this documentary about loving what you have and whittling away at what you don’t need in your life.

There is no preachy tone in this and very little talk about global footprints, but this documentary is more about giving up the constant maintenance of your home and embracing a smaller space. You get to follow a man with no construction background for a year while he works on building his own tiny house and hear the testimonials of others who have embraced really small spaces. When I say small spaces, I am talking SMALL spaces.

This one is family friendly and one of the best documentaries I have seen this year!  If you are looking for more ideas for a Docu-Pizza Night with your family (that’s what we call it!), head over to my Reality Bites Pinterest board for some fun suggestions!

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Mastering a Messy Bun Updo

I have been growing my hair out simply because it seems easier at this stage in my life. I would also like to say that if you want to do anything cool with your hair at all and replicate the stuff you see on Pinterest, you gotta grow it out.  Now that I finally have some length, I have been Kate, from The Small Things, new #1 fan because she has the best hair tutorials in the world.  The second picture is blurry (hold it STEADY, 8 year-old child, geesh!)  and her Double Bun Tutorial is my new favorite updo. And when I say new favorite updo, I mean I haven’t wore my hair in any kind of updo since prom which was last year…so it has been a year since the last time…it feels like ages though.

The double bun technique is seriously genius for people who don’t have enough length to get all their hair up in one bun. You have to watch her tutorial and then head to her blog and just suck in all the hair goodness. For this updo, I swung by CVS and snagged some bobby pins and clear elastics. I like that she doesn’t make things complicated or perfect (a skill I am working on).

If you like the dress, you must follow Whoorl’s Closet Tumblr. I am kind of a Sarah James groupie so be sure to follow her beautiful blog too.  I snagged this Mossimo dream of a dress for a mere $20. I liked it so much, I bought one in Coral & Black too. I really wowed my hubby with these dresses and the new hair. I get to feel like Sarah James for a day- it’s quite grand!

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Uniforms that Don’t Wrinkle or Pill

Ugh! Talking about preparing for back-to-school does not make me happy, but we are in that mode right now. My mother-in-law purchased uniform skirts for my daughter for a holiday gift and these Docker skirts are seriously the best thing since gluten-free bread. These uniform skirts don’t wrinkle, they don’t pill, they always look amazing, and they are practically dry when you pull them out of the washer.  This year we skipped our yearly Old Navy run and just headed over to Sears and bought all Docker uniforms this year. The jumpers are made from the same material too although I haven’t washed the pants yet, but they look promising. Did I mention they are running a half-off sale? It made it the same price (or less) than the Old Navy prices!  You can utilize this code: DOCKERS9  (which I did not and now I’m upset!) for $10 of a $75 purchase and free shipping.

I have lots more making me happy this week- it’s one of those weeks where my cup is running over with goodness and gratefulness. I hope your cup overfloweth too!

 

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

 

Amy’s Notebook 08.06.14

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Peach Iced Tea Popsicles via Paper N Stitch

Source: Paper & Stitch

 

Peach iced tea popsicles- yes.

I’m in love with this outdoor painted rug.

This NPR junkie is excited about this streaming option.

13 tips for getting more reading done.

Madly in love with this nursery.

Green beans with warmed feta? Yes please!

Reading Embroidery Hoop Art via Thirty Handmade Days

Source: Thirty Handmade Days

 

Time to learn embroidery.

Love these popsicles turned into cakes with these candle printables for summer birthdays.

A short PSA: using caution and care with essential oils

Mini meatball minestrone salad- um, where’s my fork?

Rethinking my refrigerator purchase after this article.

30 of the best parents in literature.

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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 Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Do you ever pick up a book completely outside of your normal genre and find yourself completely swept away in a world you never dreamed you would escape to? It happened a couple of times for me with The Hunger Games series and Twilight series, just to name two types of books that I never thought I would love.  Last week if you would have asked me if I would have fallen head over heels in love with a book with a plotline firmly planted in science fiction with a zombie apocalypse theme or even just another dystopian thriller ( a genre I had grown very tired of), I would have probably laughed at you.

No, this is not your typical recommendation on here and that is exactly why I had to feature it today. It is different and it is awesome.

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I fell head-over-heels in love for The Girl With All the Gifts. I can tell you now that this will be on my top ten reads of 2014 because I can’t stop thinking about it and have the urge to reread it all over again. It is a true adventure of a read that grabbed me and did not let me go until the final pages.

My husband is not a big reader like me, but when I finished the book and described it to him, he picked it up one evening after my encouragement. I did not see or speak to him for two whole days. He was just as swept away in this book as I was. For this reason, I would definitely recommend this one as a great couple’s book selection and definitely not limited to our female audience.

After I finished it, I emailed Mike Carey (who is using the pen name M.R. Carey for this book) and never in a million years expected a response. You see, Mike is quite a big deal. He is an established British writer of prose fiction and comic books. He has written for both DC and Marvel, including critically acclaimed runs on X-Men and Fantastic Four, Marvel’s flagship superhero titles. His creator-owned books regularly appear in the New York Times graphic fiction bestseller list. He also has several previous novels and one Hollywood movie screenplay to his credit.

And he answered my message and said he would love to share his book with you all.

I have taken my fangirl status to another level entirely after this interview and can’t wait to see this book adapted into a screenplay.

All the descriptions of this book state that Melanie is simply a special girl. You don’t know what makes her special until you dive in and discover the girl and all her gifts.

This book is wildly imaginative, suspenseful, and leaves you wondering who you should be rooting for as the story develops. I really, really loved this book.  Unfortunately, it is just the kind of book that you shouldn’t talk about so that each reader can go on the journey with this child and find out just what makes her so unique. It’s a book that you will want to finish and share with friends. It reads like a movie and is just the type of literary adventure I would recommend if you have been in a reading slump this summer.

Grab your coffee and let’s have a chat with the amazing Mike Carey about his book…

mike-carey

I loved this book so very much and it is unlike anything that I have ever read before or will ever read again. Thank you for such a fantastic escape this summer. I discovered that it was based upon the Edgar-nominated short story, Iphigenia in Aulis that you had written.  Why did you decide to take this short story and expand it into The Girl With All the Gifts?

Thanks!  I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

The story had an unusual genesis – or unusual for me, at least.  I’d been invited to contribute to a themed anthology edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner.  They do these books every year, and the theme is always something deceptively innocent and everyday – home improvements, family holidays or whatever.  This particular year the  theme was schooldays.

And I said I’d do it, but then I had no ideas whatsoever.  Inspiration didn’t strike.

Until about three weeks before the deadline, when suddenly I woke up with this image in my mind of a little zombie girl writing an essay in an abandoned classroom. “What I want to Do When I Grow Up”.  The whole story grew from that – from Melanie, and her situation.  I wrote it in four straight days and sent it in, and Charlaine and Toni said it fitted the bill perfectly.

But I had the sense as soon as I hit SEND that Melanie’s story wasn’t finished yet.  It felt as though the ending, in which she and Sergeant Parks fight back-to-back against an army of Junkers in order to cover the evacuation of the base, wasn’t really earned.  And it felt like there needed to be much more a pay-off for Melanie’s relationship with Miss Justineau (who in the short is called Miss Mailer).

So I pitched it to Orbit as a novel, and they commissioned it – even though that meant amending my contract in some complicated ways.  And at the same time I pitched it as a movie concept to a producer I was already working with.  The two version of the story grew up side by side.

You make a very conscious decision to never use the word, “zombie.” Why did you not want to use this word in your book? Was this meant to lead the reader into their own conclusions when they begin the story?

It’s partly that – although the reveal comes quite early, really.  It’s also a question of trying to make the reader keep an open mind.  I was conscious that zombies for a lot of people are an overworked trope and a fairly limited one.  I was coming at it from what I thought was a new angle, and I hoped that if I held off on the Z word readers would stay with it until they were emotionally invested.

It’s rebounded against me in some ways.  I’ve read a few reviews where the reviewer has said “you know, this is reasonably realistic in some ways, but if you’ve got a zombie apocalypse going on why wouldn’t you just call it one?  That doesn’t ring true at all…”

In one scene, Dr. Caldwell says to Mrs. Justineau, “You should ask yourself why you’re so keen on thinking of me as the enemy…Which weighs the most, Helen? Which will do the most good in the end? Your compassion or my commitment to my work?” Which of these characters do you think was doing the most good? Did you relate to Dr. Caldwell or Mrs. Justineau more when writing this?

Oh, I’m with Helen Justineau all the way!  But I wanted readers to understand where Caldwell was coming from.  Nobody sees themselves as evil.  They explain away the things they do as being forced on them by circumstances, or serving a greater good, or whatever it might be.  Caldwell is trying to save humanity.  She’s also trying to earn a sort of personal immortality through her work, and to prove that she’s better than the scientists who were promoted over her, but she genuinely believes she’s doing good – and that the ends absolutely justify the means.

There’s a beat near the end of the book that really only works if you can empathise with Caldwell at least a tiny bit.  It’s when she and Melanie have their conversation about the infection, and Caldwell realises that if anything of her work is going to survive it will be through her being able to explain it to Melanie now.  The child she was going to sacrifice is the last slender reed she can grab hold of.  If you don’t care about Caldwell at all that’s just ironic.  I wanted it to have a little touch of tragedy to it.

Where are you in development of the screenplay of The Girl With All The Gifts? Do you have anyone in mind for your dream cast?

The screenplay is written and we have a deal in place.  I’ve never been this far along with a film project before – well, once a long time ago when I wrote the screenplay for an animated version of Tristan and Isolde, but I generally avoid talking about that.

This time around it’s been an amazingly rewarding and enjoyable process.  The movie and the novel grew up together and kept swapping DNA.  We went a slightly different way in the movie, especially when it came to point of view.  Where the novel moves between the five main characters and lets us see what’s going on in all of their heads, the movie sticks with Melanie all the way.  And there are no Junkers in the movie.  The base falls to a hungry attack.  But it’s a case of two different paths through the same narrative space.  The ending is absolutely faithful to the book.

I’m going to duck the question about casting if you don’t mind.  That’s where we are at the moment, and I’m crossing every finger and toe I’ve got that we get the Justineau and Caldwell who are currently reading the screenplay.

 The science in this book is quite astounding.  Can I admit that my own brain may have exploded at times from all the scientific detail that you developed in it? Was there a lot of research on your end to develop these portions of the book, particularly developing the plotline with the infection that is based upon the ants?

A fair bit, yes.  In the short story I glibly described the hungry pathogen as a virus, probably with 28 Days Later at the back of my mind.  But when it came to writing the novel I had to put my money where my mouth was and I realised very quickly that a virus wouldn’t do.  They have very simple, linear life cycles.  I wanted something more baroque and multi-staged that would provide a plausible puzzle for Caldwell and would also allow for the events of the climax.

Enter Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.  To be honest, I’d already seen the David Attenborough footage of the zombie ants, so I was rediscovering this weird parasite rather than reading about it for the first time.  But it was obviously perfect for my needs.  And once I’d made the decision that the infectious organism should be a fungus, it just kept on giving.  It made for some visuals that I’d never come across in the post-apocalyptic fiction I’d read and that had the potential to be very powerful.

There were also other things I had to look into, like how you take a brain out of a skull.  That was one of the hardest scenes to write.

Without giving it away, the ending that you create was just perfection. Is this where you always knew Melanie’s journey was heading or did it develop as you developed the story?

I always knew that Melanie was going to face that choice.  She’s Pandora, after all.  She has to find the box and make the decision whether or not to open it. And the box has to be full of monsters and terrible evils, but it also has to contain at least the promise of hope.

But the details were quite vague, and they firmed up as I wrote the story.  I’m not sure that Rosie was in the original pitch.   The feral children were, but they were just a placeholder.  I had no idea how Melanie’s fight with them would play out, beyond the vague feeling that she would have to use the environment in intelligent ways that they didn’t see.

It’s always a mixture of planning and serendipity.  You know where you’re going in the broadest sense.  But you don’t know what you’re going to gather along the way and so the ending, when you get there, is both familiar and surprising.

Did you ever have a teacher like Mrs. Justineau? What teacher inspired you the most in your own career?

This is going to make me blush.  When I was seven years old, my teacher was Miss Bimpson.  I had a huge crush on her.  She was clever and funny, her lessons were great, but she was also most extraordinarily kind.  One day when I was crying my eyes out about something – a totally mundane something that seemed like the end of the world to me – she sat me  on her lap and hugged me until I stopped sobbing.  That’s probably the origin of the scene in which Miss Justineau strokes Melanie’s hair.

But probably the most inspiring teacher I ever met was George Lucy, who taught English at the comprehensive school I attended from age eleven.  George was one of those teachers who thinks the curriculum is something that happens to other people.  Boring people.  He taught whatever he was most passionate about, and I learned from him to interrogate limits and push past them if they’re not real.

He also tutored me for my Oxford entrance exam.  I come from a solid working class background and there were a lot of holes in my academic knowledge.  George lent me books – dozens of them – from his own collection and generally gave me the tools I needed to sit those papers.  He changed my life in a lot of ways.

Since you are also a comic book writer, can you picture this book being developed into a comic book or even a comic book series? Who would be your dream illustrator for this?

I would love to write a Girl With All the Gifts comic book.  The only possible artists for a project like that would be Peter Gross or Mike Perkins.  And Mike has already covered the whole post-apocalyptic genre with his epic version of Stephen King’s The Stand, so he might well say no.

Will there be a sequel for Melanie?

I don’t think so.  There are other stories to be told around her story, and I could imagine going back to tell one of those.  Perhaps a story with an entirely different cast, taking place at the exact same time as GIRL.  Or perhaps a story from a generation later.  But I don’t think Melanie would be the protagonist in either of those.

You reach a point, with most characters, where you feel that their story has been told.  I’d love to revisit the world of Lucifer, but I wouldn’t dream of bringing Lucifer himself back into it.  It’s the same with Melanie.  I’d be wary of weakening her story by adding extra beats to it.

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

So many possible answers to that!  You could ask me a couple of dozen times and get a different answer each time.  Today I’m going to say The Shadow Of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe.  It’s the first volume in a tetralogy, so if you read it and liked it you’d have to read the other three.  But they’re so worth it. It’s a story of a far future Earth where the sun is dying.  Humanity has spread to the stars but that was long ago.  Now there are other galactic empires, other non-human civilisations that call the shots.  What’s left of humankind is back on an old, old planet that hasn’t got much time left to it.  But there’s a Messianic religion that preaches that the New Sun, sometimes known as the Conciliator, will be born on Earth as a man and rekindle all our hopes.  Reborn, rather, since he’s been here once before.  And Severian of the Torturers’ Guild believes this to be true since he’s found a holy relic, the Claw of the Conciliator, that heals all wounds.

It’s a very hard book to describe, and there’s no denying that it goes to some very dark places.  But Wolfe’s imagination is vast.  He creates a world and peoples it.  And he has a very serious purpose which takes in faith, physics and the importance of storytelling.

You can connect with Mike Carey on GoodReads and 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: Are You Sure, New Music Tuesday, & An Altered Lifestyle

Friday, August 1st, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Today I am in Austin with Savings.com and I wanted to be sure to still get my happy list of three up for you all! There is a lot that is personally making me happy this week.  My husband actually dove into a book and absolutely loved it  (don’t miss this week’s Sundays With Writers for a book unlike anything we have ever read), the temperatures have been cool and ideal for spray painting (which just makes me about the happiest girl in the whole world), and I’ve been enjoying hibernating at home with my family this week.

Oh, and I also did an interview with Mint.com- definitely check that out!

Here are three things that are making me happy this week.

 

New Music Tuesday

New Music Tuesday

There is nothing that makes me happier than good music and Tuesday has become my favorite day of the week thanks to the Spotify New Music Tuesday playlist.  Each Tuesday they have this epic playlist of great music to check out for the week and I listen to it while I work on Tuesdays. I always find a new artist to add to my playlists and I love hearing new releases from old favorites. You don’t need to pay for a membership to access it, but we pay for the membership since I listen all day and in my car to Spotify.

If you are accessing it from Spotify- just click Browse, then Top Lists, then click on New Music Tuesday.

It’s a great mix of mainstream and hipster awesomeness.  This week I am obsessed with this Kanye West cover that was on the New Music Tuesday playlist. It’s a musical narnia, I tell ya!

Seriously, you must check out the selections each Tuesday. There is always something delightful to listen to!

 

Sure Deodorant

Feeling Sure- Raising My Hand High

 

The only deodorant that works and perfect for sensitive skin is this Sure Deodorant. Call it hormones, call it global warming, call it old age…this girl is a sweaty mess. After trying a million different kinds, this is the only thing that works for me.  If global warming has you down, see if this helps. The best part is that it costs a lot less than the expensive brands I have tried and works twice as good.

 

Stitch Fix Alterations

Clothes That Truly Fit

I feel very blessed to have a closet of clothes that I love.   Unfortunately, none of them fit anymore after all my stomach issues the last couple of years.  I don’t want to buy new things, but when I swung by Flourish Boutique last week to pick out a dress for a speaking engagement this week, I found out that you can get your clothes altered right at their store. You can have them pin your items right there and the seamstress will pick them up, alter them, and then drop them to the store for you. It’s like a world of maxi dresses opened up to this five foot woman. The possibilities are endless now.

Since I had a closet full of stuff, I snagged the card for the seamstress at the front desk and  took in a handful of stuff to have her take a peek and see what was worth altering. Her prices were so affordable ($11 to hem jeans with the seam intact- say what?) and she had great ideas so we didn’t have to move zippers and to keep the shape of my items at an affordable price.

This skirt was from my first Stitch Fix box, but I was swimming in it. This is the first thing I had altered and they charged me FORTY DOLLARS at the dry cleaners to do it. I have had a closet of stuff that I was spacing out monthly for alterations so I would have things that fit.   I love this skirt so much that, in the end, it was worth it. This lady I found though will do it for just $5-10 so no more of that expensive alteration business.

I dropped off my winter coat, many dresses that I love that look ridiculous on me, and just about every skirt in my closet to her home.  I look forward to wearing clothing that fits and that looks just like me. I love my things and I don’t want to part with them because of sizing issues. I also am tired of waiting to see where my weight ends up landing once I am fully on the mend. By that time, they will be out of style so… Cease the day.

Seriously, visit Flourish Boutique and ask about their awesome alterations that they offer and get yourself things that you can feel confident in.

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!