Apron Full of Giveaways 06.10.14

June 10th, 2014

Blue polka dot apron via etsy

Source: 4 Retro Sisters,  $37.95

 

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!

Pin It

Planning One-on-One Time with Kids

June 9th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Spending One-on-One Time with Kids at MomAdvice.com

“I just . . . feel like you don’t pay any ATTENTION to me!” she wailed.

My six-year-old daughter, folks – the drama queen. Just half a dozen years under her belt, and already she’s a master manipulator, saying the words that cut deepest in my mama’s heart. I often ask my husband where on earth she could possibly get these traits – and then pretend not to notice when he stares at me pointedly.

Yes, it’s true we are a melodramatic bunch in my house, but despite the crocodile tears and bedtime delay strategies, I know there’s truth in my daughter’s complaint. We had a baby in January, and after being an only child for six years, my oldest daughter is having a rough time with the adjustment.

Don’t get me wrong! She LOVES her baby sister. Like, crazy over-the-top adores her. But she still has felt overlooked and underfed, at least in the attention department, and has found lots of ways to let me know. Even though her methods (and method acting!) irritate me, I’m thankful she’s spoken up so my husband and I know she needs a little extra assurance that we love her just as much as the tiny baby everyone keeps fussing over.

I know that so much of good parenting is being intentional, setting specific ideals and goals for our families and then following through. But man, oh man, is that ever difficult when you’re tired! And if there’s ever a time for being tired, it’s when a new child enters our homes and throws everything – sleep, meals, family dynamics – into chaos. Still, this is important.

So what’s a tired mom to do when one of her kids feels left out? Make a plan, of course! Okay, maybe a plan isn’t the obvious go-to solution for all of your problems, but if there’s one thing that makes me feel better about life, it’s a solid to-do list or outline. Or chocolate. So maybe there’s more than one thing…

ANYWAY.

Though I love plans and lists, I didn’t foresee this issue the way I did meal planning and grocery shopping. So while I spent my last trimester shopping, cooking and freezing in bulk, I neglected to plan ways to make sure my older daughter felt loved after we brought home her baby sister.

That’s okay, though! It’s never to late to make a parenting plan, and besides, your kiddos might be feeling overlooked for any number of reasons (not simply as a result of a new baby in the family). So let’s make a new plan together.

Planning One-on-One Time with Kids

My approach to planning one-on-one time with kids is three-fold:

First, I make sure we connect every day. Whether that’s an extra bedtime story or snuggling in the morning before anyone else wakes up, adding to our gratitude journal during dinner or discussing the latest kindergarten “gossip” in the car on the way home from school, I make sure to look her in the eye, hold her hand and listen to her heart. That seems like the bare minimum, I know, but slowing down enough to really connect with the people we love most can fall by the wayside easily on busy days if we’re not intentional.

Secondly, I ask my daughter for her opinion and input about family activities. When it’s appropriate, of course! I certainly don’t check with her before paying the bills or planning a date night with my husband. But occasionally, she gets to choose what we have for dinner (and then, ideally, help me fix it) or what movie we watch on a Friday night.

And on the day after school ended in May, we went to lunch for a “summer planning meeting.” I told her when she’d be attending summer school and theater camp, and what days she would spend with a babysitter or grandparents. But then I asked her who she’d like to invite over for playdates and what special summer activities she wanted to add to our list. (Sidewalk chalk paint, s’mores and a family game night, in case you’re wondering!) She loved feeling like her opinion mattered as we made our summer plans (and bringing her notebook to Chick-Fil-A for our “lunch meeting” pretty much made her day).

Finally, we plan dates. Sometimes it’s an actual outing:

- going to a movie
- getting ice cream cones
- shopping for a new outfit

But other times, it’s simply taking time to be together:

- reading an extra story at bedtime when the baby happens to fall asleep early
- walking home from school so we have more time to talk about her day
- letting her paint my nails
- having her tell me all about her make-believe superpowers and fairy princess friends

One-on-one time together doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal, and you don’t have to spend hours on your city’s calendar of events or Pinterest to find the perfect activity.  Playing a round of Go Fish, making his favorite dessert together or playing catch in the backyard after dinner could be all it takes to make sure your kids remember that you think they’re special, all by themselves.

The point isn’t spending money or spoiling a kid who’s feeling underappreciated or overlooked. And sometimes, it isn’t even about spending hours and hours together, gazing into each other’s eyes or – even worse – wielding glue sticks and glitter to make the Pinterest-perfect craft that will prove your devotion and Mom of the Year status. It’s simply about showing your kids a little extra love when they feel unloved.

We all feel unloved at times, and our kids are no different. So whether it’s because of a new baby or a new house, overtime keeping you or your husband at work more than usual, or any stage when they need a bit more attention, making a plan to keep your relationship with them on track will go a long way.

And now I have to get busy typing up my daughter’s “Summer Plan,” because that was my action item after our lunch meeting and summer is already underway!

How do you spend one-on-one time with your kids? Have you ever made a plan to prevent one child from feeling neglected or overlooked?

Photo by Dave Parker

Pin It

It’s The 3 Little Things: Tiny Keyboards, Snacks on Flight, & a Claire’s Experience

June 6th, 2014

It's The 3 Little Things

 

As you are reading this, I am likely on a plane returning from a trip to the Walmart headquarters. I had a feeling you might be disappointed if I dropped the ball on this week’s feature so I am writing this all up for you on a Monday, sweetly awaiting the weekend already! Since I am traveling today, I thought I would share a few of my favorite things that that make me happy when I travel.

Logitech iPad Keyboard

Turning My iPad Into a Laptop

I used to carry around my laptop, but when I got my iPad, I knew that I wouldn’t need to carry that around with me anymore because HELLO…BROKEN BACK. How many pounds is a laptop? Ouch!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stand trying to type on the touch screen, particularly when sending lengthy emails or trying to conduct anything for my business. I found this Logitech iPad Keyboard and it has been one of the best tech investments I have ever made. It instantly turns your iPad into a mini-laptop that you can carry in your purse. The battery life lasts forever before it requires a charge with a small cord, making it perfect for me to take to my conferences. The outside of it is metal and durable, helping protect your iPad screen and it latches together magnetically, as though they weren’t meant to be together from the start.

The best part is that it holds my iPad up for me while I am laying in my hotel bed watching Parenthood episodes so that I can hold my Kleenex and cry without having to hold the screen at the same time. Can you just imagine how hard that would be?

But it is also very important for business.

Yes, for business.

Aldi Cranberry Almond Bars

Inexpensive Gluten-Free Portable Snacks

I told you a few weeks ago that I stocked up on the ALDI gluten-free offerings and was so excited to try them. The hits for us were the brownie mix, the frozen pizzas, and the brown rice pasta was, “the best gluten-free pasta ever,”  according to my family. They did lose us on the pizza dough mix which my husband likened to eating a graham cracker…Hey, you can’t win over everyone!

That said, they had some gluten-free bars, but before they launched their line, they had these Cranberry Almond Bars that were a knockoff of those expensive Kind Bars, but these come in at $1 each and do not break your teeth. And you do not want to go on a plane with a messed up grill because EMBARRASSING. I pack a box of these in my suitcase because anything that is gluten-free and is sold at an airport will cost you ONE MILLION DOLLARS. I would say saving one million dollars makes me very happy, indeed.

Groopdealz Finds

 

Inexpensive Additions to My Suitcase

When I was a kid the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate best thing in the whole world was getting to go to Claire’s and spend my allowance. I would spend hours, if my mom would let me, just browsing those clearance racks to find something new and sparkly that would, for sure,  move me up on the totem pole of popularity. I may have picked the wrong earrings  though (*ahem*), but I still tried to wow my school friends.

That being said, my new email obsession that gives me almost that same thrill of swinging those earring displays around is my Groopdealz email.  I wanted to show off a few of my my finds this month- I got this sparkly necklace, a J-Crew knockoff t-shirt (priced for $44 on their site- what?!?) that I scored for $10.99 on Groopdealz, and this cute bird shirt.  The stuff goes fast and sometimes I put things in my cart and they have disappeared so if you really love something, I wouldn’t stew on it for too long because they have limited quantities. Nothing cost over $19.99 here and these are all traveling my suitcase with me this week!

 

And because I am absolutely TERRIFIED of birds, but love everything with birds on it (my cups, my shirts (see above!), my shelves, almost my entire house, etc…),  if you haven’t seen this bird skit from Portlandia, please ENJOY and laugh hysterically at me because my family does. All the time.

Fake birds make me happy.

Real birds make me scream and cry.

 

*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!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

Freebie Friday June 6, 2014

June 6th, 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!

This week on MomAdvice I’m sharing two ideas that would be great for Father’s Day: an easy gift of DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes (with free printable!) and a delicious meal any dad would love, Restaurant Style Steaks. I also have a Sundays with Writers interview with Patry Francis, the author of one of my favorite books this year, The Orphans of Race Point, that you won’t want to miss! And our food contributor, Diana, has an article all about 5 FREE things you can get at U-Pick Farms that has me anxious to plan a family outing to a farm. On this week’s edition of  It’s the 3 Little Things I’m sharing what’s making me happy and hope you’ll share yours, too.

Of course you’ll also find our weekly notebook, filled with inspiring DIY food, decorating and craft ideas, and you’ll want to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Health & Beauty
Food & Drink
Entertainment

This Week’s Freebie Events: June 7 - 13

7th - Home Depot: Build a Riding Lawn Mower, 9 am – 12 pm

7th - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Learn To Count Ladybug, 11 am - 3 pm

7th - Michael’s: Make a Father’s Day Card, 12- 3 pm

7th & 8th - National Museums: Free Entrance to Museums for Bank of America Card Holders

 

Pin It

Amy’s Notebook 06.04.14

June 4th, 2014

Cobb-Salad-To-Go-Tumblers via The Chic Site

Source: The Chic Site

 

What a great way to repurpose tumblers- cobb salad to-go!

Here’s a fun idea: a printable conversation starter for your and your children to anticipate summer.

Find 17 things you should avoid doing if you want to be happy.

Copycat chipotle burrito bowls – don’t these sound just right for summertime eating?

I’m loving these ideas for throwing a beautiful grown-up baby shower!

Pom-pom shadow boxes? Be still my beating heart.

 

Free-Printable-Watermelon-Icecream-Cone-Wrappers via Design Eat Repeat

Source: Design Eat Repeat

 

Watermelon printable ice cream cone wrappers- these are too cute!

Looking for something new and interesting to read? Here are five of the best book recommendation sites, services, or groups (of course you always have MomAdvice’s BookClub and Sundays with Writers series for great recommendations, too!).

Love this idea for creating a family swing area under a tree. How fun would that be?

22 DIY tricks to make parenting easier- who couldn’t use these?!

Organize a home bar with lacquer trays- so chic!

And finally, here’s a perfect example of scraps-of-life giving! So inspired to do a garage sale for those in need!

 

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed this 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!

 

Pin It

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

June 3rd, 2014

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

If there is one thing I love, it is creating a restaurant experience in the comfort of my own home with a price tag that fits our budget.  Father’s Day is just around the corner one way you can really wow those amazing dads in your life is by creating this restaurant style steak recipe for an amazing culinary experience at home.

Walmart wanted me to showcase a fun recipe you could create for Father’s Day and I immediately thought of making Dad a delicious steak dinner. What says I love you more than a delicious New York Strip Steak or a beautiful Filet Mignon?

Today’s post is less recipe and more technique. The truth is, if you have a beautiful cut of meat, the last thing you want to do is mask that delicious flavor. A beautiful steak needs only to be dressed simply with a little oil, salt, pepper, and a butter finish to be more than worthy of your taste buds.

I had hoped to have a beautiful picture tutorial for you, but this steak cooks so quickly that I am going to type out my tips instead. Even with the tomatoes and roasted asparagus as our sides, we still will have dinner ready in about fifteen minutes!  That will be even less time than it would take to haul everyone in the car for a meal out, not to mention the incredible savings you will experience by dining at home.

Here are my personal recommendations for creating that perfect steak for Dad! 

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Pick the Right Type of Pan

Since we are need to sear the steak and then finish it in the oven, you want to make sure that you have a pan that can do this task well. I love a good heavy-bottom skillet that does not have a plastic handle or a cast iron skillet for this job. I bought one of these Lodge Logic 12″ cast iron skillets a couple of winters ago and it has been so good to me over the years.  This is definitely a work horse in my kitchen and it is also a great tool to use when outdoor grilling for delicate meats or when mixing up a big batch of fresh veggies so you don’t have to cook in a hot kitchen in the summer. It has truly been the best $20 I have ever spent and I know that you will feel the same way especially after cooking your steaks on it.

Let Your Meat Rest At Room Temperature

It is really important that you don’t put cold meat into your hot pan.  I like to pull my steaks out about thirty minutes before I plan to cook them and leave them on my counter. This helps to heat your steak more evenly and helps prevent the risk of your meat drying out before you have finished cooking it.

Get Your Pan Screaming Hot…Hotter Then You Think

If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need to be sure that your skillet is hot enough to add that beautiful caramelization on your meat. Turn your heat up to high with nothing in the pan for at least five minutes. When you place your meat in the pan it should stick and you should hear a nice sizzle on the outside. That’s exactly what you want to hear and see happening to your meat.

Dry & Season Your Meat Well

One of the best tools in your arsenal for creating the perfect steak is a paper towel. If you want a beautiful sear on your meat, you need the meat to be dry and not wet, otherwise you risk just having your meat steam in its own juices rather than sear. Dry the meat with a heavy-duty paper towel and then brush the steak with oil. I love canola oil and then season your meat simply with salt and pepper. Once your pan has to come to that screaming hot phase, drop your seasoned meat into the pan and let it sear for two minutes on each side.

Don’t Move Your Steak

Once you have dropped it in, the first thing I know I want to do is to shift the meat and take a peek at it. Just don’t. Let the meat get the golden sear it needs for two minutes on each side, giving it a beautiful crust on the outside, and keeping your meat perfectly pink on the inside.

Butter Makes Everything Better

A butter finish makes all dishes a little more beautiful, don’t you think? A dab of butter is a beautiful finishing touch to the steak before sliding it into the oven to finish cooking.

Avoid Overcooking

A meat thermometer is your best friend. I still rely on mine for my steaks. I love my steak to be medium rare, but cook it to the consistence that you love the most. Keep in mind that Rare is 120 degrees, Medium is 125 degrees, and Medium Well is 130 degrees.

Always Let Your Meat Rest

If you cut into your meat right when you take it off the pan, chances are that all the juiciness will just pour out on your cutting board or plate. Cover your steak with a little tin foil and let it rest for ten minutes before diving in.  I promise you will have a much more flavorful bite if you just wait the recommended amount of time.

asparagus 2 asparagus 3

I hope these steak tips help you and a great accompaniment to this steak is my Simple Roasted Asparagus. You can slide this in at the same time and temperature as your steaks and it should be ready in 10-12 minutes. I also added a side of the warmed tomatoes from this tomato appetizer we created last week!

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe

Restaurant Style Steak Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A beautiful restaurant-style steak, perfect for celebrating any occasion. Once you follow the tips & techniques for a perfect steak, you will save a bundle on special occasion meals out.
Ingredients
  • 2 (10-ounce) filet mignon (you can double this recipe, just make sure you have a large skillet so all the steaks have room)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with canola oil. Combine the salt and pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.
  4. When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.
  5. Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you're actually testing the middle of the steak. Mine took 4-5 minutes to come to medium rare)
  6. Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

 

 

Looking for more Father’s Day ideas? Check out these Monster Cookie Bars & Monster Printable Cards for Dad, this chalkboard cookie jar you can personalize for your favorite guy, or this beautiful candy bouquet we created for our Dad last year!! Happy Father’s Day!

Pin It

Apron Full of Giveaways 06.03.14

June 3rd, 2014

princess tiana apron

Source: Dark Balloons,  $80.00

 

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!

Pin It

5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm!

June 2nd, 2014

From our food contributor, Diana Bauman.

5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com The U-Pick Season has begun. It’s during this time of the year that my entire family gets excited to hit the u-pick farms and indulge in the juiciest, sweetest candy that we’ve been dreaming about since the summer before. You see, in my family we intentionally eat fresh fruit in its season. Sure, we can buy fresh berries in the winter months, but they’re void of flavor and anything good that it was created to have. So instead we wait patiently, salivating for that first juicy bite of the sweetest strawberry picked in June. 5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com Or the pucker of a tart cherry, ready to be made perfectly sweet when made into pies or  jam. 5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com As the strawberries dwindle down from large, juicy berries that can fit into the palm of your hand to the smallest of cones, still sweet and great for jam, blueberries and raspberries surge into season in the sweltering heat of July and August. 5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com Again, my family hits the u-pick farms to gather as many buckets of fruit that we can that will eventually be made into jam, pies, and sprinkled in our pancakes throughout the winter. As much as we enjoy the flavors in freshly picked fruit grown locally by family farmers, we really enjoy that we not only save money by picking our own fruit and purchasing it in bulk but also that we’re able to get the following 5 things for FREE. 

1. You Can Get a FREE Sense of Community!

5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com To my family, community is important. Supporting one another in our endeavors and celebrating with each other in everything good that nature provides teaches us to respect and be mindful of creation and in each other.

2. You Can Capture FREE Memories That Will Last a Lifetime!

5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com One of the things that I most enjoy about heading out to the u-pick farms is the opportunity to spend intentional time with my family. As most children do, they come up with their own stories, their own thoughts on what they can make with the fruits of their labor, and all sorts of other sweet sayings that I’ve been able to capture in my memory… forever.

3. You Can Get a FREE Family Outing with FREE Berries As You Pick!

5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com Visiting a u-pick farm with your family makes a great FREE outing. The kids have fun and what they enjoy the most is being able to eat berries as they pick. Now, I’m not sure exactly what the written rule is about eating while you’re picking but seriously, when you have kids, it’s going to happen… and they’re going to love it!

4. You Can Get a Tan and a Great Workout for FREE!

5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com It’s true, you can get a free tan and great workout while picking fruit. Squats while your picking, heavy buckets and trays filled with fruit works the biceps, and on top of that, you’ll be doing a lot of walking up and down rows. After an hour, I’d say you just had a great workout and you’ll be tan to boot!

5. You Can Get a FREE Therapy Session!

5 Things You Can Get for FREE at a U-Pick Farm! | momadvice.com There is nothing that relaxes me more than being outdoors in the natural world. Visiting a u-pick farm can be meditative and therapeutic and in my opinion, is a great way to de-stress from the busyness in our lives. I’ve been known to leave the kids with a sitter in order to pick some berries alone to unwind and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet while picking berries for my family. In order to find a local u-pick farm near you, visit localharvest.org or visit your farmers market and ask some of the local vendors. I’m sure they’ll be able to steer you in the right direction.

Have you ever visited a u-pick farm? Tell me, what’s your favorite fruit to pick at u-pick farms.

Pin It

Sundays With Writers: The Orphans Of Race Point by Patry Francis

June 1st, 2014

Sundays With Writers

I am so excited to be interviewing our next MomAdvice Book Club author today. In case you missed my unofficial announcement on Facebook, I decided to add one more summer selection since I am assuming we will have more time to read in the summer.  The first reason is because I read this book, shut it, and immediately wanted to share it with you. The second reason is because Patry Francis is such an intriguing and inspiring woman that I know you will be just as swept away in her words and life as I was.

The Orphans Of Race Point by Patry Francis

For our July selection for the MomAdvice Book Club, we will be discussing The Orphans Of Race Point.  This book is absolutely stunning from start to finish. It was filled with words that begged to be read again because they felt like poetry to me.  It is a  beautifully woven story with big moral messages about love, forgiveness, and redemption. The plot twists? I never saw them coming, which happens rarely when you are an avid reader like I am. I will say now that you will see this book on my top ten books I read this year list and I have no doubt it will be in your top ten too! 

Set in the close-knit Portuguese community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, The Orphans of Race Point traces the relationship between Hallie Costa and Gus Silva, who meet as children in the wake of a terrible crime that leaves Gus parentless. Their friendship evolves into an enduring and passionate love that will ask more of them than they ever imagined.

On the night of their high school prom, a terrible tragedy devastates their relationship and profoundly alters the course of their lives. And when, a decade later, Gus—now a priest—becomes entangled with a distraught woman named Ava and her daughter Mila, troubled souls who bring back vivid memories of his own damaged past, the unthinkable happens: he is charged with murder. Can Hallie save the man she’s never stopped loving, by not only freeing him from prison but also—finally—the curse of his past?

Told in alternating voices, The Orphans of Race Point illuminates the transformative power of love and the myriad ways we find meaning in our lives.

When I finished the final pages on this book, I contacted Patry to ask if she would participate in a discussion of her book with you and if I could interview her about her life. After doing some research on her, I knew that this is the kind of writer whose backstory was just as fascinating as her book. Patry graciously agreed to talk to me and you this summer! 

Our book club discussion will be held on July 29th so be sure to order a copy of the book or put one on hold at your library. If you are anything like me, you will want this one for your bookshelf because it is a book worth rereading! Let’s dive in and learn more about the author behind this beautiful book! 

Patry Francis

Many moms put on hold their own ambitions to support and raise their families. You are a mom of four that supported them through a waitressing job and used pockets of time to write. What would you tell another mom who has put her dreams on hold to support her family?

My oldest son was born when I was just nineteen so children and the necessity of physically caring for them, learning what they needed most to develop their gifts, helping to support them financially–and just enjoying them– has always been woven into my story. However, writing was also a dream I’d nurtured since childhood, and I always believed that my commitment had to be as big as my dream. Though my priority was my family for many years, there was rarely a day when I didn’t find a stray hour, or even fifteen minutes, to devote to my goal. Since writing usually requires a a long apprenticeship, it’s not something that can be put off till “someday”–at least, not entirely. I was fortunate to have a husband who believed in me and demanded that the family take “Mom’s work” seriously.

Your words in your book, The Orphans of Race Point, read like poetry to me and you have such a beautiful way of weaving words that I found myself repeating the phrases out loud. Do these moments just flow out of you or is this something a writer has to develop and practice to achieve?

First of all, thank you for saying that! I wrote poetry in my early years, partly because I loved reading it, but also because it was easier to complete a draft in an hour, which gave me a sense of accomplishment. With fiction, I began like most writers do, by imitating writers I admired. At the time, I was reading a lot of novels about sophisticated singles living in urban settings. I emulated their style and even their subject matter, even though my own life and preoccupations couldn’t have been more different. It took practice before I trusted myself enough to write about characters who were more like people I knew, and issues that were really important to me. When my own voice finally emerged, it was like finding my wings.

I want to save our discussion of The Orphans of Race Point for this summer’s book club, but I loved the character of Gus, in all of his beauty and brokenness.  How much of your husband’s work as a minister helped to shape the role of Gus in your book? Did he also help you with what he thought Gus might think, feel, or do in those pivotal moments?

I love this question because it allowed me to ponder something I hadn’t previously considered. (My husband,Ted, appreciated it, too! ) Gus, who is the heart of the novel for me, came in the mysterious, almost inexplicable way that the characters who haunt me most appear. The only way I could get to know him was by listening to his voice as I wrote. So in that sense, the answer is no. Neither my husband, nor anyone else could really help me.

However, the subconscious is another matter! In the childhood section of the novel, there is a scene in which Gus deliberately picks the weakest player for his baseball team because he feels the other boy’s shame at always being chosen last. When my husband, who was also very athletic as a kid, came upon that passage, he asked if I knew he had done that, too. I didn’t, but I can’t say it surprised me!

Ted has also done a lot of work in hospitals, and undoubtedly many of his stories about the patients he met, his openness to hearing their stories and offering them comfort helped me to understand Gus’s gift for working with the sick and the reason he found so much satisfaction in it.

I have witnessed the power of community & friendship through online writing and I know you have too. During the publishing of your very first book, you were diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, which should have been a true time of celebration for you and that moment. Your community of writers/bloggers came together (300 of them!) to encourage you and the sale of your book since you were having surgery and recovering during its release. Did that help you gain strength during that time? How are you feeling now?

When I first received my diagnosis, I planned to keep it private. But the connection I felt with my online community was so real and vital that eventually I decided to share my experience and how I was dealing with it on my blog in a post I called “Two Ounces of Bliss”. I knew my online community would be supportive–they always were–but I never could have predicted the incredible outpouring of kindness and generosity I received.  Organized by my friends, Susan Henderson, Amy MacKinnon, Jessica Keener, and Tish Cohen, it swelled to include novelists like Khaled Hosseini and Neil Gaiman, who had never met me, but who took to the internet to promote a fellow writer who couldn’t do it for herself. Though I was pretty sick at the time, it was one of the most extraordinary days of my life, and it still lifts me up whenever I think about it.

I spent the next two years in and out of  hospitals, but I’m currently in good health. If anything positive came from the experience (aside from witnessing the goodness of my communities, both real and virtual) it was that that I no longer take anything for granted.  Whether it’s sharing a cup of tea with a friend, enjoying a family milestone, or bringing the novel I began twelve years ago to readers, I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am to be here.

What is a book other than your own which you would recommend?

It’s hard to choose only one, but Amy Greene’s, LONG MAN has everything I look for in a novel: a compelling protagonist named Annie Clyde who faces impossible odds with great courage and resilience, an engrossing plot, and a setting so vivid, you really feel as if you are there.

 I look forward to discussing The Orphans of Race Point with you in July! A huge thank you to our featured writer, Patry Francis, for sharing her heart this Sunday with us!

 

*This post contains affiliate links! Love our Sundays With Writers series? Check out all of our past interviews!  
Pin It

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster

May 30th, 2014

DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster Father’s Day is just around the corner and when Kenmore asked me what I could create for a fun Father’s Day gift, I immediately knew that making some delicious grill seasoning mixes would be the perfect gift for this Father’s Day.  Today I wanted to share with you two easy DIY grilling seasoning mixes you can make and package up for your favorite dads!  DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster DIY Grilling Seasoning Mixes #grillmaster We have created these beautiful printable grill seasoning jar labels for your Dad and you can snag all the recipes and details on how to create this fast gift on the Kenmore Blog today! I hope you love this fun food craft as much as I love sharing it with you!

Grab your FREE printable BBQ labels on our blog (just click that link to open). Head to the Kenmore Blog to grab our recipes for these delicious seasoning mixes!

 

Pin It