Sundays With Writers: No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

February 28th, 2016

Sundays With Writers

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

No Ordinary LIfe by Suzanne Redfearn

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

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

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

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

suzanne-redfearn

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

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

Shirley Temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diary of  Stage Mother's Daughter by Melissa Francis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This post contains affiliate links!

February 2016 Must-Reads

February 26th, 2016

February 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

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

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

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

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

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

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

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

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington

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

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

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

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

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

the-immortals

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

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

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

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

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

5 Out of 5 Stars

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

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

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

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

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

4 Out of 5 Stars

February 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year:

2016-Reading

January 2016 Must-Reads

February 2016 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

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

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

 

 

How to Keep a Cleaner House

February 25th, 2016

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

Advice and tips for keeping a cleaner house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Stop resisting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

clean, dirty, window

3. Stay in motion.

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

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

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

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

It’s all about attitude.

Which means anyone can be a decent housekeeper, right?

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

top photo: Carissa Rogers, via Flickr Creative Commons

Amy’s Notebook 02.24.16

February 24th, 2016

Crochet Chunky Blanket via Make It-Love It

Source: Make It & Love It

 

How to crochet a chunky blanket- a fun, affordable beginner project!

The big list of book lists- be still my beating heart.

Accessories for beginners.

11 easy ways to fancy up your avocado toast.

The power of buying less by buying better.

I can’t wait to try this hummus hack!!

25 beautiful life reminders that I needed to read today!

Pigs in Blankets via Shutterbean

Source: Shutterbean

 

Pigs in blankets- a fun dinner idea!

Friends fans will love this one too.

Cheap online classes to boost your digital skills- a great goal for this year!

Excited to see this book unfold on the big screen.

It doesn’t have to be beautiful to be perfect.

Cook Monica’s best dishes from Friends- I love it!

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!

 

Organization Tips for Easier Mornings

February 23rd, 2016

I’m so happy to have Melissa of The Polished Habitat with us today sharing some easy organizing tips to help your mornings go smoother by having a place for everything – yes!

Use these easy organization tips to make your mornings go smoother!

Can anyone relate to the annoyance I feel in the morning when I can’t find what I need to get ready for the day? I used to have a least a couple days each week that I’d be cranky before I even left for work because I wasted time searching for things, or just frustrated that the bathroom was disorganized.

So I’ve become pretty passionate about making all the trouble spots in our house SUSTAINABLY organized. Not just tidied up, because things get un-tidy quickly. But, with real thought and systems that make it easier to keep neat than it would be to let chaos reign. And coming from a girl with a tendency to be a mess, this has made a HUGE difference in our home and life.

Here are a few organizing projects in the bathroom that I’ve done to create a happy start to each day:

Great idea! Organize hair products under the sink on a tiered organizer.

1. Hair Product Organization

For hair products, I added a spice rack under my bathroom sink. It gets the bottles off the counter, but I can still grab any of them easily thanks to the tiered design. Having a designated space also provides a built-it limit to the number of products I keep. If the rack is full, something has to go before a new product comes in.

I finally organized my bathroom vanity cabinet

2. Under-Cabinet Organization

While I was working on the fix to the hair products, I organized the rest of the cabinet as well. For things I use every day, like face wash, makeup sponges, and Q-Tips, I added vertical storage on the back of the cabinet door. Attaching IKEA bins with Command Strips makes this is a solution that would even work in a rental!

Polished Habitat Bathroom Closet

3. Linen Closet Organization

Plastic storage drawers may be my #1 organizing obsession. Adding one in the linen closet between stacks of towels serves double-duty. It keeps the stacks of bath towels on both sides neat, and holds washcloths and hand towels inside.

Bathroom Storage Ideas

4. Bathroom Supplies Organization

Photo boxes are a non-traditional pick for bathroom storage, but they are still perfect for a wide range of items. I use them for things picked up on sale, like extra toothbrushes, razors, etc. There is also a box dedicated to travel/sample size items, which used to be scattered in different drawers. Now when we pack, we grab the “Mini” box and pick out whatever we need. It’s like having our own little store. If you have a Michael’s nearby, they often have the boxes on sale for 6 for $10, making them one of the cheapest organizing solutions available.

Jewelry Organization - Love these ideas for storing earrings and necklaces!

5. Jewelry Organization

My newest and possibly favorite “getting ready” solution involves earrings. I found that bead organizers from the craft store are PERFECT for earrings and completely affordable. I used to have a tray for jewelry, and would end up frustrated that no matter what pair of earrings I was looking for, I’d have to dig to find a match. Using round bead organizers means each pair of earrings has it’s own space AND I can quickly see what I have. Instead of buying two organizers, I actually used the top and bottom separately to double the space without doubling the cost.

I implemented each of these ideas over time, and every one of them costs less than $10. I love frugal solutions that make a huge difference in my mornings!

Even though things like disorganized bathrooms are VERY minor in the large scheme of life, don’t underestimate the difference you’ll feel when your space is neat and calm. Dang it, I guess my mom was right during my teenage years.

I hope you found some inspiration that will help make your mornings happy!

_______________

Thanks, Melissa – I can’t wait to put some of these into practice in our home for some happy in our mornings!

Mango Coconut Green Smoothie

February 18th, 2016

I’m so honored to have my friend, Liz of The Lemon Bowl, sharing this amazing smoothie recipe with us today!

Make your breakfast healthy with this Mango Coconut Green Smoothie recipe!

Hi friends! I’m Liz from The Lemon Bowl and I am honored to be guest posting today for the beautiful and crazy talented Amy. As a healthy recipe blogger and busy mom of two young boys, I love creating easy recipes made from simple ingredients.

I don’t know about you but we love smoothies in our house. Not only are they a great way to use up fruits and veggies that are a little past their prime but they are literally a meal in a glass.

Coconut Mango Green Smoothie - perfect for a snack or breakfast.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, this protein-packed Mango Coconut Green Smoothie is naturally sweetened and has no artificial coloring. Made with creamy coconut milk, juicy mango and sweet bananas, your entire family will love this healthy and delicious smoothie.

Whether you make it for breakfast, an after-school snack or dessert, just promise me you’ll make it.

Your straw is waiting.

Healthy, delicious & easy - Mango Coconut Green Smoothie recipe for snack time or breakfast.

Mango Coconut Green Smoothie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 serving
 
Juicy mango and creamy coconut milk add delicious flavor to this healthy and delicious smoothie packed with vitamins and nutrients.
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and puree until smooth.
  2. To prepare glass, pour ¼ cup or so of chia seeds on a plate. Run the rim of a glass under running water then carefully dip the top of the glass onto the plate until the rim is covered in chia seeds.
  3. Pour the smoothie into the glass and serve.
Notes
If you are working with frozen fruit you may need to add a bit of liquid to get the smoothie blending - I like to add water or a bit more coconut milk to reach the desired consistency.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 glass Calories: 391 Fat: 14.9 g Saturated fat: 7.2 g Unsaturated fat: 7.7 g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 58.2 g Sugar: 33.1 g Sodium: 145 mg Fiber: 16.5 g Protein: 17.1 g Cholesterol: 0 mg

 

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Amy’s Notebook 02.17.16

February 17th, 2016

Grits Breadfast Parfait via The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

 

Savory grits breakfast parfaits- what a delicious breakfast idea!

14 true crime books you should read.

Are you watching this series? Here is what Marcia Clark thinks about it.

Balsamic chicken with roasted vegetables- get in my belly!

This DIY beaded chandelier is amazing.

Degas Dance Recreation via Hello Giggles

Source: Hello Giggles

 

Misty Copeland recreates Degas masterpieces and it’s too gorgeous for words.

Dreaming of returning to Italy, but will tackle this list until we can make that happen!

13 gorgeous DIY tidy tips and organization hacks.

Healthy 3-ingredient fruit rolls-ups to make anytime.

It’s not about suspense; it’s about survival.

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!

Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans

February 16th, 2016

how-to-consume-more-books-5

(I like this skirt because it hides that knee brace right now)

I knew something was wrong over the holidays, but didn’t want to admit it to anyone. As I wrote the addresses of our loved ones on the envelopes, my hand would lose grip of the pen, cramp up, and spasm. What should have been a simple task done with joy became something that had to be split up over a week that resulted in embarrassingly scrawled envelopes that I resented. I also resented Tiny Prints for sending no back-up envelopes so I could throw out the really bad ones. I left our return address off, for the first time, because I didn’t want to see those cards again. Feliz Navidad.

A week later as I headed to the grocery store, I put my car into park, and my foot curled in and would not sit flat in its shoe. A painful cramping left me sitting in my car for twenty minutes so I could walk around and get the family groceries. As if I didn’t dread the task of grocery shopping enough, now I could barely make it through the aisles, dragging around this foot and worrying that it would happen again while I was trying to check out or while I was driving.

Then the pain started in my hands in such a debilitating way that I could not even type, shoot a camera, knit, flip a book page without pain, or do any of my usual routines that are expected of me as a mom.  Pain shot through my fingers so badly that I sobbed and called my Dad like a little girl again, hysterically sitting in a corner of our bedroom sobbing and wondering why this was happening again when I was doing all the right things with my health.

So You Like Being a Hypochondriac

I was in denial that this was coming back. In college, after a routine dental procedure that went bad (as all procedures with me do), my parents had a battery of tests ran on me that included the usual blood work and more serious tests like a spinal tap for Lyme and MS. Everything came back normal, but I was anything but a normal college student when it came to my health. Muscle cramps, spasms, and numbness plagued me, particularly when I was overworked or tired…and I was constantly tired.  I later saw a rheumatologist who gave me the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and treated it with antidepressants that aided in muscle relaxation, but I knew that I had never really been satisfied with that diagnosis.

I could go on and on about all the weird and quirky things in my medical history like being a klutz and chronically tired child covered in self-created bruises from walking into things. Every medical surgery that never went as expected. Weird scarring on my body from things that never healed correctly. A shocking placental abruption with the birth of my child that was like a really bad crime scene in our home. Menstrual bleeding that made me finally seek relief through an ablation procedure (that also went badly).  Poor recovery from every routine procedure and struggles with anesthesia. Reacting to all medications. Dental issues and excessive gum bleeding.  A recent hearing loss that lasted for months and months and months that threw off my balance.  The snap, crackle, and popping of bones shifting each time I would go up the stairs and worries that something was going to pop out with all the sound effects. The stomach issues that plagued me my entire life. Old lady back pain that had me seeking relief at the chiropractor. Constant dislocations of random joints that left me rocking a brace on some joint on my body almost weekly at my gym classes.

I headed to the doctor with my hypochondriac list again and the routine tests were all performed along with an EMG to rule out radial tunnel syndrome.  The follow-up visit revealed that, other than a few minor things, all was normal.

Of course.

“How are your hands and fingers today?”

“Well, they are feeling a little better, but now my knee. My knee is out and it hurts really bad too.”

We had double booked our doctor for the morning and my son sat on the examining table for his routine ADHD follow-up. I requested that while we were here, he take a peek at the poor circulation in his hands. As the doctor began to examine him, Ethan said the magical question that started the ball rolling on the real answers.

“Are you going to ask him about our flexibility, mom?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I wonder if he has EDS. I have a friend that was diagnosed and it sounds like us.”

eds-test

The doctor started giving us The Beighton Score test and we, of course, could do all of this and more. You should see us at parties or just a fun night at our dinner table showing off with our bendy fingers.  After we passed this test with flying colors,  he pulled my son’s skin on his neck and watched it stretch to an unnatural amount.

“Look at the stretch in his skin.”

“Oh, I think mine is like that too,” and I pulled out skin farther than Ethan’s.

We finally have our answer.

We had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Oh, and my kid had scoliosis and Raynaud’s syndrome.

And the other one, she should be looked at too since she is bruising all the time and run down.

My head was spinning as I clutched a million handouts, appointments were made, tests duplicated for the specialist, x-rays done…in two hours I felt like our entire life had changed.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-causes

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome? And How Quickly Can We Get Over This?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders, caused by various defects in the synthesis of collagen. EDS is known to affect men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

There are six distinct types of EDS currently identified. All share joint laxity, soft skin, easy bruising, and some systemic manifestations. Each type is thought to involve a unique defect in connective tissue, although not all of the genes responsible for causing EDS have been found.

These six types are defined according to the signs and symptoms that are manifested, in a set of major and minor diagnostic criteria for each type. Each type of EDS is a distinct disorder that “runs true” in a family.

Different subtypes of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are associated with a variety of genetic causes, some of which are inherited and passed on from parent to child. If you have the most common varieties of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there’s a 50 percent chance that you’ll pass on the gene to each of your children. Thus, the demonstration made by my crew means that we will all need a diagnosis to see if we all have it.

To receive a formal diagnosis of what type we all have and the treatment required for that type, we have to seek the help of a specialist and one of the leading people in this field just so happens to be rocking a practice in our town. Her research on EDS and how it relates to our GI system really helped to explain why I have had so much relief from removing gluten from my diet, as all of this is connected to our connective tissue. Instinctively, I had been doing many of the recommendations to seek relief for my numerous issues, never knowing how much I had been helping my body. It is probably why I have been doing so well for so long.

Dr. Collins counseled our doctor on the new regime we should follow until we could see her.  It involves a really ungodly amount of supplements that should help with joint pain and digestion. You can see her recommendations for diet and supplements that have worked so successfully for many of her patients, diminishing symptoms with this disorder.

Unfortunately, we can’t get over it. It’s something that we will be dealing with our whole lives and that was devastating to me especially in the middle of a bunch of injuires.

ehlers-danlos-syndrome-diagnosis

We Have Answers And I’m Sad & Still in Pain

I would have loved to skip out of that office with prescriptions for us all and immediate healing to my body. That doesn’t happen though and it takes some time to figure out exactly what will work for me and for our kids.

I have wept more tears than I can count for the pain that I have been in this week and hearing that we have this is heartbreaking for us all.  I told my mom yesterday, as she came to be with her weepy daughter, that  I could handle all of it if I wasn’t in so much pain with my knees, hands, and fingers. If it would have come when I felt strong and fit, I would have done the whole pull myself up by my bootstraps routine and just killed it like I always do, but right now I feel really broken.

I’m heartbroken our kids may have this and I feel like a crappy mom for passing down such crappy genes.

I’m sad how this has impacted my workout routine of hitting my dance class each week. It was the one class that brought me inexplicable joy and I know that it is the worst thing I can do for my joints right now. I miss the routines and love I get from each of those ladies in that dance crew. They have become like a family to me and I hate not being there.

I can’t knit to curb the stress because of hand pain and the need to brace things to help relieve it.

I’m heartbroken to see my husband so sad and feeling helpless about what is happening to us all. To be honest, that hurts almost worse than the pain.

debbie-downer

Silver Lining? Maybe Someday!

I am not in that silver lining stage and I cringe when people try to put a positive spin on this. My body and heart are in terrible pain right now. I guess the silver lining is that it could always be worse and there is always someone suffering and struggling with something bigger than something this minor.

As the four of us curled up on the couch together on Friday night, all on a single couch, I wrapped my two in my arms as tight as I could and alternately kissed each of their heads while we watched an episode of Shark Tank and chatting about if we would invest in people’s inventions. It was a simple moment, but we all needed it and craved it in this mess, the comfort that can only be found with one another. This situation is another team building exercise together and I’m glad I have this team and these people.

I’m also thankful we have an incredible village who are letting me be the weepy mess that I am and still want to be with me in spite of being the Debbie Downer of friends right now.

I’m ready to take the next steps towards healing.

In the meantime, the site may suffer, my workload will need to be lightened until I can get the hand pain under control, and I’m sharing this to buy some grace if things feel off here or if I don’t respond to your emails.  I’m not myself right now, but I’m thankful we finally have an answer.

If you want to learn more about EDS check out the Ehlers-Danlos Foundation page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Do When Date Nights Aren’t Possible

February 16th, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What to Do When Date Nights are Impossible | MomAdvice.com

“And, whatever you do, make sure you have regular date nights with your spouse.”

Has anyone else ever read an article or listened to a speaker or even chatted with a friend or mentor, heard everyone’s favorite marriage advice (“Go on dates! Regularly!”), and just rolled your eyes? Or felt defeated or depressed, because clearly you will never have a healthy relationship without those magical date nights? Or wondered where everyone else is finding the extra money, time and energy it takes to make Date Night happen?

Yeah, me too.

Last week my husband and I sat down with our marriage counselor. When he asked what we wanted to talk about, I hesitated. What I really wanted to talk about was not feeling connected enough to my husband over the last several weeks, a particularly busy season in our lives. But I didn’t. Because I knew we’d just circle around the fact that we don’t schedule enough date nights and how date nights are important and blah-blah-blah DATE NIGHTS.

Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong. Our counselor is great (evidenced by our now infrequent visits with him), and I’m all for date nights. But I don’t think they are the only solution for every marital bump in the road; I don’t think they are a magical formula for preventing divorce or relationship stress. And I know without a doubt that they are not nearly as simple to schedule as the world of marriage advice-givers would have us believe.

[Side note: I realize that I have, in the past, been one of those marriage advice-givers touting the benefits of date nights. Here, here and here for starters. That’s because it’s a good idea and I believe in it. I just know it’s not always feasible. So there. And yes, maybe I’ll go on a date by myself now. “Hypocrite, party of one…”]

ANYWAY. The truth is that we all know spending time together is crucial for relationship success. And regular date nights are clearly a fun way to do this and the thing we all aim for. But sometimes, date nights just aren’t an option.

Sometimes you can’t afford a babysitter.
Sometimes you can’t find a babysitter.
Sometimes you’re tired. Or sick. Or busy.
Sometimes your kids are sick.
Sometimes you have to work. Or he does.

Sometimes the thought of finding a babysitter, making a reservation, looking up movie times, digging out a pair of shoes that are going to make your feet hurt, or even just finding a shirt that isn’t stained or stretched out and still fits IS JUST TOO MUCH.

So what then? What do we do when date nights just aren’t possible? Do we give up? Collapse on opposite sides of the couch with one eye on Facebook and another on the clock because bedtime can’t come soon enough? Do we give up on leaving the house together and take turns hanging out with friends? Separately?

No way! I mean, yes, sure, occasionally we might do all of those things. But, for the love, we cannot give up completely on the idea of date nights with our husbands. We simply need to redefine “date night” and make those sweet times of connection work for us.

If you’re finding it hard to “go on regular date nights,” here are a few things you can try instead.

 

Movie Night: Rent a movie and curl up on the couch to watch. (Or save a few episodes of “your show” – the one you only watch together, no matter how many episodes are backed up on the DVR or waiting on Netflix.)

Do Lunch: Meet for lunch or go out for breakfast or grab coffee – anything away from the norm (and the kids and the house and the to-do lists) is a chance to connect with your spouse! It doesn’t have to be on a Friday or Saturday night.

Play Games: Break out the Monopoly board or challenge him to a few lightning rounds of Words with Friends.

Get Cooking: Feed the kids some mac and cheese, put them to bed, and then head back to the kitchen – for fun, this time. Try a new recipe together. Pick out a few ingredients and play Chopped at home. Make a copycat version of your favorite restaurant meal.

Ask Questions: Buy a stack of conversation starter cards or look for lists of “get to know you” questions online. Take a personality test and read each others’ results.

Go to Bed Early: Don’t make me elaborate here. You know what I mean.

The point is that we need to connect with our spouses. But if we aren’t able to dress up and go somewhere that requires reservations or tickets or a long drive or whatever it is that makes this whole plan feel impossible, we can still connect. Date night can be whatever you make it – whenever, wherever, whatever!

What do YOU do when date nights feel impossible?

 

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Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies

February 15th, 2016

Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies from MomAdvice.com

I heard from so many of you that you loved and have already created our Sheet Pan Ranch Chops and Veggies this week in your kitchens. It makes me so happy to hear that you are enjoying these recipes so I thought I would experiment with another sheet pan combination this week and it ended up being an even bigger hit than the last one! This Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken with Brussels Sprout & Potatoes tastes like a well-seasoned rotisserie chicken with oven roasted veggies that my daughter proclaimed was my best creation in the kitchen yet.

I wanted to take the flavors that I loved so much in that Lemon Paprika Chicken that was swimming in a beautiful white wine sauce, a beautiful Sunday meal, and translate those flavors in a basic weeknight meal that could be all slid onto a pan and ready for a family in 30 minutes. With a basic marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, thyme, and paprika this creates a flavorful skin on the kitchen and a beautiful color on it too.

The potatoes and brussels sprouts are diced and tossed in a simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper, but taste rich and heavenly thanks to that chicken fat that they swim in.

Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies from MomAdvice.com

This weekend we hosted a family of six for the first time to share a meal with them. Serving ten people can sounds a little intimidating for a meal, but I didn’t want to revert to just ordering a pizza for the evening. I doubled this recipe and there was hardly a speck left.  Not only did the parents love it, but I had six happy kiddos that loved it too! Thanks to the parchment paper lining underneath,  it made for an easy clean-up so we could really enjoy our time with our friends.

Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies from MomAdvice.com Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies from MomAdvice.com Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies from MomAdvice.com

Do make sure to finish the chicken with your broiler. Not only does it create that crispy skin, resembling fried chicken, but it also gives a little delicious charred taste to your veggies. Make sure you keep an eye on it and watch out for the sizzle, wearing protective oven mitts when pulling out. If you are entertaining and doing two pans, just rotate the pans under the broiler so they both have crispy skins. I also rotated them halfway through to make everything was heated evenly. It ended up being a gorgeous dish to share with friends that I can’t wait to share again with more people that share our table.

This is, TRULY, my new favorite dish and I’m so proud to share it with you today! I hope you love this delicious flavor combination as much as we did!

Sheet Pan Lemon Paprika Chicken and Veggies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
An easy sheet pan supper bursting with flavor. Lemon paprika chicken is nestled in a bed of potatoes and brussels sprouts for a decadent meal ready in 30 minutes. Easily double it with the tips in this post!
Ingredients
  • 6-8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Zest & juice of one lemon
  • 5 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 pound baby potatoes (I used golden potatoes)
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • Olive oil, salt, & pepper (to taste)
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl mix together olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice, and two minced garlic cloves.
  2. In a resealable bag, pour these ingredients into the bag with the chicken thighs, rubbing the mixture evenly over all the chicken. Refrigerate for two hours.
  3. Preheat your oven for 450 degrees.
  4. Dice and cut your veggies and toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper (to taste).
  5. On a parchment lined sheet pan, spread the prepared vegetables out on the pan. Remove the chicken from the fridge and create holes in the veggies to nestle your chicken, doing your best to keep everything in a single layer for even cooking.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Switch your oven to BROIL and broil on high for 3-5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the skin does not burn.
  7. Allow your chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes to retain full flavor and juices.

 

 This post may contain affiliate links! I only recommend what I love!
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