Easy Lunchbox Solutions

July 21st, 2014

Easy Lunchbox Solutions from MomAdvice.com

The back-to-school season is just around the corner and today I wanted to share some easy strategies for packing those lunches this year. I have teamed up with Walmart to share three fun products that you can purchase this year for those lunchboxes: Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread, Frito Lay Chips in their 20-count variety pack, and Danimals Smoothies 12-packs (that just so happen to be worth triple the Box Tops for Education points!). These are all affordable and easy additions for this year’s lunchboxes.

Here are some additional fun ideas for making lunchtime fun for your child this year:

Easy Lunchbox Solutions from MomAdvice.com

Get Organized- As with all things related to back-to-school, getting organized is half the battle. Our family relies on this lunchbox creation station for creating our lunches for the week.  Take advantage of those back-to-school sales and get your lunchbox station stocked with reusable containers and baggies, water bottles, drinks, snacks and chips for the year.

As my children get older, I put more of the responsibility of lunch preparation on them and our lunchbox station really helps when assembling lunches the night before school as well as packing drinks & snacks for our extracurricular activities.

Insert Fun- Every year, I feel a little melancholy about my kids going back to school especially when we have spent so much time together in the summer. This is the perfect time to add a note to let them know how much you love them or add a comic strip and joke to an older child’s lunchbox.

If your school lunch hour is anything like our lunchtime, our kids have very little time to eat. Try to keep the gesture simple so that you can be assured that they were able to tackle their lunch and not just your note.

You can also add fun details like pretty straws, washi tape flags with special messages on them, or a fun treat like Frito Lay’s Chips & a fruity Danimals Smoothie to round out the meal. I love to use Rick Rack Scissors to trim my washi tape to add a fast & easy detail.

  Easy Sushi Sandwich from MomAdvice.com

Try a Sushi Sandwich- Have you ever made a sushi sandwich? These are so fun to create and couldn’t be easier. Grab a loaf of Sara Lee Whole Grain White Bread and your favorite rolling pin. Roll the bread out thinly, but not so thin that the bread will no longer hold together. Add a few slices of your child’s favorite lunch meat and then a cheese stick in their favorite flavor (my kid’s love a swirled stick). Carefully roll this up and then slice in half with a sharp knife. For kids that don’t love sandwiches, these spin on the traditional sandwich is always a hit.

Keep Them Organized Using Their Lunchbox- Trying to keep myself organized is difficult. Keeping my kids organized too? Well, that seems even more impossible. I have found that my children rarely forget their lunches though and this is the perfect spot to clip items that they need to remember for their day. Utilize a binder clip or heavy-duty clothespin and use this spot to jot down notes of activities they need to do for the day, apparel that they need to bring for extracurricular activities, appointments they might need to be picked up for, or forms/permission slips they need to turn in to school. This has been a great system for us and helps remind us all of what needs to happen each day.

I hope you love these ideas for freshening up those lunchbox routines and wishing you easy and sweet transitions back into the swing of the school year!

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DIY Library Tote Bags with Free Printable Designs

July 21st, 2014

From our diy/craft contributor, Sarah Milne.

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

Our summer holidays are in full swing. We haven’t any big trips planned, but a few little adventures here and there, along with days filled with a good balance of relaxation and local outings.

One of our weekly summer activities includes a trip to the library. During the summer, it’s so important to keep those little brains stimulated. Also, my oldest is in a French Immersion school and the library is a great resource for her to brush up on her reading and language, en francais.

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs
A good book bag is essential, especially when my girls seem to collect a giant stack of books each visit. I designed some awesome library totes for each of us to take along using a set of canvas tote bags from Michaels (bought with a coupon, of course), and I’ve prepared a set of printables for all of you to print and iron on your own canvas tote bags! These make for such a great gift for the book lovers in your life – there’s a grown-up quote, a floral heart and an adorable gal or guy fox to choose from.

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

The supplies.

  • Canvas tote bag
  • Ink jet iron on transfer for light fabric
  • Free printable tote bag designs
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Towel
  • Hard surface for ironing

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

The how-to.

  1. Download the free printable book tote designs (links to individual designs below).
  2. Following the instructions on your ink jet iron on transfer pack, print your desired design.
  3. Trim the design around it’s edges.  For the quote, trim each phrase separately.
  4. Diligently iron your canvas totes before applying the transfer to make for the smoothest surface.
  5. Place your transfer in its place and iron.  Follow the instructions on your transfer pack as each varies.  I ironed my transfer repeatedly over the course of 2 minutes.
  6. Let your transfers cool completely before removing the backing.
  7. Off to the library you go!

More ideas.

  • Embellish your totes by adding ribbon ties on the handles or sewing ribbon to the handle.
  • Have your child add their own personal touch by painting or drawing on the back of their totes using fabric paint or markers.
  • Roll up your tote and tie with a ribbon and tag and gift to the book lover in your life!

 

DOWNLOAD free printable tote bag designs.

she reads books quote tote bag design

floral heart tote bag design

gal fox books are cool tote bag design

guy fox books are cool tote bag design

DIY Book Tote with free printable designs

 

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Sundays With Writers: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

July 20th, 2014

Sundays_With_Writers-1_Final

 

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

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

I was unprepared.

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

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

Little Mercies

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

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

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

Heather Gudenkauf

Photo Credit: Morgan Hawthorne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can connect with Heather Gudenkauf  on Facebook or on her website or even on GoodReads!  I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

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It’s the 3 Little Things: World’s Best Toast, No Boys Allowed, & Crimes Against Words

July 18th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

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

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

Three Bakers Whole Grain White

A Better Morning Toast

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

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

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

Amy's Treehouse

My New Treehouse

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

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

Crosley Record Player

Record Player

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

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

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

No boys allowed. Hit the road, Jack!

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

 

Crimes Against Words

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

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

Now it’s your turn, what makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Freebie Friday July 18, 2014

July 18th, 2014

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week on MomAdvice I’m beyond excited to share the transformation of our little shed into a super cool hangout (where you’ll probably find me over the weekend!) and a terrific Sundays With Writers interview with Michelle Gabel, author of A Paris Apartment. We’ve got two fabulous contributor articles – one from Mary Carver about creating memories to make the most of your marriage and the other from Kelly Whalen on different ways to get around for less! On this week’s edition of  It’s the 3 Little Things I’m sharing what’s making me happy and hope you’ll share yours, too!

Our regular feature,  Amy’s Notebook, is of course filled with lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Health & Beauty
Food & Drink
Entertainment
This Week’s Freebie Events: July 19 - 25
19th - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Wiggly-Eyed Glitter Fish, 11 am – 3 pm
19th - Michael’s: Make a Paracord Bracelet, 1 – 4 pm

 

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Amy’s Notebook 07.16.14

July 16th, 2014

Gumball drink stirrers via Studio DIY

Source: Studio DIY

 

DIY gumball drink stirrers- fast & cute.

Make this fun patterned floor with…linoleum!

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

This chocolate chip cookie recipe intrigues me.

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

Penny In Yo Pants. Smartest hack ever.

S'mores dip via Hungry Brownie

Source: Hungry Brownie

 

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

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

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

I feel differently about vinyl floors.

Loving this coffee table made into an upholstered bench.

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

amys_notebook

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

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Cars, Trains, Bikes, and Feet: How to Get Around for Less

July 15th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

Transportation costs are often the second largest expense after our homes. For cars, the cost of ownership goes beyond the sticker price and includes everything from oil changes to replacing tires and wiper blades regularly. Train and bus passes may save you big bucks, but they can also add up to lots of time (especially if you encounter delays). Walking is by far the cheapest way to get around, but it also takes the most time and may not make sense more suburban and rural areas.

In the end it doesn’t matter much how you travel- by train, by car, or by your own two feet -they all cost time and money. So, let’s dig into how to get around for less.

How to Get Around for Less

Location, location, location:

They say it’s true for real estate, but it’s also true when it comes to public transportation. If you live in an area that’s far away from work, school, and activities you will spend more time behind the wheel. If you live somewhere that has decent public transportation you may be able to rely on it for commuting. In suburban areas you may be able to do a combo of using both trains and buses and relying on your car for things like errands. While we can’t always pack up and move it’s worth a second look at what your community offers in terms of transportation.

What to look for: Look for bike routes, walking paths, bus stations, trains, and car sharing options in your local area. Try using Google Maps to create your route and look at what public transportation options are available. While biking and walking directions should be examined closely in street view (as they are in beta in many areas) you may be pleasantly surprised to find new ways to travel.

Do the math: If moving is an option look at what you could save on transportation costs. If it’s not an option consider what you’d save by using public transportation, carpooling, walking, or biking 3 days a week. Challenge yourself to see what you can save. Consider monthly passes for public transportation as well. Many locations offer monthly passes at a steep discount if you’re a regular commuter.

Consider Going Carless

For many families, but especially those in the suburbs or country, a two car way of life is the only way that their family can meet all their obligations. Mom and Dad may work in different directions while the kids need to go to after school programs. Even if one parent stays at home it may be inconvenient to spend an hour or more dropping off and picking up their spouse to work with kids in tow.

What to consider: Look at the family obligations as a whole and see if you could juggle having one car. Consider parking one for a few days or a week as a trial. You could always keep it around if it’s not costing much in insurance money for times when it is needed. This will work especially well for families with an at-home parent who either stays at home or works from home. The office worker in the family can drive in most days, look at public transportation options for a few days a week, or even consider carpooling with a local co-worker.

My one car experience: We were a one car family for several months after my husband’s car needed repairs that cost more than the car was worth. We sold the car, paid down some debt, and worked out our schedules to make one car work. It wasn’t easy but it allowed us some time to save up for our next car purchase, and definitely challenged us to be more thoughtful about our driving. You can read more about it here.

Do the math: A car payment + maintenance + gas can add up to $100s each month. If you have a car that’s paid in full you’re still looking at thousands of dollars in maintenance cost. If you could commit to going car-free or cutting back to one car for a year you could easily save upwards of $3,000-$5,000.

Save on Buying your Next Car:

Buying a car can be an intimidating prospect. Considering that most of us only do it a few times in our lives it’s not something that’s easy to ‘practice.’ The buying process can trick you into thinking you’re saving big money, but the truth is most often the dealer will always do well since it’s a process they go through regularly. But there is good news. The internet makes it easier to find out what people are actually paying for cars (both new and used) and you can use it to your advantage to source the exact car you want at a price you want to pay.

Do the math: While it’s fun to consider snazzy features and brand names that include jaw-dropping sticker prices you should really look at function over form. You want a car that has a low cost of ownership, has the features you need (and okay maybe a few you want), and holds its’ value well.

When it’s time to buy you should put everything you can reasonably afford into the purchase so you have low or no car payments. While the old adage is that used is always better and a new car loses 20-40% of its value the second you drive it off the lot that’s not always the case. For cars that hold their value well you may even find that a newly used car (like 1-2 model years old) will be just as expensive as a brand new car.

Whether you get around on foot, by bike, train, bus or car, you’re sure to have ideas on additional ways to save. Share in the comments.

 

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Apron Full of Giveaways 07.15.14

July 15th, 2014

Blue chevron apron via Etsy

Source: Belle by Jessi,  $25.00

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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Make the Most of Your Marriage by Making Memories

July 14th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

My husband and I have friends who have known each other their entire lives. I’m not even exaggerating. They have a photo of themselves as toddlers, playing together. And sometime in their early childhood, they reportedly were married in someone’s backyard or living room.

{Of course, the photo above is not the famous one of my friends. But it IS their son with my daughter, and I figure I better keep it in a safe place just in case they end up marrying in 20 years or so!}

Though I joke about being a child bride anytime someone asks how long I’ve been married, I didn’t actually meet my husband until my sophomore year of high school. Still, that was obviously a LONG time ago – and means this year marks 15 years of marriage and 20 years of being a couple. We’ve known each other for longer than we didn’t.

All that time together means a lot of things. It means baggage and patterns and finish-your-sentence arguments. But it also means inside jokes and stories and finish-your-sentence-in-a-good-way. We’re working on those bad habits and same old arguments, but I’m also convinced that focusing on the memories we’ve made together can do just as much good for our marriage.

—————

Earlier this year our pastor spoke about improving relationships. He cited a study where new couples and established couples were observed eating dinner. Younger couples talked for the majority of an hour spent together, while couples married for several decades only spoke to each other for a few minutes out of an hour.

A few minutes?! Yikes! I think that goes well beyond “comfortable silence” that can seem like paradise after a day with noisy kids or chatty co-workers.

As I’ve thought about these two things (knowing my husband for 20 years and older couples not having anything to say to each other), I’ve wondered if one will affect the other – and how we can avoid becoming silent senior citizens who are more interested in their meatloaf than their marriage.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

Since my marriage hit a low point a couple years ago, I’ve learned so much – about marriage, about my husband, about myself. I’ve read countless articles and books; we’ve spent hours (and dollars, SIGH) on counseling. I now have a much better grasp on our love languages, on love and respect, on the importance of date nights and being on the same team.

In short, I’ve learned how much WORK marriage is.

And it is. But it’s also a lot of fun!

Or . . . it’s supposed to be.

As a mom, a type A personality, a [recovering] perfectionist, an oldest child, I’m not always very FUN. I’m responsible and organized (sometimes), I get things done, and I take care of people and business. But fun? Not so much.

After 20 years I forget too often how much fun I can have with my husband. But taking time to reminisce every now and then reminds me that one of the most fun parts of my marriage IS the fact that we’ve known each other so long. We’ve grown up together, and our lives are enmeshed in a thousand ways. Our families, our jobs, our homes, our friends – all of it is connected in one way or another.

Every time we visit our hometown or old friends, I remember how it felt back in the day, how much we laughed, how amusing (and not annoying) I found his teasing, how my shoulders didn’t hunch and my jaw didn’t clench with the stress of the everyday. And I remember being in love – young love, early love, no-real-responsibilities love.

As we walk down memory lane – whether literally at his dad’s farm or figuratively with a yearbook, scrapbook or long-forgotten mix CD – something special happens. We smile a bit more, we laugh out loud a lot more, and my heart just feels warmer toward him in general. Reminiscing is good for my relationship.

I don’t think this is restricted to couples who grew up together. No matter how long you’ve been married, you’ve created memories with your husband.

  • That place you met – or had your first date
  • That song you danced to
  • Those photos of your funniest faces or fanciest prom outfits
  • Your favorite movies – and movie quotes
  • The inside joke you can share with just a wink or raised eyebrow
  • Those friends you double dated with back then

Remembering those things together will help you recall the sweetness of young love and also remind you of your heart connection. And it might just help you remember how to be a little more fun!

Of course, as I think about those older couples with nothing to say during dinner, I’m even more determined to keep making those fun memories. I ask him if he’s heard a new song that I think he might enjoy as much as I do, we binge-watch a TV show together, we plan vacations and take last-minute road trips. We pass notes in church (shhh! don’t tell!), and we take those obnoxious-to-everyone-else selfies when we manage to get a date night.

We make memories – so we have something to look back on, no matter how old we get or how many dinners we share.

Reminisce with us today. What’s one of your favorite memories of your husband?

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Sundays With Writers: A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

July 13th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am always looking for a sweet escape in the summer and this month I read a beautiful book called,  “A Paris Apartment,” by Michelle Gable.  I call books that send me hours afterward looking up images and more information on the “true” stories,  my narnia-books.  This is one of those books because after I finished the last pages, I was dying to look up what was real and what had been fictionalized for this book.  I spent hours flipping through photos and reading the backstory on these characters which made my bookworm heart oh-so-happy.

When I finished it and shared the story with my husband, he remarked that we had heard this same story of this apartment in the car one day while listening to NPR.  Of course, I immediately ran to my computer to look up the images of the real Paris apartment and it brought even more depth and life to the story that I had read.
A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

A Paris Apartment is a  fun summer historical fiction escape to Paris alternating between present day and the past.  It centers around, April, a furniture specialist with Sothebys,  & diary entries from the late 1800′s & 1900′s of Marthe de Florian. It weaves a beautiful story around a Paris apartment that had been shuttered for 70 years and the what lies behind the treasures in her apartment, including the relationship between her & the famous painter Giovanni Boldini, told through these diary entries.

As April becomes more & more fascinated with this woman through her diary, she increasingly becomes unsure if she wants to return to her own life back in the states or to continue living her own life in Paris, caught in the beauty of Paris and the escape from her own difficult marriage.

I would say that it is just enough fluff to pack in your beach bag and enough meat to enjoy reading the backstory on Marthe after closing those final pages.  I believe it to be a solid debut novel and I could not wait to talk with Michelle about this book and share it with you all!

I sent off a message to Michelle to see if she might like to join me for Sundays With Writers. She sweetly said that she knew my website and been on it before. I messaged her back and told her that if she was trying to sweet talk me, she succeeded and I was now her number one fan. She honestly replied that she had read my interview with Maggie Shipstead and would be honored to be featured on MomAdvice too.

And then I died and and fainted from the happiness..

I knew though that I must come back to life to share this interview.

I mean, really?!

How can we not love Michelle and race out to get her book right now?

Let’s chat with Michelle about her exciting first novel!

Michelle Gable

Wow, after reading your book I truly felt like I got to visit Paris, which has been a dream of mine! Since this is the setting for your book, did you spend a lot of time there before or while you wrote this novel?

I’m so glad the book felt like an escape! That’s fantastic to hear…thank you!

I’ve been to Paris several times and am headed there this summer, but I did not go specifically to research this book. However, I was in Paris when my agent called to say my editor was interested in acquiring it!

The most impressive part of this book is, what I imagine, the extensive research that went into both April’s profession (as a furniture expert) as well as the intricately woven story of Marthe de Florian & Giovanni Boldini that you have created for your reader. How did you gather this information and how much time does this take as a writer working in the historical fiction genre?

I spent a good four to six months researching, almost as much time as the actual writing of the novel. The shuttered-for-seventy-years apartment in the book really existed, however not much is known about the home or its former residents. So researching the apartment itself was not very time-consuming but I spent months researching the time period, the people who might’ve known the courtesan who once lived there, and the events and issues they would’ve been concerned with.

As you point out, April’s profession also required a ton of research. “Sotheby’s Continental Furniture Expert” is just about as far away from my daily life as you can get! I spent a lot of time looking through Sotheby’s catalogues (an area I became totally lost in) and interviewing people who worked there. It was very gratifying to read a review from an industry insider who said the book “felt like a memoir.”

For the historical sections, I used pretty much everything! The internet, interviews, old newspaper articles, books, including several that were over fifty years out of print. I had great fun reading the gossip columns of the day—most of the performers and incidents in the historical parts of the book really existed. Yes, there was a famous farter!

I’ve always loved research and often have force myself to get started on the book already. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of information because you can always uncover one more fact, learn the history of one more person. Probably only about five percent of what I learn makes it into a book, but I have fun with one hundred percent of it. And often little tidbits I pick up are stored in my “future novel” file.

Marthe is a character that I think people would either love or hate, especially as you learn more and more about her through the book. Could you relate to Marthe in any way especially as she struggles to climb up the social ladder?

Funnily enough, people have responded well to Marthe. It’s Sotheby’s expert April who seems to draw the strongest love/hate reactions! She is a controversial character by design.
As for Marthe, she certainly makes questionable decisions and though I can’t relate to most of her struggles I did find her sections the easiest to write…by far! Her pages almost came out of me fully-formed so I joke that perhaps I was a courtesan in a past life.

I do think her feelings of wanting love and belonging are universal. And as someone approaching 40, I can understand her fear of getting older, even if I don’t need to trade on my looks for my job!

Preserved Paris Apartment

Preserved Paris Apartment

Preserved Paris Apartment

Source: Getty Images

When leafing through the actual photos of the apartment, was there anything that you wish that you could take home with you, like the fictional April (who was gifted the Mickey Mouse) did? I know for me, I would want that stuffed ostrich for a statement piece in our home!

I love this question and have to agree…the ostrich for sure! I adore the Mickey Mouse doll too because he makes for such an interesting juxtaposition against the rest of it. This was the home of someone with considerable wealth. It was filled with antiques that, although quite valuable, are not recognizable to most people. But the Mickey Mouse is identifiable to all, no matter your background.

One of my biggest struggles as a blogger is coming up with an idea before all my friends begin pinning it from someone else on Pinterest. I understand that you had actually come up with the concept of this book before the photos of the real Paris apartment went viral. Were you worried that this might affect sales (positively or negatively) since people were starting to discover the story on their own?

It was so crazy how that happened! My sister emailed me on New Year’s Day with a link to some of the photos. She said “this reminds me of the apartment from your book.” And of course it was the apartment from my book!

By then A Paris Apartment was mostly done, the cover finalized, and the Advanced Reader Copies had already gone to print. I have no idea why it suddenly went viral this year in a way it did not in 2010, which is when I first read about it. Maybe because social media is so much bigger now? Amy Poehler was tweeting about it!

It felt very fortuitous. The only thing that would’ve been better was if it happened closer to my publication date! The news definitely increased attention for my book. I went from getting ones of hits on my website per day to thousands. It also resulted in a flurry of blog posts and stories and self-published books, all a positive for A Paris Apartment. People seem fascinated by the topic, just as I was, and generally when you’re really into something you’re going to read more than one piece on the subject.

So, if anything, the widespread interest helps. In my opinion, a debut author’s biggest threat is obscurity, not other people writing about the same topic!

As a first time novelist, what has surprised you most about the process of publishing your first book? Any words of advice for someone who is on this path towards publishing?

The time requirement for the marketing has been the most unexpected. Blog tours, physical tours…it all chews up so much more time than I ever contemplated. The touring (online and physical) is my favorite because I love connecting real-time with readers, but—wow—I really underestimated that piece of it. It’s been two months since my book came out and I only recently started writing again.

In terms of advice, it’s all about persistence, patience, and faith. You have to be willing to finish this novel, then write the next one, and then the one after that. I swore to myself I’d keep writing and writing until one finally took. The waiting and rejection can be brutal, but it is worth it.

Since your first novel is a historical fiction novel, do you plan to stay within this genre for your next book?

The novel I’m working on is similar in that it has a modern storyline as well as several historical ones. The current book was actually inspired by research I did on the Boldini paintings while writing A Paris Apartment. I’m very excited about it.

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

I recommend Father of the Rain by Lily King to everyone. It is the perfect book. She has a historical novel that came out recently called Euophoria and I can’t wait to read it. That’s another thing that’s fallen to the wayside lately… I’ve gone from reading 2-3 books per week to reading one if I’m lucky!

You can connect with Michelle Gable  on Facebook or on her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

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