Archive for March, 2014

Mama Francesca Cheese & a Gluten-Free Meatball & Pasta Recipe

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Mama Francesca Premium Cheese Review

*This post is sponsored by Mama Francesca

I have been looking forward to sharing with you all week my new partnership with Mama Francesca Grated Cheese. The company reached out to me to share about their beautiful product and I couldn’t wait to start cooking with it and showing it off on our site.

Mama Francesca Premium Cheese Review Mama Francesca Premium Cheese Review

Have you heard of Mama Francesca? It is a delicious new grated cheese that comes in five different varieties. I am showcasing three flavors that I found at my own store. The ones pictured here are: Aromatico (Parmesan, Basil & Oregano), Fiero (Parmesan & Red Pepper), & Pungente (Parmesan & Garlic). As you can see from the picture, the cheese is light and fluffy while blended with delicious spices that you can see and taste in your dishes.

You can also find Audace (Parmesan & Romano), and Perfetto (Classic Parmesan) on your store shelves.

 Mama Francesca Premium Cheese Review

Many times when we think of parmesan cheese, we think of it as a way to just dress our dishes. With these fun cheese blends though, they offer a delicious ingredient alternative in your favorite recipes that, not only add flavor, but can save you time in the kitchen since they incorporate that perfect blend of spices.

My family is a big fan of pasta and meatballs.  I wanted to create that familiar dish that we love, but in a gluten-free variety using Mama Francesca’s cheese as the inspiration for our new dish. I replaced the spices and cheese with the Aromatico (Parmesan, Basil & Oregano) cheese blend and then replaced the breadcrumbs in these meatballs with a little gluten-free panko. The replacement of spices and cheese saved me time digging through my spice rack and the cheese blend managed to still perfectly spice our meatballs. When it comes to meatballs,  I recommend doubling these to enjoy a delicious meatball sub for a busy weeknight meal- topped with sauce & cheese.

With this dish, you can use any variety of gluten-free pasta shape you love. Rotini, shells, and elbow macaroni are three of my favorites in this dish. The pasta can be tossed gently in this delicate fresh tomato sauce.

Mama Francesca Premium Cheese Review Of course, just because you use the cheese in the meatballs doesn’t mean you can’t shake on the cheese liberally over your plates of pasta. Set out a few varieties of cheese and let your family member’s customize their dishes for a fun family meal!

I hope you will give Mama Francesca a try for your next family dinner! I promise that this cheese does not disappoint!

Gluten-Free Meatball & Pasta Recipe

Gluten-Free Meatball & Pasta Recipe
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Amy Clark
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
A gluten-free meatball & pasta dish that is just as delicious as the gluten-filled version.
  • Gluten-Free Pasta With Meatballs
  • ¼ cup gluten-free panko
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • ¾ cup Mama Francesca Aromatico (Parmesan, Basil & Oregano) Grated Cheese
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound Sweet Italian Turkey Sausages (remove the casings)
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound gluten-free pasta (any variety)
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the panko , parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, cheese, salt, and pepper. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine.
  2. Make your meatballs the standard size and put them on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for ten to fifteen minutes.
  4. In a large pot, heat your olive oil and then heat your garlic for about thirty seconds. Next, heat chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, as directed on the packaging directions of your favorite pasta variety.
  6. Drain the pasta and rinse well with warm water. Add the meatball mixture and garnish with fresh parsley and more cheese.

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MomAdvice Summer Book Club Selection: Love With a Chance of Drowning

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Love With a Chance of Drowning

First, I just want to thank everyone for your feedback today about the MomAdvice Book Club. I hope you didn’t feel like I was coming down too hard about it, but the MomAdvice Book Club was a special project for me this year.  I have spent an unbelievable amount of time investing into reading so many books to find the perfect books, coordinating with publishing houses to get free books to giveaway, gathering questions for authors, and then posting/sharing each discussion. In all honesty, it became a little part-time job for me on top of my full-time job.

I didn’t mind doing it until the discussion and participation dwindled.

Based on your feedback, you are 1) very busy mamas 2) are waiting for library copies 3) didn’t have time to read this year.

Again, I get that! I totally do.

In order to make things more relaxed and fun again, we will be selecting a quarterly selection moving forward. This gives you plenty of time to get books, read them, and have questions for our featured authors. On alternate months, I will just share my book reviews as we have done in the past. 

Love With a Chance of Drowning

This summer we will be reading the AMAZING memoir of Torre DeRoche called, “Love With a Chance of Drowning.” It is our first non-fiction selection and I am so excited to share this book with you because I am enjoying it so much.

Not sure if you can get on board with a non-fiction pick? Just picture me laughing until tears are rolling down my cheeks ever since I picked this book up. Then picture me reading aloud almost the entire book to my husband, while trying to read it to him, still laughing with tears rolling down my cheeks and trying to catch my breath so I can read every word to him. It is that funny and that awesome.

Here is a book synopsis from Amazon…

City girl, Torre DeRoche,  isn’t looking for love, but a chance encounter in a San Francisco bar sparks an instant connection with a soulful Argentinean man who unexpectedly sweeps her off her feet. The problem? He’s just about to cast the dock lines and voyage around the world on his small sailboat, and Torre is terrified of deep water. However, lovesick Torre determines that to keep the man of her dreams, she must embark on the voyage of her nightmares, so she waves good-bye to dry land and braces for a life-changing journey that’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying.


Somewhere mid-Pacific, she finds herself battling to keep the old boat, the new relationship, and her floundering sanity afloat. . . .


This sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and always poignant memoir is set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations. Equal parts love story and travel memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning is witty, charming, and proof positive that there are some risks worth taking.

Our discussion for this book will be the last Tuesday in July! I will touch base with you in the upcoming month if I am able to secure a discussion with our author. If not, I still think this is a book that is perfect for your beach bag!


In the meantime, this month’s selection, “The Bear,” is a short and powerful novel that I think you will be able to finish in just a couple of short days. It is hard to put down and is an author discussion that I am excited to participate in. I am doubly honored since Claire was featured in a glowing review from People Magazine, that she would take the time to chat with us.

I hope that you can join in and thank you for being candid in your thoughts about what works best for you!


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It’s the 3 Little Things: Please Join In!

Friday, March 28th, 2014


I am so enjoying your comments and lists on our new weekly, “It’s the 3 Little Things,” feature! I had a few people request to join in and share their own list of three things that make them happy so I am adding a linky at the bottom where you can share what is making your heart happy. It’s fun to end the week on a high and in a time of gratitude!


40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge

One thing that has been making me happy in my house is that I have been working to cut the clutter in our home. I was inspired by my amazing friend, Ann Marie from White House Black Shutters, to join in her 40 bags in 40 days challenge. So far I am about ten bags down, but (as a disclaimer) I had taken several carloads of stuff from our house right before the challenge so I am really pleased with my progress.

The two things that have surprised me the most about this? I thought that I would need to add on to our kitchen, but when I cut out the clutter, I discovered that the size and storage are just right. We still plan to remodel, but I don’t feel like we need to make an addition anymore.

The second thing is that I found a huge stack of gift cards that we never cashed in…which was a super happy surprise for the whole family. Had I not cleaned out one of my purses, I would have never found them. The person that thought “found money,” only happened to other people just got schooled.

I love the surprises from this challenge!


Cardio Dance With Abbi

I bought a Groupon for 10 classes at a local dance fitness studio and never expected just how happy this would make me. They offer a Cardio Dance class a few times a week and I went once and was forever hooked.

My face hurts from smiling at the end of class and I never feel like I am working out. The instructor, Abbi, is absolutely phenomenal and it brightens my week to get to have a midday dance break.

Abbi has a YouTube channel and I am sharing an example of what I am doing because it is so dang fun. Picture me doing this, but much less coordinated and starting with the wrong foot.

Even if you don’t live near me, you can learn the moves on her channel. That’s some fun stuff!  It has become my new weekly addiction and brings me so much joy that my husband didn’t even grumble when I begged for a monthly membership.

Of course, that guy has some MOVES and also likes midday dance breaks so it helps that he gets me.

got_to_dance Netflix Documentary Binging

I go through phases where all I want to do is read and then I go through phases where all I want to do is Netflix binge. I think my work is tapping me out so in the evenings, I just want to sip my tea and watch a good documentary.

Although I can’t say all the documentaries make me happy, I can say that knowing about the world and the different views in it makes me happy.

After we watch our documentaries, I try to share the best ones on my Reality Bites Pinterest board. I also try to note the family-friendly ones, since most documentaries are not rated!

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!

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

April Book Club Selection: The Bear by Claire Cameron

Friday, March 28th, 2014

The Bear by Claire Cameron

I am so excited to announce our next book club selection and giveaway for April. This month we will be reading, “The Bear,” by Claire Cameron.  The past three books have all been historical fiction so I wanted to branch out a bit from that and try a different style of book this month.

I found, “The Bear,” at my local library and immediately was swept away in the suspenseful story of Anna & her brother Alex (nicknamed Sticky). While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A bear has found their campsite and her parents become the bear’s victims.

As her mother lays injured on the ground, she convinces Anna to take her brother in the canoe, getting them away from the bear and (hopefully) to safety. Anna & Sticky must fight for survival as they are lost and alone in the wilderness.

Told through the eyes of five-year-old Anna, we see the struggles and triumphs as she tries to find safety with her brother.  A survival story unlike any other I have read, it is one that you just won’t be able to put down because you must know what happens to these children.

Claire Cameron

Born in 1973, Claire Cameron grew up in Toronto. She studied History and Culture at Queen’s University. She then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing, and white-water rafting in Oregon. Next she worked in San Francisco for Pearson Plc before moving to London in 1999. There she was director of Shift Media, a consultancy whose clients included the BBC, McGraw-Hill, and Oxford University Press. Her first novel was the taut thriller, “The Line Painter.”  Claire lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. You can become a fan of Claire Cameron on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, follow her on IG, and on GoodReads.

Claire Cameron has graciously offered three of our readers the chance to win her book. She has also offered to answer your questions, which I could not be more excited about! 

MomAdvice Book Club

Our book club discussion for this novel will take place on April 29th. I will try to collect your questions for the author before that though via our Facebook groupSign up for our newsletter to stay informed and connect with me on GoodReads too!

To enter to win a copy of, “The Bear,”  please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!  Just leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts on our book club and book club selections so far! 

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Mrs. Butterworth Sweet-Stakes Giveaway & Gluten-Free Overnight Waffles

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Mrs. Butterworth Sweet-Stakes Giveaway

*This post is sponsored by Mrs. Butterworth

I am excited to share with you that I have partnered with Mrs. Butterworth today for a fun family prize pack giveaway and to share about their sweet-stakes they are hosting for their fans through April 30th!  Lucky for us, I am not only giving away a prize pack for our MomAdvice readers, but I am showing you a fun new recipe you can try to put that wonderful prize pack to work in your kitchen.

Mrs. Butterworth Sweet-Stakes Giveaway

This month, Mrs. Butterworth’s has teamed up with Busch Gardens to generate some more fun around the dinner table. They have launched a Family Fun Sweet-stakes where you can enter to win a trip to one of the Busch Garden parks.  You can read all about their fun contest here! This contest inspired me so much that I knew I had to head to my kitchen and create something in honor of it.

I have always been a syrup-loving girl. For years, we have made it a family tradition to indulge in, what we lovingly call, “Jazzy Sunday.” Jazzy Sunday amounts to throwing on a few jazz records and making waffles and pancakes drenched in syrup for a delicious Sunday brunch.

With eating gluten-free, I have found that it takes a lot of practice to replicate my favorite pancake and waffle recipes.  I began to think about the fluffiest waffles I had ever made and it was an overnight waffle recipe that my best friend shared with me years ago. I started wondering if I could replicate this with a gluten-free waffle recipe. Low and behold, after a few experiments, I found it is possible to make fluffy-as-air waffles with the overnight technique of warm milk, frothy yeast, and easy all-purpose gluten-free flour.

The batter is still dense, but it yields a fluffy waffle that no one will ever know is missing the gluten. When topped with fresh berries and Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup, it is truly a Sunday treat that will make your own, “Jazzy Sunday,” complete.

Mrs. Butterworth Sweet-Stakes Giveaway

In honor of this fun contest, Mrs. Butterworth’s gave me a Family Fun Breakfast Kit that include goodies from Mrs. Butterworth’s and Busch Gardens, as well as jungle animal-themed pancake pans, perfect for the explorer in the family. If you don’t win it here though, they will also be giving away a Family Fun Breakfast kits every two weeks during this contest so there are some great chances you can win there too!

Enter our giveaway of one Family Fun Breakfast Kit using our Rafflecopter widget below and let us know one of your favorite breakfast traditions and LIKE Mrs. Butterworth’s for an additional entry! I will be selecting one winner on April 3rd so be sure to get those entries in! Grab the recipe for Gluten-Free Overnight Waffles below! 

Gluten-Free Overnight Waffles

Mrs. Butterworth Sweet-Stakes Giveaway & Gluten-Free Overnight Waffles
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Amy Clark
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
A light, fluffy, and super delicious overnight waffle recipe that is also gluten-free!
  • 2 1/4 cups milk (or dairy substitute)
  • 2.25 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Better Batter in this)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, gluten-free
  1. Warm milk and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat just until the butter melts.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once to a lukewarm temperature, add dry yeast and sugar to the milk and let sit until the yeast is bubbly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the liquid into a large container with a tight fitting lid.
  4. Add the salt and flour, mixing until smooth.
  5. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature overnight (don’t refrigerate).
  6. When you are ready to cook the waffles, preheat waffle griddle, stir in the beaten eggs, baking soda and vanilla.
  7. Pour 2/3 cup of the batter on the griddle (or enough to cover the surface) and bake until golden.
  8. Serve with fresh fruit and Mrs. Butterworth’s Syrup.
Recipe Slightly Adapted from

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Amy’s Notebook 03.26.14

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014


Source: How Does She


I simply adore springrolls and I’m looking forward to making Vietnamese springrolls like a pro with these directions – and hopefully with rice wrappers to be gluten free!

I’m loving these ideas for 5, 10, & 15 minute plans to painlessly clean your house – perfect for easing into spring cleaning.

Here’s a really easy way to make a no sew bench cushion for any wooden bench – plus a great tip to save on the most expensive part of any cushion, the foam.

Oh, goodness, these really awesome black bean burgers look so good, I don’t think I’d miss the meat at all!

Not only does this robin’s egg nest chocolate cake look delicious, it’s absolutely beautiful, too!

SO many incredible ideas I’m getting in these 12 craft closet makeovers…now just to put them into use, ha!


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!


March Book Club Discussion With the Author: A White Wind Blew

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

A White Wind Blew by James Markert

A warmest welcome to all of our readers today as we discuss our MomAdvice Book Club pick for the month of March. I am particularly honored to have James Markert sharing his own thoughts on his book with us and I hope you will find his answers as fascinating as I have!

Tuberculosis and how this illness affects its patients, and those that love them, are often the central focus of this book.  After I finished reading this and then reading the historical notes about Waverly Place, I immediately went in search of more information about the illness and the backdrop for this book. Although the book goes into great detail of symptoms of TB and what the patients experience, it does not delve into why people have it because, in this time period of the book, people do not know how to cure it or why it lies dormant in some, while killing others.

Tuberculosis, is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It is spread through the air when people who have an active TB infection cough, sneeze, or otherwise transmit respiratory fluids through the air. Most infections are asymptomatic and latent, but about one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

As we are able to read in this book, treatment for progressive cases often included removing ribs to help the lungs and all patients were encouraged to get as much fresh air as possible, even in wintery weather conditions, because fresh air was believed to help cure this illness.

Delving into the book, we have an unlikely band of friends that have gathered together to create an orchestra who are working together to perform a concert. I love how the author pulls together these unlikely people and then, oftentimes, paints a very different portrait of what we expect them to be like and then tells us the true story of who they are when we dive further into the book.

Rose’s death, for example, takes me completely by surprise as I believed it was one way and it was not.  McVain, who begins the novel as an unlikeable bully, later delves into his story of his true wartime injury and the unlikely love he discovered. Herman, when given a little love and attention from Susannah, steals the show with his beautiful voice. And, one of the most pivotal moments for Wolfgang, is when he finds out the death of his father is very different than his childhood interpretation of what really happened.

I loved this book from start to finish. Although the book is filled with death and disease, it offered a surprising amount of hopefulness in it. There is so much love and beauty as the patients join forces to complete and perform the requiem and the beauty of these unlikely friendships and loved is solidified because they are all battling this same fight.

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James Markert is a debut novelist and screenwriter, which is why his writing feels oh-so-cinematic. James  lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife and two children. He has a history degree from the University of Louisville, where, in his senior year, he was honored as the school’s most outstanding history major. He won an IPPY Award for The Requiem Rose, published by Butler Books.

With Requiem’s local success, James was signed by Writers House Literary Agency in New York, and the book was sold to Sourcebooks, Landmark in January 2012. Rewritten and retitled, it became A White Wind Blew.  James is currently working on his next novel, The Strange Case of Isaac Crawley, a story that takes place in the late nineteenth century and involves the theater scene, a lunatic asylum, and the theatrical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…and possibly a few gaslights, cobblestones, and an eerie fog.

He runs his own blog called Markert Ink where you can read about some of his thoughts on books and writing. I know you will want to become a fan after you read this one and you can follow James on Twitter!

James has graciously answered all of our questions about the setting, inspiration for the book, and who inspires him in his own writing. I am particularly excited for you to read his thoughts on adapting A White Wind Blew as a screenplay!

James Markert

Upon reading the historical notes about Waverly Place, we find that this sanitarium is considered one of the most haunted places in the United States. Why did you decide to set a book here and do you think you hint at the darkness of Waverly Hills (the Death Tunnel and the suicide scene in the book) in nod of this history you discovered?

I grew up only a few miles from Waverly Hills and was always fascinated because of the legends and stories of ghosts there, but when I visited a few years ago, it was the history, the wooded surroundings, and grand architecture that drew me in. History seeped from every room. I went in wanting to come out with a story idea, something scary, actually, but instead, while I stood out on the fourth floor solarium porch, listening to the wind and watching the trees sway, I thought to myself: What if this place really is haunted? What if I am surrounded by ghosts? What is their story?  I imagined the sound of a violin, and, coupled with the fact that they had no cure back then, the story of musical medicine took root. Waverly is known around the world as a haunted building, I thought the real flesh and blood inhabitants, the people who lived and died there, deserved to have a story told that revealed their fight and struggles. But in doing this, I also wanted to incorporate some of the legends, namely the nurse suicide and the body chute.  And Big 15 was also taken from an actual man who worked there, doing the same job, and his name was Big 14 because of the size of his feet!

The whole book really centers on music and music therapy for the patients. What type of research did you need to do to prepare for this portion of the book?

My sister-in-law is a music therapist, so I did consult her. My sister is a pianist, and I think her constant practicing, although it annoyed me and my brothers as kids, really sunk in with me and inspired this book later in life. TB had no cure, and I feel that music can be really healing. I did a little research online, and have since become involved with the National Music Therapy Association, but since music therapy was not really a “field” during the time of the story, I intentionally didn’t research that much from current music therapy practices because I wanted it to come off as something new for Wolfgang as well, something unpolished and evolving.

When Wolfgang witnesses the horrific death of his father, he always blames his mother & never forges a relationship with her. When she comes to visit to take one of the instruments and Wolfgang discovers the true reason for his death, he invites her to the concert. Is there a reason why you did not write her into the concert scene at the end?

I did consider writing her into the concert, but ultimately decided not to. White Wind is a moving story.  It can be sad and funny in parts, and make you really think in others, and, although I wanted the concert to be uplifting on many levels, I didn’t want to wrap everything up too nicely for Wolfgang. It didn’t want it to seem like the concert solved everything for him, so I decided to leave her at home.

Who are some of your favorite authors or favorite books that have influenced you as a writer?

I grew up a huge fan of Stephen King. I was not a reader until sophomore year of high school. My English teacher told out class, “Ok, I know half of you won’t want to read the “classics”, and those who do probably won’t fully enjoy it, so we’re reading Stephen King novels all year.” And we did, but not his scarier stories.  We read Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Stand by Me, etc… and we had great discussions because all the kids read them. That’s when I fell in love with books, and I then devoured every Stephen King book available. From there I moved on to Dean Koontz, and those two authors heavily influenced by first few unpublished novels. The way I write now, with historical fiction, I’d say my biggest influences are Ken Follett, Pat Conroy, Caleb Carr, and John Irving. I love how John Irving develops his characters. As far as suspense, I’m a big fan of Greg Iles. George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones books are probably my favorite to read at the moment. Pillars of the Earth is my favorite book. Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafron is also one of my favorites. I could read Pat Conroy and John Irving all day long.

The ending is left open to interpretation by the reader. As the writer, do you see Wolfgang choosing the priesthood or do you picture him continuing his work at Waverly Hills?

I go back and forth on this, which is only part of the reason why I did it. Whenever someone asks me why, I always tell them that I fell asleep halfway through that sentence. But the truth is, when I got to that part, and I honestly didn’t have an answer when I got there, I thought to myself that it didn’t matter as much to me. Wolfgang had already begun his healing by then and I didn’t want to lead him one way or another. The concept of faith is big in the book, but I don’t try to answer it.  The question: Where do we go when we die? Is also another big part of the book that I intentionally don’t try to answer either. Faith is an open-ended question with many answers that lead to many other questions, so that is the main reason I ended it that way. Like faith, I wanted the reader to take that on themselves.  I wanted to let the reader take Wolfgang where they thought he should go, and no matter, their answer would be right.

As a screenwriter, many aspects of this book feel like they would lend itself to a movie. Are you planning to develop this for the screen?

YES!!! I actually wrote the screenplay for this story before I wrote the novel because screenplays are quicker to write and the story, with the music, was so cinematic. I’ve always envisioned it as a movie. After I finish my next book in a few weeks I plan on rewriting the screenplay for A White Wind Blew. I’ve recently opened some doors with another movie I’ve written that could make A White Wind Blew a bigger possibility in the future.  It will be a movie someday, even if I have to produce it myself!

Who would be part of your “dream cast,” for playing these roles?

I don’t always do this with books I write, but I did with this one. I had three actors clearly in mind when I wrote it. For Wolfgang I imagined Joaquin Phoenix. For Susannah I imagined Amy Adams. And sadly, for McVain, I had imagined Phillip Seymour Hofmann. But my second choice for McVain would be Russell Crowe. And for Rose I’d always had Audrey Tautou in mind. She plays Mathilde in the French film, A Very Long Engagement, and she’s also in The Da Vinci Code.

Thank You so much to all the readers in your book club for reading my debut novel, and for the insightful questions. Please feel free to tell many other books clubs about it!

Best wishes,
James Markert

What did you think of A White Wind Blew? Can’t you just picture this as a movie? It is cinematic storytelling at it’s best.  Share your thoughts on our  book club pick below and offer recommendations for what you might like to see on our list in the upcoming year!

Our next book club pick will be announced on March 28th- this is a big departure from our past three historical fiction books! In the meantime, catch up on what is happening this year and explore our past book club selections here!


This post does contain affiliate links! 

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Apron Full of Giveaways 03.25.14

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

floral-dot apron

Source: My Silly Monkey and Me,  $24.00


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!

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It’s The 3 Little Things

Friday, March 21st, 2014


I am so happy to hear that you guys are enjoying our new feature on the site. I loved hearing about your three favorite things too from your week. If you missed last week’s edition we chatted it up about plushy boot inserts for worn out boots, my obsession with BB cream, and my new favorite spring layering piece. Be sure to check that out!

Here are 3 little things that I enjoyed this week!



Have you heard of Twice? It is my new little fashion obsession. Since I live in a small town, Chicago sometimes becomes the destination to have a wide plethora of shops.  Thanks to Twice though, I can find those wardrobe pieces, but at a fraction of the price since the items are gently used, typically 60% or more off their former retail prices.

The other bonus is that if you are weeding through your closet, you can send them to Twice and they can sell your items for you. Just let them know you need a bag and they will ship it to you to fill.

With Spring comes weddings, graduations, and summer parties. I plan to use this site to grab some fancy frocks this year and save a ton of money. Pictured above, is my first purchase. Anthro, pockets, AND polka dots? Be still my beating heart.


waterlogue 2


Have you heard of the Waterlogue app? I am absolutely in love with the water colors you can create with this little app. My best friend’s birthday was coming up so I wanted to do something special for her day.  I snagged her family photos from when their home was being built and got frames to put them in to hang in their new home.

I then spent the rest of the day plopping all of our favorite photos in it to see what they would look like. Beach, travel, and landscape photos turned out amazing with this little app.

I just emailed the photos to myself and then printed it on heavy cardstock. I did 8×10 prints, but you could adjust your print sizes according to your frame. ($2.99)

sleepytime extra tea

Sleepytime Extra Tea

I’m trying to break myself of the habit of needing a nightly glass of wine in the evening to unwind.

Don’t judge.

With all my tummy issues, the dietician I saw suggested making the switch over to tea to help my stomach.  I have difficulty unwinding in the evenings and still needed something that would help me with that. I had been taking melatonin, but seeing this piece on it kind of freaked me out about that.

I found this Sleepytime Extra Tea and I don’t know what voodoo is in this stuff, but it makes me feel sleepy and relaxed at night. I actually do know what voodoo it is… it is valerian and it seems to work like a charm for me. I sleep good and I have no problems getting up and around in the morning. This has replaced my melatonin hangover and I have been really happy about this little life switch.

I add a splash of almond milk and honey to it and have really been looking forward to this in the evenings.

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

What’s making you happy this week?

Get Your Home Organized With Goodwill

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Get Your Home Organized With Goodwill


At the beginning of the year, I get the strong urge to donate everything in my house and start fresh.

I am also always on the hunt to find new strategies for organization in my home that don’t cost a lot.

Today I am featuring some great ideas for organization from commonly found items at your favorite thrift store.

I am so inspired by these bloggers that I have a trip planned for myself this week to try to snag a few of these items.



Get Your Desk Organized

This last month I spent organizing my office and craft space.

One thing I really hate is desk clutter and I have been using a thrift store mug to organize all my writing and cutting tools.

I love this fresh idea for using a broom head as an office caddy for organizing these item in a fun nod to industrial-style and to add a little whimsy to your desk.

Grab the inspiration for this project from merry thought.



Get Your Bathroom Organized

One area I always struggle with organization is our bathroom.
You can always find an abundance of white dishes at Goodwill though and this painting tutorial from Fruetcake shows how to turn plain white dishes into copper vanity bowls with just a little spray paint.
This would be a fantastic way to organize things like bobby pins, cotton balls, or even as a small jewelry holder.

Organize Your Photos

One thing I have vowed to do this year is to print more photos.
Of course the dilemma always is where to hang and display these items.
Luckily for me, I found this adorable cabinet door photo display that you can create with just a few items for decorating the top of your dresser.
If you are an Instagram-addict like me, this is a must-do project for displaying your favorite pictures.

Organize Your Jewelry Collection

Vintage plates and china can be adorned or just allowed to show their original vintage beauty in this adorable jewelry display that you could create from plates at Goodwill.
I love that this organizing project not only organizes, but it also doubles as a cute way to decorate a wall or the interior of a walk-in closet.
To round out this display, check Goodwill’s sheets, linens, and kitchen towels for fabric to add to these embroidery hoops.
If you are a woman that isn’t as fully accessorized (pity the thought!) you can even add to your jewels with items found in their jewelry department.

Organize the Bookcase

Bookcases can become untidy quickly especially in my kid’s rooms.
Consider whittling down the book collection into a more manageable size and then create these adorable bookends from your child’s old action figures and toys.
With a quick mount and a little spray paint, you have a unique bookend that can tidy those stacks.
Grab the tutorial for these easy DIY Bookends from Canadian Family today!

Organize Your Menu Plan

If one of your goals this year is to save money, the one place I always recommend starting is with your grocery shopping and menu planning.
I am a visual person, so I love my chalkboard in my kitchen as a reminder of what we have in store for the week and to prompt me to prep and thaw ingredients for the days ahead.
If you don’t have a chalkboard in your kitchen, making one is very easy thanks to chalkboard paint.
Check your local thrift store for a frame, canvas, or serving tray that you can use to get your menu plan visual.

Organize the Paper Clutter

We talk a lot about book page crafts because this is an item you can always find at your local thrift.
Did you know that you can transform a donated book into an organizer?
As someone who frequently has a pile of cards and tiny notes to myself, I love this thoughtful storage idea for these items!

Organize the Toys

After the holidays, the toy clutter always seems to get out of control at our house.
Thankfully, you can find lots of jars at your favorite recycle shop that can be transformed into adorable containers to house those smaller toys in.
With a little spray paint and a figurine, car or train, you can create an adorable accent to your child’s bookshelves or to tuck away in your toy storage closet.
You can get the scoop on making these adorable toy corrals on Simplicity in the South.

What are your favorite things to use to organize your home? Have you upcycled anything into the perfect storage solution? Feel free to share it here!

This post contains affiliate links.


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