Make the Most of Your Marriage by Making Memories

July 14th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

My husband and I have friends who have known each other their entire lives. I’m not even exaggerating. They have a photo of themselves as toddlers, playing together. And sometime in their early childhood, they reportedly were married in someone’s backyard or living room.

{Of course, the photo above is not the famous one of my friends. But it IS their son with my daughter, and I figure I better keep it in a safe place just in case they end up marrying in 20 years or so!}

Though I joke about being a child bride anytime someone asks how long I’ve been married, I didn’t actually meet my husband until my sophomore year of high school. Still, that was obviously a LONG time ago – and means this year marks 15 years of marriage and 20 years of being a couple. We’ve known each other for longer than we didn’t.

All that time together means a lot of things. It means baggage and patterns and finish-your-sentence arguments. But it also means inside jokes and stories and finish-your-sentence-in-a-good-way. We’re working on those bad habits and same old arguments, but I’m also convinced that focusing on the memories we’ve made together can do just as much good for our marriage.

—————

Earlier this year our pastor spoke about improving relationships. He cited a study where new couples and established couples were observed eating dinner. Younger couples talked for the majority of an hour spent together, while couples married for several decades only spoke to each other for a few minutes out of an hour.

A few minutes?! Yikes! I think that goes well beyond “comfortable silence” that can seem like paradise after a day with noisy kids or chatty co-workers.

As I’ve thought about these two things (knowing my husband for 20 years and older couples not having anything to say to each other), I’ve wondered if one will affect the other – and how we can avoid becoming silent senior citizens who are more interested in their meatloaf than their marriage.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

Since my marriage hit a low point a couple years ago, I’ve learned so much – about marriage, about my husband, about myself. I’ve read countless articles and books; we’ve spent hours (and dollars, SIGH) on counseling. I now have a much better grasp on our love languages, on love and respect, on the importance of date nights and being on the same team.

In short, I’ve learned how much WORK marriage is.

And it is. But it’s also a lot of fun!

Or . . . it’s supposed to be.

As a mom, a type A personality, a [recovering] perfectionist, an oldest child, I’m not always very FUN. I’m responsible and organized (sometimes), I get things done, and I take care of people and business. But fun? Not so much.

After 20 years I forget too often how much fun I can have with my husband. But taking time to reminisce every now and then reminds me that one of the most fun parts of my marriage IS the fact that we’ve known each other so long. We’ve grown up together, and our lives are enmeshed in a thousand ways. Our families, our jobs, our homes, our friends – all of it is connected in one way or another.

Every time we visit our hometown or old friends, I remember how it felt back in the day, how much we laughed, how amusing (and not annoying) I found his teasing, how my shoulders didn’t hunch and my jaw didn’t clench with the stress of the everyday. And I remember being in love – young love, early love, no-real-responsibilities love.

As we walk down memory lane – whether literally at his dad’s farm or figuratively with a yearbook, scrapbook or long-forgotten mix CD – something special happens. We smile a bit more, we laugh out loud a lot more, and my heart just feels warmer toward him in general. Reminiscing is good for my relationship.

I don’t think this is restricted to couples who grew up together. No matter how long you’ve been married, you’ve created memories with your husband.

  • That place you met – or had your first date
  • That song you danced to
  • Those photos of your funniest faces or fanciest prom outfits
  • Your favorite movies – and movie quotes
  • The inside joke you can share with just a wink or raised eyebrow
  • Those friends you double dated with back then

Remembering those things together will help you recall the sweetness of young love and also remind you of your heart connection. And it might just help you remember how to be a little more fun!

Of course, as I think about those older couples with nothing to say during dinner, I’m even more determined to keep making those fun memories. I ask him if he’s heard a new song that I think he might enjoy as much as I do, we binge-watch a TV show together, we plan vacations and take last-minute road trips. We pass notes in church (shhh! don’t tell!), and we take those obnoxious-to-everyone-else selfies when we manage to get a date night.

We make memories – so we have something to look back on, no matter how old we get or how many dinners we share.

Reminisce with us today. What’s one of your favorite memories of your husband?

Photo source

 

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Sundays With Writers: A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

July 13th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am always looking for a sweet escape in the summer and this month I read a beautiful book called,  “A Paris Apartment,” by Michelle Gable.  I call books that send me hours afterward looking up images and more information on the “true” stories,  my narnia-books.  This is one of those books because after I finished the last pages, I was dying to look up what was real and what had been fictionalized for this book.  I spent hours flipping through photos and reading the backstory on these characters which made my bookworm heart oh-so-happy.

When I finished it and shared the story with my husband, he remarked that we had heard this same story of this apartment in the car one day while listening to NPR.  Of course, I immediately ran to my computer to look up the images of the real Paris apartment and it brought even more depth and life to the story that I had read.
A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

A Paris Apartment is a  fun summer historical fiction escape to Paris alternating between present day and the past.  It centers around, April, a furniture specialist with Sothebys,  & diary entries from the late 1800′s & 1900′s of Marthe de Florian. It weaves a beautiful story around a Paris apartment that had been shuttered for 70 years and the what lies behind the treasures in her apartment, including the relationship between her & the famous painter Giovanni Boldini, told through these diary entries.

As April becomes more & more fascinated with this woman through her diary, she increasingly becomes unsure if she wants to return to her own life back in the states or to continue living her own life in Paris, caught in the beauty of Paris and the escape from her own difficult marriage.

I would say that it is just enough fluff to pack in your beach bag and enough meat to enjoy reading the backstory on Marthe after closing those final pages.  I believe it to be a solid debut novel and I could not wait to talk with Michelle about this book and share it with you all!

I sent off a message to Michelle to see if she might like to join me for Sundays With Writers. She sweetly said that she knew my website and been on it before. I messaged her back and told her that if she was trying to sweet talk me, she succeeded and I was now her number one fan. She honestly replied that she had read my interview with Maggie Shipstead and would be honored to be featured on MomAdvice too.

And then I died and and fainted from the happiness..

I knew though that I must come back to life to share this interview.

I mean, really?!

How can we not love Michelle and race out to get her book right now?

Let’s chat with Michelle about her exciting first novel!

Michelle Gable

Wow, after reading your book I truly felt like I got to visit Paris, which has been a dream of mine! Since this is the setting for your book, did you spend a lot of time there before or while you wrote this novel?

I’m so glad the book felt like an escape! That’s fantastic to hear…thank you!

I’ve been to Paris several times and am headed there this summer, but I did not go specifically to research this book. However, I was in Paris when my agent called to say my editor was interested in acquiring it!

The most impressive part of this book is, what I imagine, the extensive research that went into both April’s profession (as a furniture expert) as well as the intricately woven story of Marthe de Florian & Giovanni Boldini that you have created for your reader. How did you gather this information and how much time does this take as a writer working in the historical fiction genre?

I spent a good four to six months researching, almost as much time as the actual writing of the novel. The shuttered-for-seventy-years apartment in the book really existed, however not much is known about the home or its former residents. So researching the apartment itself was not very time-consuming but I spent months researching the time period, the people who might’ve known the courtesan who once lived there, and the events and issues they would’ve been concerned with.

As you point out, April’s profession also required a ton of research. “Sotheby’s Continental Furniture Expert” is just about as far away from my daily life as you can get! I spent a lot of time looking through Sotheby’s catalogues (an area I became totally lost in) and interviewing people who worked there. It was very gratifying to read a review from an industry insider who said the book “felt like a memoir.”

For the historical sections, I used pretty much everything! The internet, interviews, old newspaper articles, books, including several that were over fifty years out of print. I had great fun reading the gossip columns of the day—most of the performers and incidents in the historical parts of the book really existed. Yes, there was a famous farter!

I’ve always loved research and often have force myself to get started on the book already. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of information because you can always uncover one more fact, learn the history of one more person. Probably only about five percent of what I learn makes it into a book, but I have fun with one hundred percent of it. And often little tidbits I pick up are stored in my “future novel” file.

Marthe is a character that I think people would either love or hate, especially as you learn more and more about her through the book. Could you relate to Marthe in any way especially as she struggles to climb up the social ladder?

Funnily enough, people have responded well to Marthe. It’s Sotheby’s expert April who seems to draw the strongest love/hate reactions! She is a controversial character by design.
As for Marthe, she certainly makes questionable decisions and though I can’t relate to most of her struggles I did find her sections the easiest to write…by far! Her pages almost came out of me fully-formed so I joke that perhaps I was a courtesan in a past life.

I do think her feelings of wanting love and belonging are universal. And as someone approaching 40, I can understand her fear of getting older, even if I don’t need to trade on my looks for my job!

Preserved Paris Apartment

Preserved Paris Apartment

Preserved Paris Apartment

Source: Getty Images

When leafing through the actual photos of the apartment, was there anything that you wish that you could take home with you, like the fictional April (who was gifted the Mickey Mouse) did? I know for me, I would want that stuffed ostrich for a statement piece in our home!

I love this question and have to agree…the ostrich for sure! I adore the Mickey Mouse doll too because he makes for such an interesting juxtaposition against the rest of it. This was the home of someone with considerable wealth. It was filled with antiques that, although quite valuable, are not recognizable to most people. But the Mickey Mouse is identifiable to all, no matter your background.

One of my biggest struggles as a blogger is coming up with an idea before all my friends begin pinning it from someone else on Pinterest. I understand that you had actually come up with the concept of this book before the photos of the real Paris apartment went viral. Were you worried that this might affect sales (positively or negatively) since people were starting to discover the story on their own?

It was so crazy how that happened! My sister emailed me on New Year’s Day with a link to some of the photos. She said “this reminds me of the apartment from your book.” And of course it was the apartment from my book!

By then A Paris Apartment was mostly done, the cover finalized, and the Advanced Reader Copies had already gone to print. I have no idea why it suddenly went viral this year in a way it did not in 2010, which is when I first read about it. Maybe because social media is so much bigger now? Amy Poehler was tweeting about it!

It felt very fortuitous. The only thing that would’ve been better was if it happened closer to my publication date! The news definitely increased attention for my book. I went from getting ones of hits on my website per day to thousands. It also resulted in a flurry of blog posts and stories and self-published books, all a positive for A Paris Apartment. People seem fascinated by the topic, just as I was, and generally when you’re really into something you’re going to read more than one piece on the subject.

So, if anything, the widespread interest helps. In my opinion, a debut author’s biggest threat is obscurity, not other people writing about the same topic!

As a first time novelist, what has surprised you most about the process of publishing your first book? Any words of advice for someone who is on this path towards publishing?

The time requirement for the marketing has been the most unexpected. Blog tours, physical tours…it all chews up so much more time than I ever contemplated. The touring (online and physical) is my favorite because I love connecting real-time with readers, but—wow—I really underestimated that piece of it. It’s been two months since my book came out and I only recently started writing again.

In terms of advice, it’s all about persistence, patience, and faith. You have to be willing to finish this novel, then write the next one, and then the one after that. I swore to myself I’d keep writing and writing until one finally took. The waiting and rejection can be brutal, but it is worth it.

Since your first novel is a historical fiction novel, do you plan to stay within this genre for your next book?

The novel I’m working on is similar in that it has a modern storyline as well as several historical ones. The current book was actually inspired by research I did on the Boldini paintings while writing A Paris Apartment. I’m very excited about it.

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

I recommend Father of the Rain by Lily King to everyone. It is the perfect book. She has a historical novel that came out recently called Euophoria and I can’t wait to read it. That’s another thing that’s fallen to the wayside lately… I’ve gone from reading 2-3 books per week to reading one if I’m lucky!

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

*This post contains affiliate links!

 

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How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room (Tour Our Shed!)

July 12th, 2014

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Today I wanted to share with you how we transformed our outdoor shed into a bonus room. Shed makeovers are one of my favorite things to look at, but I had never considered our own shed a bonus room until this summer.  This transformation from a shed that housed our chaos and clutter into a multi-purpose retreat is one of my proudest makeovers we have ever done on our home.

I partnered with Walmart on this project to showcase a unique idea for outdoor living. Since they partnered with me, I did my best to utilize items from their store while weaving in handmade items from some of my favorite Etsy sellers.

Before I get ahead of myself though, let’s take a tour of our shed before the makeover. As an FYI,  I did not gloss this up for you one bit. This is exactly as awful and as embarrassing as it looked. It took me twelve hours to organize our garage, six donation runs, and a whole day to empty this shed. I am ashamed how bad it had gotten, but I wanted to be honest about all of that with you. This took a lot of preparation for me to empty this and rid my life of a lot of junk to execute this space. It was worth every moment of effort.

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Shed Before Pictures

Our home is a late-sixties tri-level that had an attached shed on the home.  Although the shed is attached to our home, you do have to step outside to access it, but it is close enough that easy access is possible. This might be unlike  other sheds that might be residing further out from your property. After talking with our neighbor who has been a longtime resident here,  I understand that this wasn’t originally part of the home, but was an addition that had been made later to our house. Over the years, as other homeowner’s owned it things like insulation and electrical were added. The space had good bones to be a room, but no one had gotten any further than that. We have resided in this home 12 years and it only occured to me this summer that maybe we were missing out on a golden opportunity to have a unique bonus room.  After getting estimates and ideas from a few contractors, we hired All Pro Renovations to assist in transforming this dumping crowd of chaos into the room of my dreams.  They were able to address getting our space up to code and also got my vision for what I wanted to accomplish with this room.

My idea for the space was that it could be a retreat for my children during the day and a fun entertaining spot in the evenings. The most important aspect for this project was that we utilize every single inch of this 8×12 space in a thoughtful way. I wanted a bar that could fold down, flush to the wall when it was not in use. I wanted to utilize all the space that we could behind the door to house storage. I wanted furniture that could be stacked or wall mounted for entertaining.  Most of all, I wanted it to feel very modern and light-filled with a glass door and a window.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

We painted the door with a bright coat of teal paint that I loved so much that we decided to paint the front door too.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

We quickly figured out that when the kids were in this room that I couldn’t necessarily see that they were in there and would be hunting in the backyard for them. I added a plastic Open/Closed Sign from Walmart that I attached to the trim of the door with a 3M hook so the kids could let me know if they were in there. If they are inside it is open if they go back out to play in the yard, they flip it to closed. My daughter loves to also leave a time on the clock to let me know when she will be back.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Since our home had aluminum siding, All Pro recommended adding light with a skylight (which cost the same as adding a window), because if we damaged our siding, we would not be able to find matching aluminum siding for this home. They found a glass door that we could use for the space. They recommended doing an epoxy-paint floor with neutral tones that would be durable and ideal for this outdoor space. To warm up the floor, I added this outdoor rug in a 5’3×7’7 (an absolute steal at $77.58)   The room was drywalled, painted, and trimmed to finish out the bones of this room.  My color choice for this space was Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl for the walls (which I now what to paint my entire house in) and Benjamin Moore’s glossy White Dove for all of the trim.  Although the original intent was to add canned lighting, our ceilings were too low for the space so track lighting was installed which adds to that modern retro feel that I was going for.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

A built-in was added behind the door to make sure that every inch was used. Wine glasses, a rack, and opener are on the top shelves for evening entertaining. On the lower shelves, we have coloring books, crayons, and books. I also added a few of my favorites from our record collection and they fit perfectly on the bottom so we can use our turntable out there.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

The focal point of the room is this beautiful Providence Outdoor Day Bed (priced at $399) from Walmart for the back wall.  This canopy bed is so beautifully made that I almost fall asleep every night on it while I am out there. It is generously deep and the canopy element really adds an eye-catching detail to the room. I switched out the pillows with a more modern printed pillow covers that I scored on Groopdealz as one of their deals-of-the-day. I also added this Too Legit To Quit pillow from Michelle Dwight Designs to add a splash of fun to the bed. I found inexpensive pillow forms from Walmart to create cushions with style for the back of this bed.  The pillow forms are two for $5.15 and feel like expensive cushions.   This bed not only is the perfect spot for a reading nook, but it also can double as a guest room year-round for our guests. I kind of want to stay here as a guest myself.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

 

The bar can comfortably seat four people and I found retro Amelia Metal Cafe Bar Stools in red (2 for $159) from Walmart to complete the look.  I actually placed an additional order for two more now that I could see how many I can fit here.  All Pro Renovations created a bar that could be folded down and added a stripe of teal on the edge of my bar to add a little splash of color.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

 

We added these modern floating shelves (only $19.95) and I filled them with a few fake succulents and wove in a few of my favorite books and a fake orchid.  It creates a soothing and maintenance-free splash of color over there.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

The turntable I was gifted from my amazing girlfriends was placed on this pedestal table from Home Decorators and it was just the right size for this small space. I added this beautiful 30″ handmade arrow from Junk Art Gypsyz to the wall. We also added a beautiful typography piece that has the lyrics from Elton John’s, “Tiny Dancer,” to that wall.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Your question might be how we are keeping the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter? I have a great solution for you. We discovered that Walmart offers a Newair NewAir AC-10000H Portable Air Conditioner & Heater unit that not only act as an air conditioner, but a one piece solution for air conditioning, heating, and dehumidifying. The best part is that it can be set on a timer so you can set it for the day and it will automatically shut itself off.  All-Pro got the unit to drain outside of our home and installed a flap for the hose so that the unit is maintenance-free. This was the priciest of the purchases at $471.81, but eliminated the need for multiple units in such a small room.

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

Shed Makeover Shopping List

1. 30″ Marquee Arrow {Junk Art Gypsyz}

2. Too Legit To Quit Pillow {Michelle Dwight Designs}

3. Arrow Apache Blue  & Fynn Cool Grey Pillows {Groopdealz}

4. Tiny Dancer Typography {Concepcion Studios}

5. Safavieh Courtyard Outdoor Rug {Walmart}

6. Chloe Side Table {Home Decorators}

7. Amelia Metal Cafe Bar Stools {Walmart}

8. Newair NewAir AC-10000H Portable Air Conditioner & Heater unit {Walmart}

9. Providence Outdoor Day Bed {Walmart}

10. Danya Floating Shelves {Walmart}

11. Pellon Homegoods Decorative Pillow Inserts {Walmart}

12. Open/Closed Sign {Walmart}

Benjamin Moore Paint Choices

 

Paint Colors Used In Our Shed

1. Benjamin Moore White Dove (Glossy, Trim)

2. Benjamin Moore Blue Spa (Exterior, Door & Edge of Bar)

3. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl (Semi-Glossy, Walls)

 

I hope you enjoyed touring our shed.  I have found this room to be so good for my soul. It is so quiet and peaceful in there and is my new favorite place to unwind. Since the room is designed so differently from our home, it truly feels like I am going somewhere else in the evenings. The absence of clutter and our busy everyday life has been very calming to me.  I have been counting down the hours until my kids go to bed so I can escape. I also look forward to entertaining in here with my girlfriends, hosting book clubs, sharing a cup of coffee with good friends, writing alone,  and having a retreat for our kids on rainy days.

I’m thankful to All Pro Renovations for making all my dreams come true and exceeding my expectations for our former junky shed. Professional, courteous, on time (or early) every day, and quick to create smart solutions for this design challenge.  In ten short days, they created a space that I am so proud of and were as equally excited seeing it all come to life. They even came to my rescue when my daughter had a meltdown that her chalkboard door was disappearing and cut it to size for our garage door to surprise her while we were on vacation.  How amazing is that?

How to Makeover a Shed Into a Bonus Room

I could not have asked for more! I am already working on vision boards for other rooms in our home I would like to tackle with them again.

I hope this space inspires you and I’m thankful that Walmart gave me the chance to share about their beautiful outdoor options with you!

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It’s the 3 Little Things: Lining Those Eyes, Making it Sleek, & Tea That’s Just Right

July 11th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Happy Friday, friends! I missed sharing this post last week with you, but it was nice to take a break over the 4th of July weekend. There has been so much happening over here that I can’t wait to share with you. If you are following me on Instagram, you might have caught a few sneak peeks- this whole ’60′s home is going through some major transforming this year.   We are putting the finishing touches on some home projects that will completely blow your mind. I can’t believe this is my house.   I can’t wait to reveal all of that to you soon! In the meantime, here are some things that are making me happy this week!

L'Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray

I Finally Have Frizz-Free Locks

I have the coarsest hair and in the summer months, it frizzes up in the heat and humidity.

Monica in Jamaica

I don’t want you to be wondering what that might look like. It looks just like this.  I bought this awesome L’Oreal Sleek It Iron Straight Heatspray and I finally have frizz-free locks. It was one of those things that I picked up on a whim and decided to give it a try, but had no expectations that it would work well because it was only around $5.  The first day I used it, my girlfriend asked if I had done something different with my hair. It works that good.  Although I have never been able to go three days without washing my hair, it holds for that long and does a great job straightening your hair with just a blow dryer or can be used dry with your hair straightener. I highly, highly recommend this for your arsenal of hair tools.

Love,

Monica in Jamaica

Liner That Stays

Revlon Colorstay Eye Liner

Ever since I first started wearing make-up, I have always worn Cover Girl Eye Liner.  I have found though that in the summer, within hours it had faded or had moved under my eyes in other places.  I decided to try to find a new eyeliner to help remedy that and discovered Revlon ColorStay Eye Liner. It is the first eyeliner that I have tried that stays on until I go to bed. It goes on creamy, stays on all day, and is easy to remove with a little eye make-up remover.  I can’t recommend it enough. Perfectly lined eyes in the summer months are definitely making this girl happy!

Honest Tea

Tea That’s Just Right

Have you ever had Honest Tea before? This has been one of my favorite treats since I gave up my soda. It’s the perfect summer drink and has just the right amount of sweetness in it. I have been a longtime fan and the company emailed and asked if they could send me a box of tea to enjoy this summer- no obligations or anything (which is pretty rare when you are a blogger.) I absolutely love it and I have had so much fun trying all the different varieties. The Pomegranate Blue has been a big family favorite and I have enjoyed the Peach White Tea and Honey Green Tea at the pool this week. I like that these aren’t overly sweet and that the real flavors pull through in these drinks.  If you love tea, you will love these. Honest.

Bonus Happy!

And for a bonus happy this week, you can check out this fun dance routine that I got to do with my dance teacher Abbi, from Tu Sei Bella, that was so much fun to do for her YouTube channel. What says summer more than Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It? I mean, seriously. Who wants to go to dance class with me? You can learn all the moves on her channel!  They also happen to be running a Groupon this week for the classes so you don’t have to spend very much to try it! Just type in “Tu Sei Bella,” and the current Groupon should appear.  And saving money always makes this girl get jiggy wit’ it!

If you saw me in dance class, you would witness one of the happiest moments of my week every week.  It has been a life-changer for my spirit and confidence not to mention my favorite things to do with my girlfriends.

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Freebie Friday July 11, 2014

July 11th, 2014

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

We started off the week on MomAdvice with a fantastic interview with Chris Bohjalian, author of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, which is probably one of my favorite interviews, ever. And our food contributor, Shaina, shared a perfect summertime recipe, Watermelon Coconut Lime Ice Smoothies, that will have you recalling the Icees of your youth but made with real ingredients. You’ll also find a fun handmade gift, DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles that comes with a cute free printable making it perfect for the hostess of your next party!

Our regular feature,  Amy’s Notebook, is of course filled with lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Health & Beauty

Zarbee’s Seasonal Relief Sample

Finish Dishwasher Detergent Tabs Sample

Suave Professional Natural Infusion Sample

Emergen-C Sample

Food & Drink

Slurpee at 7-Eleven Stores Today (7/11)

Lipton Iced Tea K-Cup Sample

Entertainment

Beautiful on the Mountain: An Inspiring True Story

Old MacDonald Had a Farm Sing ‘n Learn eBook

The Wheels on the Bus Sing ‘n Move eBook

5 Little Monkeys Jumpin’ on the Bed Sing ‘n Count eBook

Digital Download of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Lion of Babylon Audiobook

Quart of Kelly-Moore Paint

This Week’s Freebie Events: July 12 - 18

12th - Barnes & Noble: Join Storytime featuring The Numberleys, 11 am

12th - Lakeshore Learning: Make a Count and Decorate Octopus, 11 am – 3 pm

12th - Lowe’s: Build Turbo with a Pullback Motor, 10 am

 

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Amy’s Notebook 07.09.14

July 9th, 2014

Spicy garlic shrimp via The Wicked Noodle

Source: The Wicked Noodle

Four-minute spicy garlic shrimp- less than 5 minutes? I have nothing to lose!

I love this modern take on how to do a gallery wall.

Wonderful tips on thrift shopping for your home.

Ever thought of spicing up your shelves with washi tape? Small time/money output, big impact!

DIY photo frames- love how budget-friendly these are!

How adorable are these crocheted baby flip flop sandals?

It seems the summer always results in a refrigerator full of condiments, so I know these 10 ways to use up kitchen condiments will come in handy!

Ombre bar cart via Paper N Stitch Blog

Source: Paper n Stitch Blog

Ombre bar cart makeover made from a 70′s television stand. I’m in love!

These iron-on veggie bags are adorable!

Your mega summer reading list: 70+ picks from the TED community.

Love this DIY chic TV tray!

Buffalo chicken pasta salad? Yes please!

Aren’t these Pottery Barn inspired Hyannis lanterns fantastic?

amys_notebook

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

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DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles

July 8th, 2014

DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles

DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles

DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles

DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles

(fun summer dress: Flourish Boutique)

Are you looking for a unique hostess gift to share for those summer barbecues? Today I am showing how to make DIY Citronella Candles for a fun hostess gift on the Kenmore Blog. Making candles sounds like something an advanced crafter might tackle, but it is one of the easiest projects I have ever done, thanks to my slow cooker. I purchased the supplies in bulk online for this project, but you could also try this on a smaller scale and purchase the supplies for these at your local craft store.

To complete the candle, grab my FREE “Thanks For Letting Us Bug You Printable” to tie on each candle as a thank you for a fun-filled evening.

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog today to get instructions on how you can make these DIY Slow Cooker Citronella Candles with your Kenmore Slow Cooker today!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 07.08.14

July 8th, 2014

Palooza apron pattern via Etsy

Source: Pretty Ditty,  $14.95 (pattern)

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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Watermelon Coconut Lime Ice Smoothies

July 7th, 2014

From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.

This watermelon ice smoothie is thick, smooth, and refreshing. With its coconut water and a touch of lime, it’s reminiscent of Slurpees and Icees, except all natural at home.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Smoothies #recipe via momadvice.com

I sat down back in May, an oversized paper calendar in front of me and five or six Sharpies at the ready. Neatly I wrote down the activities for each day through the summer, color-coding by child, so I knew when each one needed to be where at what time. It seemed like a worthwhile task to clear my Type-A brain from the clutter of keeping all the information piled together in one place. At the end of the August page I even filled in school orientation nights that we’d already received reminders for, lest we forget summer’s length and imagine it stretching on forever.

I sat back and admired my handiwork. There were the camps and the sports practices outline in a rainbow of color. Family activities were marked in black. I flipped back to June and rather than feeling better, I instead felt the dread of too much to do all summer long.

No one ever prepared me for the reality that comes with having children out of diapers. It’s this idea that they are now little people with lives and activities and interests of their own. Try as I might to keep our lives simple and our summers as low-stress and relaxing as possible, what ends up happening when you are outnumbered four to one is that activities get spread and spaced out.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Smoothies #recipe via momadvice.com

A month in and several deep breaths later I can tell you the secrets to surviving summer.

Take it one day at a time. Say yes (to beach days and trips to the park) as often as you say no. Forget about scrubbing your floor (bare feet and clean floors do not go together). Serve plenty of on-the-go snacks that keep you cool, hydrated, and are just plain fun to drink.

These watermelon smoothies are just what summer ordered with their hint of coconut and bit of lime. Whether you’re carting one kid to soccer while picking another up from baseball or just relaxing in the backyard, they are the refreshing, invigorating, and full of summer flavor.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Smoothies #recipe via momadvice.com

I’ve taken to freezing the leftover watermelon in batches, whenever there’s a bit leftover. I scoop the last cup or so into a container, covering it and pretending all is well. Rather than ending in the compost pile at the end of a meal, these leftover chunks become an intensely hydrating snack that boasts vitamin C and antioxidants. It’s just what the summer heat ordered.

Watermelon Coconut Lime Ice Smoothies
Author: 
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey*
  • 4 cups cubed watermelon, frozen
  • 1½ cups coconut water
Instructions
  1. In a small cup, mix together the lime juice and honey until the honey dissolves.
  2. In a blender, add the frozen watermelon chunks, coconut water, and the lime and honey mixture. Pulse until the mixture moves freely in the blender. Blend on high until smooth.
Notes
*More honey can be used to adjust sweetness for your personal taste and to account for ripeness of the watermelon.

**For a fun frozen cocktail, add in 1.5 fl oz of vodka to 6 ounces of smoothie. I used Prairie Organic Cucumber Vodka.

 

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Sundays With Writers: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

July 6th, 2014

Sundays With Writers

Some interviews are extra, extra special. This is one of them. Everything I have ever read by Chris Bohjalian  has moved me and I was thrilled when I got an advance reader of his new book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, from NetGalley. When I closed the final pages, I sent Chris a message and asked if he might consider doing an interview here. His email back was one of the most sincere, genuine, and kindest responses to an interview request ever.  Not only is he genuinely in love with his characters and getting to share his stories, but it is quite evident that he is just as passionate about the people who read his words.  Getting to share about this book, in his release week,  is an honor and I feel privileged to say that I got to have this conversation with him.  I count myself lucky to get to share this interview with you and I hope that you will race right out and buy this book.

 

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

 

I truly cannot imagine the amount of research and time it would take to take on a book like this.  In Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, Chris Bohjalian proves himself as a seasoned writer, taking on the story of a troubled teenage girl whose town experiences a nuclear meltdown. What makes it doubly heartwrenching is due to her father’s alcoholic past, he is the chief administrator of the plant and her mother, Mira, also works there as a communications specialist.  He is the one that the town blames for the disaster and the death of 19 people. Now orphaned and unwanted, Emily feels like she is not safe in her town and this leads her down a path of destruction that will pull at your heartstrings as a parent and put her in many situations that are brutal in nature.

Not only does Bohjalian capture the voice of this teenage girl so perfectly, but the depth of research on the repercussions of this disaster on a town, and an unlikely blending of Emily Dickinson poems woven throughout (the fictional Emily’s favorite poet) tie this novel up beautifully. Although heartbreakingly tragic, it is one that I could not put down in the final pages.

My only regret was that the epilogue was not expanded more and we could see more of what happened after Emily received treatment.

This book does contain language, violence, & sexual situations.

Grab your morning coffee and let’s chat with Chris about this amazing book!

Chris Bohjalian

With seventeen bodies of work under your belt, I would think that it would be hard to come up with a fresh new plot, yet you did that with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, and it is phenomenal. How did you come up with the idea to tackle a story based around a nuclear meltdown? Is this something that has always fascinated you?

First of all, thank you so much. I appreciate that immensely.

The truth is, some of my novels demand considerably more research than others. For “Midwives,” for example, I must have interviewed easily sixty or sixty-fives midwives, ob-gyns, lawyers, EMTs, and moms and dads who had their babies at home.

But Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands? Not nearly as much. Emily Shepard’s voice came to me a few days after Christmas 2012, and it came to me fully formed.

Part of the reason why I found the voice so easily, I think, is that I’ve written about teens in trouble often over the years as a newspaper columnist. I’m a big fan of an organization in Burlington, Vermont called Spectrum Youth & Family Services, and the terrific work they do. I’ve met a lot of their kids. I’ve heard the stories and seen their faces. I’ve met the young adults who are going to be just fine, and the ones who – due to mental illness or substance abuse or bad choices or a cataclysmic home life – are heading for disaster.

I also know some of the Spectrum staff. I went to college with Annie Ramniceanu, for instance, who served for years as their associate executive director. She’s also an immensely gifted therapist and counselor. One day when I was having lunch with her, she started telling me how some of the kids – the teens who are falling through the system – would build igloos against the Vermont cold out of trash bags filled with wet leaves, and I knew instantly the novel I wanted to write.

As my 20-year-old daughter, Grace Experience, would tell me when she finished reading the first draft of this novel, “Dad, please take this as a compliment, because I mean it that way: Your sweet spot as a novelist is seriously messed up young women.” I know she’s right.

Emily Dickinson and her poems play a big part in the fictional Emily’s life and Emily really wants her life & words to be like Emily Dickinson. Was Emily a favorite poet of yours or did you develop this entirely around this story?

I’ve always loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry and the mysteries that surround her life. Moreover, as a novelist I’ve often wondered about the choices she made about whether (or not) to publish her extraordinary body of work. And, yes, I went to Amherst College, where her spirit hovers over the community. Sometimes it seems to me as if half the buildings I lived in on campus were named after someone she knew.

Emily is perfectly voiced as a teenager. Some of the lingo, I am embarrassed to say, I almost had to look up. How do you, as a male author, get a perfectly pitched teenage female voice for our narrator?

I think in some ways the voice came together because of all of those teens I interviewed over the years. I still have the columns and I can still recall vividly some of their stories – and so much of their separate ordeals.

I also need to give a big shout-out to my daughter, Grace. Often when I was writing, I would be at a loss to find the right synonym for a word or to capture the precise expression that a really smart teen girl would use, and so I would text her. I would ask, “What’s a hip synonym for ‘tattoo?’” Or “I need another expression for ‘hook-up.’ Any ideas?” And she would text me back something that would work. Trust me, you would not have found the word “bitchcakes” in the novel without her. She was wonderful.

Finally, whenever I write across gender – which I do all the time – I focus first on the things that link us as people. Then, after that, I can begin to examine the particularities of gender.

There were many, many difficult moments that I had reading about Emily’s life when she is homeless, particularly, when she takes Cameron under her wing. Were there any scenes in particular that were difficult for you to write or anything you had to step away from?

Yes. As a dad of a daughter, I found it difficult to write about Emily Shepard’s cutting and the way she is sexually exploited by Poacher.

But I loved writing about her relationship with Cameron, and the way she looks out for him. She might make a lot of bad parenting decisions, but when it comes to that boy – to paraphrase Emily Dickinson – her life really does stand a loaded gun.

Did writing this novel make you think about nuclear disasters differently? Do you have more or less fear about these situations becoming a reality?

I learned a bit about how nuclear plants work – thanks to Arnie and Maggie Gundersen at Fairewinds Energy Education. But I must confess, I still find nuclear power absolutely baffling.

But the Fairewinds website is incredibly interesting.

And, yes, nuclear power does make me nervous. The exclusion zone in my novel in Vermont is small compared to the actual exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

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

Room,” by Emma Donoghue. What makes this novel so remarkable is not merely how authentically Donoghue captures the voice of a five-year-old boy, but the deft way she slowly conveys the horrific reality of a mother and son’s captivity.

If you want a poignant, powerful novel about a mother’s desperate love for her child, it doesn’t get better than this.

You can connect with Chris Bohjalian  on Facebook or on 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!

*This post contains affiliate links!