Freebie Friday February 6, 2015

February 6th, 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 we started our m challenge for February: Focus on Money Management (you’ll want to make sure to enter to win a copy of Slaying the Debt Dragon, our read-along for this month!) and shared articles on  Decluttering Your Space and the Power of Living Small. I also shared two DIY projects with you, How to Make the Perfect Prayer Shawl and a Yarn Wrapped Letters Tutorial (I chose to spell LOVE!), as well as a wonderful Sundays with Writers interview with William Kent Krueger, author of Ordinary Grace. Be sure to check out this week’s edition of It’s the 3 Little Things for your weekly dose of happy!

You can find lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas in our popular Notebook, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways, too.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Food & Drink

Coffee at Chick-Fil-A
Gevalia Coffee Sample
Twinings Tea Sample

Health & Beauty

Zarbee’s Naturals Immune Support Sample
Advil PM Sample

Entertainment

Alaska Vacation Planner
Colorful Branches of Government Poster for Kids
Solar System Notebooking Pages
Winter Learning Activities
Valentine’s Day Math Worksheets
Valentine’s Day Fun Pack
Disney Frozen Spelling Worksheets
50 Dr. Seuss Printables

This Week’s Freebie Events: February 713

7th – Barnes & Noble: Story time featuring Ready Rabbit Gets Ready, 11 am

7th – Home Depot: Build a Heart Box, 9 am – 12 pm

7th – Lakeshore Learning: Create From The Heart Coupons, 11 am – 3 pm

7th – Toys R Us: Build a MegaBloks SpongeBob Squarepants Jellyfish Launcher, 12- 2 pm

7th & 8th – National Museums: Bank of America Cardholders get free admission all weekend long

7th thru 13th – Pottery Barn: Create a Valentine’s Card for a special child in need all week long

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The Power of Living Small

February 5th, 2015

The Power of Living Small from MomAdvice.com

Small space living comes with many challenges, but the rewards for a family on a budget are great. For a long time I considered our smaller home a temporary means to get us by until we could afford more.  As the years have gone by though, I have truly discovered the power of living in a smaller house and making the most of what we have been given. I can fully admit though, that it is all about our approach towards making our space our own, more than it is about the amount of square footage in our house.

Small space is all relative, of course, isn’t it? In full discretion, our home is 1,500 square feet for our family of four. While that may sound like a lot or a little, the space is made smaller and more challenging with a tri-level floor plan. If it was spread on one or two levels, I am sure it would feel much larger. I think it has been the floor plan that is more of a challenge than the square footage of our home. Regardless, spatial challenges have existed and we have learned a lot from working through them.

One thing that people remark on though is how our home doesn’t feel small at all and I recently had a visitor who said she was so impressed with how efficient our home was (world’s best compliment- by the way!). I attribute it to one part renovation, one part smarter selections for our home, and one part major clutter-busting. The investments that we have made have given us a new appreciation for our space and have helped us fall in love with this house.

Now if we moved, I know I would never be as happy as I am right here.

That’s a good feeling to have.

Regardless of your square footage though, I wanted to share with you a few ideas for learning to embrace the power of living in the space you are in right now. There is so much that I have learned over the years about making our home the best that we can and I wanted to share with you some ideas on how to make the most of the space you are in right now.

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Reconsider Your Furniture

Furniture can truly make a room feel larger or smaller depending on the size of it and the purpose it serves in your home. Our larger furniture that we purchased for our previous home was not well-suited for the home we had now, but replacing it was not a cost that we could really afford.

Instead, consider scaling back on the amount of furniture you have in your rooms. Do you truly use the side tables in your home? Is the coffee table really needed or would your space benefit from an ottoman that could serve as dual storage? Try removing pieces of furniture from the room and see if they make the flow of the space feel bigger.

The Power of Living Small from MomAdvice.com

When you do replace furniture, try buying items that could serve as a dual purpose or could maximize your smaller rooms. Our ottoman in our family room is the perfect place to tuck our record collection in our home, for example. One piece, but two functions to everything helps to make the most of the corners in our home.  The furniture, as we have begun to replace it, serves multipurposes like beds with bookcase and drawer storage.

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Cut the Clutter in Half

The best part about living in a smaller space is that it has forced me to edit the belongings I have and has kept me from buying as much as I would in a larger space. If your home closets that are small, if you don’t have a basement, if there is no garage…than these situations can truly work for you as a way to keep your clutter naturally under control. Here is my spot where I like to throw things I don’t know what to do with- we all have ‘em. I am a work in progress just like the next person, but I am proud to say that I have reduced our clutter by 50% this year thanks to a few new decluttering & minimizing challenges I have embraced.

Lately I have been trying to live my life by the infamous quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” If it is not bringing beauty or usefulness to my space, then I can feel good about passing those items on to someone else in need.  Suddenly, my kitchen counters feel spacious, the basement really does have a spot for everything in storage, and the house really does have enough space for us all. It’s all about perspective and investing in the things you really do want in life.

Consider making a weekly date with yourself to devote an hour towards improving one spot in your home that you struggle with. If it is a drawer that never opens, an office that is filled with useless papers, a basement that has become an avalanche of misplaced items, spend your hour making those spots in your home better. Make it a goal to cut the clutter in half in these spots to make them more livable and enjoyable.

The Power of Living Small from MomAdvice.com

Make Wise Renovation Investments

Once you cut the clutter in your home, you can begin dreaming of new ways to use that freed up space. Renovating your home can be costly, but it is not as costly as it is to buy a brand new home. The best part is that you can take your time with it and tackle one corner at a time, personalizing it to your own personal style. If there is a particular area in your home you want to improve, consider getting an estimate to make your space more livable. Many homes have unused corners and smaller spaces that could be improved upon to make the home more livable.

Our little house got a much needed renovation to make our space work for us for many years to come that has been one of the wisest investments we have ever made.  With one wall knocked out and putting unused basement storage to work, our home was renovated into a spacious family room and a quiet home office in the basement. Each year we tackle one project (at least) to make our home look and feel spacious and loved. We have updated our backyard shed into a useable bonus space, we did a beautiful stamped patio & firepit that could act as an extension to our indoor space outdoors, and we added little things like a fireplace in the office that cozy up the home, and knocked out walls to let the sunshine in through big open windows. As we speak, we are adding a shower to our little guest bathroom so that we can make this home a two bath house.

With a ’60’s home, there will always be projects, but I actually love the dreaming and scheming of making these spaces in our house uniquely us.

As my husband’s grandmother says when she visits us, “I love coming here because there is just always something new to look at!” That is probably a very true statement since we are always working on our little fixer-upper.

Begin really thinking about the space you are in and how you could make it work for your family. Look for guidance in home magazines or consider spending the money on having an architect coming to evaluate your home to draw up a plan for making more out of the space you are currently in. You may be surprised to discover how much more square footage you might have right where you already are.

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Make Your Space Feel Permanent

If you look at your home as a temporary place until you find something better, you might be overlooking the chance to really make the space you are in work for your family. I found that when I finally told myself that this was my home (whether I liked it or not) and put the elbow grease into it, it transformed not only the space…but my attitude towards it.  As with all things in life, it is what you make it and I am choosing to make it the best that I truly can!

If you are living in a smaller home or apartment, just remember to consider your blessings. Not only do you have a mortgage or monthly payment that you can afford, but you have less of a home to clean, a natural way to edit the excess from your life, and more importantly….cozier quarters that force your family to always be together. What could be better for a family than that?

We have a sign hanging in our home that reads, “Small homes grow tight families.” It is truly my belief that  our little house fosters just the kinds of relationships that I want with the best people in my life.  I can continue to maximize the square footage on the existing space, but I love the togetherness that our smaller space brings.

How have you learned to embrace the space you are in right now?

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Amy’s Notebook 02.04.15

February 4th, 2015

crochet lace cowl via More Stomach

Source: More Stomach

 

Oh, how I wish I could crochet this Broomstick Lace Infinity Cowl- beautiful!

Perfectly styled lob tutorial.

Read great books literature challenge- are you in?

The meteorology of Little House on the Prairie is fascinating stuff!

Love these perfectly simple printable gluten free pantry labels.

How to simplify your life in 5 minutes a day.

Broiled Salmon With Vegetable Quinoa looks like a healthy weeknight meal.

Inspiring article: how 2014 finally made me a minimalist.

100 sq.ft living room via West Elm Blog

Source: West Elm Blog

 

A 100 sq.ft. living room- this is fantastic small space design.

This breakfast sandwich looks so good!

Such great travel wardrobe inspiration.

A trick for choosing wine.

Facts about awards shows you’d only know if you were invited.

A 20-minute bedroom refresh.

I want a birthday talent show next year!

6 lies that keep our homes & lives cluttered. Best quote: “You can’t organize excess.”

When you are a cozy minimalist.

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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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DIY Yarn Wrapped Letters Tutorial

February 3rd, 2015

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As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the desire to store less and less seasonal décor in my home. You may have seen the changes in me just from this blog as we created an autumn wreath that could be used for the entire fall season, or the yarn pom-pom wreath I created to address the decorating needs of winter in my home, rather than just Christmas.

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays you can find ways to show your love for without having decor that needs to be stored until next year. Although the Valentine’s Day Cupcake Liner Trees made their way out of storage for another year of display, I wanted to show you a cute way to honor the season all year long. After all, why does LOVE have to be a seasonal expression? My answer:

Yarn-wrapped letters.

DIY Yarn Wrapped Letters Tutorial from MomAdvice.com

As you can see from my giant display, I tend to go all out when I tackle projects like this, but you could definitely use smaller letters and thinner yarn to make this display of LOVE on a smaller scale. This is one of those projects that you can make all your own and I hope you share your interpretation with us!

Grab your yarn stash and let’s make DIY Yarn-Wrapped Letters over on the Kenmore Blog today!

Declutter Your Space & Rid Your Life of Clutter Forever

February 3rd, 2015

How to Declutter Your Home from MomAdvice.com

This year I went on a journey towards being truly serious about decluttering our home of unnecessary items. I would conservatively say that we have reduced our belongings easily by 50% and I still feel that there is more that we can do this year. Is your dream to declutter your space this year and rid yourself of clutter forever? It is a common resolution and I am living proof that this is achievable, although I will always be a work in progress. Please avert your eyes from my basement storage area & garage for a bit (ahem!).

Today I want to share with you a few resources that have helped our family on the journey towards reclaiming our home- the transformation is so worth it! These are the resources I used to start the journey towards a clutter free space and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Join me on the Goodwill Tips blog today to learn how to declutter your space & rid your life of clutter forever!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 02.03.15

February 3rd, 2015

Pastel Owls Apron via Etsy

Source: Lottie Ann Designs,  $20.00

 

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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m challenge: Focus on Money Management

February 2nd, 2015

the m challenge

I can’t believe that we have finished our first month already in the m challenge series.  If you missed our focus on health last month, be sure to visit the syllabus where we have gathered everything you need to get caught up! I don’t want you to miss a single moment of this inspiring series. I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.

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For this month, our site focus will switch to Money Management and helping you maximize the most of every dollar. This has always been a passion of mine. Heck, I even wrote a book about it. The site has always been about having that good life for less and this month, I want to share that with you. We have some really awesome features in store for you including a reader testimonial about the transformative powers of a no spend challenge, recreating some of your favorite restaurant dishes on a budget at home, and advice from Cherie Lowe, from the blog Queen of Free, who will be sharing how she was able to pay off over $127K in debt.

Each month I will be sharing a book selection that you can read that goes along with our theme for the month. This month’s selection is SLAYING THE DEBT DRAGON by Cherie Lowe.

Slaying the Debt Dragon by Cherie Lowe

Are your finances getting out of control? Have you made mistakes with your money? Are you in more debt than you’d like to admit?

Cherie Lowe has been there. She and her family found themselves $127,482.30 in debt (did your jaw drop?). They hadn’t bought a yacht, blown it on designer clothes, or purchased a mansion. The small, everyday expenses of living just added up—until suddenly, the Lowes were being threatened by one dragon of a debt.

But through hard work and with God’s help, Cherie’s family vanquished this foe, one bill at a time. And you can too! In Slaying the Debt Dragon, Cherie shares how her war on debt made her financially free, strengthened her marriage, taught her children valuable money-management skills, and brought her whole family closer to God and one another. As you read her battle tales, you’ll be armed with the weapons you need to fight your own financial foes. With God, all things are possible—and your inspired happily ever after can begin today.

I’m very excited to read this along with you and inspire you to take control of your finances again. February is going to be a very inspirational month and I look forward to sharing it with you! Cherie has graciously shared two copies for a giveaway today! Enter to win a copy today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sundays With Writers: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

February 1st, 2015

Sundays With Writers

I am so honored to be featuring another amazing writer today in our Sundays With Writers series. Today I am interviewing William Kent Krueger after finishing his beautiful book ORDINARY GRACE and discovering that this book was anything BUT ordinary. If you are looking for a fast-paced roller coaster ride of a book, this isn’t it. This is slow-telling writing and a genuine crafting of a story sat its finest. It is the kind of book that you could hand to anyone and they would see small glimpses of their own childhood in it.

William Kent Krueger is new to me, but not new to mystery lovers. He writes a series called the Cork O’Connor mysteries that I am now looking forward to checking out. ORDINARY GRACE is his second stand-alone novel (the other being THE DEVIL’S BED) and has received rave reviews, awards, and accolades. In fact, ORDINARY GRACE has won the Edgar Award for Best Novel, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Best Fiction, Dilys Award, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Left Coast Crime “Squid” Award for Best Mystery Set Within the US, Barry Award for Best Novel, Anthony Award for Best Novel, Macavity Award for Best Novel…You know, just to name a FEW! AMAZING!

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger ORDINARY GRACE is a  beautiful coming-of-age story surrounding a small town and a series of murders that happen there.  I can admit that while I was able to figure out the killer early on in the story, it did not take away from the beautiful writing that filled the pages. I really enjoyed the book and the author’s carefully crafted characters that made this story read more like a memoir than a piece of fiction.

After finishing the book, I emailed Kent and asked if he could join us today and share a little bit about why he created this stand-alone book, who inspired it, and if the pressure of putting such a beautiful book out in the world (and receiving every dang award) build upon his pressure of being a writer.

Grab your coffee and let’s chat with  Kent today about his amazing book!

William Kent Krueger

You are quite famous for your Cork O’Connor mystery novels, which I am so excited to explore now. ORDINARY GRACE stands on its own, although it has an element of mystery to it like your other books. What compelled you to develop this novel for your readers?

When you delve into the Cork O’Connor series, you’ll find that many of the stories have an undercurrent that involves the spiritual journey. This is something that comes naturally out of who Cork O’Connor is, a man of mixed heritage, part Irish-American and part Native American (Ojibwe).  He comes from two different spiritual traditions and in the stories he’s often trying to find his own spiritual way.  I’ve always seen Ordinary Grace as an opportunity for me to explore more deeply the question of the spiritual journey in ordinary lives.

Also, I’d wanted for a very long time to write a story that would allow me to return to an important period in my own life—the summer I was thirteen.  For many reasons, I’ve remembered that summer vividly across these many decades.  I wanted to recall that time and the kind of place I was living and the concerns that I had and put them on the page in a way that might help readers born years later to understand what it was like to be thirteen years old in a small Midwestern town in the summer of 1961.

And finally, I wanted to write a story that, although there would be a mystery at its heart, would be stylistically and structurally different from anything I’d written for the Cork O’Connor series.  I simply wanted to stretch as a writer.

Told through the 13 year old eyes of your narrator, Frank Drum, this book reads like a beautiful memoir of adolescence. Did you channel a lot of your own boyhood stories in this book? What is one element of Frank’s life, in particular, that readers might be surprised to know comes right from your very own childhood?

I didn’t necessarily relate real occurrences, but rather a real backdrop that came from my childhood. Although based on several real towns in Minnesota, New Bremen is a reflection of the Midwest landscape of my adolescence.  The quarry the kids swim in, I swam in.  The excitement about the Fourth of July fireworks was my excitement.  I lived in a house very similar to the Drum house and played on the banks of rivers very much like the Minnesota River.

What readers might find interesting is this: The Drum family is, in fact, based on my own family.  My father wasn’t a small town Methodist minister, but he was a high school English teacher in a small town, a position elevated in the eyes of many.  My mother, like Ruth Drum, was a frustrated artist. And I had siblings I loved dearly.  A lot of the adjunct characters came out of my life, men or women I’d known along the way.  So very much of the story was from my own experience.  But thankfully I never suffered the kind of loss the Drum family suffers.

I am going to quote you from another interview where you said that the “seed of the kind of book I wanted to write,” was in your mind for 5 years. What would you say to someone who is harboring those kinds of seeds for a book and what pushed you to finally create it? Was writing it harder for you than the writing your Cork O’Connor mysteries or easier?

I think I wrote the novel when I was finally ready to write it, when I finally understood enough about storytelling to do the story justice. I didn’t have all the details in place when I launched into the work, but I had a good sense of the Drum family and of New Bremen.  Much of the story itself I discovered along the way.  Which is very different from the manner in which I’ve always approached the Cork O’Connor stories.  Because the books in my series are, generally speaking, true mysteries, I’ve almost always plotted them carefully in advance.  I know how a Cork story begins, how it ends, who did what to whom and why.  A mystery is literary slight of hand.  It’s constant misdirection, and how can you misdirect your reader if you yourself don’t know where the story’s going?

Oddly enough, the writing of Ordinary Grace was the easiest and most satisfying piece of work I’ve ever done.  I think this was because I was constantly tapping the deep roots of my own experience for the story.

ORDINARY GRACE has won just about every kind of award there is for a mystery novel (Edgar Award for Best Novel, Midwest Booksellers Choice Award for Best Fiction, Dilys Award, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Left Coast Crime “Squid” Award for Best Mystery Set Within the US, Barry Award for Best Novel, Anthony Award for Best Novel, Macavity Award for Best Novel). What does it feel like to have this book validated like this by critics and earn so many awards? Did it help validate your departure from your series for a bit? Do you feel pressured to create this level of storytelling in your future books?

It’s always a great risk when you depart from a well-established and popular series. That’s one of the pitfalls in our business, that if you try something different, readers may turn their noses up at it.  This happened once before in my career.  Early on, I wrote a novel that wasn’t a part of the Cork O’Connor series, a novel titled The Devil’s Bed.  It’s what, in the business, we call a stand-alone thriller.  It experienced abysmal sales.  Not because it was a bad book—it got great reviews—but because Cork O’Connor wasn’t in the story, and readers were unwilling to follow me to a place that didn’t have Cork in it.  So I was tremendously uncertain about the reception Ordinary Grace might experience.  But as you’ve pointed out, and to my great relief, critics and readers alike have opened their arms to the book.  I have more freedom now to depart from the Cork O’Connor series if I choose to do that.  And I have.  I’ve just completed the first draft of a companion novel to Ordinary Grace.  It’s titled This Tender Land.

You ask if I feel pressured now to try to maintain the level of storytelling that readers saw in Ordinary Grace.    And that’s been an issue, because I’m concerned that readers will want another Ordinary Grace, and this book is very different.  So we’ll see.

The theme of spirituality is very prevalent in this book. Why was spirituality such an important theme in this story?

The question of the spiritual journey has been an important one my whole life. I’ve never felt comfortable about religion, and I’ve always felt as if I’m on a spiritual pilgrimage to a place that hasn’t been revealed to me yet.  But what I’ve seen in life is that we experience the divine every day, in the blessings and graces that we offer one another, in our ordinary kindnesses, in our habitual forgiving.  And I wanted that outlook to be at the heart of Ordinary Grace.

I understand that you might be building upon the story of ORDINARY GRACE? Can you tell me more about that possibility? What else are you working on that we should be looking for?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve completed a draft of a companion novel: This Tender Land. One of the themes I touched on in Ordinary Grace was the terrible wounding of spirit that my father and the fathers of so many of my friends experienced as a result of fighting in World War Two or the Korean conflict.  I wanted to explore the nature of that wounding more deeply, and also the question of how we heal.  Southern Minnesota, which is the setting I’ve used once again, is a perfect backdrop for an exploration of great wounding.  It’s an area whose history is written in great struggle and great suffering.  The Dakota Conflict of 1862, which occurred in the Minnesota River Valley, resulted in the largest mass execution in this nation’s history.  Thirty-eight Dakota men were hung on the same day at the same hour from an enormous scaffolding constructed in Mankato, Minnesota.  The Dakota were driven from Minnesota, from their homeland, and remained in exile for many years before returning to a place where they’d lost everything.

This Tender Land is a companion novel to Ordinary Grace, but not a sequel.  It doesn’t deal with the Drum family, nor does it take place in the fictional New Bremen.  I call it a companion because it’s also set in southern Minnesota in earlier time—1958.  And the theme this time around is, quite simply, the healing of the human spirit.

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

My all-time favorite novel is To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyone who hasn’t yet read this American classic absolutely must.

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

*This post contains affiliate links!
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How to Make the Perfect Prayer Shawl

January 31st, 2015

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

Many times in life I have felt like there is  so little I can do when hardships arise for those I love. The gift of learning to knit though has been one of those skills that I have been able to share with others in their time of need and always seems to be appreciated, particularly during those difficult moments in life. Although I have talked often of my chemo caps I have created,  one of the gifts I especially love to give is a knitted prayer shawl.

Have you heard of a prayer shawl before? It’s a special gift that you can knit or crochet that can be wrapped around the shoulders of someone who is need of comfort. As you knit or crochet it, you pray for the recipient…thus, its beautiful name.

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Each shawl I create has a special personal touch for each recipient and I spend a lot of time crafting, knitting, and selecting a prayer to make each of these uniquely special.  My patterns have come from an amazing book called THE PRAYER SHAWL COMPANION by Janet Bristow & Victoria A. Cole-Galo, who also happen to be the founders of the Prayer Shawl Ministry. Janet was kind enough to do an interview with me to help inspire you to create a shawl for someone in need.

janet-bristow

How did you find your passion in knitting/crocheting prayer shawls?

I started making prayer shawls with Vicky Galo after we graduated from the Women’s Leadership Institute at the Hartford Seminary in 1997. We were challenged to use what we had learned and apply those insights to our everyday lives. We felt that making a shawl for someone through the work of our hands and the thoughts and prayers from our hearts was a loving way to reach out to others in need of comfort.

What types of yarn are your favorite to use in creating your prayer shawls?

I have no favorite yarn and use what appeals to me.

I am sure that all the shawls you have created are so special, but do you have one in particular that you are most proud of creating and who was it for?

Each shawl is special; but the ones I made to send to Newtown, CT to be given to the families of the children that were lost stay in my heart because I knew the comfort they would bring; but I also drew a lot of comfort in making them.

I love to weave in trinkets and charms that people can clutch, like crosses or pictures of their children/grandchildren on the edge of my shawl. What are some unique personal touches that can make a prayer shawl even more special that you like to use?

I always make sure to attach a charm or medal to the fringe and encourage the receiver to do the same and add their own trinkets as a source of inspiration and meditation.

Do you have a favorite prayer that you like to include or say while creating your shawls?

Many times throughout the making of a shawl and upon completion, I say the “Prayer of Blessing” I wrote:

“May God’s grace be upon this shawl, warming, comforting, enfolding, and embracing,
May this mantle be a safe haven…a sacred place of security and well being,
Sustaining and embracing in good times as well as difficult ones.
May the one who receives this shawl be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace,
and wrapped in love.”

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prayer shawl wrapped

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Like Janet, I have made many prayer shawls over the years and I wanted to share some answers to some questions that I have been asked about my prayer shawls to help you if you might be considering making one of your own. 

What is your favorite type of yarn that you use for your shawls?

I am a big fan of the Lion Brand Homespun Yarn as my yarn of choice. I like the bulkiness of the yarn and that it has a lot of texture. The yarn is thick so it helps to knit the shawls quickly and I usually knit with size 15 needles so that I knit them quicker.

I always try to ask what the recipient’s favorite color is and weave that into the packaging in some way. I love a good neutral shawl that can be worn over everything, but if their favorite colors is purple, for example, I use ribbon to tie in that bolder color to attach my charms on the edge.

What types of charms do you love?

I try to be very personal with my gifts so I like to weave in an element of faith (usually a cross) and then a personal element. The other element I love to do is a photo element because it is a great visual for someone in their time of need. The jewelry section of your craft stores or the craft section of Walmart offer a variety of charms that you can use for photo storage. It depends on the person I am knitting it for though on what I choose to do.

When my grandfather passed away, I had the sweetest picture of him and put this in a charm for my mom & grandma as a gift for the holidays. For those that are fighting a battle of some kind (a miscarriage or cancer), I like to add a photo element that encourages them to keep fighting. Pictures of grandkids or their children offer a gentle reminder of all they have to fight for.

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What types of patterns do you recommend for creating a prayer shawl?

I feel like this is really a matter of preference, but since the object is to focus on the person you are creating it for through meditation or prayer, I love simple patterns and not anything too complex. As a busy mom, this is a project you will find me toting around back and forth from piano & dance lessons, so it needs to be one that I can pick up easily and come back to or be able to knit a quick row in the car while waiting for the kid’s bus.

My go-to pattern is in THE PRAYER SHAWL COMPANION and is called Alice’s Lace Shawl. I love it because there is just a single row of stitching (very easy to remember) and then the other two rows are a knitted row and a purl row.  If you are a crocheter, THE CROCHETED PRAYER SHAWL COMPANION is a great resource & Janet recently added THE NEW PRAYER SHAWL COMPANION which I can’t wait to check out too!

You can also check Ravelry (you need to get your free membership to view the patterns)  for a variety of shawl patterns.

How long does it take to knit a prayer shawl?

To be honest, many of the shawls I knit end up being needed urgently so I try to knit them quickly, often in a matter of three marathon knitting nights. Lately, with our family schedule,  it takes me several weeks to get these done. I try to remember that the true purpose of this is to be in prayerfulness  and to provide comfort, not be the quickest at knitting. The longer I have it in my possession, the more time I have to think on that person. Provided it isn’t an urgent situation, I can usually get these done in a few weeks!

If you have a special talent for knitting or crocheting, consider donating a little of your time to creating prayer shawls for others. Many of the people I have knitted these for, I have never met, but have discovered their struggles through mutual friends or family. This gift for people I know personally or not…  it is just never forgotten. I still have some of the most heartfelt teary-eyed chats with family members or recipients of these shawls years and years after the gift is given.

In a world where we are expected to rush, rush, rush and hurried text messages sometimes replace our real & true presence, a gift like this is impactful in ways you may never realize. 

Have you ever received or created a prayer shawl? Feel free to share your experience here! I’d love to hear your stories!

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January 2015 Must-Reads

January 30th, 2015

January 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

I promised you book reviews in the new year and I am delivering on that on the last Friday of each month. Did you know my dream job is to be a book concierge so that I could select books for other people based on their hobbies and interests? It really is. It thrills me to no end to share my favorite books with you and I try to read a wide range of books so I have something for everyone.  I am hoping that you will enjoy these special selections and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for my Sundays With Writers where I have the unbelievable job of interviewing the authors from my most loved books! I know, PINCH ME.

This month will be longer than most since I took two weeks off this winter to just read and be with my family over the holidays. Two of the books that I read ended up squeaking in on my best books of 2014 list- did you see it?  A few today, I have no doubt, will be on my 2015 best book highlights.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

This was an absolutely beautiful story about what it would be like to come to America as an immigrant. Told from alternating viewpoints all from immigrant neighbors in one apartment complex, it gives the reader the opportunity to see America through an immigrant’s eyes. From struggling to make ends to meet, to the struggle to communicate, to finding a job, to sending your child off to school, to the sacrifices that are made when leaving your own country for something you believe will be better than the life you are leading- it looks at it all through new eyes.

The story hinges around two sets of parents who have sacrificed everything for their kids and the blooming love between their children in a beautiful coming-of-age story. Honest, human, and so moving. A must-read this year.

I have reached out to Cristina to hear more about the story behind the story for our Sundays With Writers. Fingers crossed that you will be reading this interview soon- I can’t recommend this novel enough!

5 Out of 5 Stars

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

If you are into vivid storytellers, William Kent Krueger’s novel is a book for you. After I finished it, I emailed Kent to see if he would like to share more about this book and you can read my interview with him on Sunday.

This novel is set in 1961 in New Bremen, Minnesota and is told through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Frank Drum.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface, ORDINARY GRACE is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives.

This is a beautiful coming of age story that reminds us of our youth. While I was able to figure out the killer early on in the story, as this is meant to be a mystery, it did not take away from the beautiful writing that filled the pages. I really enjoyed the book and the author’s carefully crafted characters that made this story read more like a memoir than a piece of fiction.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I’m not even going to lie, this novel is absolute perfection from start to finish. Never a lag, never a dull moment, audible gasps at shocking plot twists, a steamy sordid love affair…friends, THIS is unbelievable. Now as a disclaimer, the love affair lies between two women so if you don’t want to read that, then continue on with your life. That being said, it is tastefully done and the love affair scene is more Snow Flower & the Secret Fan rather than that cheap stuff in 50 Shades of Grey. I could not put this book down and actually bought it for my Kindle (due to its whopping 596 pages in length), and kind of already want to reread it again. Or just have you all read it so I can talk about it. I mean- it’s THAT good.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer,” who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways…But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

As a reader, you are taken on a Dickens-esque roller coaster ride with plot twist after plot twist. I could not put this down and can’t wait to dig into more of her books now that I finally know what all the fuss is about. This book was amazing!

45 Out of 5 Stars (I’m Not Kidding!)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Did you catch my interview with Karen Joy Fowler this week about this amazing book? You must read the book and then read my interview with her.

First, don’t read any reviews on this one. Just read it so you can have fun with the surprise- kind of like the shocking twist in GONE GIRL. It’s got that element of, “WAIT, WHAT?!”

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind. Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man. And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

This is one of those books that you want others to read just so you can talk through it. I avoided reading any reviews on this and I am so glad I did because half of the fun in this one was making sense of this unusual family and just what makes them so unusual. So beautifully executed that it reads like a memoir, it was such an enjoyable and believable read that you want to go on a narnia of fact-finding on Wikipedia to discover all of the inspiration behind this novel and read more about how many of these cases featured were true.

Although the execution of delivering the information in a mixed up timeline can be confusing for the reader, the originality of this unique & heartbreaking story made this a book that I just couldn’t put down.

5 Out of 5 Stars

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

First, this was just not my favorite Rainbow Rowell book. If you are wanting to read something by this author, I can’t recommend ELEANOR & PARK enough. It’s YA perfection. This book was cute, but not my favorite. I am apparently in the minority though because this one won the GoodReads Choice Award Winner for the Fiction Category for 2014.

The story is about a troubled marriage where the couple end up being separated for the holidays and Georgie, the wife, discovers that she can communicate with her husband in the past through a landline phone in her childhood room. They chat at night and Georgie wonders if by chatting with him (pre-marriage)  she is changing their future or can repair mistakes from the past.

This had all the signature Rainbow Rowell charm with a touch of magical realism laced in where a relationship is revived through a rotary phone that can take the main character, Georgie, back in time to a pivotal moment in the relationship with her husband. I am always a big fan of books that explore the, “what if?” and this did that in a failing marriage and what could be done differently if given the chance. Although this one lacked the ELEANOR & PARK charm, I still thought it was a great little escape. Fans of Allison Winn Scotch’s, TIME OF MY LIFE,  will fall in love with this one as it builds on such a similar concept.

For me the first half was slow and the second half was cute. I recommend this one if you need a little escape or a lighter read between heavier books.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Wheat Belly by William Davis

Wheat Belly by William Davis

I’m trying to dive into a bit of nonfiction this year and thanks to our m challenge series and the monthly selection, I tackled my first nonfiction book this year.

WHEAT BELLY focuses on the quality of the wheat that we now consume and how removing wheat from your diet can help you to lose weight and live longer. The scientific research that supported this book as well as patient studies showcased not only the difference in the health of our body, but also how eating clean can help you mentally too.

Although every study and patient situation in this book seemed to have remarkable differences in their health without the gluten, I tend to not be an extremist when it comes to diet planning unless you have a health reason (like having celiac disease) that might not benefit from my, “all things in moderation,” planning.

The most interesting part for me about this book though were the studies on mental health, particularly the schizophrenia study, that showcased how much better patients did mentally with a wheat-free diet. I know that I have felt sluggish and out of sorts when I overload on carbs, but I never realized the benefits of wheat-free eating if you were suffering from a mental illness.

Overall, I really did enjoy this book and had the pleasure of listening to this one on audiobook this month thanks to my Scribd membership. I’m thrilled they are now offering an unlimited audiobook offering along with my book selections which has been a great way to absorb another book while tackling knitting or household chores!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls

I read and loved this one as a little girl and this month I read it with my little girl. The circle of life is a beautiful thing.  I think reading this again was even better as an adult. I am reading these with my 9 year-old daughter and am shocked how many scenes I can recall in vivid detail from my childhood. As an adult though, you certainly have more of an appreciation for all the work that Ma & Pa did to keep their household running smoothly. I also have found that Laura is a bit of a Ramona in this story- yup, she’s a little sassy and I love it.

This book really showcases all of the chores that the family must do and how they prepare their food for the long winter. The entertainment resides in Pa’s fiddle playing and making things from scratch.

This book is a treasure, no matter what your age! I look forward to reading the rest in the series this year with her.

5 Out of 5 Stars

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What Is On My Nightstand Now

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

I am over halfway through DEEP DOWN DARK and absolutely loving it. I heard about this book on NPR since it is their first Morning Edition book club selection and we know I am all about anything NPR-related. When a Chilean mine collapsed in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. This book is the story of the miners and what they  experienced below the surface. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Hector Tobar gains exclusive access to the miners and their stories and tells these beautifully. It helps to offer an understanding of the families and the personal stories of these miners, as well as adds insight into what it would be like to work in this type of job.

When I read stories like this, much like the beautiful book UNBROKEN, I am reminded that I would die in the first day because I am a very weak, weak person. I could not exist in this kind of tomb-like existence. It is an incredible testimony to the strength of these men and the love they had for their families.

I really recommend this one, even though I haven’t finished it yet!

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside The O’Briens by Lesa Genova

I was lucky enough to score an advanced reader of this book on NetGalley this month. I am a huge fan of Lisa Genova, particularly her novels STILL ALICE (have you seen the flick yet?)  and LEFT NEGLECTED. She truly has a gift for writing about illnesses and diseases that can affect the brain and mind. This novel promises a bit more of the same, but is exploring Huntington’s Disease.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

We are riding along in the wagon with Laura as her family leaves her little house in the big woods. I won’t lie, Emily started sobbing when the wagon found its way into the creek and their dog goes missing. I forgot how brutal this trip was.  Of course, I always loved the most depressing books when I was a kid, so this should come as no surprise that I remembered this one fondly. I also am reminded that I wouldn’t survive (see above for why).

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

My work life has been out of control these past couple of years and this year I really want to scale back.  This book is going to help me say no more to the things that don’t matter and make room for the good stuff. I am really enjoying this one and find myself highlighting the entire book. It’s the kind of book you want to revisit periodically when life feels out of control.  For me, it is like working with a business coach, but it doesn’t cost as much. I see so much of myself and my struggles in this and so much of my husband’s struggle with balance that we are both reading it right now and talking about it.  It is helping me to refocus this year.

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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