Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 02.19.14

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Amazing Appetizers

Source: Giving Up on Perfect

 

I know where I’m going to look when I need some amazing appetizer ideas! Drooling…

Mmmm, combining citrus with black pepper and mint in a salad? Sounds like something I need to try!

Eggs, spinach, tomato, bacon & feta – what’s not to love in this yummy-looking Mediterranean scramble?

If it’s one thing I like, it’s quick and easy diy projects that result in fabulous decor and gifts, so I’m totally excited to have this resource of 20+ DIY coasters to make.

This amazing family home makes me swoon – modern, yet warm!

I totally want to make a coffee-beverage station like this for my family – loving through coffee & hot chocolate!

amys_notebook I hope you enjoyed this 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!

 

Amy’s Notebook 02.12.14

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

canning_grape_jelly Source: My Humble Kitchen

 

Did you know you can make and can jelly from store bought fruit juice in the winter? I didn’t – and it seems like  it would be a fun way to bring a bit of summer to these cold days!

I’m in love with this updated mid-century modern dresser – you won’t believe the before and after!

Oh, how I wish I could sew just to create one of these adorable fleece-lined kid’s robes.

Yes to chocolate cookies, and double-yes to flourless chocolate cookies!

Thinking about making a souffle for Valentine’s Day? Find out how to make a chocolate souffle here, plus 3 tips for success.

I’m finding a lot of international dishes that are gluten free – and these Indian Chickpea Crepes are also vegan with a soft middle and a crisp edge. Yum.

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I hope you enjoyed this 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!

 

Amy’s Notebook 02.05.14

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Crochet Hearts

Source: Everything Etsy

 

I’m simply in love with these adorable crochet hearts - I can think of so many ways to use them!

This is a super cute and simple Valentine’s Day Wreath that would be fun to make.

Here’s a fun craft to do with our daughters – make no-sew elastic hair ties and headbands! There’s even a suggestion on how to package them for gifts.

I’m completely inspired to try some of these yummy looking 11 cauliflower recipes.

My kids will flip for chocolate shortbread heart cookies – especially since they are dipped in chocolate!

Are you loving this diy mudroom bench as much as I am?

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I hope you enjoyed this 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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February Book Club Selection: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (GIVEAWAY!)

Friday, January 31st, 2014

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

I am so excited to share with you our next book club selection for the month of February. The book for this month is, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” by Anthony Marra.

My intention this month was to step away from historical fiction and read a lighter book. I proceeded to read five good books, not *the* book. When I picked up A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, it hooked me within it’s opening sentences.

“On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones. While the girl dressed, Akhmed, who hadn’t slept at all, paced outside the bedroom door, watching the sky brighten on the other side of the window glass; the rising sun had never before made him feel late. When she emerged from the bedroom, looking older than her eight years, he took her suitcase and she followed him out the front door. He had led the girl to the middle of the street before he raised his eyes to what had been her house. ‘Havaa, we should go,’ he said, but neither moved.”

Just as, “The Paris Architect,” moved me to tears, this book is one of the best books I have ever read and brings to life a country and time of war that I was completely unfamiliar with.

In this novel, two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child named Havaa.  Havaa is just eight years old when her neighbor Akhmed finds her hiding in the woods, watching her house burning down. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, but her father is an old friend, and he risks it all deciding to take her to an abandoned hospital where a woman named Sonja Rabina runs a hospital almost single handedly.

Sonja does not love kids…at all. Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will change in ways she never imagined. The reader is taken on a journey through each of these character’s past on an extraordinary journey of love, loss, and ultimately what it means to be human.

Again, because we are dealing with a wartime topic, there is a lot of graphic violence, gory medical scenes, and violence in this book. One torture scene in particular is difficult to read (but can be skimmed over).  It is a necessary part of the book though to truly capture what is happening to the Chechens.

For me, it took a little bit to really get into the meat of the story, mainly because of my own lack of education of what had happened in this country. If you struggle in the beginning, I encourage you to keep pushing on. This book is one of the most accomplished books I have ever read. It reads like poetry, the narrative is so unique, you will connect with every character in some way, there are moments of unexpected humor, and there is beauty in the pulling & weaving of these characters together.

Anthony Marra

The author, Anthony Marra,  is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, The Atlantic’s Student Writing Contest, and the Narrative Prize, and his work was anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He has lived and studied in Eastern Europe, and now resides in Oakland, CA.

I know you will want to become a fan after you read this one!

Anthony has graciously offered three of our readers the chance to win his book. He has also offered to answer your questions, which I could not be more excited about! 

To enter to win a copy of, “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,”  please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  

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Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on February 25th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook groupSign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post contains affiliate links.

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Amy’s Notebook 01.29.14

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

The-Beatles-Love-Me-Do-lyrics-in-a-heart-free-printable-NoBiggie.net_

Source: No Biggie

 

I’m loving this sweet (and free!) Valentine – or any time – printable created from a Beatle’s song printed in a heart shape.

Anyone have a glue gun that doesn’t need to be cleaned? Not me, making this glue gun cleaning tutorial perfect timing.

This diy homework and art station is sooo adorable!

I’m completely drooling over these chocolate almond butter bites – going gluten free is looking better and better!

Goodness, one pot of vegetable stock stretched to make 5 dinners? Fabulously thrifty!

Doesn’t this Broccoli Slaw with Cranberry Orange Dressing sound like the perfect mid-winter salad?

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I hope you enjoyed this 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!

 

January Book Club Discussion With the Author: The Paris Architect

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

January Book Club Discussion With the Author: The Paris Architect

I am so excited to discuss our first book club pick, “The Paris Architect,” with you this week. Even more exciting than that, we were able to collect your questions for the author through our Facebook page and we are sharing Charles Belfoure’s answers with you today.

I have to say that when I picked this book, I set the standard really high for what you could come to expect from our selections. This is truly one of the most interesting historical fiction books I have ever read and it is an era in history that I am fascinated with. When so many stories from this era are told, it is hard to put a unique spin on this time period, but Belfoure does it with ease, thanks to his background as an architect. 

The Paris Architect  is set in 1942 in Paris and tells the story of a gifted architect named Lucien Bernard. In a time of true economic strife and rations in the city, Lucien is commissioned to design secret hiding places in homes to hide wealthy Jews to prevent them from being taken by the Nazis. Although, Lucien is no way supportive of assisting the Jews, he is very hungry for money and if he can design these spaces, he is also given other jobs that can help him continue leading a rather comfortable life.

The problem is… by assisting the Jewish people he is risking his own life. The other problem is… what if he actually starts to care?

Now that you have read it, I want to say that I found the transformation of Lucien quite remarkable. In the beginning of the book, I really disliked him… a lot. He seemed very selfish and hungry for fame and fortune. Usually when I dislike a character that much, I have a hard time seeing a book through. It is the transformation of Lucien that makes this such a compelling read. I had to see what would happen to him and what would happen to those he helped.

There were many scenes were I felt my heart racing and a couple that brought tears to my eyes. As a compulsive reader, it is rare to tap into emotions like that when I am usually disconnected from plotlines. The scene with the Jewish couple who passed away due to Lucien’s faulty design, moved me to tears. The fact that they kept that secret safe even when death was certain, was a truly emotional moment for me as a reader.

Let’s dive in with a discussion with Charles Belfoure. I am so honored he agreed to answer our questions and be a part of this discussion. 

MomAdvice Book Club

Are you new to the MomAdvice Book Club? You can read all about it here and follow along through our Facebook community!

Charles Belfoure

What a brilliant novel that was! I wonder if there really were hiding places like the architect in the book designed? (Cindy)

Although there were crude or makeshift hiding places in barns, attics, and at the backs of closet during the Occupation, I never came across anything like I described. I made up all these elaborate hiding places from my imagination and my architectural knowledge, but they were based on my main inspiration: priest holes in the age of Elizabeth I.

These were just temporary hiding places unlike one of the most famous, Anne Frank’s, which was a hidden apartment used for long-term living.

This book was riveting! How closely aligned was this story to actual happenings in Paris during the occupation? (Linda)

The main plot came from my imagination but the everyday events like the food rationing, priests hiding children, arrests by the Gestapo, German soldier-tourists, and French prostitutes servicing Germans all came from my research of the Occupation. I studied the way Parisians behaved – both heroically and cowardly, how they interacted with the Germans, how they were always hungry and scared of dying. I wanted to include small details of the period in the book, like how people kept rabbits for food but never ate their cats, or how they smoked cigarettes made from grass.

What a great book! Where did the author get inspiration for the story and characters? (Lisa)

The whole idea for the book came from an actual historical event during the reign of Elizabeth I, when Catholicism was outlawed and saying of mass was banned. Priests defied the ban by saying mass in manor houses out in the countryside. When the Queen’s soldiers raided the house, the priest hid in a “priest hole,” a temporary hiding place designed by a carpenter. The soldiers would search the house for hours and never find the priest who was hiding right under their noses.

Some characters in the book were inspired by real people – Adele was patterned after Coco Chanel, who was known to have slept with German officers. Father Jacques was based on the priests who hid Jewish children and were deported. Herzog was based on some information I found about a German officer who kept a diary and wrote that he was ashamed by the roundups of Jews, especially children.

The main character, Lucien, goes through a major transformation from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. Did you always have this in mind for him or did it evolve as you wrote it? (Amy)

I always had that in mind. I wanted him to undergo a moral transformation from a selfish, anti-Semitic guy to a man with a sense of humanity and courage. A main character in a novel shouldn’t be static but should change in character in some regard – from good to bad or vice versa.

Your writing has been compared to Ken Follett.  Do you find your writing to be similar? What authors inspire you the most? (Amy)

I was flattered by the comparison. His book, Eye of the Needle, is one of my all-time favorites.  But I don’t find my writing style to be anything like Follett’s; it isn’t nearly as polished and seamless as his prose. I’m a first-time novelist and have a long way to go to match those books.

I like authors who use their professional backgrounds to write fiction, like how John Grisham, because he’s a real-life attorney, uses his legal training for his novels, and I like his no nonsense prose style. William Golding used his experience as an English schoolmaster to write the classic Lord of the Flies. The exception to this is Anne Tyler. I’ve read all her novels because I like her insight and writing style, plus I like the references to Baltimore because I grew up there.

One of the hardest scenes for me, as a reader, was the scene when Lucien designs the “safe place,” for the Jewish couple that ends up not being safe at all once a fire is lit. It is heart-wrenching as a reader.  Was that a difficult scene to write? (Amy)

When you’re writing any scene, your imagination projects you into that scene to feel and experience it. So, yes, it was tough to put myself in the shoes of the couple and try to feel how it would be to accept death, to physically stuff handkerchiefs in your mouth and keep from crying out and betraying Manet and Lucien. I wanted to show the reader an act of incredible bravery. It’s a moral turning point for Lucien when he sees that these strangers, Jews whom he really didn’t care about, would rather die such a horrible death than betray him.

 Have you started thinking about your next project? Do you see yourself continuing to write historical fiction or delving into other genres? (Amy)

I’ve written the second draft of a novel about an architect in the Gilded Age in New York who is forced to become a criminal to save his family. Although that’s also historical fiction, I plan to also write contemporary novels. Because I’m an architect, I want to continue use my professional training along with my imagination to write novels that have architecture as the basis of the plot. There are some similarities between architecture and writing a novel. The basic plot idea forms the structure of the story, much like a steel skeleton holds up a building. Once the structure is up, you flesh out the story with detail and description like an architect would clad and detail the inside and outside of a building.

Thank you to Charles Belfoure for joining us today in our book club discussion. Isn’t he amazing? I was so honored that he took our questions on his book!

Our next book club pick will be announced on February 1st- stay tuned! 

This post does contain affiliate links! 

What did you think of The Paris Architect? Were there any scenes that you really struggled with? Did you like the evolution of the main character of Lucien?  Share your thoughts on our first book club pick below and offer recommendations for what you might like to see on our list in the upcoming year!

 

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Amy’s Notebook 01.22.14

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Felt ball coasters-706x1024

Source: Inspired By Charm

 

Oh, my, these wool felt ball coasters are SO cute. I.must.have.

I love a good Mod Podge craft and this list of 20 Mod Podge projects includes everything from shelf upcycles to pencil makeovers. Inspiring!

Looking for some creative ways to celebrate Valentine’s day? The 28 Valentine’s day ideas here are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen!

I can’t wait to try this black bean and quinoa enchilada bake – I’m loving quinoa lately and this fits my new gluten-free diet, plus it looks like the whole family will like it, too!

Drooling over this unique take on traditional morning glory muffins: morning glory oats. What a healthy and yummy way to start the day.

And using window CD envelopes and printable tags for Valentine treat pouches is simply genius – and so adorable!

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I hope you enjoyed this 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!

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.15.14

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Chicago Loft

Source: Design Sponge

 

Now one part of me wishes I lived in a Chicago loft with brick walls and cool vintage finds. Love.

I think this adorable rolled-up paper Valentine Wreath would make such a fun project to do with my daughter!

This black bean soup with chorizo and chicken looks so yummy – what a nice, hearty middle-of-winter meal!

Oh my, I love one-dish dinners like this drool-worthy baked salmon & vegetables that are both quick & healthy, don’t you?

This amazing weathered gray IKEA coffe table hack is genius!

Mmmm, here’s a slow cooker lentil chili that’s sure to warm you up on a cold night.

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I hope you enjoyed this 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!

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.08.14

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Heart themed party

Source: Kara’s Party Ideas

 

This is an adorable heart-themed party idea – there are so many applications for this from birthdays to Valentine’s Day to wedding showers!

I’m not sure I could actually make this, but I could sure use this diy scarf hanger – actually a couple of them!

I love this detailed tutorial on how to create a vision board, but I love the title even more: Dare to Dream. Yes.

I’m thinking with all of our cold and snow my kids would flip for this caramelized white chocolate “hot chocolate.” Who am I kidding? They’d flip for this anytime!

I’m simply drooling over these spinach and feta stuffed chicken breasts.

Here are 7 ways to eat (& drink) turmeric – nicely timed since I keep hearing about the benefits of eating turmeric!

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I hope you enjoyed this 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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Amy’s Notebook 01.01.14

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Happy New Year! How about we start the year off with some great recipes, diy ideas, and even a fantastic list of iPhone apps for 2014? I’m looking forward to another year of discovering wonderful things to help us to grow, learn, and have fun – and of course, sharing them with you!

Almond-Joy-Pancakes-The-Lemon-Bowl

Source: The Lemon Bowl

 

I’m so excited to make these almond joy pancakes – gluten free or not, I think my family will flip when they see them!

Start the new year with some black-eyed pea dip – it may bring luck {or not!}, but either way it looks yummy and good for you!

Do you think any of these 15 kitchen shortcuts will change the way you cook in 2014?

Thinking about simple ideas for holiday organizing as you’re putting things away this year can help to make sure next year is a breeze!

These before & after photos of IKEA hacks from 2013 are truly inspiring – I’m seeing a trip to the blue box in my future!

Here’s a really nice roundup of must-have iPhone apps, many that can help you get organized in the new year.

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I hope you enjoyed this 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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