Apron Full of Giveaways 06.30.15

June 30th, 2015

Upcycled Denim Apron via Etsy

Source: Sew It Was,  $16.56

 

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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DIY Outdoor Movie Night

June 29th, 2015

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

 

*This post is sponsored by Walmart. Proceeds from this post were donated to Riverbend Cancer Services.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site and our community! 

Have you ever wanted to create your own DIY Outdoor Home Theater? We have had this on our summer bucket list for years and this summer we decided to finally put together our very own DIY outdoor movie night together with our kids and are sharing it with you today! There is something truly magical about watching a movie together under the stars and I love that you can do this right in the comfort of your very own backyard. We partnered with Walmart to show you just how easy it is to host an outdoor movie night of your own.

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

Shopping List:  1) Clothespins 2)White Sheets (King or Queen Size) 3) Projector 4) Outdoor Pillows 5) Outdoor Lights 6) Popcorn Buckets

Now that you know what to buy, here are my tips for hosting your own diy outdoor movie night:

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

 An EASY DIY Set-Up

You don’t need a lot to create a great movie set up. A simple white sheet (we like to double ours up to get the optimum picture)  and some clothespins are exactly what we used to create our set-up. We simply draped our sheet on our clothesline out back and held it in place with a couple of clothespins. Anchor the bottom of your sheet with rocks or a brick to hold the sheet in place, particularly on those windy days.

Although there are more expensive screen options that you can purchase, I have found that sheets don’t take up a lot of storage and offer a decent picture for the price.  Make sure to iron out those creases to avoid having ripples on this DIY screen- it’s worth the extra step!

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

Get a Great Picture (and Sound)

Your biggest investment in your outdoor movies will be your projector although Walmart does offer several affordable choices (check out this budget-friendly option for just $113.88)! More than likely, you already have the laptop and with the addition of small external speakers, you will have incredible sound.

We have had our projector for years and take it with us on our trips as a back-up plan for rainy days and we use it at home regularly especially in the winter months.

We were always struggling with sound on ours and we had an ah-ha moment and realized that with the right cable, we could hook the sound up to our daughter’s mini guitar amp. Now we have sound and we didn’t even have to make a speaker purchase. This goes to show that you can really think out of the box on creating your own DIY theater for a great picture and sound for your movie night.

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

Create the Mood

With the humble beginnings of a sheet and some clothespins, I am all about creating a mood. Consider stringing some outdoor lights up and around your movie screen to really create the movie magic for the night. I have always found that twinkle lights take everything up a notch when outdoor entertaining and are less than $20 a strand. It’s an affordable luxury for really creating the mood!

Comfy seating keeps your guests in their seat longer (although running around the yard while the movie is playing is totally required!).  Add some blankets to the ground and some comfy outdoor pillows (I love these from BHG at Walmart).  Consider also gathering your patio furniture around to keep things cozy for the adults in the crowd!

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

Bring On the Snacks

You can’t watch the movie without POPCORN! Take your popcorn game up a level and craft up a popcorn bar for your guests. Fill trifle containers with popcorn (don’t forget your scoopers!) and then fill ramekins with candy treats, marshmallows, and other fun mix-ins for you guests.

To make the treat more interactive (while you are waiting for it to get dark), you can have a table for decorating  paper bags with stamps, markers, and decorative scissors for cutting a pretty scalloped edge. Have kids create their own popcorn bags and fill them with their favorite combination of treats. For older guests, the party section of the store offers a variety of fun containers you can use for your snacks.

I am also a big fan of the reusable insulated solo cup for outdoor drinks and a perfectly sized popcorn bucket. We found these in the outdoor section of our store.

For drinks, I am a BIG fan of using an inexpensive outdoor flower box for your soda drinks. Isn’t this a fun way to bring drinks to the table? Retro sodas and paper straws are always a hit with my kids. Center this on your picnic table for easy grabbing!

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

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DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

Here is our movie screen once it was dark. As you can see, even with a tiny projector, you have a pretty great picture on  your sheet. We found adjusting the bricks to pull out any wrinkling, made a dramatic difference in the projection of our show. Our first movie night we caught, “Little Rascals!”  The kids ran around like crazy, catching glimpses between games of hide and seek.

At the end of the night, it ended up just being me and my Dad, sitting side by side in two chairs, finishing out the show together.

We both agreed, that was pretty darn sweet.

There is certainly something so magical about an outdoor movie and we hope we have inspired you for a night of your own!

DIY Outdoor Movie Night from MomAdvice.com

Reservations to our movie theater are highly recommended. We encourage you to dial our yellow phone to hold your seat! We would like to say a big thank you to Mallory Dzierla Schoenle of Copycat-Design for sharing her talent with the Riverbend Cancer Services.

We purchased her beautiful donation of this handmade lemonade stand to help support the cause and transformed it into a popcorn stand for the evening festivities. Mallory is a big giver in our community and as a DIY girl myself, I can see the labor of love that goes into each of her projects. You can check out her Facebook page or her website for more information about her beautiful pieces! 

For more fun summer activities, check out this page of great ideas! Have you ever hosted an outdoor movie night? Please share your tricks and tips here for a fun night with the family!

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5 Free iPhone Travel Apps That Save Time & Money

June 29th, 2015

5 free iPhone travel apps that will save you time and money

I have to admit that before I had a smart phone, I was hesitant to travel or venture anywhere without a good tour guide to help me navigate the unfamiliar terrain. Thankfully, my phone has not only helped me to be more adventurous when exploring new restaurants and sites, but in some ways, it truly helps me to feel like a local.

Of course, my favorite apps are the ones that can save me time and money, both of which are always on short supply when traveling. Today I wanted to share with you a few of the best apps that can save you both of those things when planning your next trip.

5 Free iPhone Travel Apps That Save Time & Money

Use Travel Apps to Save Time and Money

Gate Guru

Wandering around aimlessly at an airport searching for your gate, a good place to eat, or where to pick up a good book to enjoy on your layover is a thing of the past! Just as Yelp, CitySearch and foursquare are great for locating new and interesting options within a given city, GateGuru serves as the leading light to locate the best food, shopping and service options within any airport at the touch of a button. This free app covers the top 86 airports in the United States, the top 12 airports and Canada and London’s Heathrow Airport. Be sure to add this to your phone to help save you time on your next flight!

Wi-Fi Finder

There is nothing worse than arriving at a destination and discovering that there is a charge to use the Wi-Fi when you finally make it to your destination. Fortunately, with the Wi-Fi Finder, you can quickly and easily find free Wi-Fi when you need it most. This app simply uses the GPS function on your iPhone and the Wi-Fi finder will tell you exactly where the closest Wi-Fi hotspot is, and how to get there. Although the app highlights both paid and free Wi-Fi spots, a simple filter allows you to easily filter only the free spots so you can save a few bucks on your next trip.

Take Me To My Car

Is there anything more painful than taking a red eye flight and parking your car…only to forget where it is? This application solves the problem and with only one tap saves your current position wherever you might be. The next time you start the app you’ll have walking directions to your car right in front of you. Unlike many apps that offer only turn-by-turn driving directions, you can use this app to find your way back to your car with walking directions and ditch the endless wandering around the airport parking after a long day of traveling.

Flight Tracker

Any app that makes a flight easier for me is an app that is worth downloading. With Flight Tracker you can track all of your flights with zoomable maps, get real-time departure info, or delays and gate numbers at a glance. The best part, of course is that they will update you on cancellations and help you find an alternate flight. With assistance like this, you are bound to save time not only locating your gates, but also avoid being stranded at the airport the next time your flight happens to be canceled!

Cheap Gas

For those travelers that are hitting the road, Cheap Gas! is a fantastic app to add to your iPhone. Simply by using the GPS, Cheap Gas! lets you know the prices of gas near you, and then automatically maps a route to the station of your choice All gas prices are provided by the Gas Buddy network of sites and includes time stamps to let you know how long ago the gas prices were updated. When gas prices rise, you will be armed with this money-saving tool to make the most of your travel budget.

 

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Sundays With Writers: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

June 28th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

A warm welcome to my new readers and fans of our Sundays With Writers feature! I was so honored to share on Hollywood Housewife this week my book recommendations for your summer beach bag. Laura’s blog is a personal favorite of mine and I love her book reviews so much that it was such a treat to be featured over there. She will be joining us this month sharing some easy summer beauty routines so stay tuned for that piece from her- it’s a good one!

One of the books I featured in this post was The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel. I reached out to Kristin to see if she would let me interview her for our Sundays With Writers and by the end of the exchange she was sending me recipes to replicate some of her favorite dishes she tried in Italy. She really is as warm and engaging as this beautiful book. This is my first book that I have read by her, but it won’t be the last.  In fact, The Sweetness of Forgetting is now on my summer reading list!

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

I am a big fan of books that explore the what-if’s in life and this one does it beautifully. When Kate loses her husband in a tragic accident she finally feels like she can move forward in a new relationship twelve years later. When her husband begins to visit her in her dreams though, she begins to fall into an alternate universe where the lines between reality and imagination are blurred.

One of my  favorite movies is Sliding Doors and this book reminded me so much of that movie. Harmel truly explores what does it take to move forward in life without forgetting your past.

In this story, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she’s really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband’s hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.

This is the best piece of chick lit I have read this year and I would highly recommend for anyone who needs a little reading escape! I have been telling everyone to escape with this one and I keep hearing how much they loved it too. It’s one I would be packing in my beach bag this summer, for sure!

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars in our reviews for the month of April!

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Kristin to talk about her beautiful book today! 

Kristin Harmel

I am such a fan of magic realism in stories and this beautiful book, with parallel worlds running, was amazing! How did you come up with this idea for a story?

Thanks so much for the kind words! And in answer to your question, would you believe I dreamed the whole story, almost completely intact? It sounds nutty, especially since dreams play a role in The Life Intended, but this has never happened to me before, and this is my ninth book! I was searching for a story idea around the time I was out promoting my previous novel, The Sweetness of Forgetting, and I woke up one morning with the idea for The Life Intended in my head. I jumped out of bed, grabbed a pen and a stack of paper, and began scribbling as quickly as I could before the story vanished. Of course I had to work out many of the intricacies later – research, character development, pacing, etc. – but the framework for the story was there from day one. I kind of think of this, therefore, as “the book intended!” Oh, it’s also important to note that I’m not usually a very vivid dreamer, so it was all the more unusual that I woke up with a whole book in my head!

Kate’s job is working as a musical therapist and she uses this to help kids in the foster care system to work through the emotional struggles they are dealing with. Did you know anything about musical therapy before working on this book?

No, I didn’t know much. I had to research music therapy from scratch, and I was also fortunate enough to receive the assistance of a lovely musical therapist in New York who helped answer many questions for me.  I put a ton of time into researching this book; I didn’t know much about sign language, hearing loss or the foster system in New York either, and those were all things that came into play, so I had to do a lot of work to get the details just right.

In the story Patrick and his family have a fun family tradition with silver dollars that they “pay forward” to others. Do you have any traditions like these in your own home?

Nope! But how crazy is this? It turns out that my father-in-law has a silver-dollar necklace, exactly like the one I describe Kate wearing, that his own father gave him. His family actually had a similar silver dollar tradition, and I never knew about it. What are the odds?

Kate ends up taking a sign language class to help her learn to communicate with her daughter, that helps her life take a much different path than she expected. What type of research did you do on the deaf and sign language to help you prepare for these scenes in your book?

I have a few friends with hard of hearing children, so I did a lot of talking with them – and a bit of talking with the kids. I also interviewed a few experts in hearing loss, did a ton of reading – especially on cochlear implants and how music therapy works for deaf or hard of hearing patients – and consulted a sign language interpreter to help me get the sign language scenes correct.

Did you learn anything that surprised you through your research on communicating with the deaf?

When I set out to write this book, I had no idea that music therapy was used with deaf kids. I was thrilled to discover this, actually. I love the idea that we’re capable of hearing music with more than just our ears. With kids who can’t hear at all, for example, vibrations play a role in music therapy. In general, I really like the idea of using unexpected techniques to create additional bridges between us, in every walk of life. Another thing I learned about deafness, which I hadn’t realized before, is that there’s a difference between “deaf” with a lowercase “d” and “Deaf” with an uppercase “D.” The former is simply the medical state of hearing loss; the second refers to the community of people who have a shared culture based on this hearing loss. I never understood that distinction before, nor did I understand that within the Deaf community, cochlear implantation is still a source of debate. That was fascinating to discover, and I include some of that in The Life Intended.

In one scene Kate says, “I’m a firm believer that music is a huge gift in life… it has the power to connect people to each other in a way that words just can’t.” What is one piece of music that you have felt really connected to?

Music has always meant a lot to me; not only can a piece of music touch you in the moment, but I also think that music can connect you to certain periods or memories in your life. For example, whenever I hear one of the New Kids on the Block songs I loved in the late ‘80s, I’m always ten years old again, and my long-dormant crush on Donnie Wahlberg reappears for an instant. (Don’t laugh at me! He turned out rather nicely, thank you!) Or when I hear Third-Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life,” I’m immediately transported back to my freshman year of college, because that was a song I really liked then. The theme music from the movie Superman always reminds me of my childhood and makes my heart swell, and the theme music from Somewhere in Time, another Christopher Reeve movie, makes me believe in true love all over again. I think it’s astonishing that music can evoke so many feelings, memories and emotions. It’s like a totally different language!

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

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I realize that’s sort of a lame response, because the book is so popular right now, but it’s truly one of the most beautifully crafted and beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I recommend it all the time! (Editor’s Note: Check out our Sundays With Writers with Anthony Doerr HERE!)

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Amy! It was lovely having a virtual coffee with you!

You can connect with Kristin Harmel on GoodReads, on Facebook, or through 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!

*This post contains affiliate links!
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Easy Summer Beauty Routines

June 26th, 2015

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

*This post is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

This upcoming month we will be focusing on Beauty for our m challenge! I am giving you a sneak peek on my beauty routines today as I partner up with Walmart to share about some of their great beauty essentials. In the past I have worked as a craft contributor for their team, but I get to switch gears now and share about beauty & fashion with them this year. I am sure you have seen my obsession for these two things grow as we have talked about fashion capsules (my summer capsule reveal happens next month- stay tuned!) and as we talk about our favorite beauty products in It’s the 3 Little Things each week! This switch feels like a great fit and will give me a chance to try out some new beauty routines to share with you!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

As you can see, I try to keep things pretty neutral when it comes to beauty since this is my typical make-up job. I don’t know if that will appeal to you or not, but many of the routines I have had in place have worked for me for many years. I use many of the same facial washes and make-up brands that I have used since high school.  For summer beauty, my objectives are really simple- PROTECTION from the sun, WATERPROOF since I tend to be a sweaty mess all the time, and MULTI-USE products since our bathroom doesn’t have a ton of storage space.

Oh, and I’m lazy. 

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Based on these factors, here are my FAVORITE summer beauty products that I truly love!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Neutrogena Cooldry Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 all the way up to 70! 

We hang out at the pool all summer and my kids are little fishes in the water. We look for sunscreens with staying power and fast application. This Neutrogena Cooldry Sport Sunscreen is fantastic because it is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. The best part is that it dries quickly upon application and it doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy. I am prone to breakouts from sunscreen and this one doesn’t make me break out.  We still stick to cream application and sticks to our faces, but this is a quick one for getting everyone protected and in the pool in no time flat. I priced it out at a lot of places and Walmart really does have the best price (it was $3 cheaper than another superstore in our area). Since we live at the pool, we spend a ton on sunscreen so that savings adds up quick.

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Aveeno BB Cream

I’ve been experimenting with lots of different BB Creams and I have to say that I love the Aveeno BB Cream the most because it isn’t drying to my skin, the sunscreen has performed really well on my fair complexion, and it seems to offer really great coverage at hiding imperfections in my skin. I had to laugh when I was at an assembly for my daughter and my friend said, “Your skin is so beautiful. I just want to touch it.” After uncontrollable laughing, I told her that THIS is my secret. It’s almost like an airbrush to your face and it keeps my skin feeling soft and smooth. I always had a hard time finding it, but it is usually over in the facial washes/moisturizer aisle and not in the makeup area. It’s my priciest investment ($11.72), but if you compare ounce for ounce on other brands, it really is a bargain. I also save a ton by using an all-in-one product instead of purchasing several bottles.

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Burt’s Bees Lip Shine (in Pucker)

In the Fall & Winter months, I love a bold lip with heavy coverage. In the summer though, I just want a little tint to my lips and a lot of shine. I have always been a fan of the Burt’s Bees lip balms, but only recently discovered these lip shines for my summer routines. These smell so good, have good shine, and they do a great job moisturizing the lip. PS- If you haven’t watched the Burt’s Bees documentary on Netflix, you really must. He is such an interesting man and there is much to admire about someone that famous who chooses to live so simply.  You will love it!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Revlon Colorstay Eyeliner (in Black Brown)

You will rarely catch me without eyeliner on. I could care less about mascara, but I won’t leave the house without a swipe of eyeliner on my lids. I have tried so many brands and none of them stick except for this one. It says it holds up to sixteen hours…I am going to say it stays longer than most, but sixteen hours is pushing it.  It really stays on the longest of any I have tried though and goes on smoothly. For summer, this is the one I would recommend adding to your make-up routines! Pair this with infallible eye shadow in iced latte and your eyes are set for summer!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

TRESemme Fresh Start Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is EXPENSIVE especially when it comes to the salon brands. As a brunette, it is hard to find a dry shampoo that does not leave me looking like I have a white film on my hair. When this product came out originally, I looked like a mess because the residue was so bad. They switched their formula though and I purchased a trial size to try it out for a trip and it works BEAUTIFULLY now.  In the summer, I often look like I need to wash my hair. I don’t know if you saw THIS or not, but I really hate washing my hair especially now that it has gotten so long. This stuff is a year-round essential, but really perfect after a day at the pool with the kids when I could use a little freshening up and it costs less than $5!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

Ladies, I am the fairest of them all and I am telling you right now to RUN to Walmart and get this stuff. It used to come only in an aerosol can and I have ruined a few shower curtains and sprayed up some walls trying to get my legs tan, but now it comes in a cream so no more mess. It’s water resistant so you can tan up your legs even when heading to the pool or beach and the only way to get this stuff off is with a lot of soap and water. If you haven’t tried it, it’s like a concealer for your legs. Bumps, bug bites, skin imperfections… all that stuff disappears. If you think you are the fairest of them all, they came out with a new color called Fairest. They even have travel size, perfect for packing for your summer trips. After you try it, send me an email to thank me for changing your life!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

L’Oreal Visible Lift CC Eye Concealer

I have terrible circles under my eyes and never could find a concealer that could camouflage these enough for me. I also have very dry skin so these products often created more dryness and creases around my eyes contributing to my tired look. I wish I could kiss L’Oreal for making this product. It actually hides my circles and it doesn’t dry out my skin. If you have had a bad night with the kids, this stuff makes you look well-rested. I also really love the roller ball applicator on this one.

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Mane ‘n Tail Hoofmaker Hand & Nail Therapy

Have some hooves for feet?  Me too.  This stuff costs less than $3 and works better than any fancy foot creams I have ever bought. I keep it in my nightstand and use it at night on my hands and feet. It also helps repair your nails especially if you have indulged in one too many shellacs (*ahem*)!

Easy Summer Beauty Routines from MomAdvice.com

Secret Clinical Strength

Between my sweaty gym routines and and the days spent outside working on the yard or taking my kids to the pool, I can be one sweaty mess. This deodorant is amazing at keeping sweat at bay and has helped boost my confidence a lot this summer. If you are looking for a deodorant with staying power, give this one a spin! I promise it won’t disappoint!

I hope I haven’t given all my secrets away in my very first post, but I love sharing my favorites with you. Do you have any beauty products you think I should give a spin this summer? Let me know in the comments so I can try them out! I’m always looking for new products to add to my beauty routines! xo

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Freebie Friday June 26, 2015

June 26th, 2015

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! As always, 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 sharing some of my best strategies for air travel for our M Challengehow to pack lighter and how to save money and time. All good things, right? You’ll also find a review of Barbara Delinsky’s new novel, Blueprints, plus a giveaway so you can read it, too, so be sure to enter!

Check out this week’s edition of It’s the 3 Little Things to get your weekly dose of happy,  find lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas in our popular Notebook, and be sure to take a look at all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways, too.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Food & Drink
Health & Beauty
Depend Active Fit Sample

 
Entertainment
 
 
This Week’s Freebie Events: June 27 – July 3
 
27th – Barnes & Noble: Join story time with Onion and the Dark, 11 am
 
27th – Lakeshore Learning: Create a Storybook Cottage, 11 am – 3 pm
 
27th – Lowe’s: Build a Captain America Motorcycle, 10 am
 
27th – Pottery Barn: Nursery Style Event, 4 pm – 6 pm

 

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Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky (Plus GIVEAWAY!)

June 25th, 2015

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

*This post is sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I am honored to get to share about Barbara Delinsky’s latest novel, Blueprints. With 21 books under her belt (published in 28 languages!), Barbara Delinsky is a household name in literature and today I have the opportunity to share and giveaway her beautiful new book that is on store shelves now.

Pinch me, please. How can this be my job?

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

If you haven’t heard of Blueprints, here is a little synopsis (without the spoilers!) to share a bit more about what you can expect from this book. On Caroline MacAfee’s 56th birthday, she is told that she is too old to continue hosting the home improvement show, “Gut It!” that she has been a part of for years. Her replacement doesn’t want to tell her about the switch. I mean, how do you break it to your own mother that her replacement is…well, her very own daughter?  There is, of course, conflict knowing that the job that Caroline loves and knows so well is being taken from her and there is sadness as Jamie finds the relationship she has with her mom is slipping away from her in this new role. When a traumatic death happens in their family, not only do these two realize that they will have to work together to pick up the pieces of their loss, but their entire life has went into a different direction than either of them expect.

Since this book tells the story of Caroline, at the age of 56, and Jamie, in her thirties, it is a book that you could share with your own mother and will appeal to women of all ages. The story of friendship between this mother & daughter duo made for a beautiful read and would be a great beach read escape this summer. The story particularly shines as Jamie learns to find herself and finds love for the unexpected family she has been shouldered with. Caroline’s blossoming relationship between her and her longtime pal also builds into a beautiful love story in the golden years of life.  I would recommend this book for fans of Kristen Hannah and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favorite authors for a fun escape from the heavier books.

At the heart of it all, this story is all about how the blueprints of our life change over time. We all have plans, but let’s face it… they rarely work out the way we expect them to.

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

I don’t know about you, but the blueprints for my own life are so very different than the ones that I started with.  To be honest, I didn’t start with very good blueprints from the beginning and, perhaps,  more comic book illustrations of a magical land for how life would work out.   I was one of those people that just figured things out as they came to me and lived in the clouds the earlier part of my years. I had no real goals or plans after college, I married quick, and I settled into life early in our marriage back in our hometown after an unexpected job loss.

We started with our “starter home,” a house that made me weep around every corner at all we would have to do to make it livable. This was not the dream home. We figured we would improve upon it and then get the heck out of here with a fat check for all of our hard work.

Unfortunately, in Indiana that’s a rarity.

Who knew?

As we started to put the elbow grease into our space though, we found that maybe JUST MAYBE, this home had some potential.

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Once we got started on the updates, we found it hard to stop. We knocked down walls, we created a patio we could love, we spray painted, we stained, we renovated bathrooms, we added mantels, we made a bonus room out a shed…the list just goes on and on. Twelve years later, I have become so proud of our little home and we appreciate the size of it (less to maintain) and the beauty in adding our own signature touches everywhere we go. It’s in the big things like gutted spaces, but in the smaller things like knitted centerpieces.

The first thing people say is, “This house is so YOU.”

And I grin like an idiot because I am so proud.

How’s that for a blueprints switch?

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

Instead of buying a bigger house, we decided to do something different with our money… we have decided to see the world instead! We are six years away from paying off our home and we can’t wait to say that this home is REALLY our home. With the money we save on our mortgage, we can show our kids the world.

To me, these blueprints are so much better than our original plans. To see the world with the people you love FAR outweighs the care & maintenance (not to mention that mortgage payment) for a big, shiny new home. 

That doesn’t mean we are done with the projects though. We continue to discover that there is potential around every turn.  I am so thankful that God granted us this blueprint for our life.

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

To learn more about Blueprints! 

Learn more at BarbaraDelinsky.com
Follow Barbara on Twitter and Facebook
Use the hashtag #Blueprints to share about this book.
Read an excerpt HERE!

Today I am giving away TWO COPIES of Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky. Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter to win!  Please note that you must be a US Resident to win! Good luck, everyone! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This post is sponsored by St. Martin’s Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Amy’s Notebook 06.24.15

June 24th, 2015

Inspirational Printable Art via Elegance & Enchantment

Source: Elegance & Enchantment

 

An inspirational watercolor for your wall.

When every single day is class picture day….yes.

This is black and white- thank you, Jon Stewart. We are praying for the victims this week.

An interview on one of my favorite books from last year.

Do you have a vague friend too?

14 ways to beautify your closet door. So inspiring!

30 books for the men in your life- bookmarking for my man!

Rainbow Smoothies via Love & Lemons

Source: Love & Lemons

 

Taste the rainbow!

I love this mantle decor (time to raid the yard!)

Daddy beauty school- ADORABLE.

Using Instagram for work & play.

A minimalist home with color.

Oh, to leave a legacy like this.

Did you read the NPR Book Club Selection this month? It’s on my list!

amys_notebook

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!

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Smart Strategies for Saving Time & Money When Flying

June 23rd, 2015

How to save money and time when flying

Over the years, I have been doing a lot more travel than I ever dreamed I would be doing. When you travel frequently, you quickly learn that:

  • you need a lot less than you think you do
  • proper planning will save you hours of frustration
  • and each trip is a lesson on how to do it better

I wanted to share with you a few tips to help you save time and money on your next flight. These are my tried and true strategies that I employ each time I fly and I hope they will help you on your next trip.

How To Save Money & Time When Flying

1. Check in Online

The biggest timesaver for me has always been taking the time to check in for my flights online twenty-four hours before my flight.  You can save so much time and can also avoid having to wait as long at the airport if you have checked in for your flight early. What would normally take an hour can now take twenty to thirty minutes just by using my computer at home.

While you are checking in online, print out all of the documents you might need for your trip and store them in a folder together. I keep all trip itineraries, meeting information, agendas, and check-in information for the returning flight together.  Pull this together with your freshly printed boarding passes and put this in your carry-on luggage or purse for easy access.

Pack light and smart for air travel

2. Keep Your Bags Light

Most airlines now charge for you to check in your luggage, not to mention the hassle of waiting at baggage claims for your luggage to arrive when you are anxious to start your trip.  The largest allowed size for carry-on bags is 22×14×19 inches, but you can maximize your packing by in a quality soft-sided carry-on bag, which will be roomier than a more rigid bag.  Just by packing light, you are able to shave approximately $50 on a round-trip flight!

If you are traveling as a family, divide the luggage up between each family member and consider investing in one small roller bag for each child that they will be able to maneuver themselves.  Child size luggage can be found at discount stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Marshall’s. Even with this investment, you can still easily save $25 on the way back because you won’t need to check a bag. The bonus is that they can use that bag for years to come, making it easy to recoup your travel investment.

The best part about keeping your bags light, though is that you can use this as an excuse to not buy so many travel souvenirs on your trip. Consider that light bag as not only a savings for not checking in, but the ultimate excuse to not indulge in those pricey gift shops.

If, in the end, you are unable to reduce your luggage to be carry-on compliant, paying for your checked bags online can sometimes save you a few dollars each way.

 

3. Pack Smart

It seems that it is always the people that do not take the time to pack wisely that become the most flustered or are asked to step aside by security. The most important thing to note is that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules require that passengers only carry liquids in three ounce containers in no more than one, clear, quart-sized bag.

Visit freebie sites like Freebies4Mom.com, DealSeekingMom.com, or MommySnacks.net and stockpile sample size toiletries and detergent for your trips that will comply with these federal guidelines. If you travel frequently, reusable travel containers can also be a fantastic investment that can be refilled with the items you already have from home. Make sure to store this bag right on top for easy access, as it will need to be removed from your bags when going through airport security.

Underneath the bag of toiletries, tightly roll your clothing to prevent wrinkling and to maximize the space within your carry-on luggage. Choose clothing that can easily be mixed and matched and make sure to prepare for what weather conditions may be awaiting you. There is nothing worse than being at an amusement park with your family during a torrential downpour and paying $15 for an umbrella or heading to a state with warmer weather and paying $35 for a junky tourist sweatshirt because you are freezing.

Last, make sure that any electronics that will need to be inspected rest on top next to your toiletries until you get through security.  The ones that will not need to be run through separately will be easier to scan if they are right on top and those that require a separate scanning will be easy to access for this procedure (remember that everything can be rearranged in the bag, once you get through security, to protect your electronics from harm during travel).

Pack dried fruit for travel

4. Thrifty Snacking

The days of meals and snacks on flights are long gone so it is important to have a thrifty snacking strategy to avoid spending $50 at the airport while waiting for flights. Pack food items that will travel well both ways to reduce your spending. Items like protein bars (avoid anything with melting chocolate), trail mixes, dried fruit, and apples are all great items to tuck away in your bag for a snack while you are waiting. If your flight is leaving during the lunch hour, spend a little time packing lunches that can be eaten in flight or while waiting at the airport. This little effort of planning can easily save you $7 per person.

While you are unable to bring any liquids through security, there is one easy strategy you can take to save on those $5 waters at the airport. Tuck an empty reusable water bottle in your bag and fill it at a drinking fountain when you get through security.

 

Travel Game Ideas

5. Frugal Entertainment

It is easy to keep everyone entertained on the flights, but it also requires a little strategy, particularly if you are bringing children. Consider packing one set of things to do on the way there and one small set of things to do on the way back to keep your children happy. Library books, magnetic travel games, coloring books, a deck of cards, puzzle books, and even your child’s portable gaming system are great ways to keep them entertained.

It is important to keep in mind that electronics do have to be turned off at the beginning and ending of each flight, so don’t just rely on that Nintendo DS, DVD player, or that iPod to hold their interest. They will be glad that you packed a coloring book or reading material when the time comes to switch them off. As an added savings, don’t forget to bring their headphones for these electronics, as the airline will happily charge you for each set you might have forgotten.

I hope that these tips will help you on your next flight and don’t forget to tuck those items away to save time for the next trip. There is nothing like having a bag of toiletries that are already packed, a special set of items that are already preset in your bags to keep the kids entertained, or  the travel pillow already packed in your bag to save you time for your next trip.

If you want more great tips on travel, be sure to visit our Organized Travel article before heading out for your next vacation!

What are some ways that you save time and money when you are flying? I would love to hear your success stories or lessons learned!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 06.23.15

June 23rd, 2015

Vintage Gathering Apron via Etsy

Source: Bless This Mess,  $66.00

 

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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