Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 05.07.14

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Homemade maple syrup from My Humble Kitchen

Source: My Humble Kitchen


Did you know you could make maple syrup from any maple tree in your yard? What an amazing science experience for your kids!

These 15 simple ways to live on less are timeless – and effective. My favorite is to know your goals – so important!

How about a DSW Eames Chair poster printable to download free? I’m loving this – such a cool and unique decorating idea!

Here’s another free printable – sweet and simple tags for Mother’s Day to decorate your gift.

These completely gorgeous diy tissue paper poppies take my breath away – what a fabulous Mother’s Day gift!

Homemade margaritas with only 3 natural ingredients? Now there’s a a perfect Mother’s Day drink, don’t you think?


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

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Sundays With Writers: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

Sunday, May 4th, 2014


Sundays With Writers is quickly becoming my new favorite feature on MomAdvice. Is it for you too? I really hope so!  My only dilemma is reading enough that we always have fresh new authors to feature. This week I finished a riveting book called, “The Enchanted,” by Rene Denfeld and I can’t wait to share our interview with the author.  As soon as I finished it, I knew that I needed to email her to see if she would participate in our discussion. Not only is the book itself a fascinating look at prisoners on death row, but she is, in her real life, a death penalty investigator. She uses this background well to plot out the corruption of the prison world and what an investigator does to present facts about a death row inmate before going to trial.

You know that I always disclose if a book is graphic in language or in nature. This book is graphic and, as we learn in the interview with Rene, it is altogether true that many of these things do happen in the prison system.  There were points where I had to detach myself from the book in order to press on through it. Although in many cases, it infers violence and sexual abuse, sometimes it allowed my mind to fill in those blanks and I had to step away from it.


In, “The Enchanted,”  we are viewing a stone wall prison through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Though he is confined in a cell,  he sees visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs with the devastating violence of prison life.

We follow through the story through his eyes of two outsiders, a fallen priest and the Lady. The Lady is an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honesty and corruption which reveal many secrets of her own.

I promise to never post any spoilers in these interviews so please read on as we learn more about Rene and her amazing debut novel (picked as a Best Book of the Month by Amazon)!


As a death penalty investigator, you truly have the background to write about death row. The story that you weave is a tough one to swallow for someone who is on the outside- corruption within the prison system, constant sexual abuse of prisoners, lack of basic resources, and most of the death row inmates are products of their sad upbringing. Has this really been your experience and how did you get drawn into this type of profession?

The story is very much the narrator’s story—what he sees in this enchanted place. But much of what he sees I recognize from my work. Sadly, what happens in the book to the character called the white-haired boy is real and common. I got into the work in 2008 when I was looking for a day job. I had been a journalist, but had adopted three kids from foster care, and writing wasn’t paying the bills. Truth be told, I needed a job. I had met death penalty investigators as a journalist and was fascinated. It seemed like a chance to really learn the truth of a person and a crime. I love the work. It is often terribly sad, but I can also bring moments of profound insight.

I reread many lines and paragraphs in your book because they were filled with so much truth and made me stop and think. On page 119, It says, “She thinks about how sad it is that we remember the killers and not their victims. What if the world forgot Hitler and remembered all the names of his victims? What if we immortalized the victims?” Do you find that in your job that people are often more worried about the killers than those who were victims in your cases?

I worry that in our society we focus so much on the criminals we erase their victims. For all our focus on crime and violence—all the graphic televisions shows and movies—we don’t stop to really dig deep to understand why some people hurt each other. We devalue the gravity of what they have done, to real people.

As our narrator imagines the world he is in with majestic golden horses, that also happen to grace the cover of your book, do you believe that the narrator is just highly imaginative, mentally ill, or do you think that being locked away in a cell is causing hallucinations after being away from the outside world? Are these golden horses meant to symbolize something to the reader?

The narrator truly believes he lives in the most magical, enchanted place. And for him, he does. I spend a lot of time with people with profound mental illness, and one thing I remind myself is they could be right and I could be wrong. Perhaps they are seeing something I cannot. It is real to them, that’s what counts. I think the narrator has a lovely view of the world. The golden horses in particular—to me they symbolize his hunger to escape the confines of his bars, to feel and see wild passion and beauty in the world.

Since books are such an escape for me, I loved that the narrator’s escape was also literature. His favorite book, The White Dawn, brings him so much joy. What made you pick this particular book for your narrator?

What a lovely thing to have in common with you! Books have been my escape, too, since I was a young child. The library was my sanctuary. The White Dawn happened to be one of my favorite books as a child. I kept my tattered copy on my bed stand the entire time I was writing the novel. At night I would touch it and hope the narrator would continue to come and bless me with his story.

What is one common misconception about death row and the death penalty that you wish more people understood?

That we will never prevent crime if we don’t truly understand why it happens. And that the human capacity to find joy and beauty—no matter what our circumstance—cannot be extinguished.

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

Oh, that is a tough one, because there are so many wonderful books. I just read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was stunning.

 *This post contains affiliate links! Love our Sundays With Writers series? Check out all of our past interviews here


It’s The 3 Little Things: Retro Swimwear, Beach-Scented Products, & Free Eyewear

Friday, May 2nd, 2014



Happy Friday, friends! It’s time for our list of the 3 little things that are making me happy this week!  I hope you guys are enjoying these as much as I enjoy sharing them with you!  Let me know in the comments what is making you happy this week!


Modest Retro Swimwear

Each year our family gets a community pool membership for the summer so, in order to get our money’s worth, we spend a lot of time at the pool. I should rephrase that and say that I spend a lot of time *by* a pool in a shady spot reading my library books. Each year I try to get one modest swimsuit that I can wear and I have had luck finding them at places like Sears & Target. This year I just couldn’t find anything, but I remembered this speech I saw on Rey Swimwear, their company tagline being “who says it has to be itsy-bitsy?”  and decided that I would check there.

Although the pricing is on the higher end for me, I just received this swimsuit that I had ordered and  I am in HEAVEN. It looks like one piece, but the bottom is separate and it is a full bottom so no worries about bits and pieces hanging out that is better left tucked in.  They have beautiful stuff and I will probably order one suit from there each year.

If you have little girls, they are also starting a kids line.


Beachy Cleaning Products

I somehow ended up on a mailing list for Method cleaning products and for the last couple of years I have been enjoying trying out their new stuff as they come out with it.  This month’s shipment was unbelievably awesome.  For their Spring line they launched Lime + Sea Salt Dish Soap, Beach Sage Cleaning Spray, & Sunset Breeze Laundry Detergent.

I hate cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day, but I hate waking up to a mess of dirty counters and dishes. It actually feels like more of a treat when I use this dish soap and cleaning spray. The Beach Sage, in particular, is heavenly. I still hate cleaning and doing laundry, but at least everything smells beachy while I am doing it.  You also can’t beat that it is priced at around $3  for the soap/cleaners, which is a lot cheaper than a flight to the beach!

Sadly, it’s limited edition so I am going to have to stock up on a few extras before they take it off the shelves. Which makes me wonder why everything I love always limited edition?


Free Glasses

I’m really sorry if you are tired of this picture of me, but you are going to be seeing it every time I can score an interview with an author on here. I kept getting questions about these frames and I just want to tell you that these glasses make me SO happy and they were FREE. It was my first time ordering through Coastal so I was a little nervous that they were going to be cheap and poor quality.

They offer their first pair of glasses to you for free and I picked out these frames after reading through all the reviews and sizing. The frames came and the company included a really nice case and a little eyeglass kit to care for them. I almost never take them off anymore and just had them adjusted at the eye clinic because I wear them so much that I sometimes fall asleep in them.

I can’t rave enough about how much I love these glasses, in fact, my brother ordered a geeky pair himself and now we feel like hipsters with our cold brew coffee, spinning our vinyl, and rocking our free geek frames!

Lastly, if you want to make your kids happy this Friday, show them this video- guaranteed belly laughs for everyone! Bonus mom points, if you show them these cute sloth pictures. My kids loved the sloths that were celebrating their birthdays!


Sloth Squeak! from Lucy Cooke on Vimeo.

*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!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 04.30.14

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

High-Low Geometric Lamp

Source: I Heart Organizing


Isn’t this diy geometric lamp amazing? So cool – and the fact that you can have a high-end look for less.

So loving these adorable crafts made with recycled tin cans.

I’m pretty sure these tips to pack for a road trip will come in handy for the trips we’re planning for this summer!

There’s a ton of great ideas in this Frozen themed birthday party that my kids would flip for!

Artichoke & leek frittata sounds about perfect now – a light and springy meal.

Um, sure, I’d like to know 10 ways to stuff your face with asparagus, wouldn’t you?

And this modernized Mexican 7-layer dip? Oh yes.


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

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April Book Club Discussion With the Author: The Bear

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

Welcome to our April Book Club! I am so excited to be talking about this month’s selection, “The Bear,” by Claire Cameron.  Claire has truly been such a generous author to share in our book club discussion today and her book was so beautifully written that I could not wait to talk about it today.

Just as a recap from our announcement last week, here is a little on the basic premise of this book.

While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.  A survival story unlike any other I have read, it is one that you just won’t be able to put down because you must know what happens to these children.

Wow, I don’t know about you, but this novel kept me on the edge of my seat until I finished it. I could not close the final pages until I knew if Anna & Sticky were safe.

As readers, we are swept away in the suspenseful story of Anna & her brother Alex (nicknamed Sticky). While their family is camping on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.

Although telling the story through the eyes of a five-year-old can get a little old, I think it lends itself well in this survival story because we have to understand what Anna’s motives are for keeping her brother safe.

In the author’s note, we learn that in October of 1991, Ryamond Jakubauskas & Carola Frehe pitched a tent on Bates Island on Lake Opeongo in Algonquin Park and were attacked by a large male black bear.

Both of them died from injuries inflicted by the bear and there were no clear reasons why this bear attacked, other than hunger.

The author worked as a counselor at a summer camp at the park and used these stories and theories about what happened as a basis for her novel, adding in the children.

Since this story is only about the children, it is told through Anna’s eyes and her interpretation of what happened to her parents, who attacked them (referred to as a dog), and, ultimately, how they will survive.

Of course, since it is told through a child’s eyes, we also sometimes follow along confused about what is happening to them and what is real versus what is imagined. This helps us to truly understand Anna’s own confusion about the situation.

I loved that the story, in the end, had them come back to the place where the attack happened, in a small ceremony bringing a little more peace to them both.

Claire Cameron

Born in 1973, Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto. She studied History and Culture at Queen’s University. She then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing, and white-water rafting in Oregon. Next she worked in San Francisco for Pearson Plc before moving to London in 1999. There she was director of Shift Media, a consultancy whose clients included the BBC, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press. Her first novel was the taut thriller, “The Line Painter.”  Claire lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. You can become a fan of Claire Cameron on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, follow her on IG, and on GoodReads.

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Getting in the head of a five-year-old voice can’t be easy. Who was your inspiration and how did you capture it in this novel?

It might not surprise you to hear that my son was five when I started writing the novel. He was in a really talkative stage and I used conversations with him to establish the emotional scope and ability of the character. The first draft was actually about two little boys. At some point in the endless rewrites, I realized there was a lot of me in Anna. That’s when she became a girl. I let her be me.

 I read an interview where you shared that, “the bear,” symbolizes our fears at parents. What is, “the bear,” to you as a mother?

Writing the novel was emotionally challenging as, in some ways, I was typing out my greatest fears. It was hard to live that way. In retrospect, though, it helped me relax as a mother. My story ended up being about how kids can be resilient and how they can cope. When I finished, I knew that was true and that they would be fine, whether or not I was there to help.

I suppose that’s ‘the bear’ to me, the idea of not being there to help my kids when they are in trouble.

 Have you camped at all since writing this book? Do you think it has made you nervous or added another perspective on camping?

Last summer I took my family on a canoe trip back to the island in Algonquin Park where the bear attack that I reimagined in The Bear took place. I did think about the attack, but I also found that I’ve slept in a tent so many nights before that I knew we were fine. It helped that it was a great blue berry season. The bears were full!

The first night we were back home, I tucked my son into bed and asked him if he felt safer in his bed, rather than sleeping in a tent. He said no, it’s scarier at home. Why? Because when camping we were all together in the same tent, but in our house we sleep in different rooms so his Dad and I are farther away. It helped me realize that feeling scared is different for everyone. Fear is a perspective and a mindset, not a set thing.

Did the father leave the family during arguments or did I misinterpret that part of the narrative? (from reader, Sarah)

I purposely left the details of Anna’s family situation in the state that 5 year olds often experience them, a bunch of vague details that don’t quite make sense because I child is rarely told the whole story. My hope is that a reader will use her experience to fill in the details (sorry that is probably a frustratingly vague answer).

Some of the scariest scenes for me are the ones where Sticky disappears and Anna isn’t watching him. As a mom, I think I held my breath until he came back. Of course, there are terrifying moments like that peppered throughout the book. What were some of the most difficult scenes for you as a mom?

The scariest scene to write was the same, when Sticky disappears. I know this because I skipped over it in the first draft. It was my editor, Sarah Murphy at Little Brown, who pointed it out–that I had worked up to this moment and then only vaguely sketched it in. When she said this I thought, “oh no, I’ve been caught out. Now I’m going to have to buck up and write it.”

That is the definition of a great editor, I think. Someone who is so in tune with the story that they can see the emotional gaps.

In, “The Room,” by Emma Donoghue, she utilizes a young narrator to tell a story of survival and a reader can’t help but notice the similar theme in your book. Have you read this book and what do you think makes your narrator different than Donoghue’s?

The book that was the bigger influence at the beginning of writing THE BEAR was LORD OF THE FLIES. I re-read it and, having boys of my own, couldn’t accept the mean take on human nature it shows. When I was about 1/3 of the way through the first draft. I got tired and wondered who would want to read a story told in a 5 year olds voice. That’s when I thought of ROOM. I read it and loved it, so I knew it was possible and I got a lot of strength to keep going from that. Both books have a child in a survival situation, but Anna is a very different child with more varied experience than the child in ROOM, Jack. Her voice reflects that. She needs to make a new normal after her rescue, whereas Jack has to find out what normal might be for him.

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

Such a hard question! Maybe TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson because it is such a great adventure story. I love Long John Silver as he’s the best kind of bad guy–one that feels so complete that you can’t help rooting for him.

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

I am writing a lot at the moment, but I’m not entirely sure what the book will be just yet. It will involve the wilderness, as that is a long time passion. I am interested in capturing the amazing things that happen in the outdoors between people. That’s at the heart of my interest. When you go through a survival situation with another person, you get to know them in a whole new way.

What did you think of The Bear?  Share your thoughts on our  book club pick below and offer recommendations for what you might like to see on our list in the upcoming year!

Our book club will now be going to a quarterly selection. Be sure to pick up our summer selection, “Love With a Chance of Drowning.” In the meantime, catch up on what is happening this year and explore our past book club selections here!


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Sundays With Writers: Margot by Jillian Cantor

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

I am always so excited when I can feature beautiful books in our Sundays With Writers series. Today’s book, Margot by Jillian Cantor, explores a fictional account of what it would be like if Margot Frank, Anne Frank’s sister, actually lived and had to carry the secret of her escape.

In the spring of 1959, The Diary of Anne Frank has just come to the silver screen to great acclaim, and a young woman named Margie Franklin is working in Philadelphia as a secretary at a Jewish law firm. On the surface she lives a quiet life, but Margie has a secret: a life she once lived, a past and a religion she has denied, and a family and a country she left behind.


Margie Franklin is really Margot Frank, older sister of Anne, who did not die in Bergen-Belsen as reported, but who instead escaped the Nazis for America. But now, as her sister becomes a global icon, Margie’s carefully constructed American life begins to fall apart. A new relationship threatens to overtake the young love that sustained her during the war, and her past and present begin to collide. Margie is forced to come to terms with Margot, with the people she loved, and with a life swept up into the course of history.

I was captivated by the premise of this book and it brought to light some things that I had not thought of for those that did escape the Nazis. We witness a very real reaction to the post-traumatic stress that one would suffer if they escaped and what it would be like to live day-to-day with a number from a concentration camp tattooed on your arm.

When I finished this book, I just knew that I needed to interview Jillian and learn more about what moved her to create this fictional life for Margot and how she developed an entirely fictional concept while staying true to the life of Anne Frank’s family and history.

Grab your coffee and let’s sit down this Sunday with Jillian and talk about her amazing book, “Margot.”


Jillian Cantor

One of my favorite writers is Melanie Benjamin because she always finds some of the most unique historical characters and builds a story around them in a fresh way.  The story of Margot Frank reminded me of a character she might pick. What made it truly exceptional though is that you created a storyline around someone who had passed away without her story really being told. Do you think it was harder to build a storyline when the character was, in fact, deceased?

The real Margot Frank died in Bergen-Belsen with her sister, Anne, in 1945. But in my novel, my fictional Margot escapes from the Nazis and moves to America to begin a new life. My novel takes place largely in 1959, the year when the movie version of Anne’s diary came out in the US — fourteen years after the real Margot Frank died. My fictional Margot has changed her name to Margie Franklin and she lives in Philadelphia where she works as a legal secretary. As a writer of fiction, I think it was somewhat easier to write about Margot Frank in this capacity because my Margie Franklin truly is a fictional character. At the same time, I wanted to make sure to stay to true to what I believed the real Margot Frank might have or could’ve become if this had actually happened, so it was a little tricky to try to strike the balance between the truth and fiction.

 The fact that Margie hides her tattoo with the number she was issued by the Nazis is a very important element to her story. We discover that Margie always keeps her arms covered, even in the stifling heat of summer, so no one will know her secret.  Did you read of others who hid this and how did this inspire you?

I didn’t read anything specific about anyone hiding a tattoo with a sweater, though, I did read about Jews who moved to the US after the war and changed their identities in one capacity or another. I also read that some people had their tattoos removed once they moved to the United States, and I thought a lot about this with my character of Margie. Even though she didn’t want anyone to see her tattoo, I also couldn’t see her having it removed. Margie’s tattoo is so visible and so permanent, and yet it is undeniably such a part of her and her history.

Margie is clearly suffering from some severe post-traumatic stress and we witness this when she visits the Rabbi, when the car backfires, and when anyone tries to get close to her. What type of research did you do to prepare for these moments for Margie?

I didn’t specifically read up on PTSD while I was writing. I’ve read a lot in the past about post-traumatic stress, especially in soldiers, so I had an idea of what PTSD was, and I’ve experienced it in small ways in my own life. Shortly before I started writing MARGOT, Gabrielle Giffords was shot in a shopping center near me, and six people were killed – I was in the shopping center at the time, though very luckily I was not involved or hurt. For weeks afterwards I was nervous and jumpy every time I left the house. For Margie, I felt that the small bit of fear and anxiety I felt would be enormously magnified, and that living through such a horrific time and losing her family is something that would stay with her forever. As I wrote, I tried to put myself in Margie’s shoes, to think about how I would’ve reacted in those situations after living through such horrors.

 As children, many of us read or watched the movie of The Diary of Anne Frank. Was this something that you remember from your own childhood and was it a story that always stuck with you?

I read the The Diary of a Young Girl in seventh grade, and it did always stick with me. I felt connected to Anne at the time – I was about her age when I read it, Jewish, and I wanted to be a writer. What I didn’t remember, years later, was that Anne had an older sister, Margot. When I picked up the book again in my 30s to reread it, I noticed Margot but I had no memory of her from my earlier reading. I tried to do some research about her, and I found very little. But I did find that Margot Frank had kept her own diary (though hers was never recovered after the war). I grew up the older of two sisters myself, and I started to think about what Margot’s story might have been and how her point of view might have been different than Anne’s. I started to think about Anne and Margot as sisters, and that was the starting point for this novel for me.

 Is this your first historical fiction piece you have written and do you plan to write more? What other historical fiction characters would you love to write about?

This is my first historical fiction novel, but I have another one coming out some time next year.  My next historical novel revolves around Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. It’s told from the point of view of a fictional neighbor who befriends Ethel and becomes caught up in everything surrounding her arrest, trial, and execution. It’s very much a book about friendship, and mothers and sons, but there’s also spy intrigue and a love story.

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

That’s a tough question! I don’t know that I can pick just one book. But my favorite author is Anna Quindlen. I read Black and Blue years ago and it has always stayed with me. Every time she has a new book out, I buy it right away!

*This series may contain affiliate links!


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It’s the 3 Little Things: Green Smoothies, Nude Heels, & Tan Legs

Friday, April 25th, 2014

It's The 3 Little Things

As I write this, I am picturing myself in a conference room making a million new friends at the SNAP Conference in Salt Lake City!  Conferences can be so expensive and I am so grateful to Walmart for sponsoring me this weekend so I can grow, learn, & hopefully come back renewed & inspired for this website (and for you!)  I am also very thankful to our site sponsor, Flourish Boutique, for their assistance with my wardrobe for these events.

Even though I am off, I still wanted to make sure I made my happy list of three for you and can’t wait to see your lists this week!

Comfortable Nude Heels

Comfortable Nude Heels

I have a hard time finding affordable shoes that are comfortable and so each year, I treat myself to one really good pair of Naturalizer shoes. I had treated myself in the fall though and as Spring rolled around, I really needed a basic heel to wear for church and conferences. I went to Payless and found these super comfortable nude heels and the best part, for me, is that they come in a wide size.  Doesn’t everyone have as wide of feet as long? Maybe that is just me. The heel is just the right height, they don’t feel like an inexpensive shoe, and they come in a few great basic colors. Since I am the size of a child, they also make me feel like I have long legs and they go with everything in my closet.  When I went to our store, they had them on sale for $14.99. If they aren’t on sale for you though, I find their email newsletter and mailers usually offer some great coupons.  ($24.99)


Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

I don’t want to brag, but when I was a kid the kids at school used to call me Casper. Well, who is laughing now, friends? This girl. Because I am TAN…on my legs… with make-up. So.

In all honesty, this stuff is heaven-sent for a really white girl like me. It comes in an aerosol can and, yes, it can make a big mess if you are not careful. You shake the can and then spray it on your lightly moisturized (but dry) legs. Then just use your hands to spread the make-up on your legs and it all air dries in one minute. It is truly an airbrushed leg experience and, provided you blend well and pick the right shade for your own coloring, it gives a beautiful finish to your legs. It has a little shimmer to it too, but not overly noticeable.

I love this stuff so much that when I travel, I spray it into a baggie (I don’t check in luggage so the ounces are too high on this) and take it with me when I have events that I am headed to.  Between this and my nude heels, I am feeling very confident about wearing dresses this year!

The best part is that it is waterproof so if you are even at the beach, you will be fine. You need soap to get it off, otherwise it stays right where you put it. Since it has good staying power, one bottle usually gets me through the entire summer!

Life's Basics Plant Protein Mix

Life’s Basics Plant Protein Mix (in Vanilla)

Since I gave up dairy, I thought I would have to give up my favorite green smoothies. Fortunately, I discovered there are lots of vegan protein powders on the market and after reading a ton of Amazon reviews (both comparing price & taste), I decided to give this Life’s Basic Plant Protein Mix a try in the blender. It took me a week or so to get used to the texture, but now that I have finally perfected the ratios on this smoothie, it tastes just like a yummy milkshake to me.

Here is my green smoothie recipe that I used before with dairy. With this protein powder, I do one cup of almond milk, 1/2 cup mixed frozen berries, 1 banana, 1 scoop of this protein powder, 4 ice cubes, and I fill the rest of the blender up with spinach. When I first was getting used to the taste, I also added a drizzle of honey, but now I don’t need it. My daughter and I split this smoothie and it leaves me feeling full minus the dairy belly-ache I used to get.

*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!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 04.23.14

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

make your cut flowers last longer

Source: Honeybear Lane


I’m definitely going to use these 10 tips to help cut flowers last longer – they can make me happy that much more!

I found this post all about how to make homemade nut butters, which includes a picture tutorial that shows what the nuts look like at different stages of processing, to be super helpful.

These tips on how to get your kids to drink more water are terrific and will come in handy at any time of the year.

Banana cream pie overnight oatmeal? Um…yum!

It’s no secret we enjoy making our teachers feel special and appreciated around here – and I’m crushing on the idea of giving them a no sew teacher banner for their rooms!

So excited for asparagus season – and to try pistachio crusted asparagus with feta.

You’ll be amazed at how big this 250 square feet studio apartment  lives – and the fun design ideas to maximize your living space.


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

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Salt Soaks, I Like Giving, & Vinyl Collecting

Friday, April 18th, 2014


Happy Friday, friends! It was such a crazy week that today really snuck up on me! I hope you guys are having a wonderful week this week and are looking forward to the holiday weekend!  Here are three things that are making me happy this week!


Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salts With Milk & Honey

I love taking baths in the evenings, but a lot of products for the bath can be drying and irritating to the skin. I found these Epsom Salts with Milk and Honey and I will probably never bathe in anything else again. The milk in the product makes a calming solution for the skin and it smells incredible. There are also some added benefits like Aloe Vera & Vitamin E too.

If I do a really hard workout at the gym, I usually come home and sink into these as a reward for myself. They are inexpensive and at just about every drugstore.  As you know, epsom salts alleviate a lot of muscle pains and aches plus they help get rid of toxins in your body. While epsom salts alone can feel a bit medicinal on their own, this blend with milk & honey makes soaking in these a real treat!


I Like Giving

I discovered this site last week and walked away from it completely inspired.  You can share your story of, “I Like…” and then fill in the blank with something you give to someone else. The site has a film series of ways that people give back to others and it is so incredibly inspiring that you wonder what you can do to live more generously in your life.

You need to go to the site to view these films directly, but I will share the URL’s to the 3 that I loved the most!


I Like Being 98- View it HERE


I Like Car- View it HERE


I Like Bugshells- View It HERE

It’s hard to narrow down though because the I Like iPad & I Like Adoption were so inspiring too! It’s a narnia of happiness in those videos of big givers. Tell me if that doesn’t make you happy and think about what you can do for someone else today?

Vinyl Collecting



I can’t tell you how happy a new-to-me record makes me.  Last month my husband took a day off work so we could have a day date and we spent the entire day in this amazing record store, Ignition Records,  in Goshen. If the owner asks if you want to see anything in the back, always say yes. It is there where I found my own little slice of happiness- Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday were all back there waiting for me for my record player.

The best part is that after you make your selections the owner is SO excited for you that you feel so proud about everything you picked out.  As we waited in line, he rubbed his hands together as the customer in front of us handed over her purchase. “What did you find today? Oh, this is so good! You are going to love it.”  The enthusiasm is contagious  from one vinyl-lover to another that you want to pick out more and say, “What about this? Do you love this one too?”



My husband’s favorite Elton John album Yellow Brick Road had been reissued in beautiful yellow vinyl and he used his birthday funds to buy it for himself. I have never seen him so darn happy. It is one of those things that makes vinyl so special. If you find me on Instagram, you will see a video of it and it will make you a believer that you need this one too. Yellow Brick Road was meant to be played on a record player.


That is my list of three today, but this is image is a pretty sweet fourth. We have some crafts to share with you for next week and I got this shot of my daughter and I plan to put it in a frame.  It captures the sweetness that I love so much- and those freckles and lashes that I adore!  Happy Easter, friends!

*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!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Amy’s Notebook 04.16.14

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Neutral Easter bunny napkin ring

Source: Design Dining & Diapers


Sweet and simple, these burlap bunny napkin rings will help make your Easter table adorable.

You can make bouncy balls at home? This is new to me, but I know my kids will flip for this science-experiment-wrapped-in-a-fun-activity!

Drool-worthy lemon meringue eclairs would be the highlight of any Easter celebration, don’t you think?

How fun are these diy bunny treat jars? I think they would make fabulous gifts for grandparents, friends, and neighbors as well as for the kids.

I’m loving the Easter coloring of this cake batter puppy chow snack mix and the fact that I can make it gluten free.

This small kids reading loft is completely inspiring – that crate-like bookshelf with books arranged by color – the stairs leading to the loft – the fun yellow chair and blue pouff!  Ahhh, it all makes this reader-girl’s heart go pitter-patter.

I just love mirrors and I’m totally motivated by these 35 ways to decorate with mirrors to look for some fun & different examples at thrift stores.



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


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