Amy’s Notebook 03.09.16

March 9th, 2016

Dip-Dyed Storage Baskets via Dream a Little Bigger

Source: Dream A Little Bigger


I love the hues in these storage baskets.

I love this favorite things list.

Quinoa Crispies- I’m going to have to give that recipe a spin!

A year of dates- what an incredible gift to share together.

Can a capsule wardrobe actually save you money?

Frugal out of necessity versus frugal out of choice- a good read!

5 breakfast sandwiches to ease the morning struggle.

‘Downton Abbey’ fans dream up hilarious alternate endings.

New ways to tie scarves via Whoorl

Source: Whoorl


New ways to tie scarves.

Hilarious tweets about marriage.

I will have to add a few of these to my cosmetic bag.

I can’t wait to see this documentary!

I often feel like we are parenting upstream so I loved this post.

Debut novels I’d like to read.

Top 10 skills middle school students need to thrive, and how parent can help.

22 bookish You Tubers to follow.

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!

15 Read-Aloud Chapter Books Everyone Loves

March 8th, 2016

I’m so grateful to have the talented Sarah Powers guest posting for us today and sharing some of the most-loved chapter books to share with our kids. I LOVE this list!


In our house, bedtime stories come in the form of a chapter book read aloud to the older two kids, ages 6 and 4. Last year we went on a big Magic Tree House series kick, which made choosing the next book easy since there are approximately 4837 in the series. We were nowhere near the end before needing a break and looking for something different.

Next came Roald Dahl, a huge hit. But as we neared the end of the last book in our boxed set of Dahl stories, we were at a loss for what to read next. We need stories that will keep the interest of the four-year-old (who doesn’t mind the lack of pictures or lots of dialogue but does prefer a story with lots of adventure) and satisfy the six-year-old’s sense of humor and love of all things silly. And of course, it really helps if mom or dad can enjoy the books too (a huge perk of moving beyond the board book phase, in my opinion).

I asked the Mom Hour Facebook page readers for suggestions and the thread developed into a hugely helpful list of read-aloud chapter books that both kids AND grownups love. We’re into The Indian in the Cupboard these days, and we’re also listening to the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle stories on audio book in the car – both of which I’d read as a kid but forgotten about until hearing from you all.

15 Read-Aloud Chapter Books Everyone Loves

1. Ramona Quimby Series (Beverly Cleary)

2. Little House Series (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

3. The Indian in the Cupboard (Lynne Reid Banks)

4. Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)

5. Junie B. Jones: First Grader (Barbara Park)

6. Because of Winn Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)

7. Mary Poppins (Dr. P. L. Travers)

8. The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

9. Magic Tree House (Mary Pope Osborne)

10. The BFG (Roald Dahl)

11. Stuart Little (E. B. White)

12. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (Betty MacDonald)

13. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)

14. Judy Blume’s Fudge Box Set (Judy Blume)

15. Harriet The Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)

What are you and your kids reading these days? What would you add to this list?


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Sundays With Writers: The Immortals (Olympus Bound #1) by Jordanna Max Brodsky (GIVEAWAY!!)

March 6th, 2016


This post is brought to you in partnership with Orbit Books.

One of the best things I have found about being a bookworm is the ability to explore so many different genres. What I often find surprising is that genres like fantasy or science fiction, books that feel out of my comfort zone of reading, are often my favorite books of the year. Today I am sharing a book that takes a modern spin on Greek mythology in a fresh new way and Greek mythology certainly feels out of my comfort zone!  Growing up I had a very limited exploration of it in my literature classes so the idea of Greek mythology is a little intimidating to me. Is it to you?

I don’t want you to be intimidated by that though because today’s author, Jordanna Max Brodsky, not only builds a compelling story built on these themes, but she also provides a very thorough glossary for you to help assist those of us that aren’t as familiar with Greek mythology as she is.

She creates a thriller experience exploring a serial killer on the loose in Manhattan whose murders follow Greek themes and rituals as you try to uncover the killer involved in the killing spree.

The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Immortals is an ambitious modern day retelling of Greek mythology set in the city of Manhattan. Selene, also known as Artemis, is a woman intent on making men pay for crimes against women. Amidst her vengeance on these men, she stumbles upon the body of a young woman washed ashore, who has been gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. She finds her ancient rage returning and forms an unlikely partnership with the woman’s former lover as they try to figure out who this serial killer is that is performing ritualistic killings in their city. Fans of Greek mythology will swim in this fresh retelling of these ancient stories.

Publishers Weekly states, “This intelligent, provocative fantasy breathes exciting new life into old, familiar tales.” Her book also has been selected as a Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Pick as well as Amazon’s Best Book of the Month.

I am so honored to have Jordanna join us today to share about the research and travel she did to create this fresh spin on Greek mythology.  Jordanna is also sharing a copy of her book to share with one lucky reader! Scroll down to enter! 

Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in for a chat with Jordanna about the debut of her new Olympus Bound book series!


As a debut novelist, tell me about your excitement to have your novel selected not only as Barnes & Noble’s Bookseller’s Pick, but also as an Amazon Best Book of the Month? What has been the most surprising part about writing and publishing your first book?

It’s always thrilling to have your book recognized, and I certainly hope the extra publicity will help spread the word.

I always thought the most exciting single moment would be seeing my book on the shelf at a store—everything would finally seem real.  But surprisingly, the best thing by far is hearing from total strangers about how much they’re enjoying it.  As a passionate reader, I’ve always loved sinking into a book and having it come to life around me.  Knowing that I’ve provided that pleasure to others is absolutely awesome.

You explore Greek mythology and all the gods & goddesses that go along with it through a uniquely modern day twist set in the city of Manhattan. What compelled you to write a modern day retelling of Greek mythology and why did you choose this city, in particular, to set the scene for this story?

Like so many people, my love of Greek mythology began when I was a kid.  I tore through D’Aulaires Greek Myths, and I still remember getting to the end and wondering, And then what happened? The book implies that the gods’ statues fell, their temples crumbled, and they just disappeared.  Ever since, I’ve dreamed of changing that ending.

Approaching the story as an adult, I began to see that the Greek gods provide all sorts of opportunities for exploring themes far deeper than those I recognized as a child: the intersection of myth and history, the question of who creates identity, the evolution of perceptions of gender and virginity, and age-old arguments about the desirability of immortality.  The Immortals explores all those questions and more.

the-blockhouse-central park

the blockhouse in central park- image from wikipedia

As for the setting, putting the ancient Greek gods in quintessentially modern New York City may seem like a stretch, but for me it was a no-brainer. Manhattan is actually the oldest big city in America—it stretches all the way back to the early 1600s.  It’s old enough and big enough to hold secrets.  As a New Yorker myself, I’m always struck by how many historical sites are tucked between the skyscrapers, unbeknownst to tourists or even long-term residents.  My favorite: an 1814 defensive blockhouse perched on a hill in the north end of Central Park, surrounded by thick forest.  You can see the midtown skyline from there, but you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

My Artemis, the Goddess of the Wilderness, came to a tree-covered island inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Indians four hundred years ago, and she’s lived here ever since, watching the city grow up around her.  Now she prowls the last wild spaces in Central Park, still clinging to her memories of the past.

Your chapters have very unique titles that I understand all came from epithets, which you had a plethora of them to choose from since Artemis has over 300 epithets alone just to describe herself! Did you have a favorite and how did you decide to settle upon epithets for chapter titles?

My favorite epithet is “Relentless One” because it embodies both the best and the worst of Artemis’s personality.

The idea of using the epithets for chapter titles actually came from my friend and agent, Jennifer Joel.  I immediately latched on to it because Artemis’s abundance of epithets is one of her most appealing traits.

Each name embodies a different aspect of her personality, and many are completely contradictory.  She’s the Punisher and the Good Maiden.  I think each of us contains a multitude of titles as well—those we’ve chosen for ourselves and those society has thrust upon us—even if we don’t articulate them.  We can’t help but empathize with Artemis.

I understand that much research was involved in this book as well as traveling, even though you have a degree in both literature and history from Harvard. How much research did you have to do into Greek mythology to begin telling this ambitious story and what was one of the most surprising facts you discovered when researching for this book?

My desk is literally teetering with books on Greek myth, religion, and culture.  The good and bad news is that very limited written evidence exists for a lot of what I’m writing about.  Ancient Greek civilization reached its peak well over two thousand years ago, and they transmitted most of their stories orally. Most of what they did write down disappeared after the destruction of Greco-Roman society by barbarian hordes.  So we have fragments, scraps, and retellings by later authors who used their own imaginations to reconstruct the stories.  For the historian side of me, such gaps drove me crazy, but they also gave me the leeway I needed when it came to telling a fictional story about the gods.

Even knowing full well that much of the ancients’ knowledge has been lost to us, I was still shocked to discover the extent of our ignorance.  For instance, in The Immortals, Selene investigates a serial killer who is reenacting the rituals of an ancient Greek cult.  This cult was the most popular religious society in classical Athens. It lasted for thousands of years and involved thousands of participants, many of them literate.  Yet no one ever wrote down the details of the cult’s secret practices, because to do so was punishable by death. Can you imagine modern people keeping such a secret?  It would be a tell-all HBO documentary within a matter of months! For centuries now, scholars have tried in vain to figure out what the cult did behind closed doors and what spurred its incredible popularity. To me, that’s an irresistible mystery—one that plays a large role in The Immortals.

I love a powerful heroine and you definitely have carved out a beautiful one in Selene who acts as a protector to women who are being abused. Why did you settle upon this career path for Selene and can we expect her to continue in this same mission as the series progresses?

Despite the fading of her supernatural powers, I wanted Selene to hold on to her most important title: the Protector of the Innocent.  Because of her immortality—not to mention her anti-social proclivities—I figured she’d have a hard time as a cop in the modern world.  That left me with private investigator/bodyguard/vigilante.

As for her future path, you’ll have to read the upcoming Winter of the Gods to find out the details.

Are you finding it easier to write the second book now that you have such a strong understanding of Greek mythology or are you continuing to expand upon your research to develop the next book?

I’m definitely expanding.  First of all, a slew of other Olympians appear in Winter of the Gods, so I’ve had to do all sorts of research on them.  Secondly, I’m examining a whole new Roman cult religion that I knew nothing about before I started.  It’s taken me back to Italy for an exploration of the extant temples and led me to all sorts of other research topics including astronomy and early Christianity. The research is never done: I’ve already started delving into ancient philosophy and mathematics for Book Three!

D’Aulaires Greek Myths

If we are interested in exploring Greek mythology further, what are some of your recommendations for books or documentaries that we could check out to learn more about this time in history?

If you never read it as a kid, you should check out D’Aulaires Greek Myths. It’s full of magnificent illustrations, and although it’s written for young people, it presents the myths in a rich, detailed way that’s appealing to people of all ages.  If you’re looking for a great, readable treatment of Greek religion and civilization that’s full of fantastic photos of artifacts and sites, try Exploring the World of the Ancient Greeks by John Camp and Elizabeth Fisher.

And after you brush up on your basic mythology, I certainly recommend trolling through your local museum’s Greek and Roman collection.  I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has one of the best.  There’s nothing like coming face-to-face with Artemis as depicted by the ancients themselves.  If you want a quick refresher on the different gods, visit my website, where I’ve also posted my own photos of favorite statues and artifacts that I’ve encountered in museums around the world.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

Glad to see another author already posted about The Song of Achilles, which is my favorite novelization of Greek myth.  I recommend it heartily to anyone who enjoys The Immortals!

As for non-myth books, I’d have to pick Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and ClayIt’s one of the few books I’ve read that I immediately told everyone in my life to pick up.  Set primarily in 1940s New York, it tells the story of two Jewish cousins (one of whom escapes from Nazi Europe) who create superheroes for the Golden Age of Comics. Add in a Harry Houdini subplot, love stories both gay and straight, a wealth of historical New York City detail, and the most sublime prose style I’ve ever encountered, and you get an irresistible work of brilliance.

Enter below to win a copy of The Immortals! Follow the instructions on the widget to enter to win!

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

*This post contains affiliate links! This post was brought to you in partnership with Orbit Books.


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It’s the 3 Little Things: Heated Blankets, Literary Matchmaking, & Panini Pressing

March 4th, 2016


Well, hello there! I hope you guys are having a good week. It’s been so cold here this week, but rumor has it that I can look forward to warmer temperatures next month. I spent this week curled up on the couch watching Fuller House on Netflix.  Did you guys watch it? I was pretty disappointed that it didn’t hold true to the family values from before. We settled in with our kids and then I had to kick them out. I am not sure who the target audience was on this one since parts of it seem geared towards kids and then in other parts the ladies are doing tequila shots and grinding on men.

What the what?

So much for sharing TGI Fridays with them.

How rude!

Would love to hear what you think about that one. Maybe I am just being a prude?

Let’s dig into this week’s happy list! 

Sunbeam Sherpa Electric Throw

God’s Greatest Gifts to Blankets. Amen.

With all these weird joint issues I have going on, I am absolutely miserable in the mornings and I am also cold all the time. I treated myself to a Sunbeam Sherpa Electric Throw and it has been such a game-changer for me throughout the day. It has three settings and the Low setting is warm without getting hot and the sherpa interior and velvety exterior make it a treat to snuggle with. The sizing is perfect for two or one really cold woman who wraps herself like a burrito in it. I can’t recommend this enough as a winter weather must-have. I can already tell you that this will be going on my holiday gift guide for next year.

I am so thankful for this winter treat although it has hindered some of my productivity a bit. I mean, it’s that blissful to wrap yourself in and take a good nap.

This is God’s greatest gifts to blankets. Amen.


A Literary Matchmaker

My new favorite podcast is What Should I Read Next. Anne Bogel (AKA Modern Mrs. Darcy) has one guest on who shares why books are important to them, three books they love, a book they hated, and what they are currently reading. Anne then plays matchmaker and selects three books that she thinks they should dive into next based on their reading preferences. Each time I listen in,  I get another list of book ideas of books that I have overlooked and many that I haven’t even heard of. It’s been a real treat to listen to in the mornings while I get ready for the day!

I recommend Overcast for all your podcast listening needs! It’s lovely!




A Well-Loved Winter Kitchen Gadget

I have had my Cuisinart Griddler for many years and last week I dusted it back off and put it to work again in our kitchen. My kids absolutely love paninis so I have been roasting my big batch chicken and purchasing fun toppings like cheeses, pesto, tomatoes, and spinach so we can make panini sandwiches in the evening. After paying an arm and a leg at Panera for soups and paninis, I figured we could save quite a bit just making our favorite combinations at home.

The best part about this gadget is that you can close it if you like (for paninis or that George Foreman feel) or you can open it up and lay it completely flat for grilling or to be used as a griddle. When I had chicken pesto burgers on our menu and Mother Nature (bless her heart!) dumped a million pounds of snow down in a single day, it made heading out to the grill impossible. Thankfully, this gadget saved the day and we grilled indoors that evening!

I know you will love it as much as we do- it saves us a ton of money!

EDS Funny

I know people are curious about what is going on over here since I posted about my health. I am a fighter, by nature, so I didn’t want to lean into anything and just resume my normal days.  I was so excited to get strong and to show this stuff who was boss that I think I strained every muscle in my body and have spent the last week hobbling around my house after going a little nutso with my gym routines. I found out I am not, in fact, The Hulk.

I overdid it.

Lesson learned.

It lead to painful knees that had to be x-rayed, prescription strength painkillers, another round of steroids, and rocking three braces to keep everything stable again.

I am hoping to move forward, but with moderation next week. I tend to attack things a little too aggressively…

The funny thing is that people keep telling me how great I look so when I happened upon this picture, it really made me laugh. I’m trying to pull myself together for all these incredible people that are counting on me. The world doesn’t stop, but I’m learning to say no more since I feel like my plate is awfully full.

Thank you for thinking of us and know that I have a much better plan for next week and it won’t involve a Hulk gym routine!

This week I’m…

Reading: Columbine by David Cullen

Eating: Tomato Soup with Big Batch Toasted Cheese Sandwiches

Watching: Parks & Recreation on Netflix- how did I not ever get into this series when it was on television! It’s been a highlight of my month. I also finally got to see Room with my bestie. SO GOOD! I was on the edge of my seat (and I read the book!) Ha!

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

Community Reads for February

March 3rd, 2016

Community (1)

I am a little behind this month on our Community Reads feature, but looking forward to sharing some of your book selections for February. You can read what I read this month and today’s selections include what YOU have been loving this month! Yay!

If you are a part of our MomAdvice Hangout Group, each month I will ask about what you are reading and ask for a short blurb on a book.  You can also email books you are loving to me to amy(at)momadvice(dot)com and I can also add them to our monthly lists. By joining this group, you can also take part in a REALLY awesome online book club- I wouldn’t want you to miss this fun discussion and exploration of a new book each month.

My hope is to inspire you to connect with at least one incredible book this year and I hope you will enjoy this new feature with even more reads each month!

The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

Read It: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

Recommended by: Beth from Beth’s Book-Nook Blog

I am reading this and it is AMAZING! What a fascinating story and Mr. Gortner is a true storyteller and gifted writer. Historical fiction at its finest!

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Read It: Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Recommended by: Kendra

I read Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith as a book club pick for my 7th grade daughter’s Mother-Daughter book group. It’s one of my favorite of our picks. She is a compelling character who held my interest all the way through. Not all happy endings or completely resolved plot lines but a great character driven story.

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos & David Teague

Read It: Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos & David Teague

Recommended by: Kendra

I started this on audiobook and wasn’t enjoying it so switched to print. For the record though, I think my daughter enjoyed Saving Lucas Biggs maybe a bit more. I’m still reading through it,  but don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as Flygirl.

Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser

Read It: Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser

Recommended by: Sasha from Pathologically Literate

Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser is definitely going to be one of my favorite books of 2016. Sixteen-year-old Jenna, while searching for her addict mother at a meth dealer’s home, comes across a crying baby in a freezing room. Jenna knows instantly she must save her, and thus sets off the events of a night she will never forget. Sweetgirl moves at breakneck speed, barely giving you time to catch your breath. It is darkly humorous and sweetly, achingly heartbreaking.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Read It: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Recommended by: Enid

This was a re-read for me to lead a discussion in a book club. I have the feeling that for the next week or so, I am going to be annoying all of my reader friends by telling them they need to read this book, just like I did with The Martian (editor’s note: read our author interview) and All the Light We Cannot See (editor’s note: read our author interview). This was a very well-done take on what could have been a very melodramatic story. I loved the way the author handled flipping back and forth in time and following different characters. I had trouble putting it down.

Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

Read It: Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew

Recommended by: Enid

A fun read- promising start to a new series set in South Africa. As one person said, it is a cross between The #1 Ladies Detective Agency and the Goldie Schultz books. I enjoyed the characters and the plot as well as the South African touches (although I found myself saying “now-now” today). I will definitely read the second book in the series, if there is one.

The Revenant by Michael Punke

Read It: The Revenant by Michael Punke

Recommended by: Enid

I really enjoyed this quick read, and I found it hard to put down. I was worried that the descriptions of the various attacks and the injuries would be too intense for me, but that was not the case- there was enough detail so the reader could understand the amount of trauma, but there was no lingering over gory details. The main character is based on a pretty amazing guy. However, I do feel the subtitle is a bit misleading- I will leave it at that in order to not be more of a spoiler. If you are looking for a story that grabs you right from the start, give this a try.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Read It: The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Recommended by: Tanya

This was a memoir of the life of polygamy from the eyes of a child. Very eye opening to see her struggles and hardships in life.

The Battle For Room 314

Read It: The Battle for Room 314 by Ed Boland

Recommended by: Cindy from Hello Dollface

This is an excellent book about a man’s experience leaving his well-paying job to become a teacher to teach in a tough NYC high school. Community Reads for February

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get these books and read them myself! What did you read this month that you loved? Feel free to recommend your favorite reads below or join us in the group to chat about your favorites! We love new friends!

This post contains affiliate links. I fully trust and back my community of readers and their opinions on their favorite books!



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Amy’s Notebook 03.02.16

March 2nd, 2016

Decorate around a piano via Apartment Therapy

Source: Apartment Therapy


13 ways to decorate around a piano.

Build your spring wardrobe with these basics.

Bram Stoker Award nominees- I am going to have to check these out!

Nigella Lawson’s Chinese-inspired chicken soup looks so comforting and delicious.

15 Chrome extensions you’ll need if you’re looking to boost productivity.

Stop getting mad at your kids for wanting stuff at Target.

I absolutely love this literary quest. Girl power!

Homemade Jam via WonderHowTo

Source: WonderHowTo


Homemade jam in just ten minutes.

DIY leather tassels- I want to make a dozen!

8 apps you can turn to for everything from shipping packages to choosing beauty products.

Pinterest-dictated fashion for one week- what a fun experiment!

Warning: “Hanging in There” is destroying your health.

Audiobook versions of the classics, read by famous people.

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!


How to Raise an Uncommon Kid Today

March 1st, 2016

I am so happy to have the amazing Sami Cone sharing with us today tips to help us raise uncommon kids! She is one of my dearest friends in the blogging community and I know we can learn so much from her! 

How to raise an uncommon kid today

Everyone knows raising kids isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we still hope to see change, improvement and potential in our parenting…and hope to see it quickly! The problem comes when we expect change in our children without first turning the mirror of change on ourselves as parents.

Before we can ever hope to raise uncommon kids, we must first be uncommon ourselves. (Click to Tweet)

The biggest issue I come across in parenting is that we somehow expect our kids to care about people and issues they know nothing about on the other side of the world, while not showing them how to love and care about the people right under their roof.

In my book, Raising Uncommon Kids, I share twelve characteristics that we need to embody as families before we can expect our kids to truly become compassionate. But how can we put these principles into practice? After all, speaking in theoretical terms only gets so far with our kids.

For our kids to care about others:

  • They need to know there are others to care about.
  • They need to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.
  • They need to believe they can make a difference not just in the world, but in their neighborhood and most importantly inside their own homes.

Your kids may say they feel loved and I’d bet they’d even admit they love you and their siblings, but do they show it? Before we can be compassionate towards others, we need to practice within the fours walls of our home.

Actions speak louder than words, so let’s start today by learning 5 practical steps anyone can take to raise uncommon kids.

5 things you can do TODAY to start raising uncommon kids

1. Create a family mission statement. Once you do, display it prominently in your home where every member of your family can not only see it, but refer back to it often.

2. Re-design your home. Go through each room of your house and have each family member call out the thing they like most about that space, whether tangible or intangible. Strive to make everyone’s voice heard and represented in some way.

3. Parents switch roles with kids for a day. Want to help your kids experience what it’s really like to be you? Switch roles with them for a day. While children are typically thrilled at the prospect of ordering around their parents, the tides typically turn once they discover the new balance of work and play. Even if you don’t do this for an entire day, make sure to save time to celebrate the switching back of roles and debrief what everyone experienced.

4. Let your children deal with their mistakes. Don’t be so quick to clean up all your children’s messes for them. Think about it. It’s better to help your kids process their flubs while they’re living with you in their school years than to raise them in a bubble and then send them off to college without a hint of what the world will throw at them.

5. Encourage your kids to do one of their sibling’s chores one day. Explain how a simple act of kindness can break the battle cycle siblings often find themselves in.

Being uncommon isn’t quick or easy, but it is worthwhile. Knowing that you’re living life on your own terms not only allows your family’s heart to be full, but more importantly, fills you with the freedom for that love to overflow to others in need. When you model compassion in your own home, your kids will begin to understand what that could look like outside the walls of your home.

So what are you waiting for? Start raising uncommon kids today!


Sundays With Writers: No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

February 28th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to have my first author returning to our Sundays With Writers series. Suzanne Redfearn happened to be the first writer I ever reached out to for our interview series after I read her incredibly fast-paced thriller, Hush Little BabyToday she joins me again with a very different book from her first that made me think a lot about what it would like to be a child star and the challenges a parent would face in her new novel, No Ordinary Life.

No Ordinary LIfe by Suzanne Redfearn

I am a big fan of Suzanne Redfearn and this book does not disappoint!

In this quick page-turner, a single mother’s daughter is discovered after a YouTube video goes viral of her singing and dancing, at the tender age of four. She is immediately picked up for commercial work and then auditions & wins a lead role in a television show. Going from having nothing to having everything, you follow this mother as she juggles the demands of being a stage mom, the intrusive media, and protecting her children from Hollywood & her ex who just wants the biggest piece of the financial pie.

Redfearn effectively utilizes other famous stars and their stories to craft a compelling piece on the many pitfalls of growing up a child star and the rarity of survival in the industry.

Grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Suzanne as she shares more behind her latest book!


You are our first author that I have gotten to interview twice in our Sundays With Writers series and I am so honored to feature your latest book, No Ordinary Life It was actually your interview that kicked off the whole series, if you can believe it! I really enjoyed your fast-paced thriller, Hush Little Baby so I was expecting another thriller again, but you took a completely different route and share the story of a child who has been discovered and begins a Hollywood career. What was it about this topic that interested you that you would want to write an entire book about it?

Wow, that is so amazing. I love that I was your first author for the series. Thank you for inviting me back. I actually had no idea this topic would be as interesting as it was. I knew my publisher wanted me to write another story about a mother protecting her children, and I was standing in line at the grocery store when I saw a headline that read, “Zac Efron Enters Rehab Again.” My daughter was a huge High School Musical fan when she was young, so I felt like I had watched Zac Efron grow up, and to know he was suffering and that his suffering was made public made me feel horrible for him and his parents. The idea Child Star popped in my head. At that point I wasn’t certain what the story was going to be, but I liked the idea of exploring what goes on behind the glitz and glamour that causes so many young actors’ to suffer such tragic setbacks and downfalls.

Shirley Temple

You have said that you have drawn a lot of inspiration from the childhood careers of Jodie Foster and Shirley Temple. What was it about these two child stars in particular that interested you in helping shape Molly?

I believe certain stars are destined for greatness. They have the “it” factor. Both Jodie Foster and Shirley Temple had it in spades. They were extraordinarily precocious, and the moment the spotlight found them, they were certain to soar to superstardom. I needed Molly to be like that, her star a runaway train that would make it nearly impossible for her mom to control.

YouTube was the avenue of discovery for Molly although it was a video posted by someone else that actually got her discovered. Do you think that this violates our privacy rights if someone has not agreed to have it socially shared? Would you be upset if someone posted a video of your child without permission?

It is a complicated question. I do feel our children need to be protected and yet trying to control videos being posted on social media seems like an impossible task. Molly’s dance was an innocent street performance and did not show her doing anything unseemly. What happened was more a result of how Faye dealt with the sudden notoriety rather than the notoriety itself. I suppose if the posting of a video resulted in direct damage to someone, the person who posted it should be liable, but I don’t think that was the case with Molly. And yes, I would be upset if someone posted a video of my child without my permission. It does seem like a violation. So I don’t know. Good question, one that would be a good topic for debate.

There is a pretty dramatic airport scene in this book where Molly is tired and throwing a tantrum while the mother is being engulfed in paparazzi in this difficult parenting moment. Did you bring your own parenting struggles in to shape this difficult mom moment? Has this changed your viewpoint at all on celebrity magazines and their tactics of reporting or did you already have strong feelings about that?

That is my favorite scene in the book. Thank you for asking about it. I love the airport scene. As a mom, it was the scene that affected me the most. I was once in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond when my daughter had a meltdown because I wouldn’t buy her a toy she desperately wanted. For twenty minutes I stood there while she screamed and tantrumed with people walking by with either sympathetic expressions or judgmental frowns. It was the worst feeling, and to imagine something like that happening while dozens of photographers documented it, knowing it was going to be plastered in every tabloid and shown on every celebrity gossip show in the world made my heart split in two with sympathy for Faye. It was the pinnacle moment in the story that illustrated how out of control Faye’s life had become.

Do you think you would let your child pursue a career in Hollywood after doing this research for your book? Did reading more of their struggles and their parent’s struggles make you more sympathetic to the challenges of their work?

I would not, but after writing this story, I am also not one to cast stones. It is easy for me to say I would not put my child in that world when I live in a nice house with a secure future, my children well provided for. I understand why Faye did what she did. I am not certain it was the right decision, but I am sympathetic to it. This is one story, and though it is based in part on stories I read of former young actors, it is fiction. Many former young actors have gone on to live successful, trouble-free lives and look back on their years in the spotlight with gratitude and fondness.

If we are interested in reading more about child stars and their families, what were some of your favorite reads or documentaries so we can check them out too?

Diary of  Stage Mother's Daughter by Melissa Francis

My favorite autobiography was by Melissa Francis (youngest Ingall on Little House on the Prarie). Her book was called Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter and it was a heart wrenching about what fame did to her family. Also Justin Bieber’s mom wrote an autobiography titled, Nowhere but Up, and it is a frank look at her life and Justin Bieber’s rocket ride to superstardom and how a child can be swept up into the dangerous world of celebrity and a parent left struggling to hold on. There is also a movie about Shirley Temple’s life, Child Star that was fascinating.

The Coogan Law requires that fifteen percent of a minor’s earnings be set aside in a trust until they are eighteen so a child star can end up with little or no money. Do you think that the current set-up is fair and do you think the family is entitled to a portion of those earnings after researching this topic and what a juggle it is for the entire family?

Unfortunately the law has loopholes, and many young actors still find themselves with nothing or very little when they become adults. I think the laws in regard to child performers definitely need to be reexamined and parents need to be held accountable for making sure a child’s earnings are protected. A family should be compensated for the work they do in regards to helping a child actor be successful, but it needs to be a minor percentage not the majority.

Many readers may be unaware that you actually have a background as an architect. Are you still working in architecture and how has that career background helped you as a writer?

I still love architecture, but writing has become full-time work for me. I find the two processes remarkably similar, and I find my architecture training really influences my writing. In architecture when I begin a project, I start with an inkling of an idea then set to work researching the site, the clients, the surroundings, and the history around it, then I throw as many ideas as come to me down on paper and see what comes of it, waiting for the “terroir” (a wine making term that means the specific characteristics of a vineyard) to determine what the project wants to be—the sculpture hidden within the stone so to speak. Writing is the same. I start with the germ of an idea—celebrity and what it does to a person and the people around them—then I research everything I can about the subject, going wherever the idea takes me and not censoring myself at all, trusting that every path will lead me closer to the story. Then I write, write, write—pages and pages of notes, passages, dialog, chapters, plotlines—until the characters begin to emerge and the story begins to tell itself, the single right story that wants to be told.

Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)

My favorite all-time book is The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

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

*This post contains affiliate links!

February 2016 Must-Reads

February 26th, 2016

February 2016 Must-Reads from

I couldn’t let a month go by and not share some reads with you. First of all, I just wanted to thank you for your kind words this month. It’s been a challenging month personally and professionally for me, but I’m trying not to lean in on the diagnosis and only use it as an ability to understand more how to stay strong going forward. I’m living at the gym and working hard on strength training and working on better form.

You will even find me in the kitchen doing hand strengthening exercises (you should see my pencil baton twirling!) to try and keep my digits going while I’m stirring pots.

I know we have a road ahead, but each day I’m feeling a little better and I am so thankful to you all for all the words, blog posts to sustain the site, prayers, and offerings for our family!  You truly discover your people when things like this happen and I am so thankful for mine.

Here are also 7 great books I enjoyed this month that I think you will love too! 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“The main message of Jesus, I believed, is that mercy trumps justice every time,”- Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

This book is an incredibly moving story of the fragility of life and death told through Paul’s incredible medical career working as a neurosurgeon and then as a patient facing the end of his own life. Even after a cancer diagnosis, his ability to train and put his own needs aside while still working tirelessly in an operating room are nothing short of miraculous and his words echo the poetic strength of a life well lived.

Lucy’s closing to the book brings it all together in such a beautiful and memorable way that reminds us that all we should ever strive for in our life is to be and give unconditional love.

5 Out of 5 Stars

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

I received an ARC from NetGalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

I am a big fan of Suzanne Redfearn (be sure to read her first book Hush Little Baby and our interview with the author)  and this book does not disappoint. In this quick page-turner, a single mother’s daughter is discovered after a YouTube video goes viral of her singing and dancing, at the tender age of four. She is immediately picked up for commercial work and then auditions & wins a lead role in a television show. Going from having nothing to having everything, you follow this mother as she juggles the demands of being a stage mom, the intrusive media, and protecting her children from Hollywood & her ex who just wants the biggest piece of the financial pie.

Redfearn effectively utilizes other famous stars and their stories to craft a compelling piece on the many pitfalls of growing up a child star and the rarity of survival in the industry.

Suzanne will be joining us this month for a Sundays With Writers about this book and I can’t wait to share more about her inspiration for this story!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

Alli is a great friend of mine and she shared a copy of her book with me this month which was such a treat. I can always trim some excess from my life so I was excited into this one.

Alli  tackles the topic of busy by guiding us through her own busy struggles and missteps that has lead her to a more peaceful life. With candid humor and a whole lot of scripture, she shows how God desires for us to slow down for Him.

The way this book is set up, with thought starters and questions at the end of each chapter, it would lend itself well to a personal morning devotion or a great book to work through as a Bible study. Additional online resources are also made available to assist with prioritizing and decision making and to reinforce your habits of breaking busy. I would recommend this one for fans of Jen Hatmaker, thanks to the humor and honesty that is peppered throughout this book!

Alli will be joining us in a future Sundays With Writers and I look forward to sharing more behind her book soon!

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

Macmillan delivers a solid thriller that left me guessing right up until the final pages. Narration is done well through the eyes of the detective, the mother, and social media outlets who tell the story of an eight year-old boy who goes missing on a walk with his mother in the woods.

The author weaves enough loose ends to create a well curated variety of suspects that lead you down the wrong trails in the woods yourself and creates great tension as the stability of the child’s own mother comes into question.

The book could have been edited in length as the story did drag a bit, but I still really enjoyed it!

I’m thrilled that Gilly will be joining us this month on our Sundays With Writers series to share more about her story behind this incredible debut novel! You won’t want to miss it!

4 Out of 5 Stars


The Immortals (Olympus Bound #1) by Jordanna Max Brodsky

I received an ARC from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Immortals is an ambitious modern day retelling of Greek mythology set in the city of Manhattan. Selene, also known as Artemis, is a woman intent on making men pay for crimes against women. Amidst her vengeance on these men, she stumbles upon the body of a young woman washed ashore, who has been gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. She finds her ancient rage returning and forms an unlikely partnership with the woman’s former lover as they try to figure out who this serial killer is that is performing ritualistic killings in their city. Fans of Greek mythology will swim in this fresh retelling of these ancient stories.

Jordanna will also be joining us this month in a future Sundays With Writers and I look forward to sharing more about the research and travel she did to recreate Greek mythology with this modern spin!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer- do not read if you cannot handle graphic sexual abuse or violence against women!

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

As a lover of horror films and fiction, I can say that this book is the first book that has absolutely terrified me and kept me up at with nightmares at night…and I loved it. Slaughter perfectly crafts each character so well that it is as though you are watching a film. Dark, psychologically twisted, evil, and graphic, the tale is gruesome and horrific and kept me on the absolute edge of my seat from the opening page. Fans of Gillian Flynn will appreciate this twisted thriller, but be prepared for the nightmares…they will be coming! 

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Centered on two dynamic, complicated, and compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley- The Swans of Fifth Avenue  is steeped in the glamour and perfumed and smoky atmosphere of New York’s high society. Babe Paley—known for her high-profile marriage to CBS founder William Paley and her ranking in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame—was one of the reigning monarchs of New York’s high society in the 1950s. Replete with gossip, scandal, betrayal, and a vibrant cast of real-life supporting characters, readers will be seduced by this startling new look at the infamous society swans.

You can really tell that Benjamin is passionate about this era and the telling of the story of Truman Capote and his swans. I think the challenge with this story is that many of these characters are so unlikable and not easy to relate to. Benjamin beautifully adds depth though in her fictional retelling of Capote and the ladies that grew to love him, that shows that all he wanted in life was the love of his mother. 

As someone who was unfamiliar with his life story, I had a great time reading all of the stories and hunting for the pictures of all these elite ladies after I finished this one. There is lots of glamour and backstabbing that reads a bit like a good gossip magazine. 

Be sure to catch our Sundays With Writers with Melanie Benjamin this month!

4 Out of 5 Stars

February 2016 Must-Reads from

Read With Me This Year:


January 2016 Must-Reads

February 2016 Must-Reads from

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.



How to Keep a Cleaner House

February 25th, 2016

I’m over-the-moon excited to have my friend, Meagan Francis, here sharing with us her wisdom and tips to keep our homes cleaner with less stress. I love these ideas and know you will, too!

Advice and tips for keeping a cleaner house

A while ago, my sister-in-law Jenna and I were hanging out in my living room when she remarked, “You know, you sure are a lot cleaner than you were in college.” 

I might have been insulted by that remark except that Jenna was also my college roommate and every bit my partner in slovenliness. A massive laundry pile dominated our dorm-room floor the entire year. Mugs with dried cocoa and bowls cemented with oatmeal rolled under the bed and desk and were never seen again (until we moved out, that is). There were probably bugs, but they were buried under so many layers of crap we never saw them.

If there was a song title that best described our living conditions that year, it would be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “That Smell.” Our dorm wasn’t just messy, it was downright gross.

I’d like to say that I grew out of my sloppy habits as soon as I moved into my first “adult” home, or even after I had children, but that wouldn’t exactly be true. It took me several years to get a handle on the mess a family of small kids could create in a small apartment.

The first time I maintained a truly clean-enough (by my standards, anyway) home? The year or so when Jon and I were separated and divorced. Living alone (well, without another adult, anyway) taught me a lot about keeping up with a house by myself, and forced me to figure it out and take responsibility for the state of my surroundings.

And even though my home still gets messy from time to time (right now, the bedrooms could really use some help…) I no longer feel the sinking sense of panic I used to feel, like I would never get on top of it again. Because now I know that I can, and I will.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to keep a cleaner house:

1. Stop resisting.

I figure I have two basic choices: drag my feet and resist every this-is-what-it-means-to-be-a-grownup task that comes my way, like doing the dishes or changing another diaper or getting dinner on the table…or, I can accept that the sooner I roll up my sleeves and get it done, the less fuss I make, the easier the job is in the end and the quicker I can get back to what I really want to be doing.

At some point I decided to stop hating the fact that I had to clean (and then re-clean and re-clean). It’s a fact of life. Doing it makes my surroundings nicer. I’m not exactly dancing around with a dust mop over here, but I don’t waste energy grumping about cleaning up anymore – which means I also don’t allow things to pile up and make me more overwhelmed in the end.

Embrace the endlessness. You’ll never be truly “done” cleaning, so try to find a way to accept it.

embrace the endlessness
2. Don’t wait around for someone else to make your home the way you want it.

I’m a big fan of delegation. I also believe that male spouses should take responsibility for helping to keep a household running. But I learned that waiting around for somebody else to do the dishes, vacuum the rug, or make the bed is a sure-fire way to grow angry and resentful while also having to live in an increasingly messy house.

Instead, I’ve embraced the realization that having my house function in a certain way is much more important to me than it is to Jon, just as updating software on all the family’s devices, while also a valid and worthwhile task, is more important than Jon than it is to me. And if something is really important to you, you need to take the responsibility for making it happen. (This is why Jon updates the software on all the family’s devices.)

That doesn’t mean I do every single cleaning-the-house-related task. I just accept that either I manage the delegation and oversight of said tasks…or, I accept that they won’t be done as often or as well as I’d like. And I choose #1 because living in a neat and functional house is important to my wellbeing.

I should mention that, in my house, part of delegating means hiring part-time cleaning help. I first hired a service when I had three young children, was pregnant with Owen and freelancing from home full time, while Jon was working in another state. We definitely didn’t have a lot of money, but I was desperate, so we canceled the cable and made it happen.

I don’t “need” help in the same way as I did then, but I really like not having to do the floors, deep cleaning the bathrooms, and dusting (I never seem to notice dust until it’s taken over.) I definitely still have to do a lot of cleaning, but it’s nice to know I can mostly focus on tidying, laundry, the kitchen, and bathroom touch-ups.

Sometimes just taking a few tasks off your plate can make the rest of it seem much more manageable. If you can’t delegate or hire help, you might choose some things that just aren’t as important to you and put them on the “don’t do now” list. If you know you don’t particularly care about dusting light fixtures, you can focus on the things that really make a difference and are more manageable for you now.

clean, dirty, window

3. Stay in motion.

There is no secret to keeping a clean house – it’s more a matter of accepting the job and taking action. And once I did that, I realized that my former #1 obstacle to keeping things under control was inertia. I’d avoid, avoid, avoid until I faced down an epic mess that would take me an entire week to clean up. Then I’d avoid, avoid, avoid again until the next time I got desperate.

Now I just keep moving. If I’m walking from the living room to the kitchen, why not make a few trips and return all the empty cups while I’m at it? If I’m bending down to pick up a toy in my path, I might as well repeat the action and pick up those abandoned socks, too.

I like to veg out on the sofa as much as anyone, but I find that once I’m down, I tend to stay down. So before I settle in, I try to make a few laps around the house to tidy up, load the dishwasher, or throw in a load of laundry. Then I can really enjoy my break…and the much neater house around me.

You know what’s funny? Looking at my list above it’s clear that what transformed me from a total slob into a decent housekeeper has nothing to do with complicated organizing systems, speed-cleaning tips, or buying new products.

It’s all about attitude.

Which means anyone can be a decent housekeeper, right?

Trust me: if I can do it? So can you.

top photo: Carissa Rogers, via Flickr Creative Commons