It’s the 3 Little Things: Naturally Calm, Loving My House, & the Perfect Spice

March 20th, 2015

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends!  We are looking forward to a quiet weekend (thankfully) at home this weekend. I do have plans to take my daughter to see Cinderella though. Have you seen it yet?  We are both so excited to see it today. I hope you have lots of fun things in store for your weekend!

Here are 3 things that are making me happy this week…

Natural Calm

Natural Calm

Despite how I might portray myself on here, I can admit that I am quite the basketcase these days. The work and home life juggle has been fierce.  Some days I’m like, “WHAT IN THE WORLD?”  In some ways life does get easier with having older kids, but in other ways it gets harder. Between the daily homework grind to the endless activities to volunteering…  most days I am just trying to keep it together like any other mom out there.

Before I begin, I am NOT interested in anyone selling me anything for my nerves/anxiety. 

I take 5-HTP when I feel a dip in my moods which has really worked well for me in the past, but a couple of friends had been telling me about Natural Calm and the benefits of magnesium on the body.  I knew how good I felt after soaking in epsom salts, but the advice to take magnesium orally  went in one ear and out the other.

When I went to pick up my supplement though, the girl waiting on me said, “PLEASE try this! It has changed my life.” She pointed to a bottle on the shelf and I actually listened this time.

It was the same bottle of stuff that my friends had been raving about. If you read the reviews you can get a better picture of how much it helps people.

It is unreal the difference in my mood and calmness levels.  For me, the difference was noticeable immediately. My hardest day of the week is Tuesday. It’s the day ALL THE THINGS must happen and I am a disaster by the end of the day.

I took it in the afternoon and my husband came home and was like, “How did it go today?”

And I’m all like…”It’s cool.”

And he’s like, “No, really. Isn’t this THE HARDEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE?”

And I’m like, “Nah, man, it’s cool.”

In short, he nicknamed me Matthew McConaughey cause I’m all like, “Alright, alright, alright,” around house. Not high strung. Not crying because I can’t do ALL THE THINGS for ALL THE PEOPLE.

Do your own research, start small (or you will have the runs- trust me!) and don’t take more than what is recommended. I take a small amount in the afternoon before my children come home when they ask for ALL THE THINGS and a small amount if I am worried I will have trouble sleeping at night. I took it once in the morning and it knocked me out and I slept all day so I don’t recommend it if you want to have a productive morning. If you want to have the most glorious day of day sleeping though, it was quite lovely.  Of course, it reacts differently in everyone. For me, it makes me feel like I had a little glass of wine or a great bath.

Again, I’m not a doctor.  I don’t want to give anyone a mag addiction. Don’t take more than recommended.  Ask your doctor about magnesium. Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer!

Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels

Love the Home You Have

My sweet friend, Melissa (of The Inspired Room), has a book coming out and she sent me a copy of it and asked me to join a blog tour to help her promote Love the Home You HaveI’ve been so lucky to get to watch her success and I was excited to dive into this book. Melissa’s journey towards loving her home echoes the same journey we have been on with our own little fixer upper. This book is BEAUTIFUL and filled with humor and wisdom about the journey towards loving your home. There is a Biblical slant to it, but it isn’t preachy.  I started this yesterday and I can’t put it down. If you struggle with loving the space you are in, she really shows you how to make the most of whatever your situation is. I love that this book isn’t about upgrading our buying more, but making simple switches to make your space more enjoyable. Their journey is relatable and her personality shines in this book.

I don’t promote books because people are my friends, I promote them if they are good.

This one is good.

Love The Home You Have from The Inspired Room on Vimeo.

Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic Blend

Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic

Now that warmer temperatures are just around the corner (yes, they ARE, Indiana!), I have already started switching my menu plan to easier summer dishes.  I bake big batches of chicken and have discovered this Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic is perfect for baking chicken with lots of flavor. I sliced up a bag of roasted chicken and tuck this in our fridge for sandwich wraps (I love a drizzle of ranch, tomatoes, & spinach with this chicken), for topping our favorite berry pecan salad, and I even put it on top of pizza for an extra kick of protein.  This spice mix is super flavorful (and affordable)!

Capsule Wardrobe Ideas (current capsule HERE)

Spring Capsule Wardrobe Outfits Spring Capsule Wardrobe Outfits

Are you following me on Instagram? I post 4 outfits each week!

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

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?

Freebie Friday March 20, 2015

March 20th, 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 you can swing into spring with the fashion advice from Vera Sweeney, save money on kid’s clothes with tips from Mary Carver, get 7 fresh painting ideas, and make mini cannoli cream pastry cups inspired by the movie Annie! I’m also sharing a fun recipe for Easter surprise Peeps cupcakes as well as a terrific interview with Mary Louise Kelly, author of The Bullet, for our Sundays With Writers series.

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

Have a great weekend, everyone!

This Week’s Freebie Events: March 21 – March 27
 
21st – Barnes & Noble: Join story time featuring Edmund Unravels, 11 am
 
21st – Lakeshore Learning: Create a Feathery Friend, 11 am – 3 pm
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Amy’s Notebook 03.18.15

March 18th, 2015

Chipotle Chicken Wraps via Tastes Better From Scratch

Source: Tastes Better From Scratch

 

Chipotle chicken wraps- get in my belly.

Success can happen at any age.

A Stay-at-Home Parent Is Not a ‘Luxury’

Oh, this is fancy.

Now THIS is a March Madness I can get behind.

I’m completely inspired by this fun Ikea hack.

How To Make Giant Paper Flowers via Julie Blanner

Source: Julie Blanner

 

Learn how to make giant paper flowers from tissue paper.

Princess books for smart, strong girls.

The case for lowering your expectations.

One-ingredient ice cream? Looks amazing!

13 Netflix shows worth binge-watching.

Making your corned beef and cabbage as a slow cooker soup? Yes, please!

 

amys_notebook

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

 

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Mini Cannoli Cream Pastry Cups (For Annie the Movie)

March 17th, 2015

Mini Cannoli Cream Pastry Cups from MomAdvice.com *This post is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

It’s no secret that this girl loves musical theater and one of the productions I did in high school was ANNIE.  It was one of my favorite movies growing up and Carol Burnett was someone I hoped to model a theater career after. To say that the musical is special to me would be an understatement.  I think it is important to admit that I had low expectations for the new ANNIE movie.

How could anything ever live up to the original?

Imagine my surprise that this movie was as charming as the first.   This movie really DID deliver, even for an original Annie-lover,  and in honor of the film’s DVD release today, I wanted to share a special treat you can share while watching the movie!

If you haven’t seen the film yet, it really does honor the classic songs that we all love, but adds its own unique spin often involving fun sound effects, hand clapping, and a more hip hop beat to the music. There are original pieces that are worked into the music that really flow seamlessly into the original music and the film has been updated with current themes, while embracing the sweetness and wholesomeness of the original ANNIE.

Mini Cannoli Cream Pastry Cups from MomAdvice.com

In this film, Annie believes that she will be reunited with her parents,  at an Italian restaurant where they left a note on a receipt with the heart-shaped locket that any wears. Each Friday she visits the restaurant that serves the homemade cannoli that the couple shared on that night, waiting and hoping that they will finally come to retrieve her.  As she sits upon the curb, the owner comes out and tells her that they haven’t come and hands her a little to-go box of cannolis to take home. It is a ritual that is repeated in the movie and a truly sweet scene.

Mini Cannoli Cream Pastry Cups from MomAdvice.com Mini Cannoli Cream Pastry Cups from MomAdvice.com

In honor of this moment in the film, I am sharing a fun recipe that you can make with a prepared pie crust and a homemade cannoli filling that is perfect to share while watching the film together.  This would also make an adorable treat for a birthday party or as a party favor in little to-go boxes tied with butcher twine.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bowl of Pho today for providing the to-go box and note to make this pretty photo for my cannoli display.  If you are a local, it’s a must in our town to head there and get a bowl-as-big-as-your-head of chicken noodle soup.

Mini Cannoli Cream Pastry Cups from MomAdvice.com Walmart is sharing this adorable exclusive DVD set that comes with a mini plush Sandy that would be a perfect little Easter treat to share with your Annie-lover this year. The price on this set is $29.96. Wouldn’t this be the sweetest gift? Sandy even made it out of for show-and-share this week!

I hope you enjoy this sweet treat and can pick up this film! I guarantee that it is one that the whole family will love!

Mini Cannoli Cream Pastry Cups (For Annie the Movie)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 48 servings
 
A sweet treat to share while watching Annie! These can be made gluten-free with a simple substitution of a gluten-free pie crust!
Ingredients
  • 1 container (15 oz) whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box (you can also substitute with gluten free pie crust)
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • Additional powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. In large bowl, beat all filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Place filling in 1-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag; refrigerate while making cups.
  2. Heat oven to 425°F. On lightly floured work surface, unroll pie crusts. Sprinkle each crust with turbinado sugar and cinnamon. Lightly roll rolling pin over sugar and cinnamon to press into pastry. With 2½- to 3-inch round cutter, cut out pastry rounds. Lightly press each pastry round into ungreased mini muffin cup.
  3. Bake about 10 minutes or until pastry cups are golden brown. Cool completely in pans, about 15 minutes. Remove from muffin cups to cooling racks.
  4. Just before serving, remove filling from refrigerator. Cut 1 bottom corner off bag; pipe scant tablespoon filling into cooled pastry cups. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Store any remaining pastry cups at room temperature and filling in refrigerator.

Source: Pillsbury
walmart_mom_disclaimer

 

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7 Fresh Furniture Painting Ideas

March 17th, 2015

7 Fresh Furniture Painting Ideas from MomAdvice.com

I am a big fan of painting furniture and when the Spring temperature arrive, I start dreaming of all the pieces I can redo.

Does anyone else refer to Spring as spray paint season?

Maybe that’s just me.

Today I wanted to share some ways that you can add a fresh new look on a furniture piece from Goodwill. Often when we see pieces, we can’t see the true potential in them if they are dated, mismatched, or distressed. It can be challenging to look at each piece as something full of possibilities.

Here are some great ways to bring tired furniture to life, to create the optical illusion of sets of furniture, and some really great new ways I have found to experiment with new painting techniques.

Head on over to the Goodwill Tips blog to discover 7 Fresh Furniture Painting Ideas!

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Saving Money & Sanity with Kids’ Clothes

March 17th, 2015

Right now my daughter’s bedroom floor is covered in clothes. Some clean, some dirty, none folded. Supposedly the piles are organized by type (pants, shirts, etc.), but it’s hard to know for sure. Probably because, at this point, I’m averting my eyes rather than staring directly at the chaos.

Sometimes, the combination of kids and clothes drives me crazy!

When it comes to laundry, we’re still figuring it out at my house. Overflowing hampers, piles of clean-but-wrinkled shirts, dozens of sad unmatched socks – we’ve got it all. So I’m all out of advice for dealing with the care and cleaning of your clothes. But more than seven years into this business of clothing kids, I have learned a few things that just might help you save money and possibly your sanity.

Saving Money & Sanity with Kids' Clothes

1. Learn to love hand-me-downs. Or garage sales or thrift stores or consignment shops. Whatever it takes to get your hands on a large amount of clothes for a little amount of money – DO IT. I’ve been incredibly blessed with a cousin whose daughter is a few years older than Annalyn. They’ve generously shared clothes since my kiddo was born, saving me so much money and time and shopping sanity. When we’re finished with the clothes, we turn around and hand down the good ones to another cousin whose daughter is just a year younger than mine.

Those clothes didn’t quite make it back for a fourth round, so my youngest daughter hasn’t received as many hand-me-downs. Still, we try to pay it forward by boxing up her too-small clothes for a friend whose daughter is a few months younger than Adrienne.

2. Find a quality brand you love. I happen to love Carter’s. I have friends who swear by other brands, but Carter’s is my favorite. The clothes are always super cute, fairly priced (especially at the outlet store!) and well-made. They hold up to the abuse of a little person (and my belief that everything should be wash and go). And I can find them in several different stores. Whether I’m shopping at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target or JCPenney, I can find cute Carter’s clothes for my kiddos.

3. Buy in season. I know. The frugal folks will tell you to buy clothes on sale at the end of each season. But I’m telling you: your kids will grow in weird, unexpected ways. And storing all those clothes is a pain. (And if you forget you have them until that next season is two-thirds the way through? Well, you’ll wish you’d walked right on by that clearance rack!)

4. Give your kiddo choices. As they get older, your independent and creative kids will develop opinions about their attire. Oh yes, they will. And that brown floral peasant blouse that you just love (and may have bought a version of every single fall since she was born)? Yeah, your darling daughter’s not gonna go for it. So, my advice is to give her choices. “Would you like to wear this outfit today or tomorrow?” “Would you like to wear the pink dress or the pink shirt and gray pants?”

I imagine this is an issue for boys, too, but as a Girl Mom, I don’t know. Boy Moms – what say you?

5. Let them dress themselves. If you dare. And possibly retaining veto power. I definitely have veto power at our house, but some of the other moms at our preschool let their kids wear whatever they pick out. I suppose this one depends on your tolerance level. Big surprise – mine is pretty low.

6. Extend the use of your favorite items. Sundresses are my favorite piece of clothing ever. Obviously they’re perfect for summer, but stick a t-shirt and tights under a dress – and voila! You’ve got a spring/fall outfit. You can also add leggings under dresses that are too short. As a matter of fact, I just bought an adorable toddler dress today for Annalyn to wear over her denim shorts this summer!

Boys aren’t left in the cold with this tip, although capris and peasant blouses don’t really translate here. But layering t-shirts over or under long-sleeved shirts can stretch out their wardrobe a bit, too.

7. Embrace the pink. Or the green. Or the polka dots. Or the Mickey shirt or the Dora socks or the monkey hat. Our kids are showing us their unique personalities and passions when they beg to wear the same outfit or color or headband  or ball cap every day. It won’t last forever. And all those people at the grocery store or gas station, staring at your pretty little princess or camouflaged superhero? They know your child picked it out. And they think it’s cute, too.

How do you save money (and sanity!) with your kids’ wardrobes?

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Apron Full of Giveaways 03.17.15

March 17th, 2015

Linen Apron on Floral Background via Etsy

Source: Linen Life Ideas,  $38.04

 

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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Spring Wardrobe Essentials with Vera Sweeney

March 16th, 2015

I’m so excited to have my amazing friend, Vera Sweeney, from Lady and the Blog sharing a fantastic list of Spring Wardrobe Essentials with all of us. I respect Vera and her work so very much and she has become one of my go-to resources for making the most of my wardrobe. Check out this great list she created for the m challenge and be sure to use our handy list of wardrobe printables while preparing for your new Spring look! xo

Spring Wardrobe Essentials

Spring is such a great time for fashion. There’s no more hiding. No more bundling. It’s all about embracing the warmer weather and showing off some skin. Because the beginning of the season can be so transitional, there are a few key pieces that every woman should own to ensure that she is ready for any weather that Mother Nature throws her way.

jean jacket

 

The Jean Jacket

I love a great jean jacket because not only can it keep you warm during cooler days, but it can also help you get more wear out of your summer dresses. If you pair a jean jacket with a summer dress and knee high cowboy boots, you suddenly have a seasonally appropriate look that can deconstruct into an entirely different feel.

When the weather gets warmer, remove the jacket and replace the boots with some fun flats. Easy!

The Daily Find: See by Chloe Pleated Dress

 

The Pleated Dress

If you listen to Fashion Week and trends, you know that pleats are coming back strong. Be sure to snag yourself a delicate looking pleated dress for this spring. Opt for a pale color and accessories with a bold clutch. Because we are going for a dainty look, don’t go heavy with jewelry when wearing this style. Instead, choose a simple necklace and skip the bangles.

Summer Scarf

 

The Summer Scarf

I love the summer scarf because it’s the perfect addition to any spring look. It’s the one accessory you can wear anywhere – anytime. And I’m not kidding! Wrap it around any look to add as an extra layer to complete your outfit. Then when it gets cold at night, simply unravel the piece and use it as a shawl. Perfection!

Floral Spring

 

Anything Floral

I know that sounds a bit vague… but it’s true. Spring is all about flowers, right? It makes sense that floral prints would be hot! Pick up pants, skirts, shirts, clutches or shoes. Whatever you like, really! Just don’t wear it all at once. ☺

Mint & Yellow

 

Mix and Match the Bright And Bold

When choosing color combinations for the spring, don’t be afraid to mix color and color. Have a little fun. It doesn’t have to be black mixed with a bright color. You can wear mint with yellow, or orange with blue. Yes! It’s all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and making an effort to be scene. If you need a little practice in this arena, start color combining with your accessories first.

Perfect Clutch

 

The Perfect Clutch

This is one of the most underrated accessories on the block. I live and die for a good clutch but not many women I know own one. Who wants to lug around a hobo or a tote to a restaurant when all you really need is your phone and lipstick? Purchase a sleek looking clutch and call it a day. Trust me! You will get a ton of use out of it! It will be your favorite purchase of the season. I love the red options I highlighted above, but if you really want to keep it simple, a beige clutch goes with everything.

What do you think of the options I selected for you? These spring wardrobe essentials will help kick start your style in the right gear.

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Easter Surprise Peeps Cupcakes

March 15th, 2015

Easter Surprise Peeps Cupcakes from MomAdvice.com *This post is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays and I love crafting, decorating, and especially the eating for this holiday.  Longtime readers know that I have a love affair with Peeps that have included a wreath made out of Peeps and I have even found a way to make Peep Martinis that taste divine.  Let’s just continue the mad love affair with Peeps and make a hilarious Easter surprise cupcake for your kids!

Supplies:

1 box gluten-free cake yellow cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
1 cup assorted mini candy-coated chocolate candies, jimmies or confetti candy sprinkles
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup boiling water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 unbeaten egg whites
12 Peeps (any color)
Melon Baller

Easter Surprise Peeps Cupcakes from MomAdvice.com

 

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin tins.

Make cake batter as directed on box. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (about two-thirds full). Bake as directed on box for cupcakes. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Using melon baller, scoop out center of each cupcake, about 1 inch deep. Fill each with 1 heaping teaspoonful candies.

Mix sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and egg whites in your stand mixer bowl. Add boiling water. Beat on high until the mixture forms peaks, which should be just about seven minutes. Spoon or pipe frosting on top of the cupcaks and finish with sprinkles and a Peep on top.

Easter Surprise Peeps Cupcakes from MomAdvice.com Easter Surprise Peeps Cupcakes from MomAdvice.com easter-surprise-peep-cupcakes-17

Don’t you hate it when your Peeps lay their eggs in your cupcakes? Ha! What a funny surprise for you kids and a fun food craft to do together as a family! I hope you love this idea and remember that you can pick up all the supplies at your local Walmart store! Happy Easter, everyone!

Easter Surprise Peeps Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
A fun Easter surprise cupcake that you just so happens to be gluten-free. Fill it with your favorite egg candy and top with a marshmallow Peep!
Ingredients
  • 1 box gluten-free cake yellow cake mix
  • Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
  • 1 cup assorted mini candy-coated chocolate candies, jimmies or confetti candy sprinkles
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 unbeaten egg whites
  • 12 Peeps (any color)
  • Melon Baller
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin tins.
  2. Make cake batter as directed on box. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (about two-thirds full). Bake as directed on box for cupcakes. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  3. Using melon baller, scoop out center of each cupcake, about 1 inch deep. Fill each with 1 heaping teaspoonful candies.
  4. Mix sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and egg whites in your stand mixer bowl. Add boiling water. Beat on high until the mixture forms peaks, which should be just about seven minutes. Spoon or pipe frosting on top of the cupcakes and finish with sprinkles and a Peep on top.

Recipe adapted from tablespoon
walmart_mom_disclaimer
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Sundays With Writers: The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

March 15th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

There is just nothing like a good thriller especially the kind that keeps you up at night until the wee hours of the morning because you just can’t put it down. I was lucky enough to receive THE BULLET last month to review for NetGalley and found myself reading at a record pace because I just couldn’t flip those pages fast enough. I had a book hangover for a couple of days, trying to recover from the lack of sleep I had been experiencing while reading this.

It’s that good.

THE BULLET comes out this week (March 17th) and I want you to run right out and get it so you can experience my level of exhaustion. I really doubt you will be able to put it down.

I reached out to Mary Louise Kelly to see if she might like to share a little bit about her life as both a reporter and a fictional writer.  I think this interview perfectly captures what I imagine her personality to be which seems to fill the pages in her fabulous new thriller. Please do read through to the end so you can see her publicly challenge her brother in this interview.

She is my kind of lady.

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

THE BULLET  is a beautifully written mystery that echoes some of my favorite thrillers from Chevy Stevens.  The premise of the book is when a woman discover a bullet in her body that she was never aware of it, it sends her life spiraling in a direction that she never expected. The origin of that bullet and the people around her that it has affected, cause this cold case to be reopened… reopening wounds of the family and friends around her.

Despite the gravity of the case and the circumstances surrounding it, the book is laced with great humor and a cast of endearing characters. I really enjoyed this one for a quick escape and can’t recommend it enough.

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Mary Louise as she shares more about this book!

Mary Louise Kelly

The premise for your latest book THE BULLET is shaped around a woman going in for a routine scan and discovering that she has a bullet in her body that she never knew about. How did you come up with this unique idea for the storyline for your book?

It’s a true story! I was sitting on the sidelines of my son’s little league baseball game one afternoon, when another mom plopped down next to me, heaved a sigh, and said something like, “Well, I’ve had a heck of a week.” Long story short, she had just had a routine scan that revealed a bullet in her neck that she never knew about. She had no scar, no clandestine past, and she swore she’d never been shot. Driving home afterwards, I kept thinking, how is that even possible? I’m a reporter by training, so I dug into medical literature, looking for examples of people who have survived gunshots to the neck or head. And then the novelist in me took over:  I imagined all kinds of wild scenarios, from amnesia to witness-protection programs to CIA plots. My protagonist discovers the bullet in her neck by page 8. What follows are 349 pages of pure fiction, focused on her quest to find out how on earth it got there, and what on earth she’s going to do about it.

What is your process for fleshing out a thriller like this? Do you have the mystery solved before you write it so you know where you are headed or did you build the story and motive as you progressed through the writing?

I map out the whole thing, to make certain it’s a story that can sustain 350 pages. But then I end up throwing out the road map as I go. My original outline is stuffed with all kinds of plot twists that fell by the wayside, and it never mentions characters that end up playing major roles. You get to know characters as you write them, and some prove more interesting than others (the nice thing about fiction is that you can kill off the ones who get on your nerves.) One theme that runs throughout The Bullet is that we should question how well we really know the people we love, and even how well we know ourselves and what we are capable of. I kick off the book with a quote from one of my favorite writers, Robert Penn Warren. He writes that human beings are complicated contraptions, “not good or bad but… good and bad and the good comes out of the bad and the bad out of the good, and the devil take the hindmost.” Isn’t that great? I agree with him, and tried to conceive all of my characters as complicated contraptions. That makes both the protagonist and the forces opposing her more interesting, and both of them kept surprising me as I wrote.

You have created such endearing characters in this book and Caroline’s family, in particular, are just the kind of people every girl wishes she had in her life. Which character did you find the most endearing??

Thank you. I have a soft spot for Beamer Beasley, the grizzled cop who helps Caroline unravel the secrets of her past. Writers aren’t supposed to admit to imagining which Hollywood star would play our characters, but Beamer is screaming to be played by Morgan Freeman, and really, wouldn’t we all want him on our side when investigating a gruesome crime? I also loved every scene with Madame Aubuchon. I could just picture her so clearly, in all her hauteur and brittleness, but also her intelligence and decency. As for Caroline’s family, a lot of readers have commented on how close she is to her brothers. They love and support her, even as they drive her nuts. I confess this sibling back-and-forth is completely autobiographical. My brother C.J. gets me riled up faster than anyone; you do not want to be in the room when the two of us get going on politics or feminism or the relative merits of tofu vs. steak. But as I note in the Acknowledgments, C.J. is also hands down the person I would want beside me in a bar brawl.

Mary Louise Kelly

Source: KPLU

How do you think your background as a reporter has helped you as a writer? What skills are you able to use from this profession to be build a good fictional story?

My journalism training helps enormously with dialogue, because when you write for broadcast, you strive to write conversationally. Most of us write in complete, grammatically correct sentences, because that’s the way our high school teachers and college professors taught us. But that’s not the way people talk, and it takes time to unlearn it. Writing for radio gave me a head start. It also instilled an instinct for storytelling. At NPR, we aim for the “driveway moment” – that moment when a listener has made it home, and he’s got the car in park, and he needs to get inside, but he’s listening to something so gripping he can’t turn it off. You want to spool out enough detail that the listener gets hooked, while holding enough back that he wants to keep listening. That’s key to writing a good novel, too, although I suppose the goal shifts to creating a  “nightstand moment” – when a reader sits up turning pages, well after he knows he should have chucked the novel on his nightstand and have turned out the light.

Caroline’s irritation with the reporters made me chuckle since you have worked as an NPR & BBC reporter. In one line she says, “Reporters. Honestly. What an exhausting profession, to be professionally trained to be relentless.” Is it exhausting?

Actually, no. It’s exhilarating. There was a great line in a New Yorker profile of Samantha Power, President Obama’s ambassador to the U.N. The writer describes Power, a former journalist, as retaining “a reporter’s instinct for amassing facts and deploying them to extract more.” That’s exactly right. You find out one interesting thing, and it makes you want to dig and find out more. Get a bunch of reporters together, swapping stories about that time on deadline on the Khyber Pass, or banging on voters’ doors in Iowa, or quizzing the President in a White House press conference, and at some point we all break into grins, and somebody says out loud what everyone is thinking:  I can’t believe we actually get paid to do this.

 Since this is your second book to be published, did you find this one easier or harder to write than your first? How long did it take you to create this story and what did you find most challenging with this book?

This second one took less time. Maybe I’m getting faster, but more likely it’s because the first time around I was working full-time as NPR’s Pentagon correspondent. While writing Anonymous Sources, I kept jetting off on reporting trips to war zones, and when I was home in Washington, I was filing daily news reports from the Pentagon. Writing fiction was my third priority, after my day job and after being a wife and mom.

The Bullet took me 16 months, from sitting down to write Chapter One to handing in a full draft of the manuscript. Then come months of editing and polishing and proofreading. As for Book Three… we shall see how long it takes. Right now I’m ramping up again on journalism; I have dearly (insanely?) missed the daily deadlines, and being engaged in the national dialogue on everything from race to politics to technology. My hope is I’ll end up with loads of fresh ideas for my fiction; my agent fears I’ll end up taking a decade to produce another book. But another side effect of being a reporter is that I write fast, so watch this space!

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

I would tell my brother to read Birdsong, the 1993 novel by Sebastian Faulks. It’s about a British soldier in France during World War I, and it is the most gorgeous epic of love and war and regrets. I’ve been telling my brother to read it for twenty years now, and he keeps refusing, at this point out of sheer orneriness. C.J., consider yourself publicly challenged.

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

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