Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 07.09.14

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Spicy garlic shrimp via The Wicked Noodle

Source: The Wicked Noodle

Four-minute spicy garlic shrimp- less than 5 minutes? I have nothing to lose!

I love this modern take on how to do a gallery wall.

Wonderful tips on thrift shopping for your home.

Ever thought of spicing up your shelves with washi tape? Small time/money output, big impact!

DIY photo frames- love how budget-friendly these are!

How adorable are these crocheted baby flip flop sandals?

It seems the summer always results in a refrigerator full of condiments, so I know these 10 ways to use up kitchen condiments will come in handy!

Ombre bar cart via Paper N Stitch Blog

Source: Paper n Stitch Blog

Ombre bar cart makeover made from a 70′s television stand. I’m in love!

These iron-on veggie bags are adorable!

Your mega summer reading list: 70+ picks from the TED community.

Love this DIY chic TV tray!

Buffalo chicken pasta salad? Yes please!

Aren’t these Pottery Barn inspired Hyannis lanterns fantastic?

amys_notebook

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

Pin It

Sundays With Writers: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Some interviews are extra, extra special. This is one of them. Everything I have ever read by Chris Bohjalian  has moved me and I was thrilled when I got an advance reader of his new book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, from NetGalley. When I closed the final pages, I sent Chris a message and asked if he might consider doing an interview here. His email back was one of the most sincere, genuine, and kindest responses to an interview request ever.  Not only is he genuinely in love with his characters and getting to share his stories, but it is quite evident that he is just as passionate about the people who read his words.  Getting to share about this book, in his release week,  is an honor and I feel privileged to say that I got to have this conversation with him.  I count myself lucky to get to share this interview with you and I hope that you will race right out and buy this book.

 

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

 

I truly cannot imagine the amount of research and time it would take to take on a book like this.  In Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, Chris Bohjalian proves himself as a seasoned writer, taking on the story of a troubled teenage girl whose town experiences a nuclear meltdown. What makes it doubly heartwrenching is due to her father’s alcoholic past, he is the chief administrator of the plant and her mother, Mira, also works there as a communications specialist.  He is the one that the town blames for the disaster and the death of 19 people. Now orphaned and unwanted, Emily feels like she is not safe in her town and this leads her down a path of destruction that will pull at your heartstrings as a parent and put her in many situations that are brutal in nature.

Not only does Bohjalian capture the voice of this teenage girl so perfectly, but the depth of research on the repercussions of this disaster on a town, and an unlikely blending of Emily Dickinson poems woven throughout (the fictional Emily’s favorite poet) tie this novel up beautifully. Although heartbreakingly tragic, it is one that I could not put down in the final pages.

My only regret was that the epilogue was not expanded more and we could see more of what happened after Emily received treatment.

This book does contain language, violence, & sexual situations.

Grab your morning coffee and let’s chat with Chris about this amazing book!

Chris Bohjalian

With seventeen bodies of work under your belt, I would think that it would be hard to come up with a fresh new plot, yet you did that with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, and it is phenomenal. How did you come up with the idea to tackle a story based around a nuclear meltdown? Is this something that has always fascinated you?

First of all, thank you so much. I appreciate that immensely.

The truth is, some of my novels demand considerably more research than others. For “Midwives,” for example, I must have interviewed easily sixty or sixty-fives midwives, ob-gyns, lawyers, EMTs, and moms and dads who had their babies at home.

But Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands? Not nearly as much. Emily Shepard’s voice came to me a few days after Christmas 2012, and it came to me fully formed.

Part of the reason why I found the voice so easily, I think, is that I’ve written about teens in trouble often over the years as a newspaper columnist. I’m a big fan of an organization in Burlington, Vermont called Spectrum Youth & Family Services, and the terrific work they do. I’ve met a lot of their kids. I’ve heard the stories and seen their faces. I’ve met the young adults who are going to be just fine, and the ones who – due to mental illness or substance abuse or bad choices or a cataclysmic home life – are heading for disaster.

I also know some of the Spectrum staff. I went to college with Annie Ramniceanu, for instance, who served for years as their associate executive director. She’s also an immensely gifted therapist and counselor. One day when I was having lunch with her, she started telling me how some of the kids – the teens who are falling through the system – would build igloos against the Vermont cold out of trash bags filled with wet leaves, and I knew instantly the novel I wanted to write.

As my 20-year-old daughter, Grace Experience, would tell me when she finished reading the first draft of this novel, “Dad, please take this as a compliment, because I mean it that way: Your sweet spot as a novelist is seriously messed up young women.” I know she’s right.

Emily Dickinson and her poems play a big part in the fictional Emily’s life and Emily really wants her life & words to be like Emily Dickinson. Was Emily a favorite poet of yours or did you develop this entirely around this story?

I’ve always loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry and the mysteries that surround her life. Moreover, as a novelist I’ve often wondered about the choices she made about whether (or not) to publish her extraordinary body of work. And, yes, I went to Amherst College, where her spirit hovers over the community. Sometimes it seems to me as if half the buildings I lived in on campus were named after someone she knew.

Emily is perfectly voiced as a teenager. Some of the lingo, I am embarrassed to say, I almost had to look up. How do you, as a male author, get a perfectly pitched teenage female voice for our narrator?

I think in some ways the voice came together because of all of those teens I interviewed over the years. I still have the columns and I can still recall vividly some of their stories – and so much of their separate ordeals.

I also need to give a big shout-out to my daughter, Grace. Often when I was writing, I would be at a loss to find the right synonym for a word or to capture the precise expression that a really smart teen girl would use, and so I would text her. I would ask, “What’s a hip synonym for ‘tattoo?’” Or “I need another expression for ‘hook-up.’ Any ideas?” And she would text me back something that would work. Trust me, you would not have found the word “bitchcakes” in the novel without her. She was wonderful.

Finally, whenever I write across gender – which I do all the time – I focus first on the things that link us as people. Then, after that, I can begin to examine the particularities of gender.

There were many, many difficult moments that I had reading about Emily’s life when she is homeless, particularly, when she takes Cameron under her wing. Were there any scenes in particular that were difficult for you to write or anything you had to step away from?

Yes. As a dad of a daughter, I found it difficult to write about Emily Shepard’s cutting and the way she is sexually exploited by Poacher.

But I loved writing about her relationship with Cameron, and the way she looks out for him. She might make a lot of bad parenting decisions, but when it comes to that boy – to paraphrase Emily Dickinson – her life really does stand a loaded gun.

Did writing this novel make you think about nuclear disasters differently? Do you have more or less fear about these situations becoming a reality?

I learned a bit about how nuclear plants work – thanks to Arnie and Maggie Gundersen at Fairewinds Energy Education. But I must confess, I still find nuclear power absolutely baffling.

But the Fairewinds website is incredibly interesting.

And, yes, nuclear power does make me nervous. The exclusion zone in my novel in Vermont is small compared to the actual exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

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

Room,” by Emma Donoghue. What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys the horrific reality of a mother and son’s captivity.

If you want a poignant, powerful novel about a mother’s desperate love for her child, it doesn’t get better than this.

You can connect with Chris Bohjalian  on Facebook or on 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!

*This post contains affiliate links!

Amy’s Notebook 07.02.14

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Beach cake toppers via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day

How adorable are these beach cake toppers!?

Love this inexpensive way to modernize old cabinets.

Awesome  list of 12 young adult books for your summer reading!

How to host a color fight- can I set my OCD aside to recreate this fun party idea?

10 TED Talks I need to watch this summer.

Copycat Chipotle honey chicken bowls- get in my belly.

Polka dot hat via Sugar and Cloth

Source: Sugar and Cloth

Madly in love with this DIY polka dot floppy hat.

11 glasses tricks every four-eyes should know- perfect my my 4-eyed self.

This travel memory suitcase for kids is precious!!

Butter in your coffee? The bulletproof craze, explained- I have been wondering about this.

Be still my beating heart- hello, coffee cart!

100 small things that can bring you joy- I’m always looking for little ways to add happiness to my life.

This how to summer list is my fave.

amys_notebook

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

 

Pin It

Sundays With Writers: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to be featuring a new-to-me author that I discovered this month.  I read her beautiful book, Whistling Past the Graveyard,  in just a couple of short days and absolutely fell in love with it. It was the kind of book that I thought about for many days after.  I would say that if you are a fan of, “The Help,” or young narrator’s with lots of spunk, you will want to get this book right away for your summer reading. If you don’t fall in love with these characters, I fear for you. It’s that endearing. As soon as I closed the pages, I did what any smart blogger would do. I emailed Susan and begged her to join me for Sundays With Writers so I could share it with you.

 

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

This book is so  beautiful your heart aches. A coming-of-age story about what it means to be family and how the most unlikely people can be a part of that despite all racial and societal barriers. Set in the ’60′s, the spitfire child narrator captured my heart. This story is a perfectly satisfying summer read that I highly recommend you add to your beach bag this summer.

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with Susan Crandall about this amazing tale of Starla Claudelle in her book, Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Susan Crandall

Writing in the voice of a child is one of those elements of writing that I am always fascinated with. Two books that we have talked about before, Room & The Bear, both used a child narrator and people either loved it or they hated it.

I can’t say I have ever heard a child’s voice captured more perfectly than in this book though. One scene that made me laugh is when Starla has the sex talk with her Dad and she is absolutely traumatized by it.

Do you hang out with a lot of nine-year-old kids or were you thinking about your nine-year-old self when you wrote this?

Thank you for the lovely compliment. Youthful characters are always fun to write, but with Starla as a main narrator, it afforded me many, many hours of reminiscing and amusement. I can’t say I’ve been around more nine-year-olds than most people. I’m the mother of two grown kids. I tapped into many things to give Starla her voice, and one of them was definitely my nine-year-old-self. It was a great trip down memory lane (although let me be clear, I was a rule following child, rarely impulsive, never sassy; for that I tapped into my younger sister).

Also, I have to admit, this character had a very distinct voice from the instant she walked into my mind. Sometimes I felt like I was taking dictation.

In one scene, Starla explains what Whistling Past the Graveyard means. She says, “My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fear, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes. But it’s not weak like hidin’…it’s strong. It means you’re able to go on.”

Have you ever done any whistling past the graveyard in your life?

Who hasn’t? That’s what makes the saying so applicable to many of the characters in this book. As for my version of whistling, I tend to bury myself in projects of various natures, the more brainless and physical the better, yard work, closet cleaning, house painting and the like. (From the looks of my house, I’m going to say that it’s been a while since I’ve needed that kind of distraction.) I can’t say I’ve ever honed in on a singular thing like Eula’s baking.

Plus I think there’s a lot of “whistling” we do as a society as a whole, so we don’t have to face our collective shortcomings.

Reading the scenes of abuse and seeing how broken Eula was were both tough for me. Did you have difficulty writing these scenes, particularly the scenes when Stella is captured?

I definitely had trouble making myself write those parts. But they were necessary to tell the full story, for Starla’s journey of discovery to be complete. When I write a scene, I mentally go to that place and endure it second by second along with my characters. Of course, no scene is completely fleshed out in one pass, so I had to fortify myself to go back there day after day.

One of the most difficult for me to write was when Starla meets her momma. As a mother it went against every instinct I had…that’s how I knew it was right.

Racial tension abounds in this book and there were a few scenes where I had a lump in my throat or had to speed read through to be assured that Eula & Starla would be safe. Did you do a lot of research about the ’60′s and what was happening during this time? What type of preparation did you do to really help us understand how hard it would be for a woman like Eula in the ’60′s?

I did extensive research. I do remember the mid-sixties, but grew up in Indiana, so my experience was much different than if I’d grown up in the South. That’s not to say there weren’t incidences of racism in Indiana that helped me sharpen my view. Fortunately there are plenty of resources from old news footage, documentaries, and I read several first-hand accounts written by African-Americans who lived through segregation in the fifties and sixties.

I think the way to really connect with any era, situation, or setting is through the common thread of our humanity. What would I have felt like in those situations. Of course, Eula’s inner trials were often beyond my imagining. One of the reason’s the entire book is from Starla’s point of view is because I can only say what Eula’s life would have looked like from the outside. I can’t imagine the fear and hardship in enough depth to write it from her perspective.

What do you have in store for us with your next book?

I’m working on a story set in 1923. Three people from very different backgrounds–a teenage orphan of German immigrant farmers, a debutant whose family has lost its fortune and a WW1 veteran pilot–are displaced from their lives and join together to travel the county in a barnstorming act. For those of you unfamiliar, in the early days of aviation after the first world war, many of the pilots took advantage of war surplus trainer planes and made a scrappy living by flying from small town to small town selling rides. They used farm pastures for landing strips, thus the name barnstormer. Flying circuses were formed when several pilots banded together to do daredevil exhibitions. They were quite the rage throughout the early and mid-twenties.

All three of my characters are running from something, each carefully guarding their secrets. They’re bound together by mutual need and yet have conflicting goals. It’s a great ride as we travel throughout the country with them, crossing paths with bootleggers, tycoons, farmers and tent revivalists. But their secrets are always right behind them. When they catch up … well, things get dicey.
It’s tentatively scheduled for release in July 2015

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

When I’m asked this question, I always reach way back, looking for a book that has stuck with me so vividly that I can remember the details of the characters very clearly even after a long time. I try to pick something that isn’t a classic, those already stand out and find audiences. I’m a character writer. Suspenseful plots are enjoyable, but it’s the beauty of the character and his/her journey that touches me. So after all that rambling, I always come back to two books, very different genres: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander (the first book in the series is my favorite).

You can connect with Susan Crandall 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!

 

 

Pin It

It’s the 3 Little Things: Cheesy Popcorn, Probiotics, & Fizzy Water

Friday, June 27th, 2014

It's The 3 Little Things

Happy Friday! It’s a good Friday for us, indeed, because we are taking our first family vacation since last Spring. The Ohio Visitor’s Bureau offered to host our family for a weekend visit and show off all of the fabulous things we can do in Ohio to share with you all this coming month. Today we are exploring Columbus and I am so happy that this is a trip that we all get to do together instead of me traveling alone. I can’t wait to share what we discover in Ohio. I have a feeling that our vacation will be on my happy list next week so you have been warned! :)

Let’s chat about what’s making me happy this week!

Bio-Kult Probiotic

Probiotics That Actually Work

I have to tell you that if you aren’t taking a probiotic, it can be such a game-changer especially if you have digestive issues. My dietician recommended this Bio-Kult Probiotic to help heal my gut when I was so sick this past winter. I started feeling so much better after a week, but when I ran out, I headed to the store and got a cheaper brand of probiotics that I thought looked roughly the same. It did not work the same and once again, my stomach was a mess. I learned a lesson that this multi-strain formula works the best for me and, if I am eating what I am supposed to, that I feel like a normal person with a normal digestive system. Having a working digestive system, indeed, makes me happy.

La Croix Berry Water

A Great Substitution For My Soda Cravings

I gave up Diet Coke two years ago and I am so proud of myself for doing that. Other than the occasional one at the movies, I am completely soda-free. In the summer months though, I crave something bubbly, but since I quit soda, even flavored waters can taste artificially sweet to me.  I had seen the La Croix Sodas  pop up in my IG feed one day and when my girlfriend let me try one at her house, I was hooked. These have no artificial flavors, coloring, sodium, or calories. Or as my husband says, “Or taste.” If you like soda, these might not be your favorite.

This has been my midday treat and I prefer a hint of flavor and all the bubbles now that I kicked the soda can to the curb. I would say if you like sparkling water or even prefer drier alcoholic drinks, this might be a great substitution. The Berry and the Cherry-Lime have been my favorites so far! I’m anxious to hit Target and snag some of their exclusive flavors that they are carrying on shelves this summer!

All the bubbles, none of the junk. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Smartfood Popcorn

A Guilt-Free Snack (Unless They Catch You Licking the Bowl)

For Easter, my mother-in-law gave me a bag of this popcorn to enjoy while everyone snacked on her famously delicious and oh-so-amazing sugar cookies. If anyone chooses to eat gluten-free for a fad diet, I pity you. Why in the world would you choose this?  I can’t stand that I have to miss out on the treat table for holidays and this was pure torture… until I started munching on this popcorn. And I proceeded to eat the whole dang bag, licked my fingers, and raided my children’s bags for more popcorn, and may have licked the bottom of those bags too. Don’t judge.

If you like cheesy popcorn, let me introduce you to my little friend called Smartfood Popcorn.  White cheddar is dusted on every heavenly little piece and it goes great with that bottle of Chianti and whatever your latest Netflix binge obsession is this week. Snacks that feel like a guilty-pleasure are definitely a fun addition to any happy list!  Don’t believe me? Serious Eats conducted their own little taste-test and this popcorn won hands-down. So boom! ENJOY!

*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 06.25.14

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Here comes the sun house tour via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom

 

This home tour is simply inspiring!

Here’s a great list of 2014 summer books to stash in your beach bag.

Free printable last minute July 4th poster- I just love this print!

Read 9 decorator secrets to more style with less money. Love.

Slow cooker recipe for Greek gyros- what a yummy summer meal.

Wow, I like these “toy jail” printables so much – they will be coming in very handy this summer, I think!

Signing kids up for summer camps? You need this shortcut for filling out camp registrations.

Ice cold coffee gift via Saturday Crafternoons

Source: Saturday Crafternoons

 

A cold brew coffee with fun label makes a perfect birthday, thank you, or “just because” gift for a coffee-loving friend.

Simple wallpaper removing tips- I wish I had these when we got our first house!

You won’t believe this school bus transformation.

11 debunked DIY tricks on Pinterest- apparently 11 things I won’t be trying this week.

This DIY shuttlecock lights garland is absolutely adorable!

Joy the Baker: Baking 101- a handy series to bookmark for the pie-baking season.

 

amys_notebook

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

Pin It

It’s The 3 Little Things: Beach Waves, Ladies Who Lunch, & Chocolate Covered Cherry Coffee

Friday, June 20th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Thing

 

Happy, happy Friday, friends! I am so excited that we have another weekend ahead of us and thrilled that we have ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE TO BE. Hello, giant chair and book! We are going to be great friends this weekend. I hope you are still enjoying this feature and I love hearing about the success stories of things you have been trying from this list! Share those success stories in the comments below and let me know if you have tried something that made me happy that, in turn, made you happy. I love full circle moments.

Without further adieu!

Beach Waves

Beach Waves

You know when people essentially curl their hair and look like Shirley Temple instead of that pretty tousled beach wave hair?  Yup. That would be me. Instead of continuing to suffer, I found this amazing loose waves tutorial from my friend Sarah, over at Whoorl, and it changed my life. Have you heard of the Whoorl Curl? It’s a game-changer.  After following her directions, I FINALLY successfully pulled off a loose wave and I couldn’t be prouder. She offers advice on using a curling iron with a clamp and one without so you can use the advice with what you already have.

My Conair curling iron from HIGH SCHOOL finally bit the bullet after being dropped for the five thousandth time.  Since it was held together with one screw and had to balance without the stand, I decided to replace it with the exact same one because, hello? What lasts that long and only costs less than $20.  I use that and this Nexxus Touchable Hold Hair Spray for holding my beach waves (while still allowing for softness & movement). I highly recommend both, especially if you are on a budget.

We hit a beautiful wedding (dress from Luxe Wagon, designer Voom by Joy Han) and my beach waves made it until dancing the robot in the photo booth. That’s way strong, yo.

I have often thought of buying an expensive curling iron, but I would be this girl. I just know it. Why? Because I turn that heat UP to eleventy. I’ll stick with the cheap stuff.

Feedly

Feedly

Is it bad to be a blogger and share that you don’t read blogs? My own blog had taken over my life and I started to feel separated from my own community.  I decided to get back to blog reading and I started using Feedly as my reader. I absolutely love it and I think it has been so good to get back to blog reading again. While I eat lunch, I bookmark items to save for later that I think would fit well with our weekly notebook and I also have started bookmarking them for our Facebook community. Each day at 2:30 (eastern time), I post things to talk about. I think it has added so much more to both my life and our community and I am proud to be supporting people that make me think differently about life. We won’t always agree on these pieces, but I love the conversations that flow from these shares. It has been pretty dead over there so this is how I am working to restore that sense of community.

I can read all my blogs from my phone, my iPad, or from my computer.  Instead of scrolling endlessly through Facebook at piano lessons, for example, I am reading, learning, and bookmarking things to share with you. It’s a much better use of my time.

Although I don’t want to plug myself here, you can also subscribe to our site through Feedly. We need to change the title because it is listed under The MotherLoad, but you can find me over here.

Cacao Powder

Chocolate Covered Cherry Coffee

What better way to wake up than a cup of coffee that tastes like a Chocolate Covered Cherry?  For the last year or so, every morning I add a scoop of Cacao Powder to my coffee.  I had given up my coffee creamer, but I felt that the almond milk was too thin and bland compared to the creamer I had been using, so I started adding a scoop of this superfood to my coffee.  Here are some of the health reasons I recommend trying this in your coffee cup. One bag typically lasts me a month since I only add it to my first cup of the day. Once you try it, I doubt you will ever want your coffee any other way…that is, until I introduce you to Michigan Cherry Coffee Beans.

I am a Midwest girl who loves her Meijer Supermarket and Meijer has a whole bean (and ground coffee) in the Michigan Cherry flavor that is absolutely heavenly. They just price dropped their gourmet bags of coffee to $3.99 for WHOLE BEANS which is incredible so I buy a bag of this and brew a pot of it for myself every morning. It has great cherry flavor, but does not taste synthetically cherry-filled. Couple that with a spoonful of cacao, a little almond milk, and stevia and bring on that happy!

If you don’t have a Meijer, you could substitute with something from your own coffee house or buy a bag online. Regardless of where you get it, give it a try!

That’s my happy list for the week!

*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 06.18.14

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

DIY flower bobeches via Oh Happy Day

Source: Oh Happy Day

 

These cupcake liner flower bobeches are so smart for drippy candles and are adorable, too!

I think adding avocado to yogurt tzatziki dip sounds unique and delicious.

Love this free summer bucket list printable!

What a fabulous way to use thrifted items to create a fun diy serving tray.

15 tips for the highly sensitive parent- I am one and plan to work through these tips.

I’ve been wanting to make a mason jar hand soap dispenser for awhile and this had me at “foaming.”

 

Greek marinated tenderloin via Gather and DIne

Source: Gather and Dine

 

Greek-marinated pork tenderloin with tzatziki – such a fun twist on pork tenderloin.

Love this DIY kids clothes rack for families that lack closet space!

11 young adult books with happy endings to read this summer.

Mason jar succulents would make a cute outdoor arrangement.

10 TED Talks all millennials should watch for a source of inspiration – count me inspired!

Love this farmer’s market brunch idea for a day date with my hubby.

 

amys_notebook

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

 

Pin It

It’s The 3 Little Things: Summer Lips, Red, Red Wine, & Comfy Sandals

Friday, June 13th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

I love it when Friday rolls around, don’t you?  I’m excited to showcase the 3 things that are making me happy this week with a bonus happy or two for your day!

I have been getting asked lately if I am going to run out of things for this feature. I really hope not because I have heard from many that this is their favorite day of the week on here. I have a running list that I jot things down on to include each week, but it definitely starts to become more challenging as the weeks go by. I promise to try to do a good job though and not recommend things I am not completely nuts about because…hello? How would that benefit you at all? I am now looking for little things at the stores to share with you. I call this “business research.” Often conducted at CVS and through online shopping. I hope I can write it off for my taxes.

 

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

Great Summer Lips

I love a fresh summer lip and this year my new favorite is an oldie, but goodie called Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey.  If you haven’t tried this lip color it is universally flattering and beautiful and I promise does not look anything like what is in its tube. You can pick it up at your favorite Clinique counter in the department store or they have it at Sephora. I absolutely love this shade for summer and I think you will too. It goes on like a gloss and moisturizes the lip. It’s the one you will want to buy extra tubes of so you can grab it and keep in your purse so you can touch them up while you are out and about.

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

I like when people show me what lip color looks like on so here is a terrible selfie I took of the lip color for you so you can see why I love it so much. Isn’t it perfect for summer? Between that and my favorite BB Cream with the built in sunscreen, I feel set! This retails for $15 a tube so it is a splurge, but I promise you that you will love it and get your use out of it this summer. If you have a universally flattering shade you love, please share it with me and I will see about making it a part of my happy list and featuring it here too. I am always on the lookout for a fresh shade!

Santa Bacelli Chianti from ALDI

My Favorite Red Wine + Orange is the New Black

Red wine is my favorite and in the evenings we have been watching the second season of Orange is the New Black while we enjoy a glass of red wine. My new favorite red might surprise you, but I promise if you are a red wine drinker that you will absolutely love the Santa Bachelli Chianti from ALDI. The bottle retails for $4.99 so you might overlook it as a good wine option, but this bottle is on par with bottles I have bought in the $12-15 range. It’s one of their award winners and I try to buy a few bottles to keep in our wine rack for entertaining. It’s rich, dry (but not too dry), with a rich black cherry and plum flavor. It’s best paired with the new season of Orange is the New Black.

We are only a couple of episodes into Orange is the New Black, but it’s already my guilty summer pleasure. If the show is too racy for you, I totally get that. I highly recommend picking up the book which is more G-rated and just as fascinating as the show.

If you are as into the show as me though, you might enjoy taking this quiz to find out which character you are. As if you didn’t find me boring enough, the quiz says I am Piper. Lucky for me, it seems she is getting tough this season so watch out.  I was really hoping for Crazy Eyes though.

Payless Dexflex Sandals

Comfy Summer Sandals

I bought two pairs of these Dexflex Comfort Vicki Low Wedges for summer and I can’t rave enough about them. The true test of a good sandal is if you can go on a trip, walk through the airport, and put in a 12-hour workday standing the entire time and not have back pain, go to the airport again,  hop off the plane, and then dance the entire night until 2AM to celebrate the world’s greatest person at a party. These sandals did that for me on my last trip and people kept stopping me in the airport to ask me where I got them. They happen to be on clearance right now (lucky you!) so the pink are for sale for $12 and the black are on sale for $17. That is a lot less than I had paid for them. I got these when I bought my favorite nude pumps- it was a great shoe day, I tell you.

There are no buckles, the elastic hugs your foot, but they don’t squeeze them too tight (important if you have a wide foot like me). The heel is low and the shoe is well supported in the heel. I I bought a pair in pink and in taupe at the beginning of summer and have been wearing them nonstop.

 

Fleetwood Mac Rumours T-Shirt

Luxe Wagon

Here is the pair that I am wearing non-stop in taupe. I don’t know if your store might have them, but I absolutely love them. These look great with my Fleetwood Mac t-shirt that I scored from our Luxe Wagon in town. Seriously, fashion on wheels? Be still my beating heart. You gotta check it out! I got the cutest things from there and the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album happens to be my absolute favorite record so I had to have this t-shirt.  I would call that a bonus happy to pair with these shoes.

Last Day of School

Dress: site sponsor, Flourish Boutique

 

My other bonus happy this week is that we are FINALLY done with school. I may have been toasting myself with that Chianti because I survived my first year with two kiddos at two schools AND my first year of middle school.

I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest years I have ever experienced as a parent. The transition to middle school was a tough one for my son and for me. I am so proud that we made it through and that he did so well with his grades. I wouldn’t torture him by posting a picture, but know that I am so proud of him. He worked very hard this year and we had excellent teachers and volunteer tutors from IUSB that donated their time after the school hours to help him succeed. It took a village this year, but we did it and I am so, so proud.

My Emily also had a fantastic year.  She got an Outstanding Student award and I can’t say I helped her too much with that because I was so preoccupied with middle school homework. She’s a hard worker and makes my job so easy. Her happiness is contagious and when I volunteer at school, she always says, “That’s MY mom,” and hugs me. At eight, my days are numbered so I am savoring it while they last.

What could make you happier than being a proud mama?

Chris-Bohjalian

Now that the kids are done with school, I am excited to tackle my summer reads at the pool. I happened to post about my latest NetGalley releases (remember that post about advanced readers?) and LOOK WHO WAS ALL LIKE, ” Happy reading, Amy,” on my personal Facebook status. Are you kidding me? Chris Bohjalian, well-played. Your book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands has moved to the top of my book stack. I haven’t even read it, but I am going to recommend it for his comment. He is one of the greatest writers of our time so I already know it will be amazing.  Between that and our Scribd freebie membership this week, I won’t have to go to the library for awhile. Oh, who are we kidding, I already went yesterday.

 

*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!

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd (FREE 3 Month Membership!)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The Best in Summer Reading With Scribd

 

*This post is sponsored by Scribd

I feel so lucky to be partnering with Scribd again to share a few of my favorite summer reads and an incredible giveaway they are offering for our readers so you can start tackling your own summer reading with their fantastic service.

I have really been enjoying my own Scribd membership over this year and, in fact, loved it so much that I gave it to my Dad for a birthday gift this year. It’s one of those services that I genuinely enjoyed that I just had to share it with my fellow book lovers.

Have you heard of Scribd? If you missed my last post about Scribd, it is an eBook service that works a lot like Netflix, but for books. You pay a low membership fee of $8.99 per month and can read as many books as you want on all of your major ebook reading devices like iPhone, iPad, iOS, Android & the Kindle Fire tablet. It also offers page syncing so you can move from device to device and simply pick up where you left off.

With Scribd you have unlimited access to over 400,000 books (and counting!) from nearly 1,000 publishers including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Kensington, Open Road Media, & New World Library. The catalog includes fiction books, nonfiction books (like cookbooks), young adult books, and children’s books. Basically, your entire family can benefit from this service, all with the cost of just one membership. I can think of no better gift to give yourself this summer!

For today’s post, I scoured the Scribd site to pull together for you a few of my favorite summer reads that I have enjoyed so much and I am also sharing what I would love to read this summer while I am sitting in my shady spot (I am awfully pale!) by the community pool!

Books I Recommend for Your Summer Reading List on Scribd:

Arranged

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I have to say that this book is one of my favorite reads this summer, simply because it is deliciously fast-paced chick-lit at its finest.

Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.

Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.

This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and after devouring this book in a mere day, I can’t recommend it enough for a fun reading escape!

Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

If you are looking for a psychological thriller that will have you guessing until the very last page what is happening, then I have the book for you.  This is the best thriller that I have read this year and can hardly believe that it is the author’s first book.

Every single day Christine wakes up not knowing who she is, where she is, and who her husband is.  It is the same scenario every day as she makes her way to the bathroom, where pictures are layered upon the mirror that explain who she is and who her husband is. Each day she must go through the heartbreaking discovery that she has had a terrible accident that has caused her to have permanent amnesia. People she thinks are alive have died.  She can’t remember if she is a mother. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t have any friends. Some days she wakes up and she believes she is in her twenties and cannot even recognize the woman who looks at her in the mirror.

When Christine begins meeting with a doctor, he encourages her to begin journaling each day to help jog her memory of what has been happening in her daily life. As each day opens, Christine opens her journal and begins to read and as she reads, she begins to discover that the life that she is leading might not be all that it seems to be.  As Christine becomes more and more aware of her story and begins to challenge the information that her husband is feeding to her about what has happened, the reader is left wondering if Christine is obsessing about details because she can’t really recall them or if the stories she is hearing are even real?

If you read one thriller this year, let it be this one. I promise you, it is truly amazing and will leave you stunned when you read the final pages.  I can’t wait to read more from this author.

mudbound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound is storytelling at its very best and offers a beautifully rendered portrayal of race and politics in the South during the forties. This book is told from alternating points of view and shares the story of a Memphis-bred Laura McAllan who is struggling to adjust to being a farmer’s wife and living the idyllic dream that her husband Henry has for them to live off their own land. When Henry makes an error by trusting a handshake rather than a contract on the home they are renting, they find themselves living in less than ideal conditions in a shack that Henry had hoped to turn into his dream house. Laura not only must deal with the difficulties of living in this shack, but she has to do it with her racist father-in-law constantly judging and spewing hate at her.

As Laura struggles with this, the real story unfolds when Henry’s brother Jamie returns home from the war. Always the favored one, Jamie comes home as a raging alcoholic, struggling with nightmares and post-traumatic stress from the war he left. Ronsel, a son of the sharecroppers who have been hired to work on Henry & Laura’s land, also struggles with leaving the war after being a hero in fighting for his country; he is now seen as just a black boy and treated with only racism and hatred.

When a horrible crime is committed, the four lives of these main characters are woven into one and the reader is taken along on the journey every harrowing step of the way. Twist after twist creates a plot that illustrates racism in a very unique way.

This book is a fast-paced read, that will shock and grip you until the final pages. Not for the faint of heart- a great debut novel from Hillary Jordan worthy of the 2006 Bellwether Prize that she won for this.

Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is an oldie, but a goodie! I actually waited a long time to read this one, but I think I savored it even more! The book opens with Jacob Janowski who is ninety (or ninety-three, a fact he can’t remember) and now living in a nursing home.  His days are now spent being shuffled from his room to the dining area, suffering from the everyday minutiae of life in a nursing home. Of course, his life wasn’t always like this, in fact, Jacob’s life was spent with a traveling circus after the untimely death of his parents. Circus life was a hard life for Jacob and one that he jumped to unknowingly when he boarded a train to escape after his parent’s death.

Gruen’s writing is as vivid as a movie screen as the reader is swept away into the hard and difficult life of being a part of the traveling circus during the Great Depression. When Jacob is appointed to veterinarian, he has a difficult role under August, a paranoid schizophrenic, who acts as the animal trainer of the circus. The reader is swept into the sad life of the animals and the repeated abuse that August inflicts on the animals.

The only sparkle of light in Jacob’s life is Marlena, a beautiful performer in the circus, who Jacob cannot stop thinking about. Sadly, it is August’s wife that he has fallen in love with, and the reader will sit on the edge of their seat as Jacob risks it all to free Marlena from the abusive life that she has been leading with August.

More than a love story, it is an unbelievably well-researched look into the life of the circus at this time, and a love story of how Jacob & Marlena fall in love with an elephant named Rosie who makes a reader’s heart melt in her beauty. Equally impressive is how Gruen is able to capture the life of the elderly as Jacob reminisces and longs for his youth. The ending is perhaps a little too neatly woven, but is a satisfying conclusion to it all as a reader!

Vivid, descriptive, cinematic, raw, chilling… I felt as though I was on a roller coaster just reading this one! Definitely give this one a read before hitting the movie theater! Let’s hope the movie is half as good as this book!

Forgotten

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

I can’t believe that I didn’t review this book sooner for you all! I am a HUGE Catherine McKenzie fan and this one is another excellent beach read that you won’t be able to put down.

Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead–and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In “Forgotten,” Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

When She Woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Imagine if your sins were on display for the entire world to see?  Hillary Jordan creates a futuristic spin on how society would look if our skin was colored based on the crime we committed.  The story follows Hannah Payne who has recently been, “chromed,” and is red because she has committed murder.  Hannah knows that this is the cross that she must bear for her crimes, but she has no idea how horrible her life will be now that society knows the sins she has committed.

Hannah was always a good girl and was raised in a very conservative family where it was even frowned up on to wear anything with color or that would draw attention to her natural beauty. The climate of the government also leans towards conservative views and the laws go along with the government views of what is right and wrong in this dystopian society.  She has always been a girl that has done the right thing, but she falls in love with a married man who sweeps her off her feet and causes her to make a decision that she will now spend the remainder of her sentence paying for.  To protect the future of the prominent man that she has fallen in love with, she must bear the burden alone and is now melachromed for her actions for all the world to see.

When an extremist underground group tries to help Hannah and reverse the chroming that has been done to her, the reader is taken on a thrilling journey as Hannah risks her safety and life for the crime she has committed.

Hillary Jordan could not have picked a book concept further from her fantastic debut, “Mudbound.”  This book would lend itself well to book club discussions as it flips every political debate on its head.  From abortion to women’s rights to Christianity to punishment for one’s crimes, no political rock is left unturned.  While one might not agree with Hannah’s viewpoint or those of the extremist views of the underground group, the concept of chroming is rich with discussion and a true modern day take on, “The Scarlet Letter.”

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

I love debut novelists and the first book that I read on Scribd was The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  This book deals with big topics like race identity and where we fit in the world when we are biracial. Rachel is the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Faith

Faith by Jennifer Haigh

Faith is a masterpiece of literature that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The novel does have a slow build as it shares a bit about the history and the scandal of 2002 when many Boston priests were accused of molestation in the Catholic Church, but the story is worth the plot set up and is a book that you will want to share and discuss with your friends.

Art is the apple of his mother’s eye and is wholly committed to dedicating his life to God from the time he is a child and on. He lovingly serves his church and feels great satisfaction in his work as a priest. When suddenly he is thrust into the spotlight and is accused of molesting a child that he has grown close to through his work in the church, he is devastated as his life is under scrutiny by the media, by other church members, by other priests, and by his family.

While some in his family side with him, others do not. When shocking discoveries are made into his past and the relationship that he has had with the little boy, the reader must examine which side they might be on and see both sides of the coin as his family comes to terms with these accusations. How would you feel if your son, your brother, or the person you trusted in your church was accused of such an act? Could you stand beside them or would you shun them even if they told you they would never do such a thing?

Haigh’s writing is exquisitely rich and the story is told through a fresh set of eyes from the scandal that we witnessed in the media.  Haigh brings in an angle that led me to believe that there truly are two sides to every story.

Spin

Spin by  Catherine McKenzie

I would be remiss if I didn’t include one more book by Catherine. Her books are the perfect addition to your beach bag and this past month, she came up with a sequel to this book that I am dying to pick up. Although I don’t see the sequel listed on Scribd yet, you must read this first book and get ready for it because it is such a fun escape!

When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it’s the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate—and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It’s no surprise that she doesn’t get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she’d be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow “It Girl” Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop—and complete the thirty-day program—they’ll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she’ll have to pay.

Fun, fast-paced, and one I couldn’t put down- you will love it!

2014 Summer Reading List

Now that you have some tried-and-true ideas for your summer reading, here are nine books I am dying to read on Scribd this summer. Maybe you can read along with me?

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Unless by Carol Shields

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In celebration of summer reading, Scribd is offering EVERY MomAdvice a free three month trial membership by using our exclusive access code. To access your free membership head HERE and then input the following code: momadvice0614.   I’m so excited for you to try this service and I just know that you will love it as much as I do! Leave us a comment and let us know what you are excited to read on Scribd! 

This post is sponsored by Scribd. I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and effort in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tracking Pixel

Pin It