How to Paint a Kitchen Table: Our Kitchen Table Makeover

October 13th, 2015

Originally posted in 2011, I thought this would be perfect for our Transforming Your Space M Challenge since it was a fairly simple project (after I learned a lesson!) that made a huge difference. I love paint and it’s power to transform!

How to Paint a Kitchen Table

I never dreamed that I would ever paint my kitchen table when we bought it. For ten years though we abused it daily, it survived a brutal move with a terrible moving company, and the polyurethane coating never did look right after it was damaged in route to our house on the day we bought it. The table was loved to pieces, literally, and that is why we had to paint it.

Passing through our kitchen, you might not have noticed the table’s beat-up appearance. From far away or cleverly covered with a tablecloth when it got really embarrassing, the table just didn’t look that bad.

Upon closer inspection though, your eyes are assaulted with the damage that has happened to it. The polyurethane coating was flaking away, the ends were terribly damaged on the table, and a huge gash went right through the center of it that I never thought the table would ever recover from.

We decided that we would stain the table and restore the tabletop with a nice deep and rich color. We bought lots of supplies to stain the table and I couldn’t wait to get started.

For two days I sanded the table to within an inch of its poor little life. The polyurethane coating remained. I bought polyurethane stripper and left it on the table for twenty-four hours. The polyurethane remained. I sanded the table more. The polyurethane remained.

I cried.

I rocked in the fetal position.

I kicked myself for starting a project that I didn’t feel as confident in.

I gave up.

We ate at a sad folding table and chairs for an entire week, only to discover this staining would not happen at my novice level of furniture staining.

At this point, I had nothing to lose.

We decided to paint the kitchen table.

The chairs were in good condition other than a quick reupholster to the tired fabric that had been on them. The table legs also happened to be in decent condition so we made the decision to leave the table legs and chairs in their natural wood color (partly out of laziness and partly because we needed our kitchen table back) which definitely cut down on the work.

I am no expert on painting furniture so I consulted with my best friend who has been painting her furniture recently and the ever amazing and wildly talented Kate, from Centsational Girl, who has this amazing tutorial on how to paint furniture. Between the two of them, I felt a tad more confident than I did before.

Once the table was sanded and wood filled in the spots that were really rough on the table, we applied two coats of the Zinsser Cover Stain Primer over the table. Between each coat, once the tabletop was fully dry, I gave it another good sanding and wiped it clean with a cloth. I had to admit, even with just the primer, the table was already looking better.

Once the primer was dry, I applied two coats of paint to the tabletop. We wanted our tabletop to match our kitchen cabinets so we chose Valspar Blanched Pine (7005-15) for the shade of white we were looking for. Two coats of paint were applied to it. The first coat was applied with a brush and then the second coat, I used a roller and then used a brush to smooth out any roller marks.

I did take Kate’s recommendation and added Floetrol to the paint (as directed on the packaging) which really did seem to help cut down on the mistakes that I usually make when painting. This paint conditioner will definitely be used again when I tackle another painting project.

After the paint was dry, we then applied two heavy coats of polyurethane to the tabletop with an angled brush. We allowed the polyurethane to set on the tabletop for four days with no use. I think this was one of the hardest parts about the process, but we wanted to make sure that the tabletop would really be able to withstand our daily abuse once we brought it inside.

The table legs were reattached, the new-to-me chairs were slid under it. We were in business.

Here is our newly painted kitchen tabletop.  It is not perfect, but we truly did the best we could to improve upon something we already owned.

I am so happy to have a tabletop that I don’t have to cover with a tablecloth and my husband is thankful I am done with this project, I am thankful to have reclaimed the garage, and we are all thankful that we didn’t have to purchase a new set of furniture for this room.

The MomAdvice Make-Ahead (Week 4)

October 12th, 2015

make-ahead-meals (1 of 1)

I hope you all had a great weekend! Since we had a wedding to attend last weekend and my daughter is starting her Nutcracker rehearsals, weekends are no longer working for me to get these meals ready for our week.

My make-ahead day has now moved to Wednesday (with a grocery day on Tuesday). Since I got started so late though, I had a hard time capturing a picture so I apologize for this week’s blurry image, but I hope you will find these make-ahead ideas inspiring!

Once again, we still have not dined out as a family and my husband & I only logged in one meal last week out so I am really thrilled how much this has improved our entertainment budget. Thanks to this great audiobook this week, I didn’t dread this task as much as other weeks, and moving this to a day while the kids are at school also helped it not feel so chaotic in the kitchen. Is it easy? No. Am I thankful all week long? You bet.

Approximate Time for Preparation- 4 hours plus clean-up! 

The MomAdvice Make-Ahead

Pulled Pork (had this in the slow cooker while I made the rest of the dishes)

Homemade Pizza Sauce (I stole one from our freezer this week!)

Pizza Dough (I bagged the dry ingredients for my homemade pizza)

Roasted Chicken (NEW TUTORIAL!! for salads & wraps)

Grapes (removed from the vine, but I didn’t rinse so they don’t get moldy!)

Brown Rice (four cups)- (NEW TUTORIAL!!)

Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup

Italian Meatloaf (minus breadcrumbs for a gluten-free loaf, pulled this one from the freezer!)

Gluten-Free Meatballs

Caprese Pork Chops (marinated in pesto and sliced the mozzarella for topping)

Baked Hard Boiled Eggs

Brussels Sprouts (trimmed)- to be made into Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Sliced Mushrooms & Green Beans (trimmed & stored in separate bags)- planning to roast them like this

Slow Cooker Chicken Italiano

Chopped Carrots & Celery (I store these in water)

Green Smoothie Packets (I use this recipe and froze the strawberries, bananas, and spinach in packets for the morning. This week I added some blueberries that were on sale!)

Meal Plan

Breakfasts- Green Smoothies or Hard Boiled Eggs & Fresh Fruit

Lunches- Leftovers or Hard Boiled Eggs, Chicken Wraps or Salads, Chicken Noodle Soup



Monday- Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Fruit & Chopped Veggies


Tuesday- Caprese Pork Chops with Balsamic Roasted Green Beans & Mushrooms, and Brown Rice



Wednesday- Chicken Noodle Soup with Big Batch Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


Thursday- Homemade Pizza Night


Friday- Italian Meatloaf With Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Saturday- SAYSFN (Seek and Ye Shall Find Night)

Sunday- SAYSFN (Seek and Ye Shall Find Night)

make-ahead-meals (1 of 1)

I hope you enjoy this make-ahead feast inspiration! Happy Monday, friends!! xo

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Secrets to Stealing Some Space of Your Own

October 12th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Secrets to Stealing Some Space for Yourself

I’d been feeling out of sorts, but I couldn’t exactly say why. Something was just OFF and it was BUGGING ME. Finally, the cause of my irritation became clear when my husband and I tried to clean our garage.

We live in a small house with small closets, and even though I declutter on a fairly regular basis, we still seem to acquire an outrageous amount of STUFF. And because I don’t always have the time or energy to put that STUFF where it belongs (or, even if I do, it doesn’t actually have a place to belong), it often gets shoved into the garage. In stacks and piles and Chipotle bags and diaper boxes. Anything or any way to contain the clutter I can’t bear to see in my house.

So, there we stood, my husband and me, ready to tackle what had become, on my to-do list, a capitalized chore. You know…Clean The Garage?! We were anxious to park one of our cars in that space, and anxious to remove the task from our list and the burden from our minds. We were going to DO THIS THING!

Except…after spending a solid hour going through a box full of papers and flyers and envelopes and writing utensils and brochures and magnets and statements and batteries, all I’d done was organize the box full of STUFF into three piles. Sure, one pile was a trash pile. But the other two, equally large piles? One was for things that needed to be filed or otherwise put away, and the other was for things that needed to be dealt with in some way.

All I’d done was weed out a bit of trash and create a lot more work for myself. And when I looked at the largest pile, the one for things that needed to be filed or put away? I wilted. I faced my enemy (the pile) and lost. Because the thought of finding homes for each one of those things – plus all the other things we would surely add to it as we cleared more space for our car? Was too much. It was not just daunting, it was devastating. At least to my motivation and determination to whip the garage into shape.

Secrets to Stealing Some Space for Yourself

I couldn’t whip that garage into any shape at all, because my entire house was out of shape. And THAT is why I’d been feeling so out of sorts. When we transformed our guest room/office into a nursery, I didn’t think twice about it (other than to be grateful for a third, albeit tiny, bedroom). And when we moved my desk into my older daughter’s room and our bookshelves into storage, I was so happy to have cleared space in our living and dining rooms, which would surely help us sell the house quicker.

[Spoiler alert: It did not help us sell the house quicker. Or at all. #thatsanotherstory]

Those moves were good things and for good reasons, but they also effectively stole all of MY spaces from our house. I no longer had an office – or even a desk in the dining room. I had a TV tray sitting at the edge of the couch, sagging under the precarious weight of All The Papers that I needed to deal with and/or hadn’t yet tossed into the garage. Every time I sat down to work, I’d scoop up all the STUFF and set it next to me on the couch, opening up my laptop carefully so I wouldn’t knock any remaining phone chargers, remotes, pencils, crayons, toys or other things that had landed on my “desk.”

It wasn’t a good system, and it was causing me to feel majorly out of sorts.

I told my husband then that THIS is why I’d been so grouchy. I needed an office! I didn’t have an office! I NEEDED MY SPACE! I wasn’t really throwing a fit. I was simply figuring out that in order to have peace of mind (and possibly more productivity), I needed a space of my own.

We tossed around lots of ideas that afternoon, including moving our toddler into her sister’s bedroom and turning the nursery back into an office. Since the logistics of staggered bedtimes and shared closet space stymied us, we went another direction. My husband bought a giant set of shelves for the garage, and I priced filing cabinets for the dining room.

I’d like to show you dramatic before and after pictures at this point (and, quite honestly, it’s what I’d planned for this post), but the truth is those shelves are sitting in the middle of our garage, surrounded by the same boxes and bags and piles of STUFF. And I never even bought a new filing cabinet. It’s possible we’ll get around to reclaiming a bit of the dining room for my office and bending the garage chaos to our will soon. But until then, I’ve been thinking of other ways I can steal a little bit of space for myself in this house I share with three other, space-hogging people. Here’s what I came up with:

Secrets to Stealing Some Space for Yourself

Keep it simple. Start small. You may not be able to build a “she-shed” or turn a spare room into your own personal getaway. But if you can carve out just one corner for yourself, I bet it will do wonders for your ability to breathe and smile and feel a little less like you’re wearing an itchy sweater.

When I buy groceries this week, I’m buying a pumpkin. Not for my front porch, but for my entertainment center. And not because Pinterest told me to or to create some kind of seasonal mantel decor, but because my couch/TV tray office faces the entertainment center and seeing that pumpkin (or, if I can find them, line of tiny pumpkins and gourds) will make me smile.

Think about accessibility. My scrapbooking supplies live on the top shelf of my baby girl’s closet. So anytime I want to be crafty after she’s gone to bed, I’m out of luck. We actually have several things stored in her room that I occasionally need after bedtime: luggage, craft supplies, old photos, the vacuum. This inconvenience has taught me to think about when I’m most likely to use my space – and to make sure I can get to it at those times.

Consider making it portable. Could your “space” actually fit into a basket or bin? Could you store your favorite books and a blanket in a basket that you can take with you, creating your own space wherever you are? Maybe you stick your stamps and ink pads in a bin that you can move from room to room – or your most-used file folders or notebooks or journals, with the gel pens you like but want to hide from the kids. Whatever makes your space YOUR SPACE, think about making it portable so you can have a space of your own no matter where you are.

Secrets to Stealing Some Space for Yourself

Make it pretty. Make it yours. Maybe you don’t need a place to work or create. Maybe you’re just tired of every single surface being covered by crayon marks and Goldfish dust. In that case I say steal a little space and make it pretty! Clear off a shelf or the corner of your desk or a spot on the wall or some space on the counter – and put something pretty or sparkly or inspiring there. Whatever makes you smile – something with bling, something with encouraging words, something that smells good – put it there and keep it there and call that YOUR space.

I’m pulling my bookshelf out of storage and making it MINE. No kids books, no stack of bills, no purses or diaper bags or Target bag of things to return to the store. I’m going to give my [way too] many books a home on those shelves and then put something pretty (although still unbreakable) on top of it. It might not be an entire room or even a desk to call my own again, but it will be something and it will be mine. It will not just transform my space; it will transform my state of mind.

How do you steal a little space in your home?

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M Challenge: Focus on Transforming Your Space

October 12th, 2015

The M Challenge

October is my favorite month and transforming corners in a home also happens to be one of my favorite topics. This month we will be focusing on transforming our space and making the most of the space we are in.  Our family has spent years and years whittling away at making our little house our own by transforming furniture pieces, carving out hidden treasures for spaces that we didn’t even realize existed, and continuing to rid our life of clutter that robs us of the joy we feel about our home and the beauty of our space.

I am excited to bring back some of our favorite projects for you this month and hope that it will inspire you in your own space!

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith

For our book selection this month, I have selected The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith.  I adore this woman so much and all the beauty that her blog , Nesting Placebrings to my life that I am excited to share her book as our selection this month. Her approach towards making our homes beautiful is budget-friendly and realistic. She creates beauty in unlikely places and has inspired me and my little house so much over the years! I consider her a go-to-resource when it comes to home decorating!

I look forward to sharing more with you about our own family’s journey towards loving our space! I hope this month is full of inspiration!

This post contains affiliate links.

Make-Ahead Tutorial: How to Make Perfect Brown Rice In Your Rice Cooker

October 12th, 2015

How to Make Perfect Brown Rice In Your Rice Cooker from

I have all the secrets to a perfect batch of brown rice thanks to all of my failed attempts at yielding a great batch over the years. We have had crunchy brown rice, dry brown rice, mushy brown rice, and everything in between. For many years, I baked my brown rice (thank you, Alton Brown) before discovering the world’s most awesome gadget (used a minimum of twice a week!) called a rice cooker!

Today I want to share with you the secret to my brown rice succes.  For me, it is one part rice selection (no affiliation with them, I swear!) one part liquid ratios and one part rice cooker fuzzy logic that works. Intrigued? I hope so!

How to Make Perfect Brown Rice In Your Rice Cooker from

Brown rice is something I really rely upon to round out my meals because I am gluten-free.  I use it to make taco bowls, in lieu of making gluten-free pastas, and I toss veggies and meat with it to make hearty bowls for filling lunches.  Although I adore quinoa, I still find that this sticks to my ribs a little better so it has become a go-to side for our family.

What Brand Do I Swear By For Consistent Brown Rice Results?

The only brand I use is the Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Brown Rice (the packaging looks just like this!) It delivers consistent cooking results for me and comes out perfectly every time. When people tell me that they don’t enjoy the texture of brown rice or their kids turn their noses up to it, I tell them to buy this brand because once this is prepared it has more of the texture of white rice than any other that we have tried and my kids prefer it over white rice. 

How to Make Perfect Brown Rice In Your Rice Cooker from

What is the Liquid Ratio for Brown Rice?

Brown rice is not a 1:1 ratio like white rice, it requires a bit more liquid to deliver consistently good results. For every one cup of rice, you need 1 1/4 cups of liquid for a long grain brown rice (this is the ratio I use for that brand I shared). For a short-grain rice, you actually need 1 1/2 cups of liquid for every one cup of rice. I also add a pat of butter as well to help round out the flavoring.

I rely upon chicken stock for my liquid, but you can use water, beef stock, or veggie broth too. If you are trying to save a little bit, cut the stock you choose in half with water or you can just use water if you do not want a richer flavor to your rice.

How to Make Perfect Brown Rice In Your Rice Cooker from

Rice Cooker- Perfect Rice Every Time

Five years ago,  I bought this rice cooker for about $20 and I have been using it two to three times a week ever since.  It provides consistently great brown rice, white rice, steamed vegetables, and even rice cooker quinoa for our family with very little work on my part. It does take up valuable space in my kitchen, but it has earned its rights to the space by saving me a lot of time hovering over pots!

My rice cooker has no fancy settings, I just push down the switch and it figures it all out for me.  When it is done, the switch flips up and a loud beep lets you know that the rice is done. That’s it. It’s basically a set it and forget it appliance that delivers consistent results for our family.

How to Make Perfect Brown Rice In Your Rice Cooker from

Now you know all my secrets! Do you have any of your own tips for perfect brown rice? Let me know in the comments below! I love hearing everyone’s strategies!

This post contains affiliate links! 

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Sundays With Writers: Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

October 11th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

Do you love quirky books like Eleanor & Park? I am such a fan of quirky literature and Kitchens of the Great Midwest combines good old-fashioned Midwest humor with loads of charm in this adorable fictional debut by J. Ryan Stradal. After I finished it, I immediately emailed J. Ryan to see if he might like to join me in our Sundays With Writers series and was so thrilled when he said he would. Today I am sharing a little behind his unique story and, since this story follows the culinary career of Eva, a peek at his own love affair with food.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity.

This book is perfectly quirky in every way. The reader gets to go on a journey chapter by chapter with different narrators who are all somehow connected to an incredible little girl named Eva, that grows into a woman of major culinary talent. As with any book with changing narrators, some chapters you are more drawn into than others, but it does not take away from the quirky hilarity written in each chapter.

Being a Midwest girl, there were many references that made me feel nostalgic about my own Midwest roots as Eva’s coming-of-age story unfolds. I had a hard time putting this one down!

FYI- There are some graphic scenes and language in this one.

I included this book in our September Must-Reads list this month and am excited to have J. Ryan join me this morning. Grab your coffee and settle in with another incredible writer!


The structure of your book is so unique because Eva and her life story are told through other characters and that is how we get to know her. Why did you think it was important to structure your book in this way?

When I decided to set a book in the Midwest at large, I knew I would never please everyone; it’s too large and varied for one book. Still, there are a range of Midwestern types I attempted that I don’t always see represented in fiction; I wanted as many points of view on the Midwesterner’s relationship to region and food as possible. I also wanted Eva’s adult career to be cloaked in mystery and hearsay, and I felt that telling the story from multiple points of view would both allow me to introduce a variety of Midwestern characters – while keeping Eva at a bit of a distance. It’s intentional that the reader will find Eva increasingly remote.

Eva even from infancy is passionate about food, but is raised by her aunt and uncle who don’t really understand her passions for the culinary world. Have you ever felt misunderstood by your parents or community for a passion you had and did you channel this in the character of Eva?

Absolutely. When I was Eva’s age, I sometimes felt alienated from the hockey and football-obsessed town I grew up in, and I didn’t share my family’s interest in hunting or motorcycles. I affirmed that there was a place for me in this world largely through books and music. While I had supportive teachers and good friends, I also attached myself to interests that were pretty far outside the realm of what was available in my corner of southern Minnesota, and that’s reflected in Eva’s passion for extremely hot peppers – which, obviously, aren’t commonly identified with Iowa.

As a foodie, I appreciated the humor and lightness you add to our obsessions with food. There is one line that I highlighted because it really gave me a moment’s pause. When your character Pat is made fun of by other foodies for a simple cookie bar instead of a vegan and locally sourced dish, the line says, “She suddenly felt sorry for these people for perverting the food of their childhood, the food of their mothers and grandmothers, and rejecting its unconditional love in favor of what?” Do you think there is some truth in Pat’s feelings when it comes to our obsessions with healthier living and misunderstanding the food of our parents & grandparents?

I think Pat would feel that way. She doesn’t see a place in the ecology of that setting for what defines her as a cook, so she views their values as not merely an abnegation of her bars or her ingredients, but of her as a person. She’s been devoted to doing one thing one way for a long time, and in her emotional reaction to these foodies, I also perceive a bit of a generation gap – a little bit of that LP enthusiast who decries CDs and MP3s as inferior. She’s not wrong, but given what she knows and what she doesn’t know, you can see why she takes rejection of her food personally.

The way you write about food and, in particular, describing dishes that Eva creates is so beautifully descriptive that it made my mouth water. “The venison, firm enough to meet your teeth, and soft enough to yield agreeably in your mouth, revealed subtle, steely new flavors with each bite, while the tomatoes were so full of richness and warm blood, it was like eating a sleeping animal.” I mean, REALLY! How do you develop this richness to your words and were there any people or books that aided in your inspiration for developing such incredible descriptiveness in these dishes?

Wow, thank you. I don’t really know if I can point to one book. I’m always reading something, and I’m also always looking for books that challenge my expectations and comfort level as a reader; seeing marvelous sentences makes me want to write them. Like most writers, I try my best to explain things in a way that I haven’t seen them explained before, but also in a way that’s visceral and descriptive, to the best of my ability, and relevant to the voice of the character. The sentence you just quoted came from a character who is a sommelier with restaurant experience. Had the character been a nurse or a President, it would’ve come out somewhat differently. This is probably a boring answer, and I feel bad because the question was so generous.

Have you ever eaten or been a part of any dining experience like Eva offers and were there any restaurants that served as inspiration for creating this pop-up dining experience you develop?

Sure, a few times. Some years ago I attended a pop-up in downtown Los Angeles that gave me some ideas in terms of how the principals behind the operation used the ephemeral location to their advantage. I’ve also read about a few (that I have yet to attend) that seem to demonstrate the chef’s passion for both fresh ingredients and a bespoke experience. Collectively, they made Eva’s operation seem somewhat plausible, though I admit at the time I wrote the book I thought Eva’s dinner seemed slightly far-fetched. I no longer think that’s the case.

Since I am a Midwesterner, I truly could appreciate so many of the references you made in this book. I understand that you live out in California now. Can you share what you miss the most about the Midwest?

The people, first and foremost. The environment – the air, the water, the trees, and their evolutions during the fiercely stark seasons. I think about Minnesota a lot; I still consider it home even though I’ve lived in California for seventeen years.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be (we list it with all the recommendations over the year HERE)?

This is monstrously tough. How can I choose just one? Debbie Graber’s short story collection Kevin Kramer Starts On Monday isn’t out yet – it comes out next spring – but it’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a very long time. Debbie is just brilliant; her humor, which often sends up the contemporary American workplace, is infused with plenty of heart, pathos, and intelligence. I read it in manuscript form and I can’t wait for it to exist in the world. Please pre-order it the moment it becomes available.

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

*This post contains affiliate links!


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It’s the 3 Little Things: Curling Wands, Harry Potter Illustrated, & The Martian

October 9th, 2015


I hope you guys are having a lovely week!  It was such a fantastic week for our family and we enjoyed a happy occasion this past weekend celebrating our Granny getting married.

Emily got to be a flower girl so I scored this cute little flower girl dress from thredUP for the occasion (I hate spending a fortune on one occasion dresses!) and we got all dolled up for the event. I still stuck to my capsule and am thankful I added a little black dress to my wardrobe for occasions like these. This was Emily’s flower girl debut and she rocked it and walked her Granny down the aisle like a true professional flower girl!


I am no wedding photographer, but my grandma asked me to take some pictures of their big day. I don’t know how wedding photographers handle the pressure of capturing those big moments and I’m thankful my grandma wasn’t expecting anything too professional because THE PRESSURE!!   This is one of my favorite pictures that I snapped of them though! Isn’t it precious?  I combined a million coupon codes and got some photo albums printed from Shutterfly and made sure to blow this one up in an 8×10.  I can’t wait to give them their pictures.

This image, in particular,  just makes me really happy!

I’m looking forward to a quieter weekend with my family and just scored another big stack of books from the library to dig into!  Let me know if you’ve read any of these- I always love your opinions on books.

Here are a few other things that are making me happy this week!

Conair Curling Wand

I Finally Mastered My Curling Wand

Years and years ago I purchased this Conair Infiniti Curling Wand (just a little over $20!!), tried to use it, promptly failed,  and put it back in the box to never be used again. It may have been the length of my hair, but I really think it was the fact that I couldn’t figure out how in the heck to use it. Curling wands require a bit of a learning curve. If you saw me, you would have died laughing- it was awful.

My sweet friend, Abby from Twist Me Pretty, had this incredible tutorial on how to use a curling wand and I started using that and finally got the hang of it. Her curls are much looser thanks to the larger barrel on the iron, but I am happy with what can acheive with my $22 curling wand that had been gathering dust in storage. Since my hair is coarse and thick, it takes a long time for me to curl it all, but once I have it curled it actually holds until I wash it a few days later!

Conair Curling Wand

Here is a close up of what my hair looks like with using it and that picture from my grandma’s wedding (above)  also gives you an idea of what the waves look like. I always wondered how people achieved (and held) their waves like this and now I know the secret. If you have wanted to experiment with a curling wand, I can’t recommend that tutorial and this inexpensive wand enough!

Harry Potter Illustrated

The New Harry Potter Illustrated

We got to take part in an Instagram campaign to share about the new Harry Potter Illustrated which was so exciting.  Today this is not sponsored in any way, our family is just madly in love with this new book.  For those that haven’t heard about it yet, Jim Kay is going to be illustrating the entire Harry Potter series in this colorful book and this is the first book in the series. This first one had over a hundred illustrations, but each illustration is like a million illustrations because of his incredible detail. Watch this piece on BBC to get a peek at his technique and artistry- it is jaw-droppingly beautiful! What is more impressive is that he is putting his own interpretation on each of these characters which I would think is one of the biggest challenges since the movie versions are so beloved.

My daughter asked to take this book to school yesterday which upset my son who also wanted to take it into his art class to show them. When we picked up my holds at the library, guess what was sitting there…yup, this Harry Potter Book. My son checked it out so they would each have their own copies and they both have been rereading it with these illustrations nonstop.

We were almost late for our bus this morning for this very reason. I’m not kidding.

If you have a Harry Potter fan, I would definitely add this to your Christmas or birthday wish lists. It’s simply stunning!

The Martian

The Martian (With My Dad)

I have been impatiently waiting for The Martian to come out ever since I read the book. You may recall that Andy Weir joined me in our Sundays With Writers series to talk about his book and the upcoming film. I had my husband help me craft the questions because the science behind so much of this story was so astounding that only a genius mind could have ever come up with such an incredible survival story for an astronaut stuck on Mars in this book.

I encouraged my Dad to read the book and he absolutely loved it as much as I did. We planned to see the movie together when it came out and I got my movie date with my Dad yesterday which was AWESOME! The movie was just as incredible as the book which, in my opinion, rarely happens. We didn’t get to see it in 3D, although I have heard that the elements are really amazing if you can see it that way, but the visuals were still really incredible.

My Dad read the book more recently so he remarked a couple of times on a few things that were missing, but we both thought it was a really good interpretation and kept that humor that we loved.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend it enough. For those that have asked me if they can take their space-loving kids to it, there are several F-Bombs (although fewer than the book) so I guess it depends on how comfortable you feel with that. If that element wasn’t in there, it would have probably been a PG film! I hope that helps!

PS- Can you believe how affordable a movie before noon is in our town? Such a steal!!

Happy weekend, 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

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




How to Make Pumpkin Hand Pies

October 7th, 2015

How to Make Pumpkin Hand Pies from

I’m so excited that October is here so we can began diving into all things pumpkin! Today I am over on the Kenmore blog sharing a super easy snack for your kids created with just a few pantry staples that you can whip up together to celebrate Fall. Aren’t these the cutest? My kids loved these pumpkin hand pies with big glasses of milk for their snack  this week!

How to Make Pumpkin Hand Pies from

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog today to snag this easy Halloween treat recipe! xo

Amy’s Notebook 10.07.15

October 7th, 2015

customizing closet doors via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess


Customize your closet doors with trim-so pretty!

Web-weaving envy.

The case for small talk.

5 places to find capsule wardrobe inspiration.

How to pull off a bright lip.

This cotton candy halloween costume is wildly inventive.

How cute are these bat lights?

A Craigslist pro shares his buying and selling secrets.

Great review on Old Navy wardrobe staples.

8 books recommended by readers with great taste.

Barbacoa Beef via The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn


A recipe to feed a crowd- Slow-Cooker Barbacoa Beef.

Why you should stop apologizing- noted.

I’m tassel obsessed.

How to wear ankle boots with skinny jeans & skirts.

A little cat logic for a good old-fashioned LOL.

A conversation with Nancy Meyers.

Have you seen this six-year-old girl give her mom a wake up call on caring for one another after divorce? Amazing!

Growing older with Madonna.

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!


Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer

October 5th, 2015

Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer from *This post is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

Gluten-free and game day parties? Oof. Not fun, friends, not fun at all! I have learned a lot about social engagements like this though and know the best defense to any social gathering is to carry around my own dishes and drinks so I never go hungry or thirsty again. You will rarely see this girl without her own food!

Game day food is delightfully rich and comforting which is why I love it so darn much.  Today I wanted to create an appetizer that echoed those feelings of comfort and what could be more comforting than a pile of homemade meatballs? This meatball sub appetizer is gluten-free, but I promise you would never know it. It’s got everything I love in a meatball sub simply minus the bread.

Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer from

I’ve made meatballs a lot over the years (here is one of our favorite dinner dishes that we created together using my standard meatball recipe), but this was my first time trying to create a meatball without the addition of breadcrumbs or panko. With a blend of turkey sausage and ground turkey, I then mixed in fresh parsley, parmesan cheese, a little tomato sauce, and two eggs to bind it all together. I have a cookie dough scoop that I used to make sure all the meatballs were roughly the same size (and so they would fit on my toothpick).

These meatballs are a little more delicate without the breadcrumb binder so I baked them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet so that they would lift easily and not fall apart. Not only does this help the meatball hold its shape, but it also helps cut down your kitchen clean-up time. I would call that a game day win!

Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer from

Canned crushed tomatoes, garlic, salt, and a dash of sugar yield a vibrant sauce to nestle this appetizer in. I have tried a million different brands of canned crushed tomatoes over the years and I swear by the Great Value brand ones at Walmart. I don’t know why, but it always yields the best pizza sauce for me! I try not to use anything else.

What’s Your Favorite Game Time Recipe?

Are you feeling inspired? Do you have an incredible dish that everyone looks forward to on game days? Walmart happens to be running a GameTime Recipe contest and would love for you to post a photo of your favorite game time recipe on Instagram or Twitter using #WalmartMVPContest. By doing this, you will be entered to win a trip to LA to go to the YouTube studios to have a pre-Superbowl party and create content with some big YouTube stars. How cool is that? Read here for all the official rules! Need some inspiration? Check out all of the great GameTime Recipes that have been posted!
In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy this gluten-free game time creation I have created for you!
Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer from

Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer from

Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer from

Gluten-Free Meatball Sub Game Day Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 33 meatballs
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 pound Italian turkey sausage
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 packages baby mozzarella balls (over in the specialty cheese cooler by the deli)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • toothpicks
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground turkey, parsley, eggs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt & pepper, and tomato sauce. Stir gently to combine.
  2. Make your meatballs the standard size and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes (this size took 12 minutes).
  4. Meanwhile, in a pot heat olive oil and add your minced garlic, cooking for just one minute.
  5. Add your crushed tomatoes, the remainder of your small can of tomato sauce, sugar, and salt. Allow this to simmer for ten minutes.
  6. Once the meatballs are done, ladle the sauce into a deep dish or bowl. Skewer one mozzarella ball and one meatball on a toothpick and nestle in the sauce. Serve hot.

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.