Archive for the ‘Reads’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 04.06.13

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Palette Play House via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry


A playhouse made from pallets- WOW!

A real struggle with living in excess- oh, how I can relate.

No More Sandwiches! 20 non-sandwich lunch recipes.

Joanna Goddard’s mother shares her beauty uniform & it is perfect.

The best pinners to follow- lots of eye candy in these pin boards!

50 books every modern teenager should read.

What a brave piece to share. This is more than a home tour, more of a heart tour.

Egg-Ham and Greens Cups via Design Mom

Source: Design Mom


These baked ham and egg cups with dressed greens look like a fantastic breakfast!

Eek! I am so excited- we are IN LOVE with this illustrated series!

11 WiFi network names that put yours to shame.

Happy mail inspiration- what a sweet exchange!

DIY yarn wall hanging- you know I love this!!

The internet is not real life- a glimpse at how creatives approach Instagram.

REALLY loved this short film on the creator of The Oatmeal.

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


How To Start A Successful & Fun Book Club

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

I couldn’t be more exited about this fun and inspiring guest post from my fellow book-lover and friend, Nicole Bennet! I LOVE book clubs, Nicole’s tips are great, and her club? Adorable!

How to start a successful and fun book club with Nicole Bennet for MomAdvice

For someone who had been devouring books since learning to read, and had enjoyed talking about books almost as much as reading them, last year was the first time I had the realization that I’d never been a part of a real, in-person book club.

I decided it was time to change that. I’d recently seen some inspiration both in real life and online, and had some ideas about what would constitute a fun, engaging group, so I made a simple plan and jumped in.

The result? It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience for all of us. And the takeaway? I wish I’d done this sooner!

In case some of you bookworms might be feeling the pull to gather some people who you can discuss books with, I thought I’d share the details of how I got mine started– it can be as simple or elaborate of a venture as you want it to be, and bonus: you don’t have to do all the leg work if that intimidates you.

lake house book club

How to Start a Book Club

The Members

The first step: choosing whom to join up with. I chose two friends at church who I often found myself discussing books with, Sarah and Susan. We happen to have pretty similar tastes in books so we had been frequently reading the same books already.

I approached both of them, and when they expressed interest, I asked them each to invite a friend if they wanted. Susan invited Hannah, and then I invited another reader friend, too, Rena. We decided to keep it fairly small, and got started.

After a couple of months, I ran into Amie, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. She commented that she’d seen me briefly mention my new book club on my blog. Did we have room for one more? I ran it by the group, and we decided we’d love her to join us. Amie jumped in for the next book, making us six, and our group has felt like a great size.

There’s no perfect number for a book club, but we’ve found that keeping our group pretty small makes gatherings simpler and discussions have plenty of space for everyone to share their opinions.

Choosing Books

At the end of each meeting, we draw a name of someone who hasn’t yet chosen a book. That member then gets to pick the book and host the next meeting if she wants. Easy Peasy! Sometimes we pick a book we’ve all had on our to-read list, and other times some of us end up reading something we wouldn’t have otherwise picked.

So far we’ve read Where’d Ya Go Bernadette? (my choice), In the Unlikely Event (Rena’s choice), The Lake House (Sarah’s choice), and next up is The Nightingale (Hannah’s choice).


For now, we’ve decided to meet seasonally, as I originally wanted to make our club fairly laid back. We all have other commitments in the evenings and weekends (like Bible study or church small group, or kids’ sports games) so I didn’t want it to add stress to our lives. It’s worked out to meet about every three months, which gives us plenty of time to acquire (often via library holds waiting lists) and read the book, and also have time to keep reading plenty of other books.

Maybe you’ll choose monthly or bi-monthly, or keep meetings spread farther out like us– do what works for your group.

After a couple of months have passed from our last meeting, the next host will send out a Doodle (a brilliant little free tool), which lists a handful of possible dates/times to meet. We all fill it out to see which time slot works for everyone and get the next date on the calendar.


Whoever chooses the book runs our discussion. Sometimes we find questions online (often the publisher or author has questions on their website), other times we just let the discussion flow. Either way, we all usually end up leaving book club liking the book even more after having talked about it together.

unlikely event book club


My favorite aspect of our club has been designing our gatherings– we follow the theme, setting, and time period of our book to spark inspiration– it’s so fun!

Sarah is our most careful reader (and also happens to be a total foodie), so she has volunteered to keep a running list of food mentioned in each of our books as she reads. She then emails it out and we use that to draw ideas from and decide what we’ll each bring. It’s fun seeing how food plays a part in the plot of our books, and when we eat together while we chat about the book, it makes us feel somehow more connected to the story (and each other).

bernadette book club

Sometimes we dress up a little, too, or have fun setting the table or coffee table to jive with the feel of the book. For Bernadette, we all donned big sunglasses and and scarves (and Rena even wore a sweet cargo vest!), and for The Lake House we enjoyed Sarah’s beautiful tea set as we snacked (see first photo). This is the area where you can really get carried away and have fun with it if you want.

Our book club has been such a fun way to enjoy each other’s company and feel like we are getting a little extra something out of the books we read together. If you love to read, I highly recommend gathering a few friends to read with.

It doesn’t have to add any stress to your life– life which I’m sure is already full, and possibly busy. On the contrary, it will be sure to add an extra dose of joy and fun.

Nicole takes a book everywhere she goes. She loves encouraging others to read and talking about books, both in real life and on her blog. Sign up for her newsletter and you’ll receive a free ebook titled Read More: Why & How to Make Time for Reading Amidst the Busyness of Life.

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Sundays With Writers: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to share about another incredible book that I enjoyed this month. Be Frank With Me was included in my March Must-Read recommendations and once you read it, you will know exactly why. It is a charming, funny, and heartwarming story that I enjoyed from start to finish.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.

As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Frank is one one of the sweetest characters that is so perfectly formed that you just want to give this sweet little boy a hug when you get done with this book. I found myself giggling through some of Frank’s antics and well up when he just couldn’t fit in with his peers. I can’t imagine the research that went into forming all of Frank’s numerous thoughts about actors, movies, and all the fun facts that he had gathered over the years that seemed to consume him. The supporting characters were just as fascinating especially Frank’s eccentric mother.

The only criticism with this one is the ending felt unresolved and wasn’t wrapped up very tidy- it just left me dangling. I am wondering if that is because the author plans a sequel. If so, I can’t wait to read it because I already miss Frank.

Now grab that cup of coffee and settle in for my interview with Julia Claiborne Johnson

Julia Claiborne Johnson

I understand that your debut novel took you five years to write and then one year to edit. What was the writing process like for you over those five years and what helped you persevere for that long to fulfill your dream of writing a book?

Once I got the idea for this book, I felt compelled to write it because its central question seemed so fascinating to me. What’s it like to be the mother of somebody who’s so different from most children that it makes life difficult for everybody? How did Albert Einstein’s mother manage, for example? I wanted to read the Walter Isaacson doorstopper bio of her. Since I couldn’t find a version of that book, I decided to write one. In the beginning, in fact, my novel was called Einstein’s Mom. Until Frank took over. As Frank is prone to do.

Please note: My book is only half-doorstopper in length. Although I wrote thousands of pages before winnowing it down to the 300 or so I ended up with, I wanted my novel to be quicker and lighter than a 750-pager would be. And by “light” I hope I’m not suggesting it’s shallow. I think it’s funny, but during that last year of copy-editing I had to read the final version over and over, sometimes twice in a week, and it still broke my heart every time.

As for the sticking with it until the book was finished, well, if I’d given up anywhere along the way, all the weeks and months and years of work I’d done already would have been for nothing. So I stuck with it.

Hancock Park

(source: wikipedia)

Frank is absolutely obsessed with old Hollywood and facts just spilled and spilled and spilled onto the pages of your book. How much research did you do to prepare for a character like Frank and what is one of the most surprising facts (or favorite Frank fact) that you discovered while researching for this character?

Well, I’ve lived in “Old Hollywood” for the past twenty years. You can walk to Paramount Studios where Fred and Ginger used to dance from my house in Hancock Park, a neighborhood built up in the 1920s and so about the same age as Old Hollywood itself. I’m a ten-minute drive away from what used to be Mann’s Chinese theater, where stars’ handprints are immortalized in cement. The first neighborhood I lived in when we moved out here, Whitley Heights, was walking distance from the handprints. Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino and Jean Harlow all lived in Whitley Heights. I loved all that Old Hollywood stuff before we came out here, and once we got here I was swimming in it day and night.  So everything I soaked up over the years ended up on the page.

You know what my favorite Frank fact was? That George Gershwin died in what was the old Cedars Sinai Hospital, a building now owned by the Scientologists. It’s a huge, and painted bright blue these days. I already knew that fact before I wrote the book, and was so delighted to have the chance to use it. My own children were born in the new Cedars Sinai.  When I was being rolled into the delivery room to give birth my son, the nurse who was in charge of me leaned over me and whispered “Kim Basinger had her baby in this room.” So you see what I mean. “Hollywood” is everywhere out here, whether you like it or not. Luckily for me, I liked it.


What is your favorite old Hollywood film?

I really love Casablanca, which shouldn’t shock you if you read my book since it pops up in it more than once. It was so smart and witty, and I always watched it when it came on television when I was in high school. Years later, I had a teacher who was my all-time favorite named Leslie Epstein. He was arid and hilarious to me in exactly that same way the characters in Casablanca were. Turns out his father and uncle were the identical twin screenwriters who wrote Casablanca. Which thrilled me to pieces, as you can imagine.  I love the idea that a wonderful thing like a particular sense of humor can be passed down from generation to generation, the same way a nose or hair color is.

Despite our abilities as a reader to come to our own conclusion that Frank likely has Asperger’s syndrome, you deliberately chose not to give a label on why Frank was the way he was. Why was it important to you to not include that and do you think it would have changed the plot in some way if Mimi & Frank had uncovered this through their time with the psychologist?

Well, Alice isn’t in on those sessions. That very topic was probably discussed there. But listen, Frank’s diagnosis wasn’t what mattered to me. Frank mattered. I was writing a novel about a unique character, not a psychology textbook. I was very firm in my decision not to label him with anything. I felt saying “Frank is on the autism spectrum” diminished the reader’s experience of his gradual unfolding as a complex individual. I didn’t want anybody going in with preconceived assumptions about him.

Beyond  the “is he or isn’t he on the spectrum,” I was also aiming to write a book about how hard it is to be unusual for any kid, and how helpless it makes parents feel to see their children suffer. Tall, short, fat, skinny, slow on the uptake, too smart for your own good—being different hurts when you’re young. School works best for the kids in the middle. For the outliers, it can be so painful.

Your husband is a comedy writer and there are so many great one-liners in this book that I found myself laughing out loud. Did your husband contribute in any way to some of the humor you added to this story?

Would my novel be less funny if I weren’t married to a comedy writer? I hope that’s not the case. I guess it would be fair to say that living in a house where wit is valued ups my game in a general way. But I was born funny. My husband was born funny. We fell in love with each other because like prefers like—the way the prom queen falls for the prom king because they’re both young and hot and beautiful. So no, aside from being delightful company, my husband didn’t help me in any concrete way. He doesn’t read much fiction anyway. He’s non-fiction all the way. In fact, he only read my manuscript twice—the very first draft, and then, years later, the last draft. His biggest contribution was saying to me, “I don’t know. It seems good.”

Harper Lee

I read that you created Mimi, the reclusive author known as M.M. Banning, as a mash-up of Harper Lee & Salinger. Did you find it quite ironic when Harper Lee’s book, Go Set a Watchman, ended up being published much like Mimi’s work would be?

How crazy is that? I never would have guessed that would happen, though of course I’d tried to imagine what it would be like if something like it did. And then it happened! My agent sent me a clip about all that after my novel had sold already and was being edited.  And here’s the kicker—Harper Lee and I have the same publisher—HarperCollins. Go figure. That’s some kind of crazy kismet.

I have to imagine that Frank was your favorite character to write, but did you have any other favorites that you really loved crafting for this book?

You know who I loved most of all? Mr. Vargas. In my mind he was two of my favorite wise, kind and patient men shaken up together into one: My husband and my old teacher, Mr. Epstein.

Some of the hardest scenes for me, as a reader, were reading about Frank’s struggles with his peers and his inability to fit in at his school. One of my favorite lines, in fact, comes from Isaac when he said, “Frank will be okay, Alice,’ Mr. Vargas said. ‘He’s an odd duck, but brilliant children often are. It may take him a while, but someday he’ll figure out how to live in the world of ordinary mortals.” Was there any scene that you really had a hard time writing for Frank?

I don’t want to reveal plot points, but the scene where Alice goes to the school to hear Frank’s student of the week presentation made me cry as I was writing it. Which is embarrassing to admit. But it kills me. I didn’t realize what was about to happen when I started putting that scene together. Of course, neither did my narrator Alice. I guess she’s a lot tougher than I am because it didn’t bring her to tears. Not on the outside, anyway.

E.F. Hutton Suit

Frank’s fashion stands out so much that it is almost a character in itself. I understand that you have worked in the fashion world so did you have a blast creating Frank’s wardrobe? Did you have a favorite outfit for Frank that you wrote?

I did work as a writer at fashion magazines when I was young. I was boggled by the people in the fashion department—I’d never really encountered visual genius before, but I sure knew it when I saw it. So what if they couldn’t put a coherent sentence together any better than I could put together an outfit? I could write about their clothes forever even if I couldn’t translate what they told me unto anything I put together on for myself. I wanted Frank to be as fabulous as those fashion people were. I wanted everyone to know as soon as they saw him that this Frank kid was something else. Which, of course, can as much a good thing as a bad thing when you’re a kid.

As for my favorite of them all, I was kind of a sucker for the E.F. Hutton suit.  There’s just something so hilarious to me about a little boy in a pinstripe number a middle-aged, all-business guy would wear. And that pinstripe suit had real fashion possibilities. Like the Audrey Hepburn little black dress, it was a canvas a fashion savant could build on. Frank could switch it up with pockets squares and cravats, just like an investment banker would. Although I guess an investment banker would probably steer clear of cravats.

It is unusual for an audiobook to come out before the book, but that is what happened with your book. Why did the publishing house decide to do this with your debut novel and did it help with sales? I also understand you declined being the voice of your audiobook. Why didn’t you want to do that as the author?

I think it was an experiment, to see what would happen if the book came out on audio first. I was up for it experimenting. It sold really well that first weekend, too, I think. Plus I was thrilled to pieces that there was an audio version available, since someone in the very first book group I did has eye issues and couldn’t have experienced the book otherwise. Also, I myself have “read” many books while ironing, weeding, driving or exercising. It’s nice to be able to experience books with your ears and brain when you need to use your hands for something else.

I didn’t want to read for my audiobook myself because I am no actress. Also, I have kind of a hilarious Southern accent, which I don’t notice until I hear a recording of myself. Then I think, Sheesh, you have got an accent on you, girl. I don’t think for the life of me I could have made it go away while I was reading Alice, who is from Nebraska, and the main voice you hear throughout the book. So for those reasons it seemed like a terrible idea for me to read it. Tavia did a great job, didn’t she? I picked her because she was so amazing at doing Frank.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

That’s the easiest question you’ve asked me! My favorite book in the world is Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett. It’s beautifully-written, wonderfully imagined, and completely heart-breaking. In it, terrorists seize the mansion of the vice-president of an unnamed South American country during a party that’s being thrown for a Japanese industrialist lured there with the promise of a performance by his favorite opera singer. The industrialist comes, the opera singer performs, guests from all over the world are in attendance; but the terrorist’s real target, the country’s president, skips the party to stay home and watch his favorite telenovela. As the standoff stretches from days into weeks, the hostages and captors for a community that you know can’t last. I’ve read this book so many times that I still have to keep a box of tissues at my elbow for the end game.

And here’s the thrilling footnote to all this: I don’t know what would have happened to Frank without Ann Patchett. When I finished the first draft of my novel late one night, I looked up the name of her agent and sent that agent an email about it. A week later, Ann Patchett’s agent was my agent, too. 

 You can connect with Julia Claiborne Johnson on Twitter or through 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!

It’s the 3 Little Things: 3 Things That Made Me Think

Friday, April 1st, 2016

MomAdvice Family

I hope you guys had a wonderful week! We were dressed to the nines for Easter Sunday. If you can believe it, Emily & I both snagged our dresses on thredUP for nothing!  I had so much credit socked away after cleaning out my closet that I didn’t have to pay a dime for our dresses this year. Did I mention this a Kate Spade dress? What a score!

A tidier closet AND fancy frocks?


PS- Did you spy our favorite family member behind us? I think she was mad we didn’t include her in the picture!

Today’s list is three things that I have been thinking about this week that I want to share with you…

The New Yorker Presents

The New Yorker Presents

I shared with you that I’m trying to really make the most of that Prime membership so I was excited to see that Amazon was offering a new exclusive series called, The New Yorker Presents. This is NOT one to watch with your kids, just because many of the topics are controversial, but it is an incredible way of experiencing The New Yorker in a new way.

Each episode is much like flipping through a magazine. You can watch the cartoonist at work, there are short comedic skits, poetry, and at least one REALLY thought-provoking documentary that usually leaves my jaw on the floor.

A few of the highlights for us were the first episode where they explore how the FBI could have prevented the 9/11 attacks… if it had not been for the CIA, the second episode had an incredible piece on bull-riding, and the fourth episode profiled a man who ran a bookstore out of his apartment and a flamboyant gay Mexican wrestling star.

We are just five episodes in, but it has lead to some really great discussions about our views on things. Watch it and tell me what you think!

A Compelling Piece On Race

It has been awhile since I have settled in with a This American Life podcast, but each time I do, I learn something new. A recent episode explored the topic of how people always tell us that we will understand when we get older. The episode starts in adolescence and then works it’s way into the older age. In the middle though, was a piece on adulthood that was really compelling.

Warning: before you listen to it the N word is said repeatedly in it, in reference to a name the two of them are called by racist people!! 

I have put the player for you to listen to this particular piece above.

This American Life Since I am traveling this week and am worried that player won’t load, you can also listen to Act 2 (Adulthood) right here! See, I am covering all my bases this time!

In this piece, comedian Sasheer Zamata does this joke about her mom in her standup act that is about how her mom hates white people. She and her mother finally sit down to talk about why her mom feels this, and Sasheer finds out how mad her mom is at her own mom, for trying to make her get along with white people when she was young. Sasheer is a cast member on Saturday Night Live and there is a lot of humor in this piece, but there is also a lot of raw honesty.

I want you to listen to it too- it really made me think!


Summer 2016 Book Releases

Summer Book Reading Recommendations

One perk of this job is getting advanced readers from the publishing houses for upcoming books and promotions. With beach reading in mind, these are a few of the selections I am hoping to read and share with you in the upcoming months!

The A-Z of You & Me by James Hannah

Luck, Love, & Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid (you can read my interview with the author here!)

The Year We Turned 40 by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke (you can read my interview with the authors here!)

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

The Lie by C.L. Taylor

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Do you see any on this list you are excited about? Have any other books that are on your radar this summer? Let me know!

This week I’m…

Reading: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon (this looks like a promising debut thriller!)

Eating: Roasted Chicken In Bulk- it saved me during another busy week!

Basking: In the glow of being nominated for an Iris Award for Best Personal Blog in 2016. I can’t stop beaming!

Watching: This beautiful video with Andrew Bird featuring Fiona Apple. I will never tire of her voice!

Happy Friday, 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

Amy’s Notebook 03.30.16

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Risotto Lorraine via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess


A new spin on risotto.

25 things you should do before you turn 50 – what a great list!

Started following these accounts on IG- such eye candy!!

Spring capsule inspiration!

I need to try this on my oven- so easy!

7 mobile apps to help you become a time management guru.

14 psychological thrillers that bend your mind. YES!

A colorful guest bedroom.

How incredibly brave!

Bookstagrammers via Modern Mrs. Darcy

Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy


10 favorite bookstagrammers to follow.

In love with this DIY blanket ladder!

#1 tip for your new pressure cooker- I’ve been thinking about getting one of these. Bookmarking!

15-minute Mexican pizza- this looks like a great weeknight meal!

Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for a little honesty. She never gave up hope- a good message for creatives!

Justin would be proud.

Anna Quindlen’s 10 favorite classics about growing older and wiser.

3 words that can turn anxiety into success. I need to try this!

Pretend you’re being told a ghost story around a campfire with these 10 excellent horror audiobooks!

Are you a procrastinator or are your kids? Watch this TED Talk!

“When the rest of the world was building bigger and bigger, we decided to buy smaller. And that decision has freed us to do many wonderful things.” I could not have said that better!

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


Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

My family has been on a sheet pan supper kick these days. It started with my Sheet Pan Ranch Chops and Veggies meal and then we evolved into a weekly double batch of Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies that were shared over dinners with friends and warmed on busy weeknights. This week it was a Roasted Salmon & Asparagus with Pistachio Gremolata that captured our heart.

How in the world did I come up with this combo?

Well, I didn’t!

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Word must have spread how nuts our family is about these meals and the publishing house for the, Sheet Pan Suppers cookbook reached out to see if they could send me  copy of the book to review. I had mentioned it had been on my radar, but my biggest struggles with cookbooks is that I don’t know how many gluten-free offerings are going to be in them and I have to stick to gluten-free meals in our house.

I was pleasantly surprised that the cookbook was well-balanced between gluten-filled offerings and gluten-free offerings. From appetizers to meats to vegetarian to brunch to dessert…this cookbook offers a little something for everyone. My biggest struggle was picking which recipe to start with. I figured the cover dish had to be a winner if it was showcased on the front of the book so we went with that.  A delicious fish dish with fresh veggies tossed with a pistachio gremolata sounded like a winner for our house.

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

What is a Gremolata?

This was my first gremolata and I was intrigued by the pairing of pistachios with fish. If you haven’t heard of a gremolata before, you need not worry that this is out of your level of cooking expertise. This is a simple Italian condiment that is traditionally made with herbs, garlic, and lemon zest, and sometimes an accompaniment like pine nuts (or in this case, pistachios- YUM).  You can use your food processor and pulse a few times (this is the one I have), but I prefer to avoid washing the food processor and opt for a quick hand chopper, which has been worth its weight in gold in my kitchen.

To save even more time, I purchased the pistachios already out of their shell at our supermarket. Although a bit pricier per pound, it saves a great deal of time on a busy weeknight or on a tired night with my vino in the evenings after a long day of running kids.

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

If you live somewhere where you have access to great fresh fish, the author utilizes Arctic Char in this recipe. In Indiana, salmon fillets are affordable and easy to come by in our frozen section of the store. Resting these on top of fresh asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and topped with lemons, this is a sheet pan guaranteed to satisfy all your taste buds. The gremolata adds the final touch on the cooked fish, adding that salty crunch that takes this from a basic meal to a restaurant-worthy one!

I really loved this cookbook and my family is already looking forward to us eating this again in our house! Thank you to the publishing house for sending us a copy of, Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert to give a spin in our kitchen! We are big fans!

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Sheet Pan Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus With Pistachio Gremolata
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
An easy sheet pan meal with salmon and veggies topped with a quick pistachio gremolata for a fancy crunch to this beautiful dish. Company-worthy and easy? Winning!
  • 1 bunch asparagus (roughly 1 pound total)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless fillets Arctic char, salmon or trout (5 to 6 ounces each)
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
  • ½ lemon, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
  • ½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roasted, salted, and shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  1. Heat the oven to 350 with a rack in the center position. Mist a sheet pan with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.
  2. Gently bend one asparagus spear between your fingers and snap off the bottom where it breaks easily. Line up the rest of the bunch and slice off the bottoms at the same distance from the tips. Place the trimmed asparagus on the prepared pan, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Toss to coat, and spread the asparagus in an even layer.
  3. Place the fish fillets on top of the asparagus, evenly spaced apart, and sprinkle with an extra pinch of salt and pepper. Scatter the onion, lemon slices and cherry tomatoes around and on top of the fish.
  4. Bake until the asparagus is crisp-tender and the fish is almost opaque (20 to 30 minutes if using char, other types may vary). For my salmon, I cooked thawed fillet for just 12-15 minutes!!
  5. While the fish cooks, mix together the lemon zest, garlic, parsley and pistachios in a small bowl- this is your gremolata.
  6. Sprinkle the gremolata over the fish and asparagus before serving warm.

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though!! xo




Sundays With Writers: The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

Sunday, March 27th, 2016


Parenting a child with an invisible disability is something that today’s featured writer is no stranger to. Barbara Claypole White’s book, The Perfect Son, has been on my list of books to read since this year’s GoodReads Choice Awards nominations came out. I knew that it would be such a treat for us all to hear about Barbara’s incredible book and also a little about her parenting journey as the parent of a child with an invisible disability.

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

The Perfect Son is a beautiful story of a struggling father and son relationship and the mother that holds them together. When Ella has an unexpected heart attack, the result of a heart condition, and must be hospitalized the men in the family must come together to help her and themselves. As a strained relationship between a father and son becomes further strained Felix finds himself suddenly in charge of his son who has Tourette’s and needs more assistance than most teenage boys. Forced to reconcile their differences, they find comfort in unlikely friends and in each other.

Now grab that coffee and settle in with this incredibly open, honest, and funny Barbara Claypole White today!

Barbara Claypole White

The fictional Ella & Felix are raising a son with Tourette syndrome which puts a lot of strain on their marriage, particularly when Ella becomes sick and is unable to help. You have shared that you are a parent of a child who has battled obsessive-compulsive disorder and even have a genetic heart issue yourself that inspired Ella’s journey. Were you able to channel a lot of your own struggles as a mother and wife into this story? How do you keep your marriage healthy when your children’s mental health comes with so many challenges?

Great questions, because the original story seed came after a mom in our local support group for parents of OCD kids asked why my marriage had survived when most of the marriages in the group had failed. I think it was a combination of factors: our marriage was well-established, we only have one child, I was a full-time parent, and we’re good at tag teaming in a crisis. Plus the three of us communicate well with each other. Of course all this lovely knowledge comes with hindsight. The early days of undiagnosed OCD were hell. My husband and I had very different parenting styles, which made the situation a thousand times worse, and our first child psychologist was not an OCD expert. When our son was around nine, we hit crisis point. I researched the heck out of OCD, found a local psychologist who specialized in exposure therapy, and told my husband that I would take on the treatment one hundred percent if he would agree to never countermand me. This is exactly what Ella did: she compartmentalized the family.

Dividing up our roles—I was the caregiver; my husband was the breadwinner—worked, and we managed to force the OCD into submission (until the stress of junior year of high school retriggered it). But I always knew that my husband was my safety net. I remember one evening when I’d run out of coping skills and he had a dinner meeting. I called him and said, “I’m losing it. I need to walk away.” And he drove straight home. Ella never had that luxury. Or rather she never trusted Felix enough to ask for help.

I also encouraged our son to be open about his struggles—as Ella did with Harry.  There is no shame, and sharing information with other kids and teachers helped our son. Too many people with invisible disabilities suffer in secrecy and isolation. I was determined that would not be his path.

Ella’s journey, learning to let go, was definitely my journey. Our son was awarded a full-ride to an in-state college, which I secretly hoped he would accept. But his heart was set on Oberlin—three states away and a ten-hour drive. He’s thriving there, although the first few weeks were rough. He was homesick, and my husband and I were terrified (OCD can morph quickly). At some point, however, you need to trust that you’ve done enough good work to enable your child to monitor and take responsibility for his illness.  Once our son had settled in, my husband and I discovered we quite liked being empty nesters.

I love that when you wrote about Harry’s struggles with Tourette syndrome you did not go the typical route associated with the disorder, which is involuntary swearing or the utterance of obscenities (coprolalia). I read, in fact, that only ten percent of people with Tourette syndrome actually exhibit this symptom and that Harry’s tics are more common to this syndrome. Was this a conscious decision to not include this? Did you want people to think differently about Tourette syndrome or do you think that a dialogue like that would have been a distraction to the story you had crafted?

It was a conscious decision. One of my early readers was the mother of a teen with Tourette’s, and she thanked me for not giving Harry coprolalia. That’s when I knew I was heading in the right direction.

My goal is always to create complex characters, not stereotypes that scream, “I am my disorder.” When I started doing book clubs for The Unfinished Garden—a love story about grief, OCD, and dirt—I was shocked to discover how many people interpret OCD as a fear of germs. (Thank you, television detective Adrian Monk.) Symptoms of OCD and Tourette’s are highly individualized; there are no textbook cases of either. The same is true for the bipolar disorders.

My first introduction to Tourette’s, however, was the stereotype. Remember that episode of LA LAW when the firm had a client with coprolalia? I wrongly assumed this was the standard version of Tourette syndrome, and after my son was diagnosed with OCD, I kept telling myself OCD wasn’t as bad as Tourette’s. These days I can’t decide which scenario is worse: that you can hide OCD or that you can’t hide Tourette’s.

Felix, Harry’s father, was a character that I found to be unlikable for a good portion of the book. We later learn that Felix has struggled with many demons, including abuse from his own father, which make it hard for him to love his own son. Since you are a parent of a child who needs extra help in the world, did you have a hard time writing these scenes with Felix and his irritation with Harry’s disabilities or did a part of you relate to his frustrations as a father?

I was rooting for Felix from day one, but the trick was hoping readers would stick with him long enough to see the amazing decisions he makes as the story unfolds. When the novel starts he’s an outsider in his own family and definitely an anti-hero. But then you witness him attempt—three times—to create the perfect sandwich for Harry’s lunch, and realize how hard he’s trying to cope. Even though other characters in the novel misjudged him constantly, I always understood Felix. I heard his voice from the beginning, and I knew exactly how he would react. More importantly, I knew why.

The flashback scene to Felix’s relationship with his own dad was framed within a recurring nightmare I’d had as child: I saw a black study at night, with a cold fireplace, a black wing chair, and an open window with black curtains blowing in the wind; and I sensed evil coming through the window. I took all that fear and gave it to poor little Felix. I could forgive him anything after that scene.

Do you think that Ella is a helicopter mom or do you think that her actions were necessary to insure that Harry was able to function well through his life? Do you think overprotectiveness is really necessary for kids like this and what has helped bring balance to your own life as a mother?

Ella raised an amazing young man. She gave him the confidence to be Harry and that’s his armor in a judgmental world.  I hope I’ve given my son the same gift. And yes, I think parents of children who process the world differently need to be overprotective. Our goal posts keep moving, and half the time we don’t even have a rule book.

When our son developed horrible sleep patterns, I gave up trying to keep him in his bed and created a permanent nest for him on our bedroom floor. Some of our friends were horrified and expressed their opinions quite loudly. I became good at nodding and ignoring, because I was doing what worked for my family. (I’m witchy when sleep deprived. A happy Barbara was best for all!)

Once I’d learned how to be my son’s OCD coach, I gained confidence in the knowledge that I could help him. When he was accepted to a small private school in Durham, North Carolina, not unlike Harry’s school in the novel, the admissions officer told me they’d never had a pupil with OCD before. My response was to type up an information sheet for the teachers and staff called OCD 101. And I always gave the OCD update at parent-teacher conferences. Some of those teachers are still family friends. Man, I loved that school…

I was our son’s advocate throughout grade school, although I did back off in high school. And I had nothing to do with the college search. My husband and son handled that without me. (An excellent exercise in father-son bonding.) Now that our son’s an adult, I’ve had to learn that I’m no longer his coach. Only he can do the work to manage his anxiety; I just cheer him on from the sidelines.

Being open, finding acceptance, knowing that bad days end…all these have helped me find balance as a mother. And I garden, which is the best therapy. Did I mention I also drink gin every Friday with my best friend? Girlfriends rock.


Ella struggles with Harry moving away and going to college on his own, and I understand that you have also gone through the same experience letting your son go off to college as he struggled with OCD. As a parent of a child with invisible disabilities, do you have any advice for moms about letting kids go when you have spent a lifetime monitoring them so carefully? Even thinking about this creates anxiety for me!

I think the first step is always to listen to your child. I was hoping our son would stay in-state, but I never imposed that opinion on him. And thank goodness, because he would have driven home every weekend to hang out with his BFF. Instead he learned to live outside his comfort zone and tackle many of his anxieties, including a terror of flying. We also followed his lead on mental healthcare. Although we researched options on campus, he chose to keep his mental health team here. It turned out to be a wise move. He does phone consults as needed, and I make appointments whenever he’s home on break.

Keeping the communication lines open is also essential. We text every day, and the three of us Skype once a week.  We also have an open policy that he can text or call us at any time of the day or night if he’s in crisis. And I told myself—from day one—that if things didn’t work out and he had to leave, I would be proud of the incredible achievement he had made by going there. So many teens with OCD can’t leave the house, and now he’s a junior in college. My crazy, off-beat son—what a guy.

You have created such an incredible supporting cast. As someone who is very particular about spelling and grammar, I REALLY loved Max and his need to always use punctuation in his text messages. Did you have a favorite supporting character that you loved writing?

Thank you. I love writing secondary characters.  Max was tons of fun because he has none of Harry’s anxiety. Every time I hear Green Day’s ‘Troublemaker’ I think of Max. He’s such a generous soul and so devoted to Harry. But if I had to pick my favorite, it would be Eudora. Writing her was a hoot. She came to me fully formed wearing the hat from the final scene, but I couldn’t see how she would fit into The Perfect Son. I put her aside for a future story…until I was spitting out my first draft, and she appeared in Ella’s garden with a pair of clippers. Then I knew she had to stay.


 The Perfect Son has received absolutely glowing reviews on Amazon and was selected as a GoodReads Choice Award Semifinalist for Best Fiction in 2015 and as a Kindle First selection. What is that like for you as a writer and do you feel more pressure with your next book to deliver something as equally fantastic?

No pressure, right? Twitch, twitch. The success of The Perfect Son has changed everything, and the demands on my time have skyrocketed. Right now I could work 24 hours a day seven days a week and never be on top of everything, but I’m finally making a living as a novelist and can afford to hire a cleaner. Yay.

When I’m researching and writing, I think only about my characters, not my audience. I’ve also learned that each novel has its own rhythm and I can’t compare my stories. The new manuscript has a very different feel, so I’m intrigued to see how fans react. There’s more dark humor, it’s definitely busier, and I have four strong characters who each insisted on having a voice: Marianne, my record producer heroine—a complex woman who has manic-depression; her almost-daughter Jade, a former teen runaway; Darius, Marianne’s devoted husband, a music legend with anger management issues who got kicked out of AA because he wasn’t an addict; and Gabriel, the English vicar who was Marianne’s first love. Called Echoes of Family it’s due out in late September, and it’s the reverse of The Perfect Son, which is a story about how you can’t escape genetics. This time I’ve created a family without blood ties—a social group that came together out of need and supports each other in a gloriously dysfunctional way. I’m big on dysfunction.

You have said that The Perfect Son has been your most challenging to write. Why did you find this book more challenging than the previous two you wrote?

This was the first novel I wrote entirely to contract, with the deadline clock ticking. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong: I had endless problems with the research—it took me seven months to find a cardiologist who would talk with me; I lost more titles than anyone should have to lose; and I turned the manuscript in to my first publisher only to learn my contract had been cancelled. Fortunately I have the best agent in the world, and two weeks later I had a new contract with a great publisher and a terrific team. Then I came up with the right title and there was no looking back.


source: wikipedia

Our readers might be unaware that you were part of the first British Designer Show and have worked for Vivienne Westwood. Are you still passionate about fashion now that you are a writer? Which celebrity was your favorite that you dressed?

I don’t follow trends anymore, but the fashion world has crept into my characters’ backstories. Ella, for example, was a jewelry designer. I’m still a wee bit of a clotheshorse, even though I work in leggings and sweatshirts most of the time. And I love my fuzzy slippers. But I do enjoy clothes retail therapy, and planning author outfits is way too much fun. As for celebrities…I measured an English singer in her bra and knickers once (not telling who!) and she was lovely. But my favorite story from that time was seeing Princess Diana at the first British Designer show. She was wearing pink suede by Maxfield Parrish, one of our clients, and the entire exhibition hall went silent when she walked in. Surrounded by men in black suits, she was taller than most of them and her blonde hair stood out like a beacon. It was an incredible moment; she had such presence.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It has everything: a spunky heroine, a messed-up sexy hero, a mystery, a dysfunctional family, plus love and madness in the English countryside.  And Jane makes Rochester cry. I aim to make all my heroes cry. Yes, even the vicar in Echoes of Family.

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

You can connect with Barbara Claypole White on her website or through 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!



It’s the 3 Little Things: Food Doc, Shiny and New, & Touch-Ups

Friday, March 25th, 2016


I hope you have some wonderful things planned for this Easter weekend. The kids & I are spending our Good Friday helping package meals for Pack Away Hunger  with our church today. We are really looking forward to doing this together. Although the weather got cold, I’m making preparations for spring with fresh linens on the bed and tulips from ALDI (just$4.99 for a little bouquet).  I’m moving forward with spring, Indiana, maybe you should too!

Here are a few other things that are making me happy this week!

Just Eat It Documentary

A Documentary To Watch With Your Family

I ran across Just Eat It when browsing through the documentary offerings on Prime and our family watched this together one evening. This is a truly eye-opening look at how much food we are wasting in an effort to only provide the most beautiful and appealing foods at our grocery store. In efforts to illustrate how much perfectly good food we are wasting, they take on a challenge to eat only discarded food with some surprising results.

REALLY thought-provoking and it made me more aware of my purchasing habits and how our family could do better to waste less food. It’s a must-see and something you definitely should watch with your kids. It lead to some great discussions in our home.

TouchBack Root Touch-Up Kit

Root Touch-Ups

I sure talk a lot about my gray hair around here, don’t I? Sometimes pesky gray hairs show up randomly between colorings and I found this TouchBack Instant Root Touch-Up tool to conceal the grays until I color my hair again works wonders on my grays. They have one that looks more like a mascara and then this one (pictured above)  that looks more like a marker. I have only used the one that looks like mascara, but it works REALLY well hiding the occasional gray that I get between my hair coloring. It just rinses out when you wash your hair and is super easy to put on and can prolong your time between getting your hair colored. I highly recommend this to save money! You can find it at ULTA or at CVS!



A Baptism

This happy was just for me. This past Sunday our daughter was baptized and it made my heart so happy that she has decided to follow Jesus. I can’t wait to see her journey unfold and it was so special to have both sides of our family there for this special day!

This week I’m…

Reading: Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan (I was blindingly unaware of what was happening in the world during this time. It’s been really eye-opening).

Eating: Linguine With White Clam Sauce (I used these gluten-free noodles)

Laughing: Over this article. Each time I read it, I laugh harder!

Happy Easter, everyone! xo

 *this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things




Community Reads for March

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Community (2)

I love getting book recommendations from our readers and the new Community Reads section of the site is quickly becoming my go-to for new books to pick up from our local library. I hope you are loving it too!

If you are a part of our MomAdvice Hangout Group, each month I will ask about what you are reading and ask for a short blurb on a book.  You can also email books you are loving to me to amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I can also add them to our monthly lists. By joining this group, you can also take part in a REALLY awesome online book club- I wouldn’t want you to miss this fun discussion and exploration of a new book each month.

My hope is to inspire you to connect with at least one incredible book this year and I hope you will enjoy this new feature with even more reads each month!

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Read It: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Recommended by: Enid

This book is magical- a word I don’t often use. I picked it up because I so enjoyed A Man Called Ove, and this second book by the author is even better. I loved the precocious 7 year old main character and her exploits, and I don’t feel that she acted “too old”, considering she spent so much time with her eccentric grandmother. I was almost sorry to finish the book as I enjoyed spending time with these characters. It is one of those books where if I try to explain the plot at all, I am afraid I will ruin the story for you, and I don’t want to take that risk. If this author writes more books, I will even be willing to pre-order them- something I rarely do.

One caveat- if you have recently lost someone dear to you, then you might want to consider postponing picking this book up for a bit- it can hit you hard in a couple of places.

Second Life by S.J. Watson

Read It: Second Life by S.J. Watson

Recommended by: Tanya

I read this psychological thriller in less than a day and kept telling myself just one more chapter. A sister is murdered. The other sister stops at nothing to find the killer. Lots of secrets and twists and turns.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Read It: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Recommended by: Enid

I really liked this- good mystery, great characters. The clues were there, along with lots of red herrings- I like it when the reader actually has a chance to figure out the case along with the detective. I will read the second book in the series in the near future.

Find the Good by Heather Lende

Read It: Find the Good by Heather Lende

Recommended by: Angie from Just Like The Number

Lende is an obituary writer for a the paper in her small Alaskan town. The book is a compilation of essays about family, friends and the people who have crossed her path in life and death. Some are sad, some are sweet, and all of them brought a smile to my face.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Read It: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Recommended by: Monica

This is a story about a girl with distorted views about her body image and what constitutes a successful life. But as the flashbacks to her high school life unfold, the unfortunate series of traumas endured begins to explain her present day self.

In the beginning I was disgusted with the main character. I thought about how she embodied all that we want young girls not to see. By the end you are rooting so hard for her that when the story ends you are left wanting more.

Editor’s Note- Be sure to check out our interview with Jessica Knoll in our Sundays With Writers series

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski

Read It: An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff & Alex Tresniowski

Recommended by: Bridgett

This is a true inspirational story about a relationship between an 11-year old pan handler and a NYC advertising executive. It is inspiring the difference she was able to make in his life by just noticing him on the street one day as he is begging for change. She turns back and asks to take him to McDonalds which begins a weekly meeting and a lasting relationship/mentoring that spans decades.

An amazing look at how one person can make an impact if we just take the time to notice. Get the tissues, this one is a tearjerker and a great read. I could not put it down and had it read in two days.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Read It: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Recommended by: Enid

This was a re-read for me for a book club. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, although this time the character of Hannah annoyed me a bit. I love the forensic detective work of discovering what the different bits of things and stains are that have gotten into the book over 500 years.

Since I knew what was coming this time, I didn’t find some of the historical bits as disturbing as I did the first time- but torture during the Spanish Inquisition is still not my idea of good bedtime reading.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Read It: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Recommended by: Laura

I just read Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (author of The Glass Castle), a “true-life novel” that tells the incredible story of her grandmother’s life. It was fantastic, full of grit and spunk and set in the wild southwest. It made me want to be a bolder woman.

Community Picks for March

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get these books and read them myself! What did you read this month that you loved? Feel free to recommend your favorite reads below or join us in the group to chat about your favorites! We love new friends!

This post contains affiliate links. I fully trust and back my community of readers and their opinions on their favorite books!

Amy’s Notebook 03.23.16

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Orange Soy Glazed Ribs via Shutterbean

Source: Shutterbean


Orange soy glazed ribs- these look fantastic!

Can’t wait to see this film!!

Great tips for making the most of your Netflix account.

Kate Middleton’s style formula- I really love her style.

Great advice on creating smarter to-do lists. I can’t wait to read this book!

This tap dance routine to Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ is amazing.

Small Entry Makeover via The Inspired Room

Source: The Inspired Room


Gorgeous small entry transformation!

As a big Mo Willems fan, I loved reading more about him and his techniques.

Simplify childhood and protect your child.

How different people spend $100 at the grocery store.

A good reminder during this political season.

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