Amy’s Notebook 04.27.16

April 27th, 2016

Small kitchen update via A Beautiful Mess

Source: A Beautiful Mess

 

Small kitchen inspiration- love the idea of painting that backsplash.

I love ALDI wine and I’m adding a few of these to my shopping list!

Here are four performances of a man gone far too soon.

I adore Tina Fey.

100 must-read memoirs.

Baked chicken fajita roll-ups look amazing!

Tween Girl books via Modern Mrs. Darcy

Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy

 

12 terrific books for tween girls.

I am a HUGE Kazdin fan. He suggests for problem behavior, spanking and even time-out are a waste of time. Try this instead.

I’m inspired to meditate after reading this.

This is on my summer bucket list.

40’s- a time for many a risky affair. What do you think?

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!

 

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

April 25th, 2016

spring/summer capsule wardrobe 2016

The warmer weather is upon us and that means it is time to switch out my capsule wardrobe. Instead of trying to do a spring wardrobe and then a summer wardrobe, I am combining my capsule to save time and brain space for later.  The number of items has shifted, but only to make room for the two seasons. Long sleeve clothing and light sweaters will fall off and a summer dress or two will replace them, getting me back to my typical wardrobe of 28-33 pieces.

I decided to start a SEPARATE Instagram account for my capsule since it feels like two separate audiences. This account is only about fashion & the capsule. You can follow me here (@momadvicecapsule) or if you just want the general usual odds & ends, you can follow me here (@momadvice). I hope that makes sense! 

Let’s talk about this  2016 spring and summer capsule wardrobe.

First, What is a Fashion Capsule & Why Should You Do One?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing which is designed using only interchangeable items, in order to maximize the number of outfits which can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be “key” or “staple” items in coordinating colors.

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from MomAdvice.com

(this is my ENTIRE WARDROBE!!! Look at all that closet space in our little closet!)

The reason I think capsule wardrobes are worth exploring is that you realize when you have LESS in your closet you can do MORE with what you have. My closet used to be bursting at the seams with clothes and, what I like to call, one-trick-pony apparel. I felt put together after tearing up my room and trying to build outfits in the process, but it took me so long to get ready in the mornings and I never felt like I had a truly seamless style. Narrowing my wardrobe down to 33 items as outlined in Project 333 was just what I needed to make mornings less stressful and finding a real rhythm to getting dressed for the day. It’s been a beautiful shift in my life and I don’t think I could ever go back to the old ways of bursting closets and pointless purchases.

I tend to be a pretty colorful person so you will find color mixed in with basics in my wardrobe. Monochromatic isn’t my thing, but can be yours if you are trying to simplify your wardrobe. Many people begin their capsule experience very monochromatic and then find they are comfortable branching out into color after figuring out how to make everything work together.

Capsule Wardrobe Patterns

What Trends Did You Embrace for Spring?

This year I am mixing in floral, polka dots, colored jeans, and lace into my wardrobe. I am aiming for a few feminine touches to mix into my wardrobe basics. I stayed mostly in the pink, coral, & mint colors, but I still threw in a red skirt to switch things up with the navy and basics. I like a lot of color and textures in my wardrobe.

Again, almost everything was purchased gently used using credit from cleaning out my closets from season to season so it made this capsule affordable for a very frugal girl.

Get some inspiration for how I’m using pieces on my capsule wardrobe board.

What Makes My Capsule Wardrobe Unique?

I am committed to purchasing the majority of my wardrobe gently used. You will find that the majority of the items have been purchased this year using my thredUP credit (I get $10 and you get $10 to spend my referral) or I have owned for years. Thanks to pointing out this resource, I was able to get the majority of my gently used wardrobe for free. Be sure to visit my tips this year for purchasing your fashion capsule wardrobe second hand.

It was a prompting really through this film (watched on Netflix) that has solidified my commitment to buying used and investing wisely.

Watch it and tell me if it doesn’t make you want to do better with fashion purchases!

My biggest investment is always tailoring my items to fit me. I am a petite girl and pants need hemmed, waistlines nipped, and shoulders shifted. Although this can get a little pricey at times, it is 100% why I love the clothes I wear! I feel really confident in them because of these alterations.

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from MomAdvice.com

Why My Capsule Shouldn’t Be YOUR Capsule

I show you my capsule mainly as some sort of accountability, but not necessarily for you to copy it. My style is probably not your style and that is okay. Your capsule can look nothing like my capsule.  Your body shape could be different from mine and none of these cuts of clothing or ideas will work for you.  When creating your capsule, create it around what you feel most confident in.

I suggest peeking in your closet and selecting what makes you feel beautiful and start your planning around those pieces.

That’s been the best place to start for me.

Do Accessories Count in the Capsule?

One question I get asked is if I count accessories and shoes as my items. I do not, but feel free to do that if you like. For me a scarf, belt, or great jewelry really do add to the enjoyment and experience of my wardrobe. I am, however, more selective about the accessories I am choosing and really making sure that they are worth the space in my drawers and the money that is spent.

What Are the Rules for a Capsule Wardrobe?

Here is my modified Project 333 rules or you can go to Courtney’s website to read more about the official guidelines!

Below is my spring & summer capsule wardrobe. Any with an asterisk by their name is a new item in my closet.  

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from MomAdvice.com

* 1. basic white t-shirt (target)

* 2. black & white striped t-shirt (target)

* 3. hi-lo dolman black t-shirt (ann taylor loft)

* 4. hi-lo dolman ivory t-shirt (ann taylor loft)

5. coral t-shirt (target)

6. vintage gray t-shirt (old navy)

* 7. j. crew lace tank (j. crew from thredup)

8. black & white striped shirt (t.j. maxx)

* 9. coral & navy print shirt (gap from thredup)

* 10. floral & striped t-shirt (matilda jane)

* 11. denim shirt (madewell from thredup)

* 12. no-iron white collared shirt (brooks brothers from thredup)

13. chambray shirt (j. crew from thredup)

14. light denim shirt (gap, similar)

15. no-iron pinstripe blue & white striped shirt (white house black market from thredup)

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from MomAdvice.com

15. white blazer (nordstroms from thredup)

16. black blazer (gap)

17. jean jacket (boutique)

18. black & white polka dot silk top (j. crew from thredup)

* 19. navy & white polka dot silk top (j. crew from thredup)

20. green vest (boutique)

21. black & white maxi dress (ann taylor loft)

* 22. floral sundress (old navy from thredup)

* 23. paige mint jeans (nordstroms from thredup, same pair here)

* 24. rose jeans (nordstroms from thredup)

25. floral pants (old navy)

26. jeans (boutique)

* 27. white jeans (nordstroms from thredup)

* 28. black crops (ann taylor loft, same pair here)

Spring and Summer 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe from MomAdvice.com

* 29. black lace dress with nude underlay (bcbg from thredup)

* 30. navy & white sweater (j. crew from thredup)

31. denim midi skirt (eshakti)

32. black sweater (stitch fix)

33. black midi skirt (ann taylor loft)

34. black lace shorts (the limited)

35. red skirt (anthropologie)

spring-2016-capsule-wardrobe-46

36. Floral Romper (matilda jane)

Browse My Capsules & Wardrobe Planning Advice

Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Winter 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Summer 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

Fall/Winter 2016 Capsule Wardrobe

Creating the Perfect Capsule Wardrobe (that really works!)

How to Shop Secondhand For Your Capsule Wardrobe

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

25 Best Wardrobe Planning Printables

Coupons That Might Help If You Are Making a Capsule Too

Get $10 for your first thredUP purchase (this is my favorite online consignment resource)

Stitch Fix can be a fun resource for shopping for smart basic wardrobe pieces if a stylist might benefit you!

closet clean out with thredup

Don’t forget to clean out your closet! Here is what I am getting rid of this time. Off to thredup it goes for credit for the next capsule- so proud!! Here is a list of resources to help you make money while organizing this corner! Happy wardrobe planning!

*this post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love!

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Sundays With Writers: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

April 24th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I love discovering debut novelists and today’s guest, Jeff Zentner, is joining me today to talk about his first book, The Serpent King. I wanted to post this interview right away because it is on sale this month for just $1.99. Make the purchase. I promise you, it will be one of your favorite reads this year! It’s a gripping YA read that had me laughing and crying (sometimes simultaneously) and I was so sad when this book ended.  It’s as epic as, The Fault in Our Stars.

It’s that good.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King is about three unlikely friends growing up in the rural South that are all fighting demons of their own. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal preacher, known for his snake charming church, that becomes part of a town scandal that has left his family open to scrutiny and struggling financially. Travis is obsessed with a book series called Bloodfall that helps him escape into another reality away from his abusive father. And Lydia is a blogger ready to start a new life in New York while struggling to leave behind what is familiar and those she loves. These three unlikely people bond together and end up facing a struggle none of them could have ever predicted.  This friendship is beautifully woven with humor and heart.

I could not put this book down and read it in a single day. I had to know what would happy with these three and I couldn’t wait to chat with Jeff about his incredible writing. 

Grab your coffee and let’s chat today with Jeff Zentner about the story behind his story!

Jeff-Zentner-Headshot

I know that many of us feel like we have a book in us, but we also feel like we don’t have the time. I understand that you managed to write your book on your commute on your phone. Can you tell us a little about that process and how big that screen was on that phone because I’m trying to picture this? I’m so impressed!

It was a process born of simple necessity! I had almost two hours of bus commute each day, round trip, a day job, and a family. I had to squeeze the writing in whenever I could. So I’d try to write 500 words on my iPhone 5S on the way into the office, 500 words at lunch, and 500 words on the way home. Yes, my right thumb would get very tired. After I’d put my son to bed at night, I would try to write another thousand words or two (on my laptop) if I could.

Before writing, my primary creative outlet was music, and what makes writing wonderful is that I can whip out my phone at all sorts of random times and get a little work done on something. I couldn’t do that with music, because even in Nashville, bringing your guitar on the bus and trying to work out a new song is frowned upon.

I grew up in a very conservative religious home, not exactly like Dill’s, but I could relate to that need to not disappoint God or your parents. Even though Dill has so much thrown at him, he seems pretty steadfast in his faith through it all. Did you want your readers to take away that message and why do you think it was important for Dill not to turn away from God?

I also grew up in a conservative religious home, although my parents were much more supportive and loving than Dill’s. Still, I was able to glean insights about what growing up with less supportive and loving religious parents would look like. Through my life, I’ve had my struggles with faith and I’ve had to come to my own view of God because I don’t always believe everything I’m told about him. Faith is a thing not easily abandoned, and I think it would have been dishonest of me to depict it as something one can simply walk away from. It felt more honest to me to have Dill wrestle with it until he could come to know a God who was more concerned with his joy than putting him to constant tests that could harm him.

Tavi Gevinson

Lydia was my favorite character because I could relate to her humor and to her job as a blogger. I understand she was loosely on Tavi Gevinson and her fashion blog Style Rookie. I know, as a blogger, I am concerned a lot about my brand and I related to Lydia’s struggle with not sharing photos of her friends to stay consistent to her brand’s message. Do you think it was wrong of her to do that and how did you come up with this all-too-true blogger struggle?

I actually don’t believe that it was wrong of her to do that. It’s her blog and her persona and her brand and I think she’s entitled to craft those things as she sees fit. But even though I think she wasn’t wrong to exclude Travis and Dill, I think she was right to include them once she felt brave enough to do so. I think at that point she was correct that no one would think less of her for associating closely with the fashion-challenged.

But ultimately what I think about the rightness or wrongness of Lydia’s actions is in no way authoritative. I lost all power to dictate how people felt about her behavior once I published the book with her in all of her flaws. So if anyone else thinks she was wrong to exclude Dill and Travis, who am I to say otherwise?

I came up with this struggle sort of by intuition. I’d read Tavi’s blog and it looked like she associated exclusively with people with equally amazing style. I thought it unlikely that she only knew and loved people with exceptional fashion sense. So I figured there was some image control going on there. Also, I’ve maintained Internet presences for years for various musical projects, so I knew that part of crafting an image and persona was selectivity in what you reveal about yourself.
Snakehandling

Dill grows up in a Pentecostal church that believes in snakehandling. What type of research did you do to create your church scenes?

I’ve long been fascinated with the practice of snakehandling, so I’ve done a fair amount of reading on it. The definitive work is a beautiful book called Salvation on Sand Mountain, which I highly recommend. I also interviewed friends who have attended worship services at snakehandling churches.

The nice thing, though, is that there’s no central authority for snakehandling sects. There’s no pope of snakehandling. So I invented the church in the book and therefore no one can say I got it wrong!

One line in your book is, “And if you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.” I really loved it because it is so true. I would imagine that it took a lot of bravery to put your book out into the world. Do you feel like this is one of the bravest things you’ve done? Have you always dreamed of writing or was this something you discovered you enjoyed later in life?

I do think it’s one of the bravest things I’ve personally done, but that doesn’t mean it’s one of the bravest things that can be done. I think it takes more courage to do what Dill does in the book, which is to survive bleak circumstances, including bullying. unloving parents and poverty, and not allow them to define him.

I haven’t always dreamed of writing because for most of my life, it wasn’t something that I allowed myself to dream. It just seemed too impossible; too daunting. I thought books were things that floated down from ivory towers, clutched in baskets held by doves. It’s only been in the last few years, and becoming personally acquainted with several published authors, that it’s come to feel like something I was capable of doing. It helped too that I had a day job that required rigorous, intensive writing on a daily basis. That was the final element that gave me the courage to try my hand.

Jeff Zentner at Penguin Random House

(follow Jeff on Facebook!)

You signed a two book deal with Crown/Random House & Tundra/Random House Canada which is awesome and (for me as a writer) a little terrifying too. Did you have to immediately get to work on the second book after this book was published? Has your writing process changed with this book or are you still writing on a bus?

It was terrifying for me too! I had no idea what my second book would be, and yet I needed to deliver my editors something she loved as much as The Serpent King, a story I’d thought about for years. I ran several ideas past them until finally, on idea ten or eleven, something clicked. So I got to work on book two and now it’s finished and on track for a spring 2017 release. It’s not a companion or a sequel to The Serpent King, but it does feature a cameo from one of The Serpent King’s gang.

My process for this book was a little different. While I was writing The Serpent King, I did nothing but write it. No outside reading, no TV, no movies, nothing. And I decided I wasn’t going to try to write again so devoid of my creative inputs of information. So with book two, I made sure to leave plenty of time to consume the books and shows that I loved while I was writing. I did write almost all of it on the bus. I wrote even more of it on the bus than The Serpent King, in fact, because I reserved my evenings for reading and shows.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but I felt like it left it wide open for a sequel. Do you see this story continuing or do you feel like you have closed the chapters on these friends?

I can’t envision writing a sequel. I’m happy with where things end and I think I gave my readers enough for them to write their own lovely sequels in their heads. I even used to have an epilogue that I cut because I was unsatisfied with how neatly it tied everything up with a bow. I didn’t leave enough room for imagination.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview a few musicians turned novelists over the years and I understand you are a musician (as well as an attorney & youth camp volunteer!) as well. Are you still writing music too? Do you find these processes to be similar?

Sadly, I find that the music-writing muse has left me. But hopefully only for a time. I’m starting to make friends with my guitar again. I went a long time without even playing it. I’m just trying to renegotiate my relationship with music now. It feels like we broke up and we’re just learning how to be friends again.

There is, truly, the best prom date ever written in your book. Please tell me your high school prom was that cool?

I wish I could tell you that! I barely even remember prom. I remember we got rained on and my date’s hair was still wet for our pictures. That was pretty funny. And pathetic. So I guess we had kind of a pathetic prom.

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)

I’m going to cheat and do two.

On the adult side, my all-time favorite book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s so brutal and unsparing yet beautiful and filled with ferocious love. I feel like I can survive anything with that story in my mind.

On the young adult side, my favorite book is The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter. It’s so incredibly lyrical and gorgeous and filled with wisdom. It inspires me asa writer to work harder.

Jeff Zentner

You can connect with Jeff Zentner  on his 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!

 

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It’s the Three Little Things: Colors of the Rainbow, A Blast Into the Past, and Protein Bars

April 22nd, 2016

It's the 3 Little Things

Oh, I love it when we have a guest post for our 3 Little Things list. You guys always have the best stuff to share and it is so great to get a little variation to our happy list. Today Lori joins us from Wool Gathering Designs to share a few of the things that make her so happy! Thank you, Lori!!

Paper Mate Flair Pens

Colors of the Rainbow

When my third grader came home begging me to buy him a set of colored pens, I fell in love with him all over again! I am a die hard lover of all things office supply and am excited he is starting to get as giddy about them as I do!  The writing utensils the third graders were raving over are Paper Mate’s Flair Pens.  They come in a million colors and are a great, no bleed felt tip pen.  I found the best selection and price at our local Sam’s Club, and he was able to purchase them with a gift card from his birthday.
(Admission: I bought a set for me too!)

A Blast Into the Past

I have been a hard core Stephen King fan since high school, when I picked up my first book in emulation of my dad.  It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read SK, but I have not been disappointed at all so far with 11/22/63! It’s a true to form mix of SK writing and themes, tied into one of the biggest “watershed moments” in US history.

I have always been intrigued by the conspiracies surrounding JFK’s assassination, and it is fun to indulge in this historical fiction.  I’ve stayed up way too late, many a night turning pages.  I’m a bit behind on the 11/22/63 hoopla, and just realized that there is an eight part 11/22/63 mini series on Hulu! I know what’s in the queue when I close that back cover!

Zbar-Protein-Bars

Protein Bars

In January, I hired a personal trainer and began weight lifting and eating better, to try to lose the few pounds that I couldn’t shake on my own.  One of the things she advocates is a good balance of daily “macros”, which include protein, fat and carbohydrates.  As I began better balancing my own diet, I realized that my kids’ diet wasn’t as balanced either.  We were all low on protein.
Then I ran across the Clif Kid ZBAR Protein.  They come in three yummy flavors and have 5 grams of protein in each bar.  What really gets me about these protein bars is that they don’t have a lot of sugar in them (9g). A lot of time bars like this are loaded up with sugar; the “non-kid” Clif Builder’s Protein Bar has 22g of sugar!  My kids inhale them, and I have no problem getting them to take these bars as a school or after sports snack! Plus, I know it is doing them good.

This week I’m…

Reading: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum.  I was such a big fan of her first two books, After You The Opposite of Loveand then I haven’t read anything of her’s for years. I am so excited she just released her debut YA novel. I am already loving it and happy to be reading her words again.

Eating: Roasted Turkey Sandwiches- these are still such a big favorite over at our house! ALDI still is selling my favorite turkey breasts in the frozen section of their store!

Watching: Enjoy these 73 questions with Taylor Swift. #bigfan

Excited:  About this book coming to life- doesn’t this trailer look SO GOOD?

Happy Friday, friends!

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

Amy’s Notebook 04.20.16

April 20th, 2016

Plum painted master bedroom via The Inspired Room

Source: The Inspired Room

 

Master bedroom inspiration- love the color in this room.

Glee fans will tear up over this one- so sweet!

5 great podcast episodes to listen to.

We need to try this pancake trick!

Try this! Frame a wallpaper sample.

Back during the Harlem Renaissance, he swept the lindy hop of its feet and transformed big-band dance. More than sixty years later, Frankie Manning got a renaissance of his own.

Airbnb Tiny Houses via Thrillist

Source: Thrillist

 

How fun to rent a tiny house!

Spring capsule wardrobe inspiration.

Oh, this looks really good!!

Best drugstore products for summer skincare.

21 brilliant books you’ve never heard of.

Chinese chicken salad spring rolls- yum!

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!

 

Using Meaningful Places to Celebrate Your Marriage

April 19th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Using Places to Celebrate Your Marriage

My husband and I are in the process of selling our first home and buying a new one. It’s not the first place we lived together; we actually lived in five different apartments in the first four years we were married. But it is the first home we owned and the only home our kids have known.

We’ve painted every single wall in this tiny house, and we’ve replaced the flooring in every room but one. We’ve sunk thousands of dollars into what we not-so-fondly call our money pit, and we are beyond relieved to finally sell our “starter home” after 13 years. But it’s not just 1,000 square feet of wood and plaster and whatever crawl spaces are made of (spiders and mud?). And it’s more than four walls and a roof over our head and a mortgage payment each month.

It’s where we have laughed and yelled and cried and cussed and prayed and loved and worked and lived. It’s where we have hosted countless parties and showers and small groups and barbecues and holiday celebrations. It’s where we have hurt each other and spoken so harshly, so regrettably, and it’s where we have healed and grown stronger and closer than ever. It’s where we’ve taken turns rocking our babies to sleep when the baths and the stories and the bottles don’t do the trick, and it’s where we’ve taken turns rocking each other to sleep when the world and the pain it brings us has been too much to bear.

Much as we have lamented the years we’ve been stuck in our little house, we also can’t deny its comfort over seasons of change. Jobs, friends, churches, family dynamics, opinions, even the culture and climate of our world: these things have all changed drastically and multiple times over the past baker’s dozen years. But our home, well, it’s stayed right here, waiting for us day after day.

I’m super excited about our new house and the changes this move will bring, but I’m glad to have a few more weeks before we leave this place for the last time. Of course I’m grateful for the chance to pack and pick out appliances and figure out how to get our mail forwarded to our new address. But mostly I’m thankful for the chance to give our old home a proper goodbye.

All this reminiscing has me thinking about the way places play such an important part in our relationships and our memories — and our lives, really. I think about how certain streets or states or benches or bridges remind me of moments and people and events that have mattered to me. And I think that our marriages can really benefit from this idea of place. Here’s how:

First, think about the places that have been significant to you and your husband. Answer as many of these questions as you’d like.

  1. Where did you meet?
  2. Where did you go on your first date?
  3. Where did you first fall in love?
  4. Where did you first kiss?
  5. Where did you break up?
  6. Where did you get back together?
  7. Where did you meet each other’s families?
  8. Where did you get engaged?
  9. Where did you get married?
  10. Where did you first live together?
  11. Where did you bring your babies?
  12. Where did you have that fight?
  13. Where did you make up?
  14. Where did you go to counseling?
  15. Where did you go out with friends?
  16. Where did you celebrate a job offer?
  17. Where did you comfort each other after a loss?
  18. Where did you dream or plan or brainstorm?
  19. Where did you finish that project?
  20. Where did you make a big decision?
  21. Where did you go to church?
  22. Where did you cheer for the team?
  23. Where did you tell him you’re pregnant?
  24. Where did you have fun?
  25. Where did you laugh together?
  26. Where did you cry together?
  27. Where did you join something together?
  28. Where did you quit together?
  29. Where did you feel free?
  30. Where did you remember why you fell in love?

Second, find a way to honor your marriage by celebrating these places.

  • Create a scavenger hunt of your most significant places and literally walk down memory lane.
  • Take photos of each important place and put them in a scrapbook, photo album or frame.
  • Choose 12 of the most meaningful places to revisit over the next year.
  • Plan a date in a place you have gone on a date before. Talk about everything that’s changed since the first time around.
  • Take turns visiting special places to you as individuals and sharing their significance with each other.

Those are just a few ideas, but once you start thinking about all of your places, the possibilities are endless. Perhaps one of these ideas will spark your own creativity as you use the idea of place to improve your marriage! I know that, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m determined to work PLACES into my next date night (which just happens to be near my anniversary: a perfect time for reminiscing and celebrating!).

What’s an important place for you and your husband?

 

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How to Make a Succulent Terrarium ($50 Walmart Gift Card Giveaway!)

April 18th, 2016

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by EcoScraps. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that help support our site! 

As regular readers know, I have a black thumb. I have never been successful at growing anything and my lawn can prove it. When I discovered succulents though, my world finally got a little greener. Succulents are my kind of plants because they are so low maintenance and they don’t require a lot of water. Today I want to show you how to make a succulent terrarium and how I made it as budget-friendly as possible.

Oh, and did I mention a $50 Walmart Gift Card giveaway?

Sweet!

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

We are going to be making our succulent terrariums with a new product that is on the shelves at Walmart called EcoScraps. I’m so excited to share about it because the company’s mission is so awesome and really aligns with our family values. EcoScraps recycles food scraps and turns them into organic and sustainable lawn and garden products. They recycle by collecting wasted food from from stores and restaurants and convert it all into natural garden products. 

Between 2011 and 2015, EcoScraps has recycled 75 million lbs of food waste! They are matching that number in 2016 with projected recycling of another 75 million lbs of food waste–this time in just 12 months.

Before they contacted me, you may recall, I was all fired up about food waste after watching the documentary, Just Eat It, on Amazon Prime and chatting about it on my 3 Little Things list. Our family is REALLY trying to do better with our food waste and have been making it a big focus during the week to eat the food we purchase and not throw it away.

You can TRULY make a significant difference in the food waste crisis by simply changing some of your shopping habits. Did you know that bagged salad, for instance, is one of the #1 foods wasted? Doing things like buying bagged salads only on the days you plan to use them is a GREAT way to reduce the food waste in your home. Simple switches will do so much for our world.  You can find out more on the EcoScraps website and find their products on Walmart shelves now!

Now that you know the company’s mission, let’s make a succulent terrarium with their eco friendly potting soil!

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed

Glass Trifle Container (I found this for $6.97 at Walmart)

Pebbles

Charcoal

Sphagnum Moss

EcoScraps Potting Soil (this was located outside of our local store)

Succulents (I like to choose an odd number for arranging. Mine had 7 of various sizes)

Garden Trowel

Ways To Save on Supplies

  • Fairy gardens are very popular right now. Ask your local nursery if they have smaller bags of pea gravel or moss available for purchase. I was able to get small bags of these items for a lot less.
  • Look to see if there are any succulent arrangements that are already prepared and the pricing and compare it to individual succulents. At my nursery, succulents individually were $4 each,  but for $20, I was able to get double the succulents AND it helped to know which ones worked and looked nice together.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

Easy How-To

Creating a terrarium is a lot like creating a layered cake or trifle so that is why I thought this container was so fitting!  

1. Begin by adding your pebbles to the bottom of your container. This is to create a false drainage layer so water can settle and not flood the plants. You will want to add one inch to two inches of stone, depending on the size of your container.

2. Next, we will layer our charcoal. The charcoal can come in granules or shards (the type I am using is shards). We will spread a layer of this over the rock to help reduce bacteria, fungus, and odors in our terrarium.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

3. Next add a layer of moss to create a barrier between the potting soil and charcoal.

4. Prepare your plants for planting by removing them from their pots and loosening up the root ball and exposing the roots. If the roots are particularly long, you can trim them down a bit.

5.  Add a layer of dirt to your terrarium. Gently place your plants inside and then top them off with a bit more dirt, using your hands to gather the dirt firmly into place around each of the plants. Be mindful where you are planting them, mixing up your plants of varying heights and foliage, to fill your jar.

Siri Reminder To Water Plants

5. Finish by watering your terrarium lightly, being mindful not to overwater it because succulents do not like to be soggy. Caring for your terrarium is easy, especially if you are a terrible gardener like me. I’m so terrible, I put Siri in charge.  Feel the soil weekly to see if it is dry and add water if it is.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

Here is another view of what our terrarium should look like from the side. Make sure to place it in a spot that gets a little sun on their beautiful leaves, but not scorching hot spot in your home.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

 

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium from MomAdvice.com

These are beautiful to keep or to give to someone special in your life. Thank you, EcoScraps, for letting me share about your amazing mission to reduce food waste in a really wonderful way. I hope you guys can try their products!

To help you get started on your own gardening, we are giving away a $50 Walmart gift card to one lucky reader! Enter to win below! 

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This post was sponsored by EcoScraps. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that help support our site! 

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Sundays With Writers: Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

April 17th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

I love how book clubs can stretch me into books or genres of books that I might not have ever explored on my own. This month our local book club read Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan. It was such an incredible read that I knew I had to share it with you. When preparing for this interview, as with most of these interviews, I discovered the author was just as intriguing as the book. I’m so excited to share an interview with Shawna today and how she prepared for her incredible new book.

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan

I just love when a book educates you on a time in history that you have been completely unaware of. Ryan pulls off a magnificent literary feat by tackling six decades set in Taiwan over the course of the twentieth century. It is horrific what so many endured during this time and begins with the story of the unnamed narrator’s father being captured because he is suspected of Communist activities. He is kept for over a decade in brutal and inhumane conditions. It then follows his return home, the unkindness of others, the stress of feeling watched, and the other generations that continue to struggle through the decades with their own issues. It’s far too much to go into in a quick review, but you will learn a lot along the way!

There are a couple of things I would note when you dig into this great read.  First, I wish I would have educated myself a bit before diving into it. I knew nothing about the Chinese nationalists or the history of Taiwan and there is no real introduction into the history of that.  After a browse through Wikipedia, I was able to understand better, but it was a confusing time in politics and reading that first would have helped me through the book. I also found this one moves at a slower pace at times, but I felt it was worth the journey to really build out these characters.

Now grab your coffee and let’s chat with Shawna Yang Ryan this morning!

Shawna Yang Ryan

I understand that Green Island took fourteen years to write. What an incredible moment to finally see your book out in the world after all that time! What was your biggest challenge you faced when writing this book and how did the challenges compare to writing your debut novel, Water Ghosts?

I still have to pinch myself—I still can’t quite believe it’s out! The biggest challenge was managing all the information and figuring out how to tell the story in a way that was responsible to the people who had lived through the events. I felt much more free to be inventive and less beholden to the facts of history with Water Ghosts, which is set much further in the past and depends more on magical realism than history.

Chiang Kai-shek(蔣中正)

As an American, I was blindly unaware of this time in history for Taiwan and I am sure I echo many other Americans who were unaware as well. What do you think are some common misconceptions that are held about this time in history? What do you hope people will come away with after reading your book?

Thank you for saying that. I too was largely unaware of this history before I did this project. The biggest misconception is that Taiwan somehow “broke away” from China, rather than seeing the story as Chiang Kai Shek fleeing to Taiwan and then using it for his own purposes. The supposed “China/Taiwan split” is really about an old conflict between two Chinese political parties and not about Taiwan. Taiwan is separate from the Chinese Nationalists (or Kuomintang/KMT) but the two get conflated. I hope that after reading the book, people will understand Taiwan’s distinct history, and why the island rightly should be considered and recognized as an independent country, and not a “renegade Chinese province.”

Green Island Taiwan Prison

(green island prison, source: Taiwan Adventures)

In 1987, martial law was finally lifted in Taiwan. Did you find that people were still hesitant to talk to you when you were conducting interviews for your book or did you get the impression that they were finally unafraid? What was your favorite interview that you did while gathering your research?

I started interviewing in late 2002 and a few people were still afraid, though many more were relieved to speak out. One woman told me that her colleagues did not believe the story of the massacre and had called it a lie, so she was glad that more and more people were starting to talk about their experiences. The more time went on, the more comfortable, eager even, people were to talk. Every interview was so intense, so interesting and so moving that I really don’t have a favorite. I do have a fondness for one interview that I hadn’t planned for—I was interviewing someone else and she said, let’s go find So-and-So and we walked over to his shop and talked him right then. I liked that it was spontaneous, and I liked sitting in his little shop on an old street in a small mountain town outside of Taipei and hearing him talk. The setting and the conversation together were a beautiful experience.

I have read that your own mother is Taiwanese and the daughter of Chinese immigrants who had fled the mainland in 1949. Did any of your own relatives share or aid in crafting your story for Green Island?

I based some of the story of Ah Zhay’s husband on my grandfather, who, as you note, fled to Taiwan in 49. My aunt’s husband’s father was also a 49er, who married a local woman, and I borrowed a little from their unique story too. And I thought about my parents’ romance in Taichung in the 70s for the narrator’s experiences in that period. I also had a conversation with my dad about motorcycles and who rode what—it was fun to think of all the nuances embedded in something as simple as that.

fulbright

You had the unique opportunity to come to Taiwan through the Fulbright program and then ended up staying in Taiwan for three years. What was just as impressive as your book to me was that while you were there you took Mandarin daily and tried to do many household tasks only speaking Mandarin.

Not only does the language have 20,000 Chinese characters, tones in your voice can mean completely different things. How difficult was it to learn for you and how do you think knowing this shaped and improved the quality of your writing?

It was extremely difficult and it’s still difficult! I get tongue-tied so often! Though I have learned so many characters by now that when I read something, I think, My god, how did I do it?  How do I know that character, I don’t recall studying it—since every single one took countless repetitions to memorize. After all that, it was only last summer when I was visiting my family that I had what I guess must be the experience of fluency. I found myself listening to their conversations and not translating in my head. I even forgot they were speaking Mandarin. I was just in it. It was amazing! I guess twenty years of study gets you somewhere eventually!

Language study has made me more aware of grammar, so I think my sentences have a lot more formal transitions—more subordinators and conjunctive adverbs than before. I’m also more aware of the roots and connotations of words. I think about how metaphors might make sense in Mandarin.

What do you miss the most about living in Taiwan now that you are teaching in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawai’i?

I definitely miss my family. I also miss the feeling of being slightly not-at-ease with myself—feeling foreign and working through the day in another language. Lastly, Taiwan may be the most convenient place on earth to live. You can even do your dry cleaning at 7-11!

I loved reading that you had a really unique experience landing your literary agent. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to landing an agent with your first book?

I had been sending my first novel out for years and receiving rejections. One rejection stated that it sounded like a story, not a novel!  I found that my former professor had started a small press, so I queried them, and his editor liked the manuscript and they ended up publishing it. Somehow, a copy found its way into the hand of Marilyn Dahl of “Shelf Awareness,” and she wrote a rave review. An agent saw the review and emailed me. It was out of the blue, and I had given up on going the traditional publishing route, so I was very surprised. My path was circuitous, but it worked out in the most ideal way.

If we want to learn more about Taiwan and their history, can you share books or documentaries that might help us understand more about what the Taiwanese people faced?

Julie Wu has a lovely novel called The Third Son that came out a few years ago. A few books by Taiwanese feminist author Li Ang have been published into English. Hou Hsiao Hsien, considered by some to be one of the best filmmakers in the world, has two films that are particularly historical: A City of Sadness, about the 228 Massacre, and The Puppetmaster, which is part narrative and part documentary about the life of puppeteer Li Tian-lu. Lastly, for nonfiction lovers, George Kerr’s Formosa Betrayed is a classic.

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)

Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a perfect novel. The perfect novel? The language is dense and poetic, and it strikes the ideal balance between personal level intimacy with the characters and broad, historical importance, as it tackles the trauma of American slavery. And it has magical realism! This book is everything.

Watch this interview to learn more about why Shawna decided to write about Taiwan!

You can connect with Shawna Yang Ryan  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!
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It’s the 3 Little Things: Perfect Petite T-Shirt, Laughs, & More Laughs

April 15th, 2016

Ramona Books

What a special week to know that one of my favorite childhood author’s turned 100! Happy birthday to Beverly Cleary.  If you haven’t dug into the Ramona books with your little girl, it is one of those moments you will always treasure. There were a lot of articles about Beverly Cleary this week, but my favorite was this interview. You can just tell she’s still got that wonderful sense of humor.

Hey, if you have a moment, I’d love to invite you to Like Us On Facebook. I have a little personal goal to see that grow to 20,000 this year so I am working really hard to keep it fresh and funny for you. I would be honored for you to be a part of that! 

audible

A Happy For YOU (and me!)

I was SO excited to see that Audible is giving THREE months FREE this month instead of their normal 30-day trial membership. It gives you one audiobook a month and I am totally cashing in on this freebie. I hope this makes YOU as happy as it makes ME!!

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

Petite Dolman T-Shirt

(sources: black t-shirt, black leggings, necklace, & booties)

Perfect Petite Girl Dolman Top

I am working on showing off my spring/summer wardrobe for my next capsule wardrobe. I am keeping the wardrobe almost all gently used (thanks thredUP!), but one thing I needed was a white & black t-shirt. Those were two of the things I thought might be worth investing in since I tend to wear those the most in the summer.

I am IN LOVE with the oversized t-shirt styles, but I am petite (short and small framed) so oversized tees can quickly gravitate towards the nightgown look on me. The boxy style never seems to work out for me, but this week I found THE loose t-shirt that doesn’t look all wrinkly, can be dressed up or down, can be worn with leggings since it is just a little longer in the back, and it was on sale! Yay!

FYI, this is the XS. I could have sized down, but I really wanted the looser fit. It’s a little sheer so I have a cami underneath! It looks almost like linen in the front with a great draping and t-shirt feel on the back.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

My Favorite Show is Back

Today is THE DAY that I have been waiting for because the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt begins and I am going to do all I can to really settle into a Netflix binge with my hubby for this next season. If you haven’t watched it, you must! As a good old-fashioned Midwestern girl, I can relate to a girl like Kimmy and her adventures in New York.

This awesome show is a Tina Fey-produced comedy featuring a young woman who’s trying to build a life for herself in New York City after escaping a doomsday cult.

Based on this description alone, you should watch it.

This is one of those shows that makes me laugh until I cry (repeatedly!).

Are you adding season 2 to your agenda too?

lol

Photoshopped Book Covers- One Big LOL

ADULT humor, friends, adult humor. Or not.  Kind of childish, but adult language. These photoshopped book covers are absolutely hilarious. Is it sad that this caption reminds me of my first kiss? It was pretty awful.

Look at these and have a good laugh without your kids. The Taco Bell title and the Exploding Sun are two of my favorites!

This week I’m…

The Nest

Reading: The Nesand so far I’m really enjoying it. In a way it reminds me of Jonathan Tropper’s, This is Where I Leave YouThis one has received a lot of mixed reviews. I am hoping it is a 5-star rating for me. Have you read it?

Eating: Surprising my kids with a Shrimp Boil tonight. It’s finally beautiful in Indiana and I look forward to their favorite feast on a gorgeous day.

Watching: Tiny House Hunters & Tiny House Builders came to Netflix. There are only a few episodes of each. Is it because they only had a few because only that many people would do that or was it a really short season? Let me know, HGTV subscribers! Regardless, I am dreaming of a tiny house again!

Laughing: These brothers are awful. And funny. Another crying laugh (no adult language- it’s one you can laugh at with your kids!)

Happy Friday, friends!

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

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower Bouquet

April 14th, 2016

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower Bouquet

As Mother’s Day approaches, I thought it would be fun to revisit one of my favorite crafts that I did with my daughter (a fellow expert pom-pom maker!). What a great way to use up scraps of yarn! xo

 

What could be a better gift for Mother’s Day than a bouquet of pom pom posies that you can enjoy all year long? You won’t believe how easy it is to make pom pom flowers for a special mom in your life. Walmart challenged us to come up with a fun Mother’s Day project that anyone can do for someone special in their life and we are so excited to show you how easy (and thrifty!) this little project is!

Supplies Needed:

Scrap yarn in any color (we used scrap yarn from my overflowing yarn bin)
Hot Glue Gun
Glue Sticks
Scissors
Large Clover Pom-Pom Maker
Wilton Cookie Sticks (over in the cake decorating supplies aisle)
Jar

How to Use the Clover Pom-Pom MakerHow to Use the Clover Pom-Pom MakerHow to Use the Clover Pom-Pom MakerHow to Use the Clover Pom-Pom Maker

How to Use the Clover Pom-Pom Maker

Directions:

 

1. Make an assortment of Pom-Poms using your desired method of pom-pom creating. Follow my picture tutorial above if you would like to use the Clover Pom-Pom Maker that I discovered.

Why I Am Using The Clover Pom-Pom Makers: I have tried every thrifty known method for making pom-poms from cardboard, to forks, to compact discs. To make this bouquet of posies, I decided to see if I could find a gadget to help me and I cannot rave about this Clover Pom-Pom Maker enough. It is the perfect tool to add to your arsenal if you are making pom poms and it is simple enough that my 7 year-old could use it.

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower Bouquet

2. Open a package of cookie sticks and remove one from the package. Begin wrapping yarn around the cookie stick, covering all of the white parts. I start the yarn weaving the tail in at the top so that I don’t have to glue it at the top. It’s okay if there is a bit of white showing at the top because your pom-pom will cover it!

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower Bouquet

3. Once you are almost to the bottom of the stem, add a dab of hot glue and continue wrapping until you get to the bottom. Snip the end of the yarn that has been secured with the glue.

4. Add a dab of hot glue at the top of your stem and then secure a colored pom pom to the top. Hold in place for thirty seconds.

5. Gently bend your stem (gently or it will break) to create a more natural looking flower. Set aside and repeat this process with the rest of the flowers.

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower BouquetThat’s it!

TA-DA!

Easy yarn pom-pom posies that are sure to brighten any mom’s day! If you want to really make this cute gift stand out even more, here are a couple of more sweet ideas to really set the mood for a special mom in your life.

Pom-Pom Cupcake Topper

I went ahead and bought the Small Clover Pom-Pom Maker to show you how cute this one is for decorating a cupcake for a special mom in your life. We just hot glued this little cutie on the top of a toothpick and it only took a couple of minutes to add a little pom-pom magic to a store-bought cupcake!

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower Bouquet

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower BouquetWho could resist a gift as sweet as this?  Not only is it the perfect Mother’s Day gift, but it would make a sweet gift to celebrate any occasion. Pair these pom-pom posies with a gift certificate to pick up craft supplies for the crafty mom in your life.

I also joined Vine this weekend which is a fun app for making a quick 8 second video. Here is my 8 second video of my pom-pom making. I would like to disclose that I am in my favorite polka-dotted pajama pants here for this super professional tutorial!

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower Bouquet

Happy Pom-Pom Making, friends!

How to Make a Pom-Pom Flower Bouquet

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