Small-Budget Crushes 02.13.17

February 13th, 2017

Flamingo Skirt

flamingo skirt (use code VAL20 for 20% off)

Blush Driving Loafers

blush driving loafers

Striped Tee

perfect stripes

gardenia bandana

gardenia scarf

Entry Storage

entry storage bench

Alexander Hamilton Socks

alexander hamilton socks

library pillows

library pillows

Joggers

joggers

Striped Swimsuit

swimsuit (ordered this one for myself!!)

Squad Goals

squad goals

 

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 

 

 

 

Sundays With Writers: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

February 12th, 2017

Sundays With Writers

When I picked up I Liked My LifeI thought it would be a light escape between my heavy historical fiction picks last month. What I never expected though was how much this book would move me and make me consider my own interactions in my life. I saw so much of myself and my life reflected in these well-woven characters. Then I learned more of Abby Fabiaschi and her activism as a human rights advocate and commitment to use proceeds from her incredible book to support the causes she cares about and it became important to me to share her journey with you.

I knew Abby had so much she could teach me (and maybe you!) about writing her first book and more about her passion for human rights. In this difficult political climate, I’m so moved by stories of good people. Living our family motto this year of finding the good, I am thrilled to share more about the good that Abby is doing in the world and how we have the power to be the good too.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Honestly, if I was going to pick a book that surprised me the most last month (check out last month’s stack of must-reads!!),  I Liked My Life would be it! The idea for this story sounded horribly depressing. A mother commits suicide and her family is left to pick up the pieces… but it is so much more than that!

Fabiaschi writes this story in a way where the mother, Maddy, is still there and able to manipulate her family members into doing what she needs them to do by speaking to them through their thought streams. From helping them find better solutions to deal with her death, to guiding friendships, and even finding her replacement. Her presence and voice is one of the alternating chapters in this novel, along with the voices of her husband and teenage daughter.

Each character reflects back on the good and the bad that has happened in their lives in real moments that mimic your own. The petty fights, the difficulty as a mom to make every day special for your family (while no one makes the effort for you), and the struggles of mother and daughter relationships. I could see so many of of my own struggles in this character, making Maddy real and relatable.

Heartbreaking at times, laugh out loud funny at others, I doubt you would pick this one up and not get something out of it. I am committed to no spoilers, but want you to know the ending is quite satisfying as a reader!

Grab your coffee and let’s learn more about Abby and her fantastic debut!

Abby Fabiaschi

Congratulations on publishing your first book! What an incredible accomplishment for you and your family. Why did you decide to leave the corporate world and pursue writing and how long was the process of getting published?

When I started writing I Liked My Life I was working 60/70 hour weeks in high tech and pounding away at my keyboard nights and weekends. At the time, I could balance my hobby, my work, and my marriage. Then I got a third and fourth job named Page and Parker, 11 months apart, and something had to give. Writing time was replaced with diapers and cuddles and ear infections.

When my kids turned three and four in what felt like one season, I resigned from the corporate scene. It was time. Most of the alpha males I worked with found it insane to ditch a lucrative post for something with a .2% success rate, but it wasn’t about getting published for me. I needed a lifestyle change, and I was fortunate: with spending changes, my husband’s career could support our family.

The book sold about two years after becoming a fulltime writer.

Her Future Coalition

Before we dive into the plot, I’d love to share about your mission to donate a portion of the proceeds to survivors of human trafficking and your volunteerism as a human rights advocate. Can you tell us more about this important cause and why this is of importance to you?

After resigning from the corporate world, my family right-sized our lifestyle to accommodate the loss of income. When we were off and running on our new salary, I realized that nothing of substance had changed. As “they” say: The most important things in life aren’t things. My husband and I agreed that if anything were to come of my writing we would donate a fifth of it systematically. Now, twenty percent of my after-tax proceeds, including foreign and film rights, are donated to charities benefiting women and children.

I’m passionate about economic solutions to severe social and cultural problems such as human trafficking, domestic abuse, and child marriage. As board chair for Her Future Coalition, I get to see the success of this approach firsthand. Fiscal independence is a powerful tool—providing training, education, and employment is an effective way to help victims remain forever free. If you’re interested in donating or learning more, visit www.herfuturecoalition.org.

In the same vein, I think you are also such a great example of someone who has found a way to prioritize charity by adjusting your lifestyle to put money towards those in need. Do you have any tips for putting money or time towards the causes we truly care about while doing the mom juggle?

I recommend adopting a cause. After reading Half the Sky, I felt a tremendous call to action to fight human trafficking. There were practically trumpets playing in the background as I started researching the different ways to get involved.

When you find an organization that supports your passion, think of how your skill set and connections can be leveraged to their benefit. If you offer up what you’re already proficient at, it’s easier to efficiently add value.

From a donation perspective, there’s a tradition I love: every year for holidays and birthdays give your children a check to donate to the charity of their choice. This turns giving time into family time, and plants the seed of altruism.

I understand it was your own experience with death, at the age of 15, which gave you the idea to explore the mourning process through this coming-of-age story. Do you then see yourself in both Eve, from your teenage years, and in her mother, Maddy, now as an adult? Has it been therapeutic to reflect on this?

I Liked My Life was written as a way to unburden my loss onto unsuspecting characters, so yes, therapeutic is the right word.

The first draft was completed when I was twenty-four. I had no children; I’d been married all of five months at its inception. I wrote from three intertwining perspectives—mother, daughter, and father—but given the extent of my life experience, only the daughter’s section was relatable.

Years after that first draft, my father died of a heart attack at fifty-three. When I revisited the manuscript, I was a mother two times over who’d grieved as an adult, side by side my husband of eight years. It was then that the mother and father’s section came to life.

Age, gender roles, personality types, financial obligations, these all change the way tragedy is digested.  I Liked My Life isn’t about mourning generally, it’s about the reality that we must grieve around others who are also grieving, and the loss can at times feel competitive.

You write about marriage in such a relatable way. Those silly petty fights and frustrations make for a real and true portrait of marriage. Do you think illustrating this helped shape Brady’s story more and his own emotional hurdles of forgiving himself?

I’m now thirteen years into my marriage and I see the layers of it with more clarity. There’s the daily grind—the back and forth where I know I’m loved but sometimes don’t feel appreciated. There’s tests—darker times where I question if I’m understood at all. And there’s nuggets—moments where the value of my role in the family is revealed and validated.

The more interesting thing to realize is that the same ebb and flow holds true for my husband. I don’t think either of us fully fathoms what the other accomplishes and carries in a day, and I no longer think we have to in order to be happy.

In I Liked My Life Brady arrives at this same conclusion in stages. Each revelation is accompanied by a different emotion: anger, guilt, sadness, and, ultimately, acceptance.

Why was it important to have Maddy’s voice be such a big part of your story and how much fun was it, as the writer, to have her manipulating plot points in the book?

With Maddy, I looked to put words to the connection I still feel with loved ones I’ve lost after their physical time with me is over. As I wrote, at times I felt the people I miss so much cheering me on, so the joy in creating Maddy’s voice was personally meaningful to me.

As a reader, I found myself walking away with a heightened sense of consciousness about my interactions with my loved ones and how important they are, even when you sometimes feel unnoticed as a mom. What feelings do you hope your readers come away with from reading this story?

I’ve been in book clubs for over a decade and have learned that a reader’s takeaway is unique to their experience, past and present. For me, I take comfort in the knowledge that if you can rise above the fog and haze of grief, there are slivers of beauty in life’s most agonizing moments. The challenge is that anything gleaned is at the expense of your loss—and it will never be worth it—so you have to accept the injustice of that.

Did you or do you have anything special planned in celebration of your first book being out on bookshelves? Will you be taking some time off or are you on to the next book?

I have more of a what’s next? personality. Right now I am all in on promoting I LIKED MY LIFE. I worked hard to get this opportunity and I want to do everything I can to help get it in the hands of readers.

My second novel, tentatively titled WHATEVER HAPPENED TO LUCY BISCARO?, should be out with St. Martin’s Press in the winter of 2018. It explores the polarizing hold that memories can have on us, and how every decision we make is layered with our past experiences.

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

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!

It’s the 3 Little Things: The Boxed Wine Win, Tiny Tables, and All the Hygge

February 10th, 2017

high-school

Thirteen years ago, I started this site as I tried to navigate my own rough waters of parenthood online. The site was a journal experience, for me,  as I figured out how to make baby food for my son, how to keep him entertained (without losing my mind), and how to run a household…

E. has been a big part of this weird career journey from its virtual beginning.

That’s why it is so strange that yesterday I signed that sweet baby boy up for his high school classes.

I held it together until I got in the car and then I had a good cry.

Mostly, I was just crying because I am so proud.

It feels very braggy to share,  but THIS IS MY SITE so I’m going to tell you why I’m beaming today.

He’s one incredibly gifted kid. Flagged for all honors courses and even an AP class, I couldn’t be prouder of his academic success. I wasn’t that kind of student and I don’t necessarily expect it from my kids so I’m awfully proud that this is where he is.

What makes me prouder than that though is that he is GOOD PEOPLE.

He is incredibly kind. It’s been an honor to observe his interactions with others and how he genuinely loves people.

Not just some people.

ALL the people.

No matter what.

Although this is bittersweet, I’m awfully happy and proud to say that this is the kind of person we are sharing with the world.

Don’t blink, mama. I’m learning how quickly time flies.

Here’s what else is making me happy this week!

winking-owl

wine glasses

Winking Owl Boxed Wine

The local grocery store had lured me away from my weekly ALDI run with the whole online ordering and personal shopper bit, but I’m back. Nothing like New Year’s resolutions to do better with your money to get your spending back on track. Seriously, you just can’t beat the prices. My kids eat me out of house and home so every dollar counts these days!

As you know, I’m a big fan of boxed wine and ALDI unleashed their inexpensive (like, less than $3 a bottle, yo!) wine in a box. I purchased the Red Blend at my store for a little over $10 for FOUR BOTTLES in the box.

At that price, I had low expectations of how good it could be.

You guys. It is GOOD. It’s not too dry, not too sweet with a smooth finish.

It is better than Trader Joe’s two buck chuck by a mile and it comes in this convenient box for all your weeknight needs.

Seriously, this boxed wine did not disappoint!

If you have ever been curious about ALDI, check out my behind-the-scenes piece on visiting their headquarters! It is still my #1 fave forever. Amen.

plant-stands

follow me on IG

Tiny Tables for My Coffee

Our home has come with challenging small spaces and one of those challenges is our bathrooms. I have learned that thinking outside the box is key with our small space. When I discovered this incredible vanity, for example, I knew that we could fit it in our wee bathroom and create the perfect spot for getting ready.  The other challenge was finding a spot for cup propping (a necessity for this coffee addict) in our bathroom.

While walking around Marshalls, I saw a plant stand and knew I had my answer for our wee space. They had this tiny table for just $10 and it has become my new favorite spot for soaking in the tub (note to self: reorder giant bag of Epsom salts since I’m soaking all the time!)  with coffee and a good book on my bath tray.

It also happens to be perfectly portable to move it to other areas in our home when a coffee stand is needed.

Plants might die here, but coffee never will! Might as well shop for a table for it.

hygge

yoga pants (that hold your belly in)- cha cha cha!

A Whole Lotta Hygge Going On

Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’, hygge is the Danish concept of living cozily and I’m all about it right now. Indiana winters are hard especially on these old lady joints and I’m pretty sure my attitude isn’t great about it. Hygge embraces those winter days and adds cozy comfort while embracing all those simple pleasures that life has to offer.

Hmm…embrace winter instead of complaining about it? What a novel concept!

I am making one day a week (minimum) an official hygge day that’s focused on all the cozy comforts life has to offer. One day this week  I hit an incredible yoga class, heated up my cozy throw, filled my coffeepot to the brim, and curled up with a good book for the entire day.

As we went around the dinner table to discuss the Roses and Thorns of the week, when it was my turn I REALLY had some Roses.

“Well, it was a treat yo’self day. I read a book, I drank coffee all day, I finally finished a season of a show, I went to yoga, I took a nap. It was heaven..”

Everyone was so happy for me since they all had Thorny days so they were like, GOOD FOR YOU!!!

Perhaps, we all might need a hygge day!

Homemade Lunchables

Eating: I’m addicted to snacking these days so I made myself some grown-up Lunchables for the week.  Black Forest Ham, cheddar cubes, tomatoes, carrots, roasted almonds- it’s all protein-filled yumminess and gluten-free. I don’t like my stuff touching or getting soggy so I used cupcake liners to keep everything fresh.

Reading: I’m listening to this book this week and loving how there are three narrators with this one. This one definitely feels YA, but it has some important lessons in it. I’m enjoying it!

Thankful: Can’t tell you how much I am enjoying my daily newsletter from theSkimm. Even when the news isn’t so great, I love the snarky non-partisan 5-minute informative read over my morning coffee!

LOVING:  My rain boots came and they are better than I ever dreamed. The footbed is so cozy you don’t need boot socks and the width is perfection for this lady with bricks for feet. If you have a wide foot, your feet will be REALLY happy!

I hope you all have an incredible week filled with all the HYGGE! Don’t know how to cultivate it? Check out this Facebook group for some tips.

*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 02.08.17

February 8th, 2017

Smashed Potatoes With Garlic Pesto

source: minimalist baker

These smashed potatoes with garlic pesto look like a perfect winter side dish.

Easy and affordable ways to add more hygge in your life. I’m trying to add more of this in my life!

I’ll have to remember to use my blow dryer on stickers next time!

6 helpful travel apps to take with you on your next trip!

I always love a good boat-neck tee and these look like winners for my next capsule.

A quick tip to get your stainless steel pots and pans looking like new again- must try this!

video game controller organizer 4_zps0voajr9a

source: she’s crafty

I love this organizing strategy for game controllers.

OMG! How cute is this?!? I loved this movie!

Speaking of movies, I am reading this book and it is CRAZY good. I can’t wait until the film comes out!

Check out this 100 postcards journey- impressive and moving!

Busy is a refusal to sit with yourself. I needed to read this today.

 

Burger Bites

source: skinny taste

I’m going to make these burger bites for our next board game night. Such a fun spin on finger food.

The sweaty girl embarrassment cure company sent me a coupon to share with you- here’s 20% off your purchase. It’s the best gift I gave myself this year!

14 fabulous shops for affordable art- bookmarking for our home!

Add these 17 things to your car and you will be set for any emergency!

Projector Screen

source: a beautiful mess

I love this idea to trade in the television for a projector. What a great use of space!

Ohhhh….this is sounding promising!

Here’s who will match your ACLU donations right now.

Do you work from home? I’m dying laughing over this emergency call for help.

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

Who is the CFO in Your Household?

February 6th, 2017

household-cfo

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

The entrance of a new year often comes with a renewed focus towards financial goals and a quiet respite after all the holiday spending. Perhaps, you are dreaming of the same thing as me, to be a wiser spender and tracker of funds.

I am curious, as a busy mom, who holds the CFO reigns in your household and if you have found this role has evolved for your family over the years?

My husband and I have been married for sixteen years and I have always had the CFO duties in our house.

There are times where I am nailing it as a diligent tracker, an oh-no-you-didn’t-charge-me-that-much customer service caller, and a fierce barterer on rates.

As our life has gotten busier though, I am ashamed at how poorly I have been keeping up this role on top of every other hat I’m wearing.

I find myself, a negligent CFO who needs to get her ducks back in a row.

It’s not that I lack confidence with money; it is that I often feel like I lack time.

Chase Mastery recently ran a study called the, “Chase Generational Money Talks Study,” to see how this evolution of CFO has shifted through the generations. Much like me, they discovered that 78% of Millennial women agree they are able to make good financial decisions, even if they are new to them, compared to 71% of Gen X and 67% of the Boomer generation.

My Millennial confidence is great, but how can I implement better follow through for my family this year?

365-4

This year, as our Household CFO, I would like to focus on four goals with our finances!

Track My Money Better

I can admit that my first instinct is to grab my phone and do a little scrolling. If that instinct is already there, wouldn’t it be great to replace my social media time with a quick analysis of our family finances?

I’m a big fan of Mint as it does a really great job of tracking and helping you visualizes where your money is going, but I had fallen off the bandwagon with my daily tracking.

I am a nerd when it comes to pie charts and graphs so why not geek out a little bit over my morning coffee again? I am hoping this tool can help me to be a better monitor of our funds.

Removing Those Slow Leaks

It is so easy to get caught up in monthly memberships to things from our music to our television watching to our digital consumption to the gym memberships.

I really want to revisit where these slow leaks are happening and be serious about canceling the memberships to things we are not using. We can ALWAYS come back to these subscriptions, should we find we really miss them, but I’m wondering how many of these things we would truly miss.

Embracing No-Spend Weekends

I don’t have a lot of down time during the week, but I do on the weekends. What inevitably happens is that those periods of laziness often gets filled with online shopping, dining out, and boredom busting activities.

I want to start replacing those impulses with commitments to not spend on the weekend.  Making dinners together, playing board games, watching documentaries, and really enjoying my kids without spending money needs to be my new jam.

Talking About Our Financial Goals

The “Chase Generational Money Talks Study,” shared that couples often have conflicts regarding their household finances. Three-quarters of Millennials and GenXers have conflicts with their spouses over money, compared to 62% of Baby Boomers, the study found.

Although I believe the CFO roles have changed, I feel like conflict about money is something that has carried on for generations.

I’ve been lucky that we don’t have conflicts about money, but I can remember the difficulties and struggles when we were sinking in $13,000 of debt and how awful it felt to feel our financial future slipping away.

I want to always have an open dialogue with my spouse and I think we need to start talking about our retirement goals and figuring out what we can do now to prepare for our future.

To learn more about the Generational Money Talks series, you can watch it here:

A huge thank you to Chase for sponsoring this conversation today and spurring a much-needed conversation in our own home about our financial future!

Tell me, who holds the CFO reigns in your household and has this role evolved at all for your family? I’d love to hear!

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

 

Small-Budget Crushes 02.06.17

February 6th, 2017

Ruffle Sweater

ruffle sweater (I got this and LOVE IT! Perfect weight and detail!)

5-year memory journal

5-year memory journal

Shaye Rain Boots

shaye rain boots (just got these and they are perfection!!)

a mystery lady

a mystery lady

High Waisted Swim Bottoms

high waisted swim bottoms

 

binney striped top binney striped top

Lace Slip Skirt/Dress Extender

lace slip skirt/dress extender

Perforated Booties

perforated booties

Rashguard Shirt for Women

rashguard shirt for women

Velvet Cushion Covers

velvet cushion covers (tons of colors!)

saw-came-made-it-awkward

made it awkward tee

 

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 

Sundays With Writers: Mischling by Affinity Konar

February 5th, 2017

sundays-with-writers-1

It is such an incredible honor to share an interview with Affinity Konar, the gifted and talented author of, Mischling.” I doubt that you could read her haunting book and not be completely moved, both by the story of these incredible children and the poetic words that Konar writes in this finely crafted novel. I could not wait to reach out to her and share more about her own story behind the story on the site.

It is a book that I can’t stop thinking about and the story of Mengle and his experiments, truly, shook me to my very core.

Don’t worry, if you haven’t gotten to this one yet, there are no spoilers in this interview. I would love for you to learn more about this and Affinity’s own journey to Poland to connect with her Jewish heritage and think this interview offers so many important lessons, especially so shortly after Holocaust Remembrance Day.

 

Mischling by Affinity Konar

As you know, I have read so many books about the Holocaust over the years, but I never feel like I am informed enough about the horrors and struggles that were faced during this time in history. Once again, I find myself oblivious to those who suffered as Konar unfolds the story of twins, Sasha & Pearl, who became a part of the experimental population of twins that were known as Mengle’s Zoo, based in Auschwitz.

Many begged and falsely claimed that their children were twins to be part of Mengle’s Zoo because they believed they had been saved from certain death. Unfortunately, these children were far from safe and became a part of tests to separate the twins from one another, both physically and psychologically. Konar explores this through these sisters, told from alternating perspectives, as they are brutally experimented upon.

How something so horrible could be written so beautifully is a true tribute to Konar’s writing.  Her writing style reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey’s writing in her beautiful book, The Snow Child, an almost magical quality even to the harshest of moments. It’s impossible to read Konar’s words and not feel deeply moved and surprised by her well-crafted language.  Beautifully told and based upon the stories of real victims of these crimes, Konar’s debut is strong and promising!

Please grab your coffee and settle in for more about Affinity’s story!

Affinity Konar

Your book is absolutely incredible, heartbreaking, and important. I have read many books on the Holocaust, but I have never read these stories told with the storybook or fable-like quality when writing about these unspeakable horrors. Why did you choose this approach to your prose?

I’ve always loved Jewish legends and fables, stories that approach transformation, hardship, and dignity, often with a lilt of humor and a sense of the unknowable. I hoped that the book might carry an echo of that texture, that it could inform the voices of girls with these transformative perspectives, and carry them through a world of unimaginable pain and loss. Auschwitz-Birkenau was anti-meaning–I wanted the girls to defiantly find their own world of symbols and objects and living things within it, to cling to any meaning they could create for themselves while in the midst of such dehumanization.

When Stasha sees violence and reconfigures it into something pretty, she does so not in the interest of merely finding prettiness, but to self-protect. It’s a child’s rebellion, a reaction to a life lived in constant peril. I didn’t want to claim that life is beautiful even in the face of suffering, but to explore how trauma might compel one to dwell on what may remain beautiful, in order to endure. I thought that by enlarging the private worlds of the girls, the horror of what they were escaping might be underlined. I often thought of the approach as masking and unmasking. The mask might be fanciful, but the need for it indicts the terror it conceals.

Josef Mengele

How did you run across the story of Mengele’s “Zoo,” and which real-life accounts influenced your body of work the most?

I grew up reading a lot of Shoah literature, particularly Primo Levi. And I remember reading Paul Celan for the first time as a teenager and feeling utterly changed. So this history and literature was always a presence in my life, especially since my family had been among so few who escaped Poland before the war. But everything culminated when I was sixteen and dropped out of school for a period of time. At the encouragement of my education-obsessed parents, I undertook a kind of autodidactic study and that’s when I found Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado, which chronicles the experiences of the twins of Auschwitz. Through that unforgettable book, I found so many others.

For a long time, I focused on Jewish prisoners with medical expertise who were forced to answer to Mengele, like Dr. Gisella Perl and Sara Nomberg-Przytyk. I read a great deal about Jewish resistance within the camps, and the operations of the underground. I became interested in the role of music within Auschwitz, and read Playing for Time, by Fania Fenelon, who was a member of the orchestra.

Twins

(Eva & Miriam)

And later, I’d find the story of Eva Mozes Kor, who survived Mengele along with her sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger.

The Diary of Anne Frank was, of course, never far from my thoughts. I studied many books about Mengele and chose to include very little of them in the end. And I was constantly returning to Levi.

Why did you chose the word, “Mischling,” as the title for your book?

It was always tied to the story in my head, as it held a lot of dualities that felt important to the novel. When I first heard it, as a very young person, I was drawn to its lilting, diminutive quality, and then I found its meaning and shuddered, because it’s a term the Nazis used to classify Jews of mixed heritage. If you were mischling, you were afforded certain privileges that assisted survival, but of course, being privileged in the midst of such torment is not without its own psychological burdens. Stasha pummels the word throughout; she uses it to disguise herself, and fantasizes about thwarting Mengele beneath its cover. I hoped to anchor the book with the gravity of this term.

I am sure it would have been easier to have kept the focus your story on Mengele, but you choose to keep the focus on the children instead. Why was it important to tell your story this way?

One of the greatest challenges of the book was measuring how much of a role to give Mengele within the story. I didn’t want to brush past the man and his crimes, but I also feared rendering him in a way that might risk humanizing him. I fell short in trying to comprehend Mengele’s brutality, which was so elaborate and calculated and monstrous that the accounts of it read with a certain surreality that is very dangerous to handle on the page. I worried about lending him a glimmer of charisma, and yet, I couldn’t avoid the fact that Mengele was known to be charming and handsome; he courted the children with attention and candy and gave them rides on his shoulders. This treatment of the children that preceded his vicious experiments–the sickness of it is unspeakable.

After so much time trying to understand something so bottomless, I limited his role severely. I occasionally wondered if I lacked ambition or wisdom for not exploring him more, but ultimately, I couldn’t let him be more than shadow. I wanted the strength of the twins to overwhelm Mengele, to diminish and lessen his presence. Their innocence and love and longing for survival were far more worthy of articulation. He was not to have a voice.

Stasha and Pearl, as twins, have similar but very different voices. What was the writing process like writing these two voices? Did you write these chapters in the order we are reading them or in sections? Did you find one twin’s voice easier to write than the other?

I always envisioned the book as a conversation between a pair of twins, but Pearl’s was the real challenge for me, and I nearly abandoned it after the first half, because I was so daunted by the responsibility of rendering a narrator who bore witness in a very reliable, calculated fashion. That’s unbelievable to me now, because the book would be nothing without her, but it was a real temptation for a bit, and it took me some time to find my footing within her perspective. Stasha’s voice was far easier for me, as it’s pure emotion and image. She’s longing and lament and intensity. That was incredibly satisfying to write, particularly after spending so much time within the research.

The chapters were written very much out of order, partly because I spent many years not knowing what the book needed to be, and partly because of my terribly disorganized nature. I wanted the voices to be similar, but to also bounce off each other in contrast. So I’d spend months writing in one voice, and then return to the other, hoping to make them meet. Properly setting up the links between Stasha and Pearl was one of the biggest technical challenges for me, and it took a great deal of traveling between chapters to smooth the transitions between them.

As a reader, it was often difficult to read of the tortures that were inflicted upon these children. How hard was it to immerse yourself in this work and what scene did you find the most difficult to write?

I understand how hard it must be to read, and at the same time, I feel that it can never be hard enough. I only felt the enormity of the immersion after it abated somewhat, and I have to say that I gained immense respect for individuals who investigate crimes against children, genocide, and trauma, because the repeated exposure does appear to change a person. It can hollow you out, or heighten your sensitivities. It can make the prospect of a normal conversation feel impossible. I found myself addressing this grief by reading poets like Paul Celan or Dan Pagis or Edmund Jabez, looking at the paintings of Charlotte Saloman, finding accounts of Jewish resistance, or listening to Yiddish songs from the ghettos and camps. And I tried to be aware of the extreme distance of my pain, of how I was constantly measuring my own sensitivity against horrors I haven’t experienced. I didn’t want to write with a sort of performative empathy, in which sinking yourself into someone else’s torment is the ultimate goal. I simply wanted to write two girls whose love for each other could be touched by horror, but not broken by it.

So many scenes were hard to undertake. The very beginning, where they are parted from their mother and grandfather, under the illusion that Mengele will care for them–even now, I have trouble reading that. The description of the children in the laboratory. The details of Pearl’s imprisonment. And the chapter where Stasha is given an injection by Mengele, and she reconfigures this assault in her mind, to provide herself with an illusion of control–I edited that repeatedly, because it was hard to calibrate what I could personally handle against what needed to happen.

I understand that you recently visited Poland to reconnect with your own Jewish heritage. What did you discover, about yourself,  through these travels?

 

I never imagined I’d go to Poland. I’ve dealt with agoraphobia for many years, often leaving my apartment only for work. So for one of my first real ventures outside of my routine to be in Poland, and then, in Auschwitz-Birkenau–it was a shock to me, and the experience of visiting the camp exposed me to my limitations as both a writer and a person. There was no sense of tidy confrontation and resolution–things opened for me instead, and felt more endless. I felt very small, partly because of overwhelming nature of the experience, and partly because I was with my parents. My father is a well-traveled man, but he’d always avoided Poland. To be there with him, and my mother, who I couldn’t possibly comfort–I’d thought myself emotionally prepared, but I wasn’t. From an early age, I’ve had an irrational fear of separation from my parents, brother, and sister. So to be on grounds where innumerable severances had taken place–it was very fearful, and I felt a bit disassociated from myself while walking through the camp. The very fact that my mind would need to impose this distance on a simple visit, when my life was entirely unthreatened, was illuminating and humbling and it made me question myself a lot. I’d just written a book that claimed that beauty is a reason to live, a form of revenge against the Nazis, a way towards meaning. I still believe this, but when I left Auschwitz, I felt that beauty in its highest form must surely a disruption of cruelty. I’d edged towards that notion before, but I knew then, that I could never go back to thinking of beauty in any other way.

If we are interested in reading more about the real-life heroes that inspired your story, what books or documentaries should we check out?

All of Primo Levi’s books were heavy influences early on, but especially The Truce and  The Periodic Table. Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado was a vital introduction for me.  I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz by Dr. Gisella Perl, a harrowing account that partially informed the character of Dr. Miri. Auschwitz: True Tales of a Grotesque Land by Sara Nomberg-Przytyk, which I discovered late and can’t recommend enough for its unexpected tone and vibrancy.

Eva Mozes Kor’s work is indispensable. She and her twin sister, Miriam Mozes Zeiger, survived Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz. They founded CANDLES, and a museum in Indiana dedicated to preserving the history of the twins. She has a searing book, Echoes from Auschwitz: Dr. Mengele’s Twins:  The Story of Eva and Miriam Mozes, and a documentary “Forgiving Mengele”.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

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!

It’s the 3 Little Things: No More Yelling, Peaceful Invasions, & Cooperation

February 3rd, 2017

Snow in Indiana

We got a bit of snow in Indiana. Although I’m not a big fan of the chilly temperatures, it was beautiful to wake up to a little snow globe one morning. This happens to be my favorite street in our little ‘hood so I drove down to take a picture for you! Isn’t it gorgeous?

I got to sneak out to see Dirty Dancing on the big screen with my bestie. Do they air old movies again at your theaters? It’s such a treat when they bring back one of my favorites. One year, my husband got us tickets fors Breakfast at Tiffany’s and it was pure magic.  When we checked in for La La Land, I saw the sign to catch Dirty Dancing coming soon and it was SO COOL to see it that way. Sign up for those emails from your movie spot so you know when these special events happen.  It’s amazing all the little details you miss if you don’t see it on the larger projection.

Let’s get happy!

Dinner Bell

No More Yelling

YOU GUYS!! The best thing that happened this week was discovering that I had the power all along, my dearies!

Do you have trouble getting everyone around the dinner table? Since we live in a quad home, I can have people two flights down or a flight up and it is annoying to have to repeatedly yell, run around, knock on doors, go down two flights, go up three, etc… just so we can all eat together.

When we went to an antique shop, over our fall vacation, I found a call bell for an accent on my bookshelves. It has been sitting on the shelves for months and one day, I was too dang tired to do the, “gather round, people” shuffle. I started banging the top of this bell and EVERYONE OPENED THEIR DOORS AND CAME DOWNSTAIRS.

No yelling. OMG! I’m a genius.

I have been doing it every night and they all come to the table without me yelling.

Here is a cheap version for $5.99 or you can get a gorgeous antique one over here.

SERIOUSLY, DO IT!

Where to Invade Next

Peaceful Invasions

I’m not a huge Michael Moore fan, but I ran across this documentary, Where to Invade Next, and noticed it had all the stars on the reviews. We started watching it and couldn’t stop. The premise of the documentary is that Michael Moore goes to other countries, learns a new approach for an issue America seems to be struggling with, and plants his flag there to signify invasion and taking that principle home.

From the health care crisis, to prison systems, to maternity leave, to school lunch, to college debt,  to standardized testing…he explores all of this with real people and diplomats.

Even if you are a conservative and don’t necessarily agree with Moore on a lot, I doubt you could walk away from this and not feel inspired to want some of these incredible changes for our country and some of our broken systems.

It is rated R (a couple of F-bombs, references to sex/contraceptives, and a nude scene (hey, most countries are a little freer than us- ha!), so we watched this one just with our older kiddo and let our daughter watch parts of it that had to do with schooling and lunches.

It’s a lot to chew on- you can catch it on Prime!

Pandemic Board Game

Cooperative Gaming

I am learning how much fun it is to do cooperative games in our family, especially to help our younger child to feel included. We got Pandemic for Christmas and it has quickly become one of our new favorite games. In the game, four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out. Players must work together playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks.  But the diseases break out really fast and time runs out quickly.

We have played this multiple times and the first time we won it and we were like, “How pleasant and easy.”

Then we read the instructions and realized half of the stuff we were supposed to be doing we weren’t actually doing and that is why it is the only time we have beaten it.

This game is challenging and a ton of fun! It’s also nice because you can play it with just two people so this is one we can continue trying to beat after our kids go to bed.

We still haven’t really beat it, but we are having a blast in the process.

Sausage & Vegetable Frittata

Eating: I’m back to making frittatas for easy lunches! Today I’m mixing up and photographing a new flavor combo for you. I love that these are protein-packed and gluten-free! Give this recipe a try and buy yourself a cast iron skillet for the occasion. It will be your most-used kitchen item, I promise!

Reading: I am trucking through this month’s book club selection and laughing out loud. It’s charming and a good one for Ove fans.  If you haven’t joined my book club, get on it!

Thinking about: This documentary A LOT. It is up for a ton of awards and worthy of them all. The prison system is broken and this explores the how and why. After you are done watching it, search 13th on Netflix and it should pull up an Oprah interview with the author to understand this complex issue more.

Lucky For You: My favorite cardigan ever got marked down to $9.99. If you are looking for a cardigan that covers your bum, is warm, but not too warm, can be belted, or can be left open, this one is PERFECTION. See how I styled it over here.

Laughing: Hope you enjoy these laughs for a Friday pick-me-up!

  hair

This semi-annual haircut picture is for my mom. The whole abandoning FB thing might be a little detaching for our family. You can always find me over here, mama!!

PS- Trying to grow out these bangs is some work, yo!

Happy Friday, my friends! xoxo

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

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!)

February 2nd, 2017

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

This post was sponsored by MARS, Inc and American Greetings. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to show someone how much you love them. Often my default for Valentine’s giving is for my family, but this holiday I’m challenging you to think outside of the box and consider someone else special in your life.

How about a little love, for example, for one of your incredible teachers?

I can’t imagine how challenging their job is to come and be the encourager, discipliner, educator, and hero to our children. Day in and day out, they are a positive force in helping our kids succeed and I am so grateful for the molding and shaping they do. What a gift that they share their time and talent each and every day.

I wanted to create a fun DIY Teacher Survival Kit filled with fun supplies with things that would be useful throughout their day, as well as some fun treats to indulge in for a much deserved break. I am sure it goes without saying, but our teachers often use their own funds to keep their classrooms stocked so I love to periodically send along little gifts. This teacher survival kit is not only meant to offer a small indulgence for their hard work, but it also provides little things like note pads, antibacterial wipes, bandages, and other useful items that they might need at their desk.

How to Make a DIY Teacher Survival Kit

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed (all found at Walmart- check here to find your closest store!)

1 clear plastic container with lid (the dimensions on my container are 15″L x 11 1/2″W x 3 1/4″ H)

Dove® Milk Chocolate Heart Tin

Antibacterial Wipes Drink Mixes (lemonade, coffee, cocoa, etc..)

Small First-Aid Kit

Lip Balms

Small Candle Mouthwash

Lint Roller

Stain Stick or Pen

Pain Reliever

Immunity Boosters

Notepads and Sticky Notes

Check out the American Greetings Valentines Day card selection at your local Walmart, to find Valentine’s Days cards for anyone and everyone special in your life!

(scroll down for your FREE printable label!)

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

 

 

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

Directions for DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift

1. Go to your local Walmart and visit the storage container section of the store first to select a container for your project. Having this first will help guide you as you make your selections to fit in your kit. Fill the container as you go with all of your purchases to make this Valentine’s gift special for your favorite teacher with the supplies list I have provided.

2. Assemble your container with your purchases, placing the Dove® Milk Chocolate Heart Tin in first to build your supplies around it.

3. Print our Teacher Supplies Kit label out for the top (link below). You will need to do just a tiny bit of trimming around it to trim off a little of the negative space on this one. Remove the sticker from the backing and secure it to your container.

4. Finish this project with a heartfelt message for your teacher to let them know how special they are.

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

DIY Teacher Survival Kit Gift (FREE Printable!) from MomAdvice.com

I can’t think of a teacher that wouldn’t appreciate a gift like this. I am thankful every single day for the teachers that are shaping my kid’s minds. As I see them blossom into such kind and thoughtful people, I know I can attribute it to their excellent influence.

Consider this Valentine’s Day the perfect opportunity to thank a teacher in your life!

Download Your Teacher Survival Kit Label (click the link below!)

Free Teacher Survival Kit Label

This post was created in partnership with MARS, Inc and American Greetings. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

 

 

 

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DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat

February 1st, 2017

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

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

What shows your love for someone more than something handmade by you? Today I am sharing a tutorial for an easy no-sew DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat that I created for my family. This mat makes it easy to relocate your puzzle projects when you need to use your table and it’s made with just a few inexpensive materials!

Are you addicted to jigsaw puzzles like us?

My kids are at a fun age right now where we are really enjoying playing board games and assembling puzzles together.  Right now we are tackling 1,000 piece puzzles which feels so ADULT. We haven’t had the courage to go beyond that size yet, but I’m sure we will get there.

Even after our kids have headed to bed, the hubby and I spend time together listening to podcasts or good music, while piecing together puzzles. I find it be quite therapeutic after sitting in front of a screen all day. It helps me decompress in the evening while giving my brain a break from my to-do lists.

To maximize our jigsaw puzzle collection, a couple friends and I trade puzzles after we finish them which has been great because we always have something to work on, while keeping it rather frugal in the process.  Trading puzzles has been a great way to keep our collection fresh and continue to keep our kids interested in putting these together with us.

My only gripe with puzzles is where to relocate them when we need to eat at the table. We also happen to have a, “helper,” in our house who likes to flip puzzle pieces when her mother is ignoring her (we love you, Lulu the Cat!). I thought a mat might be a great way to discourage our helper and could be a quick way to clear the table for the dinner hour!

Let’s create this easy no-sew roll-up jigsaw puzzle mat!

 

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

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

1 yard of Waverly Inspirations Fabric  (check out the fresh new Valentine’s Day prints,  I picked a classic pink gingham!)

1 yard of felt fabric (any coordinating color)

1 package of Waverly Inspirations Ribbon (any coordinating color)

Cardboard tube (you can use a durable mailing tube, gift wrap roll, or even use plastic PVC pipe)

Razor blade (if cutting to size)

Hemming Tape or fabric glue

Scissors

Waverly Chalk Paint in a coordinating color  and paint brush (optional, but you can paint the cardboard roll to coordinate- I decided to leave mine in its natural state!)

PUZZLES!!

How to Make a DIY Jigsaw Puzzle Mat

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

1. Much like our reversible seat cushion project, we are going to begin by lining up the two fabrics with the right-side of the fabric facing INSIDE towards each other. That means the wrong sides will be facing out! Trim your fabric and felt to the same size. Remember, this mat can be ANY size that you want. If you want it be the size of your kitchen table, for example, measure that first and use this as your guide for creating your mat. I created a generous mat for our large puzzles!

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

2. Once your fabric has been trimmed, use your fabric tape and line all the sides , making sure to leave an opening so that you can turn the mat out once you have sealed all the seams. Using a very hot iron, carefully and slowly, begin ironing to seal the seam (you can see another example of what sealing this seam looks like over here!). Typically doing this requires pinning, but I did find that the felt held the tape in place and made it an easy project to do without pinning. Do this along all the sides (make sure you left that opening to turn it out!!) until the two pieces are fused together. Carefully, turn the right sides out and then finish by sealing that last opening with fabric tape or a little fabric glue.

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

3. Trim your cardboard tube to the length of your finished mat. If you want to paint this, you can! I finished each end with a little tied ribbon that can be used to tie the entire mat up when we are storing it.

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

DIY Roll-Up Jigsaw Puzzle Mat from MomAdvice.com

As you can see, you can roll up those puzzles (take your time and roll carefully!) when not in use. Please keep in mind, it is not recommended for  long-term storage since it can damage your puzzle pieces, but it is recommended for a quick relocation so you can use your table when you need it.

I am so excited to break this in and I’m guessing it is going to be a smart item to take when we rent our summer cottages too!

If you need me today, you’ll find me working on this fun new-to-me puzzle!

PS- Seriously, start a puzzle exchange with your friends. You won’t regret it!

Happy crafting!!

diy-jigsaw-puzzle-mat-9

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

DIY Phone Charging Station

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

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