Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

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!

double-bun-tutorial-2

double-bun-tutorial-1

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!

dockers-uniforms

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.

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 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.

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-2

 

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!

Amy’s Notebook 07.30.14

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

DIY Lightbulb Terrariums via CladandCloth

Source: Clad and Cloth

 

I don’t think I can kill these diy lightbulb terrariums.

LOVE this family tree wall.

Four things to help you say no with confidence.

I’m wowed by this grill upgrade.

I simply love this dining room makeover.

Quinoa Cakes via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

Baked quinoa falafel is a new recipe I am dying to try.

Can’t wait to try DIY natural disinfectant wipes.

These beautiful quotes with watercolor look inexpensive & easy to create.

24 hours in Paris is on my anniversary trip bucket list.

What I Instagrammed vs. what was really happening, or my entire life is a lie…busted!

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 3 Little Things: So American, Spot Free Dishes, & a Little Dystopia

Friday, July 25th, 2014

3_little_things

Happy Friday, friends!  If you are anything like me, I know that you are looking forward to this weekend. I have quite a few fun projects I am tackling for the site and am jetting off to Austin next week with Savings.com for a fun weekend of learning! In the meantime, it is a mad dash of laundry, deadlines, and playing catch up on the house. The usual.

Here are three things that are making me happy this week that I think you will love too!

The-Americans

Television We Both Love

As you may or may not know, we ditched cable so we either have to purchase a series through Amazon or wait for it to come through our Netflix or Hulu subscriptions. My husband signed us up for Amazon Prime this year and they have a partnership now with HBO and are offering several FX series shows that I am not able to get on Netflix or Hulu. Since we are paying for this membership, we are doing our best to get our money out of it and one way is through our television-watching.

I kept hearing great things about The Americans and we are only three shows in and I am absolutely in love with this series already. It’s a little Mr. & Mrs. Smith and a little Alias. The story is set in the ’80′s and centers around  the marriage of KGB spies posing as Americans in suburban Washington DC.  The show is set during the Reagan presidency and follows Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, two spies who are in an arranged marriage.

The fight scenes are amazing, the acting is superb, and the plot just keeps thickening.  A marathon of this show is on our weekend agenda and that makes me very, very happy!

lemishine

Goodbye to Spotty Glassware

Summer is the season of wine glasses… oh, wait… maybe that’s just me (*ahem*).  We have hard water and by hard water, I mean miserably hard water that builds up in my coffee makers, on our shower heads, coats our sink fixtures, and makes for the world’s spottiest dishware. I didn’t know what to do other than donate our cups each year and get new ones. We got a new dishwasher and it still wasn’t helping even with vinegar in my rinse aid and running all of our different cycles.

As I researched how to get rid of spots, I ran across this Lemi Shine in a “hard water woe discussion forum,”  and it has changed my world. You add this where the dishwasher tablet usually goes and then put your dishwasher tablet in the other compartment. It boosts your dishwasher soap and makes everything shine like the top of the Chrysler building (said with my best jazz hands). Seriously, if you struggle with hard water, give this a shot and tell me what you think.

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts

A Great Summer Escape

Let me preface by saying that this book is so very far out of my genre that when I picked it up, I wasn’t sure if this was ever going to be a book I could get into. I am just done with dystopian societies, I hate science fiction, and I really am not into shows like The Walking Dead.  I got an advance reader of The Girl With All the Gifts from NetGalley and I can’t believe how much I enjoyed it.  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 special.

It lagged a bit in the middle and there were times I was skimming through some of the scientific portions because they were so lengthy, but overall it was an amazing read that found me irritated every time some real-life activity had to interrupt my reading time. It’s been a long time since I have felt that way about a book like this.

I have reached out to the author for an interview, but he’s kind of a big deal… I am not sure if he will reply to my messages. I didn’t want to let this read slip through the cracks though so I am mentioning it today if you want to try something new.

It does have graphic violence and graphic language. Power through.

Don’t read the reviews, it will spoil your journey and discovery of Melanie and all her gifts! 

*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 07.23.14

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

After school checklist via WhipperBerry

Source: Whipperberry

 

Print this after school checklist. Check!

Balsamic chicken caprese pasta screams summer.

These printable s’mores cubes are adorable – my kids would flip for them!

Grilled peach, honey goat cheese & spiced pecan salad? Yes, please.

15 read-aloud chapter books that everyone loves – perfect!

Chicken Skewers via Yummy Healthy Easy

Source: Yummy Healthy Easy

 

Marinated and grilled Thai coconut chicken skewers over a bed of delicious coconut rice!

A perfect housewarming gift – includes free printable wine label and hammer design.

Fascinating piece on Harper Lee- ‘Mockingbird Next Door’: A Genteel Peek Into Harper Lee’s Quiet Life

How family game night makes kids into better students- bring on the games!

Great tips for hanging party lights.

 

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: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Sundays_With_Writers-1_Final

 

I have been a huge fan of Heather Gudenkauf since her first book,  The Weight of Silence and had been looking forward to her next book so very much.  When her publicist reached out to me about reviewing her new book, Little Mercies,  I jumped at the chance…and also begged for an interview with Heather for our Sundays With Writers feature. If you can believe it, Heather agreed and I quickly devoured her book on our family trip to Columbus.

I was expecting another suspense-filled thriller that would leave me guessing whodunit- a quick escape from my daily life. From the opening pages though, I began to realize that this book was a swift departure from that , although it was equally thrilling and gripping.

I was unprepared.

Unprepared for the waves of emotion I was to experience and unprepared to go on this journey with this mother in this book.  Yet, I had to see it through, and I felt like I could breathe again once I closed the pages. I also hugged my kids tightly that weekend and was reminded how easily these gifts can be taken from us.  It’s that kind of book.

It’s the perfect type of book for a robust book club discussion and you can print out this handy book club kit for your club that offers some great thought-starters for your group’s discussion. You can also sink your teeth into the prequel to this book, Little Liesalthough Little Mercies can be read on its own too.

Little Mercies

Little Mercies builds on a well-developed premise- what if you were suddenly put in the shoes of someone that you once judged? The difference in this plot is that it is a social worker, who once was the judge of other parents, who makes an honest and life-altering mistake, and is now the one who must be judged as a parent.

Told in alternating points of view from an abandoned child who is quite familiar with the social worker setting and the viewpoint of a mother who is about to lose it all in the system that she has worked so hard to uphold.

It is heart-wrenching and very real, illustrating some of my worst nightmares as a parent, weaving the two stories of these people together beautifully.

Heather Gudenkauf

Photo Credit: Morgan Hawthorne

Little Mercies seems to be a bit of a departure from your past books that I felt were more in the thriller genre of reading. That is not to say that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat the entire book, but just that this seemed like a situation that I could find myself in as a mother. How did you decide upon this idea of placing a social worker in a setting where she, herself, might be accused of child endangerment?

I got the idea for Little Mercies after hearing about a social worker who found herself on the other side of the legal system due to an overextended caseload. From there I began to ask what if? What if the social worker was a mother? What if the social worker mistakenly places her own child in harm’s way? I think the fact that anyone of us could find ourselves in Ellen’s shoes is one of the aspects of Little Mercies that makes it so compelling. As an author I am intrigued by exploring these difficult circumstances and the raw emotions that accompany them.

I also made sure to carefully research the novel by visiting with experts in their various fields. I spent quite a bit of time with a very dedicated social worker who shared the challenging task of separating home and work lives. I talked to doctors and EMTs regarding the medical complications that arose from the severe heat stroke that Avery endured. I met with an attorney who was able to describe the possible legal implications for Ellen and even took a tour of a local police station and learned about the booking process. This helped inform the novel.

When Ellen’s mother tries to comfort her by illustrating an example of something she did wrong as a mom, she says “I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have our moments. We all have those times when we turn our backs, close our eyes, become unguarded. I don’t know why (my situation) ended up being okay and other children don’t….”

As a mom it made me reflect on a time when my son was small, had just learned to roll, and managed to roll right down the basement steps. He was fine, but I was completely a wreck, and I worried what the doctor thought of me when I took him in. Did you have any moments when you let down your guard like this as a mom, that you were able to reflect on while writing and shaping this story?

Most definitely! When my oldest child was a year old I buckled him into his high chair and gave him a handful of Cheerios to munch on. I thought I’d just dash out to grab the newspaper and ended up locking myself out the house. I could see my son chomping away happily on his breakfast through the large kitchen window but had visions of him choking on a Cheerio or slipping from the safety strap and falling to the ground. I stood there helplessly for a few minutes and then broke a window so I could let myself into the house. I felt like a horrible mother. I think as parents we all have had those close calls that make us question our own parenting abilities and agonize over what others will think of us. Fortunately, most often, when these accidents occur, all ends well.

There were many times that I had to step away from the book because the situation with Avery being left in the hot car is one of my worst nightmares as a mom. Did you struggle writing these scenes? Is there a detachment process when you write or do you dive in and experience it all?

These scenes were incredibly difficult for me to write. I’m first and foremost a mother and there is nothing worse than seeing your child in pain and suffering. As I wrote, I experienced every single excruciating moment right along with Ellen. I think that in order to write such dramatic events in an authentic, genuine manner, it was important to become fully immersed in what Ellen was going through. I often had to take breaks while writing these scenes. I would step away from the computer, go check on my own three teenagers, count my blessings and then return to work.

 Little Mercies refers to the “small kindnesses and good that comes from terrible.” Have there been any “little mercies” in your own life that have been good in spite of the terrible that they came from?

More than I can count. Just over five years ago my son was diagnosed with bone cancer. So many emotions flood over you when the doctor utters that small six-letter word. We were shocked, terrified, devastated. Never have I felt so helpless. But something amazing began to emerge from all the heartbreak—our family, friends, community and complete strangers inundated us with simple, loving gestures that carried us through a very difficult, dark time.

It was the phone calls, the emails and the handwritten notes of support that let us know we weren’t alone during a very lonely time. It was the homemade meals delivered to our home when we didn’t have the energy to cook for ourselves. It was those individuals who took my daughters under their wings and paid extra attention to them when so much focus was on their brother. It was the group of seventh-grade boys and their teachers who shaved their heads in solidarity with one young boy facing an uncertain future. All of this allowed us to witness firsthand the selflessness of others.

So often we look for the big miracles, and we don’t always realize that the small ones are just as life changing. I’m thankful that my son is healthy, happy, doing great and looking forward to everything that life has to offer him. We carry all the kindnesses people have shown with us and try to do the same for others.

Can you describe your writing process? Where do you write and how do you begin shaping your books?

I don’t have a specific place in my home where I write. I tend to take my laptop and move to a room in the house where I can be alone. Not that I need complete silence to work; I actually like background noise. I’ll listen to music, a podcast, or even a TV show as I write.

I think through a writing idea for a very long time before putting pen to paper. I always begin my writing projects by buying a brand new journal or notebook and writing the first fifty pages or so in longhand. By beginning my novels this way I find that I’m able to find the unique voices of each of my characters. I will jot down my characters’ physical descriptions, histories, likes, dislikes, hopes and fears. I live with the characters for so long that sometimes my hands hover over the keyboard and I have to decide which direction to take them—and it’s not necessarily the journey I envisioned for them. Though I must say, it’s always an adventure!

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 My Antonia by Willa Cather. My parents always had hundreds of books on shelves and in neat stacks around the house and for a long time I passed right over the thick novel with the illustration of a woman standing in a field of tall yellow grass and holding freshly picked wildflowers. I finally pulled it from the shelf when I was eighteen and immediately fell in love with Cather’s beautiful description of turn-of-the-century Nebraska and the lifelong friendship between a farm boy and a young Czech immigrant. I reread My Antonia every single year, each time with new eyes, always finding something new within the pages. Whenever I visit a bookstore I’m always on the search for a different edition of My Antonia to add to my collection.

You can connect with Heather Gudenkauf  on Facebook or on her website or even on GoodReads!  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: World’s Best Toast, No Boys Allowed, & Crimes Against Words

Friday, July 18th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! It has been a happy week, indeed. It has been unseasonably cool here, but just perfect weather for flinging open windows and enjoying good books outside. Speaking of good books, I hope you have been following our Sundays With Writers series because you are in for a treat this Sunday with a very special book & interview! You can catch up on all of the interviews over here, if you haven’t been following along with the author series.

Here are the 3 things that are making me happy this week!

Three Bakers Whole Grain White

A Better Morning Toast

Move over Udi’s Whole Grain White there is a new bread in my freezer. Three Bakers Whole Grain White Bread was on sale at our local supermarket for $4.99 a loaf so I thought I would give it a try.  It wasn’t just the price that lured me in, but the packaging that stated there was 58% MORE in my loaf which means I could get through a whole week of morning toasts for $4.99. The real question is, would I be disappointed? Would it taste terrible? Would I be sad that I saved money this week and be forced to eat a month of terrible toasts (because I bought four loaves…hello, they were on sale!)?

I am happy to say, that this bread is AMAZING. It tastes just like homemade bread. It’s airy and light, flavorful, and sturdy enough for your toppings. If you haven’t tried this one, I highly recommend it. They also have a 7-grain that I am hoping to try soon, although my store was out of loaves.

Gluten-free bread that tastes like homemade real bread? BE STILL MY BEATING HEART.

Amy's Treehouse

My New Treehouse

I am telling you right now, that finishing our shed into a bonus room has made me a much more happy and adjusted mom.  I now have somewhere to escape in the evenings and during the day that is away from the chaos of our home.

I had been grabbing my iPad and reading and watching shows in there, but with the a/c unit kicking on, the volume was minimal on the iPad and I was struggling to hear anything when I wanted to indulge in an episode of Parenthood.

Crosley Record Player

Record Player

You may recall that my amazing girlfriends had gifted me (on the most amazing night of my entire life) a beautiful record player. This Crosley Turntable  was in my office and now is out in my “treehouse” (AKA as my shed). My husband peeked at the back of it and figured out that there was an auxiliary in so he grabbed a cord like this and now I have the sound coming out of my record player through my iPad movie theater which works perfectly for this little space.

I had my best friend over this week and we watched A Little Bit of Heaven on Netflix, with big glasses of wine, and a load of tissues. As we are sitting there crying and sipping, my husband walked in to grab a glass of wine, looked at us, shook his head, and backed out quick…

As I shrieked at him that the sign was flipped to CLOSED!

No boys allowed. Hit the road, Jack!

Every mom needs a space like this where she can play her Dirty Dancing record on repeat without any eye rolling. I wish this for each of you.

 

Crimes Against Words

This video really made me, LITERALLY, laugh out loud. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

*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 07.16.14

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Gumball drink stirrers via Studio DIY

Source: Studio DIY

 

DIY gumball drink stirrers- fast & cute.

Make this fun patterned floor with…linoleum!

So inspired by this beautiful, colorful, modern work space.

This chocolate chip cookie recipe intrigues me.

Keep the kids occupied on road trips with a printable bingo game.

Penny In Yo Pants. Smartest hack ever.

S'mores dip via Hungry Brownie

Source: Hungry Brownie

 

S’mores dip: A camping treat without the campfire pit.

Love this simple painted stump with thumb tacks for a side table.

One safe way to curb a phone addiction: Lock it up. Really.

I feel differently about vinyl floors.

Loving this coffee table made into an upholstered bench.

Just bookmarking this list of genius travel hacks so I never forget them.

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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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