The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

January 4th, 2017

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

It has been a dream of mine to put together a reading challenge for you and this is FINALLY my year to make it happen! This challenge is a 52-week challenge to help motivate and inspire you to tackle your reading goals.

I am so thankful for what reading has brought to my life.  I had such a good chat with my dad on the phone yesterday and, through our conversation, I brought up a bit of my own disappointment in myself for not finishing that college degree.

As silly as it seems, sometimes I wish I could say that I completed something that I had initially walked away from. It isn’t even a field I’m interested in anymore, but it is that sense of completion.

He said, “Amy, you have something way better than a degree. You read. Reading helps shape your viewpoints, it helps you travel, and it gives you so much knowledge to continue growing and learning. So many people don’t have that.”

Even as an adult, who wouldn’t want to hear that from her dad?

Books are my education and my addiction. There are so many books that have challenged my views on life and made me a better person. Challenges, like the one I am sharing today, are intended to push and stretch you even further. 

Can you imagine how differently you will view the world after a touching memoir from someone you never knew about, a book on poverty, a book about a religion you are unfamiliar with, a new look at race, or a political memoir? I can’t wait to reflect back on how much this year’s challenge has shaped my new viewpoints!

I’ll try to have a printable diploma for you at the end of this year to hang on your wall. If you read 52 books, you should have that and a printable medal too! Ha!

Not only am I sharing my reading challenge with you, but I am also sharing how I plan to tackle this challenge for myself this year! Of course, do not feel pressured AT ALL to select the same books, but just as ideas if you are looking for a little inspiration in any of these categories!

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

My Picks for the 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge

1. A book about travel- The Geography of Bliss

2. A book that’s more than 500 pages- Illuminae

3. A GoodReads Choice Award Winner (from any year)- A Tale from Time Being

4. A memoir from someone you have never heard of- Alligator Candy

5. A book recommended by a library- Nine Women, One Dress

6. A book you own, but haven’t read- Rebecca

7. An audiobook- The Sound of Gravel

8. A book that’s becoming a film- The Zookeeper’s Wife

9. A book about a culture/religion you are unfamiliar with- Pull Me Under

10. A book that takes place in your state or town- A Girl Named Zippy

11. A book that you loved as a child- Anne of Green Gables (truth be told, I never finished it, but I think I will now!)

12. A book that will help you be a better person-  An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

13. A book on mental illness- The Bell Jar

14. A political memoir- The Speechwriter

15. A book that challenges a viewpoint- Consequence

16. A PEN/Faulkner Award Nominee or Winner (from any year)- Delicious Foods

17. A book about marriage- Commonwealth

18. A classic novel- Jane Eyre

19. A book written by a comedian- The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo

20. A book written by a woman- Another Brooklyn

21. A book written by an author under the age of 30- Homegoing

22. A YA Novel- The Sun is Also a Star

23. A book you meant to read in 2016, but never got to- Lilac Girls

24. A sci-fi/fantasy book- Version Control

25. A book about time travel- Kindred

26. A book that takes place during a war- Mischling

27. A book set in a place you wish you could live- Four Seasons in Rome

28. A book by a debut author- Sweetgirl

29. A story that takes place in a bookstore- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore

30. A book published this year- Juliet’s Answer

31. A thriller- Her Every Fear

32. The first book in a new series- Red Queen

33. A true crime book- The Stranger Beside Me

34. A book you can read in a day- The Vegetarian

35. A historical fiction novel- Darktown

36. A book recommended on a podcast- Spill Simmer Falter Wither

37. A book of short stories- American Housewife

38. A Southern Gothic book- The Heaven of Mercury

39. A book from the NPR Book Concierge (any year)- Eleanor & Hick

40. A book recommended by an author- Long Man

41. A book about financial hardship- The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace

42. A Dystopian novel- The Handmaid’s Tale

43. A book with an unlikable narrator- A Pleasure & a Calling

44. A book recommended by a blogger- The Passage

45. A book written by an author that wasn’t alive in your lifetime- Persuasion

46. A National Book Awards Finalist (from any year)- News of the World

47. A book on race- Born a Crime

48. A book about art- The Mirror Thief

49. A book from your TBR (to be read) stack- Brutal Youth

50. A MomAdvice Book Club selection- Carrying Albert Home

51. A nonfiction book- The Latter Days

52. A book you will be proud to share you finally read this year- Evicted

Get Your Free 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge Download !

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge Printable

designed by MJ from pars caeli!!

The 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge (FREE Printable!!)

Start your engines, friends! I hope this helps you reach your reading goals- xo

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

 

 

Amy’s Notebook 01.03.17

January 4th, 2017

Organizing Christmas Decorations

source: apartment therapy

Lots of great tips for packing away your Christmas decorations.

Reading this incredible and heartbreaking book. The way this author writes requires you to read passages out loud.

Looking forward to getting back to my podcast listening with this list.

Why time management is ruining our lives.

This wellness challenge looks like a great way to start your year.

These are the best books of 2016 based on all the lists. How many have you read? I’m clocking in at 5 so far!

A strong grilled cheese game, for sure!

This middle school gig is tough!

Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie Soup

source: thirty handmade days

This slow cooker chicken pot pie soup looks so warm and comforting!

A year of dinners to inspire you in 2017.

Nail tough dishes and techniques with this post.

These are the books to read to prepare for this year’s television season!

Tax Organization Tips

source: i heart organizing

I want to do better with my receipts and tax paperwork in the new year.

10 important morning habits of super successful women- I need this nudge!

Well, that was terrifying.

I can’t rave enough about this board game. Short rounds, belly laughs, and the entire family absolutely loves it!

In 2017, pay yourself first. I love these ideas for building financial security.

Bookmarking these recipes for my menu planner- yum!

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

 

Boutique Workouts At Home (FREE Printable Fitness Tracker)

January 3rd, 2017

Boutique Workouts At Home (FREE Printable Fitness Tracker) from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with CycleCast. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

Many partnerships happen organically on the site and today’s post with CycleCast happened because I became a legit fan, sent them fan mail, and then they suggested partnering together to share about their app.

Last year, after a health diagnosis, my doctor advised no more pounding on my joints and switching to a lower impact cardio routine.

For most people, they might have been like, AWESOME, I don’t have to do that anymore!

For me, I wept.

I loved going to my cardio dance class, I loved the friendships I had made, and I loved the music so very much. I also really needed that endorphin rush that comes from a challenging cardio routine and I needed interesting music to keep me going.

My yoga studio membership has been great for building strength, but I had lost a lot of my cardio motivation. Rather than getting another gym membership (OUCH on the wallet!), I decided to research apps and a stationary bike to do my workouts at home.

When I found CycleCast, it changed my whole outlook on my new limitations.

Boutique Workouts At Home (FREE Printable Fitness Tracker) from MomAdvice.com

CycleCast offers spinning workouts tailored to your time limits and your favorite styles of music. You can select a class if you have 20, 45, or 60 minutes and then select a coach with your favorite music style.

The volume controls for the coaching and the music are separate (I will tell you more why I love that later) so you can clearly hear your coach as they offer helpful tips throughout your routine. You are guided through a warm up, a challenging workout (in and out of the saddle), and a guided cool down. The coaches also remind you throughout about your posture, hand placement, and when to take in some water.

Basically, it is like having a coach RIGHT THERE who pushes and encourages you throughout the entire workout.

Boutique Workouts At Home (FREE Printable Fitness Tracker) from MomAdvice.com

I’m obsessed with music and easily bored. I don’t have time to make a brand new playlist each time I workout, but this app does it for you! The music is KILLER and are such fun mixes that I often forget how hard I’m working.

Jonathan, my coach, doesn’t know me, but I LOVE HIM.

He has been a big encourager to me and the music is always incredible. I have never been disappointed in his guidance or the music.

Maybe your limitations have looked different than mine or maybe your challenges are different.

Are you intimidated to join a gym this year or struggling with your weight and don’t have the confidence to do it?

Are your kiddos still small and you can’t afford a membership and childcare?

Do you want to go, but there always seems to be a hurdle (sick kids, forgotten papers, appointments, working, etc..)?

I get it. I have these same things in my life.

Boutique Workouts At Home (FREE Printable Fitness Tracker) from MomAdvice.com

Maybe you love this idea, but you don’t have a bike! No worries! These are cheaper than you might think.

I found, this foldable bike  and it takes up a teeny amount of room and paid for itself in just a couple of months compared to the gym membership I had been eyeing. I then used their Ride Guide to help get my bike set up and to learn to position myself better in it.

I just put the app on my iPad or iPhone and I tuck it on the table next to me, using my wireless headphones for listening and to muffle my loud breathing.

Yup, I’m one of those.

This app costs $9.99 a month, but they give you a free 30-day trial to start. I started with the 30-day trial and fell in love with the workouts I got. How much are the classes at your gym? Probably a minimum of $10 each! I can’t believe you can do a whole month of classes for $10 through this app!

On average, I have been burning about 500 calories per 45 minute workout. I feel really good about that and I love that this is a low-impact way for me to build strength again.

Boutique Workouts At Home (FREE Printable Fitness Tracker) from MomAdvice.com

CycleCast has really given me a lot of my confidence back that I have been missing. I love being able to workout anytime I want and I love the coaching pushes me to work a little harder on my fitness goals.

Here is another secret that I must share….I use the app to KILL IT on my chores around the house. Thanks to the coaching volume being adjustable, I can silence my coach and just listen to the killer music that’s been mixed for these classes. I have used this to mow my lawn, shuttle my children, do my laundry, and clean my house.

I am not sure that’s what CycleCast had in mind, but I love it!

Boutique Workouts At Home (FREE Printable Fitness Tracker) from MomAdvice.com

To encourage you to reach your goals this year, we have a beautiful printable fitness tracker to help you set your goals for working out and hydration!  We hope this offers the encouragement you need to get back in the saddle and work on those fitness goals.

Get These Downloads

Download Your FREE 30-Day CycleCast Trial 

Download your Free Printable Fitness Tracker (printable designed by MJ from pars caeli) today! 

A huge thank you to CycleCast for partnering with me AND giving me a chance to get back to a solid cardio routine.

This post was created in partnership with CycleCast. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

DIY Phone Charging Station

January 2nd, 2017

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

A  new year typically brings along new organizing techniques in our home. We have been struggling with keeping track of phone chargers, remembering where we left these poor devices to charge, and figuring out a system that doesn’t require taking up my valuable counter space. I decided I wanted to create a phone charging station that could house all of these devices and be our new landing spot for our home.

This DIY phone charging station is made out of a jewelry armoire and, not only will it house all these phones, it can also be the perfect organizing spot for keys, sunglasses, watches/Fitbit devices, & a place to keep those gift cards we got for the holidays. Wait until you see how we make the most of this little piece!

I also wanted to add a unique touch to this station with some of the beautiful Waverly Inspirations Fabric that I was sent this month. I have never added fabric to a furniture piece before, but not only is it super easy, it also adds a gorgeously unique detail that makes an inexpensive piece look a little more high end. It’s been on my craft bucket list to try this and now I want to add this special touch to a few more pieces in our home.

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed (all of these supplies can be found at Walmart!)

Jewelry Armoire (you can browse all the options here)

Waverly Inspirations Fabric  (I used the 100% cotton duck fabric available at the store)

Waverly Chalk Paint in a coordinating color (I am using Agave)

Mod Podge

Paint brushes & Foam Brush

Fabric Rotary Cutter (or you can use scissors or a razor blade for trimming)

Rotary Mat

Drill

Scrap Wood

Screws

Surge Protector

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a DIY Phone Charging Station

1. Begin by assembling your jewelry armoire, but leave all of your knobs off the fronts of the drawers for now.

2. Using your chalk paint and a small paint brush, paint all of the knobs with a coat of chalk paint. Set aside to dry and then add a second layer of paint.

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

3. Using the front of your drawer as a guide, cut the fabric carefully and as closely as possible, around the drawer. Repeat with all of the other drawers.

4. Before you attach your fabric to the drawer front, make sure any loose threads and lint are removed from the piece (I went over mine with a lint roller to make sure the surface is clean). Dip your foam brush in the Mod Podge and add a thin layer of glue on the front of the drawer. Carefully line the fabric up on the front of the drawer. Once again, add a layer of Mod Podge OVER the fabric, making to seal all along the edges and across all the fabric. Repeat on all the drawers and then repeat with a second layer.

5. Add your painted knobs on the front of the drawers.

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

6. Drill holes in the back of your drawers and then a hole in the back of the piece. The size and amount of holes needed will depend entirely on how many devices you have and how wide your charger end is.

7. On the bottom of the unit, attach a scrap piece of wood that can be used to attach your surge protector. We attached the surge protector with a couple of screws to mount this scrap wood.

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com \ DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

DIY Phone Charging Station from MomAdvice.com

 

 

I realized after we took the pictures how much it could benefit from a little dusting with all our drilling we were doing.

Stretch your imagination a bit for that part as we are still dismantling our home from all these festivities!

I wonder if you are in the same boat today?

Seriously, how cute is this fun diy phone charging station to act as an inexpensive organizing solution for a small space? I decided to tie in those painted handles with a little color on the trim of this piece.  I really think the paint and fabric details really make this piece feel really unique and I love how practical this is for helping everyone stay organized!

A huge thank you to my hubby for his assistance on this DIY.

There is nothing like crafting in your pajamas and coffee with someone you love!

Do you want more craft inspiration from Waverly? Try these!

DIY No-Sew Reversible Chair Cushions

Fabric Wreath & Matching Garland

Fabric Bulletin Board Tutorial

Painting Pumpkins With Acrylic Paints

DIY No-Sew Hand Warmers

DIY Ottoman Serving Tray

15-Minute Scrappy Fabric Trees

Kid Craft: Easy Technique for Painting Gift Wrap

This post was created in partnership with Waverly Inspirations. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

 

The Best Books of 2016

December 31st, 2016

The Best Books of 2016 from MomAdvice.com

Hey! It’s that time of year where I, LITERALLY, select my favorite child.

Well, that’s what it feels like as a bookworm.

This has felt like a long year in many ways, but a short year in others. When it comes to reading,  I am always wishing I could squeeze in just one more book and this year has been no exception to that rule. 2016 delivered on some of the best books I have read in my lifetime and I’m excited to share my top ten books of 2016 with you.

Reading has the power to change my viewpoint on the world, through stories I’m not familiar with and stories I have heard, but could benefit from a hard retelling. I think that is one of the greatest gifts for me, especially living in a small Midwestern town. I travel and learn so much through books that it helps round out my narrower viewpoints.

It’s a gift to read and to share my selections with you today.

A Few Quick Reflections on This Year

Reading Goals

Goodreads has been a great motivator for me to stay on track with my reading. As you can see, each year I am increasing my goals by just a little bit based on the year’s reading from before. I was a little nervous to move my goal to 75, but making audiobooks a part of my regular routine when tackling household chores and even when I’m soaking in the tub has been an incredible way to sneak in more books. If you get these headphones, it will make reading really convenient no matter what you are doing.

It’s also great for ignoring everyone in your family like the excellent mother you are!

You can put my mom of the year trophy in our front room!

 

Reading Goals Met

If I was going to say what changed the most this year, it would be that I did not shy away from big books. Normally, I “allow” myself one big book a year. This year, I read what I wanted to read and disregarded the number of pages. Some of the books were really challenging, but I tried not to let that hold me back from making a commitment.

It’s kind of crazy to see that this year I read 30,787 (!!!) pages.

I wonder if I will do that again next year?

While you are browsing around on today’s list, be sure to visit our Sundays With Writers series to see which authors were interviewed this year and hear more about their stories behind their stories. The series has been on hiatus (this girl’s plate was a little too full this year!), but I’m hoping to revisit it in 2017!

Can I Motivate You?

I started a small  MomAdvice Hangout Facebook group and we will be running a monthly MomAdvice Book Club discussion there. If you are interested in joining in the fun, be sure to send me a request. We are keeping the group private for now so people can really chat and get to know one another! It’s also the spot where you can get a list of the daily Kindle deals to take advantage of the big discounts on books you are reading.  We have over 600 enthusiastic bookworms you can connect with and it is completely FREE!

This year we are also sharing a Reading Challenge Printable for the new year to help you branch out a bit on your reading goals. Be sure to check back next week for that freebie. We are tailoring in for each bookworm demographic. This will be a great one to do if you are just getting read to dip your toes back into reading and could be a really challenging one if you want to tackle a new book each week.

Can We Be Friends?

Just as a reminder, I read many more books than are just featured here, but try to feature the ones that are my absolute best picks of year.  If you want to see more of what I am reading,  please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there too! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.

In no particular order, here are My Top Ten Books of 2016:

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

I have always enjoyed Leavitt’s books (you can read an interview that I did with her over here), but this book…this book is EXCEPTIONAL and, I believe, her best book yet. The Girls had a lot of hype (I still need to read this one), but I think this is the book that should have received the hype as Leavitt explores this era in such a beautiful and compelling way.

When I interviewed Caroline she was working on this book and she had said, “Cruel Beautiful World was sold on the basis of a first chapter and a thirty page synopsis. It’s set in the 60s and early 70s, the time when all the free love movement was starting to turn ugly, with the Manson murders and Altamont. It’s about a 16 year-old girl who runs off with her 30 year-old hippy teacher to join the “back to the land” movement that began in the 70s, a so-called-paradise that turns into a nightmare for her.

Who better to describe it than the author herself? What I would like to say about it is that she carves such incredible dynamics between the sisters and the fear that she creates in Lucy, as she worries for her safety during the Manson murders, is so poignant as she is being held captive herself by the man she thought she was in love with. These characters are written in a way that they feel so real and you can’t help but worry for each of them after Lucy disappears from their family.

If you are wanting to step back into that crazy time in history, this book is a perfect way to do it!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I am not much of a science fiction reader, but there are those exceptions that have lead me to embrace a little sci-fi in my life. If you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts, Ready Player One, or The Martian, do NOT miss Dark Matter.

It’s very hard to review this book without giving away some of the reader surprises. Crouch creates a fictional exploration that allows his character, Jason Desson, to explore different paths that his life could have taken if he had made different choices. When he is abducted on his way to the grocery store, he awakens and discovers that his wife is not his wife, his house is not his house, and nothing in his life is the way it seems. You are then lead through adventure after adventure as Jason tries to find his old life again in a rather unique way.

Equal parts science fiction adventure and equal parts a beautiful love story, there is SO MUCH to love in this book. The reader can’t help but root for Jason to be reunited with his family and there is never a dull moment with a hefty duty delivery of smart plot twists. The screenplay is already in the works so read this one before you catch it on the big screen

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

I’m not a big fan of books about animals so as soon as I see if a book is about an animal, I promptly dismiss it. I asked Sasha, from Pathologically Literate, to lead our book club discussion one month though and she selected, Lily and the Octopus, as her pick for us to read because she loved it so much she wanted to read it again.

I can’t tell you how much I love book clubs for this VERY reason because it pushed me to pick up this book, a book I would have dismissed,  and it is one of my new favorite books. I just can’t stop thinking about this sweet story that had SO MUCH humor and heart.

Teddy is a single gay man who has found the love of his life in his sweet little dog, Lily. Sounds basic, right? It isn’t though, it is rich and laugh-out-loud funny and heartfelt and gorgeous from start to finish. Rowley writes from Lily’s perspective in the most wildly unique way that it makes your heart hurt with its sweetness. When the two of them face a big challenge together, the story really begins to build.

The ending? Sheer perfection.

If a book moves me to tears, it’s a treasure. Get those tissues ready because it’s a tearjerker!

As soon as I finished it, I wanted to pick it right back up and read it again. I’m so thankful for this gentle nudge from our book club hostess to read this beautiful book. It was, truly, one of my favorite read this year.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book has been on my to-be-read list forever, but I felt like I needed to mentally prepare for it. This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom. Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules. In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect. In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park. In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her. It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe. The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.

I listened to this one and it was a great audiobook if you are looking for somewhere to spend that audio credit.

It’s brilliant, it will gut you, and it is important.

Everyone should read this story.

Everyone.

miss-jane

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss JaneWatson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book. It reads like a well-versed literary classic. I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.

Get this on your book pile stat! You can also join us for our January discussion of this one in our book club group!

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This book is incredibly compelling and gave me so much to think about as it explores Vance’s life growing up in a hillbilly family. He writes in a very real and unflinching way about the difficulties growing up in poverty and how the hillbilly mentality seems to force people to continue living in poverty even when opportunities are presented that could enable them to finally get ahead.

There are many moments in this book that helped illustrate a few of my own life moments that helped me understand my own Southern family better. Vance’s life was far more extreme, but I still could identify with a few of his stories that I hope help me feel more compassion for my own roots.

I would highly recommend this one for a book club because you would have so much to discuss and I think anyone who reads it will be able to understand this pocket of America better.

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill

If I was going to select one buzz book that actually delivered this year, it would be The Nix. Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf.

No, I am not kidding.

His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book.

When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoke with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she lead.

The book jumps around in time from the ’60’s hippy love movement, to Samuel’s childhood friendship and first love, to his current struggling adult life.

I was laughing out loud through many parts in this as Hill’s chapters read like many short stories that have been gathered together. The stories from Samuel’s childhood, in particular, have a cinematic quality to them. As the wife of a gamer, his online world made for a lot of hilarity for me (especially when Samuel decides to end it all). Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes is when a student cheats and then justifies it in only the way a Millennial could making my sides split from laughing. It’s basically a million short stories all pulled together as Samuel tries to figure out why his mother would leave him and if they can come together again.

Did it need some trimming? YES! I am sure that the story could have been tightened in many places.

That, however, did not take away from my enjoyment of this incredible book!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

I felt like I had 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! For many months I was mourning the loss of finishing this one and the sadness of ending my journey with these four fantastically written characters.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

How about a beautiful YA read to add to your pile?  This book is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves. These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.

This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart.

I could not put this book down and read it in a single day.

Be sure to check out my interview with Jeff about this book.

Want a fun fact?

He wrote the book on his iPhone!

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

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

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

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

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

Honorable 2016 Mentions

YOU GUYS! Narrowing down books is ridiculous. Here are just a handful more that you must read!

The Assistants by Camille Perri

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Tina Fontana works for the head honcho at her company who is swimming in money. When a technical error occurs with an expense report, Tina uses it to her advantage to pay off her student loan debt…to the tune of $20K.

Only one problem though… other people in the office have been noticing and want their loans paid off too.  More people become involved, more money is funneled, more loans paid, and more stress that Tina will get busted.

Imagine a Robin Hood story, but with a modern twist. This book is just the medicine for anyone who has struggled with student loan debt (raises hand high!). I love this book so much and found the ending to be pure perfection!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Jodi, with the exception of The Storyteller, hasn’t been a go-to for me in a long time for reading, but when I read about the premise of this story, I couldn’t resist giving her another spin. Honestly, I was REALLY glad I did.

The story focuses on a nurse, named Ruth Jefferson, that has been working in labor and delivery for over twenty years. When a couple requests that Ruth not care for their family, following the birth of their child, she is stunned to find out that she has been removed from their care because of the color of her skin.

When the baby goes into cardiac arrest while Ruth is on duty, she finds herself in the middle of a grueling murder trial and without a job to support her. Kennedy is the lawyer that is assigned to this tough case and the reader gets to go along on this journey with Ruth as she agonizes over a split second decision that may have cost her the job she has loved for so many years.

In a predictable Picoult fashion, there is a twist at the end that you may or may not see coming. That said, it was a solid read all the way through, even though it may have felt a little predictable at times.

Valley of the moon by Melanie Gideon

Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon

Wife 22 happened to be one of my past favorite vacation reads so I was thrilled to see that Gideon had a new novel out. Time travel is always such a fun escape and this story was a delight from start to finish.

Set in 1975, Valley of the Moon chronicles the story of a single mother who takes a camping adventure on her own to find herself again. What she doesn’t expect to find is that just beyond this thick fog is a community frozen in time in the year 1906.

The community welcomes her into their community and she finally feels a sense of purpose, worth, and love… all that have been missing as she tries to raise her son alone.

The reader gets to follow Lux as she travels back and forth through time, finding love in a different era, and learning many consequences of trying to live in parallel worlds.

Lots of lovely plot twists and the ending Gideon carves for the end is movie-worthy. Although the idea of this portal might feel a little cheesy at first, you can’t help but fall in love with both worlds and eras that the author has crafted. Time travel fans will love this one!

The Longest Child by Andria Williams

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

I love historical fiction, especially when that historical fiction involves a story that I had never been aware of. Williams shares the true story of the SN-L Nuclear Reactor and the only fatal nuclear attack to occur in America in her beautiful novel, The Longest Night.

When Nat & Paul Collier move to the town, Paul is not only frustrated with his immoral boss, but he has a growing concern with the safety at the plant. When an altercation sends Paul away, Nat becomes friends with a man in town and lines between friendship and attraction for one another becomes blurred.

Set in Idaho in 1959, Williams builds a beautiful tension between her characters. It reminded me a lot of Mad Men and Masters of Sex. Once you finish the book, you will be running to look up the facts of this little known tragedy to learn more.

I know I was.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out my interview with the author when you are done!

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

It is difficult to find thrillers that are solid all the way through, but All the Missing Girls, truly delivers a strong thriller from start to finish. This is Miranda’s first novel for adults (she had previously been writing just for young adults) and shines as one of the best thrillers I have read this summer.

This story is told backwards from Day 15 to Day 1 as the mystery of a missing girl, named Annaleise, is trying to be solved by local police.  As luck would have it, the main character (Nic) has been through a missing person case before when her best friend Corinne went missing, a decade ago, and no one ever heard from her again. Her family goes under scrutiny once again as they try to figure out where Annaleise has gone.

You are taken down a bumpy road as these two cases collide in shocking ways and everyone is suspect. Reading in reverse chronological order is a challenge for a reader and reading it digitally made it more difficult to page back to figure out where these sections came together. I would recommend reading this one as a good old-fashioned book to really pull the storyline together in a way that you can really grasp.

If you enjoyed, In a Dark, Dark Wood or Luckiest Girl Alive, I have a feeling you will really enjoy this twisty book and trying to solve the case of these missing girls. If you are like me, you really won’t know until the final pages what these family secrets hold.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go will be the psychological thriller you need to pull you out of a reading slump.

The book opens with a mother crossing the street with her child. She lets go for just a moment and that child is hit by a car. This hit-and-run case leaves little clues to the killer and the reader follows this grief-stricken survivor as she tries to form a new life in a new town, far from the reminders of the accident. Hold onto your hats though because nothing is as it seems and the reader is taken on plot twists that will leave you gasping. This is, truly, the next Gone Girl, friends, don’t miss it!

Check out my interview with Clare Mackintosh and hear about the case that inspired her book and the life experience that shaped the raw grief of the mother in her story!

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I find Reid’s writing to be just the right amount of heart with just the right amount of reality and her storytelling truly shines in this beautiful story of loves found and lost. When Emma’s husband dies in a helicopter crash, she is left to rebuild her life without her high school sweetheart and you feel that devastation through Reid’s words. After years of sadness though, she finds love again with an old high school friend and begins to find that happiness she has been missing. Just before her wedding though she receives a call that her husband, Jesse, is still alive and coming home to be with her again.

A heart aching love triangle is formed and Emma must choose between the man she loved and lost or the new love of her life. I couldn’t put this one down and read it in less than a day!

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.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman

The Two-Family House is a sweet literary escape telling the story of brothers living in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the ‘40’s. While the men are away to work, in the midst of a winter storm, both of their wives go into labor and end up delivering their babies at home, thanks to one determined midwife. It’s the birth of these two babies that begins to threaten and unravel the two families, particularly their mothers, as they carry around a family secret that begins to impact them all.

A strong debut novel rich with characters and the raw emotional impact of family secrets, it is one that you will be unable to put down, and a storyline rich with lots to chat about for book clubs. If you prefer character-driven stories, this book is for you!

Need More Book Ideas? Here are my top ten lists from the past six years!!

My Top Ten Books of 2015

My Top Ten Books of 2014

My Top Ten Books of 2013

The Best Books Read in 2012

My Top Ten Books in 2011

The Top Ten of 2010

For more great suggestions, check out the NPR Book Concierge- swoon! It is heavenly stuff!

Tell me, what your favorite books were in 2016 or share your links to your own round-ups!

Anything I should 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!

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

The Best Books of 2016 from MomAdvice.com

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December 2016 Must-Reads

December 30th, 2016

December 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

My goal this month was to finish strong despite doing ALL THE THINGS for the holidays! Thankfully, I ended up taking this entire week off of work and have spent it curled up with a great book until the wee hours of the morning. I’m completely off schedule, have no idea what day it is, have slept in every morning, and I am loving every minute of it.

 My GoodReads goal was 75 books and I ended up clocking in at 85. I am feeling PRETTY proud this year!

Stay tuned next  week for my best of 2016 list and our 2017 MomAdvice Reading Challenge printable.  If you haven’t joined our book club yet, get on it! We just announced our first six books for the year.

I will be sure to post these in January for you, as well, if Facebook just isn’t your thang!

7 Must-Read Books from December 2016

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

I may be one of the only people in the world that wasn’t a big fan of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.  Semple’s latest book has gotten a lot of buzz though so I thought I would give her books one more try this year. I am SO glad I did because this book was laugh-out-loud funny, wildly quirky, and such a relatable read as a mom. Based on the reviews of this one though, if you were a fan of her first book, you probably won’t love it. And if you didn’t love her first, you might feel completely differently about this latest installment.

This book is the day in the life of Eleanor Flood. Just as we all do, she wakes up with a big list of things that will happen if she can pull off the perfect day. Working out, being a good mom, being nicer to her annoying friend, sex with her husband, etc… Of course, the first thing that happens is that she gets a call from school letting her know that her son, Timby, is faking sick again. Eleanor’s day continues to progress with finding out her husband is not going to work (where is he!?!) an old colleague comes back to see her for a lunch and share his career success story (it’s better than her career story thankyouverymuch), and a long ago family secret starts resurfacing that she’s kept buried forever.

Wildly adorable and adventurous- I loved every page of it. Semple even pulls off an abbreviated graphic novel in the middle from Eleanor’s career days as an artist. I had a good giggle over the pictures of these two sisters.

Even better news,  Julia Roberts is also slated to play Eleanor Flood in a limited television release of an adaptation of this book so read it before you see it!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one when you are done!

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill

If I was going to select one buzz book that actually delivered this year, it would be The Nix. Samuel is a professor and struggling writer who has found solace in an online alternate world as an elf.

No, I am not kidding.

His coping mechanism is to escape into this world and not address why his marriage failed and why he can’t write that book.

When he receives a call that his mother has been arrested for assaulting a politician, he is baffled. Not that his mom would do this necessarily, but that it has been over twenty years since he has spoke with her. The thing is, it has made national news and he can’t seem to come up with a book idea for his publisher. He strikes an agreement with his agent to write a telling memoir of being abandoned by his mother. This memoir will require to get to know her better and the life she lead.

The book jumps around in time from the ’60’s hippy love movement, to Samuel’s childhood friendship and first love, to his current struggling adult life.

I was laughing out loud through many parts in this as Hill’s chapters read like many short stories that have been gathered together. The stories from Samuel’s childhood, in particular, have a cinematic quality to them. As the wife of a gamer, his online world made for a lot of hilarity for me (especially when Samuel decides to end it all). Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes is when a student cheats and then justifies it in only the way a Millennial could making my sides split from laughing. It’s basically a million short stories all pulled together as Samuel tries to figure out why his mother would leave him and if they can come together again.

Did it need some trimming? YES! I am sure that the story could have been tightened in many places.

That, however, did not take away from my enjoyment of this incredible book!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

Miss Jane by Brad Watson

If I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most this year in its beauty, it would be, Miss JaneWatson pens the story of his great-aunt, Miss Jane, and her struggles with a genital birth defect that alters Jane’s life path greatly. Set in the early twentieth century in rural Mississippi, Jane knows that she is not like other girls. Her struggles with this defect every moment of her day are told in ways that often feel unfathomable.

Her kind doctor takes her under his wing and has honest discussions with her about limitations and continuing research to try to help her. He becomes her confidant in a time of true loneliness. As she ages, she knows that her biggest hurdle will be having her own love story and Watson writes poetically of Jane’s love for a boy. Yet, in a time when a woman’s most useful task is to bear children, Jane knows that her love story must be a different one and she bravely accepts what this path looks like.

The peacock design on this cover is beautifully woven into this story and brings together all the beauty in this gorgeous book. It reads like a well-versed literary classic. I doubt you won’t fall in love with Miss Jane too.

Get this on your book pile stat! You can also join us for our January discussion of this one in our book club group!

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book has been on my to-be-read list forever, but I felt like I needed to mentally prepare for this one. This is the least glossed over story of slavery I have ever read and it is brutal in its honesty and the writing completely wrecked me at times.

It is the story of Cora who is leading, the difficult life of a slave and is brutally mistreated over and over again. When a fellow slave, Caesar, receives word about a new underground railroad that has been built, he and Cora try to escape to seek freedom. Ah, but freedom isn’t ever easy to achieve especially in this awful world.

Whitehead envisions in this story an actual underground railroad with conductors and in a Gulliver’s Travels twist, each time Cora gets off, she is in a different place with different rules. In one town, she is respected, educated, and treated with respect. In another, black face shows ridiculing her people are on display in the town park. In another she has to remain hidden in attic for months on end to protect herself and the family who houses her. It gives the reader a chance it experience that shaky ground, that uncertainty, that feeling of never feeling safe. The reader gets to experience the tiniest of fractions of this painful and true story of many slave stories that Whitehead has gathered.

I listened to this one and it was a great audiobook if you are looking for somewhere to spend that audio credit.

It’s brilliant, it will gut you, and it is important.

Everyone should read this story.

Everyone.

5 Out of 5 Stars

 

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Haslett’s novel is hitting all of the top book lists and winning many awards this year so I was looking forward to diving into this one.  Listed as a TOP 10 NOVELS OF THE YEAR — TIME, Newsday, TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2016 — San Francisco Chronicle, 20 BOOKS THAT DEFINED OUR YEAR – Wall Street Journal, ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST BOOKS: Barnes & Noble, BookPage, BuzzFeed, Elle, Financial Times, Huffington Post, Kirkus, NPR, Refinery29, Seattle Times, Shelf Awareness, WBUR’s On Point, LONGLISTED FOR THE 2016 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION, and KIRKUS PRIZE FINALIST…you know, just to name a few….

This is a family drama chronicling the life of a father who is struggling with mental illness and how this illness, in turn, affects their children and his wife. Told in alternating viewpoints,(from the wife to the children) it shares how their father’s illness alters their life course as they grow older.

The struggle for me with this one wasn’t that it was so depressing to read (it was!), but that I struggled to connect with the story and its characters. One of the son’s is so pretentious that it was painful. Honestly, Haslett didn’t build enough of a story around the father for me to really feel attached to him or his struggle. He does provide a great foundation though for showing how illness can alter your life path and how one can shield themselves from finding true love because they have learned to distance themselves from others.

Haslett is a brilliant writer, but like many of the buzz of books of 2016, this just didn’t connect with me in the way I would hope a dramatic story like this would.

3 Out of 5 Stars

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I love a good psychological thriller and this debut is a solid one. I think this is one that surprised me in its depth and it gave me a lot to think about after I finished it. It isn’t the typical thriller story that I have been reading over and over again in 2016.

Clare is removed from everything she loves in an instant when her home is invaded and her husband and daughters are taken from her.

The last thing her husband says to her is say nothing.

The story alternates from past to present and begins to tell the story of Clare in a very different way than the reader might expect. Clare isn’t necessarily leading the life you probably think she is and her love story is a little off. Something just doesn’t feel right and that growing sense of dread of what she might be involved in begins to intensify as the story unfolds. The story actually tackles a news topic that I think you might want to understand better and the victims of it.

If you love a deep psychological story, this is for you. Please know that this one is dark and contains violence and sexuality in it. I would recommend this for fans of Behind Closed Doors or Pretty Girls!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequest

If you want to start your next year out right, this book is for you. Niequist really explores our lack of presence in our lives as this becomes overshadowed by busy schedules and pleasing the wrong people in our lives. Basically, this book is giving you the side-eye, overcommitted extrovert. You know it is!

Shauna shares her own struggles of overcommitting, guilt about what she isn’t doing, and how we look for validation through social media instead of the people sharing our home.

Yup, it hit me right in the gut.

Why are we so scared to sit in silence and what can be learned from a slowed down life? This soulful way of living is something I hope to embrace in 2017 and this book just seemed to speak to me at the right time in my life. If you are seeking present over perfect, you should pick this one up.  I just know it would be a great way for you to start your year too as you shift your focus from others to the people that should be the most important in your life.

4 Out of 5 Stars

 

Read With Me

Read With Me This Year:

January Must-Reads

February Must-Reads

March Must-Reads

April Must-Reads

May Must-Reads

June 2016 Must-Reads

July 2016 Must-Reads

August 2016 Must-Reads

September 2016 Must-Reads

October 2016 Must-Reads

November 2016 Must-Reads

  December 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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It’s the 3 Little Things: Virtual Reality, Minimizing, & Great Skin

December 23rd, 2016

salvation-army

I feel like I am finally in the home stretch- hallelujah, praise Jesus, amen.

I wrapped up my last client of the year (blogging around this time of year is NO JOKE!), the last of the gifts have been purchased, the food preparations are ready to go, and everything is wrapped underneath the tree.

I don’t know about you, but it was a hobbling to the finish kind of year.

I also managed to not order enough holiday cards, didn’t make a single homemade gift this year, and we didn’t even do a magical tree experience with our kids because we were too tired. I, seriously, sent my husband alone to Lowe’s to grab whatever was affordable and didn’t require me to get in the car.

emily-11

As it does every year, Emily’s birthday snuck up on me too. I had plans of making a beautiful birthday dinner and cake. The weather took a turn though and I could barely move around my house.

Joint pain and negative 15 degree temps just don’t mix- who knew?

Oh, wait. I did.

Instead, we went out to eat and ordered a slice of flourless chocolate cake to share with promises of a sleepover over the holiday break. Mom was definitely low on the birthday magic, but Emily seemed to take it in stride, something a December child has to do every year.

All of that is to say, if you don’t have the magic this year….IT IS OKAY!

This has been a big year of learning that.

I am a big giver.

A perfectionist.

A magic maker.

An organized and responsive person to those who need me.

As I am digging into this book this week though, I realize that just being present is gift enough and, perhaps, a better gift than the other stuff I’ve been doing. One of my favorite lines in this book reads, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that the best thing about me was I was organized.”

OUCH! That hits home.

And another beautiful nugget, “What I eventually realized is that the return on investment was not what I’d imagined, and that the expectations were only greater and greater. When you devote yourself to being known as the most responsible person anyone knows, more and more people call on you to be that highly responsible person. That’s how it works. So the armload of things I was carrying became higher and higher, heavier and heavier, more and more precarious.”

YES!

This is so me.

I’m that person with an armload of crap.

how-to-decorate-gift-wrap-with-acrylic-paints-4864

This year, the bar was set low, a lot lower than the year where I knitted a gift for each teacher, made handmade goodies for the entire staff, and handed out knitted coffee cozies right down to our mailman.

Part of me still wishes I was that girl.

The other part of me realizes that gestures need not be grand to let someone know they are appreciated. 

If the magic is lacking this year, I’m with you!  Bloggers are required to share the pretty stuff and these expectations can feel grand and my delivery sometimes feels false.

Did you know that I lose followers if things don’t feel magazine worthy?

TRUE STORY!

Sometimes it is difficult to keep delivering that optical illusion though.

Less magic and optical illusion, more presence and truth in the upcoming year.

The site will be here, but I won’t! I’m popping back in next week to share what I read this month and the top book list that you look forward to each year. Other than that, I’ll be offline enjoying my kids while they are on their holiday break.

Here are three things that are making me REALLY happy this week!

westworld

Westworld

We ditched our cable years ago, but even when we had it, we never carried a package with the premium channels. While browsing the list of Golden Globe nominations this year, there was a television show that I hadn’t heard of before, called Westworld, that was up for a bunch of awards. It happened to be an HBO series and now that Amazon is offering HBO, I realized that we could take advantage of it as an add-on to our Prime package with a 30-day FREE trial.

Since we are on holiday, we could do this FOR FREE and then cancel it before the $14.99 charge per month starts rolling in.

The best part?

The entire first season of Westworld was on there and we are finishing the last episode in the season tonight.

The people who can’t finish a single series or watch more than a single show at a time, watched an entire season in less than a week.

I am not kidding.

It is THAT GOOD!

If you haven’t seen it yet, the premise is pretty freaking genius! It is a virtual reality amusement park for wealthy individuals (the rate is $40,000 a day to be there!) that inhabits the wild west and all the people who make up this world are robots programmed to deliver an adventure experience for their guests. These robots live a scripted life where they can die multiple times and then are rebooted and reprogrammed to come back into the world and perform again. The problem occurs when the robots begin to remember those tragic past lives, creating an unstable world for their guests and their programmers. When the robots began to go off script, that is when the real adventure of the viewers really begins.

Anthony Hopkins brilliantly plays one of the founders of this world and Ed Harris makes for a great villain as he tries to solve the hidden maze.

There is lots of nudity and violence in this one, but it strangely feels compartmentalized when you think of everyone as robots.

Isn’t it funny how our brains can process things?

We also enjoyed this incredible documentary about Anderson Cooper & his mother, we were fascinated by this documentary on Scientology,  and I’m really excited to give this series a spin too.

Basically, we are milking this free cow for all it’s worth.

Do you have any other recommendations for us?

Get that freebie trial and blow through a season of this over the holidays- you won’t regret it. It’s a great series to pick up with your hubby too, thanks to its sci-fi spin!

minimalism

Minimizing Inspiration

I’m not sure if you heard, but the Minimalism documentary just hit Netflix last week. I ended up watching it one afternoon and it was extremely inspiring to see two of my favorite bloggers in action (as well as so many of my real-life friends featured!). I feel like this didn’t necessarily break any new ground on minimalism, for me, but reinforced my own feelings about wanting to own less in my life. It would be a great reminder to start this new year as it offers great encouragement in discovering the freedoms that come with minimizing in your life.

I encourage you to pair it with this documentary- a film that pushed me to reexamine everything in my own life.
Give Back Box

Speaking of minimizing, have you heard of Give Back Box? If you are feeling inspired to whittle away at the excess, as you try to make space for all those new holiday gifts, this new free service looks like the ticket! The premise is simple, just reuse a box that you had an item shipped in and fill it with donations for those in need.

Type in an address and the company creates a free shipping label (you can also schedule your pickup!) that sends your shipment to a nearby charity for you.

How awesome is that?

I can’t wait to put the boxes that I planned to put in the recycle bin to work!

Burt's Bees Cleansing Oil

The BEST Skin Cleanser

I’m not sure if it is hot yoga or hormonal, but my skin has been giving me a lot of issues lately. I even had to do six weeks of antibiotics to try to clear up a weird burning rash that was on my face. Man, getting old is the worst!

I kept reading about cleansing oils for washing your face and it has been on my beauty bucket list to try. After learning that Argan Oil is heaven sent, I thought it might be worth looking into for facial cleansing too. Lots of these cleansing oils are really pricey though and I wasn’t willing to drop $60 on a facial cleanser, even if my skin is struggling.

Did you know that Burt’s Bees makes a cleansing oil? I got a sample of it and I can’t tell you how different my face looks and feels after a week of using this stuff. The dry patches on my face feel restored and my skin finally feels balanced for the first time in a long time. You can’t beat that price (I even found it cheaper on Amazon!) either! With just a teaspoon of this stuff, it took off all my makeup easily, even my waterproof eye makeup that usually requires a separate remover. Just be careful to not get it in your eyes while doing this!

I highly recommend this if you are struggling with your skin. These people were right- cleansing oils are a skin game-changer.

blind-book-club-exchange

Thankful: For another epically fun blind date book exchange with my book club. We also decided to make these books into a traveling library of sorts and are bringing them to our book club meetings so we can enjoy these purchases all year long! I shared this book (if you haven’t read it- read it now!) and I won this book. Have you read it?? It looks so good!

Gluten_Free_Chicken_Noodle_Soup_Header

Eating: Gluten-free chicken noodle soup season is on. I’m actually working on adapting this one into a frugal and fast pressure cooker dish. Fingers crossed you got one of these gadgets or it is wrapped under the tree for you. I can’t believe how much time and money we are saving with it. No joke!

 

Oh Hellos Holiday Tiny Desk Concert

Loving: A fascinating look at the secret chord that makes Christmas music sound Christmas-y, when cheap people go Christmas shopping (Bahahaha!), and the Oh Hellos perform a gorgeous Christmas Tiny Desk Concert (if you haven’t watched Tiny Desk Concert, make it a weekend priority- you will thank me!!)

How to Make a Pom Pom Wreath

pom-pom wreath

Reading: I am finally digging into this book this week and so far it is a very moving read on mental illness. I will let you know next week in our reviews my final thoughts on it!

I also ran across this piece on how to explain Santa to your kiddos. If the question should arise, I love this tactic for keeping the magic alive!

And for those that are hurting and missing the magic altogether, this is a reminder on how those small gifts really do make a difference in the world.

Faux Painted Fireplace

faux painted fireplace/pom pom garland

Happy Fri-yay!

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

Amy’s Notebook 12.21.16

December 21st, 2016

5-minute-hair

source: the beauty department

5-minute hair for the holidays. I’m in!

Moscow reindeer cocktails- sign me up!

These tweets about cleaning are hilariously true (especially right now!).

So happy to see that this is your favorite article this month- I knew I had great readers!

The top Pinterest home style trends of 2016- I love them all!

I’m glad to hear that fake news will now be flagged.

A professional organizer’s advice for staying organized around the holidays. Lots of thoughtful tips in here!

 

10 Simple Ways to Say No

source: be more with less

10 simple ways to help you say no- what a great reminder in this upcoming year. Oh, and if that isn’t enough, start using this tactic.

I love seeing what people are adding to next year’s reading stacks. You can participate in her reading challenge over here.

How about THIS for the a minimalist home tour. Such a great and needed reminder!

Homemade Irish Cream in just 5 minutes!

I just finished this book yesterday and I can’t rave enough. READ IT RIGHT NOW!

A best of 2016 books list with some rather unique picks!

Bookmarking these sweet & simple holiday decorating ideas for next year.

4 liquid eyeliner internet hacks- hilariously tested and results shared! I won’t lie, I’m terrified of it!

I’ll have to remember these faux garland greenery touches to make it look more real.

Pan Seared Salmon With Roasted Vegetables

source: joy the baker

This looks like a healthy & easy one bowl meal.

I love reading about what it would be like to attend the White House holiday party.

Thankful for these cozy boots this winter- even at negative twenty, my feet were toasty warm! Bonus, deeply discounted this week!

I love these tips and results of painting over wood trim and doors. So stylish!

Swooning over this staircase wall update- what a difference!

10 books to inspire your children to embrace a minimalist attitude.

Bookmarking this delicious snickerdoodle recipe. They are my husband’s favorite!

This woman is a genius.

Looking to join a book club this year? Hurry on over and join for our next year of book club selections!

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration! Please note, there are affiliate links that do help support our site- thank you! xoxo

How to End the Year Well

December 20th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

How to End the Year Well from MomAdvice.com

Last week I read an article about how to create a dumpster fire ornament, in honor of the year we’ve had. It was hilarious – and sad. I mean, yeah, I laughed, but only so I didn’t cry. Because, for a million reasons, this year has been difficult at best and devastating at worst.

I know I’m not alone in looking forward to a fresh start as we flip over the calendar.

But before we head into a new year, we still have a few days left in this one – and I’m determined to make the best of them. Rather than simply throwing up our hands in disgust or defeat, let’s take back what’s remaining of this challenging year. Let’s celebrate what actually worked or went well, and let’s give thanks for the blessings we received in the midst of hardships.

No matter how this year has treated us, I believe we can still end well. Here’s how:

1. Make a gratitude list. I know, I know, you’ve heard this one a thousand times. But there’s a reason for that: it works! No matter how bad a situation (or calendar year) might be, we always have something to be thankful for.

Are you healthy? Do you have a place to live? Is your family nearby – or far away? Do you have at least one person to love and who loves you? Did you read a good book or see a great movie? Have you created a piece of art or finished a project? Did you make it through Thanksgiving or the election cycle or a trip to the post office without coming to blows with anyone? Then you have something to be thankful for!

How to End the Year Well from MomAdvice.com

2. Look at the photographic evidence. Instead of clicking over to Facebook one more time, open up the gallery on your phone. Scroll through your own photos and take time to appreciate those goofy smiles, those messy faces, the trips to the zoo or the doctor’s office, the impromptu road trips or picnics, the selfies and the you-can’t-make-me-smile serious faces. Remember the sunset, the finish line, the delicious dessert, the colorful leaves.

Whether you’ve already printed all your photos and placed them in a lovely album or scrapbook, or they’re stacked up on your phone (and hopefully saved in the cloud), I bet you have some evidence that this year brought something lovely, something beautiful, something good.

3. Find the silver linings. I’m not sitting at a desk gazing out the window to a pastoral scene as I type this post. Nope. I’m sitting in my living room, balancing my laptop on a TV tray while my toddler sits on my lap smelling slightly of her overnight diaper and watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. And as often happens in our house, Daniel Tiger is sharing a message that is almost unnervingly relevant for our day. Daniel and his friends are singing about disappointment, and here’s the advice they have for us all: “When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.”

Seriously, Daniel Tiger? Seriously.

You really can’t argue with that preschool wisdom. And as I’ve reflected on the last year, it really is something I’ve considered. What are the silver linings hiding on the edges of this hard season?

For me I’ve had to face how my fear of confrontation has led to unhealthy relationships and behaviors. (Which is, initially, still a bummer but ultimately a good thing to realize.) I’ve also been forced to stop waffling on some political issues as this divisive year has made it clearer than ever what my priorities and values are. And, most importantly, going through a tough season is always a catalyst for appreciation and gratitude for me, making me more thankful than ever for my family, my freedoms, and my faith. All of these silver linings come at the cost of some very dark clouds, but I am grateful for them nonetheless.

How to End the Year Well from MomAdvice.com

4. Give back – and then some. One of the most encouraging messages I’ve seen following some of this year’s troubles is a call to action. No matter where you fall on all the issues that have divided our world, every one of us can reach out to others, serve others, love others. Just like the well-known and oft-quoted advice from Gandhi suggests, rather than complaining about a dumpster fire of a season, be the change you wish to see in the world instead.

The benefit goes beyond what you give to other people, too, because not only does helping those in need combat injustices you perceive, it also helps you adjust your perspective. It gives you a bigger picture and more accurate way to gauge your own circumstances. It also gives you a sense of more control and therefore increases your overall satisfaction. Talk about win-win!

5. Don’t wait for January 1. We don’t have to start a new habit on a Monday, and we don’t have to wait for January 1 to turn over a new leaf of gratitude, compassion, and positivity. We can do that today. The world may seem like it’s spinning off its axis some days, but we are still in control of our own choices. We get to decide how we receive news, how we process situations, how we respond to circumstances. We get to choose.

Let’s make the best of the days we have, friend, no matter what the calendar says. Let’s be kind when we don’t have to, let’s be thankful even when it’s difficult, let’s look for the good and be the good. Let’s end this year well.

How to End the Year Well from MomAdvice.com

 

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Small-Budget Crushes 12.18.16

December 18th, 2016

Treat Yo Self Bag

treat yo self bag

Classic Chambray Shirt

classic chambray shirt, two washes

Richie Tenebaum II

Richie Tenebaum II print

book-covered-matchboxes

book covered matchboxes

Crosley Ranchero Tabletop Radio

crosley ranchero tabletop radio

Literary Tea Collection

literary tea collection

fell-asleep-here-bookmark

fell asleep here bookmark

Cross-Back Lace Bralettes

cross-back lace bralettes 

Les Miserables

les miserables

Knitting Needle Gauge

knitting needle gauge

Champagne Bar Bell

champagne bar bell

Keep on window shopping by visiting all of my Small-Budget Crushes. This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo