Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Amy’s Notebook 10.05.16

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Quinoa Lasagna

source: fit foodie finds

This quinoa lasagna is going on my menu planner this week.

Why absolute minimalism will never feel like home- I loved this perspective.

I love that they tested internet viral kitchen hacks (with surprising results!)

A simple slow cooker marinara sauce for busy weeknights.

“Learn to embrace a paradox: Time is precious and plentiful. To have as much time as you need for the things you want, you need to be ruthless about not filling time with things you don’t care about.”- secrets of people with all the time in the world.

I can never turn down a great twist on caprese. Get in my belly!

Stuffed Baked Apples

source: camille styles

Stuffed baked apples look like a heavenly autumn treat.

Here are a few ways to turn chicken nuggets into dinner.

Have you heard of a FEED supper? It looks like a great way to share an experience & money for a good cause.

An adorably decorated Halloween porch.

Book Styling Ideas

source: apartment therapy

New ways to style your home with books- SWOON!!

Speaking of books, I am really enjoying this read and excited to dive into this one this week!

The minimum amount you should be tipping for food deliveries.

We need to start a family movie tradition.

These apple treats look like the perfect portion size for our family.

Fake a mantle- we are still enjoying our space heater version that I painted for our office.

This is such a great budget exercise. It makes me think about my own spending.

Halloween Plate Wall

source: tatertots & jello

These are such cute decorating ideas for Halloween!

Blanket scarf diy’ing must be happening right now- this is our top article this week!

I can’t wait to give this new podcast a listen.

Meal prep IG’ers on fleek!  Off to follow them all…

I’m going to work on simplifying my email responses.

You guys must be cozy, blanket capes were your top purchase this week!

I am SO EXCITED about this new Netflix series!

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! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

The Best Lunch Box Hacks

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

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Thank you to Rubbermaid LunchBlox® for sponsoring today’s post! 

Lunches can get a little boring in our house so today’s post will hopefully inspire you AND ME to make lunchtime more fun for our kids. Over the years, I have found a few lunch box hacks that help save me time, money, and keep our family organized. I am excited to show a few of those to you today and share our free printable to help your kids be part of the process for assisting with lunch creation.

Let’s get packing!

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Freeze Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches For The Week

My daughter’s favorite sandwich is the good ol’ PB&J. Did you know that you can freeze your sandwiches for the week instead of making them daily?

If your child’s favorite is this sandwich too, simply spread peanut butter on both slices of bread to create a wall to prevent the jelly from making your bread soggy. Smear your jelly on in the center of one slice of bread and then put the two slices together. By creating an assembly line of sandwiches for your week you only dirty up the kitchen once.

This trick is so simple that your kids can do it!

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Rethink Your Sandwich Styling

When sandwiches start to get a little boring, try making a sushi sandwich instead. Dust off that rolling pin and roll your bread out flat to create the base for your sandwich sushi. Add your child’s favorite meat and then their favorite string cheese combo. Roll it tight and slice in half.

For kids that aren’t as big of a fan of crusts or bread (I have one of those kids too!), this is a great way to get them to still eat a sandwich without investing in a pricier wrap option! Oh, and it’s sneaky- they don’t even notice the crust!

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Get Organized With a Lunchbox Station

Few things have stood the test of time in our house when it comes to organization.

Let’s just say that we are a family with great ideas, but poor execution once those ideas are in place.

There is one thing though that has helped us a lot over the years and it is a lunchbox station in our pantry. I used chalkboard labels to be able to switch our drawer categories as needed so this pantry can grow up with our kids culinary tastes.

The nice thing about having it set up this way is that kids can assist when making lunch preparations. I also love that we are able to actually see and use the items in our pantry. When loads of boxes are placed on shelves, they can often get lost in the shuffle. Having this organized helps me to not purchase duplicate items and to actually use the things we purchase.

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Get Smart Lunch Packing Solutions

Our family had been using a lot of plastic baggies and disposable items to create our lunches, but I knew we could do better.

I have seen a lot of documentaries on waste and what we are doing to our planet and we talk about it a lot with our kids. We knew improvements need to be made.

Have you seen the Rubbermaid LunchBlox® products? I hate to sound like an infomercial, but seriously these are so smartly designed! Everything snaps and fits together into one piece, including the ice pack to make putting together and pulling out your lunch a streamlined process.

I’m absolutely hooked.

Today I’m showing off their Sandwich Kits that you can find over at Target. To prevent you from my experience of walking in forty different aisles to find these, I’ll share an awesome little tip I have discovered on their site.

Rubbermaid Sandwich Kits

If you type in your store on the Target website it will pull up the exact aisle you can find these in at your store AND how many are available. If your store doesn’t have them, you can save yourself a trip and order a set (or 4 like me!!) to be delivered to your doorstep. After discovering the exact aisle, I found them over in the grocery section by the other food storage options!

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Don’t feel like you have to be limited to just sandwiches on the bottom. I have found this is a perfect place for packing a delicious meat, cheese, and cracker combo or it would even be the perfect spot for a salad.  Did I mention these are actually microwave, dishwasher, AND freezer safe? Yup. They also happen to be BPA free.

These containers aren’t just for kids though.

I can’t imagine a better way to get healthy snacks in throughout the day then this system.

Keeping fueled is just as important for adults as it is for kids.

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If packing a lunchbox to carry to work as an adult feels a little weird, I’ve got good news. They also make these really cool Rubbermaid Fasten+Go™ Sandwich Kits that are just like this system with a lid and removable strap for one-handed carrying.

Welcome to the grown-up lunchbox system!

Winning!

I picked up two of these for my husband & I and am so excited to get back to better lunches this year. We need it as much as our kiddos.

Lucky for you, there is a Cartwheel offer to save your family some money on the Rubbermaid LunchBlox® and the Rubbermaid Fasten+Go™ products! Yay! Here are some deals you can score right now!

20% Off Rubbermaid Fasten+Go™ All Items (deal available through August 13th)

5% Off Rubbermaid LunchBlox® Sandwich Kit (deal available through August 13th), 5%- https://cartwheel.target.com/offer/69011

Note: this coupon will go live on August 28th! Don’t miss it…

20% off Rubbermaid LunchBlox® (available on 08/28 through 09/03)

 

 

Lunch box helper printable

DOWNLOAD THE FREE LUNCHBOX HELPER PRINTABLE!

I hope you enjoyed these ways to make lunch easy and fun again! I hope you also enjoy our free Lunchbox Helper sheet and be sure to read this fantastic post on how you can get your kids involved in helping take the hassle out of lunch preparations!

Thank you to Rubbermaid LunchBlox® for sponsoring today’s post! 

Andromeda Romano Lax’s 3 Favorite Books

Monday, June 20th, 2016

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Author: Andromeda Romano-Lax. (Author of Behave, Searching for Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez, & The Detour Read more about Andromeda in our interview HERE!)

Andromeda Romano Lax’s 3 Favorite Books

I have too many favorites so my best way to focus is by theme, and in this case, my theme will be “wives in the shadows” plus “mother blame,” two topics that are central to my novel, Behave.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

In the first category, I absolutely love Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife, which is acerbic, funny, and all-too-real. I’ve read it multiple times, and even once the book’s twists are revealed, it’s no less enjoyable. (By the way, one of my favorite classic male writers is Philip Roth, but what he tends to ignore–the inner lives of women and especially wives–Wolitzer examines with a fabulous, Roth-like wit.)

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

 

Also in the category of shadow wives I recommend Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife. I loved how she handled a fictionalized version of the Barbara Bush story. Both historical truth and unfettered invention co-exist harmoniously in this empathetic novel.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

In the category of “mother blame” I challenge anyone to read Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin and not feel chills, horror, and that rarer thing–sympathy. This is a book that will stay frighteningly current as long as we have mass shootings, but even without the violent storyline it’s a great look at failed mother-child bonding, guilt, public shaming, and all those things that make being a mom heart-breakingly tough at times.  

This post contains affiliate links! To learn more about the authors featured, please visit our Sundays With Writers series!

March 2016 Must-Reads

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

March 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I am so excited to share eight books that I read this month with you.  It was a really incredible month of reading and we have even got to feature a couple of these authors in our Sundays With Writers series before revealing this month’s list. Sometimes I just can’t wait for a monthly round-up to connect you with a good book!

Regardless of your taste, I have something for everyone this month. Selections range from true crime to fantasy to historical fiction to contemporary to a memoir-type advice column.  I am hoping one of these books finds its way into your stack since I try to add a lot of variety to each month’s round-up!

As my daughter & I embark on a Spring Break trip together (just us two!!), I am sure I will have many more books to share with you while we are on our break.  Let me know if there is anything that you think I should read while we are on vacation. I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Let’s not waste any more time! Here are 8 new books that I indulged in this month! 

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

If you are a regular reader on the blog, you know I have talked, and talked, and talked about this book. What I want to say is that you should only read my brief description below and go into this one without knowing anything. It will make the book so much more enjoyable- I promise.

This book reads a bit like a mystery as you try to solve the puzzle of a child’s unusual first years of life. The story intertwines with a doctor nearing the end of his career due to a deadly diagnosis and he could be the only one who could make Noah and his mother’s life better. What Noah is suffering from is beyond what any parent could comprehend.

Gripping, thought provoking, and and an excellent pick for any book club!

After you are done reading it, you can read my interview with Sharon Guskin as we discuss her debut novel. It’s a REALLY interesting interview and it gave me a lot to think about! 

5 Out of 5 Stars

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Good grief, Be Frank With Me, was just adorable from start to finish- I can’t recommend it enough!

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.

I am so excited that Julia will be joining us this week for our Sundays With Writers series. You won’t want to miss it- she’s absolutely charming! Be sure to check back on Sunday! 

5 Out of 5 Stars

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

This book was selected by my local book club and was, admittedly, a book that I probably would not have picked up on my own. I am so incredibly glad I read it though and I think you will be too.

I just love when a book educates you on a time in history that you have been completely unaware of. Ryan pulls off a magnificent literary feat by tackling six decades set in Taiwan over the course of the twentieth century. It is horrific what so many endured during this time and begins with the story of the unnamed narrator’s father being captured because he is suspected of Communist activities. He is kept for over a decade in brutal and inhumane conditions. It then follows his return home, the unkindness of others, the stress of feeling watched, and the other generations that continue to struggle through the decades with their own issues. It’s far too much to go into in a quick review, but you will learn a lot along the way!

Things I would note with this one. First, I wish I would have educated myself a bit before diving into it. I knew nothing about the Chinese nationalists or the history of Taiwan and the author offers no real introduction into the history of that, assuming the reader can follow along. After a browse through Wikipedia, I was able to understand better, but it was a confusing time in politics and reading that first would have helped me through the book.

Secondly, the book did lag for me in parts, but the good parts in this far outweigh the slow parts. Power through and I hope this time in history is as eye-opening for you as it was me. She is a masterful storyteller and I’m glad I read this!

I am also so very honored that Shawna will be joining us this next month for Sundays With Writers. While researching for this interview, I am astonished at the level of commitment she had to this book. I can’t wait to share that with you! 

Editor’s Note- This book does contain graphic violence that was inflicted on these prisoners. 

 4 Out of 5 Stars

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine by Dave Cullen

I have been wanting to read this one since Laura, from Hollywood Housewife, shared her list of best true crime novels.

It is impossible to read this book and not learn something new about the devastating Columbine tragedy. Cullen dedicated a decade of his life compiling the real facts around this case and the lives impacted by this senseless tragedy. Working from what is happening currently and flashing back to the preparations for this crime, we are able to get a clearer understanding of motive in a very eye-opening way.

Cullen also opens our eyes to the fictionalized stories that were shared by the media and the true psychological problems that these shooters had, their motives behind the shooting, and those dealing with the aftermath of these tragedies as students, teachers, parents, and community members. After you read how the media botched the reporting up on so much of this, I guarantee it will make you feel differently about what is reported in the world.

The psychological research on these two killers and how so many of these victims reclaimed their lives again makes for a truly compelling read.

Editor’s Note- This book does contain graphic violence and language. 

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

I have loved reading the GoodReads Choice Award nominations this year. If you haven’t taken a peek at the list, I have gathered the nominees for you!

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.

It was such an honor to chat with Barbara about her book and about parenting a child with an invisible disability.  Even if you don’t grab her book (which you should), I gained so much wisdom from asking her about the letting go process as you see your kids off to college. It’s a really good read! 

I hope you love her book as much as I did!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I am one of those people that has a hard time committing to series books. Are you that way too? When I was asked to help promote the new movie though, I thought I better get familiar with the series.

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences.

I loved this book even more than I thought I would, although I know I am a bit behind on the times embracing this one. I had been avoiding it because so many had compared it to the Hunger Games series and I doubted much could live up to that. Although there were similarities, I loved the world that Roth created, the factions that divide society and limitations they create in relationships, and the love story. I’m really happy I read this one!

Should I keep continuing through this book series? Let me know!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

Have you joined our book club yet? I hope you can join in on the fun this year!

This past month our book club selection was Tiny Little Thing. I was so excited to dive in since I enjoyed A Hundred Summers so much!

In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November.

But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.

This was a fantastic historical fiction escape as the curtain is pulled back on a high society couple striving for power as a politician. You need not read William’s’ first books to follow along with this plot. I really appreciated the final plot twists in this one and the author ended it in a completely unexpected way. A wonderful escape with juicy secrets!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson delivers another solid read with her latest novel, The Opposite of Everyone.  I was such a big fan of Someone Else’s Love Story that I was anxious to dive into this new one.  With this one though, I admit , it took awhile for me to connect with the characters in the beginning of this story.
I blame it a little on the set-up of her book.
Rather than alternating past and present in chapter format, Jackson weaves the two stories of past and present into one chapter smoothly without transition. At first, this can be confusing, but it is worth the confusion as she weaves her reader through plot twist after plot twist of a girl growing up in a group home due to her mother’s incarceration to her powerful role as a lawyer finding out that her mother has kept a big life-changing secret from her.Follow the story of a broken little girl who feels she made the one mistake that cost her a relationship with her mother into a grown woman seeking desperately to connect with family members she never knew, with many surprises along the way.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Once again, our book club pushes me to try another new book.  This month’s read was, Tiny Beautiful Things

I, honestly, would have never picked this book up if it had not been selected as a book club pick. Dear Sugar was an anonymous online advice column that Stray answered letters she received online under the name of Sugar. This book is a collection of some of her greatest answers to life’s questions.

The thing that made it so different is typically advice columnist do not interject their own stories and opinions into their advice, while Strayed wrote honestly about her own struggles in a way that was raw, gritty, and real. Shocking at times were her own struggles that spilled on the pages, but beauty & truth was weaved into these answers too. It would be impossible to not a get a nugget out of each answer, even if the situation didn’t relate to you. Her advice to her younger self, a letter written to graduates, and the struggles of when someone should start a family were three of the pieces that really stood out to me. Not for the faint of heart if vulgarity isn’t your thing. If you can handle it though, it’s worth the read!

I still have not picked up her book, Wildyet. What did you think of it? Please let me know if it is worth the read!

Editor’s Note: REALLY graphic and graphic descriptions of sexual abuse.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Read With Me

Read With Me This Year:

My 2016 Book Stack

March 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

 

 

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

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

 

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Sundays With Writers: What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I am so honored to be interviewing Gilly Macmillan today to talk about her debut novel, What She Knew. I am always game for a good thriller, but can we be honest and say that many rarely deliver? It is tough to surprise seasoned readers, isn’t it? Well,  I am so happy to say that this one really delivers in the thriller category and kept me guessing until the final page. I am not the only one that fell in love with this book. What She Knew is an IndieBound Pick, a Target Book Club Pick, A LibraryReads List Pick, and a Featured Book for Book-Of-The-Month Club for December 2015.

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

Macmillan delivers a solid thriller that left me guessing right up until the final pages. Narration is done well through the eyes of the detective, the mother, and social media outlets who tell the story of an eight year-old boy who goes missing on a walk with his mother in the woods.

The author weaves enough loose ends to create a well curated variety of suspects that lead you down the wrong trails in the woods yourself and creates great tension as the stability of the child’s own mother comes into question.

I included this book in our February Must-Reads list!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Gilly for the scoop behind her spellbinding thriller, What She Knew.

Gilly Macmillan

As a mom, your book really illustrates some of my worst fears, losing and not knowing where your child is has to be one of the scariest feelings in the world. As a mom of three, which scene was one of the hardest for you to write and do you think you would have responded in the same ways that the fictional mother, Rachel, did?

So many scenes in What She Knew were difficult to write from an emotional point of view, but the press conference was definitely one of the hardest.  It’s the moment when Rachel’s private nightmare goes public, and I found it heart-wrenching to put her in that situation.  She has to gather herself, at one of the most raw and difficult moments that she’ll ever have to live through in her life, and face the media, and the wider world and also remain composed enough to address somebody who may have taken her child.  I lived every moment of that scene with her as I wrote it, and it was painful.

It’s interesting that you should ask whether I would have responded in the same way as Rachel, because that’s something my husband and I discussed!  I think I would certainly share many of her feelings, and I channeled much of myself into her emotional reaction to her son’s disappearance.  However, I do have a very practical side and I might have been more careful than Rachel to try to keep my feelings under control when I needed to, and I might also have felt driven to try to do something practical, as Rachel’s sister does in the novel.   Having said that, however, I suspect that when we’ve only ever been on the outside of an extreme situation like the one Rachel finds herself in, we can never really know for sure what it feels like to be on the inside, and how we would behave.  We can only hope we would do the right things.

You attacked research for your book in such a unique way, starting by not researching the topic at all when writing the first draft of this book and then building that out in later drafts. Was this intentional and do you think this created a better layering to have a more uninformed stance with your first draft?

The decision to do no research for the first draft of What She Knew was intentional, and came about because I was time-short.  My three kids were all settled into school, so I had a bit of time on my hands for the first time in years as I’d been caring for them more or less full-time, but money was getting tight, so I knew I only had a small window to have a go at writing a book before I needed to get a ‘proper’ job.  This meant that I couldn’t afford to spend lots of that time researching, so I decided to write about something that I knew (motherhood), locate it in the city I live in (Bristol, UK), and write 1,000 words a day until I had a completed book (every day I recorded how many words I’d written on a sheet of paper that became increasingly dog-eared over the months as the total increased).

What resulted from that effort was a draft of the book that told the story entirely from Rachel’s point of view.  It was a messy draft, and I had inevitably made lots of the mistakes you might expect from a rookie writer, but I sent off the first three chapters and they were just enough to get me an agent.

Being signed up by an agent who had confidence in my work – even though she also had a lot of issues with it! – was the thing that finally made me take myself a bit more seriously as a writer.  With my agent’s help, and realizing that this might be my one shot at being a writer, I really got down to work on the manuscript.  I began to research the subject in earnest, and work on layering up the novel, and I decided to create the detective’s character, as I felt that Rachel’s voice needed a counterpoint, somebody who would take a more professional view of the case and let the reader see into the investigation.

In retrospect, although some might say that it was a very disorganised way to write a book, I do believe that the way I worked helped me to get Rachel’s voice down in a really direct way right from the outset.  I hope that means that, in spite of all the changes and edits that have taken place since the first draft, Rachel’s narrative hasn’t lost its power as the honest, unfiltered words of a mother whose child has disappeared and whose story forms the spine of the novel.

When Rachel has to make a statement before the press about her child going missing, she goes off script and attracts the media in a negative way, ultimately branding her as a bad mom. There was something about this press scene that mimicked that moment in Gone Girl where Nick’s body language and motives are pulled into question after his hearing. Media and the way they villainize this mom not only come into play here, but also are a big part of this book with a blog and social media commentary throughout. Why do you think we are so intent on victimizing people and why did you think building a social media outlet was such an important addition to this book?

Part of my process of developing the book after the first draft was to comb over all of the fine details that I wanted to be as accurate as possible. I spoke to police officers and researched child abduction and I also paid careful attention to real life cases.  There were two of these, both high profile, that took place in the UK while I was writing the novel.  In the first instance I experienced these cases as I always had done, ie via traditional media reporting, but as I dug a little deeper I discovered that the cases were also being discussed by individuals all over social media and in the comments sections attached to online newspaper reports.  I’d never really paid attention to that stuff before but it struck me straight away that if I included this kind of thing in the book, it could be a very interesting to let the reader experience the case of Ben’s abduction in the way that they might in real life, alongside the versions of events that they learn from my two narrators.

What made my decision easy in the end, was that the comments and social media pages that I read were alive with opinion, fizzing with it, and I was surprised at the strength of people’s feelings and how polarized opinion was, and how much they judged the people involved even though they only had access to a tiny amount of verified information. It was too powerful to ignore.   I knew that if I was Rachel I would have found it tremendously difficult to know that it was going on out there, in addition to the very private pain I was feeling and so social media had to almost become a character in its own right.

I’ve thought a lot about why people victimize others in this way.  I think it’s often a combination of factors, but there are a few which stand out to me.  First and foremost, the internet offers little or no accountability for what we say online, so people behave more badly than they might otherwise.  Chat forums where people state their opinions very bluntly, combined with sensationalist headlines, can heighten emotions and feelings in a large group of people very quickly.   Combine that with the speed at which things can travel on the internet and the fear and misunderstanding that can spring from emotional, unreasoned debate and an aggressive pack mentality can develop swiftly.  I also think that our ability to comment freely online, and engage with others easily and anonymously if we wish, makes us more susceptible to feeling emotionally involved in events that are really nothing to do with us, and that in other circumstances we might keep a respectful distance from.  These factors all combine to make Rachel a victim of the internet, as well as of a crime, in What She Knew.

I understand that you actually crafted three endings for this book. What was it about the ending that you struggled with and why do you think the one you chose for this novel was the most satisfying conclusion for your story?

The ending posed a challenge in many ways. As a mom, in my very first draft, I veered away from a realistic ending, because I wanted to make everything nice for everybody, because that’s what we do, right?  We tuck everybody up at the end of the day and tell them to have sweet dreams.  However, I was advised that the too-nice ending didn’t sit well with the rest of the story, and readers might feel dissatisfied, so I took advice from my agent and experimented with other options.  The final choice of ending came down to the fact that What She Knew is at its heart a story about a terrible crime, but also about a mother, and a child, and a detective who cares, and my desire to get as much veracity into the novel as possible.  For me, the ending we finally settled on seemed to do justice to both the story, and the characters, and also felt truthful, which was so important to me.  I’m a big reader myself and I like to feel that an author hasn’t cheated me in the end, but has stayed true to the story.  It’s been really interesting since publication to hear reader’s views on the ending.

I know that a lot of research went into this book from police investigations to missing children cases. What was the most surprising fact you discovered while preparing this book and has any of the research shaped any new viewpoints for you on this topic?

When I first sat down for a cup of coffee with some real (retired) detectives I described the set-up at the beginning of the book when Ben goes missing, as I had written it in an early draft. Ben goes missing late on a Sunday afternoon in the woods, as darkness is about to fall, and I told the detectives that in response to his disappearance I had fictionally mobilized air support, search teams with dogs, and on horses, and had a vast amount of manpower combing the area within an hour or two of the call being made to police.  They were aghast!  I still remember their faces across the table now.  No, they told me, at dusk on a Sunday evening in the woods, the police would certainly attend, but you would probably only get a couple of uniformed officers and if you were lucky you might get one extra officer with a dog, but that would be it!  This was mostly because of the darkness, but also because of budgets and available manpower at that time.

Their advice was a reality check for me and I had to rewrite all of the scenes at the start of the book.  I realized I had assumed too much, and I actually knew almost nothing about police procedure or about many of the challenges of detective work.   Needless to say, we didn’t just have one cup of coffee.  A few hours, and a few rounds of sandwiches and many more pots of coffee, and some follow-up emails later, I had learned so much from them about the police and how they operate and I found all of it fascinating.  They gave me a great deal of practical advice but what I also took from them is how much they cared about their jobs and how every case is complicated and challenging and sometimes very frustrating for even the most dedicated detective, and I wanted to be sure to do the demands of the profession justice, and to bring some of that realism into the story.  It added a whole new dimension to the book, and in particular to my detective’s story.

What She Knew

Follow Gilly on Twitter!

Many moms feel like they have a book in them, but few of us feel we have the time to work on our own dreams while juggling a busy life with our family. What prompted you to move forward on this dream and could you share a time management strategy that helped you finally to get moving on your first book?

As I said above, it was a sense that I had a one-off window of opportunity to try to do this that really spurred me on, because I knew that I wouldn’t dare to quit a paying job to write a book, so it was now or never. My time management took a lot of work, but the thing that really got me writing was to make a rule that I couldn’t do anything else – no tidying, laundry, dog-walking, surface-wiping, etc. – until I’d written 1,000 words each day.  I’m not good at working in the evening when I’m tired (I wish I was!) so that meant I would sit down and start to write the minute I got back from dropping the kids off at school in the morning, when my head was clear, and I had a big incentive to get on with my word count so that I could leave my desk with enough time to get everything else done.  My social life suffered a bit, as did household organization, and I had to pull away from being involved in school associations and that sort of thing, but it was worth it. 

My advice to anybody else would be to try to carve out an amount of time, however small, where you can write each day and guard it fiercely.  That way, even if you can only find time to write a few hundred words each day, you are progressing, and you will be able to make it to the end.  Keep track of that word count too, because it’s encouraging to see it rising.  Also – don’t beat yourself up if your first draft isn’t a polished work, or even close to one.  Once, it’s done, it gives you something to improve and work on.  Often, the whole process felt like an exercise in holding my nerve as much as anything else so that would be my advice too: hold your nerve, and don’t assume that it can’t be you.

I understand that you are writing another book that will include another case with DI Jim Clemo. Will you be referencing the case from this book at all? Can we expect Jim to be a bit damaged from how he felt he handled this case?

Yes, I am! I’m currently working on my third novel and this will be a sequel to What She Knew and I’m delighted to say that Jim will be back.  It’s really wonderful to revisit Jim’s character, as I’ll admit that I’m very fond of him, and starting to write him again was like visiting an old friend.  It’s still early days for that novel, but I will certainly be referencing the Ben Finch case from What She Knew and exploring the impact that it’s had on Jim as he tries to move forward with his life, and his career. 

Before that book hits the shelves, though, my second novel will be out in Fall 2016.  It’s a standalone book called The Perfect Girl and is about a girl called Zoe, who is a 17-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ and a secret in her past that she and her mother will go to extraordinary lengths to protect.  The book is about one night, where Zoe is giving a performance that her mother, Maria, has been planning for months, but by midnight, Maria is dead.  Like What She Knew, it’s a book with family and parenting themes, and asks questions about how far we push our children and ourselves in pursuit of that perfect family ideal, and how often life offers us second chances if we get things wrong.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The true crime genre is something that many of our readers are into right now as we read lots of books, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries on true crime. Do you read this genre or utilize any true crime cases to write your books? Any recommendations for true crime fans?

The first true crime book that I ever read was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I loved it, and was absolutely gripped by it.  I’m not sure I’ve read much true crime since then, though I read a lot of crime fiction as you might expect, and I’m always up for a good recommendation!  Recently, I’ve found myself addicted to the Serial podcasts and also the Making of a Murderer documentary and I recommend those very highly if you’re into true crime, though I expect many of your readers will know them already.  The intricacies of the cases, and the way you get to know something about the personalities involved is what hooks me, and I’m struck by just how often truth can be stranger than fiction.

I am always curious when a book first is published in another country and then is published here if any changes have to be made. Did anything have to be changed in the US publication that maybe Americans might not get?

We changed very little, as the US publishers wanted to keep an English feel to the novel. There were the usual obvious swaps of words like ‘pavement’ for ‘sidewalk’ and that sort of thing, but that was extent of it within the novel.  The biggest change was the title.  In the UK the book is called Burnt Paper Sky, which is a reference to a description in the book of the moment when Ben goes missing and his mother realizes that the sky above is darkening at the edges like burning paper.  The US publisher felt that they would prefer something less opaque so they came up with What She Knew and I was very happy to approve that as I thought it was a terrific title.

Max Macmillan

I read in your bio that not only are you juggling the usual mom schedule while writing a book, but your son is also a cast remember on the BBC TV show, Call the Midwife. How did your family stumble into this opportunity and what has that been like for you as a mom?

‘Stumbled into’ is the right description for our involvement in Call the Midwife, though it has been and remains an amazing experience for my son. A few years ago we were facing a long summer at home and I was looking out for things for my kids to do when a friend emailed with an opportunity for boys to audition for a part in the choir in a local theatre production of the play Coram Boy.  It looked like fun, and my son is musical, so we went along one day, and he took his violin as they said they also wanted to see young violinists. The outcome was that after two auditions, and in spite of almost no drama experience, he was offered one of the main roles!  It was a wonderful surprise and a wonderful experience: months of rehearsal that culminated in a huge Christmas production with performances over a few days in front of thousands.  It was at one of those performances where the director of the first series of Call the Midwife spotted Max, and asked us if he’d like to audition for the role of the doctor’s son, Timothy Turner, in Call the Midwife, as he had a good resemblance to the actor who played the doctor.  Originally, it was just supposed to be a single day of work filming just one scene in the Season Two Christmas Special, so we agreed, as we thought it would be a fantastic experience.  Since then however, Max’s role has grown as the show has, and shooting for the sixth series begins soon, which will be Max’s fifth year of involvement.  He’s in fewer episodes now that he’s older, as we have to limit his availability for shooting to make sure it doesn’t have a negative impact on schoolwork or musical interests, but he still loves every minute of it.

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)

This is such a hard question!  There are so many books I could list, but I’m going to go with Paula by Isabel Allende.  The book tells the true-life story of the author’s daughter’s sudden and unexpected illness, which befalls her when she’s a young adult.  That story is interspersed with the history of their family and the story of Isabel Allende’s own extraordinary life.  It’s a powerful, heart-wrenching account of a mother’s love for her daughter, and one woman’s path through all of the big moments in life: love, motherhood, work, grief, joy and family.  It’s raw and honest, powerful and heart-wrenching, and beautifully told.

You can connect with Gilly Macmillan 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!

DIY Game Day Bar Cart

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

DIY Game Day Bar Cart from MomAdvice.com

Entertaining is my thing. There’s nothing I love more than getting friends and family together for a great time. And with a certain important game day party coming up, I knew just what I wanted to assemble to show off for my guests — a game day bar cart!

You may remember this project from this summer that I created for our outdoor entertaining needs.  Who would even know that this was just a simple tool cart? I’m so excited to show you how I transformed a tool cart into the bar cart of my dreams and I’m showing you some fun and beautiful ways to stock it for the big game.

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog today to make your own DIY Game Day Bar Cart!

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Sundays With Writers: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

It has been awhile since we have featured a YA pick on Sundays With Writers so I am excited to share with you a book that I think offers the same charm that I have appreciated so much, like in Rainbow Rowell’s, Eleanor & Park. I am big on quirky characters and I’m also big on coming-of-age adventures and Mosquitoland now tops my list of incredible YA debuts with this heartfelt story of an oddly charming girl, named Mim,  who runs away from home and takes a Greyhound bus to be reunited with her mother.

I am so excited to be sharing a little behind David Arnold’s journey as he brings the story of Mim to life for us. I really appreciate hearing how he figured out a way to balance his dream of writing with being a new father and his conscious effort to develop a real and true partnership with his literary agent. It’s really inspiring to hear about!

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

I really began to fall in love with all of these well-crafted characters that Arnold created in this charming book. Each character that she encounters comes with his own set of quirky oddities as Mim’s bus ends up making an unexpected detour and she ends up on a road trip with two unlikely friends in search of her mom. I really loved this one!

Can we also talk about that cover? SWOON!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with David Arnold and hear more about his incredible novel, Mosquitoland!

David Arnold

I am always so thrilled to feature debut novelists and Mim and the other characters you created for Mosquitoland completely captured my heart in such a beautiful way in this debut. I understand that you never had intended to go the YA fiction route, but found yourself down that path with this book. How did Mosquitoland end up falling in this genre and do you think you have found your niche moving forward as a writer?

Thank you so much for having me! And yeah, it’s true I never really set out to write “young adult”—but it’s not like I set out to write “adult,” either. As an author, I feel it’s my job to tell whatever story I have in me at the time, and to do so as honestly as possible. As this was my first real serious go at writing a novel, I didn’t focus on what kind of book it would be or where it would be shelved, because I honestly didn’t think it would ever get to that point. I wrote Mosquitoland because I had to, because this voice wasn’t going to leave me alone, but only in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would get published. So yeah, I didn’t necessarily intend to write young adult, but I absolutely could not be happier about it.

The last couple of YA books that I have read have shared about the struggles with mental illness in those teenage years. All the Bright Places & Every Last Word are just two books we have featured on the site recently that speak to this struggle with mental illness. You said in a past interview that there are some very brave writers out there in the YA genre and I also find your own writing to be quite brave too in talking about this topic. Why do you think so many YA writers are sharing about this and did you do any research in order to prepare for writing these scenes with Mim?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but (much like my answer above) I didn’t set out to write a book about mental illness. However, once I realized this would be part of Mim’s story, I did feel a certain burden of responsibility, a duty to get it right. In addition to extensive reading on the front end, I ran the manuscript by a number of mental health professionals. Mental illness looks so different for so many different people, it was important Mim’s experience, her responses and reactions, be plausible. It’s a tough thing writing outside your own experiences—I did everything I could to get this one right, and I can only hope it was enough.

  Greyhound Bus source: wikipedia

Fleshing out a whole Greyhound bus of characters seems like a challenge as a writer and this book overflows with both passengers and new friends that Mim meets along the way. First of all, do you diagram out the bus and all the people on it with a seating chart or do you just dive in and create them as you are writing out the story? Secondly, have you ever taken a Greyhound bus anywhere and did you use any of that experience to help create Mim’s crazy adventures (I’m hoping there is a funny backed-up toilet story for us!)

To answer the first part of your question: no, I never did a seating chart, though I should have! That would have been helpful. I do pretty extensive timelines for my characters, so I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this. But yes, I did take a Greyhound from Nashville to Newark, though this mostly shaped the descriptive language of traveling by bus (sorry to disappoint! All toilets functioned properly. :/), rather than provide any actual fodder for Mim’s experiences.

You are the second musician that also happens to be a book writer to be featured on our Sundays With Writers series this month (we just got to chat with Josh Malerman from The High Strung who also wrote Bird Box this past week.) He spoke very honestly about the difficulties to do both and that now that his book has garnered attention and praise that he is struggling to make the time for writing music. Do you face the same balance struggle now that Mosquitoland has gotten such incredible reviews?

It’s sad, but I haven’t written any new music in probably two years or so. I used to have a home studio where I wrote and recorded music for indie films, commercials, and youth camp videos. That all fell by the wayside when my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby (surprise!). I said goodbye to music (though at the time I would have sworn this would be a temporary goodbye) and became a stay-at-home dad. You can’t really record music with a newborn, but whatever down time I got became writing time. I wrote most of Mosquitoland while he napped or, when he got a little older, watched Sesame Street. Any stay-at-homes out there who are looking for time to write, but also happen to be on a budget, I have a helpful tip: child care at the YMCA is free (with membership), and while they don’t allow you to leave the premises, they say nothing of setting up your laptop in the lobby. A huge portion of Mosquitoland was written at the YMCA. Writers write, under any circumstances. But I digress. Yeah, music has definitely taken a backseat to writing novels. But I’m okay with it, because I want to take every advantage of the opportunities I’m given, and right now, that means pouring everything I have into my books.

Why did you decide to put that age gap between Mim & Beck when you know we wanted them to be together so bad? Darn you, David! Although my mom heart would be pleased if my daughter was reading it…so maybe that is why?

Ha, yeah. There may be something to the parent thing, but the real reason I wrote it that way—and man, I’m going to take some flack for this—is because generally speaking (NOT in every case, you understand) I am fairly indifferent toward love interests in books. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS. Plenty, actually. But I never wanted a love interest for Mim. I mean—it just didn’t feel like part of her story. But when I toyed around with the age gap between Beck and Mim, I found myself intrigued in a way I hadn’t been before. Here’s this guy who is just old enough to make a romantic relationship morally questionable, but just young enough that it almost wouldn’t be. It was a challenging in-between, but also opened up a whole new arena of writing for me.

As a writer, I know as soon as that book hits the world (and often before that), you are already working on the next book project which can be so challenging to push forward. What do you have in store for us next and was it hard to move into something else after spending two years on Mosquitoland?

Book two is the worst. I don’t mean, you know, as a book (at least, I hope not). I mean its execution. In my case, I had a two-book deal, so when Penguin bought Mosquitoland they also bought a second novel based on a one-paragraph synopsis. When the time came to actually write the thing I was paralyzed. As I mentioned before, I wrote Mosquitoland for myself, on my own time, with zero expectations. I was now being asked to write a book, which had already been paid for, on someone else’s time, with many expectations. I’m not complaining by any means—I know how lucky I am to have gotten the opportunity. But I think there’s a romanticized notion that once you get a book deal, you’ve got it made in the shade. Aside from parenting, writing a novel is the most challenging thing I’ve done. This was exponentially true of book two. That said, I absolutely struck gold with my professional writing team—my editor and publisher, my agent, everyone has been incredibly patient and smart and kind. I’ve only written two novels (the second comes out in September), but they are both a product of teamwork.

One thing that really stands out to me about you is that in other interviews you have shared about taking your time to find the right literary agent that gets you and not just going with the first one who gets back with you. I had the same experience as a writer and find that there is something magical when you find someone who just gets you and gets what you write about. Can you speak to that for just a moment about why you really took your time selecting your agent and do you think the time you spent on selecting this partnership really helped with the success of your book?

Absolutely! As professional relationships go, your editor is buying your book; your agent is buying you. If things go well, the writer/agent relationship could last years, even decades. I think there’s this common misconception that just getting an agent is enough. But just like all manuscripts and authors are different, so too are agents. This is part of why form queries are a horrible idea. Each agent has their own personality, and each agent looks for something different on the page, which is why you hear now famous authors talk about their stacks of rejection letters. I spent about two months getting a query letter into shape, then another 4-6 weeks researching agents—who they represented, what they were looking for, even their tones during interviews. Agents can tell when an author has done their homework.

Your cover is just perfection and one of my favorite covers probably ever. How did your team come up with such a great concept and is there anywhere we can purchase a print of it? It’s just fantastic!

THANK YOU. I love it too, and would love to say I had even an ounce of its conception/execution, but alas… I have very limited artistic skills. The cover was designed by the very talented Theresa Evangelista at Penguin, and illustrated by Andrew Fairclough at Kindred Studios. I had some small input toward the end, but they’d already done such a fantastic job there was little for me to say or do.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger

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)

I have “Raise High the Roof Beam” tattooed on my forearm. I am unapologetic in my love of J.D. Salinger, specifically the Glass family novellas. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters really struck a chord in me, and of course, the original poem by Sappho is outstanding.

You can connect with David Arnold on his 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!

My Little Holiday Home Tour

Monday, November 30th, 2015

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

Can you believe that December is here? I am so excited to celebrate another holiday with my family in our home. You know bloggers that do those beautiful home tours? I am always in amazement at their beauty & style and it inspires me so much. Our ’60’s fixer upper has never felt blog tour worthy, but I started to think about the types of things that really appeal to me in my real life. They aren’t always the big and elaborate homes with loads of store-bought accessories or even what one might find Pinterest-worthy, but more simplistic in beauty & a nod towards homemade.

Doable stuff, that’s what I am after. I think that our home accomplishes those two things so well so I wanted to invite you in for a bit!

I hope you like coffee because that’s what we serve around here! Please leave your shoes at the door in our beautiful boot tray that I have left out for you. It’s usually one of the first things people remark on and I found that gem at Target years ago! It’s perfect for the narrowest of hallways like ours!

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(bells: michaels)

Guess what? I will have already known you have arrived because I put bells on our door. Typically, I am more of a wreath girl, but I loved the minimalistic simplicity of these bells. I also happened to get them while they were 60% off  at Michael’s and I had a gift certificate to spend from my birthday so these babies were FREE. Yay! Welcome to our little house- we are awfully proud of it!

Pay no mind to our hideous yard and feel sad for our neighbors who must view it every day. Notice this is not a yard tour because, seriously, we aren’t that amazing at yard work.

Let’s just ignore it for now and move on into our front room where no televisions are allowed, only vinyl.

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(sources: bucky cardboard deer head/yarn pom pom trees tutorial/every day i’m hustlin pillow/knitted leaves centerpiece tutorial/pillows (a daily deal)/curtains (a daily deal)/fabric-lined bookcases tutorial/ thumbtack pumpkin tutorial/charlie brown vinyl)

Here is a wide shot of our front room. I am leaving my mountain of knitted cabled earwarmer projects because I am too lazy to move them.

Now that I think about it, this is probably why I don’t get invited to do blog tours.

Hey, we live here!

We just had this room painted in my favorite Benjamin Moore Gray Owl paint color along with fresh ceilings, new trim, and the window trim painted. This was a much needed update to this tired old house. This is my favorite room in our home now because it houses our record player that was gifted to us by my husband’s father and all the light spills into this room making it warm & cozy in the winter.

Our favorite accessory is our deer (I even included him in our gift guide!). We have way too much fun with this cardboard deer and decided to move the furniture around to really put him on display because Bucky is the star of the show. I loved decking him out for the holidays, although there is rarely a day when Bucky isn’t decked out in some way. In fact, he looks ridiculous now without glasses.

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(sources: love grows best in little houses pillow cover/eddie ross modern mix/vintage home ec trophy (similar)/ pom pom wreath tutorial/ laura ingall’s wilder collection reissued b&n classic (similar)/wuthering heights reissued b&n classic)

I wanted a creative spot to put our keys and found a vintage first place home economics trophy from the 60’s on etsy that I absolutely love for throwing our keys into.  Let’s face it, no one is giving me any awards around here so I have to award myself. Well done, self.  It’s not Christmas-y, but it is one of my favorite things in our house.

My pom pom wreath was so labor intensive that I never put it away and it is now a year-round addition. I find that happens with a lot of homemade goodness around here. When you work that hard on something you really should show it off!

 

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(source: mrs. meyer’s everything/ painted desk with bookshelf tutorial/ painted kitchen table tutorial/painted kitchen cabinets tutorial/ barclay light gray armchairs/yellow metal dining chairs/furry throw/ornament wreath handmade/succulent wreath/ yarn pom pom garland tutorial/chalkboard)

I have found the addition of red to anything green instantly makes it feel like Christmas. I tacked on a few bows to my green wreaths so I don’t have to switch them out for a month and just wired them on with a little floral wire for easy removal. Instant holiday!

Our kitchen is transitioning slowly which can be hard to do for this go-getter, but the funds needed for a complete kitchen overhaul just aren’t there. I wasn’t ready to make a big financial commitment in a new table & chairs so we switched out chairs for now and added a fresh coat of paint to our 13 year-old table to make things feel new again. Those two things have brought a lot of contentment for me in this space.

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(source: owl ornaments/ornaments/bells/plaid ribbon/have yourself a merry little christmas pillow- all from Michael’s! Grab your coupons!)

We divided and conquered our tree this year. The boys went tree shopping and the girls purchased fresh ornaments. Our fifteen year-old ornaments looked REALLY bad last year, but I thought my kids would appreciate the sentiments behind them.  When I “broke the news” that I thought we should get some new ornaments, Emily said, “OH GOOD! You mean we will have Santas for our tree with TWO LEGS?”

So….surprisingly, they did not care one bit.

My husband was the only one who was like, let’s still have a tree with Santas with only one leg, but he got vetoed by the three unsentimental people in the family.

I guess he can have a tree for his office with the Island of Misfit Ornaments and we will keep this shiny tree here for the fancy folks!

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My best friend said I should show you all this because she had never seen anyone do this before. I wire my ribbon garland to the tree limbs. I know it is completely OCD, but I never want it to move once I put it on. You can twist it there or just do what I do which is kind of bubble it up and then cinch it with an ornament hook. It makes it look super PROFESSIONAL. Which I am not.

When I was in high school I worked at a hardware store where we decorated trees every holiday season so I know a lot of things that seem useless like how to make bows and make garland stick and wrap lights around limbs like your life depends on it,  but these useless things definitely comes in handy around the holidays!

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

 

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(source: bar cart tutorial/blanket scarf tutorial/forbidden desert/carcassonne/boss monster/tapple/ticket to ride/alvin & dexter/boss monster extension/love actually/white christmas/annie (don’t forget a treat!)/nightmare before christmas/yarn garland tutorial)

I switch the bar cart out for the season and it doubles as a great entertaining tool when hosting large groups in our home. Although our house is on the smaller size (about 1,500 square feet), we maximize every space with little storage ideas like this for our home. For the winter, it is loaded with our favorite board games, holiday movies, holiday puzzles, and all my vintage records that I collect from Goodwill for just a quarter each!
My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

 

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(source: blanket scarf tutorial/diy painted laminate fireplace/furry throw/copper deer head (michael’s)/winter garland (michael’s)/storage ottoman)

The picture above the mantle distracted from the beautiful copper deer head so I covered it with one of my blanket scarves for the holiday. This little fireplace is probably one of the smartest home investments we have made. This is our sub-basement (our home is a quad level) so it can get chilly down here in my office. This addition not only added warmth, but it added a focal point to this room that wasn’t my work and desk.

The only bad part is feeling motivated to work when I have such a cozy spot to curl up in.

I mean…look at that focal point.

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

(source: yarn pom pom & ornament garland tutorial/yarn-wrapped letters tutorial/sherpa blanket/bed/nightstand/nobody puts baby in a corner pillow (similar)/q&a for couples/ yarn trees/bell wreath (similar))

I photographed my bed with yarn pom pom garland, but I think I pushed too much yarn bombing on my husband so we are back to the minimalist metal frame. He’s actually such a good sport about yarn, but maybe that is because his mom is a knitter.

Basically, he was raised right.

One vow I have always made to myself is that our room will be treated like a sanctuary which means NO CLUTTER. There is nothing relaxing about sleeping in a room that is filled with stuff so this is truly a retreat space for me during the holiday season. I would stay in this room all day if I didn’t have kids and have to work.

My Little Holiday Home Tour from MomAdvice.com

And just because everything feels more magical at night, I wanted to close with this photo. I love the twinkle of Christmas lights!

I don’t know if this home is “blog tour worthy,” but I couldn’t be prouder of our sweet little home if I tried. It is filled with my favorite people which makes it the most special place of all.

And if I want to retreat from those special people even more, you can find me hiding out in my She Shed thanks to the heating unit out there. It’s like my own private getaway.

I hope you liked touring our little house with us! Happy holidays!  xoxo

*This post contains affiliate links. I promise to only recommend what I love!

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Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display from MomAdvice.com

Living in a small home means that decking the halls must be minimal and make sense with the flow of our space. I love making a festive home, but lack the space to execute anything too elaborate. We can just say that helps keep us on budget. Squeezing in a tree is always the December challenge and I always have wanted to display our Christmas cards, but didn’t want to interrupt the flow of our narrow hallways and spaces.

Walmart challenged me to create a Christmas craft and today I wanted to show you how to make a Washi Tape Christmas Tree Card Wall Display that won’t damage your walls, will be something fun for your kids to do when they get the mail each day, and doesn’t cost a lot to create.

Supplies Needed (all available at your local Walmart store)

2 containers of washi tape (found in the scrapbooking aisle)

1 roll of baker’s twine (small rolls also found in the scrapbooking aisle)

2 containers Damage-Free Hanging Hooks (you will need 13 hooks in total)- I used something like this, but they were clear

2 packages (or more- remember you need to hang your cards) mini-clothespins

1-2 strands of bead garland

1 ornament as a tree topper

scissors

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display from MomAdvice.com

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display from MomAdvice.com

Directions

1. Begin by outlining your tree, starting with a short piece on the top and working your way down. A leveler is a great tool that you can use to insure that the tree is straight. I also used one of our holiday cards to help us establish spacing between the rows.  This display has seven rows, but you can make yours with more or less depending on how tall you would like your tree to be. Make sure that you are smoothing and securing that washi tape as you go. The best part about the washi tape is that you can readjust as you need, perfect for someone who is as OCD as I am.

2. On the end of each row except for your top row, add a 3M hook on each end, overlapping just a bit to help anchor that washi tape in place.

3. Loop your bakers twine through each hook and knot it on each end, allowing it to drape just a bit for your cards. Leave some length on each end because we will use this to secure our garland.

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display from MomAdvice.com

4. Cut garland allowing just a bit to hang over each edge. Take the end of the bakers twine and loop it and then wrap it around each one of the hooks until you near the end of your twine. Secure tightly with a mini-clothespin. Repeat on each level except the very top.

5. Create your trunk by creating a square at the base of your tree.

6. Hang an ornament topper with a final 3M hook. Done.

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display from MomAdvice.com

I love that this display is behind our front door so when the kids bring in the mail, they can hang the cards right there. I have a little box of mini clothespins in our command center for quick grabbing and hanging of the cards.

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display

I hope you love this idea as much as I do for the holidays and for small spaces!  Be sure to check out my diy yarn pom-pom & ornament garland, my Anthro-inspired Pom-Pom Wreath, how I painted an adorable laminate fireplace for the holidays, and our list of fun ideas for holiday giving this year. Wishing you and your family the happiest of holiday seasons!

xo

walmart_mom_disclaimer

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How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com

I know everyone is very different about their decorating. In my house, I try to only decorate with items that I have handmade for the holidays and that really mean something to our family.  Our home doesn’t have a lot of storage so I have to be selective about what we carry over from year to year. In a nod to my yarn and knitting habit, this year the house is decorated in pom-poms for the season. I created this easy yarn pom-pom & ornament garland and I got out my yarn pom-pom trees that I created last year to decorate a shelf in our kitchen. Other than that, we keep it fairly simple with fresh greenery that doesn’t take up valuable storage.

Each year I dedicate my Black Friday to one craft that I have always wanted to try. When I first started knitting it was all about finding projects out of my comfort zone. This year though,  I decided to tackle a crafting to-do that I have wanted to do for many, many years…it is a pom-pom wreath for our front door. Just as my autumn burlap wreath carried me through from Halloween to Thanksgiving, this pom-pom wreath in cream has all of the magic of the holiday season, but can be carried over into the spring months due to its neutral tones.

This craft can’t be whipped up quick, but the reward is great. In fact, I smiled today as I pulled up to my front door. Just seeing it and knowing the labor of love that went into creating it makes my heart truly happy. If you are a maker, you know the joy that comes with the completion of a craft project you have always wanted to do and then have done it well. It’s unlike any other feeling.

How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

1- 18″ straw wreath (leave it wrapped in the plastic)

5-6 skeins of Lion Brand Hometown USA Los Angeles Tan Yarn (use this for reference, but I found the cheapest pricing at Walmart, but can also be found on sale at JoAnn Fabrics)

Pins

Large Clover Pom-Pom Maker (we are using the blue one)

Scissors

How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com
How to Make a Pom-Pom Wreath

1. Following the pictures above, create your pom-poms using your Clover Pom-Pom Maker.  You can create these and pin as you go to see how many you end up needing for your wreath.

2. After you make your pom-poms (which will take one million years- don’t say I did not warn you), you can begin pinning them on your wreath form. Make sure that you leave your straw wreath in the plastic. Using pins, pin your pom-poms with two to three pins each and then fluff them. You will want to start adding a pom-pom in the center, then on one side, then on the other side. Continue stacking them this way, next to each other, making sure that the form is covered. No need to make these extremely tight so you can make sure that your pom-poms really fluff up and stand to attention.

3. Continue adding pom-poms, pinning, and fluffing until your entire wreath is covered. Once you hang your wreath, pull on pom-poms to see if everything is secure and add any pins as needed.

 

How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com

 

How to Make a Yarn Pom-Pom Wreath from MomAdvice.com

I hope this wreath makes you as happy as it has made me.  I couldn’t be happier to have tackled this project over my Black Friday weekend and I hope it can brighten a corner in your home too!

 

Happy Holidays,

xo

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