Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp

February 1st, 2016

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from MomAdvice.com

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and for many years I have chosen to honor this occasion with a special dish for my man. Battling crowded restaurants is one of the least romantic ways to spend this holiday so instead we choose to eat a special dinner at home.  In years past, I focused my efforts on mastering a restaurant-worthy filet, a skill I never thought I could nail. This year, I wanted to challenge myself to make a great risotto for our feast. Mastering risotto has been on my wish list of cooking skills because it is the dish I always order when dining out. Risotto is pricey for such a humble dish when dining out, but one bite has always made it worth it for me. Risotto is gluten-free comfort food at its finest and a beautiful dish to prepare for your favorite Valentine this year.

Rice Select Arborio Rice

When you head to the grocery store, you are looking for Arborio Rice. This is the exact brand I used and it was perfection. Can I be honest and say it was sitting in my pantry for months because I lost my nerve to make risotto? That is the truth! Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice. It is named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, where it is grown. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy, due to their higher amylopectin starch content. It creates a deliciously starchy and creamy dish that compliments other flavors that are added to it and it is the rice that is most commonly used to create risotto.

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from MomAdvice.com

Have you had risotto before? If you haven’t yet, you are in for a real treat! It has a reputation for being a fussy dish, but really this dish takes just thirty minutes or less. In fact, I remember watching risotto preparation for the first time on a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meal show. What makes risotto so delicious is actually you stirring the dish throughout that thirty minutes to release those starches in the rice that helps to create that creamy comforting flavor. The privilege of being the stirrer is having another hand to do the wine sipping as the dish pulls together. It’s a great reason to volunteer for the job, in my opinion.

For a first risotto these simple flavors are so easy to pull together. The shrimp dressed simply in paprika adds a beautiful smoky flavor on top of these creamy bowls of risotto. I have found that the wine, parmesan cheese, and frozen shrimp are all very affordable at ALDI.  That isn’t sponsored talk, I’m just a true store enthusiast!

For frugal girls like myself, I have even found that the risotto reheats well with the addition of a little stock to bring it back together on the stovetop. If you prefer though you can also transform the leftovers into risotto cakes, which I have found makes a delicious addition on top of a spinach salad!

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp from MomAdvice.com

Parmesan Risotto With Roasted Shrimp
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
Risotto is an elegantly comforting gluten-free dish that is perfect for a slowed down feast or to celebrate any of life's occasions. Be sure to read the tips for ideas on what to do with leftover risotto.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound medium shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, divided
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Rinse the shrimp and pat them very dry. Toss them with olive oil and then the paprika and a generous quantity of salt and pepper. Spread them in a baking dish and return them to the refrigerator.
  2. Warm the broth in a saucepan set over low heat.
  3. In a separate Dutch oven or wide, deep sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until they are soft and beginning to brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir thoroughly to make sure it is coated with the butter and onions. Cook the rice for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring and scraping the pan until the wine has evaporated.
  5. Begin incrementally adding the warm broth one ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of liquid is key to getting the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce. It is important to take your time with this to achieve the creamy texture you are after. If the broth is evaporating very quickly, or the rice is boiling hard, turn the heat down so you just see a gentle simmer. Expect this stage to take about 18 minutes, and to add most of the broth.
  6. Begin tasting the rice after about 13 minutes to gauge how far it has cooked. The risotto is ready when the rice is still a bit chewy, and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge.
  7. In the last 5 minutes of cooking the risotto, put the pan of prepared shrimp in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are pink.
  8. When the risotto is ready, turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and about ½ cup chopped parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Serve immediately, spreading risotto in pasta bowls and topping with shrimp and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

 Recipe Slightly Adapted From The Kitchen.

Do you have a tried and true risotto recipe or technique? Feel free to share it in our comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love- pinky promise! 

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January 2016 Must-Reads

January 29th, 2016

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Oh, I always love sharing the must-reads of the month and it is so exciting to kick off another new year with books.  This month I have quite an array of great books to choose from thanks to a fresh GoodReads yearly reading goal that I am working towards. This year I’m hoping to read 75 books- fingers crossed!  What’s your goal this year?

Here are six great books I read this month that I think you will really enjoy!

 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I feel like I have been emotionally gutted reading this book. I am usually not an emotional reader, but it is impossible to not to have your heart involved in this heartbreaking story of Jude and his inconceivable childhood. What makes these raw moments even slightly bearable is the incredible company that he keeps, a friendship masterfully told, a circle that never gives up on Jude, even when he is most broken.

This book chronicles the journey of four friends from their late teens until their fifties. At the center of it all is Jude St. Francis, their shy and quiet friend. The friends know very little about Jude and his past, but they suspect, just as you begin to, that he may have been abused in his childhood. What they don’t know is the extent to the abuse and how much this abuse has taken from him.

The writing is exquisite- I have never, ever read writing like this in my life. The turn of phrasing that is used, the descriptive language telling stories in a way I have never heard, it is a gorgeously prepared book that had me reading passages aloud over and over again.

That said, I can’t recommend this one for everyone. The brutal and violent passages were so unbearable that I would put the book down and walk away for a bit or find myself holding my breath or weeping uncontrollably for the beautifully broken Jude. They are powerfully written in a way that you feel as though you are in these rooms with these people and you can’t get out. It’s a claustrophobic feeling and it is often stifling.

If you or someone you love has been abused or if you are a highly sensitive person, I don’t think I would recommend this one for you. I am still carrying around some of the abuse scenes and my eyes are still welling up over Jude. In fact, if you ask me about this book, do not be surprised if I just start crying.

Even saying that, it will be, perhaps, one of the best books I will have read in my lifetime and the writing is so brave and so beautifully descriptive that I feel like I will hold these fictional people in my heart forever! I am mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.

10 Out of 5 Stars

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

So many friends have been recommending that I read  The Boston Girl so I added it to my library pile this month!

I really enjoyed this beautiful coming of age story told through Addie Baum’s eyes at the tender age of 80 as she reflects back on her youth through stories she shares with her granddaughter.  In this story, Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and very suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college and it all starts with a book club that she joins.  She wants a career and to find true love.

Bucking many traditional roles and requirements of being a Jewish woman in the early 20th century, Addie challenges these roles with her traditional family, work environment, and in finding love. The chapters were short and sweet and a bit disjointed, just as the stories we hear from our own elders are and I loved the strong focus on friendships that last through the ages.

I have a feeling that if I hadn’t have read Brooklyn the month before (read my review here) that I probably would have enjoyed this one more. The stories felt very similar, but it didn’t take away the beauty in this one as Diamant proves herself again and again to be such a gifted storyteller. I have heard the audiobook is a real treat so it might be a good one to indulge in that way if you enjoy audiobooks.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies (YOU #2)  by Caroline Kepnes

(editor’s note- I received an ARC of this from Netgalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own)

Hidden Bodies is the next installment from Kepnes in the erotic thriller series from the author of, YOU. Joe is one of those characters that just really stands out for me as a reader and Kepnes has done an incredible job fleshing out Joe as he ages and falls in love in this next installment.

In this story, Joe gets duped by a woman that he thinks he has fallen in love with only to discover that she used him to steal from the bookstore he works for. Determined to make her pay, Joe follows her to California and creates a life for himself there until he can kill her. What ends up happening is that Joe finds many hurdles along the way towards the path of revenge and he still is dealing with the skeletons in the closet from the last murder that are still haunting him. What he didn’t bargain for though is finding unconditional love and a family in California and how this changes the entire outlook of a psychopath who has never experienced that.

Once again, a solid read from Kepnes and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series! Read my interview with Caroline as we discuss her first book in our Sundays With Writers series!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

 

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Have you joined our online book club? If you have, you know that this was our first selection. This also happens to be my first novel by Allende. Have you read her? Feel free to make recommendations of other books I should tackle by her.

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at the nursing home she is living in. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

This had a slow start for me, but once I started diving into the love story more of Alma & Ichimei, I could not turn the pages fast enough to see how this story would unfold. Allende crafts some really surprising twists at the end that I did not see coming making this a really solid story for me about love and the sacrifices we make for those we care about.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

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.

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!

I am recommending this one for fans of Eleanor & Park and All the Bright Places. Be sure to read my interview with David Arnold about the story behind this story (and the surprising spot he crafted it!) in our Sundays With Writers series.

4 Out of 5 Stars

A-Manual-For-Cleaning-Women

A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This is my first book of short stories and I really enjoyed it. Although some of the stories were repetitive and the book could have been edited a bit more, this really showcased what a talent Berlin was and what a knack she had for descriptive writing. She passed away in 2004 and was a well-known short story writer. This book was included on many lists this year as one of the best books fo the year.

Many of the short stories were based upon her own life and some of the heavier ones, particularly regarding her struggle with alcoholism, were very hard to read. She wrote very honestly about the challenges in her life as a mother and in her marriages. That said, many though made me laugh from her childhood antics at Catholic school to her observations about her clients as a cleaning woman. This is rich with storytelling and was a delight to read! It would be a good one to put on the bedside table to indulge in a story or two at the end of your day!

4 Out of 5 Stars

January 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year

GoodReads 2016 Books

January 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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Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

January 28th, 2016

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

I am so very ready for a little capsule switch after being in this capsule since October. I held off until after the holidays to get this one off the ground, waiting to see if any of my holiday gifts might make the cut! I think my family is scared to buy me anything though now, other than accessories, since I have become so choosy about my clothes! There are only a handful of switches though from my fall capsule because I did such a great job planning that one that there is very little that needs to be added or taken away other than my really heavy sweaters!

What is a Fashion Capsule & Why Should You Do One?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing which is designed using only interchangeable items, in order to maximize the number of outfits which can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be “key” or “staple” items in coordinating colors.

The reason I think capsule wardrobes are worth exploring is that you realize when you have LESS in your closet you can do MORE with what you have. My closet used to be bursting at the seams with clothes and, what I like to call, one-trick-pony apparel. I felt put together after tearing up my room and trying to build outfits in the process, but it took me so long to get ready in the mornings and I never felt like I had a truly seamless style. Narrowing my wardrobe down to 33 items as outlined in Project 333 was just what I needed to make mornings less stressful and finding a real rhythm to getting dressed for the day. It’s been a beautiful shift in my life and I don’t think I could ever go back to the old ways of bursting closets and pointless purchases.

I tend to be a pretty colorful person so you will find color mixed in with basics in my wardrobe. Monochromatic isn’t my thing, but can be yours if you are trying to simplify your wardrobe. Many people begin their capsule experience very monochromatic and then find they are comfortable branching out into color after figuring out how to make everything work together.

What Makes My Capsule Wardrobe Unique?

I am committed to purchasing the majority of my wardrobe gently used. You will find that the majority of the items have been purchased this year using my thredUP credit (I get $10 and you get $10 to spend my referral) or I have owned for years. Thanks to pointing out this resource, I was able to get the majority of my gently used wardrobe for free. Be sure to visit my tips this year for purchasing your fashion capsule wardrobe second hand.  It was a prompting really through this film (watched on Netflix) that has solidified my commitment to buying used and investing wisely. Watch it and tell me if it doesn’t make you want to do better with fashion purchases!

My biggest investment is always tailoring my items to fit me. I am a petite girl and pants need hemmed, waistlines nipped, and shoulders shifted. Although this can get a little pricey at times, it is 100% why I love the clothes I wear! I feel really confident in them because of these alterations.

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

Why My Capsule Shouldn’t Be YOUR Capsule

I show you my capsule mainly as some sort of accountability, but not necessarily for you to copy it. My style is probably not your style and that is okay. Your capsule can look nothing like my capsule.  Your body shape could be different from mine and none of these cuts of clothing or ideas will work for you.  When creating your capsule, create it around what you feel most confident in. I suggest peeking in your closet and selecting what makes you feel beautiful and start your planning around those pieces. That’s been the best place to start for me.

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

What Trends Did You Embrace for Your Winter 2016 Wardrobe?

I can’t omit trends altogether so once I have my timeless pieces in place, I try to add a few trends that I love this year.

I am sticking with the plaid trend and added in a little faux leather with a faux leather skirt I had been eyeing. As time goes by, I realize how smart it is just to just stick to the classics for ease and for longevity from capsule to capsule.

I’m adding in just a couple of spring colored clothing items since I will be wearing this until April. I only have 29 items this time so I can switch 3 (as outlined in the rules) and possibly add a couple later, if needed as the weather warms up! Be flexible with yourself- there is no need for it to be miserable! 

I add daily trends to my Fashion Capsule Pinterest Board to help keep me inspired with styling and ways to use the key pieces in my wardrobe.

Do You Count Accessories As Your 33 Items?

One question I get asked is if I count accessories and shoes as my items. I do not, but feel free to do that if you like. For me a scarf, belt, or great jewelry really do add to the enjoyment and experience of my wardrobe. I am, however, more selective about the accessories I am choosing and really making sure that they are worth the space in my drawers and the money that is spent.

A Modified Project 333

This project was inspired by Project 333, but I am making a few of my own rules for my own personal challenge.

33 Piece Wardrobe- The wardrobe can have 33 pieces  in it. This wardrobe does not include pajamas, workout gear, undergarments, or camisoles (something that is a necessity for me).  The capsule is made from items I already own, some purchased to be workhorses in my wardrobe  All of the items I am not wearing and still love are being tucked in storage for the next fashion capsule.  I have created a Fashion Capsule Pinterest Board to help inspire me with the pieces I am using.

Choose 3 More for Rotating- You may choose three additional items and put them aside in your closet. You may rotate these items in during the next three months, but three other items have to be rotated out. Consider donating those items.

No Shoe Shopping- I am not including my shoes for this challenge, but I am challenging myself to not buy any more shoes and use what I already have.

One Steal Per Month- Things and events come up and I am allowing myself one steal per month from items that I already own. I may find I don’t need this, but I think it might help with the shopping bug.

No Shopping For Clothing- I will wear the clothes I have selected and not shop for three months and only shop two weeks prior to the next capsule for items for the next season if needed. This is going to require a lot of discipline for me and I am planning to unsubscribe to shopping newsletters and avoid the shops as much as possible.

This month’s Project 333 Wardrobe is listed below. Feel free to join our MomAdvice Hangout for weekly wardrobe inspiration or give me a follow on Instagram! I piece outfits together on my floor and try not to subject you to too many of my awful selfies unless I can’t figure out how to make it work without me in it!

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

* 1. J. Crew Tan Cardigan (gently used, thredUP)

2. Anthropologie Angels of the North Mustard Yellow Knitted Cardigan Sweater (gently used, thredUP)

3. J. Crew Chambray Shirt (gently used, thredUP)

4. White House Black Market Pinstriped Shirt (gently used, thredUP)

5. Cynthia Rowley Black & White Striped T-Shirt (TJ Maxx)

* 6. J. Crew Factory Flannel Shirt (J. Crew Factory)

7. White House Black Market Polka Dotted Silk Shirt (gently used,thredUP)

8. White House Black Market Black Shirt (gently used,thredUP)

* 9. Anthropologie Black & White Striped Tank (gently used, thredUP)

10. Don’t Pull Me Down Mustard Sweater (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

11. Ivory Cowl Neck Sweatshirt (TJ Maxx)

12. J. Crew Red & Black Buffalo Checked Tunic (gently used thredUP)

13. Anthropologie Peacock Design Knitted Top (gently used, thredUP)

14. J. Crew Gray Wool Sweater (gently used, thredUP)

15. J. Crew Coral Tee (gently used, thredUP)

16. Mystree Peplum Jacket (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

* 17. Faux Leather Midi Skirt (purchased Forever 21)

18. Willi Smith Black Tunic (TJ Maxx)

19. fei Chambray Shirt Dress (gently used, thredUP)

20. Anthropologie Daughters of Liberation Utility Jacket (gently used,thredUP)

21. Madewell Gray Jumper (gently used, thredUP)

22. Anthropologie Maeve Red A-Line Skirt (Anthropologie)

23. Matilda Jane Willow Tree Rider Pants (purchase from Amanda Petit, Matilda Jane Independent Trunk Keeper)

24.  Old Navy Vintage T-Shirt (Old Navy)

25. Anthropologie Sweater Dress Jumper (gently used, thredUP)

26. Black Pants With Faux Leather Track Stripe (Loft)

27. Dark Wash Skinny 7 Jeans (Flourish Boutique)

28. Anthropologie Navy & Red Striped Shirt (gently used, thredUP)

29. Cynthia Rowley White T-Shirt (TJ Maxx)

(items with an asterisk are new to the capsule)

Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project from MomAdvice.com

Browse My Capsules & Wardrobe Planning Advice

Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Winter 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Summer 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Creating the Perfect Capsule Wardrobe (that really works!)

How to Shop Secondhand For Your Capsule Wardrobe

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

25 Best Wardrobe Planning Printables

Coupons That Might Help If You Are Making a Capsule Too

Get $10 for your first thredUP purchase (this is my favorite online consignment resource)

Stitch Fix can be a fun resource for shopping for smart basic wardrobe pieces if a stylist might benefit you!

eShakti $40 off your first order!- Perfect for petite or tall girls because you can customize all their clothing to your own measurements!

Don’t forget to clean out your closet! Here is a list of resources to help you make money while organizing this corner! Happy wardrobe planning!

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

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Amy’s Notebook 01.27.16

January 27th, 2016

Kitchen trends via Style by Emily Henderson

Source: Style By Emily Henderson

 

13 kitchen trends that are stronger than ever- noted.

9 most-read books in American prisons- there are some surprising picks on here.

Tips for finishing a basement on a budget.

I love the simple things in life.

How to turn your kid into a reader.

Glazed donuts via A Subtle Revelry

Source: A Subtle Revelry

 

Colorful doughnut glazes. So pretty!

I never knew about these hidden Instagram features!

I love this honest look at decorating mistakes.

I’m working on this.

I am mom. Hear me roar.

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

 

How to Create Vignettes in Decorating

January 26th, 2016

This is a guest post from Mo Breden, a local designer who stages the most fun spaces. I asked if she would share some of her knowledge with us on how to easily create some spaces that make us happy in our own homes.  How lucky are we to peek into some of their beautiful spaces? I hope you love this as much as I do! xo

affordable-vignette-ideas

The holidays are over and your home looks as though the Grinch visited. The tinsel, garland, and lights are tucked away for next winter, and your home has an empty and cold feeling. The pages of home magazines entice you with their perfectly decorated rooms. How can you get your space to look like that on a budget?

The answer is in a fancy word with a simple concept. – vignette.

A vignette (pronounced: /vinˈyet/) is a decorative design which creates a pretty picture by using an arrangement of several objects. In a nutshell, you’ve got to accessorize with the right pieces and in the right ways.

All you need to create a vignette is a flat surface. They come in all shapes and sizes; mantles, entryway tables, nightstands, end tables, desks, ottoman trays etc. Vignettes can be the focal point of a room and make a big statement or they can be as simple as placing a few beautiful pieces together on a side table.

Follow our DO and DON’T tips below and you’ll be vignette-ing your home in no time:

vignette-cocktail table

DO: Add some of your favorite pieces!

A vase you received for your wedding, a hand-me-down lamp or picture frame of you and your girlfriends. You’re the one walking by it every day so use the things you love. Just because the magazine showed a series of accessories that are pretty all together, add some things that have a story and add character to your spaces.

DON’T: Overcrowd your vignette to the point it loses its function.

Remember to leave room for that coffee cup and spot for your book.

vignette-mantle

DO: Create height!

Whether it’s a vase with sticks in it or a slender buffet lamp, add something that is taller than your other accessories to create pretty visual layers. For added balance use 3’s and 5’s. Either use 3 large accessories/objects in your vignette or bump it put to 5 items. Working with these odd numbers helps in creating balance and offsets the height of your tallest pieces.

DON’T: Break the bank on accessories.

Although you may not think you have an eye for pulling it all together without starting from scratch, sometimes all it takes is one inspiring piece! Grab that gold sunburst accessory from Target and place it on top of an old stack of books, a wooden box or a glass vase. Re-invent some things you already have and your wallet will be thanking you too.

vignette- long buffet

DO: Include light!

A lamp is a great thing to add to your vignette but there are ways to use natural light too. Hang a mirror, use a mirrored tray or add in a mercury glass vase to reflect the natural light and add some sparkle.

DON’T: Forget to add in some unexpected color.

Using colorful pieces adds flare to your vignette and grabs your eye as you pass by. Fresh flowers are another way to bring beauty and color in you your space.

vignette- long buffet

DO: Use textures.

One of our favorite things to do is mix textures into our designs! Mixing woods, silvers, golds, blacks and whites adds a really cool look. Find an old tin box and place it on a white washed night stand, then add in a chrome sphere or a glass table lamp.

DON’T: Expect perfection on your first try.

Whenever we create a vignette we bring options to choose from. You may have to try a few different items to find that perfect piece!

Now you have the tools to kick out the Grinch, and make your home the warm, beautiful space
you desire. Happy Vignette-ing!

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe

January 25th, 2016

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

I have tried and tried and tried to create a delicious gluten-free meatloaf, but have failed on countless occasions. We have had hard-as-a-rock meatloaves and runny meatloaves and gummy meatloaves and dense meatloaves, but nothing has ever been delicious…until now.

When all else fails (oatmeal, gluten-free breadcrumbs, no breadcrumbs at all,  fresh gluten-free breadcrumbs, etc..), you just have to go to the experts. To me, there is no better resource than America’s Test Kitchen and The How Can It Be Gluten-Free cookbook had a meatloaf recipe in it that had a really unusual binding agent that yields a fluffy and delicious meatloaf without the gluten. You know what makes it even better? It is just a standard ingredient you would find at a standard grocery store that you might even have in your pantry.  You mean, no fancy pants gluten-free ingredients that cost an arm and a leg? Well, heck, sign me up!

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

If you don’t have meatloaf pan like this, they offer an affordable alternative to create a loaf that isn’t swimming in grease. Simply place a standard cooling rack on top of your cookie sheet and then tear pieces of foil, roughly the size of a loaf pan) to lay on top of your cooling rack. Spray with cooking spray and then use a skewer to poke holes to drain the grease from the loaf. All the grease then goes to the cooking sheet, helping the loaf to hold its shape.

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

Once you have shaped your meatloaf, you can cover it in half the sauce you have made. This sauce is sweet and I have discovered my family prefers just a can of tomato sauce on top with a little shake of garlic salt for a more Italian flavoring.  You can do either, but I definitely found that this sweet sauce hugged and set well on this meatloaf, even when reheated later for delicious meatloaf sandwiches.

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

This meatloaf is so light and who would ever have guessed that instant mashed potatoes is what keeps it so light and fluffy? It’s an incredible loaf that holds its shape and is full of flavor thanks to the delicious sauce that compliments this fluffy loaf perfectly. We served this dish with a big helping of oven roasted brussels sprouts, a side that has grown to be a family favorite!

I hope you will enjoy this recipe in your house as much as we had and now that I know what a great binder instant mashed potatoes are, this will be a pantry staple for our family! Thank you, America’s Test Kitchen, for making our family so darn happy!

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe from MomAdvice.com

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Recipe
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
A perfectly light meatloaf with the most surprising binding agent! Try substituting the sweet sauce with tomato sauce for an Italian kick!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅓ cup potato flakes
  • ⅓ cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound (85 percent lean) ground beef
Instructions
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Fold heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a 9x5-inch rectangle. Center foil on a wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Poke holes in the foil with a skewer (about ½ inch apart). Spray foil with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Stir ketchup, sugar and vinegar together in a bowl and set aside. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk in eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Stir in potato flakes and parsley. Add pork and knead with hands until thoroughly combined. Add beef and continue to knead until uniform.
  4. Transfer meat mixture to foil rectangle and shape into 9x5-inch loaf. Brush half of ketchup mixture over meatloaf. Bake meatloaf in preheated oven 40 minutes.
  5. Brush meatloaf with remaining ketchup mixture and continue to bake until center of loaf registers 160°F, 30 to 35 minutes. Let meatloaf cool 15 minutes before slicing.

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

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Sundays With Writers: Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

January 24th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

Happy Sunday, my friends! What a joy it is to share another debut author with you today. As I’ve said before, debut authors are among a favorite of mine because I love the joy of discovery of finding someone new to add to my favorites.  Today Sejal Badani is joining me for a virtual coffee to share more about her beautiful book, Trail of Broken Wings. I discovered this book through her GoodReads Choice Award Nomination for Best Fiction and dove into it over our holiday break. After reading more on Sejal’s backstory, I just knew she would be such an incredible author to feature here for our interview series.

Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

 

In Trail of Broken Wings, domestic abuse is fully brought to light in this account of one family and the man who abused them. As he lays in a coma, each of the sisters and the wife replay the events that happened through their traumatic years and the reader uncovers the dark secrets that they each have carried. 

This one delved a lot into the Indian culture and the traditional roles of women in their culture, many of which I was not aware of! It would make for a compelling book club discussion and did not shy away from some of the demons people battle when they have been abused.

The book had a great twist at the end that really added some depth to one of the character’s storylines. Raw and honest, it would be impossible to read and not feel a new awareness and sadness for those abused.

Editor’s Note: At this time as I write this, the Kindle version is listed for a mere $2.00

I included this book in our November/December Must-Reads list!

Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Sejal about her incredible debut novel!

Sejal Badani

I have read in past interviews that you have said that you felt compelled to write Trail of Broken Wings after witnessing and surviving your own childhood abuse. What was that process like writing this story and how hard was it to put such a deeply personal journey out in the world?

This story was one I searched for as a young adult and never found. I mentioned it to my good friend and editor Benee who really got behind the story. The characters’ individual stories were challenging to tell but important. They were three very strong women who had to discover themselves outside the framework of their childhood. Though the events in the story are fictional, the emotions and struggles of the characters felt very familiar to me either because of my research or own experience. When the story was finished, I was relieved but also really pleased that the characters’ stories were honest and inspiring.

Trail of Broken Wings

I’d love to quote a passage from your story… “Everyone must a reach a point in their life when they stop running. When it is easier to stand still than to keep being chased, even if the person chasing you is only in your head.” At what point did you stop running and change the story of your own life?

Though my mom didn’t have a lot of choices when we were growing up, she made it make very clear to us that we should carve out a very different path for our future. Because of her, my sisters and I were very fortunate to believe in ourselves and love. Law school was pivotal in my life because it gave me a better understanding of options available to people in similar situations. Later, in my research for the book, I learned about so many incredible individuals who had to make the decision to stop running. The journeys they took are truly inspiring. This quote is really a testament to their strength and perseverance.

The issues that each of the daughters struggle with in the aftershock of abuse were all written in such a raw and beautiful way, unflinching from many things that most books shy away from. Have you heard from any of your readers who may have suffered these same traumatic moments and how much they could relate to this family’s story and the raw honesty that you wrote it?

I have and every single time I am so touched and amazed by the human spirit. Countless number of readers have reached out to tell me that the book resonated with their own childhoods or those of someone they love. Their honesty and willingness to share their story is incredibly humbling and I’m very grateful. I’ve also had a number of readers tell me this book encouraged them to start their own healing process – that it gave them hope for their future. When I hear that I can’t even describe what it means to me. To know that it has helped even one person is really an extraordinary feeling.

Trail of Broken Wings

I know this may seem a silly question, but was there a reason you chose Brent as the name of the father, which feels so different than the other Indian character names in the book? Do you think that readers sympathize with him since he too suffered as a victim of racism? Do you sympathize with him?

It’s actually a question I get quite a bit so not silly at all.  I consciously chose Brent because I wanted readers to know that there are no racial or socio-economic limitations on abuse. Though the story is set in an Indian-American home, it was very important to me that the characters be seen as universal. Brent is really a composite character from my research. I think his character chose to take the actions he did without thought to the consequences or effects. As an author, I wanted to give background as to why he made those choices but I’m not sure it can excuse them.

Trail of Broken Wings has garnered so many wonderful reviews and has been so well-received, even scoring a GoodReads Choice Award Nomination this year! What has that experience been like with a debut novel and what has surprised you most about this process?

I’ve been so honored and humbled. It’s really been an amazing journey. I’m incredibly grateful that readers have connected with the story and the messages in the book. I’ve been a writer for a number of years and have been on the other end of the spectrum with more rejections than I care to count. So the success of Trail of Broken Wings has been very welcome. From my editor, agent, publishing house and publicist, Trail of Broken Wings has been supported and championed. My biggest surprise is how smooth it has all been. I credit that to the people mentioned above and all the amazing readers and bloggers like yourself who have featured the book. Trail of Broken Wings wouldn’t be where it is without all of you and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

You carved out an excellent twist at the end (which I do not want to give away). Did you always see this as the surprise you wanted to reveal to your readers or was it something that developed once you started writing it?

It was something I had planned for the story from the beginning. Without giving too much away I knew the mother had to discover her own strength. She had endured so much but when her daughter left I think that really made her see what her life had become. She was foremost a mother and just wanted her daughter to come home. To me, the truly heroic moment was when she admitted what she had done. She chanced her own freedom for that of her daughter’s and I think that’s when Sonya finally understood how much her mother really loved her. It finally allowed Sonya to love herself and open her heart to a normal life.

Are you working on your next book? Can you tell us anything about what you might have in store for us next?

I’m actually working on two novels simultaneously right now. One is a novel of a young attorney who journeys to India to discover the tragic story of her grandmother’s love and loss with a member of the British Raj during the 1940’s. The other is a young adult dystopian novel that tackles the issues of choice, freedom and finding your true self in an unrecognizable world.

 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)

It’s so hard to pick one! I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell and just finished his book David and Goliath so I’m going to go with that. It’s very insightful and made me think differently about the obstacles we face in life and how overcoming them often helps us develop our greatest strengths. I’m also a huge admirer of J.K. Rowling so I have to throw that in there.

You can connect with Sejal Badani 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!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Magic, Pet Hair Free, & Card Game Hilarity

January 22nd, 2016

birthday

Well, hello there! I hope you guys are having another wonderful week! It has been a cold one in Indiana so the fireplace has been going, the cocoa has been flowing, and I have been curled up with a good stack of books this week.  I’m really looking forward to diving into this one this weekend. Her books are always such a special treat and I’m hoping I can snag the author for an interview for the Sundays With Writers series too- fingers crossed!

I also started Parks & Recreation over on Netflix. Is it okay to admit that I have never seen a single episode of this show? I have been laughing hysterically at this one and so happy I waited so I can binge on them all with my husband. It’s been our new favorite evening routine at our house!

weekly-chore-chart

I promised our newsletter subscribers we would continue to build on our home management binder and today you will be receiving a brand new weekly chore chart to add to your binders. If you haven’t used one before, here is a great tutorial on how to make this organizational tool work for you! Be sure to check your email for our newsletter!

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Here are 3 other little things that are bringing me joy this week! 

Just Add Magic

Just Add Magic

We just finished the first season of the Great British Baking Show over here, which was such a delightful little cooking show to watch with my daughter. We don’t use our Prime membership as much as we could so we have been trying to watch more shows through that since we pay for those member perks.

Just Add Magic is our next obsession together and it is an adorable show for tweens that is fun and family-friendly and something that is definitely worth indulging in with your Prime membership.  Kelly Quinn and her two best friends, Darbie and Hannah, stumble upon her grandmother’s mysterious cookbook in the attic and discover some far from ordinary recipes. Part mystery with just the right amount of spookiness, this show is a great one to watch with your daughter as you try to unravel where this cookbook came from and what potential dangers cooking from the book unlocks.

It reminds me of the evenings I spent with my own family on Friday nights watching TGI Fridays and getting a few life lessons in each episode. When Kelly’s mom has a spell cast on her that makes her only tell the truth, she admits that she feels like her daughter ditches her for her friends. That led to such a great talk with my girl about how special our time together is and even how moms feel left out of their lives sometimes. It’s just been such good stuff for conversation and for snuggling.

This first season is exclusively available on Amazon Prime and I hope you love it as much as we do!

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser

Pet hair can be a bit problematic around here especially when it comes to my couches and chairs. I decided to get this Bissell Pet Hair Eraser and it is THE BEST investment for tidying up your upholstery. It has a rubber nozzle head for gathering and suctioning the pet hair off your your surfaces and then another attachment that can be used on hard surfaces, like cleaning up a food or litter spill.

The first time I used it on my couch, I suctioned the equivalent of a small cat off my furniture. Who knew? If you are battling pet hair too, it’s a fantastic investment and only $24.99!

Exploding Kittens Card Game

Exploding Kittens

Have you heard of the Exploding Kittens card game? I happened to find this game when searching for something else on Amazon and it sounded like a game that my kids would love. What I didn’t realize was how much WE would love it and how often we would be playing it…even after those kids went to bed.

Exploding Kittens is a highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette. Players take turns drawing cards until someone draws an exploding kitten and loses the game. The deck is made up of cards that let you avoid exploding by peeking at cards before you draw, forcing your opponent to draw multiple cards, or shuffling the deck.

The game gets more and more intense with each card you draw because fewer cards left in the deck means a greater chance of drawing the kitten and exploding in a fiery ball of feline hyperbole.

This game was created by Elan Lee (Xbox, ARGs), Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal), and Shane Small (Xbox, Marvel).  It’s smartly designed, a bit of family-friendly potty humor, and a blast with kids (or with a couple glasses of wine when your children retire for the night!).  They also sell an adult version, if that’s your thing. I’m talking to you Cards Against Humanity crazies!
I can’t recommend this one enough and this can be played with up to five people and is intended for ages 7 and up. The best part? It should only take you about two minutes to catch on and costs a mere $20.
*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

 

Our First Community Reads Day

January 21st, 2016

Community (1)

Keeping up with the Books section of our site and the author interviews for our Sundays With Writers is fun and challenging. I feel so honored to share about great books with you. The pacing to keep things fresh is challenging for a single reader though!  With that in mind, today we kick off a new monthly feature called Community Reads. If you are a part of our MomAdvice Hangout Group, each month I will ask about what you are reading and ask for a short blurb on a book.  You can also email books you are loving to me to amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I can also add them to our monthly lists.

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

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Read It: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Recommended by: Kristen (who also happens to be a librarian- DREAM JOB!)

Maud is an elderly widow with dementia. Her daughter is getting fed up with Maud’s insistence on finding her friend Elizabeth. The whole thing reminds Maud of something else- when she was a child, her beloved sister also disappeared suddenly. Maud’s unreliable narration fascinated me in a similar way to The Girl on a Train or the film Memento.”

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Read It: In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Recommended by: Rhonda

This was an awesome thriller that kept me turning the pages! I can usually figure things out but this had a few good twists!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Read It: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Recommended by: Ana

This was a quick read and I really enjoyed it. If you love food and good writing, you won’t be disappointed.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Read It: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Recommended by: Beth

I just read Elizabeth Strout’s MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON. I loved it. It is a simple but deep story about a woman and her relationship with her family.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

A Pocket Full of Shells by Jean Reinhardt

 

Read It: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom & A Pocket Full of Shells by Jean Reinhardt

Recommended by: Mimi

I enjoyed The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. It’s about a young girl from Ireland who was stolen and forced into slavery. It is an older novel, 2010, but worth reading.

I also read the first of a series, A Pocket Full of Shells by Jean Reinhardt. It’s the story of an Irish family that survived the great hunger. I am Irish and have been on an Irish novel reading jag for a few years now.

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Read It: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Recommended By: Elly

The Orpheus Clock by Simon Goodman

Read It: The Orpheus Clock by Simon Goodman

Recommended by: Alice

Goodman seeks restitution for his Jewish family’s stolen heirlooms during World War II. The first half of the book is the story of the his great-grandparents and grandparents who collected the priceless pieces, many of whom lost their lives during the Holocaust. The second half of the book is the story of finding these lost pieces and restoring them to his family. Because of the first half, the reader is invested in his family and cheers Goodman on to vindicate them in this small way.

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

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

The Virtual Librarian Experience: Easy to Digest Books For Busy Moms

January 21st, 2016

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

Moms get busy and reading time ends up getting put on the backburner as so many of us struggle to keep with our kids, running a home, and jobs. I remember when I came to the revelation just a few years ago that I missed my favorite hobby and made a resolution to make reading a priority again in my life. I am so glad I renewed my commitment to get reading again and I am hoping that this series is inspiring to you so that you can find some new books for your stack. My hope is one of these readers sounds just like you and you will want to try out a few of the recommendations of your own.

If you would like me to pick some books for you, just fill out this quick questionnaire and submit it. I will send you an email when your post is live to let you know my favorite picks for you! You can also leave comments on books you would recommend for this reader too in our comment section below!

reader-profile

Reader Profile

Name?

AnneMarie

What is Your Favorite Book Genre?

Fiction

Who Are Your Favorite Authors?

Any who write well.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

What is Your Favorite Book of All-Time? 

Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

What Do You Look for In a Book?

It must be fast-paced. 

Anything else I should know?

Right now, easier/quicker engrossing reads are what I am looking for! Honestly, I have been reading lots of YA books lately, but “grown-up” books are good, too!

The MomAdviceVirtual Librarian (2)

The Virtual Librarian Selects…

Easy and engrossing books are something many people look for especially in these dreary winter months when you need a quick pick-me-up. I love YA books and I also love to read lighter books in between heavier selections so I don’t get too bogged down with my reading. The first recommendation I would make for someone like AnneMarie is that she explore the world of audiobooks. Since I know that she happens to be a local, my favorite resource right now for audiobooks is through hoopla which is connected with our library. You can check up to ten out over the course of a month and this can be a great way to get in a easy read rather effortlessly between running kids and doing household chores! 

I love YA, but thought it might be fun to pick some books that are out of that genre, but easily as engrossing!

Here are my top selections for AnneMarie based on her reading profile:

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

I know that AnneMarie will love this deliciously fast-paced chick-lit book because I count it among my absolute favorites in this genre. I admit that the premise sounds a little cheesy, but once I really fell in love with this one and think she will too.

Anne Blythe seems to have everything. She has sold her first book, has a fabulous life, and fabulous friends. When it comes to being lucky in love though, she can’t seem to ever find the right guy. novel. After her best friend announces her engagement and her latest relationship ends, she decides to take a risk and contact a dating service in hopes of finding the perfect match. Upon her first appointment with the dating service though, she realizes that it is not a dating service at all, but a matchmaking service for an arranged marriage.

Once she starts the process, there is no turning back and Anne finds herself traveling to a Mexican resort where she will meet and marry (all in the same weekend) her “perfect,” guy.

This book has great twists and turns that you will really enjoy and can be devoured in a single day making it a fantastic reading escape for AnneMarie! 

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors that I always recommend when people are looking for something quick and a book that is easy to fall into. Necessary Lies is the first historical fiction book I have read by her and one of her meatier novels! 

Necessary Lies is one of those books you just want to share with a book club because it lends itself to such a great discussion on what role our government should play (if any)  in our lives when they happen to be the system our families need to rely on in financial struggles. I know AnneMarie loves a good political discussion so that is why I am recommending it for her. 

Chamberlain weaves a fictional story about the very real North Carolina’s Eugenics Sterilization Program that was in effect from 1929 to 1975. In this story, 15-year-old Ivy Hart, her mentally slow 17-year-old sister, and young nephew “Baby” William all live with their grandmother who is in failing health. Jane Forrester becomes Ivy’s family’s social worker and she encounters the state program that seeks to sterilize “mental defectives,” among others with supposedly undesirable characteristics. Through every choice she makes from then on, Jane triggers an inescapable series of events that thrusts everything either she or Ivy ever held to be true into a harsh light, binding them together in ways they do not immediately comprehend or appreciate.

Although I felt this one had a slower build for me, it was worth powering through for the incredible discussion and the endearing characters that are told through this story.  I just can’t stop thinking about this one! If you love this book, be sure to check out her prequel!

the-rosie-project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I’m hoping that AnneMarie hasn’t tackled this one yet because I can’t recommend this one enough for an unusually fun & sweet love story.  I just know if she started this one, she couldn’t stop! 

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

I fell in love with Don and found myself laughing out loud often at so many of the scenes in this one. I wish the ending had not felt so rushed and I did have a hard time figuring out The Father Project results (told from Don’s perspective), but I adored this book anyway! This was a great summer read!

Did you read the sequel to this one? I’m not seeing great reviews on it so I’m on the fence if I want to read it or not! Let me know!

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

The story is set in 1987. June Elbus is at the tender age of fourteen and her uncle (and best friend), a renowned painter has passed away from AIDS. At the time, it is still an illness that few people understand and there is much shame and secrecy about Finn’s death.

At Finn’s funeral though, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days after the funeral, June receives a package that has a note from a man named Toby, who claims to be a friend of Finn’s. He sends to her Finn’s teapot, a treasured item that June has always loved, and says that he woud like to meet with her.
An unlikely friendship is forged, but it is a secret friendship that threatens her family in unlikely ways.
This book is so beautiful it makes your heart hurt and pitch-perfect. Brunt writes the angst and emotions of a teenage girl in an achingly beautiful way that will remind you of your own youth.It is a really beautiful coming-of-age story that I think AnneMarie will really appreciate. I also though this one moved at a good pace so it will easily grab her attention. 
A-Tree-Grows-In-Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Since I know AnneMarie loves classics, I am going to add one classic to today’s book selections because this one is such a readable and enjoyable classic. 

This book was one of the most unbelievably beautiful, heart-wrenching, unexpectedly laugh-out-loud funny in portions, make me weep in others, and heartwarming books that I have read in my life.The story is about Mary Frances Nolan (also known as Francie) and she shares the story of her life from the tender age of eleven until she turns sixteen.

Growing up as a poor girl in Brooklyn, she shares the story of the survival that they must go through to keep food on the table and the difficulties of family life when ends just don’t meet. With a mother who is doing the best she can to keep their family afloat and an unreliable, but loving father who works as a singing waiter and takes to drinking at night to cope with the realities of his life, the family lives in a tiny flat in Brooklyn where they try to make the most on the very least.

Francie is forced to be older than she is from the very beginning of her life. Often saddled with the task of bartering at the grocery store, figuring out a way to get into a better school so she can get her education, and made to get jobs to help with the family finances or assist her mother on jobs, you can’t help but admire Francie’s resourcefulness throughout the book.

The Christmas scenes, the things that the children treasured the most, the tin can filling with pennies of earnings that would later feed them, the diary entries carefully edited because of her mother who didn’t want Francie writing about her father’s alcoholism, the impractical gifts that the children gave to each other (and their mother let them) only to discover their mother was right, those feelings of first love- all beautifully captured in prose that held me and wouldn’t let me go.

While I can’t say that there is a definite plot to the story, the book is told almost in short story format sharing the daily trials and tribulations of growing up in a poor family, it really did not need a focused plot because the writing was so beautiful. Since it is written in this format, I think AnneMarie will really enjoy it since it can be read in small batches like a short story collection. 

I would say that it mainly focused on the self-discovery that Francie makes about herself and about her parents as she becomes more aware of what is happening around her and as the responsibilities later shift to Francie’s shoulders when she struggles with wanting to be an adult and support the family, but also desires to get an education.

No words can describe what a treasure this book is to read. Despite being written so long ago, the themes are still so current- the need to keep up with one’s reputation, the importance of hard work and honesty in life, the discovery that money isn’t everything, but that it does make it easier when you don’t have to focus on it, and the importance of loyalty to your family.

What would you pick out for AnneMarie based on her preferences? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love though!